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I just wanted to post a quick follow-up to my St. Patrick’s Day post in which I declared that we would be making this cake or these cupcakes today.    I opted for the cake after I read lots of comments following the cupcake recipe with phrases like “this took a lot of time” or “time consuming,” etc.  Ours was something of an ill-fated project from the beginning:  I spilled a little bit of the batter after I added the water to the cake mix, so I guessed at how much water to put back in.  Then, I realized that we only possessed two eggs, not three, as the recipe demanded.  Last, Louise managed to drop an entire bottle (the bottle too, not just the contents) into the bowl of batter she was tinting.

All things considered, I think it turned out pretty well.  The girls agree. 

Happy Spring!


My Birthday Cake Repertoire

This is a totally off-the-cuff, unusual post from me since it has nothing to do with books or schooling.  However, believe it or not, I do have other interests, even aside from scrapbooking and papercrafting. 

I cook.  I bake.

I even enjoy it.

My girls have celebrated a combined total of nine birthdays (!!!), and I have made cakes for seven of those.  I do not claim to be an expert–far from it, in fact.  However, when I read about the Birthday Cake Roundup at Life as Mom (hat-tip to A Spirited Mind for the tip-off), I immediately begin plotting this post.  You see, I always mean to share my creations here, but I never get around to it at the time.  So here goes–a belated look at my birthday creations from years past.  Enjoy!  🙂

We’ll begin with the most recent.  When Louise turned four last fall, I decided she would have a ladybug cake.  With Louise, the power of suggestion is very powerful, so I was able to finagle it.  (This wouldn’t work with first-born Lulu, I’m almost certain.)  I went searching for inspiration on the ‘net and found these cupcakes to copy.  Cute, huh?  (Please note that when I planned to make these, I had no idea I’d be suffering the pangs of first trimester pregnancy nausea.  Let the record show that I soldiered on. 🙂 ) Here’s my rendition of the cute little insects:

The year before, I turned to Family Fun for my inspiration.  As you’ll see momentarily, I used to be big on purchasing shaped pans and decorating them (mostly per the boxed instructions), but I’ve all but given that up.  Covering a whole cake with frosting piped from a bag with a star tip is just too tedious for me.  I like the Family Fun take on cakes–they can almost always be made with pans you already have!  This cake was a big hit with everyone, and I was surprised at how easy it as to mold and cut the candy into the shapes I needed.

For Louise’s second birthday cake, I actually solicited her opinion.  And I even wrote about it here and here.  I think this might be my favorite cake out of all I’ve made.

For Louise’s first birthday, I wanted to make a cake shaped like the number one (and gorgeously decorated, of course 😉 ), but I couldn’t find a pan.  Now I don’t think that would deter me, but at the time (with a two year old and a one year old under foot), it did.  I did find a perfect substitute, though–a Winnie-the-Pooh shaped pan just for a first birthday!  It helped that Louise’s nursery was decorated in Classic Pooh.  The fact that I love Winnie the Pooh is no secret here at Hope Is the Word. 

This brings us back to 2006, so let’s just go back one more year to Lulu’s first birthday.  This was my first effort at a homemade, home-decorated birthday cake, and I wanted it to be special.  I picked out a butterfly shaped pan and went to work.  I believe I got the whole idea out of the Wilton yearbook, but I can’t be sure this many years (and children) later.  😉  I was proud of it, especially considering the fact that I was about twelve weeks pregnant when I made it (and sick as a dog, as Gomer would say). 

Lulu’s second birthday cake sent me searching for an easier alternative.  (Those first few years of having two children eighteen months apart were rough.  😉 )  Lulu did request a cake with flowers on it, so I tried to oblige.  I found this one at Family Fun, too, and I thought it was sweet for Lulu’s spring time birthday.  It’s a little messy and busy, but so are two year olds, right?  🙂

Lulu’s third birthday cake was supposed to be this fabulous princess castle, but alas, it was not to be.  I actually made and began decorating the cake, but I knew once I got the monstrosity stacked that it would fall.  I made an effort at making it presentable and then placed it atop our washing machine to take a break.  I was in the other room when I heard the crash.  We ended up at Wal-Mart bakery the day before Lulu’s party, and since her birthday almost coincides with several springtime holidays and regional events, the bakery was almost bare.  She ended up with a tie-dyed cake, and I don’t think she minded a bit.  (Let me just say it made me reconsider all the time and effort I put into cakes.)

I did make Lulu’s fourth birthday cake, a tiara.  However, since her name is emblazoned in huge letters across it, I figured I’d spare you the trouble of laughing at my attempts to cover it up (internet anonymity and security, don’t you know) with those goofy little stickers I’ve been using. 

