To follow up my last post, here is a quick tutorial on my cake cheat. It's so easy. Trust me. And you can modify for any theme or character party you can dream up.

You'll need:
Cake from a grocery store (frosted white)
Cool Whip (1-2 tubs depending on design/need)
offset spatula
Food Coloring
Piping tips
sprinkles (optional)

1) Remove all elements from your store bought cake. If there is something you like, you can re-add later.

2) Use an offset spatula to coat and smooth your cake with a thin layer of cool whip

3) Divide remaining cool whip into bowls and add food coloring to your liking. Mixing less will give a swirled/tie-dye look.

4) Using piping bags, or ziplock bags, snip corner with scissors and insert your desired piping tip.

5) Fill your bags with cool whip. I use a tall glass to nest my bag in, folding over corners will allow you a less-mess fill. Close bags and gently press out air. This ensures your frosting job won't be pitted with air bubbles.

6) Create your design. Smooth any icing with offset spatula if needed. Make a mistake? Simply scrape off and do over.

7) Add any additional elements, like toy characters, sprinkles and candles.



I admit it. I do not make my children's birthday cakes. I'd rather cheat.

I've spent a couple years getting to this point and truthfully, I'm very ok with it. Let me explain.

For my daughters last birthday in December (I know...) I made a sheet cake and it was pitiful and obviously homemade with sagging edges and as much height as a peanut butter sandwich. I had about 40 people to serve and this wasn't going to cut it. Even if I doubled up, I'd likely need 4 boxes of cake mix and need to do 2 1/4 sheets as all I have is a 9x13 pan. Given the stress and preparation madness of the holidays I thought I might be on the verge of losing my mind over this cake situation.

So as a last minute resort (and I truly mean last minute as in the night before her 10am party) I went to Fred Meyer to just buy a half sheet cake. But since I was so late, I was out of time for a special order and the limited availability was cheap looking but expensive.

In my moment of distress, my pinterest mind kicked in and I bought a 1/2 sheet white cake (no filling) for $17.99 It was decorated with holiday colored sprinkles and curling ribbon (really? This is a thing?). I had no idea what kind of frosting was on this cake, but I swung for cool whip and went home to contemplate my next steps.

First order of business was to remove the curling ribbon. It's not edible and it weird. Then, I scraped all the sprinkles off. Of course this also takes off most of the frosting with it. Luckily it was a whipped frosting that tasted like cool whip, so I refrosted the top with the plain white cool whip. Ta-da! Blank canvas.

I quickly mixed up my daughters colors of choice, fed them into my handy ziplock bags fit with piping tips and went to work. After about 15min, I had a fantastic frosted cake of her liking and almost-zero stress. And it turned out that the white cake was super moist and DE-LISH! So I did the same thing for my son's January birthday. Hey, if it ain't broke... and sometimes, it's just fine to cheat.

To further support my cheat, both cakes were actually eaten! There was little to no remaining cake with many people opting for a second piece. Compared to overly sweet and sometimes stiff butter cream, this never happens. We didn't even serve ice cream.



Ok, not real fire. Fun with fire DEPARTMENTS.

With some good fortune (not to mention a 10-year employment), we were recently able to realize every young boys dream birthday party by hosting it at a real live fire station. With real fire trucks and everything.

Thanks to the flexibility and generous hospitality of my husbands fire department, we were able to enjoy a 4-alarm 4th birthday for our son. Some of our favorite firemen were even on hand to offer a bunker gear demo and good healthy stomp on the air horn.

I can't remember the last time I was so relaxed prior to a birthday party starting. The ample space, larger than life equipment as decoration and the muscles of a few everyday heros made my party set-up a cinch.

I don't know if many city fire stations allow this, but I have heard of a couple that open up to the public for parties and it would certainly be worth looking into for your little ones. Though the guys certainly deserve and appreciate some pizza and cake, the entertainment is nearly free as kids love sitting in the fire engine, taking a station tour and getting to hear firefighters talk about why they wear the gear they do. The wide open spaces of the truck bay allow for plenty of movement to wear off the sugar afterward.

And let's not ignore the massive public service message this is sending to our children (the future voters of America) as they further learn about fire safety and how awesome firefighters truly are.

I am so grateful that the brotherhood of firefighters chose to be part of the event, even if indirectly. We really are a family.

(The photo ops aren't too shabby either...)



