Saturday, November 01, 2014

Photo Dump with Halloween Costume Pictures

Things have been busy around here. Here are some pictures of what we have been up to:

Ewan's first football game!

Daddy reading stories


McGirlie's birthday!

Sequioa National Forest with Grandma and Grandpa McEwen!



McBoy's birthday!

And finally, Halloween costumes! Buzz, Jessie, Woody, and Sid:



Seriously, I was Sid! Why didn't anybody recognize me??? Doesn't everybody watch these movies non-stop??? Sheesh, Halloween is the worst.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Copycat Swig Iced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Swig is a super yummy cookie and soda place in Utah. We found out about them through Bryce's sister, who managed at the Provo location for a while. They are known for their super dense sugar cookies, for which you can find hundreds of copycat recipes online. The thing is though, while the sugar cookies are great, the iced oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are THE BEST. So what the heck internet? Why are there no copycat recipes for those cookies??? Don't worry, I made one. Also all the other copycat Swig frosting recipes call for sour cream, but Swig's icing isn't refrigerated so I don't think that is right. I have my own icing recipe below.


My copycat Swig Iced Oatmeal recipe differs from regular oatmeal cookies in a few ways:

1. Baking method. Swig cookies are dense and soft, kind of like eating cookie dough, but cooked, but not like a regular cookie...it's hard to describe. I will outline my method in detail below.
2. No baking soda, and just a hint of baking powder. To get that super dense texture you don't really want the cookies to spread out, and you don't want bubbles forming.
3. Serve chilled. Normally you want your cookies hot from the oven, but these babies are meant to be chilled, and then frosted with room temperature frosting right before eating. IT'S IMPORTANT.

Swig Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes: 16 cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened on the counter
1/4 cup shortening
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (note, I live at a really low elevation, if you are Utah you will need to add more flour!)
3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups large milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325.
Beat butter, shortening, water, and sugars with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combined. Mix in flour, baking powder, salt, oats, and chocolate chips.

The way I test my cookie dough texture is to pinch it. A light pinch should leave your fingers clean, but a hard pinch should get dough on them.

Drop cookies in 2-inch balls, (about 2 cookie scoops) and then flatten them a bit with the bottom of a cup.

Cooking Method:

Swig cookies shouldn't get brown, even on the bottoms. These are cooked at a lower temperature than normal cookies because they are so big, if you make mini-swig-cookies (regular sized cookies) you will probably have to tinker with the temperature to get it just right.

Mine baked for 11 minutes, but you will probably have to watch your first batch closely to figure out the right time for your oven. When you take them out they should not be brown around the edges, the tops will look mostly dry but you will think, "Man, the middle looks so doughy!" take courage, that means they are done. Now, this is important you have to set your cookie sheet on the range, above your oven, for  5-10 minutes to finish cooking. That creepy doughy-look will disappear and you will be left with perfect soft chewy cookies.

Chill cookies in the fridge until you frost and serve them.


Swig Frosting:

1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-5 Tablespoons water


Using the wire-whip on your mixer, beat the first four ingredients together. Add water slowly and whip on the highest speed until it is super smooth, almost pourable but just barely spreadable. Add a few drops of red food coloring for that delicate, barely there, pink color.


My sister-in-law didn't give me any inside information to make this recipe, but I think you will find it is just as yummy as the originals!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Theory of Constant Chaos

A while back, there was a big stink about some fitness blogger lady who posted pictures of her super ripped body, her three kids, and the caption, "What's your excuse?" I don't really know what the deal was with all that because I mostly only read headlines.

But I thought a bit about that headline. I don't have a super ripped body, I can think of a few excuses to explain why, but the thing is I don't actually feel like I need an excuse. I think it's great that this lady is super fit, that is her priority. I'm sure she does all kinds of great things with her family and job and makes time to work-out, but she doesn't do the same things that I do.