For her fifth birthday, we trekked to Sam’s and she picked out a lovely Disney Princess cake.  Done.

What’s the future of my cake decorating career?  Only time will tell.  I enjoy the planning and the prospect of decorating the cakes, but when crunch time comes, I find it fairly stressful.  I’m not saying I’m giving it up altogether, though.  After all, I’ve set a precedent.  With a third child coming along, I can’t let him feel left out, right?  Right?

The Birthday Cake Round-up actually goes live tomorrow, but I wanted to post this today so as not to upstage Read Aloud Thursday.  It’s my favorite bloggy event in the world, you know, and we book bloggers have our limits.  😉

Better Late Than Never

Well, the tree has been packed away for another year, and thanks mostly to Steady Eddie, the house is beginning to look more like a place where people live rather than a giant dumping ground for toys, wrapping paper, and leftover Christmas treats.  However, before Christmas 2009 becomes little more than a faint memory and a few extra pounds on the scales, I wanted to share a few of the handmade items I made this year.  Actually, I’m still in the process of making a few of them, since a few of my far-flung friends and I manage to get together for Christmas whenever, which is actually nice for a person who is often struck by inspiration at the eleventh hour.   

First, the cards.  I actually did make and send these in a timely manner.  😉  However, if you happen to read my blog and normally receieve a Christmas card from me and you did not get one of these, I’m sorry.  My materials (and steam) ran out before I reached the end of my Christmas card list.  All materials are from Stampin’ Up, and the design is not original to me. 

I went to a crop at a friend’s scrapbook store early in December.  (For the uninitiated, a crop is simply a party of sorts in which friends get together and scrapbook.)  This was the first crop I had been to since September, I think, and boy, did I enjoy  myself.  For better or for worse, I also saw something there that caused me to throw all plans to visit Bath and Body Works at the height of the Christmas lotion frenzy out the window and opt for handmade gifts for a few friends and relations.  Now, Steady Eddie would likely argue that this was not less stressful than a run to the mall, but I did enjoy myself in the making of this file folder Christmas organizer.  Never mind the fact that as I told my cousin, the recepient of the gift below, that what she received just might be a one-of-a-kind limited edition.  😉  All ideas and inspiration for this little project come from the site Organized Christmas and this blog, in particular.  Materials are miscellaneous ones I’ve collected over the years. 

I’m actually working on one now for a young friend of mine which won’t be a Christmas planner.  I’m thinking I’ll make it a prayer/memory verse/praise/journaling folder.  A good idea, huh? 

I realize this post is rather anticlimactic, but I’m documenting these projects here for my own good as much as for anyone else’s.  I’m sorry about the size of the photos.  We uninstalled Adobe Photoshop Elements a few months ago, and since then I’ve been attempting to use Picnik.  I like it, but I just haven’t taken the time to figure it out.

This week I’m back in the saddle again, so be watching for some bookish posts!  🙂

Virginia Soaps and Scents

PhotobucketAs a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a nice little package of products from Virginia Soaps and Scents to try out for review.  I received several bars of soap, a shampoo bar, and a baggie of laundry soap.  By now I have used all of the products at least once, so I can truthfully offer my experience and opinions. 

The soaps are nice and have a pleasant scent.  I have used Fresh Orange and Oatmeal and Honey, and while I prefer the citrus scent over the milder and sweeter Oatmeal and Honey, both were at least tolerable.  (I have issues with scents sometimes.  I admit it.  As much as I like to bake, I do not like to smell like something that comes out of the oven.)  The soaps lather nicely and leave the skin very soft, noticeably softer than the deodorant soap I usually use.  These soaps contain olive and/or soy oil, as well as coconut oil.  These soaps provide a very soothing alternative to harsh detergent soaps if you’re in the market for such. 

The shampoo bar, however, was a different story, at least for me.  I tried the shampoo bar on two different occasions, the first time using it only one day and the second time using it two consecutive days.  I have fine hair but I have plenty of it, and it has a tendency to be unmanageable at the slightest provocation.  I also wash it daily, so it tends to be a little oily.  I use very little styling products (a little mousse and a little spray), but I do blow dry it daily, as well.  I think my hair just isn’t a good candidate, or maybe I’m not a good candidate for something so out of my routine, but two days’ use of this was all I could tolerate.  It left my hair feeling weighted down and coated, almost like I hadn’t washed it in several days.  I fully intended to use it long enough to let my hair adjust, but I just couldn’t go past two days.  Those with other hair types might find this chemical-free alternative to shampoo to their liking, but my fine and flat hair just couldn’t take it. 

