Thursday, April 18, 2013

Strawberry Explosion Cupcakes

Here is how this works.  I rip recipes out of magazines and compile them like nobody's business.  This is one of them.  Thank you Southern Living.  It is actually dated 2004 and came into use, first, when we lived in Texas.  I was frequently sending goodies into Man's work when his fellow worker sent home a challenge.  He wanted the strawberriest (it is a word now) dessert I could make.  I like a good challenge.  I dug deep into my arsenal and found this.  Heaven...  I don't typically share a recipe that is this good.  No true Southern woman does.  But, I can't help myself.  If this could win a proposal, a night off from dishes, whatever...I feel the need to help a girl out.  So, without further ado...

Originally Titled by Southern Living
 Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake

for purposes of this post I have renamed it 

Strawberry Explosion Cupcakes
Recipe by Southern Living 

** This is the first time I have made this recipe into cupcakes.  I highly recommend the cake version, the girls just wanted cupcakes.  :)  **


1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) package strawberry gelatin
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 milk
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Garnish: whole strawberries

  1. Beat cake mix and next 7 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute.  Scrape down sides, and beat at medium speed 2 more minutes, stopping to scrape down sides, if needed.  (Strawberries should be well blended into batter.)
  2. Pour batter into 2 (12-count) muffin pans or 3 greased and floured 9-inch cakepans.  *Please very best efforts did not yield easy to remove cupcakes.  Use liners!
  3. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly pressed with finger.  *My cupcakes baked in about 16 minutes.  Keep a close eye on them.
  4. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. 
  5. Spread Strawberry Buttercream Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  Garnish if desired.  *I piped mine onto my cupcakes.  I love frosting!  
 To Make Ahead- Place finished cake in the refrigerator, uncovered, and chill for 20 minutes or until the frosting sets.  Cover well with wax paper, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  To freeze, wrap chilled cake with aluminum foil, and freeze up to 6 months.  Thaw cake overnight in the refrigerator.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from Southern Living 


1 cup butter, softened
2 (16-ounce) packages powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 20 seconds or until fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and chopped strawberries, beating at low speed until creamy.  (Add more sugar if frosting is too thin, or add strawberries if too thick.)

**This cake keeps best in the refrigerator.  For my cupcakes I kept the cupcakes and the frosting separate and fixed them as we ate them.  Just remember to set out the frosting so it can soften for easier spreading...or piping ;)

Happy Baking!

--The Mama    

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Life is Like A Strawberry

Yesterday we went and picked strawberries at our local patch.

I had an epiphany.

Before you enter the patch there is a list of picking rules posted and two big pictures for your viewing. One shows you what a ripe strawberry looks like (red all the way to the top) and the other shows you one that is almost ready (a little green still at the top).  Once we decided we knew what to look for we were on our way.

I teach strong management skills early in this house.  :)

As I watched the girls spread out and begin carefully looking over each strawberry I overheard the owner giving a brief synopsis of the same rules to a group of students.  I couldn't hear all too well until he raised his voice slightly to make his point about which ones to pick when he said, "One more day can make all the difference." 

I couldn't get my mind off of his statement.  Isn't it so true?  

Watching the girls walk the long rows of strawberries I thought about the paths of life.  We are literally confronted with hundreds, if not thousands, of "paths to take" in our lives.  How many times have I said, "I don't know what to do, which way to go?"  Many.  If I were to carefully examine each of the paths, in that moment of time, there would only be one that was red all the way to the top.  The right path.  Or, "the best path" as my mom likes to tell me.   No green on that one at all.  Of course there are times we really want to pick the slightly green path, much like the slightly green strawberry.  That one looks good, easy, bigger...but when we take it (pick it) we are met with hardship, more curves and bends, obstacles...sourness, bitterness, firmness.  

 I would venture to say when I have chosen the slightly green paths in life I was in a hurry to make my decision.  I can honestly say that I have said more than once, " I just don't want to think about this anymore. I want the decision to be made so I can go on with life."  And right there, in that moment, I would decide.  In my moment of reflection, at the patch, I wondered, "What if I had taken just one more day on those decisions in life?"  Let the path ripen to a brilliant red that shines above all of the others saying, "Pick me."  Some seasons of my life could have been much sweeter, easier, more rewarding, more fulfilling...kind of like the reward of the fruit that is just right, ripe, and red to the top.

 Red to the top, like picking the best path, doesn't mean it is going to be perfect.  It just means you are placing the odds in your favor.  

And if life experience has taught me anything...

it is that red to the top is a good bet, for fruits and paths, and one more day really can make all the difference.

--The Mama


Coming tomorrow!

