Monday, March 30, 2015

Peach Mango Salsa

I created this recipe after buying some amazing peaches from a local farm around the corner. They were perfectly ripe and I needed a quick and easy way to use them up while they were still good. I'm a big fruit salsa fan, too, so this recipe helped me grow my arsenal of really tasty side dishes and appetizers.

You can serve this with multi-grain scoop style chips or cinnamon pita chips for a great flavor. This also tastes great on top of white fish and grilled chicken breasts. If you don't have fresh peaches ready at hand, you can use canned peaches. I just recommend going with the kind stored in their own juices than the corn syrup ones. You don't want to go crazy with the sweetness. 

Ingredients: 5 small ripe peaches finely diced, 1 ripe mango finely diced, 1  red bell pepper finely diced, juice of one small lime, dash of salt and cinnamon, 1/4 cup chopped onion- red or sweet yellow are good options, tsp of cilantro.

In an air tight container combine all ingredients and mix together well. Allow to sit in the fridge overnight for the flavors to really meld together. Serve cold for chips or if using for meats you can put on top of the already cooked side of the meat while the other side is still cooking to warm up the salsa and add in some flavor.

*This recipe was originally shared  in my September 2014 Newsletter. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A husband walks into a bedroom and says to his wife, "There's a bear on our deck...." Wife says, "WHAT?!

And no, this isn't a joke. See that dark blob pinning down the middle of our pool fence? That would be the neighborhood black bear making a "quick" escape from our deck. I suppose he saw the ice covered pool as the best means of to get back off the deck on that cold Saturday evening in March. 

I'll set the scene. It was like any other low key Saturday night. The kids were long gone to bed, and I just finished my nightly bedtime routine, crawled into bed, and cracked open a new book when I heard a thunk downstairs and thought maybe my husband was the culprit of said thunk. I did the obligatory meerkat pose as I listened for further sounds, with book in one hand, and boolmark in the other (should I need to get up). It was then I heard my husband dash upstairs, and as he came into our room he informed me the bear was on our deck. Forget the book and bookmark, those got flung into the covers as I quickly grabbed my cell phone. 

We raced back downstairs and gazed with utter befuddlement at this large, black figure loping across our deck and making easy work of bending our pool's fence to get himself back onto the ground. What I thought was my husband tripping or dropping something turned out to be the bear scaling the 8ft section on our deck to get up and over and to the remnants of a bird feeder we kept up during the winter. When my husband heard the thunk, he looked out the window and saw what appeared to be a decent sized something on the deck. A quick flick of the deck lights revealed....Yogi...the local garbage can crushing, droppings in our yard leaving, ain't got a care in the world, 450 lbs+ black bear. 

In his defense, I suppose, he is something of a fixture around here. While a nuisance to clean up after when he gets into our neighbor's garbage, again, and with the lovely presents of scat he leaves in our yard during the summer, we knew he was here. We just didn't expect him so late at night and at such an effort to get onto our deck. We were wrong...needless to say. Thankfully, it was just the pool that got the brunt of his escape, but now we are on bear prevention and protection mode. Fun stuff. As a result, I've gone around taking pictures to document not only for insurance purposes, but also as proof for our big bear story.Enjoy! 

(Oh and for anyone who wants to know what you can do about something like this...not much. We get to spray the area with ammonia to deter him, and just make sure to be loud and obnoxious if he is back around the house again as a means to drive him away from the property....)

The Escape Artist's Trail

Front Paw Next to My Size 8 Boot
Same Boot but Back Paws of Bear. (Notice how he sinks into the snow but I don't.) 

Our Pool, the True Victim of this Heinous Crime
At Least Insurance will Cover Damages....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Now I'm Just Some Body That I Used to Know- Confessions of a Plus Size Girl in a Skinny Girl's Body

I had absolutely no intention of writing this post, well ever really, until this morning. Thanks to Daylight Savings, I woke up groggy and decided to rest a little bit while I checked messages and what not on my phone. Recently, I started following BuzzFeed on my FB account because some of those posts and videos tickle my funny bone. Others, I just bypass for various reasons. Normally, the video that started to play would have been one to pass over, but thanks to the quirky touch sensitivity of my screen and my non-glasses wearing self, it began to broadcast...and catch my attention. Advertised as "What's it Like to be a Full Time Nude Cam Model" turned into a surprising connection to a young woman that I hadn't expected.

