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Awe & Gratitude  

I have so much gratitude and awe for what God has done in our home this past year.

Today is the first anniversary of an enormous event in our lives and we are giving thanks to God, and to the VA doctor who, on a routine well visit last year, noticed something suspicious and sent my husband to the emergency room.  My husband has never been ill.  We never dreamed something was actually wrong...until the ER doctor walked in...

It turned out that he had been having something called "silent heart attacks" for at least eighteen months without us knowing, and he was having one right then.  We were utterly stunned.  My father died from his fifth major heart attack.  Just out of high school, I was the one who spotted the first one.  I thought I knew all about them from life with Daddy, but I'd never heard of silent ones.  They explained that everyone dismisses them, just like my husband did, thinking it was "just aging". 

His heart stopped the next day during a heart catheterization.  The following morning he had an emergency quadruple bypass.  There is an 18 - 24 month recover period.  We still have a long way to go, but he has come so far and he's doing great!

I have no words for what this experience has been like for us, but we are even more in awe of our God than we were to start with.  His loving hand and constant help, protection and provision has been tangible and impossible to miss.

I made a sweet thank you for him to take to his VA doctor for his first anniversary.   This is homemade marshmallow fondant and tastes wonderful, even if you aren't a fondant lover. 





I also made one of my special fun cake loafs.  The doctor requested chocolate, so chocolate it is!  I love these as every slice is unique and fun.  I hope they enjoy their treats.  :)



I wish I could make some for God too!  After all, man can put forth his best efforts, but it is only God who gives and preserves life.  It's also only God who has the power and right to determine where each soul He has created will spend eternity.  I pray that if you have not repented of your sins, asked Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to be your Lord and Savior and been immersed in baptism into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that you run, don't walk, to the nearest Bible and take care of that right now!  We are not promised even the next breath and once we breathe our last here, our eternal destination will be un-changeable.  It's the most important thing you can do in this life, to be sure you belong to Him.  The second most important is to be sure all your loved ones know this too.

Thanks for stopping by and have a fantastic day!  This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Psalm 118:24  Amen! 

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Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes  

I've been so excited to try making these.  My first try didn't turn out as pristine as the picture I saw on Pinterest, but I'm sure I'll get better with practice.


I used a boxed spice cake mix and amended it to be Pumpkin Spice, following directions I found:
Add 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, 1/2 cup water, 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon & 1/4 tsp. nutmeg.  It said to follow the box's baking directions.

Here's what I learned -

My box said 325ยบ for dark baking pans, so that's what I did.  It said 12-17 min. for cupcakes and to use the toothpick test for doneness.  I tested repeatedly and baking longer yet still kept having some stick to the toothpick.  I ended up baking them 24 minutes and I think they could have taken a bit more as they all came out beautifully domed...then fell as they cooled!

I thought with all the additional ingredients that I'd end up with much more than the 24 the box made, but I only ended up with four more.   Sadly, even filling my cups 3/4 full, only the last four, which I filled higher and cooked longer, gave me the nicely domed top needed for these cuties.

They are delicious, but my homemade marshmallow fondant tops are lacking due to the caved in cupcakes.  I used more frosting under the fondant to try to fake the shape a bit. 


Next time will be better.  But for now, they couple adorably with the fall leaf sugar cookies I shared in the last post.  



Beating down the perfectionist inside, as a whole, they make a very happy gift box indeed.  Thanks for stopping by and be sure to enjoy the gorgeous fall God is giving us, and tell Him thank you!

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Brilliant Fall Leaf Cookies  


I love autumn!  I love the smell of it.  I love the feel of it.  I love the crunch beneath my feet.  I love all the dried goodies God leaves for us to find and decorate with and make things from - acorns, pine cones, cat tails, cotton, nuts and pods of every kind.  I love gourds and pumpkins and Indian corn and dried wheat.  It's all so wondrous! 

What happy memories I have of our family apple picking at an orchard once as a child.  Sweet and precious memories of my own girls picking them in our yard and then turning them into all manner of goodies to last us the winter.  This makes my heart sing!

