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Life In Texas

Life In Texas: January 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Valentine's Day Whoopie Pies


     Want to make your significant other a tasty treat for Valentine's Day? These heart shaped, red velvet whoopie pies are sure to be a hit.

  1 package red velvet cake mix
  3 large eggs
  3/4 cup water
  1/2 cup vegetable oil
  1 (oz) package cream cheese, softened
  1 (15oz) container vanilla frosting


  Heat Oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

  Beat cake mix, eggs, water and oil in a large bowl. *Note: Because you have less liquid than normal, you need to be careful that you get all of the lumps out. Otherwise, you'll have crunchy whoopie pies.

  Place heart shaped cookie cutter on lined cookie sheet. Spoon 1/2 tbs cake batter into the cookie cutter. Using a spoon, evenly distribute the batter throughout the cookie cutter. Remove the cookie cutter and repeat until your cookie sheet is full. It is important that you lift the cookie cutter straight up, or your batter will be pushed to the side. *Note: You could just spoon the batter onto the cookie sheet and spread it out (since we're going to cut the cooked cakes with the cookie cutter). I use the cookie cutter so that I know that I haven't made the circles smaller than my cookie cutter. 

  Bake for 7 - 9 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out dry. Allow cakes to cool for 2 minutes. Use cookie cutter and cut hearts out of your cakes.

  Move heart shaped cakes to a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely.

  Now it's time to make the filling. In a medium bowl, whip softened cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add frosting. Mix until blended.

  Place half pies flat side up. Spread 1 tbs filling. Top with second half pie, rounded side up. Press gently to spread filling. *Baker's tip: Use a cake decorating bag to quickly and easily fill your pies.

  Chill, uncovered, until ready to serve.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Broken Pottery Craft

     My mom died in May. One of the things that Mom enjoyed was pottery purchased from Luling Icehouse Pottery. She had several pieces that had sentimental value to the child that was with her when it was purchased. The one piece that my little sister wanted was a chip and dip bowl. That was no problem. My sister, being a university student, doesn't have a lot of room (or want) to store valuables in her apartment style dorm room. Therefore, she was leaving a lot of her stuff at my house. No problem. When she left to go back to school in August, I assumed that all of her breakable possessions we put away, out of a child's reach. Long story short, Thing 2 accidentally knocked over the box that the chip and dip bowl was in, causing it to shatter into many, many pieces. I called my sister, crying, to tell her and she said to just throw it away. I had other plans. After I calmed down, I started looking for ways to reuse the pieces of the bowl. I thought that if she couldn't have a functional pottery piece, she could at least have the pieces.

     What I came up with was to set the pieces in concrete in a mosaic style. Since it was Mom's, I decided on a cross shape. Below is the tutorial of how I went from a broken bowl to a beautiful decorative cross.

   Broken Pottery
   2x4 (or smaller board, depending on desired size)
   Metal Wire (chicken wire or something similar)
   Plastic drop cloth to protect work site

     Start by building your mold. I wanted a cross, so we drew it out and cut out the plywood backing. Then, we measured the 2x4 and cut the pieces to the appropriate sizes. Lastly, we nailed the 2x4 pieces to the plywood.

     Next, use the pencil and paper to draw out the shape. Make sure that it is the exact size as you intend your finished product to be. Then using your screwdriver and hammer, break any larger pieces down to the desired size. Arrange the pieces on the paper as a rough plan of what your final product will look like.

     Now, cut the metal support so that it fits inside your mold. This is going to help hold the cement together and prevent it from breaking. Since my final product was going to be large (about 11.5" long, 8.5" wide and 1.5" thick), I used 2 separate metal supports.

     Make sure that your mold, metal supports, and pottery pieces are all close by. Use a plastic drop cloth to protect your work site. I also put a Rubbermaid tote lid on top of the drop cloth and then put my mold on top of that. 

    Now for the fun part. Mix your concrete according to the package directions. It is important that you use concrete and not Quikrete or other fast drying concretes. Once it's mixed, fill the mold roughly 1/3 of the way. Put in your first metal support. Pour more concrete until it's about 2/3 full. Put in your second metal support. Now fill the mold to the desired depth. Carefully, place your pottery pieces into the concrete. Note: You may have to push down while moving the piece back and forth to get it to set into the concrete. Just be careful not to break them!

     When all of your pieces are where you want them, leave the mold somewhere where it won't get bumped and nothing can get into it (animals, kids, bugs, etc.). If you're worried about something falling in it, you can use the plastic drop cloth to cover it.

     In about 2 days, your concrete will be completely dry. Once it has dried, use a hammer to gently remove the mold from around the piece. Note: If there were cracks where your board pieces met, you may need to use a piece of sand paper to smooth the edges and get rid of any excess concrete.
    When it's all done, everyone will be surprised that you went from this:

     To this:

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fisher Price iXL Learning System Review

     After searching and searching for a durable, but fun, educational toy for my 4 year old’s birthday. My husband and I settled on the Fisher Price iXL Learning System. Not only is it one of the more affordable learning systems on the market, I heard good things from other mothers who had personal experience with it.

     The moment she opened it, she loved it. Then, we turned it on and she loved it even more. It comes with one interactive story and activity, one learning game, writing activities where she can practice her letters, art tools, music sampler, sample photos and 9 mini-apps. There are also a wide variety of character games (everything from Scooby-Doo to Disney Princesses) that can be added to the device. You can also add your own music and pictures for more personal play.

     There are quite a few pros to this device. It’s reasonably priced. It has helped improved my 4 year old’s writing and reading. It teaches numbers and helps with fine motor skills. It’s also a great educational way to keep her distracted on long car trips. She enjoys it and sees it as “play” instead of “work”. There are certain aspects of the system that younger children (2 – 3 years), can use and understand.

     The cons. It runs through batteries like they’re going out of style. It uses 4 AA batteries. Depending on which applications she’s using, brand new batteries only last 14 – 20 hours of play. It doesn’t have much memory. She currently has 2 extra games and 40 songs, and it’s out of memory.

     Overall, we are very satisfied with this product. I would buy it again and I would recommend it to anyone. Just make sure that you have extra batteries available or invest in some rechargeable batteries.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the original author. 

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