Easter Mantel: Gold Accented Painted Wood Egg Set

Easter Mantel: Gold Accented Painted Wood Egg Set

 

I don’t know about you, but for years I did NOT have any Easter decor besides filling an Easter Basket with Easter goodies, and the traditional Easter egg hunts and Easter meals. In fact I never really got excited about Easter decorations because all the traditional pastel and bunnies and plaid and flowers and lace just seemed to uninspiring for me. Nothing grabbed my attention. UNTIL I saw a spray painted pastel rainbow of these wood eggs, and the inspiration FLOODED my brain. I was so excited I could place an order fast enough because I KNEW exactly what I was gonna do. I knew I wanted something with lots of gorgeous colors, but still had that elegant edge without the traditional “grandma-cheesy” Easter decor I detest.

 

I am OBSESSED with these colors and the gold accents. I have a set of gold utensils I use for Easter dinner, and so the gold accents just pulls it all together. I contemplated cutting out, and sanding my own eggs, but the shear amount of work it would take I was not prepared to do…I have my limits…made purchasing 6 sets so worthwhile. 

The gold accents I added are easier to see in this picture. I not only painted the bottom third of each egg–and since there are three different sizes, the bottom third is proportionate to the size of the egg–but I also speckled the eggs with the gold paint. I used a tooth brush dipped in the gold paint, and with my thumb or another finger to run down the paint soaked bristles while aiming at the wood eggs. To say the least, got gold paint all over my thumbs and fingers…and table and chairs…ya, I also recommend covering the table and all surrounding chairs with plastic before splattering paint. I learned the hard way, but I tend to be so excited about these projects that this type of prep work is harder for me than the extra clean up work I create for myself.

I used craft acrylics, as well as some of my professional grade Golden brand acrylics to achieve some of the colors I knew I HAD to have since I already had the on hand. Because I am uber particular with the shades of the colors I wanted, I mixed most of the colors myself, but that is entirely unnecessary if you find 3 different shades of pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple you love in craft paints, as well as a craft paint in gold you love. I listed materials and steps below.

Required materials:

6 sets–wood eggs in 3 sizes

craft paint in 3 desired shades if each color grouping (pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, & purple)–18 colors

gold craft paint

*painter’s tape 

 

 1 inch flat paint brush or sponge brush

a clean, dry toothbrush (for speckeling)

plastic to cover your work surface to protect from gold speckling

80 grit or finer sandpaper

 

 

Steps:

1) Sand the wood egg cutouts to smooth any splinters or any rough areas. You don’t need to make sure it is ultra smooth. in fact, I only do a light overall sanding using an 80 grit sandpaper quarter sheet (tearing a full sheet of sandpaper into fourths). You want the paint to have some texture to grip onto, and dry smoother; you do NOT want to paint such a smooth wood surface so the paint will basically peel off. 

2) Use two coats of the base color paint for each egg. Make sure you let each coat dry in between. 

3) Paint the bottom 1/3 of each egg with the gold craft paint. Use two coats, making sure each layer is completely dry before adding another coat of paint. *NOTE: You can use painters tape to mark off the bottom third for the gold paint. Just know you may need to go in with the base color paint to touch up any bleeding you may get with the gold once you remove the painter’s tape. I am an experienced painter, and thus trust my hand to be steady enough to get a straight line using a 1 in flat brush, and so I skip the painter’s tape. 

4) To speckle the eggs with the gold paint, dip your toothbrush in the gold paint (you do not want it dripping off of the toothbrush), and run your thumb or a finger from the hand not holding the toothbrush to flick the paint onto the base color part of the egg. Repeat until you are satisfied with the speckling. NOTE: Be aware that as you load your toothbrush with gold paint multiple times, paint can start to pool and then drip where you do not want it to drip if you are not careful. To remedy this, I simply tap off any excess paint after a few times I have dipped my toothbrush.  

5) Let the eggs dry completely before setting up your Easter display. Stand back, and enjoy your custom creation you will be able to use year after year. In fact, I see these custom made holiday decor pieces as heirlooms to pass on; it just adds to the sentimentality and tradition of the holiday. Happy Easter!

 

Check out my Spring/Easter dual sided letter blocks I created with scrap wood. Super easy project that is super cute!

Super Cute & Easy Scrap Wood Spring & Easter Decor Blocks

Super Cute & Easy Scrap Wood Spring & Easter Decor Blocks

 

DO you have scrap wood sitting around from a home improvement project, you hate the space it is taking up, but you hate wasting perfectly good wood even more? Then this is the PERFECT project for you! It is so easy and so hard to mess up. All you need is 2 x 4 wood, a saw, or a friend who has one, sand paper, craft paint, brush or sponge brush, and letter stencils or vinyl letter cut outs to use the letters or as a stencil. I did both. It is so versatile as well! You can use it for Spring and Easter just by flipping the blocks!

