Novel November

I’ve talked a little about the fact that I am a Freelance Writer. I’ve always, ALWAYS, had a dream that I would write a fiction novel. I’ve been working on one of my novel ideas off and on for a couple years now. Recently, I’ve been writing a lot of fiction for ghost writing gigs and I have found out that I can write many more words than I thought I could. And, much faster than I had anticipated.

Anyways… then I hear about November being National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you work really hard for one month and you write a novel of about 50,000 words. After that month you can get down to the nitty gritty of editing, but you are editing a NOVEL that you have written. Awesome.

So, I’m going to do it! There is a great (FREE) website, National Novel Writing Month, that helps you keep track of your word counts in an environment that is built to help motivate you to actually finish your work. There are also forums for people who need help with ideas, etc. I’d love to know if you are going to be writing a novel next month along side with me! If you are then maybe we can help keep each other motivated!

Now I don’t know whether I should be looking forward to the month of November or super scared!

Baby Sign: A Success Story!

When pregnant I wanted to do everything right for my son. I read every book. I watched what I ate, took my vitamins, slept, drank water, and exercised.

I promised myself that my son wouldn’t watch television until he was three, that I would read to him every night, I’d cloth diaper, I’d potty train early, I would provide routine for him, I would do baby sign,  and I would feed him all natural, organic, homemade food.
Yep, I was that pregnant woman. I didn’t live up to most of my hopes for parenting. Reality quickly settled in. I know some parents can do it. I’m amazed by them and I admire them. But, hell, I admire most parents nowadays. I’m in awe that we as a people can do this job and not screw up entirely.
Anyways, we tried baby sign. We felt entirely silly signing to a baby who was unresponsive, and often screaming. We stopped being consistent. We never saw any sign that he was getting it. So we gave it up. 
Then, I kept seeing babies do it. I saw them everywhere. They were signing please when they wanted something. Sorry when they did something wrong. Thank you when you gave them something. It was unreal how many babies were getting it. 
So, we tried it again. We decided to keep it with two signs because we knew our inability to be consistent. We worked on “All Done” and “More.”
And, after about a month… he got it. Suddenly he was repeating us and saying “All Done” or “More” with his hands. They aren’t perfect signs. His “All Done” is usually a certain movement with one of his hands instead of both of his hands. But, he is communicating to us and we understand. He is still learning to do it all the time. He mostly repeats us. But, occasionally he will do it all on his own when he wants more food or when he is all done with some activity. And, I’m in love with it. It is so nice that he doesn’t have to be frustrated with us for not understanding him.
Next on our list of signs to work on? Please and Thank You. 
Did you do baby sign? What are your tips on making it work?

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I love Fall. The leaves changing. The warm shades of colors. Tights. Boots.
Oh, and Pumpkin Spice everything!

Recently I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner and I wanted to bring a treat. So, I decided to make a cake. I love cake. And, sometimes I make my cakes completely from scratch. When pressed for time, however, I cheat a little and use a mix. I ALWAYS make my frosting though. I don’t think I could ever go back to store bought frosting now that I know how to make my own.

This cake was a bit of a cheat. I had seen somewhere, probably Pinterest, that someone had mixed a can of pumpkin into a box of spice cake. I thought it was brilliant. But, when making this cake I had no idea where I found that link and couldn’t remember what they added or didn’t add to make the cake come out right. I knew the pumpkin would change the moistness of the cake. So, I experimented. The cake came out wonderfully. So, I decided I must share how I did it.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

The Cake:

