Saturday, November 28, 2009

Brownies, How I Loathe Thee...

I hate brownies. Plain and simple.  It's not that I hate to eat brownies.  It's not that I hate to look at brownies.  I hate to make brownies, and I hate it with all my heart.

Whether you're employing the double-boiler, made-from-scratch method or the box-of-Ghirardelli-brownie-mix-from-Costco method, initially, you might think that making brownies is pretty easy.  That's all part of their evil little chocolatey plan, though, and this is where the weaker, less-experienced bakers are deceived.  You stir up the batter (Careful, don't mix it too much!  Brownies hate to be over mixed!), grease the pan, and pour in the thick gooey mass.  You put it into a perfectly preheated oven, set the timer a few minutes early (just in case!) and then sit back and watch "Elf" on TV while you wait for them to bake.  Fifty minutes or so later the timer will ding, you'll get up, you'll open the oven, and you'll see something like this:

Every single other baked good that I make has some sort of test to see if it's ready: touch the top, it'll bounce back; stick a toothpick in the center, it should come out clean; the sides should pull away; the top should be golden brown... you know the deal.

Brownies, though, are like pears: there is a very brief, 5-second window during which they are absolutely perfect and if you fail to get to them during that window, they are completely and utterly inedible.  With pears, they're either horrifically unripened or disgustingly mushy and bruised.  With brownies, if you do not pull them out of the oven at the exact right time, they are either sticky chocolate soup or burnt charcoal briquettes with little chocolate chip nuggets mini pockets of hardened ash.

From my extensive brownie experience, though (I've made 6 batches so far tonight), I have come up with a  fail-proof method of figuring out whether or not your brownies are ready: if they've been in the oven for the allotted amount of time and you do not yet smell the acrid scent of burning chocolate, they're ready and by all that is good and holy TAKE THEM OUT OF THE OVEN RIGHT NOW.  Do not attempt the toothpick test.  Do not think, "Oh, maybe just a couple more minutes, they look a bit gooey."  Sweet heavens, woman, get your oven mitts on and pull that pan out of the oven this minute!!

Once you've pulled them out of the oven, set them on a cooling rack.  Don't look at them, don't speak badly about their mother, don't make sudden movements anywhere within a 10-foot radius of them, and for gosh sakes do NOT think to yourself: "Hmm, they look a bit squishy, maybe I'll just stick them back in for a couple minutes."

As for me, I've cut up all my brownies, I've cut off all the burnt bits I possibly could (I felt sort of like a butcher trimming off excess meat to save just the fillet), and I've made my peace with the fact that brownies are the most evil of all baked goods to make.  There is no hope for me, but perhaps with this warning other people can avoid some of the heartbreak and anguish I've had to endure.

On a final note, allow me to present you with a bit of headache-inducing trivia brought forth by my ever-knowledgeable young cousin:  The following is a grammatically correct sentence in the English language:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since today is Thanksgiving, I'm going to assume that most people are off spending time with their families and not getting online to check anything.  If you are moseying around these parts, though, and wondering what I might be up to today, I put together this little pie chart (*snicker* PIE *haha*) to give you an idea of what I could be doing at any given time (keep in mind that estimates are rough): 

On that note, enjoy your holiday, enjoy your food, enjoy all that you are thankful for and GOD BLESS! :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ADULT VOICE. small voice.

I'm going to use this blog for more personal posts and save Miss Dot's Cupcake Spot for cupcake-related activities.  Keep following both, but I'll be posting on this one more frequently!

Don't forget to FOLLOW ME HERE! :D

And now, for my latest...

I talk to small things in my small voice. 

Adults get the big voice but babies (and/or itty bitty things) of any sort (animal, human, sometimes bags of flour...) and usually just about anything furry gets the small voice.  Now, when I use the term “small voice,” I do not mean baby talk.  That’s completely different.  Baby talk usually involves me making weird faces and making up words.  Small voice typically means I’m raising my voice to this really high-pitched (read: helium-induced) squealy noise sound and probably reaching my hands out in a “gimme gimme gimme [the baby thing]” kind of way.  This is fun for me, disorienting and possibly semi-terrifying to whatever baby thing I’m attacking approaching, and something my husband can no longer hear as he has set his ears to ignore that particular frequency.

Let me see if I can give you some examples.  Play along and see if you can figure out what would get the small voice and what wouldn't:

Let's start off easy.  Small voice or no?

If you said "small voice," then you were correct.  Now, moving on...

Small voice?

