Holiday Home Decor (fa la la la la!)

I can’t believe Christmas is only two weeks away! The last month has been a flurry of decorating, wrapping and preparations for the baby’s first birthday (he was born Christmas Eve 2013) and christmas.

I love the holiday season, particularly because I can have a little fun with the decorations around the house. Here’s a little sampling of my holiday decor. It’s taken many hours to put up, thankfully it only takes a fraction of the time to put it all down!

Now I’m off to bake and finish wrapping. An elf’s job is never done!

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Slow Cooker Shortcut: Plastic Liners

A month ago, I discovered Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners at the grocery store.  I love my slow cooker but the pot is so darn heavy and once it slipped off my drying rack and chipped the edge of my granite countertop.  I find that certain recipes are particularly tricky to clean up.  Some wipe off easily while others require soaking and scrubbing – especially those with sticky sauces or cheese in the recipe.

I was a bit worried that the liner would melt and burn to the pot, since it does get quite hot. So I waited to use the liner until I was home for the day and could keep an eye on it.

I have to say I’m very pleasantly surprised at how well they work!  They don’t melt at all, and once dinner is done, you pull out the bag and toss it!  I have a large crock pot and it fit the pot easily, and still had some room.

They are a little pricey, you get four in a box for about $5, but I will definitely keep them on hand for messy dishes or nights that a speedy clean up is a must!

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Final cake project

I can’t believe a week has passed since my final cake decorating class. Life with a 4 month old and 3 year old can be pretty chaotic at times!

During our last class we learned how to make the ribbon rose and wilton rose. After all my icing prep the day before, I was so disappointed when my stiff hot pink icing went runny and became unusable. I’m not sure what went wrong, everything else was fine. Grr!

So the teacher let me use her orange icing, which didn’t match with my cake at all, so that’s why you don’t see any roses on it. They are really finicky and I know I will need to practice them a lot to get them right.

So here’s my final cake. I’m not over the moon about it, but considering where I was before I started the course (I never baked a cake, iced a cake or decorated a cake), I’m very pleased. I know I’ll get better with practice. So a warning to nearby family and friends – I may spontaneously show up with goodies because I had an urge to “play”.

I’m most proud of the “ombré” edge. I saw it on a lot of cakes on Pinterest and it was quite easy! I started with a batch of purple icing, scooped some out and added more colouring, and then repeated it so I had three shades. I like the cakes covered in ombré rose swirls, I think I’ll try that next! It’s also much more forgiving and hides icing blemishes underneath.

I’m considering the next course, but I may actually take it on Craftsy because then I can do it on my own time. The summer is busy and it’s hard to coordinate schedules to get away for two hours. The Wilton piped flowers class on Craftsy looks interesting! I’m not sure I want to go down the path of sugar flowers or fondant until I improve at buttercream. I also don’t want to spend the money on a whole new assortment of tools.

This is a fun hobby but it’s not cheap when you’re starting out. That said, I’ve learned a lot of techniques and recipes that should save me a lot on birthday cakes and pot luck contributions in the future!

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Final cake decorating class: the homework

Tomorrow is my last class, and I’m a little sad it’s over. I’ve enjoyed my Sunday escape!

Our class homework was to bake and ice a cake and prep icing in a bunch of consistencies and colours so we can practice some final new techniques and then decorate our cake.

The cake icing went better this time, but I now know why they refer to it as the “spin of death”. You could spin the cake on the turntable for hours and still find mistakes. This is where I need to release my OCD tendencies and accept it won’t be perfect.

I picked up some great tips by watching a free buttercream course on Craftsy (I highly recommend for anyone who wants to learn!).

As you can see, it turned out pretty good! Not perfect but better than my first attempt.

Now I’m all ready to make it beautiful tomorrow. Stay tuned for pictures!

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Wilton Cake Decorating Class 3: Cupcakes Galore

Today’s class was all about decorating cupcakes. We practiced a number of techniques including shells, drop flowers, leaves, rosettes, shells, shaggy mums, and Pom Pom flowers. We also learned the proper cupcake “swirl”.

I made a double batch of icing yesterday using the Wilton recipe and it turned out perfectly! Thank goodness I did, we needed a lot of icing today. Unfortunately I didn’t check the stiffness carefully enough before colouring my icing and putting it in the icing bags during class, so some of the techniques weren’t working well because the icing was too stiff. But after sitting out for a while and adding a bit of water, they were much easier to work with.

I’m quickly learning they I need to let go of my OCD tendencies when decorating, otherwise I’ll never be happy with my work. I also need to be patient with myself and practice as much as I can. The more I play, the better I get!

Below are the final results from today’s class. Some of these definitely need some work but considering where I was a month ago, I’m feeling pretty good! The Pom Pom flower is quite hard, I can’t seem to get it right. I’ll have to keep practicing that one.

Next week is our final class and we will be decorating a cake. So over the next week I need to bake, level, fill and ice a cake so it’s decorating ready for class. I also need to make icing in a bunch of colours and consistencies. Lots of homework, good thing it’s fun!

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Goodbye is the hardest word

This has been a very difficult week. We had to make the difficult decision to put down our 14 year old cat. She was very healthy and happy until DS2 arrived in December, and then she began to deteriorate.

She started losing fur and getting huge clumps on her belly that I had to cut out. Then about a month ago I noticed she wasn’t eating as much, seemed to be losing weight and her fur looked dirty.

The vet said she had an infected tooth and the rest could be stress related. He did bloodwork and she was absolutely normal, to the surprise of the vet given her age.

We decided to wait and see how she was, and it only got worse. Sadly it’s hard to watch her closely when she hid most of the time to stay clear of our noisy boys.

On Tuesday I noticed her belly was completely brown and dirty and she had licked all the fur off her hind legs – until they were raw. I rushed her back to the vet so we could remove the tooth, which we assumed was the culprit. The vet also did X-rays to rule out anything else, and they were clear.

So I left her at the vet that night to fast before the tooth extraction the next morning. I never realized it would be the last time I would see her alive and awake.

The vet called the next morning to say he sedated her and when he looked in her mouth he found a sizeable mass under her tongue. And when he lifted her tongue it was stiff and started to bleed. He concluded it was oral cancer, particularly because she was also drooling excessively, which is a symptom.

Because of her age and condition he said it couldn’t be treated. So with a breaking heart I asked him to put her down.

I went there to sign the papers and stayed with her while he did it. I couldn’t leave her to die alone with a stranger. Poor girl, she looked so small and helpless.

Now I’m trying to get used to not having her around. Packing up her stuff and putting it in the garage. Vacuuming up her fur for the last time. Thinking I need to put away baby stuf because she might lie on it and remembering she won’t. Hearing our wood table creak and expecting to see her in the middle of it, and remembering she’s gone.

I know it was the right decision, I just wish I had seen it coming so her last days would have been full of cuddles instead of me getting angry because she was shedding on yet another piece of furniture.

Rest in peace sweet Abbey. We will never forget your eager headbutts or thunderous purr.

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