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Disclaimer – I forgot to take a picture of the cake after we cut it! ARGH!  It was beautiful, though, with lots of delicious layers!

I made my own birthday cake this year! Several years ago we had an ice cream cake from Marble Slab Creamery for my birthday and it was delicous.  My favorite flavor of theirs is sweet cream so we had a sweet cream and raspberry cake made.  Even my picky family raved about that cake.   I have been thinking about the cake lately, so I decided that I would try to make one for myself.  I used a recipe from Food Network for a guide, changing it just a little.

Here are most of the ingredients I used.  Vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate sandwich cookies, magic shell, raspberries and whipped cream.  I didn’t even use the chocolate ice cream.  My husband and I ate that after the cake was gone.  Shame, shame on us!

The first thing I did was make a chocolate cake using a cake mix.  I followed the directions on the package, except I used leftover coffee instead of water.  I think it adds a little deeper flavor.  I made the cake in a round cake pan.  It needs to be set aside to COMPLETELY COOL! If you try to put the ice cream cake together without cooling the cake you will be in trouble!

While the cake cooled, I crunched up the cookies.  A big plastic ziploc bag and a rolling pin work great for this step.

When the cake has completely cooled you can assemble the ice cream cake.  Also, you will need a springform pan.  I guess you could make it in a different pan, but the springform worked so well for getting the cake out when it was totally frozen.   First mix about half of the cookie crumbles with about half of the chocolate shell.  Stir it around until its mixed in together.  Now is a good time to use the spoon or fork to crunch up the cookies more if you have big chunks of cookies.

The magic shell stuff is very liquidy! I didn’t expect that and I did make a mess of it when I poured it into my crumbs.  Woops!   The step is making the bottom layer which is the r/shell crust.   Press the moistened crumbs into the springform pan.  Make sure you press them tightly to get a good base for the rest of your cake.

The next thing I did was put some frozen raspberries on the cookie crumb layer.  I did quite a few because I love the floral flavor of raspberries!  I think this cake would be much too sweet if you didn’t have a nice tartness from some form of fruit.

Then, it was time for the first layer of ice cream.   The ice cream will be much easier to spread if it’s thawed out quite a bit.   I found that it worked well to put big dollops onto the cake and then spread them all around.  Really pack it down.  The flatter you can get it the better, in my opinion.

After this, it was time to put the cake into the freezer and let it freeze up for a while.   I made sure to cover it with plastic wrap so that it wouldn’t absorb any funky freezer smells. At this point, I went out to meet one of my best friends for lunch.  We had fried green beans at one of my favorite places.  I LOVE friend green beans!

Later, after I had returned from lunch, I finished the assembly part of the cake.  I pulled it out of the freezer and put the chocolate cake I had made earlier on top of the ice cream layer.   I had to cut my cake layer in half because it would have been too thick otherwise. It’s okay if it looks crooked and uneven. You’re going to cover it up anyway.

I really had to smash the cake down to make sure that I would have room for more layers.  Next, I added another layer of cookie crumbs and chocolate shell. Just mix up the rest of your shell and crumbs and then smash it down on top of the cake.  I followed that with more raspberries.

Finally, another ice cream layer.  See how I totally ran out of room on the top?  So many layers of goodness!  More plastic wrap and then it’s back into the freezer.  I would let it freeze for at least two to three hours.  Overnight would probably be best.  Don’t be like me, and try to make it on the same day you are serving it!  Too stressful!

After it has frozen together well and at least two hours or so before you need to serve it, you can make your whipped cream frosting.  I used about half of a large cream container and whipped it up with the hand beater.  It made plenty of whipped cream.  Oh yes, I also sweetened the cream with a little splenda because I didn’t have any sugar.  I popped the cake out of the springform pan and spread the whipped cream all over the sides and top, smoothing it as much as I could.  Then, I used a large bag with a hole cut on one side to pip large dollops around the top.

The final touch was adding some colorful sprinkles.  Then, I popped the cake back into the freezer to allow the cream to set for about fifteen or twenty minutes.  When the cream was hard, I draped the cake in plastic wrap and put it back into the freezer for about an hour or two.

This was right before we cut into it.  My family really enjoyed it.  It was really sweet and over the top!  This is one of those recipes that you could make so interesting by changing up the cake, cookies and ice cream.  I’m thinking a peanut butter, chocolate, devil’s food combo would be awesome. You could chop up peanut butter cup candies and make a crust with Nutter Butters or pretzels.  Yum!