 

Aren’t the colors so perfect for Spring AND Easter??!???!!! I am OBSESSED. I did use my Silhouette Cameo 3 for the first time since I bought it 6 months ago. This was the perfect excuse to pull it out. It was a headache, but I am sure for all y’all who are NOT “tech phones” like me wouldn’t have an issue. I ALWAYS have issues setting up technology…part of the reason it sat for so long.

I knew I wanted Spring on one side of the letter blocks, and Easter on the other side. As I played around with fonts and sizes, I decided on all lower case for Spring and all upper case for Easter. I loved the font changes, and I used the Georgia font, which I love to use. I also knew I was gonna make 3 sets…and I still have tons of scrap wood left over from my storage shelves…I will definitely post about those. I had a co-worker and friend come over with her 3 little girls for a craft day. Her oldest is a die hard crafter at the wee age of 8, which I adore because I was too at a young age. I started by cutting the blocks to size (listed below). We had to make a Home Depot run because I was out of sand paper; knowing there were 3 girls 8 and under, I got the sand paper blocks for them, but I prefer the basic sand paper I tear into quarters to use. I bought 80 grit to make sure all the splinters were smoothed down, as well as any stamp lettering you commonly find on 2x4 studs. The girls were put to work sanding as well, and it was a great teachable moment to let them know there is always the “not-so-fun” parts of projects, but that it was a necessary part, and if we persevere we get to do the fun part: painting! Painting these wood blocks is perfect for young kids because they are a single background color each, and if the parents allow, the kids can choose their color adding to the excitement and ownership of the project; they will BEAM with accomplishment and love it all the more because they picked out their color. The girls lost interest and left my friend and I to some much needed girl talk as we finished painting the first coats! Hahaha! It was SOOOO therapeutic. I recommend painting two coats to ensure there is solid coverage of the background colors. These blocks become a keepsake to remember they were custom made each Spring and Easter.

To save on vinyl, I used one set of letters for two sets of blocks: one set of blocks I used the background vinyl of the letters as a stencil to paint the letter, and then on another set I used the actual vinyl letters. Confession time, my friend also had to use the background of the letters as stencils because I ran out of my precious white vinyl troubleshooting why the darn machine wouldn’t cut all the way through the vinyl. Grrrrrr. Well I figured out the bottom of the cutting tool was loose and not screwed in all the way, and I didn’t have the cutting tool properly locked into place…I’m just bummed it took 3 sheets of white vinyl to figure that out! Oh well, you live and learn…but the important part is I LEARNED!!! BTW, you will want to space the letters so you can cute each letter to have a clean margin of vinyl if you plan to use the stencil. My personal preference if the painted letters using the vinyl letter stencils. Once I applied two coats of the white paint, and on the second coat I removed the vinyl stencil to keep the paint from drying which I imagine would make removing the vinyl a pain…or worse…detrimental to all the hard work of the letter block. There is nothing I detest more than wasted time…well, wasted time where I felt like there wasn’t a proper lesson to learn.

As you can see I embellished one set with ribbon, pink twine, felt flower cutouts, buttons, and beads. The set you see the embellishments on is one set of blocks with the letters for Spring on one side, and Easter on the other side. I think they turned out so adorable!!! And yes, I did find my little spelling mishap…tee hee hee…I think it is a subliminal message. Did you see it? Spring is “bloomy”-ing! I didn’t even notice until my husband started belly laughing, and told me he loves me. Ha! I tell you, I am the worst editor in the world because it all looks right in my head! I did keep the painted gold “bloopered” set myself (above). I also added gold splatters to that set. The gold splatters is a running theme through all my custom made Easter decor, which I cannot wait to share it all with you! I have listed all the cut lengths below, as well as listed all the materials you will need. 

2x4 cut lengths:

1- 13.75 inch piece

2- 5.5 inch pieces (tall)

2- 5 inch pieces (medium)

2- 4.25 inch pieces (small)

 

Required materials:

2x4 wood studs, scrap wood is perfect for this

wood saw (I used my miter saw) or a good friend with one 🙂

craft paint in the colors you prefer

1 inch flat paint brush or sponge brush

 

1 inch flat paint brush or sponge brush

small flat brush, if you plan to stencil in the letters (I prefer this to a stencil brush)

sand paper, 80 grit or finer

vinyl letters in your preferred font, or letter stencils

 

Steps:

1) Cut the wood to the specified lengths. 

2) Sand all edges and faces of the wood to smooth any splinters, rough edges, or ink stamps on the wood. You do not need it to be super smooth, and in fact I do not use sand paper finer than 80 grit because it gives the paint good teeth to grip and gives better coverage. 

3) Order the size of the blocks to your preference. For the Spring letters, I used the pattern: tall, medium, small, medium, tall, small where only the first and last blocks do not sit on the bottom longest block. For the Easter letters: tall, medium, tall, small, medium, small. I actually only marked the bottom with one of the letter combinations, and once I did all the steps to complete one side, I turned the blocks around and rearranged it slightly until I liked the order for the letters to spell the other word on the other side. 

4) Paint two coats on all sides of all the blocks your desired colors. I let each layer completely dry before adding a coat. 

