Finding My Niche

One year. It has been exactly one year since Shimmering Twig emerged as a concrete idea in my life. And while I have not found a consistent rhythm or developed a clear path where this blog would go, I have had many opportunities to explore different options, from writing about life decisions, simple and effective approaches to a gluten free lifestyle (which many will tell you, I was HORRIBLE about until my first pregnancy). Each post, each thought, each blurb of my life has been a learning curve.

I love to read, and I love to write. But finding that rhythm, that “niche” as they call it in the blogging world, has been difficult for me. I think this is mainly because I LOVE to dabble in a little bit of everything. Seriously, just ask my husband because it drives him crazy. During this initial year with this blog I took one heck of a crash course in blogging from attracting an audience, to social media, to Pinterest (and frankly Pinterest is still a mysterious monster that is too overwhelming for me to tackle, and according to all of the blogging groups, the most crucial piece), and  ultimately to finding some consistency.

My blog has been far from consistent, but somewhere in the last 4 months of teaching hyper-drive that I seem to be stuck in, the blog took a back burner, simmering in the furthest corners of my mind. Recently I have been debating what to do about that subscription that was about to expire… Do I continue in this path of random dabbling in a little of this and that… do I let it go as a lost project never completely finished… or does it just stay there… simmering, waiting. But what am I waiting for?

And then the idea started to blossom, as most ideas do. They start as a small seedling, the kind you are afraid to touch, to share, for fear of crushing it from the get go. Gradually though, they form into something more solid, more secure, and you start to share them, to get feedback, to bounce those ideas off the people that matter most in your life. For me, that is my husband, he is my biggest critic, and ultimate deal sealer or breaker.

It is no surprise to anyone that I love to bake. I quit ordering cakes for my family several years back and began to dive into the art of refining gluten free baking. I love the science behind it, the creativity and the challenge it brings. I love that I have a crazy supportive family who loves to sample what I make, but more importantly, the family who will be honest, the ones who look for my gluten free treats to taste “different.” Success is when those family members say, “I can’t even tell a difference, your cake was good.” Silently your inner being does a little happy dance.

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My husband has always been my biggest gluten free supporter. Seriously, I cannot even begin to stress to you the silent connection he has to it, so much to the point that years ago if I was about to cheat and eat something I wasn’t allowed, it was as if an inner alarm bell would go off and he would just “happen” to call me at that exact moment asking me what I was doing. Ugh. But I digress.

So my idea took hold, it became a brainstorm web, which turned into notes, which lead to research, which lead to details. Those details became concrete, and then I took some test orders. Those test orders turned out successful and lead to more consistent orders, which then lead to the possibility that I might be able to actually DO THIS. And just like that, an idea turned into my niche.

And so it is with great PRIDE, great fear, and great excitement that I share with you, Shimmering Twigs newest face:

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Shimmering Twig Treats

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After my daughter’s 4th birthday party, the seed was planted and I began to entertain the possibility of baking for others, specifically those who wanted gluten free baked good that tasted delicious but were also pretty and customized.

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My youngest is minion OBSESSED, therefore, is was only appropriate to have a minion-themed party for her this past fall, which she went crazy over!

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And so, with my little celiac child’s approval, I am ready to tackle this new adventure! More information is coming soon, but if you are interested, please do not hesitate to reach out.

It feels so good to be back!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Recipe Round Up | Cadbury Season!

 

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With St. Patrick’s Day freshly in the rear view mirror, it is only appropriate to move ahead to the upcoming holiday, Easter. I was walking through the isles at the grocery store a few weeks ago after proctoring the SAT exam, and came across my Mom’s favorite Easter treat: Cadbury Minis. A few years ago, I take full credit for successfully hooking my Mother-in-law on to theses little bad boys. So this post is completely for these two and all people who love Cadbury Minis.

Last Easter I was browsing Pinterest for ideas to use during our pre-Easter egg coloring family event I host each year. I randomly stumbled upon a recipe incorporating in Cadbury Minis leading me to a plethora of recipes! I was so shocked  and thrilled that I now have a Pinterest board dedicated to these recipes just for fun: Cadbury Mini-speration with additional recipes and ideas.

So here it is: 15 cute Cadbury Recipes to spark a little Spring Fever in us all.

  1. Bunny Chow

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I mean, like the name isn’t enough to sell you?? I just love this idea! And what a simple twist!

