How to Swirl Frosting

I recently made some cupcakes for a friends daughters baptism and the request was "chocolate mint." Now, I find cupcakes with a heaping pile of mint frosting too sweet and too minty. I end up taking half the frosting off.

I decided to balance the mint frosting by swirling a rich (not too sweet) chocolate frosting with a creamy green mint frosting. Perfection, I tell you.

Now, I'll have to apologize for the lack of a photo. My morning was so crazy, the animals were lucky they were fed by the neighbors, otherwise, I would have forgotten.

So imagine... swirls of green mint & chocolate frosting atop a chocolate cupcake, topped with a mint chocolate candy. See. You don't need photos.

I have since been asked how I could possibly make the frosting swirls so perfect. It's because I'm awesome, says my husband. No, in all seriousness, I found the idea HERE on Our Best Bites website. I did it exactly how they did it, only mine looked better in the end.

I have a problem with arrogance from time to time. At least I'll admit it.


One Lucky Pup -- Two Dumb Horses

A couple of nights ago, there was a knock at the door. A man and a woman with a dog stood there and asked "do you guys have a lab?" The second he asked, I knew something bad had happened. We live on a somewhat busy street in Providence, and many pup's have been known to get hit by cars.

"I'm really sorry, but I think I hit your dog." Immediately, Brielle burst into tears and my stomach started to ache. I thought to myself, this is not possible! How did she escape the yard?

I'll start by saying that Izzy is one lucky little pup. She was hit by a Land Rover, but did not go under a wheel. The man who hit her knew he had hit her, but never felt a "bump." The woman with him saw it happen, then saw Izzy take off for our pasture. I suspect Izzy crossed the road trying to get to her dog.

She's a friendly pup, our Izzle-Frizzle is.

We found Izzy in the back yard, running around and extremely hyper (from the shock of all, I suppose). The next day, we found her limping and sore, with a few minor scrapes. An x-ray at the vet confirmed that there were no broken bones and no internal injuries. Thank heavens.

It would be hard to imagine our family without Izzy. From the day Chris and I picked her out, we knew she was meant for us. We love this little pup and she seems to love us back. Oh my... I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it again!

This leads me to the two responsible for this whole ordeal (and the vet bill). The equines.

The night Izzy was hit, we took some flashlights outside and walked around the backyard. We had no idea how Izzy had gotten out. Towards the back corner of the property, some pieces of the fence were missing. In the morning, we found this...

The technical term would be "cribbing." Cribbing is a complusive behavior found in horses. It's an undesireable habit, but simply put... horses do it when bored. Not only had they chewed up the posts seen above, they pulled pieces of fence right off, leaving a hole big enough for a pup to escape.

Since this "incident" the horses lost another 20 sq. ft. of pasture. I'll miss watching them come up to the fence in the morning when I go out to feed them, but I certainly do not want another accident.


What is Important, and What is Not

Do you ever look back at your actions and behavior and feel ashamed? Embarrassed? Mortified? Today, I do, because yesterday, I was not the kind of person that I want to be.  I wasn't even the person that I think I am. I was selfish, ungrateful and completely immature.  

While sitting on the couch with the TV remote in one hand, and ice cream in the other, I couldn't help but dwell on what I didn't have. At that very moment, it was all that mattered, and not the many blessings I've been given. I held my own self planned pity-party, if you will.

I walked into the kitchen and immediately saw this drawn on the calendar in my kitchen under the date of September 20th...

I burst into tears at the realization that tomorrow was, for my friend, going to be one of the best and worst days of her life. The feelings that I was currently experiencing couldn't hold a candle to what my friend Breanne would soon face. I was a total loser and I knew it.

Several months ago, Breanne showed up to BUNCO to tell us all that she was pregnant with her 5th child. Because of 4 previous C-sections, she knew this would be her last child. With 4 small boys at home, we all knew she wanted a girl. They soon found out that they were going to have the girl they wanted, but that this baby had a rare condition that would not be compatible with life.  She would not live past birth.

Although given the opportunity to terminate the pregnancy, she decided to carry the baby to term. She decided to endure the constant "when are you due?" and "congratulations on your pregnancy" and "what are you having?" so that she could spend every moment possible with the baby growing inside her. She not only wanted to give this child an opportunity to receive a body on earth, but to hold her and tell her thank you for choosing their family.