In this video, around time marker 3.32, she reveals her history of struggling with her body image, how it was affected after having lost weight due to medical issues, and how it's factored into doing what she does. At the end she mentions how she is finally embracing where she is physically but hopes to be able to get healthier again. In just a few phrases, I realized I wasn't alone out there. Sure, it sounds odd, but in the world of "lose weight fast" and "get yourself model skinny" diets, I felt like the odd woman out with having lost my weight due to medical issues. That's when I realized that maybe this post was needed, so that others could have a connection as well.

Weight and I always had issues with each other for as long as I can really recall. The largest size I ever wore was an 18. I tried various ways to get rid of the weight and watched the scale move up and down, but the smallest size I ever got into was a 10, which was my target goal size. In fact, the second to last time I found myself in a 10 was when I was a fitness instructor for about a year. It was also when I felt my healthiest in terms of mood, energy level and strength. Simply put, I was happy there. (The last time, I was in a 10 for maybe 3 weeks.)

But then things changed. I had to step away from being a fitness instructor, our growing family needed to find a larger home, and in process of moving into said home, I blew out a disc in my back thanks to an old, improperly diagnosed injury. This wasn't just a little bulge, I mean lost a full inch to my height blow out. The process to get through this injury was mind numbing, discouraging and crippling. The first few months were spent on major painkillers and muscles relaxers, then onto painful steroid shots that only worked for maybe 3 weeks each time, and resulted in laparoscopic back surgery and physical therapy. Overall, I was on those strong meds for about 9-10 months.

When I finally felt well enough to be active again, another dangerous curve showed itself on the road of life. All those medications ended up having an adverse effect on some of my internal organs, especially my gallbladder. Unbeknownst to me, the medications were causing it to stop functioning properly. I began getting very sick after meals. I would spend many nights doubled over in pain. What should have been a light "safe" meal caused me digestive distress. I began to fear eating any food at all. The weight wasn't just slowly coming off, it was rapidly shedding away at a rate that terrified me. Even after having been debilitated with a herniated disk that literally left me crippled while it pushed on my sciatic nerve, I can honestly say this point of my life had to be the most terrifying. I was watching myself truly disappear.

I sought out a GI specialist when I hit the 30lbs lost in 2 months mark. Thankfully, and I mean with tears in my eyes thankful, he moved quickly to determine what was going on and get things fixed. A few tests later, the problem revealed itself, a lazy gallbladder. My body wasn't able to digest properly because my GI tract wasn't functioning the way it should with a gallbladder that wouldn't empty properly. It was almost a fight or flight reaction for the rest of my GI tract with the inability of my gallbladder to function. Since I had just recently gone under surgery, my doctor encouraged me to do more of a diet change and medication approach first to see if we could fix it without a scalpel.

With a majorly modified diet, and medications and supplements I need to take daily, I am happy to say that I not only am I  able to function again, but the weight stopped slipping away and out of control. Slowly, things are healing and getting better. Yes, I still have episodes and am now left with IBS due to the damage the pain meds left in their wake to my digestive tract. But, it's under my control and as long as I am careful, I can maintain and do things.

What I didn't expect to experience from all of this, though, was a "wolf in sheep's clothing" existence.

I know I wasn't as small as I am now. If someone told me size small would actually be too big on me in some cases, I would have laughed and wondered if they forgot their meds that day. But as I said before, when I was working out and eating well and in that size 10, I was happy and proud of how I looked. Now that I'm wearing anywhere between a 2-6, thanks to the varying standards of designers, I can honestly say I am constantly struggling with how I look. There are days I don't actually see me and have to take a picture to be sure, days where I panic because my rib cage is now visible, days where I need to walk out of a store in search of clothes because my mind still hasn't caught up with the sizes I need to wear, and not what I want to wear. Online stores have become my new way to shop since I know what size I have to buy based on my measurements and their size charts. Hard to argue with numbers. Of course there are other days where I can look in the mirror and be ok with it. But they are not the norm for  me at the moment.

