Tale Of A Dead Tree Branch

We just came back from a trip to DisneyWorld in Orlando
It was helluva world !
We couldn’t see all of the park in 4 days !
I am quite sure I can’t squeeze the details of the trip in 1 post either !

So we came home on Sunday night and our neighbour’s house was nicely decorated with Christmas lightings

The Americans will take down Halloween decoration after Thanksgiving and put up their Christmas decoration thereafter
It’s interesting how different countries do it differently
My Finnish friend told me that in Finland, they only put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and by 6 January, everything will be taken down

Anyway we were thinking of not getting a tree as we will be traveling quite a bit in December

Then a couple of weeks ago, my neighbour was clearing his shrubs and part of a tree branch came crashing into our back yard
It was a nice part of a tree and I told him that he needn’t worry about clearing it cos I would be keeping it
He must be thinking what a weird neighbour he has got, to keep a dead tree branch

The tree hugger in me, has always wanted a tree in my house, even if it’s dead
So it was like a windfall to have a tree to fall into my backyard
Unfortunately, the tree branch was more than just dead, it was sick and covered with fungi and I had to leave it in the backyard

It’s been more than a month and with the cold and dry weather, everything in the backyard has dried up, including my lawn and the fungi on the tree
So a couple of days ago, after we came back from our trip, I finally dragged the dead and dried tree branch into the house

I spent some time removing all the dried leaves from the branch and I was quite sure my husband wasn’t very pleased
He had been bugging me to get rid of it and now he has to live with a once plagued with fungi, bald and naked tree branch

It was quite heavy and I had problems getting it to stand
I don’t have a pot or vase big enough, neither do I have soil or sand to stick it in

After racking my brain, I managed to prop it up with 3 red bricks and an Amazon cardboard box
Yay ! A naked tree in my house !

I attempted to paint it with acrylic paint
But then I realised that it would take me days to finish the paint job

So I made a trip to Michael’s and bought a can of spray paint
The job was done in a jiffy and after the paint dried, I lugged the tree back into the house

We hung up the lights and the decorative ornaments

Then we put up a star
Almost everything was hand me down from another family who was here last year

So that’s how a dead tree branch made its way from our neighbour’s backyard to our living room

 
 

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This entry was posted in craft.

The Happiest Run

Last Saturday, I took part in the most colorful run, the ColorVibe Run
Apparently it is a version of the more popular ColorRun which couldn’t make it to this part of the country that I am in now
This one partnered with our local charity and non-profit organization for the event

A group of us, all mothers, stranded in this part of the world because of our husbands’ job
Some of them are taking a break from their career back home, some are like me, a stay at home mom since forever

Our day revolves round kids, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, more cleaning and more cooking
We try to throw in shopping, coffee, a hobby and self maintaninence
but is not often possible especially if the kids are before school going age

Time is a luxury and self maintenance doesn’t equate to spending an afternoon at the hair salon or spa
It has to be something efficient, effective and preferably low budget

Coincidentally we all found jogging
It makes us happy, keeps us in shape and best of all, it’s free

Some, like me, discovered it since they became a mom
Others, still doing it with a toddler strapped in a jogger

A couple of them are trying to get back on track, after milking the young for the last 6 months
then again, those who were already on track, never seem to get better
Maybe because there has never been a need to get better

Then we heard about the run which could probably a motivation for us to be better
We signed ourselves up and called ourselves, MomsDayOut
because mom does need a day out

On a Saturday morning, we dumped the kids with the Dad
Squeezed into a minivan, which by the way, is our trademark, because all of us drive one of this
Unexciting, uninteresting and clumpsy machine
which really doesn’t define us

And sometimes that’s the scary thing about being a mom
We forget who we are, what we aspire to be
We take care of everyone else except ourselves

Yet there is also the wonderful part of finding ourselves and knowing who we really are
It’s complex and it can be surreal

Some had found it, some had forgotten it, some still figuring out

But the group of us
different in many ways
yet so alike at a deeper level

6 countries, mix of cultures, multiples colours, all moms, 1 goal
We signed up to have fun

And we did


photo credit to my Israelis friend

 
 
Linking up with MummyMoo’s Tuesday’s Thoughts

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Tips For Making Cake Pops From a First Timer

So these cake pops were one of my most well planned bake
Well, if you compare that to my usual last minute bake where what I bake is usually determined by what I have in the pantry

It was a few days before my preschooler’s birthday and I had just finished batches of cookies for the school’s fall festival bake sales
I thought I would bake something simple for the birthday, nothing too complicated

Then a few days before the birthday, I was having an online chat with a friend, a guru at making cake pops
The conversation somehow drifted to making cake pops and I couldn’t remember how I ended up with this hopeful belief that ‘I can do it !’
I plunged into it witthout doing much research, thinking it was quite common sensical
The steps should probably go something like this, bake cake, crumb cake, roll cake, decorate cake
Also, the thought of having a guru at my finger tips gave me an inane sense of power and I totally forgot that we were 12 hours apart !