Negative!!  No, Margaret Thatcher does not receive small voice treatment.  If you said, "no," then you're starting to get the hang of things.

Now for a tricky one.  I'm going to toss you one that may seem like it should get the small voice (hey, it's small, looks like a baby...) but see what you do with this one:

WARNING!  WARNING!!  This is NOT small voice material!  This is a poor little baby with Rowan Atkinson's head on it!  THIS IS NOT CUTE!!  No small voice here.  Sorry I had to subject you to that but I wanted to make you you were paying attention.  Moving along...

A-HA!  Here's a double whammy.  It's a puppy (all dogs are puppies, all cats are kitties.  Let's just get that straight between you and I now, OK?) that's wearing a Hello Kitty hat helmet beret head thing!  Totally cute.  Perhaps not by ECA's standards (Animals are not meant to wear things, he says.  Animals look ridiculously hilarious in clothes, I say) but still, there would definitely be some major small voiceage going on if I were near this dog puppy.

I'm pretty sure you've got the whole "small voice/no small voice" thing down by now.  The next part of this lesson is to help you realize that a lot of things have small voice potential but they just require a cute furry/baby thing to bring it out in them.  For example, here is a bike:

For all intents and purposes, this is a normal bike.  Nothing cute about it.  Nothing ugly about it.  Just... a bike.  Now watch...

DID YOU SEE THAT?!?!  DID YOU SEE THAT CUTENESS??  Holy monkey bottoms that's just adorable I think I'm even typing in small voice right now.  OMIGOSH I hate to sound like one of thoooooose people but, well, I am.  What did we learn just then?

Bicycle = meh

Bicycle + kitty = FREAKING CUTE-TASTIC!   

Kinda shaky on that?  OK, here's one more.  Watch carefully this time:

That's a burrito, right?  Nothing cute about that.  Maybe it makes you hungry, maybe it gives you indigestion, but it most certainly doesn't make you suddenly lose all ability to modulate your voice and instead begin babbling on at rapid, high-pitched speeds like an over-caffeinated My Little Pony.

OK, now check THIS out:

Whaaaaaat?  It's a kitty burrito!!  Cute cute cute... no munching, please!

OK, well, I'm on cute semi-overload here so I'm going to sit back and relax for a while and let my voice come back down to normal.  Hopefully you've learned something here, and hopefully it wasn't something along the lines of "This girl is insane," unless it was immediately followed by, "...just like me!!"

Before I totally sign off, though, here's an update from a previous post (on Miss Dot's Cupcake Spot):

We sent off our Christmas Boxes!!  ECA and I each made our own box to send to a kid in need for this Christmas.  Check out the fun stuff that we put together!

Hubby's box (for a boy 2-4):

My box (for a girl 5-9):

We went to Target and found a bunch of great stuff there.  Even though Mr. Dot and I are on a pretty tight budget this year we were still able to get some fun toys, personal items, and school/art supplies for some kids who might not be getting much for Christmas.  We had a fun time putting them together and when it came time to wrap and label our boxes we used the special tracking label that will allow us to track where our packages ended up.  We also included Christmas cards in each of our packages with a special Christmas message of love and we put our address in, too, in case they want to write back :)

Have a looooooverly day, m'dears!   

P.S. -- Does anyone else find themselves having spacing issues on their blog? (i.e., issues properly spacing between text/pictures) I feel like I've started having issues recently (perhaps since the last blogger update?) and it's really, really annoying me :-P

Post-It Note Tuesday - How Fab!

Post-It Note Tuesday??  Talk about a day that's right up my alley!  I LOVE POST-IT NOTES!!  I'm a Post-It Note fiend!  Here's my first bout of Post-It Notes:

 Go here to create your own.
And on that note, ta ta...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mustache Mondays

HAPPY MONDAY and WELCOME to a second installment of Mustache Mondays. I know you've been waiting all week (well, since last Monday) for another edition of Mustache Monday **so** without further ado, may I introduce you to this Monday's Mustache:

Adams and Eves 

Meet Adam Powell, lead singer of local band Adams and Eves.  Please note his incredibly awesome microphone that comes complete with, yes, you guessed it, a wonderful, bushy, curly mustache :) If I could only choose one word to describe Adam and his glorious mustache, it would be fantastico.  Their music is pretty fantastico too, though.  Just from this picture you can see the awesome variety of instruments: Adam on electric guitar, his wife Chelsea on bass, his sister Laura on accordion, Megan in the back on the xylophone and Megan's husband David on drums.  Their music just has a great eclectic sound that I can't even describe so I won't bother trying.  Instead, check out their sound HERE!