Over the last several months, I got too busy, stressed, distracted, impatient, lazy... (insert excuse here)... to pay much attention to my photo hobby. I've recently been motivated by some great friends to be back in it. And it feels good.

You might have heard about a "movement" of sorts to take a photo a day for a year. The intention is to improve your skill set and have a spectacular stash of stock photography. My attempt last year lasted 72 days. Weak. Sauce.

So this year, I'm trying again. I'm tweaking it a bit because, for me, it's not realistic to shoot daily. But it is common and absolutely realistic to shoot several times a week. So I'm making my own rules.

Instead of taking a photo each day, I'm posting a fresh set of photos each week. I will have 365 photos by the end, but this allows me a bit of leniency on my time. I am raising two young kids, guys... cut me some slack.

Join me! You can follow my progress on my facebook photo page Bricks Pics.



I take a lot of pictures. My kids are used to it. And I tend to be more discreet about my shooting than not for favoring a candid photo over a posed one.

Generally, this works really well with kids. I sit with them and just shoot, or not shoot. Or tell then I'm shooting when I'm not and vice versa. They've gotten so accustomed to seeing the camera around that they tend to ignore it. And more recently, also me. Calling their name for a quick natural shot is now falling on deaf ears; what I get instead is a face of disarray. They love the attention, but they no longer find it charming to look cute for the camera.

I get a lot of faces these days. I get squints, hands over eyes, wide buggy eyes, tongues sticking out, lips curled, and teeth bared. They don't seem to care.

Someone really should tell my kids that it would benefit them to cooperate in my efforts to make them look their very best - at every age. But then again, what would I have to mortify them with later? When boyfriends come over... and slumber parties need a little entertainment...?

On second thought, I'll let them make their faces. Makes no difference to me, I'm persistent enough to get a good shot.

The silly and future mortifying shots? Just money in the bank.



Before I begin, let me start by saying I'm not a professional photographer, nor a photography teacher.

Now that that's out of the way, I thought I'd share a bit about my hobby. I've had a ton of people ask about equipment and classes and books and any other helpful advise I could give on how to shoot a good photo. Let me share a story that's been popping around the internet. It goes something like this:
A photographer attends a dinner party. The hostess comments to her "I love your photographs, what kind of camera do you use?" Later the photographer comments to the hostess "I loved your cooking, what kind of pans did you use?"
Obviously, camera equipment does make some impact on the photograph you take, however, you can't miss the point of this story. Whether you use a point-and-shoot, a camera phone, or a professional grade Mark V, there is a lot more to taking successful photos than the camera you shoot with.

I started my hobby years back. As the child of a professional photographer, I spent countless hours in front of painted backdrops holding light sensors. I can smile on command, though it's results are phoned-in. Growing up with the exposure taught me how I'd like to see photos -- and posed is not it. I shot sports in B&W for the high school year book and learned to expose in a dark room. Although fun and foundation building, it proved to be too much work, and I was still a teenager when my dad built a dark room. As an adult, I was quick to embrace digital photography from the start but continued to also shoot with a Minolta film SLR. Although I loved my SLR photos, I fell for the enticing lure of digital with it's instant results and ability to capture a shot correctly before walking away and potentionally missing it forever.

I've owned a couple pocket sized digital point and shoots: HP PhotoSmart and Canon PowerShot. And most recently decided to kick my hobby up a notch. I tip-toed into the DSLR world hesitantly. I took comfort in the Canon PowerShot sx20is for it's safety net of features that combined both the opportunity to learn manual settings while still allowing me point & shoot ease. This beginner camera opened the door to the DSLR world at under $400.

Not only did I have a camera to take me into new comfort levels, I also joined an area photo club that challenged me to take photos as a monthly assignment. There is no better way to learn a camera, or any skill for that matter, than to actively do it. Regularly. Photo club allowed me that purpose. I also signed up for a recreational photography class at my local community college and found a photo mentor who was willing to take me under his wing while challenging and encouraging me to expand my skill set.

After a year of learning with the sx20is, I bought the real deal, a Canon Rebel T1i. I felt so big time with all it's relative power and need for additional lenses to be manually selected based on photos desired. Along with the new lenses came additional challenges, but I was learning quickly.

I still shoot and love my Rebel. I have 3 lenses, though rarely remove my 1.8 50mm. In my opinion, it can't be beat for nailing low lighting shots and getting that attractive background blur we all chase after. I'm learning to use my 18-55mm and my 70-200mm more and more but always tend to fall back on my 50mm as a go-to.