I ended up having to watch cake pop making videos while kneading cake crumbs
It was quite an experience, and I was sure it would be my first and last time making cake pops
After 3 days of back breaking labour, I finally completed what I started to do

I fell in love with what I saw
Even my ugliest creation looked too cute to be eaten
They were a hit with the kids, so much so that I changed my mind about it being my last time making them

I thought I should compile a list of lessons that I had learned from my cake pops making experience so that I can refer to and share with those who are adventurous enough to get their hands dirty

Note : this is not a recipe, just lessons that I had picked up while making the cake pops
For tutorials and recipes, scroll down for links below, there are plenty of experts out there who are already sharing great tutorials and recipes

Baking the cake
Use your favourite recipe but take out the sugar
If you are like me, particular about sugar content then I would suggest choosing an unsweetensed recipe because you will be adding lots of sugar when you prepare the dough and when you coat them
I use a muffin recipe without the sugar as suggested by my friend, you can use your favourite sponge cake or pound cake recipe

Preparing the Dough
Crumb the cake with a fork or hands and make sure there is no chunky bits as they are not able to hold together and will cause your cake pops to fall apart

I bought Wilton Decorating Icing and I really don’t like its smell and taste
I ended up using mostly Nutella to mix into the cake crumbs to get the consistency that is required and ended up with chocolate cake pops even with a plain muffin recipe

So you don’t really need a chocolate cake recipe even if you are making chocolate cake pops
I should think you can use your favourite jam for this as well

Consistency of the dough
The consistency of the dough is important because when it is too dry, the shape will fall apart when the lollipop stick is inserted
If it is too wet it usually mean very sweet cake pops because a lot of frosting has been used

The dough is actually easiest to work with when it’s wet as it will stay in shape and not crumple when the lollipop stick is inserted
You can tell that your dough is too dry when cracks appear on your rolled balls
More frosting needs to be added before you move on because it is almost for sure the balls will fall apart when the lollipop sticks are inserted

I read that the balls need to be chilled before inserting the lollipop sticks and I did just that
I ended up with hardened and very dry balls which made inserting the sticks almost impossible
Many of them fell apart and I had to redo the dough by adding in more frosting
I would actually suggest skipping the chilling part after the balls have been rolled and jump straight into inserting the lollipop sticks

Preparing for coating
Plan ahead, choose a design and decide on the colours

If you are a first timer like me, I suggest choosing an easy design
The fewer colours on the cake pops the easier it is

For every colour, you need to set aside for it to dry before adding on the next colour
So the more colours you have, the more time and effort required

The base colour need to be prepared in advance so that it can be used to coat the lollipop sticks before inserting them into the cake pops

I made 3 different colours cake pops, so I had to prepare 3 different colours
I didn’t realise that until when I was about the insert the lollipop sticks, everything was so disorganised that I ended up taking longer than I should for this step

Chocolate melt or candy melt for coating
You can use either chocolate or candy melt for dipping the cake pops
There are quite a number of options for chocolate melt but so far I have heard good things about Candiquik

I used both
Comparing Candiquik and Wilton candy melt, the former is easier to work with as it is less viscous which make coating easier

To get the different colour, you could either buy the Wilton candy melts which already come in various colours or use white candy melt or white chocolate and add Wilton candy colouring to get the colours you need
I used white Candiquik mix with colouring for purple and Wilton green and yellow candy melt for green and yellow

The consistency of the candy or chocolate melt will determine how good your cake pops look and whether it can withstand close up shots

I screwed this up the first time round
I melted some Wilton green candy melt using double boiling (you can use microwave but have to be careful not to burn it) but it was too thick which made it almost impossible for dipping
In order to thin the melt, it was recommended to add Crisco shortening
I didn’t have that at home so instead, I used olive oil and add in 1 teaspoon at a time and stir till I get the right consistency
It worked and I thought it was a healthier option, again thanks to my friend’s ingenious suggestion
Much more olive oil is used for the Wilton candy melt than for the Candiquik
The trick to easy and flawless coating is in the final consistency of the chocolate or candy melt

It is important that the cake pops are chilled before coating or dipping
The cake pops with its lollipop sticks need to be put in the fridge before the coating is done
This is to set the balls and to make sure that the lollipop sticks are attached firmly
I didn’t do this the first time round and some of my cake pops slipped off from the lollipop sticks and went swimming in the chocolate

Coating the cake pops can be the most difficult part of making cake pops but if you get the right consistency for the melt, it’s a breeze
And because I find that it is so important that you get this right, I had put up an Instagram video on my facebook page for this step


I made these using crushed gold fish for his special friend who is allergic to eggs and nuts

Once the coating is done, let it cool for a couple of minute and you can sprinkle on or stick on your decorations
Use a satay stick dip with black coloruing for drawing of finer details like the eyes, nose and mouth
If your coating hardened before you could put on the decoration, brush the cake pop with some corn starch and decorate away !

It’s good if you can split up the tasks and complete them on different days
Day 1 Bake the Cake
Day 2 Prepare the Dough, Roll the Ball and Insert Lollipop Stick
Day 3 Coat and decorate the cake pops

So there you have it
Tips For Making Cake Pops, from a first timer, much of them I learned from my cake pop guru friend, Dawn
A fellow mom blogger from AJugglingMom shared her recipe and tips for cake pops too

And if you are really interested in getting your hands dirty, hop over to these sites for tutorials, tips and inspirations. Have fun !
Bakerella
Craftsy
Cake Journal
Instructables
A Beuatiful Mess
PopCosmo
LoveFromTheOven

 

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