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Every few months or so the husband and I get down on ourselves and decide that we need to buckle down with our finances.  To be honest with you, we are very blessed and have so much to be thankful for.  We try to live not just below our means, but well below our means.  We started listening to Dave Ramsey shortly after we got married and we have made every effort to follow his sound financial advice.   As he says, it’s nothing complicated, just advice that your grandma would give you.

This doesn’t mean that we are perfect, though.  We are far from it.   We both like to shop and we both like nice things.  We love to eat out, drink fancy coffee and download lots of ninety-nine cent songs.  Oh, and we really love our smart phones and hi-tech gaming systems.

I’m sure most everyone has noticed that their grocery bills have creeped up recently.  I have definitely noticed that I am spending more and more at Wal-Mart every week.   Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends posted a picture of a bunch of items that she got from Walgreens for what seemed like a low price.  I decided to check out my circulars from the Sunday newspaper to see if I could find any good deals.

Now, I have never watched the show about couponing.  I am assuming that they combine store deals with coupons to get the most bang for their buck.  My strategy for my first couponing session was to just find the best deals from either Wal-Mart, CVS or Walgreens and go to those stores to get the deals.

My first stop was CVS where I planned to buy two bottles of Pantene Pro-V and combine their store offer with a coupon from the paper.  Alas, I was too late.  The shelf had already been emptied of the specific bottles that the coupon was for.  (should I have asked if they would honor coupon anyway or for a rain check?)  The other deal that I wanted at CVS was seventy-nine cent two liter cokes.  That was a very good deal.  I bought five bottles.  I usually pay around a buck twenty-five or more for Diet Pepsi.   I also picked up two boxes of Kashi cereal for six dollars and then got an extra care buck from CVS, making the cereal only two-fifty each.  My total bill was about ten bucks.

I then went to Wal-Mart.  There, I got my meat, veggies, milk and the bulk of my shopping list.  Shockingly, I only spent fifty-six dollars.  My normal bill there is over one hundred most weeks.  My last stop was Walgreens.  Their flyer from yesterday had good coupons on eggs, tuna, tomato sauce, and foil. Also, they were running a sale on Starbucks coffee and Right Guard deodorant.  My big score there was buy one, get one free on their store brand Zyrtec.  Total bill there was about thirty dollars.  So, total I spent about one hundred dollars this morning but I am sure that I got more than I normally would have.

Also, this morning I spent some time online researching coupon sites and blogs and also asked a friend how she does the coupon game.  She said it’s kind of a pain at first but once you get the hang of it and your coupon pile starts getting bigger things start paying off.  Here are a few links that I found helpful.  Please share if you have any more advice!

forthemommas

iheartCVS

http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/family-money/5-best-coupon-clipping-web-sites-23634/

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My birthday is right around Father’s day so every few years it falls on the actual Father’s day holiday.  Growing up, it was kind of neat though.  On the years that it was the same we would celebrate both and I never felt like my birthday was upstaged or forgotten or anything like that.

For the past several years Father’s day has been completely different, though.  It’s now a very confusing day, one where I reflect on past events and have a hard time picking the right card or saying the right things.

I remember reading a story about Jennifer Anniston in a magazine once, and the article mentioned that she was estranged from her mother.  I thought to myself, how can anyone not talk to their parent at all?   The whole concept of estrangement was so foreign to me.  Until it happened in my family.

My parents were married for forty years when my dad up and left.  Just moved out one day and in with another woman.  It was shocking.   My parents had always had a strained marriage, we kids knew that their relationship wasn’t what we wanted for ourselves when we married one day.  They would go days without talking and he did even leave for about a week once when I was in junior high.  He came back though, and my mom never questioned why he had left, she just took him right back.

We seemed to have the perfect family from the outside, and we did in a lot of ways.  We genuinely loved each other and I knew that my dad would do anything for us kids.  He was involved in sports, church and spoiled us with material things.  I never doubted his love for us.  I think because everything else in our lives was so good, we kind of pretended that the spirit of unhappiness my dad seemed to have, didn’t exist.

