Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Sep '12

Twins Baby Shower

Today I had the privilege of throwing my sister a baby shower for her soon-to-come twins.

Arriving for the party.

I set up a welcome table where guests could take a size 1 diaper and write encouraging notes for my sister to see later when changing her babies’ bums. She’s thinking of two names that start with “N” and “K.”

Then there was the food. She’s having a boy and a girl but instead of blue and pink I opted for teal and purple (her favorite color). It was fun to put this together.

Her mother-in-law made the salad and our cousin brought the fruit salad.

In addition we had sandwiches, cupcakes, cake truffles, and chocolate.

I can’t ever have a party without displaying quotes. We had two: “Twice as much to love, two blessing from above” and “There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: TWINS.” The one I left out was a Chinese proverb: “It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles if the result is twins.”

I couldn’t resist these candy jars when I saw them.

I made these cake truffles from this recipe.

I made the mini cupcakes, too. Secret: It was just a French vanilla cake mix. But the frosting I made using this recipe. (I had to triple the recipe to cover the whole batch of cupcakes.)

Wes only ate the frosting.

That was the setup, but the party was all about…

…and the “you” was my sister, Tara. She’s about 32.5 weeks pregnant.

We played a mad lib game called “The Birthing Adventure of Twins.”

And then we got down to business: PRESENTS! People were very generous and brought Tara a variety of diapers, meals to freeze, and other baby items (especially for boys, since this is her first boy).

She got some really great loot!

Meanwhile the kids… Well, they were actually rarely here, in front of the TV, which was too bad. More often than not Wes was where he shouldn’t be, such as inside the horse pen tossing rocks into the horses’ water trough (NOT allowed).

Carissa was good, often reading or playing with cars or the baby stroller and doll.

And that’s a wrap! I hope Tara had a fun baby shower and that she felt loved and supported by the many friends and family who came.

May '11

Mini Cookie-Ice Cream Pies

As far as I know, I made this up.

I was baking cookies and decided to put some cookie dough in the bottom of a mini graham cracker pie crust. I baked it and then topped it with ice cream.

Um. Yum.

So here’s the step-by-step.

1. Take mini graham cracker pie crusts (I used Keebler Ready Crust) and press cookie dough into the bottom of each.

(Every time I make cookies I only make part of the batch and store the rest in the freezer. I happened to have whole wheat chocolate chip cookie dough and snickerdoodle cookie dough on hand in the freezer.)

2. Bake the crust and cookie dough at 350 degrees for the approximate time that the cookie is supposed to bake. For my cookies it was about 10 minutes.

Here they are, cooked.

3. Let it cool a smidge, and then top it with ice cream and any other toppings you want.

For the chocolate chip cookie pie I used monster cookie ice cream (from Target). The snickerdoodle pie was amazing with strawberry cheesecake ice cream (also from Target).

This is the snickerdoodle pie cut in half with the monster cookie ice cream.

And here’s Carissa. I was trying to get a shot of her pulling herself up onto her knees to play, but she wouldn’t cooperate.

Feb '11

Pssst! Wanna Buy a Cupcake?

My sister is pretty much awesome, as evidenced by her invitation to us for her birthday to participate in a very sophisticated cupcake tasting.

After my chocolate tasting party last fall, I think I may be becoming a tasting connoisseur.

If you live around here, I can now tell you where to enjoy the finest cupcakes. Read on.

Step 1: Buy lots of cupcakes.

We picked some local cupcakeries and split up the job of bringing a few home to sample.

Here’s our spread (I didn’t have a camera on me, just the video camera):

Our stores:

Sweet Tooth Fairy (Provo)
The Cocoa Bean Cafe (Provo)
The Chocolate (Orem)
Cupcake Chic (Orem)
Dippidees (American Fork; also Springville inside Shay-Bee’s)
Smith’s (lots of locations)

We aimed to get a vanilla- and chocolate-based cupcake from each, plus a red velvet. But the flavors offered varied from place to place.

Step 2: Prepare to keep track of your opinions.

My sister created a handy score sheet to use as we tasted.

But first we rated the cupcakes on appearance and general appeal.

Step 3: Dig in!

This is easier said than done. We found it was best to divide each cupcake into quarters so as to slow the inevitable sugar rush.

Step 4: Compare notes.

The winners?


#1: The Cocoa Bean Cafe
#2: The Sweet Tooth Fairy
#3: Cupcake Chic
#4: The Chocolate
#5: Dippidee
#6: Smith’s


#1: The Sweet Tooth Fairy (red velvet = #1, toasted coconut = #2)
#2: Cupcake Chic (coconut = #1, red velvet = #2)

The red velvet cupcake at The Sweet Tooth Fairy won because of its super moist, spongy cake and cream cheese frosting that was flavored with almond. This set it apart from every other red velvet cupcake we tried.

The coconut cupcake at Cupcake Chic was amazing. I think it’s mostly because of the vanilla cupcake that the coconut is mounted on. We 100% did NOT like the Cupcake Chic’s Neapolitan cupcake, but the strawberry frosting on it was divine. So if you like strawberry, go for their vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting. It was also amazing.

The Chocolate and The Cocoa Bean Cafe were more grouped in the middle. The Cocoa Bean Cafe won the appearance based on their double frosting (an icing covered with a mound of frosting). Their cupcakes were also by far the widest and heaviest. BUT their taste came in the middle.

For me, Dippidees was the worst. By far. Their filling did not redeem them.