Along with my own personal battle with my image, others, who may think they were helping, have contributed to this confusion in the long run. I hope that most of them were unintentional "foot in mouth" cases, but some were truly insensitive and vicious. I'm just going to share a few things that were actually said to me while I was losing the weight and after I finally reached a point where I could maintain it....

"Bet that back injury was the best thing to happen to you then...well you know because you got so thin."

"You look so much better! What did you do?"

"Come on, tell the truth, you really got a lapband deal thing right? It wasn't really back surgery."

"Don't you feel so much better for it?"

"You don't have to prove anything. You're skinny enough now so just stop."

"How long before it comes back on, though?"

"Tell the truth, you have an eating disorder don't you..."


To sum it up, No. But I really didn't feel like I looked that awful. Yeah, cause back surgery is SO much easier to fake. NO. If only it were that easy. Well hopefully some might so I don't feel so weird in my own eyes. No, but some days I would love nothing more to just eat what I'd like without fearing the aftermath of pain.  And for the question I am sure more are thinking, "Why not just get the gallbladder removed?" is even easier to answer. It won't fix the problem. Yeah, the painful attacks will stop, but I'll still have a body that doesn't digest certain foods easily like it used to be able to, and it needs time to heal. I'll stick with my new diet and lifestyle and hope I can keep that scalpel and anesthesia at bay for a few more years (decades) if possible. 

My point to writing this is simple. Unless you know what caused a person to get to their new weight, please be aware of what you are about to say to them. It may seem like a compliment at the time, but it can actually cause someone to question their own self worth, again, especially if there was a struggle with body size and image beforehand. Trust me, if this had come about with working out and eating well, I probably wouldn't even be writing this right now. I'd be crowing from the rooftop my accomplishment with pride and satisfaction sharing my healthy weight loss story. But, for the people who are dealing with illnesses that cause drastic changes in their physical body shape and size, just know you aren't alone out there. Who you were before, and who you are now is still you, and just as important and valued in my eyes, and the others who understand your journey. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kitchen Reno Short Cut- Hiding the Space Where a Cabinet Once Hung

We got a glorious new refrigerator, finally!, but in order to get one that would fit, we knew that the awkward too-high-to-reach-but-too-low-for-a-new-fridge would have to go. We already were battling with a finite width that drastically cut down our options to two fridges, (based on the bells and whistles we wanted), and the last thing we needed was to not have any choice, or have to forgo features we really wanted because of a cabinet we didn't use anyways!

Luckily, the old cabinet came out with no issue once we removed all the screws. However, there was a lovely space of unpainted, and even unspackled, drywall that was left exposed for all to see. Granted, it would be easy to explain to anyone who asked what happened, but honestly, I didn't want to deal with that eyesore while we were on hold with the next few steps for giving the kitchen a face lift.

Perplexed as to what to do exactly, I looked everywhere from kitchen design magazines, to Pinterest (duh), and even brainstormed with my mom. I didn't want to do something super expensive since chances were good we could do something more with that space later on, like a great wine rack above the fridge. But, I also didn't feel like going into the effort of repainting a wall, especially since I know I am changing the color scheme big time when it comes time to redoing the cabinets.

It was when I spoke with my mom that this idea finally came about. I at first thought of maybe just getting some peel and stick back splash style tiles and slapping them up over the vacant spot. But, my mom mentioned something I was also toying with but wasn't sure if it would work. Basically, I took at look at the foam ceiling tiles that are often used to hide the hideous sins of popcorn ceilings, and I thought I could paint them in a metallic tone to take on that hammered tin concept. Mom actually offered up the same idea, so I knew all was good.

To say this was relatively the easiest temporary kitchen face lift is an understatement. All it took was enough tiles to cover the space in question, some silver acrylic paint, a little wipe on wipe off know how for antiquing the silver with some thinned out black acrylic paint, and then Command strips to hang the uber light foam squares. You can toy around with how you want to place the tiles depending on the size you get, but since I ordered some 20" ones, I decided to feature one dead center on the longer space and flank it with halves of another tile, and then place another full 20" on the side wall, and half of one last square on the flanked cabinet side.