5) Make sure the paint is completely dry before adding the vinyl letters, or stencils. Spell out your desired word on each side to coordinate for Spring and Easter. 

6) I chose different phrases on the long base block. You can customize what phrase you prefer, then stencil or adhere the phrase with the vinyl. Embellish to your hearts desire, or leave as is and you will have a great custom made keepsake you will love to put out each Spring, and flip the blocks to continue to enjoy through Easter!

Don’t forget to check out these amazing and colorful gold accented wood Easter eggs perfect for any mantel. I’m OBSESSED with them!

Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies

Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies

 

After my last minute rush to get a Valentine’s dessert thrown together with leftover frosting, cookies, and raspberry filling, I stumbled on a NEW dessert that is so ridiculously AMAZING I don’t know how this desert hasn’t come to light yet! Cheesecake Sugar Cookies flavored with fruit fillings!!! I like to have holiday themes for each month and because it is March, I decided to go with a Key Lime flavor for my cakes and desserts. My new custom recipes this month included a  Blueberry Key Lime Cake, a Key LIme Tunnel cake, and a Key Lime Dressing for a spinach salad…AND last but definitely not least, my Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies. If you like Key Lime, you will LOVE these recipes! I am talking complete FOOD NIRVANA!

 

These cookies are so easy to put together, especially with a batch of my Key Lime fruit filling on hand, which is used in all the previously mentioned Key LIme recipes. I love having versatile recipes, and multiple uses with flavors I adore. And how cute are they as little Shamrocks! The piping was also very easy, and I didn’t even use a tip; I just used the open end of the piping bag. I started in the center of each shamrock, and piped two loops in each leaf, and ended at the stem (all in one continuous motion). 

 

In fact, I had a batch of my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe at the bottom), and I just mixed in enough of my Key Lime Fruit Filling to get that oh so delicious tangy key lime cheesecake flavor. I made sure to NOT add too much fruit filling so the frosting was still a good piping consistency. I also added a drop of green and a drop of yellow food coloring to get a beautiful chartreuse green hue. I brought my first batch of these cookies to test out the recipe with my co-workers where I teach high school math, and they RAVED about them! I knew I wasn’t looney for thinking they were so good. Now I had confirmation of how dang delicious they were. Everyone was saying how perfectly tangy they were, and there was no doubt they were Key Lime Cheesecake. They also said the cookie was the perfect size to have a yummy dessert, but not over do it…and not get all the calories from a slice of Key Lime Pie!!!

Because I use a St. Patrick’s day rainbow and shamrock “Lucky” theme for March, I wanted a way to incorporate that with this recipe. So I busted out the larger shamrock cookie cutter and my rainbow sprinkles to get these stinkin’ cute shamrock cookies! I also love the added crunch from the sprinkles!!! You can see that one of the larger cookies I used the same green frosting as the smaller cookies, one was just my cream cheese frosting, and one I lined the piping bag with 3 stripes of the key lime fruit filling (recipe at the bottom) to get a variegated frosted cookie. I love the variations, and all are so yummy!

This is my go to sugar cookie recipe, and you will get rave reviews! To make these Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies, you need:

1 recipe of sugar cookies, cut out, baked, and completely cooled.

1 recipe of my cream cheese frosting (found at the bottom of the page)

1/4-1/2 c of my Key Lime Fruit Filling recipe.

Mix in the key lime fruit filling to taste, then pipe or frost your cookies. Store frosted cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and they will last up to 3 weeks. They also freeze well in an airtight container for up to 3 months. These storing guidelines also work for leftover frosting. I also use this Key Lime Cheesecake Frosting on cakes, and this cake was particularly delicious!

Key Lime Fruit Filling
Do you LOVE Key Lime but you don’t love the time it takes to make a key lime curd? Then you will adore this recipe! This fruit filling recipe is so versitile, you will loose count how many diffierent ways you can use it. I mostly use it to fill cakes, flavor frosting, and even in a vinaigrette recipe for a spinach salad. 
2 c fresh Key Lime Juice (or 1 1/2 c lime juice plus 1/2 lemon juice)

 

1/2 c sugar

T corn starch, mixed in 1/2 c cold water

1) Add all the ingredients except the corn starch & water mix in a sauce pan on med heat.

2) Bring the juice mix to a boil.

3) Add the corn starch and water mix, and let boil stirring constantly until thickened.

4) Let the fruit filling cool before adding to an airtight dish to chill in the refrigerator. DO not use to fill cakes or to add to frostings until completely chilled. 

 

NOTE: I use this to flavor frosting, fill cakes, vinaigrette dressing, and many other key lime recipes.

To fill a cake: frost the bottom layer with an even coating of frosting, pipe a frosting “dam” around the boarder of the frosted cake, then dollop a general tablespoon or two depending on the layer size, and spread evenly to the dam before topping with another layer of cake; and repeat until the top layer.

