Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Van Gogh inspired Creeper Cake

I try to be a good, overachieving   crafty-homemade mom. I really do. But there are just some "good mom" things I can't do...the big one has to do with cakes. For a long time it was pies, but arch nemesis has become the cake.

Not baking.


Full disclosure: I don't bake cakes any more. The kids all prefer Leelee's anyway. Why bother.

But the decorating?


I try. I really do.

Last year was my epic cake pop flop. And it looks like if you google cake pop flops, mine was so's on the first page of google search results. That means a heck of a lot of you enjoyed  commiserated my foray into cake pop making.

When Punky Brewster turned one...I attempted fondant. Marshmallow fondant. Homemade. Because I was actually still trying to be supermom.

Not horrible right?

Except it was so thick, my one year old couldn't even rip it apart.

When it comes to making a cake look pretty, I just need to forget it. Or stick to something like my Earthquake cake

But no, I still try to don my mama super cape and make a fantastically decorated birthday cake.

B turned 12 and wanted a Minecraft themed party. At this age, it really just consisted of a group of friends over to play computer games and eat food.

Leelee started out with the's green velvet instead of red....

The hulk-like should have been a warning to just step away from the cake activities for the day.

This picture speaks for itself...

Leelee couldn't contain her laughter. She snapped a picture and texted it to a friend. Her friend was far nicer and said it was a very Van Gogh inspired.

Yeah...I think I'll go with that. My 12 year old wanted a Van Gogh inspired Creeper cake. Because he's so cultured...had nothing to do with my complete lack of talent.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Great Clean Up Round Up

 Now that the kids are back in school, I'm ready to tackle a big, deep clean on the house...especially before I take my vacation in two weeks...the vacation where I'm leaving my husband and school aged kids behind for 10 days! 

To say it's going to be crazy is an understatement. 

I have chemical sensitivities that make it really difficult to find cleaners in the stores that don't land me in bed for a few days with a killer headache...or worse, at the hospital with breathing problems. BTDT and would definitely prefer avoiding it!

Thanks to the magical powers of the internet and pinterest, I've managed to find really terrific ways too clean just about everything in the house using baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and a few other very basic, readily available ingredients.  I never really understood the need for the giant bags of baking soda at Costco until I started making my own cleaners.

For more great organizing and cleaning ideas, follow my Organizing and Cleaning Pinboard!




And to help keep you going on the cleaning process.....

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Confessions of an Aspergers Mom

I haven't written a blog confession in a long time.

I keep trying to write blog posts, but I can't. Physically can't. Or maybe it's mentally.

The kids went back to school this week and it was quiet. . . aside from Little Miss. She doesn't *do* quiet. Constantly "Mama, Mama, Mama" and touching me. She's been waking up in the middle of the night, climbing in to my bed and sleeping with her arm around me. This means I'm not sleeping. At all.

I have written sentences and erased them so many times because I can't get my thoughts together.

It's times like this when I realize how my ADD and undiagnosed Aspergers impacts my every day. Oh wait, we're not supposed to call it Aspergers any more. It's all just autism.

The TV is on in the background and my brain can't.

Just imagine trying to watch a movie with someone waving their hands in front of your face constantly. With someone else whispering in your ear. You can almost see the picture on the screen, but that person just won't get out of the way.  You keep moving your head to see around, but can't.

And that person next to you whispering in your ear is making it impossible to hear the dialogue. And he or she is a  stranger...sitting uncomfortable close and breathing on you. Like hot breath, so your skin starts to crawl.

It seems like the room may even be closing in around you.

And that's just trying to write a blog post with the TV on.

Monday night, I attended a meeting about neighborhood issues. NPR was on low volume in the background. No one else seemed to notice. People were discussing neighborhood concerns  and my ears kept focusing on what was happening in Egypt. All the voices from the room and the radio seemed on the same volume.

My doctor calls it a filtering problem.

All of this builds up inside me and my fingers end up frozen over the keyboard struggling to get what is happening in my head on to the screen.

 You know how when you walk in to a room and completely forget what you went in there for?

My brain does that complete stop. Reboot. What was I doing?

With every noisy distraction.

 I just want all the noise to stop.

I have two options when things get like this: I go into Leelee's room and shut the door or I go to the gym. Judging by how my pants aren't fitting, I've been spending far too much time in the upstairs room with the lights off.

When I go to the gym, there's no headphones or music or even book reading. I can't multitask. The repetition of moving my feet up and down on the arc trainer is enough. I watch the numbers appear on the screen and I do calculations on exactly how many calories I'm actually burning per minute and if I want to reach a certain caloric goal, what my stride must be vs how long I need to stay at a specific stride to reach that goal.

I'm not sure which is more appealing: the quiet, the repetition or figuring out the math.

I don't want to come home before the kids are in bed. If they are still awake, it's a complete sensory overload: singing, whining, goodnight hugs, and everyone filling me in on what I missed during the hour I was gone...all at the same time.

Too many things plugged in to one circuit and it overloads. 

Sometimes, my brain filter turns all the way on. I filter out everything that isn't important to me at that moment. Noise, children...even eating. A giant DO NOT DISTURB sign in my head. When someone ignores the sign that only I can see, I open the door and tell them to go away. Only not that nicely. Understanding social cues was never my thing.

Don't get me wrong, I can fake it really well. Or not. I tend to be overly social in real life. The Boy's math teacher last year said he was the most social person with autism she has ever met. Autism isn't about not being social. It's about not knowing or recognizing appropriate social cues and norms. We don't know when to stop talking or when the conversation has drifted. We keep trying to get the conversation back to things we are comfortable with. So it may sound like we are always talking about ourselves or the things we love. Or we're telling our life stories to the person next to us in the check out line. That whole "Don't talk to strangers" thing doesn't work too well in our house.