Smith’s was the big surprise; their cupcakes didn’t score high, but they weren’t the worst either. Their red velvet cake was moist.

So if you live around here and are needing a cupcake fix. this is what our very scientific research found: The Sweet Tooth Fairy or the Cupcake Chic can hook you up with something delicious. But be prepared to spend a little change; the cupcakes average about $2.25-2.50 apiece.

Oct '10

Chocolate Tasting Parteeee!

I hosted a chocolate tasting party. I just wanted an excuse to get some girlfriends together to eat chocolate and become chocolate connoisseurs and have fun doing it. I had never done this before, so I learned a few things.

Step 1
Buy Chocolate

And lots of it. Actually, most sources I researched suggested sticking to just 5-7 types of chocolate. We had 14. But can you ever really go overboard with chocolate? I decided to go affordable and, with just two exceptions of locally produced chocolate, provided only types of chocolate you can get at Wal-Mart. We sampled three types of white chocolate, four of milk, and seven of dark.

Step 2
Set Up Your Table

I broke up the chocolate samples into bite-size pieces, set them out on plates, and numbered the samples. I needed less than one bar for each sample, but had an extra bar on hand in case of emergency. I set out tongs for handling the chocolate during the tasting.

Step 3
Include Palate Cleansers

With tasting so much chocolate, you need to provide a way to clean your palate now and again. I had mini bottles of water and unsalted crackers.

Step 4
Create the Atmosphere

We sat on couches with soft music in the background, and I set up candles and framed quotes about chocolate.

Step 5

I read up about how to properly taste chocolate in a formal setting. Turns out you don’t just bite, chew, and swallow! I got some good information from here and here, among other sites.

I used tongs to hand out bite-size pieces of chocolate. We started with white, worked up to milk, and ended with dark. First you examine the chocolate’s appearance, then take in its aroma, then place it on your tongue and let it melt before biting and chewing it.

I handed out scorecards to keep notes about each chocolate we sampled. That way people could keep track and remember which ones they liked and didn’t and why.

We learned a lot about chocolate! At the end I revealed which chocolate each sample number was. Not everyone agreed about which ones were best/worst, but there was a pretty good consensus overall.

The #1 favorite was Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt. We liked how the chocolate was rich and dark but not too dark, with the surprising taste and crunch of salt. It was like an unexpected explosion of flavor.

The other favorite was Lindt Excellence White Coconut (if you like coconut).

We had some clear losers. Walmart carries Hageland Premium Belgian Chocolate, but no one liked it. Any of it. And we tried four varieties: the basic milk and dark plus their specialty varieties of 64% and 71% dark. (I stand corrected: JOHN liked the 64% variety. He was the only one, and he wasn’t even invited to the party.)

Step 6
Say Thanks

I left going home gifts by the door, and of what? More chocolate! This time chocolate truffles that could be eaten later or shared with family.

We had fun, and I’ll definitely want to do this again sometime.

Dec '08

Oreo Pops

We try to share small gifts with our neighbors and John’s coworkers each Christmastime, and this year I decided to try making Oreo suckers. I got the instructions from this blog. I got the dipping chocolate, sucker sticks, and sprinkles at Roberts Crafts. I found out that sucker sticks are different than lollipop sticks; the sucker sticks are less slippery and stay inside the Oreo better. Wes was content playing all afternoon while I listened to a book on CD and made them. They were really easy!

Dec '08

Shopping with Wesley

Wes has a cough, a deep cough. I bought him some Vicks Baby Rub today, but not sure it helped. I took him shopping with me this afternoon (it’s supposed to snow tomorrow, so I got it out of the way today). First I took him to a toy store called Funfinity. I’d never really been there before. I bought Wes three Christmas presents:

3 Magnetic Farm Friends (for him to play with on the fridge)
– 20 Wooden Dinosaur Magnets (ditto)
30 Wooden blocks in a cart (for him to stack and to practice pulling the little cart)

Hopefully he wasn’t paying too much attention and will still be surprised. When I checked out the guy at the register asked if I wanted to make a $1 donation to Kids Who Count, and I said sure. He started to say what a great organization it is and I said, I know, we use it for Wesley. He told me about two disabled kids in his family and how great Kids Who Count has been, and I told him how Wes gets three therapists to visit him every month and how great they are. He asked me what Wes’s diagnosis is and I told him. And he said he thought DS kids have the cutest faces and smiles. Which of course they do.

Then Wes and I went to the Quilted Bear. I was looking for candy-making supplies, but alas, found none. I had Wes in the Baby Bjorn carrier so I wouldn’t have to hold him or lug the car seat with him in it. People always stare at Wes when he’s in the baby carrier like that, with his little face poking out the top. After Quilted Bear we walked down the strip to the Dollar Store, then Robert’s Crafts, and then Deseret Book. At the Dollar Store Wes and I bought some sandwich bags that have holiday motifs on them for giving away goodies to our neighbors and friends. And at Roberts I bought melting chocolate, sprinkles, and sucker sticks. Lastly, we headed to Kmart and bought three bags of double stuff Oreos. (We’re going to make some version of these.)

By the time we were in Kmart Wes was getting tired and very vocal. Not whiny or crying–just making noise. Kind of loud, insistent noise. “Ba ba ba BAH!!!” Then I dragged him one more place–the grocery store to get French bread for dinner. We had been out shopping for a while, and Wes fell asleep just as we got home a little before six p.m. He’s still asleep in his car seat. I should probably go wake him and see if he wants a bottle or a clean diaper or something.