Monday, July 20, 2015

Galaxy Cake Tutorial

My son chose Star Wars as his theme for his 6th birthday celebration, so I wanted to make a special cake to go with that theme. When he requested marble cake, the idea of a Galaxy cake swirled with bright colors like fun galaxy print fabric I've seen recently instantly popped in my head. I couldn't find anything quite like it online though, so I created my own technique and am excited to share it with you! 

My inspiration pic was this gorgeous nebula, the Eagle Nebula, photographed by Sid Leach, who has lots of other absolutely stunning pictures on his site that I highly recommend checking out. You may even find a nebula you like better for your cake inspiration!

And here's how the cake turned out:


What you need
Your favorite white cake recipe (minus a 1/4 cup of flour). I used this one from Joy of Baking, one of my favorite recipe blogs!
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
Food coloring (I used red, yellow, blue, and green liquid food coloring, but I'm sure gel food coloring would work too, and black food coloring would probably be a good addition, especially if you want your cake to be darker than mine!)
Sprinkles (I recommend star shaped ones, and I also used silver ones!)

What you do 
First, preheat your oven and make the cake batter according to your recipe, but leave out 1/2 cup of flour. 
Separate the batter evenly into two bowls. 
Add 1/4 cup flour to the batter that will be vanilla
Add 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder to the batter that will be chocolate


Take a few 1/4 to 1/2 cup portions of batter from the vanilla half and place in separate bowls. 
Add blue food coloring to the main vanilla batter (or whatever color you want the main part of your nebula to be!), and color the smaller portions as desired. I did purple, lime, and a tiny bit of orange. I also added a few drops of blue and red to the chocolate portion. 


Line round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray
Drop batter a bit at a time, alternating colors, like you would for a zebra cake. I did about 1/3 cup chocolate and blue, and a few spoonfuls of the other colors at a time. I mostly dropped each bit right on top of the part below, but for the accent colors like orange I did just put them out on the edge randomly a couple times. 
Shake the pan a little to level out the batter and use a knife to swirl the batter. I made one big swirl and then a couple side swirls on mine. Here's how they looked after swirling:


Bake according to recipe directions. For the recipe I used, that was 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This is how they looked fresh out of the oven: 


To frost, I used fudgey dark chocolate buttercream frosting between the two layers and on top. I recommend adding a generous portion of star sprinkles to the middle layer--this time I put most of my star sprinkles directly in the batter and they were no longer recognizable after baking. Then frost the top as desired, and enjoy! 




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lalaloopsy Tinies Review

What they are
Lalaloopsy Tinies are adorable dolls about 1.5" tall. Series 3, which is what we got to check out, includes curly plastic hair!

Who makes them
Lalaloopsy is part of the MGA family of brands. You can connect with Lalaloopsy on FacebookTwitterYouTubeGoogle +Instagram, and Pinterest to stay up to date on the latest products and news!

Our impressions
They are so cute!! I love the cheerful colors, the whimsical styling, and the wild curly hair. I enlisted the aid of my 4 year old niece to review them, and she too tends towards wild curly hair and whimsical styling, so I knew they'd be a big hit. The size of them makes them easily portable and perfect as car toys or for Church, or anywhere else that small toys you can play with discretely in your lap might be desired. I do like that they are much larger than the old school Polly Pockets I played with in the 90's because they'd be much harder to lose and much easier to see that they're in the path of a younger sibling in time to grab it and move it! They are small enough to be a choking hazard though so I definitely agree with the manufacturers recomendation of 4&up. 
One of the things I checked was whether the hair is braidable and it defintely is, which is a huge plus because braiding doll hair was one of my favorite things when I was in elementary school. Here's a braid I did quickly:
And I'm pretty sure you could do an even better job if you went a little more slowly and carefully!

My niece said her favorite part is "that they are so cute". She likes how small Lalaloopsy Tinies are, and that they fit in with her other dolls and dollhouse furniture.. She also likes that they have curly hair like she does! Her favorite one is the fairy one, of course!

Pros
Cute
Stylable hair
Good size for little hands and pockets

Cons
Choking hazard

Get it

You can find Lalaloopsy Tinies at a variety of brick and mortar and online toy retailers. They are $10.99 for a set on Amazon at time of posting this review. 

The bottom line
Adorable dolls for preschoolers and elementary age kids; they especially shine for travel and other times small quiet toys are best!

Thank you to MGA for sending a sample set of the dolls for review purposes! I received no other compensation for this review. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Gerber All-in-One Cloth Diaper Review


Gerber Childrenswear came out with a new AIO cloth diaper and I got to review it! Reasonably priced and already available online from Amazon, Target, and Walmart; this diaper could be a game changer. 



What it is
The Gerber All-in-One Cloth diaper is an all-in-one, sized diaper with double gussets and an optional booster


Who made it
Gerber Childrenswear, makers of the fabulous and accordingly ubiquitous Onesies® bodysuits and lots of other cute baby and toddler clothes. You can connect with Gerber Childrenswear on PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Our impressions

These AIO diapers are really trim and the size large fits nicely (but with room to grow) on my son who is 2 and weighs about 25lbs. I really like the idea of an aio with a pocket. Besides being nice to be able to add a booster insert for my heavy wetter, I also like that during the washing process it lets water and air get under the absorbent part of the diaper to help it get clean and dry more easily! 