A few years back, Steady Eddie and I experimented with making our own laundry detergent and actually did so for a little while.  Thus, the little laundry soap mini kit that I received was nothing new to me.  The soap does not suds like store-bought laundry detergent, but other than that, it does a fine job.  This is something that can be made at home with a little effort (and some ingredients which can be purchased through Virginia Soaps and Scents) or, you can purchase  the kit through this company and let them do the grating of the bar soap for you.  Either way, it’s a cheapter alternative to your usual boxed or bottled detergent.

I am impressed by the overall spirit of this homegrown business.  It’s interesting and inspirational to me that this whole venture started as a homeschooling lesson.  However, I am partial to my own deodorant soap (see scent issues above), so I don’t think I’ll be switching.  However, I would definitely consider some of these products as a gift for someone who enjoys pampering more than I. 

You can read more reviews of Virginia Soaps and Scents here.  

TOS HS CREW long banner



These products were sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

Messy Monday::Watercolor Leaf Garland

whole closeup

Unfortunately, I am often not struck with creative inspiration until the eleventh hour.  Such was the case last Tuesday, the first day of autumn.  Lulu had garnered this little tidbit of information somewhere, and she was champing at the bit for some fun art activity to celebrate the  arrival of fall ere I even hinted there might be an artistic pursuit that day.  I began to cast about in all my usual places for inspiration, but every project I found required either art supplies we did not have on hand or leaves that had not been subjected to two weeks of almost incessant rain.  Finally, I donned my own thinking cap and came up with the idea of making our own seasonal decorations for our work-in-progress school room to complement our first handmade garland gracing the right-hand window.

The Supplies


  • watercolor paper
  • watercolors and brush
  • water (not pictured)
  • leaf templates (I used these, but any will do.  For younger children, the simpler the better.)
  • scissors
  • pencil or pen
  • yarn
  • hole punch (I used 1/8″.)

The Process

  • Print out and cut out your templates. 
  • Trace the cut out shapes on the “back side” of a piece of watercolor paper.  (No, I don’t think this paper has “sides”; just trace the shapes on the side you don’t intend to paint on.)  You could even free-hand simple leaves for an even easier job.  Try to fit as many shapes on the paper as possible.  Your paper should look something like this, minus the shadow of my wet hair:

leaves on paper

  •  Turn the paper over and let your children go to town with the watercolors.  I like to tape down the corners of the paper to a plastic placemat, just because this happens to be the only table we currently use for anything in our home that requires a table:  eating, school work, studying, game playing, etc.  When we finally get into our school room and have our art table to use, I will likely dispense with this formality.

hand and watercolor



There’s really no rhyme or reason to this, other than to fill up the page with color:

paint all over paper

  • Let the painting dry.  My girls did this before rest time, which is usually about 2 p.m., and I continued with the following steps a few hours later.
  • Turn the paper over and cut out the leaf shapes. 
  • Punch two holes near the stem (or where a stem would be) of the leaf.  The holes should be about 1/2″-1″ apart, depending upon the width of the leaf.

close up 2

  • Put the leaves in order in whatever way pleases you and your little artists.  We had different sized leaves, so we went for an alternating large, medium, small effect.  (Actually, I went for–the girls were gone to music class when I did this part.)
  • String your leaves on a piece of yarn wide enough to fill your window space, with enough “give” to swag.  Thread the yarn through the left hole from back to front, then back through the right hole from front to back. 

close up 1

  • Hang your garland across your window (or door, or wherever you want it), stand back, and enjoy!

finished product

We are quite pleased with how this came out.  This was the perfect art activity for a five year old and a three year old, since all it requires is the ability to fill up a piece of paper with color.  Of course, the cutting out could also be done by older children or by younger children if the leaf shapes are simple enough.  I can think of several other uses for these beautiful leaves, as well:  card embellishments, place holders for an autumn brunch or dinner, door or window decor–really, the possibilities are endless!


canvas, master bedroom

A long time ago, when I first started Hope Is the Word, it was a very eclectic blog. I dabbled in a little of this and a little of that. I found my niche when I began blogging about one of my biggest passions in life, which is (of course), books. Of course, this is not to say that I have no other interests or hobbies. Actually, the opposite is true: I have too many. Once upon a time, I was an avid scrapbooker. I still scrapbook or papercraft sometimes, and I hope to get back to it when we get into a better routine around here at the House of Hope. The older I get, though, the more I really appreciate creativity of the “make a mess” variety. If I were to go back to school right now, I could absolutely envision myself as an art major. Twenty years ago, art was not even remotely on my radar. Part and parcel of this for me has been the transformation of my home. Those of you who actually know me and read my blog (and have been to my home) will wonder what I’m talking about–my home still looks the same. It’s a nice home, but certainly nothing outstanding in the decor and design department. What I mean is now I see its potential. A large part of my inspiration for this has been the bloggy world. The Nester has encouraged me to realize that a beautiful home doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, either.  Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles has inspired me in so many ways, not the least of which has been her artistic eye and her willingness to share her knowledge.

