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A couple weeks ago I made these awesome hostess copycat cupcakes. They’re chocolate cake with cream filling, chocolate ganache, and cute little loops on top. I used my good ol’ faithful pastry pride for the filling. I made the ganache with Nestle Tollhouse milk chocolate chips and cream. When making the ganache, I recommend finding a chocolate that you really like because that’s what the flavor will come from. Put it all in a sauce pan over low heat and add a little bit of cream. I know, lack of measurements is probably not very helpful, so here’s a rough guess of what I used – 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup cream. You can use more or less cream, but the whole point is to have the chocolate soft and pliable even when it cools back down.

The key to these cupcakes is the tall paper liners. I found some tall liners at Hobby Lobby, but I’ve also seen them at my local cake and candy supply store. The tall liners keeps the cake from spilling out and allows you to add the ganache once you’ve added the cream filling. Speaking of adding the ganache, I just spooned some onto the cupcakes once they were baked, cooled and filled with cream filling. While the ganache was still warm, I put a little white buttercream frosting into a ziplock bag and cut the corner off and piped the loops right on top. By doing this step before the ganache set, it allowed the cream to sink in a bit and set with the chocolate.

I had been wanting to try these for a while, so when my mom asked me to bring cupcakes for my dad’s birthday dinner, I was happy for an excuse to make them.

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Smash Cake Pictures

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As mentioned in our One Year Photos, I didn’t want to pay a ton to get some really great pics of my little guy on his birthday.  So, I decided to do a smash cake session in the back yard.  We bought some balloons and I baked a cake and we let our little man loose!  He wasn’t super crazy about getting the cake on his hands.  He doesn’t always like to be messy.  But I think we got a few good pictures nonetheless.

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Only in  California could I take these pictures on New Year’s Eve!

 

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We decided to have a library themed party for Harry’s first birthday.  We chose this theme because we want to promote reading, of course, and because Harry loves his books.  We also go to a weekly library that Harry really enjoys.  I started the party with the invitations.  I had a great idea of how I wanted it to look, so I got it done a couple MONTHS in advance.  But once I had the invitation done, I needed to start planning the actual party and I realized my idea wasn’t quite as broad as I had thought.  But, I was very happy with the way it all came together and I believe both Harry and our guests had a good time.

I mimicked the old libabry check-out cards for the invite.  I bought some old books at a thrift store to create a pocket that the card would slip into.

I mimicked the old libabry check-out cards for the invite. I bought some old books at a thrift store to create a pocket that the card would slip into.

I made this shirt for Harry.  I used some iron on bonding to adhere the ribbon suspenders and the one.  The bow tie I glued on with a hot glue gun.

I made this shirt for Harry. I used some iron on bonding to adhere the ribbon suspenders and the one. The bow tie I glued on with a hot glue gun.

While most of the party was outside, I did put up some decorations inside as well.  I found some cute 4x6 card packs on sale in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby.  I punched holes and threaded them with yarn to make the banner.  Harry liked them.

While most of the party was outside, I did put up some decorations inside as well. I found some cute 4×6 card packs on sale in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby. I punched holes and threaded them with yarn to make the banner. Harry liked them.

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I made banners out of old children's books.

I made banners out of old children’s books.

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We put clusters of balloons nailed into the grass to add color to an area where we couldn't otherwise hang anything.  It looked great.

We put clusters of balloons nailed into the grass to add color to an area where we couldn’t otherwise hang anything. It looked great.

Along the side of the house that has a wooded fence, we put up library sections and posters with books related quotes that I made on my computer then had printed at Staples.  I decided to go with a chalkboard look so that I could print in black and white without losing any of the effect I was going for.

Along the side of the house that has a wooded fence, we put up library sections and posters with books related quotes that I made on my computer then had printed at Staples. I decided to go with a chalkboard look so that I could print in black and white without losing any of the effect I was going for.

We put library section sings all around the yard, wherever we could find a way to make them stick.  This were hung on the balcony that over looks the backyard.

We put library section sings all around the yard, wherever we could find a way to make them stick. This were hung on the balcony that over looks the backyard.

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We hired a taco man for the main food, but wanted to make sure there were baby friendly foods as well.  I do think many of our guest (not just the little ones) enjoyed the option of Peanut Butter and Marshmallow or Cream Cheese and Jelly sandwiches.