For daytime, this diaper provided a good amount of absorbency and when I take it off, the insert I pull out is wet but the part that touches baby feels pretty dry (yeah, I touched the middle of a damp diaper just for you. You're welcome. I washed my hands well afterwards, I promise!). I really like that the part of the diaper that touches baby privates is cotton and I think the fabric feels nice to the touch. The underside of the pocket and of the insert are poly/rayon blend and don't feel particularly nice, but that never ever  touches baby skin so I don't think that matters at all. There's a little bit of PUL (the waterproof outer layer) that does touch baby skin, mainly the gussets, and it feels like pretty standard PUL to me and covers less surface area than the amount of PUL touching baby skin in some of the hybrid diapers I've tried from other brands, or when using inserts or prefolds folded certain ways and tucked into a PUL cover. It doesn't bother my son's skin. 

Overnight this diaper also did very well and did leak at all. The surface of the diaper and the insert were pretty damp most nights we tried it, but not enough to cause a rash even in my rash prone guy, so that was good. I will definitely consider this one of my most nighttime friendly diapers in my stash, which was a pleasant surprise!
These diapers are sized which makes it super trim and the large seems larger than most of my one-size diapers. Like any sized diaper, you'd have to basically buy a whole new stash for each size (but often people find they can skip sizes, or so I've heard from users of other brands of sized diapers). But even if you bought a new stash for each size and didnt sell any of them used or reuse them for another child(which isn't typical of how most people I know use cloth diapers), I think you'd still end up saving a ton of money vs using disposable diapers, while creating much less waste. 

These diapers are currently only available in hook & loop, but I found an easy solution to the toddler+ hook & loop problem, which for me is that my toddler can (and does) undo it himself: put on a Onesies® bodysuit over it! 

Luckily we already have some Gerber Onesies® bodysuits from when my older son was this age, and once I figured out how well it works, I went out and bought more! A lot of people only think of onesies for younger babies, but they actually come through a 24mo size, so for the majority of toddlers still in diapers, there'd be a Onesies® bodysuit that fits (try an extender tab if you need some extra length!)

This diaper is very easy to launder: there are laundry tabs on the back to prevent the velcro from snagging and they have worked well for me so far, and the whole thing can go in the washer and dryer (or line dry if you prefer) and got completely dry in one regular dryer cycle. 
I love the colors they chose to launch with:

Two pastels and two brights. I can't wait to see what other colors (and maybe even prints?!?) they come out with in the future. Id especially love it if they keep making them coordinate with other Gerber clothes.

I paired my sample diapers with an adorable set of fireman themed Gerber Onesies® bodysuits I found at Target, but there are tons of other adorable combos with some of the currently available Gerber clothes and the AIO colors they've released! Like how cute would these combos be: 




Pros
Price
Ease of use
Ease of laundering

Cons
Sized
Only available in hook & loop

The bottom line
An effective, trim, very affordable AIO worth adding to your stash.

Get it
You can buy Gerber All-in-One Cloth diaper on Amazon for $12.99 at time of posting this review

I received some free Gerber AIO cloth diapers for review purposes. I received no other compensation for this post. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wear them Wednesday June 17, 2015

On Wednesdays I sometimes blog about a wrap, sling, or other baby carrier I've tried and loved, one I hope to try someday, and one way to wear a wrap, sling, or other carrier. 

One I love
Uncaged is a brand new woven wrap from perennial ring sling powerhouse Maya Wrap and I actually won one from them on Facebook and chose Jade, which is jade green and white. 

Maya Uncaged in Jade is a soft but very sturdy wrap made of a 50/50 blend cotton and merino wool. There's no scratchiness to it like some other woolies I've tried. It definitely needs some breaking in, but my toddler is ready for the job! Because of the wool, it requires special laundering. I personally use and recommend Eucalan laundry detergent and Eucalan wipes for wool wraps. 


It comes with a cute navy blue mesh bag (this wasn't mentioned in the listing so I don't know if it comes with all of them or if it's a bonus with just some like the pavo journals and wooden hearts and such!) that works well to store or transport it:

There's also a gigantic tag I'm not a fan of but realize is in response to new government regulations and not just that Maya wanted to do it. (As you may guess, legislation that essentially mandates giant ugly warning tags on beautiful woven wraps is definitely on the list of things crunchy conservatives hate). You're going to be seeing more and more of these from all the wrap companies, so I wouldn't hold it against Maya. Pictured with my hand for reference, but you should know I have extremely small hands for an adult. So it's even bigger than it looks here:

Ugh I need a cute toddler pic to distract me from that tag:


Uncaged also comes in three fantastic other colorsnavy, light blue, and orchid. 

Right side:
Wrong side:



The birds are fun and clear, but if I could change one thing, Id make the birds tossed instead of all totally vertical so that the wrap was easier to tie a variety of ways with the pattern still rightside up. Tying with the same edge always up over and over may lead to faster wear and more permacreases than if it could go either way. 