I only workout in moderation because I need time to paint beautiful pictures, refinish furniture, read with my kids, read with my handsome husband, steam clean my floors, fix my TV, proofread essays, wash a hundred dishes, etc. They are not excuses, they are priorities.

And thus, my "Theory of Constant Chaos" was born.

The Theory of Constant Chaos states:
For every reduction of chaos in a specific area, there is an equal and opposite increase in chaos in another area.

So I can determine to tame the chaos that is my hair, and put time and energy into that, but I will have to pay the price for allowing my kids to entertain themselves.


I can put them into suspended animation with the TV while I try to clean up that mess, but I will pay the price of begging for more TV, and feeling guilty for not spending time with the kids.

I can save the cleaning for nap time, but that will push something else to after nap time, and so on and so on. Even if you are always working on something, something else is always being neglected.

The trick is to decide which things are priorities and determine not to let any one of those things be neglected for too long.

It might seem kind of depressing, but here's the thing, everyone is subject to constant chaos. People with tons of kids, people with no kids, single people, old people, "clean people," busy people, Pinterest fiends, Facebook friends, Twitter tweeters, Instagrammers, fat people, skinny people, even super ripped people.

Enter: "The Five Cakes of Chaos"

I have a friend who bakes beautiful cakes. I mean beautiful, perfect tasting, perfect looking, delicious cakes. I was complimenting her on the cakes she brought to an event and she said, "Oh thanks, I'm so glad they turned out! I had to make FIVE cakes because the first few just didn't work right!"


If that had been me, the people at the event would have had ugly, kind of yucky cake, but for my friend those 5 cakes represented her love for the people she was serving. She wanted to give them her best. She doesn't have a magical oven, or woodland creatures assisting her baking while she sings to them. My friend put in time and effort to make those perfect cakes, and she had to pay the chaos price just like everyone else. Something in her life had to wait, had to be neglected, for those cakes to happen, but it was worth it to her.

So when you see that someone's house is perfectly clean all the time, or they have perfect Pinterest holidays, or they make all organic healthy food all the time, remember that impressive achievement is their 5 cakes, and it came at the price of chaos in a different area.

I want to celebrate my own 5 cake achievements, and the achievements of others, without apologizing, comparing, or needing excuses.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Fitbit

Handsome Bryce gave me a Fitbit in my Easter basket. I have really loved it so far, but I only barely discovered that you can connect with friends who also have Fitbits.

Before discovering this, the goals and prompts from the Fitbit were nice guidelines, but I felt no sense of urgency. They weren't MY goals, they were goals chosen by Fitbit. Once I added my friends EVERYTHING CHANGED.

Now the Fitbit is always sending me little prompts about how I am doing and how my friends are doing, and here's the thing, all my friends are way less lazy than me! The competitive aspect makes it feel more like a sport. In general I am not competitive, but in sports I have a furious desire to win. It has really helped me to push myself a little more and get a lot more out of my Fitbit.

Unfortunately my friends are all super kind and supportive! I can't be motivated to exercise by love and sweetness! I require taunts and threats and badly executed slang!

Do YOU have a Fitbit? Do you want to battle to the death? If the answer is yes, then you should add me.

p.s.
My super nice friends still beat me; I said I want to win, not that I am actually skilled at winning.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Room Redo 2014- Curtains and Bed

As I mentioned earlier, I have been working on revamping our bedroom as a surprise for Handsome Bryce. Also, as I said, it turned out not to be a total surprise because I am not very sneaky. (Bryce saw a picture of these curtains which I left on the desktop with the name "Secret Crazy Curtains.") Be prepared, they are pretty crazy.

Here is the room before:
 To me, the curtains we had were fine, just resoundingly ok. The peach and green paint, were not fine though. First I painted the peach parts white, and the green parts tan. Then I needed new curtains.

I looked all over. I soon discovered that I hated every kind of curtains currently sold in stores. They were all too twee, too generic, too grandma-ish, too ugly, too cutesy, too too too mainstream!