Until next time mustache aficionados

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Have you heard the word?  No, no, no, not THAT word.  The word that Disney is giving away free tickets to their theme parks in return for you volunteering a day of service?  Yes, ladies, you read correctly: FREE TICKETS!!

As if you needed any more motivation than the knowledge that your actions are helping someone else, check out this awesome promotion being put in place by Disney:  Give a Day, Get a Disney Day.

Here's the rundown:
Beginning January 1, 2010, when you sign up on that site to volunteer a day of service with a participating organization (and your service is completed and verified),  you’ll get ONE DAY'S ADMISSION to a Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme park FOR FREE!!

Their goal is to inspire one million people to volunteer a day of service.  That means that by volunteering a day of your time, you too can take pictures like these:

 I'll bet you can hardly wait.

The steps are simple:
  1. Search and Sign Up – Beginning January 1, 2010, go to the site above and search and sign up for a volunteer opportunity from a participating organization.
  2. Volunteer – Complete your service for the volunteer opportunity you selected.
  3. Celebrate – Once your service is verified, receive a voucher to redeem your Disney theme park ticket.
How crazy awesome is that??  Well, what are you waiting for?  TELL YOUR FRIENDS!! 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Super Cute Blog Award

OK.  I’m going to try to say this in a calm, civilized manner.  I will not jump up and down.  I will refrain from doing the Happy Dance.  I most definitely am not going to act super excited and scream “YESSSSS!!!” over and over. 

Friends, I have received (for the very first time EVER) a BLOG AWARD!!

Yes, that’s right!  Lil’ ol’ polka-dotted, flour-covered, sugar-loving ME got a blog award!

How happy am I?  SO HAPPY!  In fact, forget what I said earlier.  I’m doing the Happy Dance RIGHT NOW!

One of my newest bloggy friends, Melissa from Lovely Little Life, gifted me this faaaabulous award.  Go check out her blog -- she has fantastic style!:
The rules are as follows:  "Pass on the award to 10 other people while notifying and prompting them to do the same."  

Well shoot, I think I can do that!  Without further ado, I would like to recognize these fun bloggers for their cute blogs:

  1. First and foremost may I call Miss Erica to the stand to accept this award for her super-cute site: Dollface Delights!  Though its sister blog I Bleed Pink is also super-cute, I've chosen Dollface Delights for this award due to its abundance of cupcakes.  K, maybe I'm slightly biased... 0:)  Besides, Erica's sense of pinup style is dazzling and I just love her to death.  KI'mdonethankyouverymuch.

  2. Next I choose Me and My Pink Mixer.  I just love the fun recipes that this woman comes up with.  She shares everything from sweet to savory.  In fact, don't say anything to her but I'm adopting the theory that she's secretly trying to sabotage my waistline.  How else do you explain THIS??

  3. My third choice is Jenn's blog Rook No. 17.  Jenn's blog is a wealth of information on everything from crafts to cooking.  She's got this great music player on her blog, too, that acts as a personal DJ  to provide the perfect ambiance for reading.  Sometimes I just let her blog run in the background while I'm working so I can groove to her selections.

  4. Fourth, please allow me to recognize my dear deer, The Red DeerAlicia, my cute bloggy friend, is having all sorts of fun in the Land Down Under.  Check out her completed A...B...Cupcake Challenge and keep an eye out for tips from Clive, the real brains behind The Red Deer.

  5. Fifth (halfway there!), may I introduce to you Tracy from Sugarcrafter.  Don't let the name fool you, her blog is chock full of delicious recipes for any part of the meal, not just dessert!  She even changes her blog header to go along with the season (you should've seen it for Halloween!)

  6. Next (just keep swimming!), have you chanced to meet the apron goddesses Suzi and Julia of the (aptly-named) blog The Apron Goddesses?  Their blog is a blog after my own heart.  Yes, dear friends, I suffer from a little-known affliction known as Apronophilia, or in layman's terms, "the abnormal affection for all things apron" (evidence cited here and here.)  If you too suffer from this affliction (or if you know of someone who does), this may just be the perfect site for you.

  7. My seventh bit of recognition goes to the Blonde Duck and her wonderful world of whimsy, A Duck in Her Pond.  Just take one look at the header of her blog and the unicorns, sparkles, rainbows, and pink.  Do you just hearken back to when you were a wee lass of five playing with your My Little Ponies in the backyard and pretending that they were getting married in a lavish ceremony on the swing set but then this evil villain came out of nowhere and tried to ruin everything and then  at the last minute this hero zoomed through and saved the day?  No?  Sort of?  K maybe it's just me...