 

March Mantel Decor: Lucky Shamrocks

March Mantel Decor: Lucky Shamrocks

 

I love it when ideas come together seamlessly as if they were meant to be. This is how my March mantel came to life. I love decorating my mantel each month with holiday themes or seasonal themes. It adds that extra special sense of celebration to the home. Custom decor also give me the ability to let my creativity go free and have an artistic outlet I thoroughly get joy from. Also, each custom handmade piece becomes an heirloom I am proud to pass on, put up year after year building family memories and traditions to deepen that joy.

 

The first piece conceived in my mind was the rainbow felted wool ball garland. I was at a loss trying to figure out the easiest way to get all the shades of the rainbow I wanted in the same size, which can be very tricky and time consuming…and I am not about to waste my time. Thankfully I found these and loved the variety of color. I knew I could use the more vibrant rainbow colors for my March St. Patrick’s themed garland, and the other more muted colors would be great for a fall month garland. 

All you need is white embroidery floss and a needle with an eye large enough for the full width of the floss, and you are good to string those felt balls together. I tied a looped knot at the beginning, made sure my needle went through as close to the center of the felt ball each time, and strung them one after another. I did line up the colors in the order I wanted from beginning to end. I used 52 total felted wool balls to repeat a pattern of 17 colors from a dark burgundy to white with multiple shades of basic red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink. I love seeing multi shades in my rainbows! Oh, and I did use one extra white to begin and end the garland with white. I knotted it off with a matching length loop, and used a large paper clip I opened up to use as a double hook to attack the garland on one side and to my tall silver candle holders.

The next idea I procured during my Christmas decor take down, that happened late February…believe me I was beginning to think it was going to be Christmas in July as things were going with no time and no energy to put Christmas away with all the other project I had going between work and home.

I was about to put these iron fireplace pillar candle holders I traditionally have only used for Christmas. Then it hit me…WHY on earth am I using these gorgeous candle holders ONLY for Christmas? Why not take what I’ve done for Christmas and do something similar to customize for all my holidays and seasons? So I also get to reuse the pillar candles I have (and have never burned), and all I did was add these beautiful rainbow spectrum ribbons with a small chartreuse green ribbon I had on hand and tied them at the top with a simple square knot to give it added interest. I love it! Just about every time I see these candle holders, I have to laugh because until I decided to paint these white with white glitter, I HATED these wrought iron candle holders. They were my husband’s before we got married (or maybe his parents he “inherited”) and they were bulky, beige, and so ugly in my mind. I seriously had them packed up to donate a few times, and something always made me hesitate but I didn’t know why. Then it hit me to refinish them, get white pillar candles, and wrap the base of the candles in a beautiful red sparkle stripe ribbon, and I have loved them ever since. I love them ever more now that I can use them all year! P.S. I just used cellophane tape to tape on the rainbow ribbon, but know when I change it over for Easter, I will take the time to burn the edges of the ribbon to stop the fraying and be able to use these year after year.  I may need to cut the thin green ribbon, but I am thinking I will stitch it onto the wide ribbon, and just tape it each year…unless I can figure out another easy way. 

One thing I knew I wanted to do, but it took the right inspiration on how I was going to do it, was have wood letters spell out LUCKY using various green shades and one letter was going to be painted a rainbow spectrum. JoAnne’s and Michael’s ironically left me inspirational-less, however, walking through Walmart’s vamped up craft section I saw these great wood slatted panels in different sizes. Boom! Inspiration came flooding in! I bought the light grey almost white thinking I would paint the background pure white in the biggest one as well, but in the end I liked the subtle difference. I knew I needed two wood shamrock cutouts that I couldn’t find anywhere with the right size, shape, and thickness. I did find them on two different Etsy stores. I couldn’t wait for them to arrive. I hate having to be patient once I get a completed vision in my head. However, I am so glad it worked out that way, because I finished painting, gold speckling the LUCKY unfinished wood letters I found at Michael’s and got on discount with a great coupon for my whole purchase (where I also got the felt shamrock garland, sparkle mini shamrocks, and gold coins i used on my mantel–watch out for those coupons on their app!). While waiting for my large shamrock and four leaf clover to arrive, I painted the green and white chevron and felt I needed some sparkle! I had some emerald green glitter craft paint I got from the after Christmas sales that was perfect for this. After adding the glitter to the green chevron, I knew I wanted to use the same green and glitter craft paint for the shamrock was planning to glued above the LUCKY letters. It turned out better and tied them in together perfectly! I also had a blast using my paint mixing skills to paint the spectrum rainbow on the U. I am just obsessed with it all and thrilled at how well it all came together.   

I knew I wanted the spectrum rainbow to tie in from the candles, to the garland, the U in the lucky, but felt there needed to be one more place. The smallest wood slat square I originally wanted to break in my Silhouette, that I haven’t set up since getting it for Christmas, and make a stencil for the phrase”You are the gold at the end of my rainbow,” however, time got away from me and I needed something faster. I figure I can use that for another project next year–I always have far too many ideas than I do time! 