I made corn husk dolls with my girls when they were growing up and decorated a wreath with them.  My mother played with corn husk dolls as a girl homesteading out west during Dust Bowl days.  It was fun for us to experience something from her life and it connected us to our much loved Little House On The Prairie books too.  It's good to remember skills that allowed people to live off the land.  It's good to work with our hands and have the joy of creating.  Tiny moments linking us to our Creator who made everything there is.

I remember using kernels of Indian corn to play Bingo with when I was small.  Another good memory is getting all the vines to make baskets and wreaths with when my father-in-law trimmed his muskadine vines one year.  I loved weaving baskets and making wreaths!  I still have the baskets I made.

I love how God turns trees and bushes into gigantic bouquets of brilliant beauty for all of us in the fall, then back lights them with the sun so they absolutely glow!  Sigh!  A gorgeous gift from Him to all of us.

When I saw this idea on Pinterest, I knew it was one I would have to make, but I only had one leaf cutter, left from when the girls were growing up.  Last night I finally found some maple leaf cookie cutters at my happy HomeGoods store and I set right to it.  I made two batches of sugar cookies, divided, colored and refrigerated them. 


  



I pressed the back of a silk leaf onto the dough for the veins and touched up with a butter knife wherever I felt there should be more.


Ohhhh so pretty!  Into the oven.  And this is how they came out!





I'm really pleased with them, but as I took the pictures, I realized that if some of them had been mainly one color with just a touch of another color, it would have been more visually pleasing in a box or in a dish.  They would have stood out more rather than this sea of sameness.  Each one is entirely unique, but this way, they all look the same.  I think that next time I might make some that are brown to mix in and maybe some solid green. 


These are not my favorites, but they were available for this photos, so, there you have it!  Now for the fun of giving them away!  I paired them with my Pumpkin Spice cupcakes you can read about here.


Praise God for His power and might, for His unfathomable mercy and love!  Happy fall y'all!

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Lumberjack Baby Shower & Plaid Tree Stump Cake  

If you've been here before, you know I enjoy tablescapes and sometimes share them here.  I just realized that I never shared the biggest one of all - my daughter's Lumberjack Baby Shower!  What a lovely event that was!  Wood and plaid - galvanized steel and pine - fall leaves and fur trimmed blanket - twine, rusty bells, burlap and clothespins - red, black, brown, metal and stuffed wildlife! 

The whole idea of a "lumberjack baby shower" really took me off guard, as the sweet little onesie pinata cookies filled with baby color-reveal candies that I've dreamed of for years filled my head.  I had never heard of such.  They are all about hiking in the mountains.  I was so surprised to find that the lumberjack baby shower is a "thing".  So, shifting gears, this is what she, her sister and I came up with and wow was it a hit!   And yes, I believe in the guest of honor getting to participate and get what they want, if they choose to.  The collaboration ended up being the very best part for me!


When we bought our house, there was nothing in the back yard.  We spent years planting an amazing garden that would cause people to glorify God when they saw it.  Many years later ... a year or so ago, the gorgeous Bradford Pear we had planted split, then the rest fell a couple of weeks later.  It hit our beloved Weeping Cherry as it fell.  The Cherry died from the damage.  Determined to bring good from this tragic loss, I begged those disposing of them to please, please, please try to cut slabs and chunks (for risers) for me.  I had adored the wood slab movement in tablescapes for ages and now it would be perfect, slabs from my own beloved trees.  

Well, doing it with a chain saw is a lot harder than you'd think.  I carefully dried them, such as they were, but in time almost all of them split, as well as being uneven and rough cuts.  With the theme she wanted for the shower, using them would be too perfect.  I managed to make some of the chunks even enough to use as pedestal risers, and bought several flat slabs from Home Goods to sit on them.

The heart shaped one actually came from our Bradford.  We were delighted to find that where a branch came off the main trunk, the slices came out hearts!  She had wanted a wood slice painted with chalkboard paint for the shower and later to hang it in the nursery - how perfect would a heart be!  All the natural wood really worked well with the theme.


By the way, the furry brown shape on the left is a buffalo.  Her sister bought her a collection of stuffed wildlife from the Smoky Mountain National Park gift shop as a baby gift.  Again, perfect for our theme, so we used them!