2. Mini Eggs Cheesecake Dip

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If you are looking for a simple recipe to add to any potluck or family gathering, this one is sure to please a crowd! Everyone loves the dessert styled dips. And Cheesecake? Well that just seals the deal!

3. Easter egg Pretzel Chocolate Swirl Bark

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I love bark recipes, but really need to work on my chocolate swirl patterns. Bark recipes make the best last minute gift ideas. Salty and Sweet, covers all bases and the festive colors are so pretty!

4. Coconut Macaroon Nests

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These delicate little treats are almost too cute to eat! Being a sweets lover, I couldn’t resist these and already have them scheduled mentally for Easter dinner at my parents!

5. Easter Nest Sugar Cookies

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Now, I can guarantee you I will see sugar cookies that look exactly like this at my mother-in-laws this year! Why? Because her sugar cookies are delicious, she decorates in this star tipped style, and she loves Cadbury Eggs! And who wouldn’t when you could make these sweet little nests with just a couple quick tweaks to convert it to a gluten free recipe?

Everyone in the family looks forward to her sugar cookies. She even made me gluten free ones one time, for my baby shower. They were sweet little pink and yellow star-tipped owls. I’m pretty sure she hated working with the gluten free flour and would agree there is a learning curve to get the feel of it, but trust me when I say, it’s an easy conversion!

 

6. White Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes

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I love these cupcakes! They are so sweet and light. But I think the best part is the egg carton presentation! It’s so cute! These are on my to-do list for a school party coming up in a few weeks!

7. Cadbury Chocolate Thumbprints

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I. LOVE. THUMBPRINTS. They are so simple and delicious! I also love six sisters’ stuff blog, and have lost count of the recipes I use from these lovely ladies!

8. Mini Egg Fudge

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Fudge should be a necessary staple at all holiday events. This one in particular makes me think of when I was young and my Mom and Aunts would go to Smicksburg, a local Amish village and buy all kinds of crazy fudge the day after Thanksgiving. We kids would wait for them to get home and dive into the pounds of fudge we knew would be hidden in those bags. I love when new recipes arouse a sense of nostalgia when viewed for the first time. It makes a new taste so personal right from the start.

9. Cadbury Mini Egg Blondies

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I feel safe to assume I will see this recipe in my Mom’s kitchen at some point in the next 4 weeks until the holiday. Blondies? YES PLEASE.

10. Easter Egg Layer Cake

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My next big project I want to tackle and master is cake decorating. I made a miserable attempt at my oldest daughter’s birthday and really need to recover my reputation with a pretty cake. Perhaps this simple recipe might help!

11. Peanut Butter Cadbury Cookies

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter, enough said!!

12. Cadbury Mini Egg Candy Bark

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These are so cute! I know I have already mentioned bark, but this one is so light and sweet looking, how could you NOT want to try and make it? I might have to improve my melting skills and bring this pretty little treat to life!

13. Cadbury Brownies

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Brownies are like a blank canvas, you can add anything to them to create unique and flavorful treats! And with the creation of some of the most delicious boxed gluten-free brownie mixes out there like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Pamela’s, and my sister’s personal favorite: King Arthur

14. Milkshake Recipe

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Alright, this recipe came from The Food Network so of course it’s beautiful, b I love the idea of a pretty milk shake! We just gave our youngest her first milkshake recently, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, she loved it!

15. Chocolate and Orange Mini Egg Cheesecake

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This particular recipe I posted with my Mom in mind. I always think of her when I hear the Orange and Chocolate combination thrown around. It’s unusual but works so well!

So there you have it! Does this post make you want to run out and grab the first bag of shiny plastic grass and get your spring vibes on?? I’m pretty sure I’ll be binging in the Easter sections this upcoming weekend.

Happy Spring everyone!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Party Like it’s the 10th Post!

In celebration of my 10th post (hey, we celebrate the small things in life!) I have decided to share with you my 10 most favorite dessert recipes I’ve tried over the past several years. Each one of these delicious recipes was found on Pinterest. I must warn you, if you are looking for healthy recipes, you should stop reading NOW. I love to cook, and love to bake even more. I have several family recipes that fall above this top ten list, but they are worthy of solo posts. So for the 10th post celebration, I will stick strictly to the recipes I have found thanks to the amazing invention we all know as… Pinterest. Along with the link to the recipe I will provide you with the specific adjustments I made to the recipe and products used to make the perfect gluten free version of each.