We hired a taco man for the main food, but wanted to make sure there were baby friendly foods as well. I do think many of our guest (not just the little ones) enjoyed the option of Peanut Butter and Marshmallow or Cream Cheese and Jelly sandwiches.

I wanted to make sure there was something for the kids to actually do at the party besides just sit around, so I had an arts and crafts station and we gave out books as the party favor.  At the arts and crafts station, they could decorate party hats, decorate a bag to take home their goodies in, mold something out of play dogh and color.

I wanted to make sure there was something for the kids to actually do at the party besides just sit around, so I had an arts and crafts station and we gave out books as the party favor. At the arts and crafts station, they could decorate party hats, decorate a bag to take home their goodies in, mold something out of play dogh and color.

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I local thrift store sells children's books for 25 cents, so I was able to get enough that each child could pick one to take home as a favor.

I local thrift store sells children’s books for 25 cents, so I was able to get enough that each child could pick one to take home as a favor.

I made three types of cupcakes, Almond Joy, Lemon Delight, and Blue Suede.  They were all pretty good, but my favorites were the Blue Suede and Lemon Delight.

I made three types of cupcakes, Almond Joy, Lemon Delight, and Blue Suede. They were all pretty good, but my favorites were the Blue Suede and Lemon Delight.

I bought two packs of the candles that spell out Happy Birthday and swapped out the p's for r's and spray painted them so the candles would spell Harry's name.

I bought two packs of the candles that spell out Happy Birthday and swapped out the p’s for r’s and spray painted them so the candles would spell Harry’s name.

This shot cracks me up!  Harry didn't want to touch his cake at first, but once I finally got him to taste it, he realized he liked it after all.  He wanted to give it a big hug!

This shot cracks me up! Harry didn’t want to touch his cake at first, but once I finally got him to taste it, he realized he liked it after all. He wanted to give it a big hug!

This is Harry with one of his Aunties who he doesn't get to see too often, Paul's sister Kristi.

This is Harry with one of his Aunties who he doesn’t get to see too often, Paul’s sister Kristi.

Harry with Grandpa.

Harry with Grandpa.

This is Harry's cousin Gia.

This is Harry’s cousin Gia.

One of my dearest friends Tiffiny was able to make it!

One of my dearest friends Tiffiny was able to make it!

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Harry enjoyed some time with Grandma Katie before the party got started.

Randi and I met last year in our new mom's group right after our babies were born.  Her little guy, Charlie, is one of Harry's first friends.

Randi and I met last year in our new mom’s group right after our babies were born. Her little guy, Charlie, is one of Harry’s first friends.

Dan is one of Paul's oldest friends.  They went to high school together and Dan one even one of Paul's best men in our wedding.  It was great to see Dan and Sarah as they live pretty far and we don't the opportunity too often.

Dan is one of Paul’s oldest friends. They went to high school together and Dan one even one of Paul’s best men in our wedding. It was great to see Dan and Sarah as they live pretty far and we don’t the opportunity too often.

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This is Grandma Katie with Harry's youngest cousin, Luka, who is only a month old!

This is Grandma Katie with Harry’s youngest cousin, Luka, who is only a month old!

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These are my parents, Dan and Mary. Harry loves his grandma and grandpa!

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This is my Grandpa, so Harry’s Great Grandpa, with one of my younger cousins Tommy. We were so glad they were all able to come.

There was a great turn out for the part!  We were so glad to see everyone and it was fun to gather all the kids for a picture.

There was a great turn out for the part! We were so glad to see everyone and it was fun to gather all the kids for a picture.

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When Harry was born, I joined a new mom support group. At the time there were about a dozen moms and we all had babies about the same time. I stayed in touch with a good handful of them, and now since it’s been a year, it’s birthday party season. So I’ve got about five birthday parties to attend within about a month. And that’s not counting Harry’s party which is coming up in two weeks.

Since we have lots of birthday parties to attend, I wanted to do something special for each one. But of course buying gifts isn’t always the most special thing to do. And I know Harry got a lot of Christmas gifts, so I don’t necessarily think that toys are with my friends need. So I offered to make the smash cakes. And a couple of our friends took us up on it.

For the party we went to yesterday, they were having a Safari themed birthday. It wasn’t an all out traditional Safari, it was more like a “first birthday girly colors with giraffes and elephants Safari.”