Granted, I had to wait between coats of paint, and fiddle a little to get the right antique look to the final results, but once things got going, it was an easy half day project. I'm super thrilled with the outcome, and who knows, I may just keep it like this even after we redo a few more things!

From this eyesore.........

 To this beautifully finished off space!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

DIY Pretty Mason Jar Pour Spout Salt Dispenser with Chalkboard Label

Once again, I had a total AHA! moment when bopping around the interwebs. This lovely salt dispenser was inspired by two different ideas I've noticed floating around lately. One is the great chalkboard labels that are getting put on cute containers for the bathroom or kitchen, and the other is a life hack concept using an emptied salt container. Keep reading to find out how you too can make this! (And it's ridiculously easy when you have all the right tools.)

Supplies for the Jar

The first thing you will need is a Mason jar with a canning lid, you know, the kind where it's an outer ring with a separate lid that fits into it. You'll also need the following for this project: a sharp kitchen knife, a sharp pair of scissors, a pencil, container of salt with a pour spout.

How to Make the Pour Spout Lid

1.Clean the jar and ring well so they will be ready for food storage. Next, take the salt (or item of choice) and empty it from its original packaging. 

2. Using the sharp knife slice off the top section of the salt container with the pour spout about a half inch below the very top of the container. (see picture for reference). It's easier to remove it this way than to try and cut the top out while still attached, especially with the cylindrical shape. 
3. Using the insert lid section from the Mason jar, position it over the top of the cardboard pour spout and trace with the pencil. With your scissors, carefully cut out the traced portion. You now have your new lid. Save the old one for later use if your re-purpose the jar later on. 

4. Place new lid in the jar ring with the pour spout facing out. 

5. Fill up the jar with the salt, if you didn't already, and then put the assembled lid on top. TA-DAH! A pour spout lid for you. 

How to Make Chalkboard Labels for Your Containers

You will need- Label template (there is a link to the one I use further down), chalkboard contact paper (link to purchase at the end of instructions), scissors, tape, and white paint pen (or White Out pen like I used), white printer paper and functioning printer.

1. Print out the label onto to regular printing paper to create your template. Then, cut out a section of contact paper that will completely cover the label you just printed

2. Carefully, tape the contact paper over the print out on the white paper with the grid side up making sure to run a thin section of tape over the edge to make sure it will feed smoothly into your printer. (I did three sides around and it worked well). Now, place your paper back into the feed tray of your printer making sure to put it in the right orientation for the printer to print out exactly the same way it initially did for the label on the white paper. Reprint the label again, only this time it will print onto the grid side of the contact paper.

3. Using your scissors, carefully cut out the shape of the label. Yes, you will have a plain white paper cutout as well. You can just toss that.
back of the cutout label
front of cutout of label

4. Remove grid backing from the contact paper and carefully place label onto the jar where you'd like it to be. Using paint pen, write the name of the item stored in the jar in whatever style you'd like. I also cleaned up the lid a little more by making sure to remove the rest of the sticker from the original packaging.

There ya go! You now have a really pretty and functional dispenser for your kitchen. I'm already creating other jars to store similar pantry goods. I may even try to find a big jar so I can do something similar for my Epsom salts sitting next to my tub. 

To get the template printout just go here and then select Ctrl+P on your computer for it to print.

To order the chalkboard contact paper go to this link on Amazon. If you are Prime member you'll also get free 2 day shipping.

For more great kitchen life hacks just click here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cross Stitch Crochet Round 2

Cross Stitch Crochet Throw Pillow 

I love coming across new points of inspiration, so forewarning, you'll be seeing more projects like this on my in between orders time. Once I feel confident with the products, I plan on turning this into pattern for other to enjoy making.

This project is going to be transformed into a great throw pillow for my family room. I am going to use  a burlap backing and then edge the two pieces together with a little more of a crochet detail edge. I most certainly will share the end result but here is the the cross stitch crochet piece I just finished up. I also added in some pops of color by going back and doing some hand embroidery details.

