Saturday, September 29, 2012

THE Cake


A couple weeks ago I was having the discussion with my husband that I wish I had the desire or maybe just the attention span to get really good at just one thing.  If I did that- really focused on just one thing- I could be the best at that one thing and then sell the item or service, trademark my genius ideas, be revered as a guru, appear on morning talk shows, and eventually take over the world.  But alas, I have self-diagnosed adult ADD.  I want to do EVERYTHING!  A Jill-of-all-Trades, I consider myself.  Just in the last year, I have designed blogs, purchased a sewing machine AND an embroidery machine in the hopes of becoming a seamstress, made hairbows, researched starting my own party planning and supplies business, done graphic designs for a company, began leading worship at a church, and toyed with the idea of making and selling custom cakes/cupcakes/cookies/other sugary goodness (that's where this post comes in.)  And although I may never get REALLY good at just one thing, I'm having a LOT of fun dabbling in so many different creative outlets. 

Thanks to the massive time-waster, yet completely genius website Pinterest, I believe I have mastered the art of the cake.  At least the make-it-yourself-but-tastes-and-looks-like-it-came-from-a-bakery birthday/wedding/any and all occasion cake.  I put this masterpiece together using a couple of different recipes and a bit of my own genius ( raspberry preserves) and I must say that it is GOOD!  I even hesitate to share this recipe, but I figure all you have to do is look at my Pinterest account, so I'll go ahead and just post it here.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

THE Cake
(Cake recipe from Recipe Girl)
(Frosting recipe from Glorious Treats)

Cake Ingredients
1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
4 large egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer for 2 minutes, or until well blended.
3. Pour mix into three greased 9 inch round cake pans.  Cook until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I believe it was 25-30 minutes, but I don't honestly remember.  (If making cupcakes, use ice cream scoop to fill prepared cupcake tins- fill about 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.)
4. Remove cake from pans and let cool on cooling rack for a few hours.  (How to remove cake onto cooling rack video tutorial here.)

Frosting Ingredients
**I doubled the frosting recipe for this cake due to the three layers and the frosting method.
½ cup (1 stick/8 Tablespoons) butter (set at room temp about 10 minutes, but should still be cool)
8 oz. cream cheese (directly from fridge)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
1 to 4 Tablespoons heavy cream, heavy whipping cream

1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
2. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
3. Slowly add the heavy cream, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. (Don’t add too much if you want the frosting to stay in place when piped on cake.)
4. Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.  At this point, you can add frosting gel color (I used Wilton) or leave it white.
5. Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)

Now, put it all together!

1. Cut the rounded top off of each cake to make the cakes flat. This will help you alot!
2. Put the first layer on your cake stand.  Put a very thin layer of icing, then spread on a layer of store-bought raspberry preserves.  Repeat with the next two layers.
3. Cut off five or six wooden skewers to the height of your cake, then push them down through the layers to keep the cake together.
4.  Two options for frosting the cake:  Frost cakes as usual by spreading frosting with an offset spatula or knife.  OR, if you want to be super-cool and impress all your friends with the rosette mehod, go ahead and frost your cake as usual with just a thin layer of icing.  Then, follow this method by the brilliant I am Baker blogger. 

One tip I learned when making this cake- if you are doing the rosette method, make sure your frosting is cold enough.  I would stick it back in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so before you begin doing the rosettes.  You will have to refill your frosting bag several times, so each time you are actually piping the rosettes on, stick the icing back in the fridge for those few minutes, as well.  When you are done with the cake, refrigerate it!  You don't want melted roses!  Also, her tutorial calls for a 1M tip, but I used a Wilton 2D.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thirteen Months

Month thirteen has been much crazier than I anticipated!  It seems like the last few months rolled along pretty smoothly, but this month has rocked Emily's world...and ours, too.  We had some rough times this month, but good ones, too.  The first molar started coming in the day after her birthday and that coupled with the transition from crawler to walker has been rough.  We had one really bad week, but other than that, she's doing great.  Emily is growing and changing so much every day!  Due to an  active toddler, we're changing the monthly post format to make it easier and quicker for mom.  I hope she'll forgive me when she's grown, looking back at the blog!  Here are a few notable events from this past month:

  •  SERIOUS personality:  I don't know why we would ever be surprised, but as soon as she turned a year, she decided to go full toddler on us.  She is still sweet as sugar when she wants to be, but scowls alot at people she doesn't know and gives us much more attitude than before.  It can be exasperating, but I'm so glad she's a pistol!
  • More teeth- already!: This month, we got our first two top molars, which brings us to a total of ten teeth!
  • Peek-a-boo improvements:  Instead of putting the blanket over her head, she now likes to cover her eyes with her hands to play "Where's Emily?"
  • Milk:  Drinking cow's milk and loves it!  She especially loves it when Hershey's syrup finds its way into the cup.  We are down to only one bottle at night, but it's only four ounces.  Soon it will be gone.
  • First ponytail:  She finally has enough hair for a ponytail and it is SO cute!  Very Pebbles-esque.
  • Sign language:  Can sign "all done" and "more."  She loves "all done," but when I try to get her to sign "more," she typically shakes her head no and squeals.  She has signed it on her own a few times, but only when it's her idea.
  • Food: Added peanut butter this month and LOVES it!  I mean, what's not to love?  She also added french toast and scrambled eggs.  Basically, she eats anything.  So far she consistently refuses refried beans, but that's about it.
  • Singing and Dancing:  She loves to sing with me.  When I sing her bedtime songs, she tries to sing along by humming.  She also loves to sway and bop to the music.  Cutest thing ever.
  • WALKING!!!:  Although she started taking steps last month, she was not an official walker until September 11th.  Since that day, she hasn't looked back.  She is getting really good at it and fast, too!  I know running isn't too far off.
She's around 23 pounds and still wearing twelve month clothes and a size three diaper.  She wears 18 month PJs sometimes, because they're a bit more roomy.  Our girl is tall!