When the four leaf clover wood cutout arrived, it was perfect for the square, but too big for the green and white chevron like I was planning, so it hit me…to tie in the gold speckling on the letters AND that last rainbow spectrum element, I would paint the four leaf clover gold, and the whole square the rainbow spectrum like I did the letter U! Voila!!! The inspiration and seamlessness of everything coming together just kept making me so happy! The last thing I did was throw up some the the left over foam shamrocks, and it was a wrap! Now I finally had my March mantel and I am OBSESSED with it! It has all the elements I love: gorgeous color, balance, everything is tied together, sparkle, and nothing is gaudy or cheap looking…it is not diy, it is CUSTOM!

To do the chevron, I taped off the pattern using the thinnest painter’s tape I could find. I first measured the width of the medium sized wood slat piece, and it worked out to divide it into 2 inch sections for each segment of the chevron design. In the video I posted to the right, I show you what I do to ape on the chevron and how I used the width of the tape to determine the width of the chevron spacing. After the tedious, thought relaxing, process of taping off the chevron pattern, I used an inch flat brush to paint in the green. I immediately removed the tape while the paint was damp to avoid any sticking.

After the green paint was dry, I used white craft paint, and a smaller flat brush to paint in the white, while at the same time being able to clean up any bleeding the green did and sharpen up the edges. After it all dried, I used the flat brush to paint on the glitter craft paint. It adds the perfect variation in design, color and texture to the whole mantel.

NOTE: To paint the greens, as well as the spectrum rainbow colors and the gold, I used my artist grade Golden acrylic paints I had on hand. You may use craft paints to achieve the look for much less, but I knew ahead of time I wanted this to be a long lasting, heirloom quality set of holiday decor with the vibrant colors I can achieve with my Golden acrylics. I personally feel it is worth it, and see it as an investment. There is nothing saying that you, however, cannot use the craft paints that offer a beautiful range of color options–especially if you are not as confident in mixing colors.

Materials needed:

DMC white embroidery floss–full 6 strands

embroidery needle with a large eye

52 felted wool balls of various shades in rainbow colors

3 inch wide rainbow ribbon

3/8 inch green craft ribbon

clear cellophane tape

 

fabric scissors-to cute the ribbon to size

white pillar candles

3 sizes of white washed slatted wood panels–largest, medium, and small square–found at Walmart’s craft wood section

Craft paints of various rainbow colors–as many as you like, or mix to make many shades

 

 

 

gold craft paint

emerald green glitter craft paint

1 incha dn 1/2 inch flat craft paint brushes

paint palette or paper plate for mixing colors

6 inch unfinished wood letters LUCKY

6 inch unfinished shamrock wood cutout–I found mine in Etsy 

8 inch unfinished four leaf clover wood cutout–I found mine in Etsy 

white craft glue

thin painter’s tape

pencil

measuring tape

long ruler

cup and water to rinse brush

paper towels

 

What did you do for your custom March mantel?

Raising Sweet Awareness: A Blueberry Key Lime Cake for cancer

Raising Sweet Awareness: A Blueberry Key Lime Cake for cancer

 

I custom made this cake to honor and raise awareness of some thing my husband and I have been dealing with for the past year. This month marks the year anniversary that we found out about my husband’s terminal cancer, Pancreatic NET’s or Pancreatic Neuroendochrine Tumor Cancer. Of course, I can remember like it was yesterday being told he had Pancreatic cancer, and literally I couldn’t process anything beyond that because all I could think of is that he’d be gone in 6-9 months because that is all I knew of Pancreatic Cancers from a childhood friend’s older brother who I remembered had died in less than a year of finding out about his cancer and anything attached to Pancreatic Cancer to that point was basically a quick and awful death. Finally when I was able to process above my tears and crying to hear what the hospital therapist was telling me that he was gonna get the best care and it was slow growing and not the one I was thinking of…it felt like an alternate reality that was crushing my world. My likes to tell people it is the Pancreatic Cancer that Steve Job’s had, not the one Patrick Swayze had.

 

What I know now compared to then is immense, and I don’t think you can gain a true understanding the first time you are told these kind of world turning news. There’s a whole life to find new footing, then shift to new gears, and figure out the new “norm”, all while mourning the things you hoped for that would change, and the changes along the way you don’t expect. It is a fine balance because you also need to remember to not get consumed by it, keep your own awareness of it because everything will now be measured and done with a respect of the new limitations. I speak of this as the spouse, the caretaker of the one who has this cancer. I cannot for a moment say I know what he goes through. I get an insight here and there…

The ribbons that inspired this custom cake are: 1) Purple Ribbon for Pancreatic Cancer, 2) Zebra-print Ribbon for NET’s or Neuroendocrine Tumor Cancer, and 3) Lavender Ribbon for Caretakers. There are many origins for NET’s, and my husband’s happened to be in his Pancreas, which is shut down and he is insulin dependent for the rest of his life and takes 4 shots a day of both long acting and short acting insulin–just the experience we have had adjusting to that gives me so much empathy for those suffering with diabetes, childhood and adult, and that alone is not fun. The Zebra-print Ribbon brings awareness to rare diseases and the awareness month is February, but I felt it was more appropriate for our personal journey to share it in our year anniversary of the beginning of this journey. The lavender was to honor all those who have cared for me and David, specifically at the hospital as this is where we got to share this cake today; but also to raise awareness of the toll that a caregiver goes through and that the caregiver also needs support.

