Cooking with Kinsey – Gluten-Free birthday cake w/ fondant & buttercream

Our 10 year old daughter, Kinsey, LOVES to bake. Not only does she love it, she is freaking good at it too. At 10 years old, she can bake all sorts of stuff (cake, cupcakes, cookies, brownies), start to finish, completely by herself.

Last week our son, Travis, turned the big 1-3. Yes, I have a teenager. Ack! Kinsey decided for part of her gift to him she wanted to bake his birthday cake. She totally nailed this cake. I’m still shocked a 10 year old with little baking experience and pretty much zero decorating experience pulled off this cake.

Travis is strictly gluten-free (and Red40-free) due to severe allergies, so we tend to make a lot of treats at home. Most store-bought cake mixes, frostings, and fondants have gluten in them, so we made them all from scratch.

Kinsey started by baking a gluten-free cake. We prefer to just use a mix for this. We’ve tried dozens of mixes and our favorite yellow cake mix is from King Arthur Flour (not an affiliate).

She then made her own buttercream frosting. We’ve tried several recipes and our favorite is here.

After whipping up the buttercream and baking the cake, I helped her make some homemade fondant using melted marshmallows. It has great consistency and tastes much yummier than store-bought fondant. (Store-bought fondant has gluten in it.)

Her favorite part of all was rolling out the fondant and decorating the cake with it. She has wanted to try her hand at fondant for a few years, so we finally just went for it.

This cake is the very first time she has ever used fondant at all. I still can’t believe how adorable it turned out.

The cake looked a little “baby showerish” but Travis is such a good sport and such an awesome brother. He just thanked her over and over and was so grateful that she took hours of her day making a cake just for him.

The best part? The cake tasted even more amazing than it looked. All the homemade ingredients really helped to make one of the most delicious cakes we’ve ever eaten. And the best part? It was 100% gluten-free and Red40-free so Travis could enjoy it as well.

The much anticipated anticlimactic HoH house tour. Be prepared to be underwhelmed.

Well hello there! As promised in my Christmas decor rant post, here are my holiday decorations this year. I have gone very minimal this year, but the lights are actually hung on the house and the tree is up, with ornaments, so I’m calling it a success.

Let’s start outside, shall we? I took all my dollar store wreaths from two years ago and hung them on all the front windows. I actually really love the simple green wreath with the red bow.

I found this swag at Target for our front door. It isn’t quite as pretty as I could have crafted myself, but I could have never made it for the twenty dollar price tag either.

We and Thomas Michael Manis put up our tree in the dining room. It was really the only spot it would fit, plus you can see it from the street at night through the window which is really pretty.

I also added some garland and my red nutcracker to our dining table. Because we lack a mantle in this new house, the stockings are temporarily hung on the backs of each chair, but with only 6 days until Christmas, this might just be where they hang this year. I had big plans for a pretty DIY stocking hanger but never actually made it. Next year?

My sideboard has turned into our makeshift mantle/hold-all-the-decor table this year. Each child’s Lego advent is on there, Travis pulled out the mini tree and decorated it himself and stuck it there, and the few small items I brought out to decorate just stuck on the table. The lantern is filled with ornaments again this year. I actually packed it away with the ornaments still in it, so all I had to do was take it out of the box it was in and voila, instantly decorated.

Ikea has some of the very best fake holiday wreaths I’ve ever found, and for ten bucks each you just can’t beat that. I hung mine inside my big wooden shim mirror and added a red star ornament on top. I just used a command hook to hang it so I can remove the wreath after Christmas.

One tradition we have that we do every single Christmas is to decorate a gingerbread house. I always let the kids do it however they’d like, and they just go to town with candy and icing flying all over the place. The house this year wasn’t looking half bad (usually they end up looking terrible but then they get eaten anyway so who cares), but of course, right at the end the kids realized they had half a bag of icing leftover, so OF COURSE they had to use all the icing which turned a cute looking house into one that lived through a snowy blizzard. And then within an hour they’d eaten a third of the candy off already. One snowman didn’t even make it until the end of the decorating process before his head was eaten right off.

But, the main reason I haven’t decorated much this season (besides just being too busy and Ben being out of town a ton for work) is because my sister had a baby!!!!!!!!!!!

I have a brand new niece who is just the sweetest thing in the entire world. My baby is 9 and a half, so getting to hold a newborn has been the highlight of my year! She is the most beautiful little baby I’ve ever seen. Here she is at 12 hours old.

Just precious. I can’t stop staring at her. I’m so thankful my sister lives only about 15 minutes away from me so I can sneak over and get my baby fix as often as I can.