Overall I really like it though, especially the vibrant color, am looking forward to breaking it in, and am super excited that Maya Wrap took the plunge into woven wraps! 


You can find out more about Maya Wrap and their latest releases by connecting with them on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.


One I want
I absolutely love Spangled from American wrap company Poe WovensPoe Wovens is owned by a military veteran and celebrating our Stars & Stripes is near and dear to the founder's heart! There are two colorways and both are gorgeous. First up is "glory", with vibrant red, white, and blue in a blend of cotton and Tencel. 

Isn't it gorgeous?!?



The other colorway, "pure" is 100% cotton with an ivory mercerized weft, and I think it's an absolutely stunning natural colored wrap: 


While the pre-order for Spangled is closed, there will be a limited number available for purchase later this month when Poe Wovens stocks their summer release! You can connect with Poe Wovens on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest for more great pics and the scoop on other upcoming releases!

One way to wear it
This great post from Modern Babywearing has some of the best information I've ever seen about getting a good seat with a woven wrap. I hope it's helpful to you too!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Whale in My Swimming Pool Children's Book Review

What it is
The Whale in my Swimming Pool is a book about a boy who heads out to his pool only to discover it's filled with a whale!


Who wrote it
Joyce Wan, a Mew York based author and illustrator of children's books and other adorable things. This is her first picture book (her board books sound adorable too!), but I hope not her last! You can find Wan on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle PlusInstagram and YouTubeThe Whale in my Swimming Pool is published by Macmillan Kids

Our impressions
I thought this book was just right for a lighthearted summer picture book. I liked that it had a fairly simple (but deliciously ridiculous) premise and didn't go too far with it and get weird, but was very funny about it. The illustrations are colorful, cheerful, and kid friendly, plus don't just look the same as the illustrations for 10 million books coming out this year, which is refreshing. I think Wan's unique and charming style will win over lots of small readers (and their parents!)

My 5 year old said: "It was a funny book. My favorite part was (SPOILER ALERT!) the bear!" My 2 year old mostly seemed interested in the pictures, but did sit nicely to read it several times. 

Pros
Funny
Colorful

Cons


The bottom line
A well-illustrated picture book that'll tickle your kids' funny bone this summer.

Get it
You can buy The Whale in my Swimming Pool  from Amazon for $13.46 at time of posting this review. 

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes and received no other compensation for this post. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wear them Wednesday June 3, 2015

On Wednesdays I sometimes blog about a wrap, sling, or other baby carrier I've tried and loved, one I hope to try someday, and one way to wear a wrap, sling, or other carrier. 

One I love


Pavo confetti sea glass! How adorable are these polka dots?!? Pavo is one of my favorite wrap companies and they continue their streak with this beauty. This 100% cotton teal and ivory wrap is woven in the US in the Oriole Mill as an exclusive for the New York Baby Show. It is thick yet soft, and definitely sturdy enough for a toddler. Probably the least stretchy Pavo I've tried so far, but does have some stretch to it and feels like it'll probably have more once it's broken in. Oh, and it's deliciously fluffy, as seen by this wonderful "bloom" picture from before and after washing that another mama was kind enough to let me use for this post:


Right side:


Wrong side:


And if you look very closely, you can see it's actually a tri weave, with "ivory, Veronica, and spearmint" threads (Id probably say white, sky blue, and Jade) all intertwined:

It wrapped nicely even not really broken in at all. I'll try to add another pic in the future when it's more broken in! For now, here's a fwcc with flipped shoulders and flipped rail:


I definitely think the confetti pattern super cute yet modern and SeaGlass is such an amazing color! If you love Pavo too or think you might, find out more about them and connect by checking out the Pavo Textiles website, Facebook page, and Instagram and Tumblr feeds, and the Pavo Form website and Facebook page!

One I want

Bijou Wear High Plains Windmills! Bijou Wear is a newcomer to the wrap scene and was started recently by a super nice U.S. mom named Jaime. Jaime is a military wife and will be donating a portion of the profits from Bijou Wear wraps to the Carrying On Project, which I think is really admirable! Based on the testers I've seen so far, I'm pretty excited to see what Bijou has in store for the future. I think their windmill print is so cool, and yet different from other wraps I've seen. It's made of Eco2Cotton which is basically recycled scraps of cotton from mill and factory floors. They don't re-dye it, so it may very rarely have little traces of darker or light color flecks (like recycled paper!) here and there, but mostly melds together into a cool off white color. Jaime says the feel is comparable to a hemp/cotton blend, which sounds right up my alley! And as a Midwest girl, I find the windmills modern yet homey!


I think its a really interesting versatile neutral and I really hope I get to try one someday! Windmills will be releasing later this month, and you can get the scoop on the Bijou Wear website,  Bijou Wear on Facebook, and the Bijou Wear FB group plus connect with Bijou Wear on InstagramPinterest, and YouTube!

One way to wear it
A friend who is a new mom was asking about how to nurse in a stretchy wrap so I hunted down this video that seems really helpful for demonstrating a couple different ways to breastfeed while you have a baby in a stretchy wrap!