I adore this campfire cake!  I saw the idea on line, of course!  We used a small Boston Cream Pie on a wood slab.  My sister and oldest daughter roasted the marshmallows with a kitchen torch.  The "rocks" around it, and scattered in other places with the food, were chocolates made to look like rocks that her sister found on line.  Love them!  So real!  The logs are a cookie from Walmart.  The flames are red and yellow hard candies, again from Walmart, that we broke and then melted in the oven on foil and broke into shards.  My sister and my oldest assembled it all into this perrrrrfect confection!  Oh when light shines through the "flames", they glow red and yellow!


Along the windows we hung heavy twine as a clothes line and clothes pinned some of baby's gift clothes on it.  We swagged another twine with rusted bells on them below.  On top you can see adorable moose, deer and bears made of heavy corrugated cardboard with twine, bells and a soft touch of glitter.  They were sold at Hobby Lobby as ornaments - perfect!  Of course that's where all the little trees came from too.


We used off white flameless candles in the lanterns and scattered about the house.   The pretty round red and print dishes were from Home Goods - the store of ingredients for happy times!



We hung gift outfits throughout the house, some on Command Strips.  I had not used them before, but they worked great and didn't leave a mark!  Another perrrrfect!


The fur lined velvety blanket was from Hobby Lobby.  We put it on top a canvas drop cloth, making sure some canvas showed.  The slate chalkboard cheese markers and silver cheese knives were from a set at Sam's Club that included a slate turntable.


Mini quiches from Sam's, gourmet olives, multi-grain crackers and heart shaped foil covered chocolates top colorful fall leaves.



My oldest daughter found these amazing twig pencils, bamboo flatware, awesome rustic looking thermal cups and straws that look like birch bark on line.  All in keeping with wild nature.  The pencils were for games.


The galvanized bottle holder, from Home Goods, dispensed the awesome flatware and straws with cuttings from my yard in the back.   The twine garland with rusty bells, plates and napkins were from Hobby Lobby.  The pine cones are ones I collected from the track we use, with red ribbon to make them pop.  More chocolate rocks and a plate of handmade chocolates.  Burlap and plaid garland with cardboard deer.

  

We were so blessed to be doing this theme in December.  We had first pick of all the gorgeous decorations at Hobby Lobby!  I bought all of this garland in both stores in our area and added their twine garland with rusty bells and my pine cones.  Each swag was topped with a burlap bow from, yep, Hobby Lobby!  Love how they turned out!  We used them all over the house.


The house it was held at was so perfect for this decor.  You can see some of the cardboard animal ornaments on the tree...with simple white lites and a few red balls to coordinate.  There is a stuffed black bear on a log (from our tree) on the hearth.  Pods and acorns we collected were strewn on the hearth and other places.  Clippings from my yard are behind the bear, in the wood box at the far end, on the mantle and sprinkled all over the house too.  No need to provide water.  They held up fine till the end.


More magic from Hobby Lobby and an exquisite stuffed moose from her big sister on the coffee table.  We scattered more garland, pine cones and dried pods on the wall unit and around the house.


The old windows were saved from my house and the trunk you see was my father's WWII footlocker.  The wreath is one I made of cotton bolls.  I posted about them here.   Baby clothes were hung from twine clothes line with greens and pine cones everywhere, sprinkled with burlap bows.



This is sad for me.  I was sooooo busy at the party that I didn't get a good picture of the cut cake.  It was the BIG project and soooooo much work for the three of us, figuring out how to do it and then doing it.  I could cry that we didn't get a good picture of it cut.  Here is what we have.  I am glad I was paying attention to the reason for the party more than the "details".  It really was pretty amazing.


I made chunky birdseed hearts as thank you gifts.  They turned out very cute indeed!

The best part for me was getting to Face Time her at Hobby Lobby, from another state, and let her pick things herself.  All three of us shared a Pinterest album, screen shots and links from the web of things she wanted and then I got to make them.  I LOVE making things!  I can't tell you how wonderful the collaboration was!  The three of us working together from two states and three cities, wonderful!  So many texts and phone calls - such fun!  I got to make the plaid tree stump cake with both my girls, and my sister, from yet a fourth state and oldest daughter assembled the campfire s'more cake.  I think every party should be done this way!!!  So much more fun!