I am the youngest child and as I got older, I could see that things seemed to be deteriorating between my parents.   I lived at home while in college so I had a front row seat to the impending train wreck. Dad had always worked a lot but now he would get up super early and stay away until late at night.  When he was home, conversation was strained or non-existent.   I remember going on a weekend trip and when I returned that Sunday afternoon, it was obvious something had happened.  Mom could barely talk, she was so upset, and there was a new car in the driveway. (to this day, I don’t know what happened) The tension in the air was suffocating.

That was pretty much the last straw for me, I had to get out of that house.  At this point, I was done with college and had a good job.  I went out and found an apartment that week and moved out.  I think in my heart of hearts I knew that once I left things could fall apart.  I decided that I had to leave, regardless.  It wasn’t my responsibility to be the glue that held the family together.

It was about a year later that he left.  He didn’t even have the nerve to tell my mom to her face.  He went to my older sister and told her.  She had to be the one to tell my mom what was going on.  Although my mom was absolutely heartbroken, I don’t think she was surprised.  I think she had been praying for years that it wouldn’t happen like this.   Within a week or two of him leaving, we found out that there was another woman involved.  She had been married also, and had left her husband and three young girls for my dad.

My siblings and I were angry beyond belief.  We knew that things weren’t right between my parents but the lying and adultery was totally shocking.  It went against everything he had instilled in us growing up.   As the months went on, we found out that he had led two lives for years.  We immediately took our mother’s side.  I wanted nothing to do with him.  I was so mad I couldn’t even talk to him.

As the months went by, he and the woman holed up in a condo he had bought on the sly.  His booming business fell apart, mostly because the whole town thought he was a lying scum bag.  His sometimes aloof and flaky behavior was no longer tolerated for my sweet mother’s sake.  People actually said to me “I always thought your dad was a big jerk.” I’m not sure if they meant to make me feel better, but it always made me feel worse.

The months dragged by and before I knew it, it has been about 2 years since I had spoken to him.  He had tried maybe three times to get in touch.  A random birthday card or a phone message at Thanksgiving.  It was like he had decided that the previous forty years had been all of the time he was putting into us and now he was clocking out.

The foundations of my world were rocked even further when my mom was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  For a year and a half we shuttled to and from doctors appointments and treatments.   During this time I did not have the energy to even think about my dad.  I was emotionally drained.  Caring for my mother and dealing with the grief that we all knew was coming was overwhelming.  She passed away after eighteen months of fighting the disease.  Three months before she died I gave birth to my daughter.  Someone asked me if I was going to call my dad to tell him.  I didn’t have the desire or energy and didn’t feel the slightest bit obligated to call.

Estrangement from my dad was a really weird feeling.  I kind of knew that I would talk to him again eventually, and I’m glad that God gave me the chance to.  It would have been devastating if something would have happened to him while we weren’t communicating.   Forgiving dad was the key to getting past our estrangement.  When you are hurt that bad, it’s hard to forgive.   I wish I would have forgiven dad sooner.  Even though he and my mom had such a messy divorce, he would have been supportive when my mom died.  There is no doubt in my mind about that.  Our estrangement robbed him of the opportunity to bless us and redeem himself a bit in our time of despair.

When my daughter was about eight months old, my sister decided to make peace with dad.  I think in her mind it was better to have one parent, rather than none at all.  Both of us decided that it would be better if we did it as a group.  We met dad for lunch one day.  It was awkward but pleasant.  None of us made reference to the past four years.  A few months later we even went to his house for a birthday dinner for my grandmother.

It’s been two years since we reconciled.  Things haven’t always been great.  One of my siblings still has major issues with dad and that has made it a little hard.   I try to meet him for lunch every month or so and it’s not nearly as awkward as that first meeting.  My little girl is always excited to see him and he seems genuinely happy to spend time with her.   He’s not the perfect dad, but for a lot of years he was really close and I’ve decided that has to count for something.

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I told you that my birthday is coming up soon so sunday afternoon my husband and I went and picked up my early birthday present – a Barnes and Noble Nook Color.  I’ve only had it for two days now and so far I love it.  At first, the only problem I found was that I couldn’t decide what to download and read first.  Actually the first thing I downloaded was a magazine.  Barnes and Noble let you try out magazines and newspapers for free for fourteen days.  You have to go online and cancel them or you will get charged.  I tried out a cooking magazine.  It’s pretty cool, it’s just like reading a paper magazine, ads and all.