I am not exactly sure what I did with my life before Pinterest started. I do know that I love to pin, tend to over-pin, and I’m currently in the process of organizing my Shimmering Twig pins and trying to stick to recipes I’ve actually tried and love, or life-hacks that I really use rather than the good old theory “I’ll probably use that sometime…” I can remember thinking how many ideas I have saved and wanted to use, but never followed through with. I’m tacking this on to my new-year new-me theory: Spend Less and Value More. So without further adieu, the first Recipe:

  1. The Homemade Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake

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This recipe is almost perfectly gluten free as is, minus the cookie crumb filling. Every year for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day we invite both of our sets of parents out to the house and try to treat them to a full 3-course meal. Last year for Mother’s Day I wanted to use a dessert was so good, but involved zero work for me on Mother’s Day. My husband is an excellent cook, but not into the baking, so this project would fall on me.

When I came across this idea online, I decided this would be a great plan as I could make it on Saturday and pull it out to serve whenever we finished with our luncheon on Sunday.

The recipe calls for oreo style cookies or a chocolate cookie. My mother always keeps a stash of the gluten free Kinnikinnick cookies KinniToos around so we used a package in substitution. Otherwise I followed the recipe for the most part as presented. And trust me, it was a huge hit!

2. Fudgy Brownie Hearts with Fresh Raspberry Buttercream

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Oh my goodness! The love I feel for this recipe is unreal. I want to stand up and go make these right now. About 6 years ago I dabbled in the home-show party business selling jewelry and for my grand opening I went a little crazy on food. This was my show-stopper dessert recipe from  a farm girl dabbles. The fresh raspberry buttercream is SO. WORTH. THE. TIME. My mom came out to help me prepare for the party the night before and I think it will always be one of the best cooking with my mom memories I have. We made an unreal amount of food for the party and she really took the lead on making the butter cream for this. I feel certain she would also agree that this recipe was totally worth the time.

This recipe I followed to a T. The flour I used for these little fudgy hearts was Pamela’s Artisan Blend gluten free flour and I typically use this for everything. The large bag you can purchase off Amazon is by far the best value!

The final product was amazing and no one knew it was gluten free!

3. The BEST Chex Mix Ever

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This recipe is hands down amazing! I follow the recipe exactly and as a general rule of thumb LOVE everything Chex. If you’re ever in a pinch for a recipe, try one of the countless versions of Chex mix out there, utilizing their gluten-free cereal! I make this in bulk around the holidays and give it out in cute tins to family and friends!

4. Marshmallow Blondies

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This recipe by Cookies and Cups is wonderful! It was a great switch up from the chocolate that seems to monopolize my life! The recipe is pretty simply and straight-forward if you’re looking for sweets with minimal prep-time. The one thing about this recipe that really stands out in my mind was how sticky they were, so be sure to really prep that pan!

I used Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour and really LOVED the caramel-goey texture with the little surprise bites of marshmallows. We love using Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips and usually keep a stash in bulk as the girls LOVE snacking while we bake.

5. S’mores Dip

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THREE INGREDIENTS. TWO MINUTES. And Bam! You have this delicious dip! My second year teaching we would have unofficial luncheons at work every time someone had a baby. That year, at least six of us had babies. It was like a crazy school district baby boom. I made this for one of the teachers “shower” luncheon who was due about three months before me. And seriously… what pregnant woman doesn’t love an endless supply of chocolate to dip anything into?! Chocolate Chips, Sweetened Condensed Milk, and Marshmallow Fluff. That’s all there is to this recipe!

6. Oreo Loaded Cheesecake Brownies

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If you haven’t been sold by the first half of this post, these surely should seal the deal. Vera hit the jackpot with the fudgey chocolate, cheesecake, and oreo layered masterpieces! Again I cannot STRESS the quality of these Kinnikinnick Chocolate Cookies they are an excellent substitute for an Oreo. I used my go-to Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour again for these, and keep a surplus coming every two months with Amazon’s subscription option.

Every January we have a joint birthday celebration for my parents. This year we went with an Italian theme meal, but threw this bad boy in for dessert and trust me, it was a hit with everyone!

7. Pecan Pie Bars

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Rewind back to my pregnancy with my first daughter. The hormones during that holiday season turned me into a self-proclaimed Martha, finding countless new recipes to try baking, baking, and a little more BAKING for good measure. I am pretty sure I turned out more treats between Thanksgiving and New Years that year, than I have the 3 years that followed. One of those little holiday finds was this gem of a dessert. I love pecan pie and I love bar style desserts! Put them together and you have yourselves the perfect little Thanksgiving treat! I followed the recipe exactly, only changing the pan preparation to just greasing the pan and eliminating any foil lining.

8. Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

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It was during the same holiday season that I first met and fell in love with The Girl Who Ate Everything. This girl’s got it going on! I went back through my Pinterest boards and discovered that a bulk of my pins were recipes developed by her. She is fantastic!

I followed the recipe exactly as she explains it, and found one of my family’s and in-law’s new favorite recipes! The chef sister fully approved as well! We make this recipe at least 6 times a year in our house. It’s simple, straightforward and a great Gluten-free adapted recipe when you switch out the flour for Pamela’s Artisan Blend.

9. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Peppermint Filling

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This was another Pinterest find from back in 2012. My sister and I both use this cookie as a Christmas staple! There is something so Christmas-y about Peppermint and the slight hint in the cream filling is amazing! Now, usually for time sake I use the same flour for this, but in all reality the best version of flour for any type of Gob or Cake textured cookie is the America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Blend. They have a Pinterest page that you can also find HERE. Other than that minor tweak, the recipe is a straight forward gluten free conversion. Both America’s Test Kitchen gluten free blend and Pamela’s Artisan Blend gluten free flour are cup for cup conversions making baking that much easier! America’s Test Kitchen DOES require the additional xanathan gum along with the cup-for-cup flour blend. Refer to the book for specific amounts!

10. Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

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This tenth and final recipe was my most recent find on A Spicy Perspective, a blog I have every intention of following and really inspecting, because I was in love with this recipe! There is something so magical about the idea of Salt and Caramel combined, that any recipe with these two words in, I typically assume i will love.

And I was right. This was another simple, quick throw together recipe, that the only minor adjustment was the Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour. They were a bit tricky to cut at first, but like most ooey-goey bars, once the first one is out, the rest are much simpler.

And that, my friends is how I like to celebrate 10 consecutive posts on Shimmering Twig. Ten Tantalizing Treats to make the mouth water. I really hope at least one of these recipes brings your family the joy and comfort of a homemade treat shared with loved ones. Happy Sunday everyone.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Bohemian Babies to Bohemian Birthdays

From the moment my daughter was born, I was set on her birthday theme. I know what you are thinking, “Seriously? Don’t you have anything better to do?” But the birthday theme fell into place because of the nursery we decided to go with. As I might have mentioned in previous posts, we did not find out the gender of our second daughter until the moment she was born. My husband was adamant on this, even to the point that he refused to attend the ultra sounds. Ladies, I recommend you not let this happen! Solo ultrasounds are not fun, not in the least bit.

The only way I would agree to the secret gender was if I could find a nursery I loved that happened to be gender neutral. Hello mint green. I was immediately in love with the Mint, Gold, and Peach color scheme for a sweet baby girl, and adored the Mint, Navy, and Gray for my little man. Nature having ultimate control, we were blessed with our second sweet baby girl on October 17th, 2015.

When we brought her home to her currently mint, and white nursery, my mind began to spin. What details could I add in and how soon could that be completed? Needless to say, her nursery is still, unfinished, but does have a few hints of peachy pink and at least feels feminine.

Fast forward 9 months to my beautiful friend Emily’s baby shower. Everyone has a friend, that friend. The one who spews creativity from their very being. The one who remembers everyone , every event, and creates those thoughtful gifts that are to be cherish forever. Her soon-to-be baby girl would have the compliment to my daughter’s nursery. Knowing the gender, she chose a light peach wall with gorgeous accents throughout the room. We chose to reflect that in her late summer baby shower. This event gave me an opportunity to begin planning in advance for the soon-to-be first birthday party I would be holding for my daughter. The theme was very similar.

I re-purposed some crafted vases from a friend, tweaking the color schemes slightly and filled them with delicate baby’s breath. Baby’s breath is my absolute flower of choice. It’s so fresh, classy, and simple that regardless of color scheme adds a fresh touch to whatever you are planning. I like to mix in hydrangeas on occasion as well. A fellow crafty friend utilized some antlers from a relative and sprayed them gold. Can I just stop for a moment and stress how much I LOVE spray painting antlers? They are gorgeous! I, however, do not have a husband who is willing to share his prized pieces. Therefore, my house continues to lack that accent piece I so desire. My fellow crafter then

My friend is one of those incredibly beautiful pregnant women, like the kind you could only expect to find on Pinterest. She is most likely going to kill me for this, but that’s the punishment for being so creative…! Also my crafting partner in crime must enter this post as our personalities were the perfect reality check for each other. I’m pretty sure we need to go into business together. #goals

During her pre-baby crafting phase she made two gorgeous  gifts for my daughter’s room. One was a dream catcher that hangs delicately above her crib, and the second was this sweet mint and white growth chart hanging just beside the little chair we used as her monthly picture prop.