You may recall an LDS conference talk by President Thomas S. Monson titled "Finding Joy in the Journey." She talks about this conference talk on her blog, and how it has taught her to find the blessing in this experience. It has motivated her to endure each and every day of this pregnancy, to help her boys understand what is happening and to remind her family that families are Eternal. 

Because of this talk and with 4 cute boys whose names all begin with "J," they found it fitting to name this sweet baby "Joy" and document their journey on a blog titled "Our Journey with Joy." She is amazing and her faith is truly an inspiring. I can only describe her as the epitome of a Christ-like person. Keep a tissue handy... especially when you read the post written by her husband, which is all about his exceptional, sweet wife.

I honestly believe that I drew that heart with a "B" in it for a reason. I believe that my Heavenly Father knew that I would need a slap in face. A reminder that my life and my family are so very blessed. That we want for nothing and that my family is healthy and happy. I was immediately humbled.  I decided to catch up on recent posts on her blog, and I re-read President Monson's conference talk. In his talk, I read:

"This is our one and only chance at mortal life - here and now.  The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that amount the greatest lessons we are to learn is this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I please with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do.  Instead, find joy in the journey - now."

Yesterday, I lost sight of what was really important. Today, as my heart aches for Breanne and her family, I will focus on what is important. I will not let disappointments or selfish wants become the center of my thoughts and actions. I will remember that I have been blessed with a family who loves me, a daughter I adore and a husband who takes care of us. Today, I will be grateful.

Some who read this may know Breanne, others may not. Whoever you are, please say a prayer for her family today. They certainly need it.


Family Getaway -- St. George, Utah

Most people probably don't realize, but summer is the busiest time of year for Chris.  He works hard. And not only does he work hard, but he's usually putting in 10+ hour days, sometimes Saturdays, in the summer heat. And this summer has been a doozy!  If you think it's hot just being outside, try working on a deck that is radiating additional heat.

What I'm getting at, is that once Chris gets going for the summer and the demands from his clients start coming, it's hard to break away, even for a weekend.  So when my work sent me to St. George for a few days, we packed everyone up, loaded the rental car (better gas mileage) and took off.

Chris drove all the way there... I drove all the way home.  We believe in a fair and equal partnership.  

While I was in meetings all day, Chris and Brielle enjoyed time without a schedule, without school and without any rules.  They walked through the local Wildlife Museum and raved about it, they swam in the hotel pool and took a random drive to Mesquite and back.  Funny story...

He thought the hotel/casino with the roller coaster was on the Utah/Nevada border. Ha!  It's on the Nevada/California border.

We also decided it would be fun to see a play at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre.  I had never been and neither had Brielle.  Aladdin happened to be playing and it did not disappoint!  Live camels!  They seriously had live camels!  I certainly didn't expect that.  Pics are forbidden... sorry.

Mary Poppins is playing in 2013.  I anticipate another St. George trip in our future...

I told Chris that I had never been to Zions National Park before, so we should go.  It's funny though, I recognized a few things, so maybe I have been.  Who knows.

Brielle couldn't get enough of the scenery.  Her head was sticking out of the car most of the way through the park.

We'd stop, stretch our legs and climb some rocks for a bit.  We didn't go nearly as prepared as some of the "granolas" was saw, or even the tourists trying to look like the granolas.  But seriously people... folks have been hiking for years without your fancy boots and aluminum walking sticks.  I'm pretty sure you'll manage, too.

I was amazed at the beauty of this place, and we didn't even see a quarter of it.  Had we known this was a stop we'd make, we would have consulted with our Southern Utah Family Expert (Aunt Ang) and asked for a guided tour to the non-touristy places.  Next time...

We did, however, hop on a shuttle that took us to the Zion Lodge.  From there, you could head out on many hiking trails OR take a tour on horse back.  I wanted the horse back option but Chris refused to pay to ride horses when we've got some at home.  Every party has a pooper...

We headed towards a one mile trail marked "Emerald Pools."  With a name like that, I was expecting cool, crystal clear water to soak our tired feet in.  What we found was a nasty, muddy, stagnent pool of water.  There was nothing "emerald" about it.  But we had fun walking along the trail anyway...