We’ve been working on our schoolroom for six weeks now, more or less, and it’s still a work in progress. However, I know we are going to bring this project to an end. Over the past couple of years, we have been bad about starting small-ish projects and never finishing them.  One of those projects is the master bedroom:  we repainted it, got  a new comforter and fluffy pillows for the bed, purchased one lamp, and stopped.  (Shhh–Don’t tell Steady Eddie, but it already needs repainting!)  Heidi began a challenge a few weeks back called Living.  Lovely.   I was greatly inspired by last week’s challenge, and although I did not finish it in the prescribed week, I wanted to finally post a little snippet of the final product.  What you see above is a canvas I painted with various shades of green and blue acrylic paint.  I then made a “lovely list” of things, places, dates, etc., that are important to my husband and me.  I will eventually hang this in our bedroom. 

Thanks, Heidi, for reminding us to look for (and in some cases, create) the lovely in our lives!

Still Working. . .

tables and chairs

It has been a couple of weeks since Steady Eddie put in a twelve hour day to lay the floor in our new school room.  After that LONG but rewarding day, we continued to make progress, but it was much slower progress due to several factors, not the least of which was exhaustion with the whole project.  My biggest hold-up has been that we didn’t have the furniture we needed to finish the room.  Steady Eddie suggested at the end of last week that we make a quick Labor Day weekend trip to Atlanta to shop at Lakeshore Learning and IKEA.  Although Atlanta is not exactly next door the House of Hope, I was game for the trip.  I’ve never turned down a shopping trip.  🙂  I had my eye on one of these tables from Lakeshore, and although the price tag is prohibitive, I thought it might be worth it since a table like this will grow with the girls.  

We visited two Lakeshore Learning stores.  The first one was a new one and it didn’t stock furniture at all.  The nice sales associate told us we could have one shipped to the store for no extra charge.  That’s nice, but it wouldn’t help us at all since we were several hours away from home.  The associate mentioned that they were closing the other store not too many miles away and that the new store was absorbing their leftover inventory.  After purchasing a few art supplies, we left.  I was already envisioning a make-do secondhand table, and I was really okay with it.  Steady Eddie, however, wanted to visit the closing Lakeshore Learning store.  I didn’t have much hope that this would turn up anything after visiting the new store’s clearance section.  I am a bargain hunter in the extreme, and I didn’t see any bargains on the clearance shelves. 

We walked into the Lakeshore Learning store with the red banner announcing their imminent closing and was greeted by a jumble of tables:  wooden, red, kidney-shaped, blue, small, rectangular, large, all on sale.  The large, blue-purple kidney-shaped table sported a tag:  60% off.  I couldn’t believe it.  I really hadn’t planned on one of these since they’re more appropriate for larger group instruction that what we’ll be doing at home, but I know a bargain when I see one.  We began to talk to the sales associate, and he informed us that they had even more tables on sale.  My eyes fell on a cheerful red table, just the perfect size for our little homeschool of two.  The tables were floor models, so they had some scuff marks and their tops needed cleaning.  The manager ended up letting us have them for 70% off because an associate had misquoted the price of the larger one to us at first.  Steady Eddie and I quickly decided to purchase both the larger, purple table and the small, red one.  I had dreamed of an art table and a table for our written work, etc., but I never dreamed I’d find both on this trip.  We even purchased three chairs.  We spent about $250 on five pieces of furniture. 

I had no idea when we left home on this spur-of-the-moment trip that I would come home with TWO of these wonderful tables.  I am so thankful for this blessing!  Thank you, God!

Another Piece of the Puzzle

laying the floor


By now Steady Eddie probably feels like lying down on the floor, not laying it.  He’s been at it all day, folks.  All day.  He’s my hero.  🙂

Louise asked me a day or two ago just how daddy would put the floor down.  I responded that it is sort of like putting a puzzle together.  Her response?  “Except it’s not as much fun?” 

Steady Eddie concurs. 

He’s my hero.  🙂

(It’s really coming along since the last post!  We’re almost there.  I think I can. . .I think I can. . .I think I can.)