After using my friends beautiful baby-to-be’s celebration as round one of Bohemian Babies theme, I began to really get serious with my party planning ventures. Immediately heading back to my Etsy-go-to gal, Shana from Belva June  we began that wonderful collaboration that happens in spaces like Etsy. After gauging my complete obsession for all things bohemian, she helped to tailor my items to perfectly fit my party vision.

These are just a few examples of some of the darling little details Shana can make!

A friend of mine was able to sit down with us a few weeks before the big day and do a little one-year photo shoot along with some family pictures. I went with some visions in my head, but wow, Vanessa knocked this out of the park! If you have not had the opportunity to view her work please make a point to check out Vanessa’s site HERE

She also did a “Baby’s First Day” session for us, thanks to my sister-in-law who has been friends with Vanessa since childhood. Vanessa and I went to elementary school together riding the VAN home each day which was like private school’s version of a school bus I suppose. I’m thrilled to see her once hobby blossom into an outstanding career. Please take some time to check her out. My family photo that is linked to my Instagram page, Facebook page, and Pinterest page are all thanks to this beautiful photo session from her!

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I mean… melt my heart!!!

PS… this is the link to the Tee Pee you see above that we bought our daughters.

After the baby shower “dress rehearsal” I decided my next big project would be to attempt the royal icing approach to beautiful cookies. Using my mother-in-laws recipe that I have modified, I then began the trial and error of flooding, piping, and painting cookies!

And that was my first attempt with Royal Icing! I followed these up with Minnie Mouse ones a month later for my niece’s second birthday party. I have decided that anyone who does this for a wedding is truly my hero. The amount of time I had invested in these alone was unreal. I couldn’t imagine doing this ALL DAY EVERY DAY! Props to you bakers!

So then there was this cake, and the cake was inspired by Shana’s site as well. But this cake is the real reason why I will NEVER attempt to bake a cake on my own again. At least not one that I want nice and smooth anyways. Another friend of mine makes the gorgeous cakes. And yes, my friends, this cake is GLUTEN FREE in all of it’s chocolate peanut butter goodness.

The party ended up looking EXACTLY like I wanted it to, even though both of my children were sick, the weather was a little more than uncomfortable cool, but hey… it looked good in photographs right?

I re-purposed the already once re-purposed vases again and incorporated a little of Shana’s magic so they had a bit more of the birthday party theme, and made little head dresses for each of my little Indian princess guests! The cute little woodland character headbands were an Etsy find. I priced out making them myself but it would have cost me almost exactly the same to do it on my own, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t rather have something exactly the same made for you if it could be?

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So my sweet little princess’s pow-wow went off with only a few hitches, but overall I was very pleased with it! I have all of my items saved, of course. Who knows when someone might need a bohemian party planned? If you do, you know who to call!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Winter Birthday Blues Brightened

Being a child with a December birthday, the birthday parties never involved swimming pools, outdoor pinatas, picnics with family, or the freedom that seems to come when you can let a child run loose through the yard. No, mine consisted of a few parties with friends at places like Pizza Hut or my personal favorite, a dinner of choice, a gob cake, and the best part, celebrating it with my parents and godparents. I am the youngest of three children, with the next in line being 10 + years older than me. After my sister headed off to college, my life seemed to feel very much like an only child’s.

I had a childhood friend who had a younger brother and older sister. Her family was so close-knit. I will forever remember going to her house in high school and finding them all sprawled out over the floor and couches watching movies together, never feeling the social pressures to be out all weekend with friends. I loved that, and wanted that for my future family someday. I also swore I would never have children in the winter months and give them the opportunity to have fun and exciting OUTDOOR birthdays. That being said, my first daughter was born on the coldest day in January with wind chills of minus twenty degrees. So much for that fantasy!