For the cake, I decided to use sprinkles. I made the cake with vanilla cake and vanilla buttercream because it’s the safest most mild cake flavors for a one-year-old to eat. I cut out some shapes using my Cricut and wax paper. I borrowed a cartridge from a friend of mine that has some really cute Safari birthday animals. Once the cake was frosted, I put the cut out shapes onto the frosting. And then the fun part! I put handfuls of sprinkles and just pressed them into the side of the cake. I used different colors around the sides, and then used a lot of the sprinkles that had fallen off on the top.

Once the cake was covered in sprinkles, I put it into the fridge to let the frosting set. Buttercream frosting can get really firm in the fridge, just like butter does. So I wanted the cake in the coldness of the fridge to get nice and firm before removing the wax paper. Once the frosting was firm, I simply peeled off the wax paper cutouts. And I was left with a beautiful white smooth spot where the wax paper had been. I took a knife to carve out the shape of an ear on the elephant and the eyes on the giraffe. I even added a little reflection in the balloon that’s tied to the dress tail.

I was very pleased with the way the cake turned out, and I know that little Evey liked it too.

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I have seen the family birthday calendars on printers and been wanting to make one for a while. To be honest, I’d love to make one for my home. But we decided to make one for my mother-in-law this last Christmas. My husband is the youngest of eight children, almost everybody is married, and almost everybody has at least one kid. So total there were nearly 40 tags that we wanted to include on the calendar.

I found an Etsy shop called Custom Vinyl Decor that sold the birthday calendar kit. They were incredibly helpful and super fast.  I look forward to shopping there in the future!  The kit included the vinyl cut out with the family name and the word celebrations, as well as 25 tags and hooks to hang them onto the board. We had to get our own board, paint it, and because our family is bigger, we needed to find more tags and hooks. And searching for the little tags which are made out of wood, I found some heart-shaped ones and decided those would be great for the anniversary dates. I don’t have the most beautiful penmanship, so I decided to print the names and birthdays from the computer, then mod podge them onto the wooden tags.

I found a one and a half inch circle hole punch, so it was an easy job punching out the names and months to apply to the discs. It wasn’t quite as easy cutting out the hearts to look right, but in the end I was very pleased with the way everything looked. I used some of the same paint from the plaque itself on the edges of the tags, that brought everything together making it look the right color and very very pretty.

We had our board printed, all of the tags were painted and had their names on them. And that’s where the real “fun” started. I put the word fun in quotes because that’s the last thing it actually was. Putting the little rings onto the discs was super hard. We had to use pliers to open the ring slip it through the holes then close the rings. Then we needed to link them together and make sure they close tight enough that the disks wouldn’t fall apart. The whole process took a long time and was very tedious. My husband and I did it together, though, and the moral support of doing it together made a big difference.

Once completed, it looked beautiful. Of course we wanted to wrap it since it was a Christmas gift. And in the process of wrapping it, several of the chains fell off the board. We would reattach it, try to attach a better this time. Than restart the wrapping process. When my mother-in-law opened it on Christmas I think one of the months fell off. But we came prepared in my husband was able to pull out the players from the diaper bag and fix it in a snap.

In the end, I think it was a beautiful gift and a very fun way to commemorate the whole family and all of the wonderful milestones we have every month of the year. But, I would definitely start more than two weeks before Christmas. I think if I given myself a month or so to get it done, it would’ve been a much smoother process. I still want to make one for my own home, and I might include birthdays on both my husband’s side of the family and my side of the family. It really is a wonderful visual aid in helping us see what a beautiful family we have and how blessed we are.

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For Harry’s first birthday, I decided not to go get pictures done. Instead I decided to do them myself. I knew this was a risk, because I’m not a pro, but I also didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for cute pictures of my little guy. I recruited my mom and my husband to help out, and we headed to the park. I brought props and snacks for my little guy. Here is a good handful of my favorites.

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I used the Rohnna Designs app to add the cute stars and border to this one. The app is only a couple bucks and has tons of fun options to dress up your pictures.

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I left the board blank for the pictures and added the text afterwards. This will allow me more freedom and pretty writing.

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I can’t believe it’s been almost a whole year since my little guy debuted to the outside world.  What a great year it has been.  I have been busy and tired and oh so filled with love and joy.  What a precious gift he has been to me and my husband.  One week from today, he will be one year old, and in two weeks, we will have a great party to celebrate.

I’ve got some fun projects coming up, but since we’re nearly to the one year mark, I want to take a few minutes to reflect on the last year and share a particular year long project I’ve been working on.  And, I want to take a minute to congratulate myself for staying on top of this!  It’s the monthly pictures!!!

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