Let's play "Where's Brielle?"

Even though the Emerald Pool did not live up to its name, there was still some amazing scenery along the way and occasional water falling from the cliffs above.

That's Chris way back there, carrying all our water bottles.  He's useful, that one.

This trip made me realize that there is so much of Utah that our family has yet to explore, all within a short drive.  That, and if I plan far summer trips far enough in advance, Chris will have no choice but to walk away from work for a couple of days and get away.  Summer goes by way too quickly, and this summer was no exception.  Spending a few days with my loves has me looking forward to our next big adventure... Florida!

Pinterest Find... Lemon-Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread

It's amazing how much crap you can find on Pinterest.  And when I say crap, I mean... it looks nothing like the photo and doesn't taste as good as the "pinner" claimed.  What can I say?  I'm a busy gal and I don't like it when my time (and money) is wasted.

But sometimes I stumble upon something so delicious, so amazing and so easy to make, I almost (almost) forget about the other times.  And not only have I stumbled upon another amazing recipe, but in doing so I also stumbled upon another blog with more fantastic recipes that are nutritionally conscious (for a person like me who someday hopes to called "skinny" and not "heavy."

She posts all the nutritional information, including Weight Watchers Points & Points+, and you can see in her recipes that she finds ways to cut the fat & sugar with healthy alternatives without skimping on flavor.

Take this super delicious, super moist, super yummy, super sweet, super light, don't give away the second loaf because you'll cry if you don't get another slice Lemon Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread by Eat Yourself Skinny for example...

Photo by Eat Yourself Skinny

Random thought -- can you really call this bread when it has the texture of a cake?

Anyway, there is still butter, but this recipe also includes yogurt, applesauce and of course zucchini.  For the last several weeks, I've had an abundance of zucchini brought to my house. Now, I'm completely devastated because I have all the components to make this "bread" -- except the zucchini. 

Anyone have extra zucchini they'd like me to have?  I won't share any with you after it's baked, sorry, but I've provided you with the recipe so that you may make yourself?  Anyone? 

Even if you don't have any zucchini to bring to me, try the recipe and check out her blog.  I've got my eye on another recipe of hers... Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Cereal.  Looks amazing!


Man vs. Mud 2012

We started out as 7 super hot "Bunc-Ho's"...

And after 3 miles & 27 muddy obstacles...

We had defeated the 2012 Man vs. Mud challenge. And we only got a little dirty.

The girls and I had talked about running a 5k, but then I got the crazy idea to take it one step further and play in the mud.  Or in this case, mud with a little manure (I know, it was gross -- I didn't know, okay!).

It started with a 50 foot slide down the hill, and a climb back up...

Army crawls in the mud (of course)...

Trenches full of the smelliest, nastiest, mud slime EVER (no kidding -- up to our necks), which you'll just have to imagine because Chris didn't walk the entire course taking photos.  Awwwww... supportive, isn't he?

There were hay bails to climb, which, I said to the girls "I got this."  Oh boy... I didn't.  I hurled myself so far over one, I went right off the other side.  I have trouble being overly confident from time to time.

It was difficult to run on the muddy trails.  Despite our best efforts, we just couldn't keep our footing.  Our feet sank in the mud, or we slipped.  It wasn't easy.

If you'll turn your attention to the bottom left corner of this next photo, you'll see Jill making a big splash.  The idea was to crawl along the tube, but I couldn't help myself... I pushed her in!

Karma is a bis-natch ya'll... cause just as soon as I pushed her, I myself lost my footing (again) and fell in.  

Now you'll see Jolene crossing her legs in an effort not to wet herself from laughter (which didn't work).  But she wasn't alone.  I was now in a cold, muddy pond, laughing so hard from what just happened, I joined her new club.  Not our proudest moments, for sure.

I have bruises on my knees as a result of the next obstacle.  And could someone please explain to me what kind of angle Jolene's husband was trying to get, standing underneath us all.  Hmmm.....

And now... our final desent towards the finish line.  But wait... I'm not prepared for what's at the bottom!

Nasty, muddy water.  I barely made it out with my life, I swear.  As I was bringing myself up out of the "water" I turned to see a fellow Bunco-Ho traveling at high speeds towards me.  Apparantly she didn't listen to the man at the top who said "wait until they've moved before you go."  She breaks all the rules, that one.