  8. OH MY GOSH I JUST MET BLOGBABY AND I LOVE HER SO MUCH!  K so many of you probably met her recently too thanks to her feature post on SITS but I just think she's the bees knees.  I can't get enough of her (even if she does have a bit of a drinking problem...)  P.S. -- how cute are these little baby headbands?  Makes me want a baaaaaabyyyyyyy!!!  (don't tell ECA!)

  9. *Whew* we're at 9, so close!  For 9 I've chosen Amanda and her blog parenting BY dummies.  Her insightful and humorous take on life and parenting makes me laugh with every post, guaranteed.  I'm so glad I have a new bloggy friend to stalk admire :)

  10. And finally, last but definitely not least is one of my newest finds: Jenn at Livin' the Simple LifeShe does the most amazing job of giving new life to old objects.  Check out what she did with this wine rack and would you have ever thought to do this to a headboard?  So creative!  I can't wait to go and pick up some fabulous finds.              
These are my 10 selections for the Super Cute Blog Award.  I have many blogs that I like to check out regularly so it was very hard to narrow it down to 10 but I think I did a pretty good job.  Thanks again, Melissa, for the wonderful award!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mustache Mondays

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I, like my friend over at The Daily Tribal, have taken note of all the special days bloggers have.  Muffin Tin Mondays, Wordless Wednesdays,  Fragmented Fridays, and other such alliteration-laden days give a blog a sense of regularity, predictability, and organization, three things that I very much like and admire.

I am tempted to latch on to one or more of these days and make it a weekly habit of my own; however, I haven't quite found one for **me** yet.  Sure I like the idea of Take 5 Tuesday, but I like it better when it's on YOUR blog.

So what's a girl to do?  In light of my dilemma, I decided I needed to come up with a special day of my own.  With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen (if there are any gentlemen here, that is), may I introduce to you my first installment of Mustache Mondays.

From this point on, every Monday will feature yet another edition of the glory that is mustaches.    

For today, please take a moment to enjoy these Mustache Cupcakes created with a cookie cutter made especially for us by the amazing RYAN BURKE.

Until next time, Merry Mustaching!

Don't Hate Me, but...

...can I let you in on a little secret? We're friends now, right...? I know you, you know me, we joke, we pal around... you like my cupcakes, I like your comments... we're good. We're tight. If you needed a kidney, eh, well, maybe let's just say I know somebody who knows somebody that's got two kidneys too many. Maybe that neighbor across the way's got grass that's just a little too green for you. It'd be kinda funny if, I don't know, maybe tomorrow they find that a random brood of particularly territorial gophers have suddenly taken up residence. You know, that sort of thing.
If that is in fact the case, then let me continue with my little secret. It's nothing, really. Nothing to get all worked up about. No biggie.
In fact, forget I said anything. I don't have a secret. There's nothing to tell. Except...I don't like Thanksgiving food.
There, did you catch that? What? You missed it? OK, well, here it is again: I really, really don't like Thanksgiving food.
Still nothing? Ugh. Fine. This is the last time though, OK?
You still there? Whacked your jaw pretty hard on the keyboard there, huh? Still reading? Well, keep going.
It's true, I really don't like Thanksgiving food. Let me clear something up before going on, though: I am NOT saying I don't like Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays. It's right up there with Christmas and my birthday (Yes, my birthday is a holiday. National Shrimp Scampi Day. Mark it down.) The only problem I have is with the food.
When I was growing up, we didn't exactly have traditional Thanksgiving dinners. My childhood consisted of an overbearing, overprotective, fresh-off-the-boat Italian father who controlled just about everything I did from what I wore to what I ate to how I did my hair. When it came to food, American cuisine just didn't cut it for him. Some of my most relished memories of my childhood were of stealing away to friends' houses for a taste of some real American food like Kraft macaroni and cheese or Hershey's chocolate milk. I recall my dad coming back from a business trip only to find Kraft Parmesan cheese in the fridge (What?? My mom was a working mom taking care of two kids while dad was away. Kraft Parmesan was easier than pulling out the giant hunk of imported Parmigiano-Reggiano [Ugh, sorry...I always hear Giada de Laurentiis saying that whenever I say it]) and throwing it away whilst yelling at us that it would make us glow in the dark if we ate it.
Needless to say, my childhood was filled with Italian food and a lot of it. Don't get me wrong -- I'm very happy about my Italian heritage and I love love LOVE pasta to death (that's for a whole other post, though), but it just means that there were a lot of American foods that never really got a chance to show off to my tastebuds.
Like Thanksgiving food.
Not all Thanksgiving food gives me the ooks, though. Most of the main dishes get the cold shoulder from me: turkey, sweet potatoes (Yes, yes, even with the marshmallows. Go figure on this cupcake combo being one of my favorites), cranberries, stuffing, and gravy (ew, ew, ew). I've started to warm up to mashed potatoes, though, and I can do green beans, too. Since Thanksgiving at my aunt's house is a potluck, though, I usually bring a pasta dish and skate through dinner on that.
My real Thanksgiving meal, the meal that is the epitome of what a Thanksgiving meal is supposed to be, happens after all the dinner plates get stacked next to the sink: pie. Oh my good heavens above can I eat pie. I'm not talking one slice here. I'm not talking two. I'm talking 9, possibly 10 slices of pie. You see, at our Thanksgiving celebration, each person has a designated role (i.e., me - pasta, mom - famous broccoli, cousin Michael - inordinate amounts of pie in every flavor imaginable).