Our sweet girl the day after her birthday

First official ponytail!

Watching Daddy mow the yard

Having fun with MawMaw

Attempting to feed herself

Makes a better chair than toy basket, apparently.

First Spaghetti experience.  Love at first bite.

There's that cute pony again.

First trip to the park.  The tantrum that followed was epic.

How could that face belong to a stinker?

Did I say ponytail?  I meant tailfeather.

Our least favorite Emily face.  We saw it for about seven days straight.

Playing with fun birthday toys

First time in the big girl bath!

Bubbles!  A special bathtime treat.

First thing in the morning.  She loves that car!

Music must always be playing when she rides it.  In this picture, the music had stopped.  That's why she's pushing the yellow key and scowling.  At least she knows how to turn it back on herself!

Did I mention that she loves this thing?

Our sweet little walker

Monday, September 17, 2012

Some days, being a mom is really easy...

...but most days, it is REALLY HARD! 

Friday was one of the hardest days I've been through since becoming a mom.  Around lunch time, I couldn't handle it anymore and I just had to get out of the house.  It's not like anything really terrible had happened.  It was just a rough morning overall- she was irritable, screamed when I dropped her off at childcare for Jazzercise, and then only took a very short nap when we got home, waking up fussy.  When combined with four previous days of the exact same behavior, the fact that my house looked like a war zone, feeling very lonely/isolated, and some big decisions looming, I think I had just finally had all I could handle.  We loaded up the car and headed out the door.  The destination was unknown, but anywhere would be an improvement over where we were. 

After a visit to Daddy's work (where he gave me a few minutes break to eat a sandwich in peace,) we headed to our neighborhood park for the first time.  Emily had tons of fun swinging, climbing the stairs, and sliding.  Cue rainstorm, which caused us to leave the park, inducing an epic meltdown.  From Emily, not me, although it probably wasn't too far off.  We were home in about five minutes (five minutes of screaming bloody murder) where I then gave Emily a couple minutes to calm down and then put her in bed (where she stood at the crib rail for an hour and a half without sleeping a wink.) 

In the two minutes that it took me to put Emily down, Maggie the Weiner Dog got into a tube of Desitin that had fallen off the changing table.  She didn't eat much, so I wasn't concerned.  I decided to sit down and rest for about five minutes before tackling the house cleaning.  About five minutes after I sat, Maggie started throwing up.  All over me, the chair, ottoman, rug, everywhere.  I put her in her cage where she continued to throw up.  After a quick Google search, I realized she wouldn't die, so I didn't worry about taking her to the vet.  I called Lucas with an SOS and since he was planning to leave early anyway, he headed home.  Thankfully, Emily already had a slumber party planned with  Mimi and Papa that night and we had a night on our own to regroup.

When we decided that I would stay home, I never imagined it would be as hard as it's been.  Although there are days that are a breeze, and I feel totally spoiled, the times when it is hard totally make up for those easy days.  This past month has been especially hard and it has gotten progressively worse.  It started with molars coming in, but I just don't think I can use the molar excuse anymore.  Our little girl has found her personality and she is the quintessential strong willed child.  I am VERY thankful for this.  I believe that strong-willed children turn out to be great adults.  It's just a little rough right now.  Honestly, the last two two days have been much better.  She has started napping again and I think that makes all the difference. 

I was so discouraged Friday and so I just thought I would take a moment to blog about it.  If you're a mom feeling discouraged, just know that it will get better! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How Great is Our God

On August 19, 2011, just a few hours after Emily was born and all of the family had gone, I held my daughter and sang over her for the first time.  It was a holy moment, one I will never forget.  In preparation for the arrival of our sweet girl, I purchased an album called Sing Over Me, a compilation of worship songs and lullabies by several leading female worship artists.  This album found its way into my hospital bag and was the background for some of our first alone time together as our new little family of three.  As the song "How Great is Our God" came on, I began to sing, overwhelmed of the song's truth as I looked at her precious little face.

On August 19th, 2012, I found myself back in a place I never again thought I would be- at least not for more than a Sunday visit here or there.  As I stood among the worshipers at the South Mac Church, the church I was born into, the worship leader began to play "How Great is Our God."  Again, I felt the overwhelming truth as I held my daughter on her first birthday and remembered that amazing feeling of singing over her for the first time, exactly one year before.  I know it was a sweet message from God that he sees me, knows me, loves me, and cares for me in a way that just a few hours previously was unfathomable.