As I might have mentioned previously, I am a planner, an organizer, and a do-er. I love, love, love, a good themed party! My oldest daughter followed in my misfortune of having that winter birthday when all of her cousins have those glorious fair-weather summer and early fall birthdays. But I am determined to give her an amazing birthday each year that is fun and unique. I also happen to have a fellow party planning fanatic who has children in the same seasons as mine. So when I begin posting pictures of the over-the-top matchy matchy decorations, and receiving the “you have too much time on your hands” criticisms, I am immediately comforted by her equally and often times more fabulous themes. This year she provided a glorious rainbow and trolls theme (yes… I am talking about you girl!)

For my daughter’s first birthday we went with “Minnie Mouse” and as this was my first birthday planning, I could not settle for the mediocre character plates, character napkins, and some plastic table cloths. I must warn you, I was not photographing this event with the plans of blogging about it, so please take my pictures with a grain of salt.

So the pictures may not bring it justice, but who cares when you have a picture of the sweetest little Minnie Mouse ever?! This was before I got into my pretty cookie phase and felt the need to make matching sugar cookies to go with every party theme. As this was the first birthday, we did rent a local social hall to host, and it was a nice occasion but a massive head-ache to haul everything home. We scaled back on the guest lists for birthdays two and three.

snow-bunny For birthday number two, we enlisted the creativity of some fabulous fonts from my favorite font download websites and the “Snow Bunny” theme following the pink and blues for a color scheme. As I mentioned, the guest list was scaled back and the party was moved back to our 1862 newly renovated farmhouse. My husband is one of four children who are all married and have two children each, plus two parents and 3 grandparents (literally, my childhood dream) all healthy and living. My family consisted of my parents and cousin who come to everything for my children and support them in every way possible, making our home the perfect sized venue for our little snow bunny’s party.

I was pretty obsessed with the idea of a hot cocoa bar for this party including a variety of toppings from chocolate chips to caramel bits, to mini marshmallows, to Homemade Snowflake Marshmallows which were delicious!

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img_1383 And of course, our sweet little snow bunny admiring her balloons. (Feel free to notice through my kitchen window, while I capitalized on the winter themed party, it was a record breaking 63 degrees. On January 31st. In Western Pennsylvania. Perfect.)

I have casually mentioned my mother-in-laws glorious soft sugar cookie recipe that after some slight alterations, turns into a soft, delicious gluten-free delicacy. Traditionally, she uses a soft classic white icing and has a very stylized decoration with a star tip. It’s the type of cookie decoration that takes you right back to childhood, to old-school bakery style decorations, and screams “I AM DELICIOUS. EAT. ME.” I tried to replicate her tried-and true star tip decoration style with my version of gluten free snowflakes.

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I am practicing all forms of self control to not get up from finishing this post and dig into the Valentine stash of these cookies my daughters made as Valentine gifts. I will share my modified recipe of this soft cookie recipe in a future cookie series of posts.

Now, by this point, my oldest daughter had discovered the mastermind movie of Frozen so when grocery shopping I was automatically drawn to all things Frozen.  I did notice that Royal brand gelatin had a series of pink, purple, clear (very cool looking jello), and blue gelatin powder. After making my traditional twist on the classic jiggler recipe, I layered the colors to create a very Frozen inspired version of snowflake jigglers.

 

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Again, keep in mind, I was not photographing with the idea of sharing these with the world. That came after the fact.

For the cake, I mentioned that as a child, (and frankly… still today) I always requested a GOB CAKE. Mother… if you are reading this, I’m still waiting for the one for my 30th birthday…

I love the classic gob treat, and whatever genius female in my family first turned that fabulous baked good into a cake, I believe it was my aunt, I thank you! Now for a gluten-free version of the cake, you really need to have a good, rich, chocolate cake recipe. You could start from scratch creating the layers of cake, but I have actually found several boxed version that make a very rich bakery style cake when you add a few extra ingredients to the mix. For the snow-bunny theme, I stuck with a simple white icing and clear sprinkles to present as a simple “snow cake.”

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You can find the gluten-free Gob Cake recipe in a future post as well! With all of these promises of future recipes that I will inevitably have to bake to post, I can pretty much kiss all those “healthy eating” resolutions good bye! It’s fine with me though, because a gob cake trumps all resolutions in my mind.