Having a child with autism helps. He understands me. I understand him. Sometimes, I think he saved me. Without him, I wouldn't know why I'm like this. Without learning what to do to help him, I would have never learned what to do to help myself.  We both need quiet and that time to detach from the world and recenter ourselves.

Of course when he was younger and the only thing that would calm him down was touching my feet, it was a completely different story. Don't ever touch my feet. Ever. It's like a thousand needles in my skin  and a person screaming in my ears all at once. But I did it for my son. It's when I truly understood how much a mother is really willing to sacrifice for her child.

I take my hour a day at the gym or an hour in the dark room and pray its enough for me to go on to another day of too much noise and too much touch. And I remind myself they won't be small forever.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Grand Foyer--more progress

Another week offline thanks to our internet provider.  This time, we were so busy prepping with back to school that I didn't really have much time at all to think about the blog. Sorry.

The kids went back to school today, thank goodness. It's been a really wet summer and not nearly as much time to be outside. Basically, the kids were driving me completely crazy! Now, I only have Little Miss to drive me to the brink of exhaustion with her non-stop chatter. Her school starts in September.

The good news is I finally made huge progress on the grand foyer. . . enough progress that I'm willing to show pictures!

This has been an ongoing project for the last 10 months or so. I'm still working on window coverings. What I have up right now...I'm not loving. I think it's just really too busy. I plan on making proper window coverings (whether it's drapes or roman shades, I haven't any idea!) as my next project.

Now, here's a little peek at what things used to look like...

Please note the ugly wall paper and the lack of any railings on the steps!

Before the "in progress" pictures, you need to know that the very last thing we'll be doing is refinishing the floors. So...I've been a bit sloppy with the painting because I know I get to give a big Buh-Bye to those ugly poo brown painted floors. The last touch will be a lovely area rug if I can ever find one I love that's within my budget.

Also, please excuse the painters tape and the obvious touch ups I need to do on my edging. I hate climbing ladders...

All of the doors and trim used to be the same nasty brown as the posts on the small landing. The plan right now is to strip the paint from the post and rail on the small landing and match it to the stain on the lower stair rail.

This wider shot of the room shows the accent wall. It really isn't flat on the same wall as the door, but rather juts out about a foot.

I'm attempting a gallery wall. So far it's not going well because I don't have enough pictures.  I'm having my typical problem with scale...most of our existing pictures/art are designed for a house that is just, well...smaller. I hate to replace everything because there are pieces that I just love.

I'd love to hear any suggestions on solving this type of problem!

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Pizza in a Cast Iron Skillet

I'm loving all the ways to use my cast iron. Tonight, we did an experiment...we cooked our pizza on the stove top in the skillet.

It was an amazing success and it didn't really heat up the house the way cooking a pizza in the oven would. The added bonus now is knowing we can make homemade pizza on our camping trips!

Cooking the pizza in the skillet is super easy.

1.  Add about 1T oil into a cool skillet and heat on medium heat. 

2. Roll out your dough on large flat surface and gently transfer to the hot skillet.

3. Cook for about one minute, then flip it over. 

4. Add your toppings. For ours, we used Thessalonian Greek heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil, plus shredded mozzarella cheese.

5. Cover the skillet to allow the cheese to melt and everything to heat through. 

The entire process should take about 5 minutes!

That's right... homemade pizza in 5 minutes.

Pretty amazing, huh? I'm thinking pizza won't be just for Friday nights. My kids love cold pizza, so we may even see some pizza leftovers in the lunch box.

The crust was thick and chewy. Really just so much better than any pizza delivery place could ever offer. For our crust, we use this basic dough  recipe.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer 2013 photo

It's almost the end of summer. D goes back to school tomorrow and the kids follow in 12 days (not that I'm counting!) and we finally got to our annual summer photo. The summer has been so rainy, we haven't really had a chance to get near water to take the picture.

What's cool this year is only an inch or so separates the boys and Leelee is just about an inch shorter than Little B. The older three are all taller than I am.

Also big changes in hair this year! All the girls cut their hair. Leelee wasn't so keen on keeping her hair curled for this picture, but she still has crazy curls. So does Danger Girl, but she keeps trying to brush them out.



2011...local YMCA

2009 ...Oregon coast
2008... Georgia
2007 ... YMCA

I'm really excited to have finally found this picture. It was the first one we took back in 2006 when I was pregnant with Punky Brewster. It was in a scrapbook,'s a scan of the picture. Oh boy...were my photoshop skills lacking!
2006... YMCA

I'm so happy I started this back in 2006. And it goes to show, it is never too late to start a fun tradition! I have no idea what I'm going to do in a couple years when The Boy heads off to college and a mission. Maybe have his missionary companion take a picture of him from behind in his suit and send it to me and I'll photohop him in!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Ranch Kale Chips

In my effort to find easy and healthy snacks for the kids I decided to finally jump on the Kale bandwagon.

I generally love any type of green leafy veggies, so I was hoping the kale chips would be a big hit. I bad could oven roasted dried leaves be? Exactly. So I decided to add a homemade ranch powder to actually give them something unhealthy to make them flavorful!

I started with a large bunch of kale and pulled the leafy part off the stalk.

Since I've never eaten kale before, I felt it was important to try a nibble before going any further. To me, it tasted a bit like broccoli and spinach combined. It wasn't horrible.

After pulling off the leaves, I tossed the them in a bit of olive oil.

On a flat baking sheet, spread out the kale. This is when I added the ranch powder. I used this recipe but you can also use store bought powder. Next, they baked in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. I moved them around the pan about 15 minutes in.

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