After tonight's bedtime routine- bottle, Bible story, prayer, and songs, I wasn't ready to put sweet Emily down yet.  The past few weeks have been harder than normal with multiple molars coming in, a transition from crawling to walking, a shifting nap schedule, and a baby who REALLY wants to communicate with us, but just hasn't found the words yet.  With all the daytime craziness, the serenity and predictability of the bedtime routine is comforting, both to me and to her.  Tonight she snuggled just a bit closer than normal and with her arms up around my shoulders, patted me so sweetly.  Of course, the song that immediately came to mind was "How Great is Our God," so I began to sing.  As I came to the chorus, my sweet angel joined in.  It's something she's been doing often in the past week or so, but tonight was the first time I had sung her this song since she has found her "singing voice."  It was a precious gift and again, one that I will not forget.  The first time for us to sing our special song together.

Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me again of how much you love me.  I am so unworthy, but forever grateful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Emily is walking!

Our sweet little girl has been on the verge of walking for a couple of months now.  We've been sure that she would just take off any day.  And two months later, here she is!  She still isn't a "walker" (although technically she is- hardee har har,) but we are definitely getting there!  This video is footage of her walking across the kitchen for the third time within about five minutes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


It's been such a busy summer and I haven't been great about keeping the blog up to date.  Confession:  (If you follow me regularly or via Google Reader, you already know this) I am very guilty of writing blog posts a week, two weeks, or even a month late and then back-dating them so it looks like I did it on time.  I don't do this to look like I have it all together (because trust me, I don't,) but so that our family scrapbook- AKA the blog- keeps some kind of semblance of order.

Now that summer is over, I am making an effort to get even more organized and polish our schedule a bit.  We've always been pretty structured with Emily's naptime/bedtime schedules, but I'm trying to be more disciplined for myself about going to bed on time, getting up early, and doing my best to be productive during the times Emily is asleep.  Because really, there's no other way to survive life as a stay-at-home mom/household manager/domestic engineer/housewife.  After Emily's birthday party, I experienced that first hand.  Staying up entirely too late every night for a couple of weeks, working out for an hour every weekday morning, and chasing an emerging toddler around for ten hours a day really took its toll on me.  I didn't have a choice to do anything but push through, but it was a hard two weeks.  I've finally caught up on my sleep and have been more consistent with vitamins and am finally feeling good again!  Now that I'm back and better than ever, it's time to get intentional about my new career.

Speaking of new careers, things have been CRAZY around the Takala household lately.  August was just a month of all kinds of exciting goings-on.  You already know about the birthday party, but on top of that, we had a couple other great/crazy opportunities come up.  It's not at all a stretch for me to say that never in a million years would I ever think that I'd be doing either one of these things.  Lit-rally.

Back in July we were introduced to AdvoCare and after completing the 24 Day Challenge and losing a combined 30 lbs and 16.5 inches, we decided to take the plunge and become AdvoCare Advisors and Independent Distributors.  If you've known me for awhile, you may remember the whole Arbonne debacle back around 2005ish.  It was a bad experience with direct sales/multi-level marketing and I swore I'd never do it again.  However, I left this decision up to my husband who is VERY level-headed, money-minded, and just a bit cynical.  If he was for it, I knew there was something to it.  Our new AdvoCare business just seems to be a better situation all-around.  We've already made more money than I ever saw in the other business and the products are helping us to live a much healthier lifestyle.  We're making money, which is a great bonus, but our initial intentions with AdvoCare were just to get a discount on the amazing products.  If we make money, great.  It's hard not to make money, though, when people see how great the products are.  We do want to build a business because of the great team we are on, but opportunity number two has kind of placed that one on hold for a bit. 

So what is opportunity number two?  Well, at the beginning of August, Lucas and I were asked to come on board as worship leaders at South Mac Arthur Church of Christ, the church I grew up at.  (That sentence may be confusing to some of you if you know anything about the Church of Christ.)  Although I resisted at first, it's easy to see now that Lord's hand in it.  We left The Branch in the Spring and were THIS close to placing membership at a church in Colleyville when we were approached by the pastors at South Mac to come join them in their new venture.  The church made the transition from a cappella worship to instrumental worship in January with Joseph, the youth minister, playing guitar and leading worship.  (Don't worry...there is still one a cappella service, so we may still get to Heaven by association.  I kid, I kid.)  This summer, they finally decided it was time to build up the band a bit by adding keys and a female vocalist, which is where we come in.  We have been able to relieve Joseph a bit by planning the worship sets each week and running rehearsals, but he still plays guitar and sings lead.  We've only been leading for two weeks now, but it has already been such a blessing to us.  While we were hesitant before coming on, any reservations we had based on past experiences have totally been put to rest.

Opportunity number three was presented in August as well, but that's on hold for now.  Updates on that one may be coming, too.  (And no, there's no baby number two on the horizon for those whose minds IMMEDIATELY go there. :))

It's wonderful to be at home with Emily as Autumn approaches.  God is good and life is good, too.  We are thankful and blessed.