Other than some great printables, good food, and balloons, the rest of the party was pretty simple. (Ok, I can feel you all rolling your eyes at me…)

Fast forward to our most-recent party adventure and my MOST FAVORITE ETSY SHOP EVER!!! Brace yourselves, because Shana is fabulous. She has the most creative decor, stylish ideas, and unique accessories. I wish I had a little boy in my life to party plan for. But as I mentioned earlier, we are living in a sea of girls! Girls, on girls, on girls! A series of Dad-friends who all have little girls!

Shana McGavock is so phenomenal to work with! Along with her beautiful designs, she is great with providing decor suggestions, personalizing your details, and making your little Mr. or little Miss. feel so special. The Etsy shop name is Belva June and please, if you shop, tell her Whitney sent you!

For birthday number three, Shana heavily inspired me to ask our guests to “Flock on Over” and “Flamingle” with Brielle! I mean, seriously, how can you not LOVE a three year old celebrating with flamingos?!

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It didn’t stop there, she went on to create darling individualized little signs with cute sayings like “Party like a Pineapple” which my husband insisted during the entire party was not a real saying… like he would know.

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Seriously, how can you not party like a pineapple when you have flamingo straws???! Clearly I had a little too much fun planning this party. I should also throw in a disclaimer that if you ever decide to purchase these amazing 36 inch balloons from Amazon, while the balloons are an inexpensive addition to a party, all of the helium involved in filling them is NOT.

As I get deeper and deeper into this, I’m realizing this could have been a series of three posts, but it’s all in the learning process of blogging I suppose. The wrappers and tags were all from Shana’s fabulous shop!

The cakes were done by me. I used my tried and true chocolate cake, and made a fresh strawberry butter cream filling for the center with a marshmallow buttercream on the outside. Looking back, I believe everyone agrees the entire thing should have been slathered in that delicious Strawberry butter cream. YUM.

But those straws. How could you not love those straws. I still have a package and plan to re-purpose several of these decorations for a faculty luau luncheon next month.

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There are those cookies again! I told you, cookies and jigglers are party staples with the Bargerstock kiddos. You might be wondering about those flamingo cookies. And why on earth I wouldn’t just get a flamingo cookie cutter?! My mom and I were shopping at a local mall back in the fall (yes… I chose this theme months before the party) and I found a flamingo cookie cutter, but at the last second felt I could find a slightly larger one online if I looked, so I put it back. Being the absent-minded mother that I am, having the cookie cutter in my hand registered as “oh yes, you bought that, check it off your list” It wasn’t until I mixed up and rolled out the first round of cookies that I realized, “oh wait, NO. You DIDN’T buy that.” So we rolled with it and squeezed a flamingo in, star tip style of course, the number 3.

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And so, I will leave you with these sweet cheeks and the thought that, just because you have a winter birthday, does not mean it has to be dull, gray, boring, cold, or blah. No, you can create anything if you take the time and just put your mind to it!

Or call me! And I’ll hook a sista up!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Valentines Day: Crafts and Treats

In honor of the upcoming holiday, we have spent the last several days celebrating in small ways. It began Thursday on a pleasant surprise of a snow day. After spending the morning drafting up an Individualized Education Plan for a meeting at school the following morning with one of my students and one incredibly peaceful 3-hour nap session, where both girls slept at the same time (yes, I was blessed with those fabulous sleeping children, some people could only dream about… don’t worry, I feel certain my payback is coming in the teenage years). I’m calling that a very successfully productive morning. The girls and I set out to make homemade valentines for loved ones and for friends at the sitter’s house. Now, I have spent hours scouring Pinterest for the perfect craft, clever saying, and “healthy” treat. But this year, I decided to simplify it, as this seems to be the theme for my year. I wanted the valentines to be personal, with some connection to a one and three year old. So, we tore of sheets of paper from the fabulous easel my in-laws bought my oldest daughter for Christmas, and got down to business. I gave each of the girls a blank sheet of paper, washable crayons for the youngest, and washable markers for the “big girl.” I told the girls to make the paper as beautiful as possible, adding every color of the rainbow.

The girls were thrilled! They colored for a solid twenty minutes, giving me plenty of time to cut and write on each of the valentine bases. Once they were finished, I followed the craft up with some excellent bribery puff corn treats, to extend the state of contentment long enough to finish the valentines.

While the bribery worked it’s magic, I took each of the girls artwork and cut out a series of simple hearts. I then glued the hearts to the cards cut out while they colored. I love the idea of everyone they love receiving a piece of artwork they actually made. Who expects to receive a piece of art from a 15 month old? I was pretty please with the simplicity of the final product!