Ingredients—
  • 1 Box of Spice Cake Mix
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Can of Pumpkin Puree (15 oz)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2— nine inch round baking pans
Directions: 
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Mix wet ingredients together, pour into dry mix, incorporate by mixing with hand mixer for 2 minutes
  • Pour into cake pans
  • Bake for 28-31 minutes or until tooth pick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean
  • Let cake cool on baking rack before frosting
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup and extra for drizzling
  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash of salt
  • milk to be used if needed for consistency ( I didn’t need it… but, some may!)
Directions:
  • Whip together butter and cream cheese using a hand or stand mixer
  • Slowly add in powdered sugar and continue to whip
  • Add in salt, syrup, and vanilla as you are adding in the sugar (makes the whipping process go easier)
  • Problem Solve. Is your frosting too thin? Add more sugar. Too sweet? More salt. Too thick? Add some milk. Too lumpy? Keep whipping. 
To frost cake: 
  • Trim tops of one of the two cake layers to make a flat surface. 
  • Top the trimmed cake with a large dollop of frosting, spread. 
  • Drizzle the frosting with maple syrup
  • Top the layer with the second layer of cake
  • Add a large dollop of frosting and spread across cake. 
I chose not to cover the sides of my cake. I also added some of Trader Joe’s amazing Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar Grinder along the rim of the cake. Finally, I topped the cake with little flags made from fabric scraps and wooden dowels.

This was seriously one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. I’d love to know if you make this cake and how it was received!

This post has been linked up to Create and Share Linky Party over at Trendy Treehouse and Pincushion Creations Homemade By You.

*A link above is an affiliate link. I use and love the products I promote. But, if you happen to buy the product via an affiliate link then you help support the blogger that posted it. See here for my advertising policies. And, thanks for supporting me and my blog!

First Birthday Surprise

One of the things I really, really want to do as a mom (that I feel my parents did for me) is make each and every birthday extra special. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy, like a huge party. It needs to be something special though.

X’s First Birthday was on a different day than his party. We didn’t know what to do for him, because honestly he won’t remember much and not a whole lot of stuff leaves a huge impact on him. We decided to have a big family breakfast and then go to the beach during the day that day. (X loves the beach.)
We had decided to not purchase him a gift from us, and instead throw his birthday party. At ten in the evening, the night before his birthday, I got really sad that he wouldn’t have a gift to open on his actual birthday. I wanted something for him to open, that would not sit around the house and collect dust, and that would engage him. Thus came this idea…

First Birthday Surprise

Our little man felt like he needed to climb in the box rather than open it the traditional way.

But, he was still pretty surprised!

DIRECTIONS:
1. Inflate balloons with helium. I used a disposable helium tank that I had already and “Happy Birthday” balloons.
2. Pack balloons into a large box. Tape box shut— I used painters tape and only on the edges so that my son would have an easier time getting the box open.
3. Wrap box. (Do not use a lot of tape so that the wrapping is easy to get open.)
4. Let the kiddo wake up and have a blast opening his/her surprise!

“Where did all the balloons go!?”

{Recipe} Kid Friendly Banana Cupcake

So, a few things before I share this recipe with everyone:

  1. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a doctor. I am a mom who likes to cook. That being said, I do know a little about things like calories, sodium, sugar intake etc. 
  2. I have no problem with sugar. I like sugar (a little too much). And, I don’t think it is a bad idea to introduce sugar to a child as long as it is managed. That being said, my son had not had sugar other than fruit (a whole different type of sugar) and exactly one bite of vanilla ice cream before he turned one. I didn’t want to load him up with sugar on his birthday. 
  3. I like cake. I love making cakes. I someday hope to share that love with my son. I wanted him to have a little smash cake on his birthday… so, I came up with a recipe that was tasty but didn’t load him up on a bunch of unnecessary fats & sugars.
  4. This is not gluten free. It is not dairy free. It is not vegan. It is not made with super awesome, healthy grains. This could be a whole bunch healthier. Personally, I probably wouldn’t eat it then. 

Now that bit is over with… this cake was TASTY. The cake was basically a normal easy cake recipe where I substituted banana for sugar and applesauce for oil/butter (another thing I wanted to cut back on in his first treat). The frosting was whipped cream cheese with a touch of vanilla and a touch of powdered sugar. The cake consistency was close to muffin rather than cake. But, it was a small price to pay when cutting out butter/oil!