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Personalized Thank You

The girls and I (with a little help from Man) made these super cute thank you notes for our family and friends for the Easter gifts they bestowed upon us.  Sometimes I have my act together and can get something like this done.  Sometimes I don't.  This is one of the times I did.  


When we got back from our trip to Meme and Popi's for Easter I was feeling a little crafty.  I had Man home for an extra day, a few blank cards burning a whole in my mind, and a few extra minutes on this particular day.  I really wanted to send thank you notes to everyone who sent the girls Easter goodies, visited with us, etc. so here is what I came up with. 

And yes, even Allye made some too.  Don't be afraid to craft with babies.  Just have help waiting in the wings!

We painted the palm of their hand brown and two of their fingers pink like this.

Then we helped them keep their hand spread appropriately when placing it on the card.  

Once the cards dried I set out the alphabet stamps and ink pad and let them stamp "Thank You" on each card.  Then I took a very fine brush and created the outline around the ears, the eyes, the nose, and the whiskers.

A great, quick, and memorable thank you note for family and friends...
and it wasn't even nap time.

--The Crafty Mama

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Very Special Easter

Thanks to our flexible homeschooling schedule we extended our Spring Break/Easter vacation to my parents by a WEEK!  EEK!!!!  Reason # 2 I love homeschooling!  Living only a 10 hour drive away gave us the opportunity to make this visit, and my mom flying in to drive with me to N.C. made it a fun adventure.  Man flew to us in time for Easter and drove us back.  Meme doesn't do drop-off.  Breaks her heart.


As soon as we hit the ground in N.C. I was up bright and early the next morning to get my fill of everything baby.  Worried might be one word you could use to describe Man.  You women know why.  First there was a visit to our newest family member, baby Carter.

Isn't he so cute and cuddly and snuggly?  I would have taken him with me but this is their first child so they would have noticed.

I stopped over at my step-brother's house to see their four boys family.  Those babies are not babies anymore.  We were so busy playing ball and reading books I didn't get a picture.  Now I know why their mother can never get one of them together.  Bless her heart.

 I have one bestie that is pregnant.  She has two boys.  This one is a girl.  I was there for her baby shower.  It threw-up pink in her house.  It was gorgeous!

I might have had a slight case of baby fever that day.  Then I got back to Allye reality.

This visit introduced lots of piano playing.  Popi was a patient teacher and he and Olivia were playing a duet by the time we had to leave.  She is hooked now.  Woohoo!

Not to be outdone.

My other bestie, "Aunt" Heather came to visit us for the day.  We took them to do all of the mall fun and eat out at Chick-fil-a so we could have a semi-adult conversation.  Four days later they convinced Popi for round two of all above mentioned activities plus a trip to the ice cream store.

Then there were the four days of Easter.  Yes, four days before Easter we walked down in the morning to a Meme off from work and cute little bags filled with Easter surprises.  The girls loved this treat each morning.  

This is why I need a vacation when we get back from Meme's.  There are lots of things to climb on and in and under.  It never ends.  Ever.

Popi installed this swing several years ago.  It is still a favorite.  I love that Olivia can swing herself now by pushing off of the tree.  It's like living in the country.  Or not.

The day before Easter my two step-brothers brought their kids and we had a little celebration.  I tried to get a picture before they got there.

But Allye just wanted to wave to the marathon runners that were passing by.

Popi hid the eggs.  Olivia had been planning her strategy to collect the most eggs.  I was one step ahead of her.  The eggs were divided for the big kids.  They could only collect the ones with their names on them.  Popi was another step ahead.  He hid hers more discreetly then the others.  She did not appreciate being outsmarted.

He made nests for them in the pine straw.

This one was my favorite one of all.  

The time came.  We lined them up, told them the rules, and let them go.

 The perky smile was before she discovered her eggs were really, really, really hidden.

We broke for lunch.  Meme set up a kids table.   Made herself the chaperone. 

Then we headed back outside and did some running.  Lots and lots of running.

As we settled in that night the girls made our traditional note for the bunny to hide our eggs.

Easter morning at Meme and Popi's!

Allye only cares about what is in the eggs...that seemed to be everywhere!

What was the bunny thinking?

The Easter morning hunt began.  It had to be inside this year due to torrential rains through the night.

 According to Allye's face it was a success!

Next we were off to church for a great morning of celebration.

We ended the day with an Easter dinner with the GG's.  What a blessing that they can still be a part of my children's lives.  I am so thankful for each visit our girls have with them.  Allye is the happiest of all...

We hope your Easter was a wonderful time with family and friends.  
This was certainly a special treat for us to be able to spend this holiday with family.  

---The Mama

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