Thanks for dropping by!  Have a wonderful day!





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4th of July Tablescape & Crab Sandy Cupcakes  

I hope everyone had a wonderful July 4th!  We actually have hope for our country for the first time in many, many years.  Did you catch President Trump's address at the Kennedy Center last night???  It was jump to you feet and shout hallelujah time!  They are offering free dvd's of it at ptv.org or 866-327-0033.  May God grant his requests for America!!!


We were blessed to share the holiday with my daughter and her boyfriend, who brought us treasures of fresh veggies from their gardens, and deer hamburgers.  That was a first for us, but he mixed it with hamburger and we really couldn't taste it.  

I do so love to make pretty tablescapes to make things festive and bless people!  Such fun!  I had no idea I had red, white and blue things, but I shopped my house and here's what I came up with.


The crab cupcakes in sand were the stars.  So adorable!  They are atop Key Lime Cupcakes (by request), which are so delicious!  Get it?  Key Lime...Florida Keys...and crabs?  :)   The recipe is here.

I was able to find craft paper looking liners from Wilton which would have been perfect sand color with spice cupcakes, but the Key Lime showed through a little making them look not so sand colored.  I sprinkled extra "sand" around to make it prettier.  They were a big hit.  I have directions at the bottom if you'd like to make them too.


We named them all Sebastian for the Little Mermaid and could almost hear him saying, "Thank you.  Thank you!"  Don't you just love his voice?  There is a character on Death In Paradise that sounds just like him.  :)



Remember my two scrap made pedestals?  I do so love them and they're so perfect here.   I had bought two random cloches on clearance long ago, so I had a taller one on hand when the crab was too tall for the regular cloche that I keep on the tower of pedestals.  Perfect!


The firecracker cupcakes were fun too.  They were chocolate cupcakes in blue liners with red, white and blue sprinkles around the edges.  The "firecrackers" were marshmallows dipped in red chocolate melts.  I was unable to find licorice whips for the fuses, so I had to use twine.  Looked fine and no one ate the fuses!


The diamonds on the table were to be stars.  They were table confetti from Hobby Lobby.  On the right is a bowl of blueberries topped with watermelon stars.  I used the middle star from the set of three fondant star cutters from Hobby Lobby.  Gotta love their always 40% off coupons!  And their politics!  God bless them!  The other bowl keeps the red and white theme with garden fresh cucumbers and tomatoes!  Nothing like fresh from the garden!


Frosty lemonade in tall Ball jars had skewers of blueberries and watermelon stars.


Red, white and blue parfaits in half pint Ball jars.  They were cherry red stripes, white chocolate pudding white stripes, blue jello stripes topped with blueberries.  So convenient to make ahead as each was a serving and had it's own top to keep them fresh!  Also handy to send home with people.


Ahh, now for the adorable crabs!  

No, I did not create these precious guys, or the firecracker design.  I saw pictures on line and figured them out.  THANK YOU to whoever was so clever to make the first ones and share the pictures on line!

I got the Haribo peaches and Great Value orange slices at Walmart.  The Wilton googly eyes are available at craft stores and Walmart.  These candies are the stickiest substances I have ever encountered!  I was actually concerned that I'd never be able to use my scissors, knife and plate again, but was delighted that hot water took care of it.  

I actually cut the hard outer edges off pieces left over from cutting claws and eyes out of the peach candies and used the sticky inside to cement the googly eyes to the peach eyeballs I'd cut out with a frosting tip.  

I used a #12 round tip to cut eyeballs from the peach candies.  I was able to stick my rose nail in the end of the frosting tip to remove the new eyeball.


Tada!  Isn't he adorable?

I tinted my frosting beige so shocking white didn't show through the "sand".

The sand is:
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter

I sprinkled the sand on freshly frosted cupcakes and had some left for staging the tablescape.  It looks so real and smells wonderful!

I added two more toothpicks under each crab's body to anchor them in the cupcakes.  It worked wonderfully and not one stayed in the cake.  As the candies dry, they really cement the toothpicks to themselves.