(The smash cake did have a food coloring spray to make it yellow. I opted out of putting it on the cupcakes that all the other kids were eating.)
Funny thing about this cake… everything on the sweets table was melting in the sun at my little man’s party. Everything but this cake. They looked and tasted perfect the entire time! Thanks to Motormouth Studio for the pics!

Kid-Friendly Banana Cupcakes
Estimated Time: 28-25 minutes, Approximately 24 standard sized cupcakes

Ingredients
  • 1 cup smashed and strained banana
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Prep cupcake tin with liners
  • Sift (I like to throw my dry ingredients in a food processor instead of sifting) flour, baking powder, and salt together in one bowl.
  • In another bowl, mix together the apple sauce, banana, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk just a little bit so that they are fluffy. 
  • Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the apple sauce mixture.
  • Spoon batter into cupcake liners (a hefty amount, but not too full… about 3/4 the liner works great)
  • Bake for approximately 18 to 25 minutes. The bake time varies with different ovens. If a toothpick is put in the center of the cake and comes out clean then the cupcake is done!
  • Let cool and top with frosting. Right before serving add a slice of banana to the top.

Now, I couldn’t go and make a healthier cupcake and then top it with sugary frosting. But, come on.. a cupcake just ain’t a cupcake without frosting. So, I opted to put a dollop of whipped cream cheese frosting on top. I made WAY too much frosting. So, if using this recipe plan on either putting on more frosting per cupcake, attacking frosting with a spoon, or saving it to go on a batch of cinnamon rolls!

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:
  • 1 Large bowl, 1 kitchen mixer (hand held or standing work… you could do it by hand and not powered, but you have to have more muscles and time than I have!)
  • 2 packs of cream cheese (pretty sure that is 16 oz) at room temperature (very important)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (this is significantly less than regular icing)
Directions:
  • Whip cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy.
  • Mix in vanilla and powdered sugar until incorporated.
  • Put in piping bag and pipe a dollop onto each cupcake
If you end up making these cupcakes (or a variation) I’d love to hear about how they turned out! 

First Birthday Party

Yes, we are THAT family. You know, the one with matching shirts. Got our shirts via Etsy

My son is nearly fourteen months already. I can’t believe it! A couple months ago we celebrated his 1st birthday in true “A Well Crafted Party” style.

Today I posted some of the awesome photos that Macey of Motormouth Studio took of the party. I’ll be posting party details, projects, and free printables throughout the week.

But, I wanted to post some of my favorite photos of the party that aren’t related to the decor or food. THE PEOPLE! Thanks to all the lovely people that made it out to X’s first birthday.

The Bost Men

There were five adorable babies in attendance at the party. Afton and Ruthie (The Boho Mama‘s twin girls); Jaxson; Jack (The Garden of Edlen‘s son); and X!

X loves his Uncle Jonny to pieces 

He dug right into his presents!

X’s GoGo flew up from Oklahoma to spend his birthday with him. He was so happy to see her!

X’s party was a ton of fun. Check back tomorrow to see what we did on his ACTUAL birthday.

New head shots

I’m super excited about these awesome photos that my friend Macey from Motormouth Studio has taken of me for my head shots. As a blogger I have a lot of social media displays and blog images. And, currently, they are ALL different. I’m excited to have a set of great photos to use throughout my online presence. And, of course, my little bug crawled into a few shots as well!

Now, the hard part is deciding which photos to use where! #hardlife #thankgoodnessfortalentedfriends

By the by… if you are a Portland area blogger/business owner and you want head shots done then you are in luck! Motormouth Studio is offering a head shot special right now.

Motormouth Studio Blogger Head Shot Special
$75

30 Minute Session, 1 location

8-10 edited images

Full copy right and print right release

Photos delivered via DropBox within 5 days

Blog post about session linking to your blog
E-mail Macey (motormouthmacey [at] gmail [dot] com) for more info!