I’ve never been keen on the color lavender, but now it holds a special place in my heart. Granted, I admit I didn’t go as true lavender with the frosting as I could have, but now this color is very personal to me. If you are a caregiver, or ever have been a caregiver no matter the capacity, it truly is very difficult. I could not do this in a professional capacity, so my thanks goes out to all who dedicate their lives to the well being of others. This color is so personal to me because of journey as a caretaker through this. You get not just the whole spectrum of emotions, but a whole depth and breadth you didn’t even conceive before the new “norm” you constantly have to adjust to.

There is so much you do not know when cancer enters your intimate life, and combine that with unconsious expectations you may have from treatments, or thinking life will go back to the way it was after a “treatment”, or not understanding the reality of “chemo-brain”, or the toll it takes on yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. I remember the results from the first round of chemo lasting from March-August 2018. Nothing had changed. NOTHING HAD CHANGED? We went through 6 months of torture for NOTHING TO CHANGE?!!?!!!? What took me a while to digest and understand, what that this was a good result. The cancer had NOT gone aggressive, which is a possibility starting treatments. AND what I didn’t grasp from the beginning is that this treatment was not to eradicate the cancer, like I was expecting, but to manage it and see how it reacts. What I didn’t understand is that this was terminal in that there is NO KNOWN TREATMENT to eliminate this cancer from my husband’s body. There was only treatments to manage the tumors, and keep them from interfering with LIFE DEPENDENT PROCESSES. Oh, wow. Ok, so now I had to throw out the word REMISSION, and come to terms with and redefine my understanding of TERMINAL cancer. 

I want to come back for a moment to “chemo-brain.” Your loved one’s body is being ravaged by poison when going through chemo, and so many horrible side-effects…it literally messes with their brain! Not just memory, because there is legit memory loss, but personality. I never saw such anger, rage, callousness in my husband as I did during that first chemo. It got to the point I didn’t think we would last, and that I was just there to help him through this–that is how bad it was. 

It wasn’t until I spoke with my mom who had been taking care of my brother and his cancer for 10 years, that she helped me to understand the reality of this phenomena. IN fact, she had attended support groups as she was going through the roughest times caring for my brother. The impact “chemo brain” can have on a patient is pretty dramatic, and it isn’t the imagination of the caretaker. It truly is difficulty on all accounts and on all involved. It takes a lot of patience, understanding, and compassion, because empathy is nigh impossible is you aren’t the one going through the treatments…and vice versa for the caregiver.

My not understanding this “chemo brain” definitely played a toll on my relationship with my brother at the time I wanted to be closest to him knowing about his terminal cancer, and he was the most caustic and mean to the point we stopped talking for years. I wish for all family and friends’ of loved ones who go through this to gain an awareness of “chemo brain,” the toll caregivers go through, and the support they also need. My heart goes out to any and all impacted by a terminal cancer, or any cancer and treatment that goes with it.

Time to change gears and talk FLAVORS!!! In my brainstorming phase of this cake, I first thought of blueberry because that is a flavor my husband has been especially keen on. Later, I found out the colors of the ribbons associated with the message of awareness I wanted to promote revealed the purple and lavender that was perfectly aligned with the blueberry I was planning. Also, I had recently made Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies in the shapes of shamrocks for fun March themes of St. Patrick’s Day. Blueberry and key lime are ridiculously good together and so it just seemed to work out as if it was meant to be! I am OBSESSED with how GORGEOUS the pale lime goes with the purples, and how you see the natural fruit which just adds to the design and elegance IMO. The sprinkles pop on the pale green key lime frosting. I only used a drop of green coloring for the lime filling to flavor and color the frosting. The blueberry did all the work coloring the dark  lush fruit filling and lavender frosting. I used the key lime frosting from the cookies, and then mixed the blueberry filling (recipe below) I made with my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe at the bottom), some fun sprinkles, and voila the masterpiece to voice my message of Pancreatic NET’s and Caregiver Awareness was born! It was also a perfect way to say thank you for all the people who have cared for my husband this past year at the hospital. And it was a hit! 2nd and 3rd helpings…meanwhile these red velvet cupcakes sat sadly overlooked that someone had brought. I’m sorry, but not all cake is created, or made, equal! Proof is in the pudding, or in this case in the first bite! It is sooo delicious!!! I wish there was such a thing as smell-o-vision or taste-o-vision! The scent of the key lime and blueberry is so divine! No sickeningly sweet tasteless cake here!