Whoever took this photo of our behinds should be shot.  I'm just saying.

I've never felt so dirty, so disgusting and so grossed out in all my life.  My abs are sore, my knees bruised, and oh yes, there was the part where I wet myself.  But I've haven't had that much fun in a long time.  We're already planning next years event, along side the Bunc-Ho Pimps (aka, our husbands).

Go Bunc-Ho's!


Peaches & Cream Cupcakes

My dear, sweet husband asked me ever so politely to update my blog. You see, he's my one and only blog follower (I'm sure of it) and has apparantly become annoyed with checking in, only to find that my last post (over 2 weeks ago) is still the most recent post.

I've been in a blogging funk lately, which happens from time to time. That, and I can't seem to catch up on anything right now. With school having started again, we're back on a regular routine at this house, but suddenly, things seem busier. I travel a lot for my work this time of year, which I love, but it seems to put me that much more behind.

So, rather than catch up on laundry, doing the dishes or finishing my spice jar project, I'll update my blog. This ones for you Chris...

I always know when my favorite time of year approaches. I absolutely love everything that comes with the fall season... sweaters, cool nights, the beautiful colors in the nearby canyons and peaches.


Being that I live so close to Brigham City, Utah (known for their peaches), I'm lucky to have fresh, juicy peaches at my finger tips, any time I want. Sliced peaches in milk with a little sugar because a regular breakfast meal and we look for whatever we can to top with peaches -- pancakes, toast, etc. And of course, we've made several  batches of Peaches & Cream Cupcakes. Not to eat all by ourselves. A couple boxes have made it to neighbors & parties we'ves attended. I think that it's safe to say these are my second favorite food item, next only to fresh peaches themselves.

Peach Cupcakes are really easy to make.  I start with my basic Vanilla Cupcake recipe, using the following variation:
  • Instead of 3 tsp of Vanilla, reduce to 1 1/2 tsp
  • Add 1 1/2 tsp Almond extract
  • Peel and finely dice 2-3 peaches, and fold in gently after the batter is combined
Bake at the same temperature, for 18 minutes or until they spring back when touched.

I love that you can see the bits of peaches popping through the cupcakes. Now, because of the fresh fruit and the moisture content, they won't have perfectly round tops, but hey, I cover them with an amazing whipped frosting, so who cares...

Now, I did something a little bit different this year, than last. I decided I wanted a stronger peach flavor, without using any artifical flavorings. But I also didn't want to make a filling that would turn the centers mushy. What I ended up with was amazing.  Amazing, I tell you!

Fresh Peach Puree
  • 3 peaches, peeled and halved
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp gelatin
  • 3tbsp cold water
After peeling the peaches and removing the bit, please the peach halves in a blender. Add the juice of one lime, the sugar and then blend until smooth (or slightly chunky if you'd like -- I've done both). Place in a saucepan and heat until bubbling, stiring occasionaly so it doesn't burn.

While cooking the peaches, place the cold water into a small bowl. Once the peaches are heated through, add the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth. Place in the fridge until cooled and the gelatin has set.  You'll end up with essentially peach jam, except not as sweet. I did this on purpose.

Isn't that puree the most beautiful peachy color? No coloring was added.  It is just pure, tart, peachy goodness. Now, you'll notice two things about this puree...
  1. It's not very sweet.  With a sweet frosting, I didn't want it to be. I wanted the contrast in flavors, and you will too... I promise.
  2. I didn't put the puree inside the cupcake. I'm sorry, but I don't like cupcakes with half the cake removed for filling.  I want the cake, too!  Besides, when you can swirl the frosting around the filling, why not just plop is on top?
So that's what I did, and let me just tell you... people love the surprise filling underneath the frosting, as well as the burst of peachy flavor it gave to the cupcakes.

Now, this cupcake couldn't have just a regular buttercream or cream cheese frosting.  That would be too heavy, and you wouldn't be able to call it a "Peaches & Cream" cupcake. But it's perfect with a Whipped Frosting.

Whipped Mascarpone Frosting
  • 1 8oz tup Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
In your mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high until combined and thick.  Place in a pipping bag and swirl around the fresh peach puree.

They look so simple, basic & pretty, no one will know what flavorful surprise lies underneath!