Composition is the biggest part of photography and this part can't be bought. It can ONLY be learned through experience. I love the Instagram app for helping me definen my photography style and capture everyday things in a small yet powerful way. Of course the filters don't hurt, but it is a great exercise. And at our fingertips every moment of the day. No reason to miss a shot or NOT be creative.

There it is. My official history of photography. I'm still learning. And still making mistakes. But I find that getting the shot is so much more worthwhile these days.



A new year is a fresh start, or so they say. January 1 is a time to reflect and resolve to better oneself. Or so they say.

I've never been a big fan of the hoopla surrounding the First. For starters, it's winter. Nothing positive seems to spring up during this time. Secondly, why wait for Jan 1 to start being a better person?

Although I reject resolutions in their most cliched sense, I do hold ongoing goals and do check in on how I'm doing since everyone around me seems to be announcing their own grandiose plans.

So what's in store for my New Year? Well, I'd like to continue my fitness efforts -- as sporadic and heartless as they've become. I'd also like to firm up my commitment to my reading habits. While I've always liked the idea of reading two books a month, that enticing Fall TV schedule always seems to sideline my best attempts.

Along with being better about reading, this will ensure me a more stable and beneficial bedtime. If I can turn off the TV by nine, I can get an hour reading in bed by 10pm and not be a miserable bear at 8am. A better rested Mommy is a better Mommy.

And finally, I'd like to reclaim my hobbies which have taken a backseat to many hours of unworthy time surfing the net. I look forward to coaxing a recognizable tune out of my guitar and honing my neglected photography skills. These things make me happy.

So my goals, which pretty much carry over from 2010:
Read 2 books a month - average 1hr per night reading
Sleep by 10pm - and average 10hrs per night (yes, 10)
Work out enough to stay at my weight (thought dropping an LB wouldn't hurt anything)
Be a kinder, well-read and better rested Mommy
Prioritize my guitar playing and photo taking hobbies
Is that it? Yeah, I guess so. Obviously, there is much more I can do and that needs to be done, however these are solid, obtainable and generally beneficial to my well being as for those around me. Why not keep it simply?

What do you have in store?



I can be a bit of a dork. I just hide it well I suppose, after hearing a close friend scoff at my personal declaration of self.

But really, who isn’t? We’re all kinda stumbling around looking for ourselves. Our look, our style, our roles, our ideals. We find inspiration in magazines, through close friends we lovingly envy and of course, through Hollywood (damn you). We’re all kinda dorky in our own way as we are seeking rock-solid self-esteem and support through our friends, colleagues and twitter followers. We always want to say the right thing, buy the most on-trend technology and wear the perfect outfit to show off our right to belong in this big blue globe. Most of us would rather keep up for fear of getting left behind (aside from those blissfully unaware folk who seem to be eerily content with their scrunchies and lack of wi-fi).

And who says we have to do it on our own? Long before Pinterest and the globally recognized DIY movement (thank you internet), people relied on each other just the same. The only difference was that our inspirations were less obvious, less public and more personally owned. How many times do you hear someone claim their idea came from a friend or from an online source? How about we just own it? After all, all those ideas are just that, we’re the ones to make it an actuality. We’re the ones pairing together thrift store finds, we’re the one making that 30-ingredient cake, we’re the one hammering our thumbs as we create our own headboard. Who cares where we found the idea? We are not required to divulge our sources of greatness. We are not required to inform where we found our A-MA-ZING wardrobe (thanks Target). We are not required to speak a disclaimer for everything we say and do.

I think there is a rare individual who can truly claim to march to the beat of their own drum and be solely responsible for it. I’m sure even Lady Gaga has some help and inspiration via drunken stylist to get her look where it is today.
So I accept it. I accept being a dork. Because it means learning and seeking and trying new things – some successful and some less so. I also accept people knowing that I can morph and transpire when motivated to do so.