How to Pick a School Room Color

window with primer on wall

We’re coming to the end of our project, but there are still countless trips to this store and that to pick up what we lack to bring it to completion.  Steady Eddie and I usually do things together when we can, so most Saturday excursions are family outings.  However, this past Saturday he had a good two hours’ worth of work to do in the attic, and we are ready to stamp a big “DONE” on our remodeling project.  So, I got the girls ready and headed out the door to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and then to Lowe’s to buy everything we needed to finish our project plus the kitchen sink.  (Not really, but it felt that way.)  My objectives at the home improvement store were twofold:  buy stuff to go on the walls (primer and paint) and things to help us see while keeping us cool (ceiling fans–we live in the South, y’all).  The paint and primer I was good with–I’ve done that before, never mind the fact that I still hadn’t picked out a wall color.  The ceiling fans I wasn’t so confident about:  What size fan do we really need for the laundry room?  The larger school room?  What type of lights is best if this will be our only source?  Flush mount or hanging?  (Actually, I knew this one–hanging, due to the high ceilings.) 

 The girls and I went into the store, they having been duly warned, snacked and watered.  We headed to the paint section, and I began studying the chips.  The girls surveyed the lay of the land and proceeded to pick out the one chip or paint folder that I allotted them.  Oh, the joy!  I commented to a fellow shopper that I’d just about pay someone to do this for me, and then I noted that people actually do that, right?  She asked if I was building a house.  No, I said, just enclosing a garage.  Perish the thought, my internal commentary ran–I don’t think I could ever make that many decisions.  I finally settled on what I thought would make a nice, soothing color for the walls and proceeded to get in line behind the other two or three customers already at the paint desk.  After standing there a few minutes, I decided that perhaps going on to pick out our ceiling fans would be a better use of my time (which was quickly slipping by).  I would come back later when (hopefully) the paint desk was not as busy. 

Ths is where the fun really began, folks.  I stood under those fifty or so spinning fans, peering up and trying to read the attached signs blowing in the gentle breeze.  42 inches?  52 inches?   Call Steady Eddie.  Tell the girls I can’t talk to them right now–I’m talking to dad.  Repeat.  Stand peering again.  Call him back.  Discuss more.  Remind the girls not to push the cart while we’re standing there.  Repeat.  Steady Eddie and I  finally decided that we needed fans with the open lights because we need all the light we can get.  We also decided to go with the 42″ fans in the school room, which Steady Eddie based upon the size of the fan in our kitchen.  Surely a smaller fan would work in the laundry room.  Okay, done. 

Well, not quite.  Steady Eddie’s one stipulation was that the light fixtures take regular bulbs, not the candelabra base bulbs that was printed on every box I saw.  I asked the helpful Lowe’s employee, and he informed me that such light fixtures are no longer legal on ceiling fans.  Something about energy conservation.  Huh.  Another decision made for me.  Yay!

I finally hefted three boxes full of ceiling fan boxes into my cart and headed back to the paint desk, which was deserted.  Praise the Lord!  About this time, I looked down at the paint chip and realized the name of the paint I had picked out. 



Prairie Sky.  If you’re a regular reader here, you know that my girls adore Little House on the Prairie in all its incarnations–original books, picture book, television show, audiobook–all of them.  Could it be more fitting that our school room be painted prairie sky?

window corner block with paint

This project is looking up, folks.  It’s looking up.

(If I’m not around again until Read Aloud Thursday, you’ll know why.)

I really should be painting right now. . .

but I wanted to give a quick update on our remodeling project.  This weekend my wonderful mother-in-law took the girls Friday night and kept them until Saturday night so that we could get some serious work done.  This is what I accomplished:

  • finished a TOS review
  • read a lot of blogs
  • began another blog post
  • finished pricing a bunch of stuff for a children’s clothing, etc consignment sale
  • helped put a couple of coats of primer on the laundry room

I sort of felt like a slacker part of the time because there is so much that needs to be done, but much of it just has to wait. 

Steady Eddie, on the other hand, really did do a lot of serious work.  He stayed under the house for a couple of hours working on plumbing and wiring.  He literally worked all day long, but it was mostly on “behind the scenes” stuff.  Therefore, the picture I’m sharing doesn’t look tremendously different from the previous one, but trust me when I say that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. 😉

ouside with siding

Please excuse the van antenna that is bisecting the left-hand window.  If I were any good at Photoshop, I would Photoshop that out.  I’d Photoshop out all of the stuff currently piled up in our driveway, too. . .

Thank you, Lord, for this blessing!  🙂