Friday Finds: Hot Air Balloon First Birthday Party

So, I have evidently been a little frazzled this week. I posted the Friday Finds: Halloween Goodies yesterday… and, I genuinely thought it was Friday ALL day long. But, alas, today is Friday. 
I’ve decided to put up one extra Friday Find today with that is non-Halloween related. 

Want to Pin something from this party? Please click here and pin from Kira’s blog!

Hot air balloon first birthday party via Rain or Shine. Such an awesome idea for a first birthday party. It would work for a girl or a boy! Some of Kira’s DIY details could work themselves into a variety of events. I’m especially fond of the Hot Air Balloon Photobooth!
Over the next couple weeks on A Well Crafted Party: 
{Real Party} My son’s first birthday party.
Plus, a {recipe} for a birthday cake that has less sugar than normal, but is still a super tasty treat.
{Real Party} Pink and Glittery 25th Birthday Party
with free printables and some DIY activity ideas!

Friday Finds: Halloween Goodies

These past few weeks tons of Halloween goodies have been popping up on all the blogs I read. I myself am gearing up for the spooky holiday’s annual party and posts. Couldn’t help but share some of these links to seriously awesome Halloween freebies & tutorials.

Do you have some fantastic Halloween Inspiration to share? I’d love to hear about it or visit a link!

I’m a writer

It might be silly, but for the first time in a long time I am happy to tell people what I do for a living. Before I would cough under my breath my profession. Not because I thought it as a bad profession, but because it wasn’t what I set out to do.

For a blip in my lifetime I got to say that I was a journalist when someone asked my profession.

“And, what do you do?” people would ask.
“Lifestyle Editor,” I’d say with a smile.

Well, now my smile is just a bit bigger… because for as LONG as I could remember I’ve wanted to be a  writer. And, while I’m not seeing my name in print anywhere (other than online) right now, I am seeing stories and books that I have ghostwritten being published as Ebooks and SELLING.

Over the past three months of being a Freelance Writer (the past month being my first full-time freelance writing gigs) I’ve written a lot of words. As a matter of fact, between my freelance work and my blogs, I’ve written (approximately) 200,000 words in the past three months. That is nearly as many words as Moby Dick. More words than a Harry Potter novel! The same amount of words as two of the Ender’s Game books.

It makes me wonder why in the world I have not finished my novel that I’ve been working on for about three years.

It is motivating me. And, for the first time in a while I have no problem with someone asking me what I DO.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you smile now when asked what you do? 

Hair Do or Not to Do?

My changing ‘Do over the past five years.

I just realized that for the first time in my life I don’t have a job that dictates how I look. Nearly all of the jobs I’ve had since I was sixteen dictated, in one fashion or another, what I could or couldn’t do regarding my hair, tattoos, piercings, nail color, and/or dress.

I have always liked changing up my hair. It was my one way of controlling something when all was going crazy or my one small way of rebelling against the status quo without going out of my comfort zone. I put together the above collage of my hair over the past five years or so just as proof that I like to change things up. (Please excuse the fact that I now have a mega collage of my face on the internet.) Short, Medium-Length, Long… blonde, red, brown, black… I’ve done them all. But, now I can really do ANYTHING I want. So, I’m thinking it might be fun to get a non-natural color.

Sources: 1. UK Hairdressers 2. Soul Prophet 3. Gigi Pandian 4. Shanaz Hair Design

Above are some of the ideas I’m playing around with for the new do. Are the ideas played out? Should I do it or wait a bit and see if this crazy urge for change passes me by? And, if I wait… how long?

What has been your favorite personal hair experiment?

Giveaway: Tickets to SCRAP’s Rebel Craft Rumble in Portland


Portland, OR is a sort of mecca for creative people. So, of course… leave it to Portland to host a seriously awesome competition around crafting!