My hobbies revolve around creativity. Photography, writing, crafts, painting, drawing… you name it and I’m on it. (And yes, I’ve endured the playful jabs from girlfriends who are less fluent with a glue gun.) But creativity doesn’t stop there. I find it play out in my daily life throughout my home and my style. While I am no master, and am forever changing my ideas about what and where I really want to hone my “look”, I completely and selfishly enjoy doing it. And it’s harmless. Well except for a few shin bruises from my husband coming home to the house rearranged yet again. Watch those credit card expenses though…

So, because I love following fashion blogs, Pinterest and other style-heavy publications and because one of my FAVORITE things is to create and recreate things I love and because another of my FAVORITE things is to see what others’ FAVORITE things are, I’m making a list. These are my FAVORITE things – the things I relate and respond to, the things that inspire and motivate me. Though you may not hear me reveal my sources for greatness, we truly are all capable.

Refinery 29 (for the coolest everything – from beauty to fashion across the US)
PS – I made this (for OF. THE. MOMENT. fashion that is literally easy to DIY)
StyleMint & JewelMint (for high-end style-of-the-month at only $29)
Pinterest (for renewing interest in your closet – follow me!)
etsy (for art, photography and party supplies)
ebay (for statement necklaces and jcrew seperates)
Lucky Magazine (and books)
Instagram (iPhone app)



This holiday, I'm trying to be a bit more frugal, er, savvy, with my dollar so I'm getting resourceful. In the coming month with a myriad of parties where hostess gifts are needed and during a time of year when it's always wise to have an extra gift on hand, I find culinary treats to be winners. You can keep many in the freezer or out of the way and if you don't end up needing them as gifts, then you just eat 'em.

I saw an easy demo on TV about making candied citrus peels and seeing as how my grapefruit was about a week outside of the "fresh" window, I figured "why not?"

With a quick google, I found an easy recipe on Epicurious and voila! It really was super easy and they are beautiful! Plus, the warm ones taste like candy orange wedges, but better. You know, fresh.

Another perk to this project is that instead of draining out all that simple syrup, you can bottle it for additional gifts to use it in cocktails or iced tea. A double double.

Here's the 411:
Gather 2-3 citrus of choice
Cut top and bottom of fruit
Score peel into 4 segments
Peel each segment carefully to avoid ripping
Cut peels into 1/4in slices
Add to boiling water and cook for 15min, then drain
Rinse and drain again
Boil 3C water with 3C sugar
Add fruit and allow to boil

Reduce to simmer and cook 45 min
Drain peels and reserve simple syrup
Place peels in 1C sugar, toss to coat

Move to a rack or place on foil lined cookie sheet
Let dry completely 1-2 days

Store airtight for 3 weeks
*dip in melted chocolate for added appeal
Jar simple syrup for gifts. Makes 2-3 jars.


Give and Get - Part 2

It's your turn ladies.

Of course I know that you know how to shop. You also pick up on the subtle clues and likely know exactly what your man would like and want

Our problem isn't on what to get our man, it's more about what to get him that we haven't already gotten. If you have a relationship anything like mine, my problem lies in finding new and exciting ideas to break out of the box.

Having been married for nearly 12 years, I've pretty much bought and given every gift imaginable and let me tell you that new wallets nearly always fail. Apparently, and unlike women, guys loath having to change wallets because it takes SO much effort to wear in a new one. Ensuring it confirms to their butt perfectly and doesn't create lower back pain when riding in cars. Yes, it's a thing. Be warned.

Men can be frugal and really would prefer some action in bed over a well hunted item that can be wrapped and placed under the tree. Ask most men and I'm willing to bet they'd agree with me here. Unless it's a weekend trip for him and his closest friends to Vegas with an appointment at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Richard Petty Driving Experience. But most of us aren't rich and we don't exactly work that way, do we ladies? We MUST have something under the tree for him. And he must LOVE it. You can't wrap what he's really asking for.

Here are my inspirations for the new year. Maybe you too will be inspired. If not, well, there's always that other thing...

Being from the PNW, outer wear is HOT! And nothing says "active & outdoorsy" quite like Patagonia. Bluffing or not. But this jacket is well made, attractive and easy to wear. And under a hunsky at REI. ($89)
Tell your man that you're on his side with this humorous (and yes, honest) account on getting your kids to bed - or the f*** to sleep! That's a bedtime story we can all get behind. ($9)The kids might enjoy giving the techie dad "Goodnight iPad". Because subtle hints at quality "unplugged" time aren't working. ($10)Because my man is a firefighter, I cannot leave you hanging without at least one fire-style gift. And this fire hose belt is a creative first. You can only have so many mugs with a maltese cross. Really. Don't buy anymore.($38)