Blueberry Key Lime Cake

Would you imagine for a moment, a cake so moist, so flavorful, there is no way you thought it came from a box? This cake sure is, BUT it will surprise to find out this recipe uses a box cake mix. The thing is, the BOX cake mixes are so nice to get on sale, AND they already deliver the dry ingredients you need in the perfect ratios saving time and potentially money…now it is just a mater of CUSTOMIZING that box cake mix to a cake that will rival the best bakery out there. After making this cake, with the blueberry and key lime fruit fillings, along with the Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese frosting, you will have a flavor masterpiece that will blow the minds of everyone who has a taste…and I dare anyone to just have “a bite”!

1 white box cake mix

4 eggs

1 1/2 packages white chocolate instant pudding

1 c sour cream

 

1 c milk

1/2 c melted butter

1 to 1 1/2 c white chocolate chips, optional

3/4 to 1 c Blueberry Fruit Filling, recipe follows

1) Pre-heat the over to 365 degrees F if above 3000 ft elevation, or 350 degrees F if lower than 3000 ft elevation.

2) Prepare your layer cake pans AND bunt cake with my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix(recipe at the bottom of the post) mix or grease your pan with lard (or butter) and dust with flour, and a parchment liner on the bottom(optional but i do not risk all my efforts to possibly having the cake stick to the pan).  **Even if you have a non-stick pan, it is worth greasing your pans with lard/butter and dusting with flour, or just having a batch of the Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix (see recipe in post).

3) Mix all the ingredients except the white chocolate chips and fruit filling in a stand mixer, or a large bowl and hand mixer until smooth. It will be thick. Do not over mix

4) Stir in the white chocolate chips and mix by hand with a spatula or spoon. 

5) Divide your batter between your prepared cake pans. If you want to marble your cake with the fruit filling: A) use half the batter, B) dollop 2-4 T of fruit filling in 3-5 spoonful drops, C) use a butter knife to swirl, but not fully mix the fruit filling, D) add the remaining batter and repeat dollops of fruit filling and swirls with a butter knife half way down, and E) level your batter in the pan (knock the cake pan on the counter top to get rid of air bubbles) before baking. 

*For a 3″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 3 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 2 1/4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a 3″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 5 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a bunt cake, use the number of cups your bunt cake pan is sized by. If you overfill your bunt cake pan, it will overflow in the oven and create a huge mess to clean up…and ani’t no one got time for that! Don’t forget to grease and flour your bunt cake pan. 

NOTE: The picture below left shows my dollops of Razzleberry Fruit Filling before I take a butter knife and swirl to get the marble effect with the cake layers I used in this cake. The pic below right shows what my marbled batter looks like before I put it in the oven.  I actually used a layered method for this cake to get the fruit stripes, however, I did not get pictures of it.  To get a layered look, spread out the fruit filling instead of marbeling the dollops as pictured below; then layer more batter, spread it out, more filling, and repeat until you get the desired amount of batter/fruit-filling in the pan before baking. 

Blueberry Fruit Filling

3 c fresh or frozen blueberries 

1/2 c lemon juice

 

1 c sugar

4 T corn starch, mixed in 1 c cold water

 

1) Add all the ingredients except the corn starch & water mix in a sauce pan on med heat. 
2) Mash all the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice with a potato masher. As the mix heats up and starts to boil, the berries will give off more of their juices and the sugar will dissolve. 
3) After the mix has had a chance to heat through, the berries give off their juices, and the sugar is dissolved, pour the mix into a blender. Blend until smooth and even. 
4) Pour back into the sauce pan, and bring to a boil on medium heat.
5) Add the corn starch and water mix, and let boil stirring constantly until thickened.
6) Let the fruit filling cool before adding to an airtight dish to chill in the refrigerator. DO not use to fill cakes or to add to frostings until completely chilled. 
7) To fill a cake: frost the bottom layer with an even coating of frosting, pipe a frosting “dam” around the boarder of the frosted cake, then dollop a general tablespoon or two depending on the layer size, and spread evenly to the dam before topping with another layer of cake; and repeat until the top layer.

Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix

In a 1:1:1 ratio, mix flour, lard or shortening, and vegetable oil. Mix until evenly incorporated, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For example, I use 1 cup of each ingredient to mix up and have on hand to prepare all my cake pans before adding batter, and then baking. Cakes will come out clean and easily, with no sticking. I coat my pans with this mix using a silicone baster brush. I also add a cut parchment paper to the bottom of any flat bottomed cake pan I use.

Simply Delicious Chicken Madeira (Better than Cheesecake Factory in your own home)

Simply Delicious Chicken Madeira (Better than Cheesecake Factory in your own home)

 

Is it no surprise that Chicken Madeira is one of the top, if not the top, ordered entrée at The Cheesecake Factory. It seriously is so delicious. So flavorful, and so succulent. I love to go out with the girls, or on a date with my husband, but is it me or is the price tag and the hassle getting to be too much that it takes away from the experience? I hate going away from dinner, thinking, man that was good, but was it THAT GOOD when thinking of how much we just dropped for a dinner out, vying for a parking spot, waiting to be seated, and then getting hit with a big check at the end. It got to the point I thought there has to be a way to make it at home…

 

The loveliest part, it really is a SIMPLE recipe with SIMPLE ingredients. Like, almost ridiculously simple. Like, I’ve made it way too many times, more than I’d like to admit, simple. 