There really isn't too much more to say about it at this point, but I just couldn't wait to share it! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blue and Gold Banquet Cake

Let me start off by saying I am not a professional baker, and that this cake was a total labor of love for my son and his Boy Scout pack. The mom organizing the event needed someone to help out and bake the cake, so I figured, "why not?". I already bake a good deal for the animal rescue group I volunteer with, and I have always loved trying out new recipes and ideas when it comes to baking.

I wanted to share my process on the blog because I thought it may be helpful for other moms and dads out there who want to try their hand at a few baking techniques like molding chocolates and using fondants. Sure, these can be scary at first, but once you start to work with them, it isn't half bad. After a lot of reading and research on how to make a multi-tier cake, melting chocolate, and making fondant, I managed to come up with this cake for my oldest son's Blue and Gold banquet. My ultimate goal was to make something where the boys felt special and fit with the celebratory feel of the event. Make sure to follow the links included in this post to really help you out when you set out to make a mega cake!

Here is the final result of all that hard work and a few days of prep, but after seeing the kiddos' reactions, it was completely worth every minute of trial and error! I figured I would share this picture first so that you had an idea of where things can go. 

White Chocolate Molds

The first thing I did before even making the cake was take a look at icons and symbols from the Boy Scouts of America, or BSA. In my wanderings I came across lots of fleur-de-lis and stars...which pretty much became my jumping point for inspiration. Amazon, as always to the rescue, has a fantastic silicone mold for fleur-de-lis that ended up making the perfect size and shape of what I needed and you can bet that got added to the cart right away. If you'd like to order it just follow this link. The mold is so easy to work with and the silicone pretty much made it completely oops proof when it came time to get the chocolates out.

But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me just say that melting white chocolate can be a bit tricky and you will need a few things to make it easier. I highly recommend a good deal of patience and willingness to have things go south before getting the results you want, especially if you have never done this before. Experiment and fiddle to your heart's content and don't get discouraged! It will work out in the end :)

I used white chocolate chips and food dye for my colors, but you can order pre-dyed white chocolate, again off Amazon, and get the color results you want right away. Honestly, I will probably end up going that latter route when it comes time to do something like this again. You are also going to want a double boiler, or if you don't have one, a medium pot and large metal bowl as pictured. The key with a double boiler set up is LOW and SLOW. You want the lowest heat setting on your stove, and you do not want to rush the melting process.
White chocolate has a lovely habit of seizing up and becoming grainy if you heat it too quickly and at too high of a temperature. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make your molds. I actually made these in the beginning of the week just to make sure I had time to form them properly.

You need to fill the lower pot with water. I kept it at about 2" deep so as not to expose the bottom of the bowl directly to the water. Then place the top pot, or metal bowl on top if you aren't working with an actual double boiler, on the lower pot and turn the heat source on to its lowest setting. While you wait for things to heat up, add in the amount of chocolate you'll need and if it isn't dyed, make sure to add in the food coloring along with a couple sprays of PAM to act as insurance. The reason why you add the dye in now and not after it's melted is because any introduction of a cooler liquid will cause the chocolate to become gross and grainy. Trust me on this one. 

Make sure to coat the chocolates as best you can if adding in your own dye and then constantly keep stirring while you wait for the chocolate to start to melt. You will need to keep a vigilant eye on it because once it starts to melt it will start melting quickly. Make sure to remove the bowl from the lower pot before the chocolate is completely melted or you will end up with, yep, grainy chocolate. When you have a few lumps of chips left, remove and keep stirring until smooth. The residual heat will be enough to help you get to this texture. Then make sure to have your mold on a cookie sheet or chopping board and, using a deep measuring spoon, scoop out your melted chocolate and pour into the individual molds. Once filled, you will need to tamp out the bubbles. Just lift the cookie sheet or board and drop it gently back down onto your counter top. Do this a few times and you'll see the bubbles coming up. You can take a toothpick to pop the bubbles as they show. After, just let the chocolate cool completely before removing and then store in an airtight container at room temp, DO NOT REFRIGERATE! No, seriously, don't do it or all your hard work will go wonky and cloud up on you. 