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The girls then continued to snack as we decided Daddy needed his own special Valentine. So his was a larger version of the same style of art. One heart colored by the older in bright vibrant marker, and a slightly smaller heart colored in the softened colors of crayons. Insert sweet sentimental message and a date, and Voila! You have a Valentine created by two sweet little Daddy’s girls!

A few weeks ago the girls and I baked heart-shaped sugar cookies to deliver with the cards. Its an amazing recipe that holds up incredibly well once converted to Gluten Free, with a few slight alterations. I will share a series of my family’s favorite cookie recipes in later posts. But using the classic sugar cookie recipe of my Mother-in-law’s added to the sentimental theme that has been recently pulling at my heart strings.

Now, today is the customary closest Saturday to Valentine’s Day date night; however, my husband and I have postponed our evening out together for a week, and chose to spend the weekend home with our girls. Sometimes I feel like the days that are completely unscheduled leading to never leaving your house end up being the days you never forget. Today was one of those days. We had a simple lunch together with every food cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, leaving my lunch looking a bit like a pile of scraps! But the girls loved it!

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Nothing like the left-over scraps of a cutie’s lunch!

After lunch we spent a small amount of time relaxing and cuddling before heading off to naps!

I love nap time. And what mother doesn’t? It’s always a 50/50 toss up for me. I’m either super motivated to punch through as many to-do list items as possible in whatever window of time those little ladies permit me, or I find myself on the couch binge watching all of the most recent episodes of Fixer Upper. God I love Joanna Gaines. I’m a devout fan since season 1. Unfortunately, Joanna was not on my radar today. After going live with my blog, I began to think about what recipes I already love, and what a scattered mess my pinterest boards, and binder of recipes were. So today I would organize these. While flipping through recipes I loved, recipes I tried but HE didn’t love, and recipes I never bothered to make, my recipes began to looks a little less like my 9th grade English students clutter of class binders, and more like the meticulous organization I picture Martha Stewart to have. God I love her too. But in the shuffle of papers I cam across an older recipe that I made for several Valentines Days in the past. These decadent, rich Red Velvet Cream Cheese brownies are AH-mazing. Seriously, like eat-the-whole-pan amazing. So I was off to begin baking.

The smallest was the first to wake today and we found ourselves spontaneously creating a batch of my most favorite Valentine treat. I love when I get some down time with just this little lady, because it doesn’t happen too often. Her oldest sister spent countless hours helping me bake from the time she was 9 months until today. But this little crazy was slow to the draw, balancing two children precariously around a mixing bowl, and keeping my sanity was not a small feat. As she has begun to age a little it’s much easier to bake with both of them.

But today is a day for my littlest lady. So we begin by melting chocolate and butter, and mixing up the red-velvet layer of the brownies first. Once the chocolate and butter are melted in a small bowl, and the eggs, sugar, vanilla and food coloring are whipped together in a separate bowl my little assistant did an excellent job combining the two and dumping in the scoops of flour to bring our batter to it’s delicious rich consistency.

After mixing up the Red Velvet we mixed up a creamy cheesecake swirl for the top.

We then poured the red velvet into a grease odd shaped glass pan. I normally use a 9 inch square pan, but it has vanished. Literally, it’s gone.

I then swirled the cheesecake with a butter knife after dropping it in to the red velvet by spoonful (ok… one spoonful to me, one to the pan…). Then we popped that bad boy into the oven!

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By this time the oldest little lady had begun to stir so the timer was set to 35 minutes (I ended up needing to bake it an additional 7 minutes, due to the weird shaped pan, and extra thickness it created in the brownies).

Once both of the little crazies were running around I began to work on dinner anxiously waiting for these Ah-MAZING brownies to cool. And I must say, that the Gluten Free Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Casserole we ate for dinner was inspired by Lil’Luna’s recipe linked HERE. It was pretty delish as well.

So… Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, GLUTEN FREE Red-Velvet Cheesecake Brownies, and artwork with my kiddos. This could be the best Valentine’s Day holiday yet! Up next: Date weekend with the hubby.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c. butter

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 red food coloring

2/3 c. Pamela’s Gluten Free Artisan Blend flour

 

1 – 8 oz block cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 c. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside. Cream together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and food coloring. add in flour.
  3. Cream together cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the red-velvet mixture into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan
  5. Spoon on the cream cheese topping, swirl with a buttet knife
  6. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and cheesecake layer is set.