When Michael makes his pies, we're talking A LOT OF PIE. Twelve, maybe fifteen pies. Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie. Sweet monkeys do I love pecan pie. Berry pie. Berry cobbler. Cheesecake swirl pie. Crazy happy yum pie with delicious on top. I can't even think straight I'm getting all nutso thinking about how ridiculously hopped up on sugar I'm going to be in just a couple weeks (only to inevitably crash later on the nearest couch or relatively stable horizontal surface).

Anyway, regardless of my distaste for the traditional food of this amazing holiday that celebrates both giving thanks and gorging oneself on anything within arm's reach, I wanted to share with you my FIND OF THE DAY (courtesy of my loving ♥Executive Cupcake Analyst♥):

Apparently, this recipe collection came as a little bonus for his subscription to Sirius XM Satellite radio. They sent it out to all their subscribers and, naturally, he sent it to me so I could scroll immediately to page 41 to check out the desserts. I wanted to share the wealth, though, so click, scroll, download, save, print, or do whatever you want to do with this little gem.

Whatever you decide to do, though, we're still friends, right...?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cookie Cutter Tutorial

The above little beauty is the team logo for the San Diego Chargers or who we San Diegans affectionately know as the Bolts.

Due to a couple of football party cupcake orders I have for this weekend, I'm going to be needing a few of these cut out of fondant. Instead of manually cutting them one by one, I thought it would be a good idea to use a cookie cutter. One problem: Where was I going to get a Charger Bolt cookie cutter in the size I needed?

I figured the best way to go would be DIY. Armed with incredible ingenuity and an over-inflated sense of self-confidence, my ECA and I headed to Lowe's for material ideas. We ended up buying some metal duct pipe that ran us about $3. I had the ECA borrow some tin snips from our onsite property manager and cut the piping in 1" wide strips that ran the length of the pipe (Come on, that's a man's job. I just bake cupcakes.)

Below is a step-by-step of how we made the cookie cutters:

  1. Here's the ducting with the crimped ends trimmed off (thanks baby!)
  2. One of the 1" strips.
  3. The templates/guides I used for the cookie cutters.
  4. I began by folding/bending the strip of metal around the shape of the bolt.
  5. I used my thumbs to work out as many of the wrinkles in the edges as I could.
  6. Of course, ECA couldn't let me have all the fun. He had a go at it, too.
  7. Once you're done shaping your cookie cutter, you might be left with a tail.
  8. Use the tin snips to cut it off but leave a little bit at the end to fold over and glue.
  9. Wrap the extra bit over the raw edge and use a bit of hot glue from a glue gun to seal.
  10. Ta-da! The finished products. ECA's is on the top and mine is on the bottom. It's OK, you can say his is better. It'd probably just serve to stroke his male ego. Oh fine I admit mine looks more like Sonic the Hedgehog than a Charger Bolt but COME ON, it was my first try!!
  11. Look, I made a football, too :)
I've got a bunch of strips left that I can't wait to fold into other fun shapes. Perfect activity to do in front of the TV when you're watching something like, oh, say, Willow. Not that that's what I was doing or anything. Noooo... not at all...

I'd love to see some cookie cutters that you made! If you get a chance, post a pic!