Mash up the “Mad Max” upcycling aesthetic with the gruelingly hilarious face-off of “Iron Chef,” add some of that quirky “Portlandia” flair, and you’ve got SCRAP’s annual Rebel Craft Rumble.
On October 18, four pre-qualified contestants will compete in dramatic timed face-offs in front of a live audience to earn the title of Portland’s Craft Master. Crafty competitors will have a random selection of reused materials serving as the only weapons in their holster.

The goal: turn waste into “Wow!” An official event of ReuseConex, this crafty affair presents an exclusive opportunity for SCRAP shoppers, volunteers, supporters, and fans to bear witness to a full-fledged DIY brawl, win raffle prizes, and get excited about the creativity that reuse inspires.

When: Thursday, October 18, 2012 Time: 7:30 pm Where: Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy Blvd.)
Tickets: $10 21+ only
Sponsors: ReuseConex, Chinook Book, Supportland, ReDirect Guide, Portland Mercury, Concrete5, Tonkon Torp
Emcee: Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod.com
Judges: Ian Karmel (comedian), Julie Sabatier (Destination DIY), Stephen Marc Beaudoin (Executive Director of PHAME Academy)

One very lucky person will win a pair of tickets to this awesome competition. Winner and guest must be 21+ and have valid ID to get into the venue. Winner must also be in the Portland area (or plan on being here during the time of the event).

There are several easy ways to put your name in the hat! Use the Rafflecopter giveaway widget below to enter. (This Giveaway is also featured on the Portland Bloggers‘ site.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Creative Daily: Sketches and Writing

I have a lot of goals that I am continually trying to live up to. I guess it is just part of who I am. One of my many goals is to do something, anything, creative every day. Now, I have a lot of creative interests like cooking, graphic design, fiction writing, drawing, sewing, painting, crafting… the list goes on and on. So, it isn’t something I can always post about.

I’m not one to post my fiction on-line— well, at least not after the very embarrassing attempts at poetry I posted on my first weblog. (Anyone else out there have Xanga?)

A lot of my creative work lately has been writing ghost stories for my freelance gigs. So, not so much publishable.

In high school and college I was known to sketch (doodle) quite a bit. I’d often draw the big signs for our hallways and even got an award for my editorial cartoons. I don’t do it near as much as I’d like though. I love sketching and lettering. I love the way it feels to have pens crossing over completely blank paper.  So, lately I’ve been sketching again. I hope to keep it up. I’m posting my sketches over on Instagram on days that I like what I’ve drawn enough to share!

What do you do to hone your creativity?

Invitation Inspiration

I’ve been dreaming about invitations lately. My first party love… beautiful invitations. They set the tone for the event. They get people excited.

Lately I’ve been terrible about invitations. I made up special, hand printed ones for my son’s 1st birthday and NEVER sent them out. For shame. Snail mail and I have not been getting along lately. I haven’t sent out the pile of thank you cards that I have written, my packages are going out late, and I am pretty sure my brother’s Christmas gift from last year is hiding in a closet somewhere.

My terrible recent track record with the mail aside… I have been seeing some amazing invitations lately. Just wanted to share some of the inspiration with you.

(I love sharing inspiration, but have not done so recently because I don’t like seeing other people’s work being pinned from my site. I like credit to go where credit is due. So, please… if inspired and want to pin just hit the link below the photo to go to the site it came from! Thanks so much!)


1. Check out these amazing coaster invitations from Ross Clodfelter Design featured on Design Work Life. How clever is that!? I love the idea that your future party (or wedding) guests can be reminded about your event every time they go to put their drink down.  And, hello… so useful!

2. White foil on white with a pop of bright pink. I’m in love. Invite available via Digby Rose.

3. This invitation just screams, “PARTY!” to me. Love everything about it… especially that it is a DIY project featured on Style Me Pretty.

4. And, what amazing invitation could be complete without an equally fabulous envelope. I am dying over the awesomeness of Lindsay Letters’ envelopes. Check out that cute little bow tie under the T up there!

What is the most memorable invitation you have given or received? I’d love to read about it or see it! Either drop a description or link in the comments or post a picture on the Facebook wall.

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