The gorgeous red pedestal bowl, napkins, place mats, chargers, all serving bowls and flatware were all from my darling Home Goods!

Thanks for dropping by and God bless America!

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Russian Tip Key Lime Filled Cupcakes!  


My oldest daughter has chosen our family Key Lime Pie for her "birthday cake" for years now.  Her sister and I decided to shake things up a bit this year and we surprised her with Key Lime Cupcakes with a mouthwatering recipe I found here.  When I licked the beaters (yes I still lick beaters!  You are never too old to lick beaters!), I couldn't believe how delicious they were!  No, I did not tint them, they were that color already from the lime jello in the recipe.

Then to up the wow factor, I cored them and filled them with our family Key Lime Pie filling!  We use a recipe a family friend shared with us decades ago - fast, easy and so delicious!  (Recipe at bottom.)


I've been wanting to try the amazing Russian Frosting Tips for so long now, and this was my excuse to finally order some.  My favorite how-to video is by Renee Conner here.   I think hers are perfect!  I made up my frosting "plug" with the darker shade in the middle and the stripes of food coloring on the plastic like hers, but sadly, mine didn't have that great contrast hers does, but they still turned out pretty and this was my first try!  Everyone just loved them and they took about 15-20 minutes to do all of them compared to two days hand piping all the other flowers!  (It was my first attempt at hand piping flowers too!)  I was sad to see how the colors changed as they dried, but still, everyone loved them!


 
For my fellow pedestal and cloche lovers - I made these from two plates, a candle stick, a clear glass base that broke off something my daughter had, some E-6000 and a cloche I found all by itself at Home Goods.  You can see how I used them for Resurrection Day dinner here and for July 4th in the next post.  They are two separate pedestals for more flexibility, but I adore them stacked!

I used this Russian Tip.  I'm showing it with a normal #12 round tip to show how much larger they are.


So pretty and fun!  I found that if one didn't look right, I just scraped it off with a knife and did it again!  The roses cover the entire surface, so you never know!  I chose to add two shades of green leaves for interest.


A word about the frosting itself.   I have done so much reading about these tips and watched so many tutorials, that I knew they need a stiffer frosting consistency.  They made it clear that too soft would not work with Russian Tips.  I searched for the "perfect" recipe for success, but it required a powerful mixer.  She had a Kitchen Aid and said that it gets difficult for it to mix too!  I have only a very wimpy hand mixer and not a lot of ability to do it by hand.  Wanting so very badly for this to turn out well, I even priced a Kitchen Aid!  Yeah!  That's not happening.  

I saw that Wilton sells a tub of frosting already made.  It said that if you wanted to do flowers, to add more powdered sugar to it and/or refrigerate it.  Not so.  I added and added and added and refrigerated it, but it stayed utterly soft as I hand piped the flowers for the other cupcakes.  Two days in my fridge and they stayed soft and sticky!  One day in the freezer and they only improved a little bit, only to return to utterly soft at room temperature.  

When it came to doing the Russian Tip flowers, I knew that wouldn't work.  I ended up putting lots of powdered sugar and Meringue Powder into it and refrigerating it a long time.  When we took it out and tried it, even my very strong youngest daughter couldn't get it to come out of the tube.  She warmed it with her hands and we laughed at the irony.  Eventually she got it started and then we were able to make these very pretty roses!  It's still too soft for the crisp results that look best, but they did hold their form.  Wish the darker centers had shown. Perhaps I needed to make it much, much darker than I did in the center.  Next time!

So, if you, like me, have been wanting to try the Russian Tips for ages - try them!  They are amazing!  Everyone just loved them and these cupcakes and filling are astonishingly delicious!  

Key Lime Pie

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 small can limeade frozen
1 small carton cool whip
Vanilla Wafers (for crust)
green food coloring

Instructions

Lay the wafers as crust on the bottom of the pie pan and stand them up along the rim.  Mix the other ingredients and pour in.  Chill.

Ok, now you can make our Key Lime Pie filled Key Lime Cupcakes topped with Russian Tip roses too!   Thanks for stopping by and God bless you!


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