I hope your holiday is filled with lots of love and family. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

This holiday season is already off to a rough start, but I love it anyway

When I think of the Holidays and Christmastime I picture myself draped in an apron, baking treats a la The Cleavers and crafting up seasonal decorations to my heart’s content.

Then I wake up.

I am too busy to sit around crafting and baking all day, especially over the holidays. I can assure you, my home will NOT be magazine worthy or decorated to the hilt this season. Heck, I couldn’t even get it together enough to blog about decorating for Halloween or Thanksgiving (I put out a few decorations on top of the piano for Halloween, and completely bypassed any decorating for Thanksgiving all together). I suppose I can decorate at 11pm, but really? I’ll admit, I seriously don’t care enough about my house looking show-room quality to stay up late decorating like a Pottery Barn store after a long day of running around.

I absolutely LOVE Christmas though. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. I can’t wait until Dec 1 each year so the radio will start playing Christmas music ’round the clock. I get giddy-excited when I see the holiday decor pop up on shelves in August. I just love LOVE Christmas. Just because I don’t have time to craft and bake does not mean I am a Scrooge, it just means I am a super busy wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend who puts those relationships before getting the house ready.

So, if you are out there reading blog after blog with amazing holiday decor and their entire homes decorated to the hilt, with 7+ Christmas trees (seriously? Who does this? I can barely get one tree up!), brand new freshly sewn stockings year after year, and a constant stream of wassail sizzling on the stove, DON’T GET BUMMED OUT! You are not alone in your despair.

I don’t have time for it all. I can’t do it all. I just can’t. The tree will eventually get decorated. (It’s been set up since Monday and plugged in, but there are approximately 4 ornaments on it.) The decorations will eventually get displayed. (Maybe only half of them this year though.) The stockings will be hung before Saint Nick comes to fill them. (I hope they are hung by then!) And cookies for the class party might be homemade by my local grocery store. (I’ve accepted that store-bought cookies are a viable option.)

To make things even easier for me, I have given up the idea of crafting my own Advent Calendar. I admit, I do not have time to think about or mess with filling the Advent Calendar I made a few years ago. Last year I just stuffed it with candy, but 25 straight days of candy just doesn’t seem like the best idea (even though I’m sure our dentist appreciated the extra business! See Confession #12). My kids each get a Lego Advent Calendar. It’s a tradition we started about 3 or 4 years ago, and they look forward to it each year. Plus, it makes my job a whole lot easier. They are excited to get new Legos each day, and I’m excited to not have to stress out over crafting the perfectly thought-out 25 days of Christmas. Win win.

I found these back in October at my grocery store (HEB) for around $30 each, though a quick Amazon search shows they are more than twice that to purchase them online now. Yikes. I do realize $60 is a steep price to pay for two Advent Calendars, however, when I filled my handmade calendar two years ago with little goodies from Party City, I spent almost that on little crappy plastic toys that got thrown out the next week.

Honestly, you don’t even need to do an Advent Calendar at all to have a good Christmas! We never did them growing up and I have very fond memories of my childhood Christmases each year. I didn’t even know what an Advent Calendar was until I was like 24. I can assure you, I do not feel deprived because I lived my entire childhood without Advent Calendars. :)

I’m hoping I will have the tree totally decorated by this weekend, and all the other decor displayed around the house too. The *plan* is to show you all the Christmas decor by next week. I’m crossing my fingers. Between ongoing personal family stuff I have to take care of, school, homework, piano lessons, drum lessons, girl and boy scouts, tumbling classes, basketball practices, and squeezing in a lunch date here or there with a friend, I seem to have less and less time these days.

When the kids were little I was so bored out of my mind each day. I couldn’t wait for Travis to turn 3 so he could start preschool. Selfishly, I was excited that I actually had a reason to get dressed up nice 3 days a week and have somewhere to go. It was a glamorous life back then I tell ya. I would get excited to get on my “nice” jeans so I could take my boy to school. I spent my days cooped up at home with two toddlers, doing basic mom stuff that you’d do if you have toddlers at home. I dreamed about the days that the kids would be older and in school so that our lives wouldn’t be so darn boring.

Well, now they are both in school, and I long for those carefree boring days when they were toddlers. Go figure. How wonderful it would be to not have to stick to a weekly schedule that revolved around school and homework! And this is why Christmas and summer are my favorite times of year. No school! No homework! Just the kids and me, and Ben after work each evening, all home together hanging out and playing.

And back to Christmas… I can assure you I will not have a perfectly decorated house, but my holiday will be perfect because it will be filled with the people I love. And isn’t that all that really matters anyway?

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