Yes.

I am a curtain hipster.

I realized that I didn't want curtains, I wanted art. The only way that would happen was to make them myself. So I bought a $5 flat sheet from KMart and did this:
 Much dramatic! So style! Wow! Soooo rinsed out to look like drab stained sheets:

Boooo! This was not what I wanted. So I took a new approach with Sharpies and alcohol.

One fortuitous thing about the dye incident was that it gave everything a blue cast and the blue could be lifted out with bleach! So I worked and worked to get this:

Then I painted highlights in with bleach. I also put bleach in a spray bottle to lighten the top of the curtain panels. This could easily have been a stopping place, but I wanted something more graphic.

I waited for the bleach to totally dry and then outlined the colors in black:
Ta da! I know this look is not for everyone. Even now I wonder if maybe I have bats in my belfry and knots in my noodle, but I love how they turned out. Handsome Bryce also loves them, which is the most important since it was a surprise for him!
Bonus! I used some silver spandex to recover a green pillow using this super easy tutorial. I also love how that turned out.


Friday, April 04, 2014

Somebody Maded a Pud!

I had a plan to surprise Handsome Bryce for Valentine's Day. I wanted to redo our cool (but unfortunately peach/orange and green) bedroom. It turns out, that is kind of a time consuming project, especially with two little kids, so I bumped it to be an anniversary surprise instead. It also turns out that two little kids have totally reduced my ability to be sneaky, and I ended up leaving clues everywhere by accident. So Bryce got surprised by the plans and pieces, but not the finished product. You can still be surprised though! I'll post finished pictures as soon as I finish painting. Here is a sneak peek at my redecorating project:

Blue Pug Sculpture

I want our bedroom to be comfortable and pretty, but still look like a bedroom where a man lives. So I have been looking for decorations that are neither pointless hoarder-items, nor floofy frilly girl-stuff. I was pretty excited when I stumbled on these dog sculptures by White Faux Taxidermy, but they were a little out of my price range and I wanted something a little more personal. So I decided to make one!

 I started with tinfoil. I made a big ball on tinfoil and shaped it roughly into the shape of a pug's head.

 Then I rolled a piece of Sculpey and fit it over my armature.

 In the background here you can see that I used pictures of Bryce's pet pug Bubba as a reference for the whole process. I used about 3 pictures, and spent a lot of time going back and forth between front view, side view, and 3/4ths view, to try and get it right. I used a dental pick to trace the features onto my clay, and carefully began adding features

Sculpey is an incredibly forgiving medium. It never ever ever dries out (until you bake it) and it allows you to easily reshape mistakes.

For my finished product I wanted to mount the bust on a stanchion. I just happened to have an old lamp base, but you could easily pick up a lamp from a thrift store or make your own base. My sister and I agreed that using the whole lamp looked a little "Lord of the Flies", so I got out a hack-saw and trimmed that baby down.

Ta da! Much more respectable! I hot glued those pieces together and then spray painted it with black primer.

 The black primer looked great, so that could definitely be an option if you wanted a more classic look.

 I wanted it to look more whimsical though, so I painted it bright shiny blue!

You should know that this is the first time I have ever tried to sculpt something to look realistic. I'm not an expert and it's not perfect, but I am really happy with how it turned out. I am a firm believer that if art is something that you want to do you should not feel discouraged because you weren't "born with that talent." I was fortunate to grow up with a Dad who is a professional artist and who always helped me to feel confident in my artistic abilities, but I think it was really the confidence my parents worked to instill, and not Dad's genes that help me make art.

I've taken art classes and throughout this project I spent over an hour, total, watching Youtube videos to teach myself to sculpt better. Aren't we so lucky? Anyone can do a search and have dozens of professionals offering training and technique tips in pretty much any artistic medium! So if you think, "I wish I could do that, but I can't." I would like to encourage you to give yourself some credit, art is a skill that is developed just like any other skill. If you want to pursue it you have the potential!