The hardest thing about this dish was finding out the Madeira wine is sold in the cooking wine section at the grocery store I went to. You see, I do not drink alcohol, so any recipe that asks for it I am clueless where to find it…in fact overwhelmed if I try on my own. Luckily, I found a helpful employee who didn’t just point, but explained it was with the cooking wines and proceeded to show me. I also learned how to flambé to cook off the alcohol, rather than just wait for it to simmer off. Oh man, that is a blast! I just recommend you either do it with 1/4 c at a time, have nothing above your stove top, or let it simmer a little before you light it. The first time I did it, I had been simmering the wine with the mushroom for a couple minutes, then it occurred to me to try to flambé with my candle lighter, and it was perfect. The second time, I lit the entire amount of wine in the pan on the stove which was under our new convection oven/microwave and gorgeous blue and orange flames spewed up! It was awesome, caught both my husband and myself off guard, and luckily the cover was close by to shield our new appliance! Man that was a rush! We laughed and laughed about it. I don’t recommend that route.

One thing I made sure to do with this recipe is to have plenty of sauce. I LOVE sopping up the sauce with bread or using it as gravy on creamy Yukon Gold potatoes that are either steam cooked, or made into garlic mashed potatoes; however, the garlic mashed potatoes I made are so good I prefer to eat them on their own. The other thing you want to be aware of for this recipe, the relatively quick step of butterflying the chicken, and tenderizing the chicken thin reduces the cooking time on each side, as well as provides a good portion control if you only want to eat half of a chicken breast and it still looks like a big portion. I pound the butterflied chicken to an even thin thickness with two layers of plastic wrap and my meat tenderizer. It is a great way to let off some stress! Haha! If you don’t have a meat tenderizer mallet, use can that have some weight to it and a flat side. Do what you gotta do. The video below shows how I butterfly and tenderize the chicken.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it really cooked this fast! DOn’t forget to check out the flambé. I get a kick out of doing it every time I get to flambé…I even love saying “flambé.” Yes I’m a total nerd, and you totally hear a blip of a conversation between my husband and I while I am cooking. I get a kick out of that too. The lazy, sentimental, humorous side of me didn’t want to edit that out! I hope you get a little smile or chuckle out of it. In the video to the left, I am only cooking half of a recipe due to the size of my pan for the video. 

 

Simply Delicious Chicken Madeira 

Do love Chicken Madeira? Would you love it even more if it was simple to make in the comfort of your own home? What if you spent did not have to spend the time and money to hassle with parking, fight the crowds, and plunk down a heck of a lot more than this meal would cost you to make? Did I mention it was tastier too? You will LOVE this recipe. You can customize it to your specific taste. Maybe you wish you had more asparagus, less mushrooms, no mushrooms, more sauce…it is up to you. You can even make a lighter version skipping the butter and using olive oil, or doing a half-n-half butter and olive oil. I have to say, however, the velvety sauce you and flavor your get from the butter, it is worth it. I love having left overs!

2 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied, and pounded thin

3 T butter (reserve 1 T for the end)

salt & pepper, to taste

1-2 c mushrooms

1 1/2 c Madeira cooking wine

 

1/2 bunch of asparagus

1 1/2 c beef stock (or 1 T Better Than Bouillon and 1 1/2 c water)

3/4 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 T corn starch

3/4 c cold water

 

1) Season both sides of the butterflies pounded chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
2) Heat 2 T of butter in a pan on med heat and cook the chicken golden brown, about 3-4 min. on each side. Remove to a plate, and set aside.
3) Sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter until they are browned and give off their liquid.
4) Add the Madeira wine, bring to a boil and cook off the alcohol for about 4 min. Or flambé the alcohol, 1/4 c at a time in the pan to avoid a huge flame; I also flambé the entire amount after letting it simmer for a minute or 2. To flambé, I recommend using a lighter with a long shaft to keep you from getting burned.
5) Add the beef stock or the Better Than Bouillon mixed in the water, and boil for another 3 min.
6) Add the asparagus to the pan, and cook covered for 5 minutes. This steams the asparagus. 
7) Remove the asparagus to a plate, and stir the corn starch slurry (corn starch mixed in the cold water). Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. 
8) Add the chicken back in the pan, place the asparagus on top, and sprinkle on the mozerella cheese. Cover until the cheese is melted. If you have an oven safe pan, broil the pan until the cheese is golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

Note: I used golden Yukon potatoes that I pierce, cover with water in a microwave safe bowl or large measuring cup, and microwave for 16 minutes while making the Chicken Madeira to serve on the side. They come out steamed to perfection, and so creamy.

Also, if you prefer NOT to use the cooing wine, you can omit it and double the beef broth. However, I do not recommend doing this, because you will loose the flavor, and you cook out all the alcohol. 

 

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