I filled up the mold partially so as to make the end result two colors. Do whatever inspires you! Just remember, for every color layer you do, you will have to wait for it to set before moving along to the next color. While it doesn't mean completely cool, you will need to be able to touch the back without it denting. That's going to mean a good deal of time over the double boiler/bowl and pot, and you will need to wash the top parts between color changes. I liked the dual tones, so it was totally worth the extra time and effort. 

Marshmallow Fondant

You can opt to buy ready made fondant and that's totally cool. I, personally, am not a fan of the flavor of the pre-made variety so I wanted to make my own. This is my second time working with it, and I already knew I was going to go the marshmallow fondant way of things. I used this recipe for my son's birthday cake back in December, and it worked out well enough for me to give it another go. It's actually easy to make, but messy. So again, have a good chunk of time open for you to make it and then just have some Ziploc bags greased with some Crisco on the ready to store the end result at room temp until you are ready to use it. 

You are going to want a bag of mini marshmallows, a bag of confectioner's sugar, 2 tsbps of water (but have some extra on reserve), a large 4 qt microwave safe bowl, a Crisco greased spatula, a sifter, 1 cup measuring cup, and food dye for the colors you want. You'll also be using your hands for this, so keep a blob of Crisco on a dish near by so you can just daub and smear as needed.Once you have all that, go read this post from Make Fabulous Cakes for a great step by step method of making the marshmallow fondant. A recipe for traditional is also included, but I personally like the flavor of the marshmallow stuff much better.
And just be ready to potentially need to add a little extra water or sugar since the weather can affect the end result. Kid you not, one day I was adding water, the other I needed a little more sugar. The only difference being the bright sunny day vs. the snowy rainy day. I ended up making this a couple days before actually baking the cake just to have it on hand and ready when "fondant" decorating day came about. Be ready to need to warm it up if you are doing this in the winter. Nothing a quick ride in the microwave won't be able to handle.

Baking from the Box, but Better!

Next up, baking the cake! And yes, I cheated and went with box cake mix....with a little oomph. Yes, it's true, you can anti up the texture and flavor of any boxed cake by replacing and adding in a few extra ingredients. Instead of oil, use twice the amount of melted butter as to what the box will call for, double your egg count, add in an extra tsp of vanilla, and use milk instead of water. I'll explain the dye in a minute, so hang on for that. All you have to do is prep the boxed cake as instructed but with the altered ingredients.

Now, what I did was add in some food color to make a fun surprise for the boys when the cake was cut for serving. Marbleizing your cake is super easy and a fun way to add in a little extra something. Add in your dye of choice with the already combined cake mix.

If you are just making a simple two layer cake, you will want to divide the batter before adding in your colors. I was making multiple tiers so I just made a box worth of each color I wanted, and ended up dividing a third box for the last tier. Here you can see the yellow and blue outcome of the batters getting some food coloring added into the mix.


Now, for you own sanity, I cannot stress enough to use circles of parchment paper on the bottom of your cake tins. This acts as a good bit of insurance to make sure your cake layers actually come out of the tins with little to no issue. Just trace the bottom of your tins onto the parchment paper and cut out your circles. Spray on some PAM onto your tins making sure to get the sides and bottom, then pop the parchment circle in before adding your batter. You can also use wax paper, but it must be entirely covered by the batter or hello smoke alarm.

For the fun and cool marble effect, all you really need to do is drop and array of dollops of each color around the tins and then, using a skewer or chop stick, swirl the colors together to get the colors to slightly blend together. Whatever you do, do not over blend or try to smooth out the top part or it will muddy everything together. Not nearly as pretty or marbled for the end result. And you will want to do the tamping trick again to get the excess bubbles out of the batter. Once you have it all ready to go, just bake as instructed on the box.

When all your layers are cooled completely, you will need to get things ready for the crumb layer. This is not a step you can skip when it comes to fondant. You need this layer to create a smooth base for you fondant to rest on and to help keep the cake moist. Before you do anything though, if you plan on making a multi-tier cake, you are going to want to trace the bottom of your cake tins again, but this time onto cardboard and then cover with tin foil. This is to help create a support system for the bottom cake to be able to handle the weight of the other tiers above it. You can also opt to just buy pre-made cake rounds. 
Before putting the first layer on the cardboard round, just put a dollop of frosting on the round and spread it out a little to help the round stick securely to the cake layer. Cover the top of your first layer with frosting and then pop on the second layer. At this point, take a nice sharp bread knife and even out where necessary. Make sure to brush off all excess crumbs and then finish off the cake layers with an even layer of frosting all around. Then just pop your frosting covered cake tiers into the fridge to chill. It makes them much easier to work with when it comes time to cover them in fondant. If you are taking a break, then just carefully wrap the cakes in a layer of plastic wrap once the frosting is chilled to protect them from excess moisture and odors that may live in your fridge. Usually this can be done about an hour after being in the fridge.

Now, you can opt to use ready made frosting, but make sure to keep it white for the best results with your fondant. I used a very simple frosting recipe that takes no time to make and easy to work with.

Basic Vanilla Frosting

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbsp room temperature butter
1tsp vanilla
2 tbsps water or milk.

With a hand mixer, blend all the ingredients together to form a smooth frosting. You can add in additional water or milk if the frosting is too dry and will not smooth out nicely. 

I used this frosting to also help hold the chocolate molds and fondant stars but thinned it out a little to be more like a glue. Also, I made sure to have extra on hand for assembly time to help the tiers stick to each other. 

Decorating the Cake

Finally, you'll be working with the fondant and getting it onto your cakes. Toy around with a little bit a first to get the feel for it. Then grease up a good swath of counter with some Crisco and roll away. Again, slow and steady will be your best bet. Try not to rush, and just be ready to have to give things more than one go. The cakes being cooled will help you not have to deal with a mess of frosting and fondant colliding and give you a little extra, literal, wiggle room to shift the fondant around as you need to while covering them. 

Again, not a professional baker, so there were some foibles and flaws to mine but nothing that became a deal breaker. Use a cake stand to help make decorating a little less back breaking and easier on you. I actually covered mine with a layer of foil, then a criss-crossed later of plastic wrap to make storing them when done much easier. I'm just going to caption the pics to make it a bit more clear as to what went on for this part. I did decorate the cake the day before we actually needed it, again to give me a good buffer for any little issues that may crop up and for my own sanity. 

Bottom tier of the cake covered with fondant. Blue fondant stars on the ready in the background.

Give your cake some extra support with food safe wooden dowels stuck into the center of the bottom two tiers. Make sure to remove them as you cut and serve the cake.

Bottom layer all pulled together with fleur-de-lis and fondant stars attached with thinned out basic frosting.

Top layer ready to get wrapped up

Make a fun topper for the cake by melting the back of a fleur-de-lis on a hot pan momentarily and then attaching to another fleur-de-lis with a toothpick between the two.

Simple but effective way to create a fun point of interest at the top.

Make life easier for you by covering a cake stand with foil, then layers of plastic wrap. place the cake on top and then plot out your decorations and make wrapping up easy when all done.

Side shot of middle layer prepped and ready to go.

Layers wrapped up with plastic cling and resting on foil to make it easier to move them around without over handling them.

I ended up doing the final assembly of layers once we got to the event and hid the seams with long rolls of fondant at the base of each layer. This makes it much easier to transport the individual tiers, that is for sure. Once decorated, you will also want to store your cake in a cool, dry place until the event. Again, the fridge is not an option at this point because you will alter the look of your chocolate molds. A basement is a good option of you have it or any space without windows. If you can't or don't have a space like this, then you will just need to put the chocolate on right before the event.

When stacking the tiers on top of each other comes, you will want to just spread a dollop of basic frosting onto the top of the lower layer and then place the next layer, with the cardboard base, on top. The cardboard should rest on the support dowels and help transfer the weight of the upper layers so that your bottom layers won't be crushed. The frosting helps keep the tiers from sliding around and acts as an edible paste. 

As you can tell by the pictures and length of this post, it was a lot of hard and time consuming work, but SO worth it. Just the look on my son's face made the evening for me. Then hearing the cute stories of how the other kids reacted to it made it even better! Enjoy the process, give it time, and hopefully you too will be able to get into the endless possibilities of cake baking and decorating.