The next thing I bought was a mystery novel, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.  The price was right (under five bucks) and after reading the sample I went for it.  I’m not finished reading it yet, but so far so good.  Yesterday afternoon I decided to figure out how to borrow ebooks from my local library and put them on my Nook.  I went to the library website and read through the instructions.  I downloaded free Adobe software and had it on my computer within minutes. Then, I looked through the downloadable library.  Most of the hot titles had a waiting list so I put titles on hold that I want to read and then found a couple of titles that were available right away.  I downloaded them and had them on my Nook within a minute or two.  The only thing that confused me at first was that the books didn’t show up on my library. I looked online and saw that they would be in my documents folder on my Nook.  I looked and that was where I found them.

Another cool thing about the Nook is the Read to Me feature.   I showed my little girl the book The Elephant’s Child on the Nook and she loved it.  I’m trying not to let her look at it too much because I don’t want her to think it’s hers, plus I like reading to her myself. I think it’s going to be really good for special treats and for distractions when we need it.

Last night, I read about half of the The Accidental Billionaires for free from the library.  I have 14 days to finish it before it gets returned to the library.  All of this from the comfort of my couch.   I’m sure there is more to the Nook that I haven’t even seen, but so far I think it’s been one of the best gifts I’ve received.  Thank you, sweet husband!

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We just got back from our Austin getaway.  We had a blast, but boy, are we tired.   We did a lot of driving and walking which combined with the Texas heat, really drained us.  Also,  I’m pretty sure I gained at least ten pounds in about 4 days!  We ate and ate. And then ate some more.

We started the trip with a short drive to Dallas and spent an afternoon and evening shopping and eating.  First, we went to Northpark Mall to stretch our legs and do some window shopping.  I love that mall but most of the stores are a bit too fancy for my tastes.  Our little girl had fun at the Disney store.  She had never been in  one before and when we left, she had a total meltdown.  A Wetzel’s pretzel cheered her up again.  That was my first taste of their pretzels and they are really good.  I think I like them better than Auntie Anne’s.

For dinner that night we chose Chip’s Old Fashioned Hamburger.  It was awesome.  The burgers were juicy and very flavorful.  It was my favorite of the two burgers I had on the trip.   The place was pretty tiny and we got there just in time.  As we were finishing up, the place filled up and they started playing the Mav’s/Heat game on TV.  We got out of their fast as I am still mad at the Mav’s for beating my team.

The next day we headed down I-35 towards Austin.  Back in the early spring by husband had driven to Houston for work and stopped at Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana for lunch.  He was so carried away with it that he bought a bunch of bread and cookies back home to me.  Their cherry ice box cookies are his favorite. He LOVES them. Personally, I would rather have a chocolate chip cookie.  Anyway, when we saw a billboard advertising a Collin Street Bakery in Waco we knew we had to stop there for lunch.

I was really impressed with the place.  It was sparkling clean and the employees were super friendly.  They serve sandwiches, soups and salads and also sell pies, cakes, coffee and nuts.  We got sandwiches for lunch and while we ate them we took turns going to the counter to look at the baked goods so we could figure out what we wanted.

My husband wanted some cherry cookies and I ordered a white cupcake.  I wasn’t sure if it would be good but it was delicious.  The cake was super moist and tender and the icing was perfect.  Not too sweet and it didn’t have that shortening taste at all.  I saw people carrying them out by the dozen.  I wish I had one right now!

After our lunch it was only a few hours to Austin.  When we got there, we decided to drive all the way downtown and then work our way up towards where our hotel was located.  My husband loved the eclectic look of sixth street and Guadalupe.  He had no idea what to expect so I was pleased that he was digging Austin.  We checked into our hotel and then decided to head back down to Mount Bonnel for a good view of the city.

We parked our car and hiked up the stairs to the lookout.  The view from Mount Bonnel is very neat.  You can see lots of super nice houses and a pretty good view of downtown.  The only bad part was the heat! It was scorching hot and I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my little girl so we didn’t stay long at all.  We took a few photos and then headed down the mountain in search of a nice cold drink.  I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of our trip.  We packed a lot of fun into just a few days.

 

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My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and that means my husband will soon be asking me about gift ideas.  I’m not even sure why he bothers to ask because he doesn’t go out and get my gift on his own.  I’m not exactly sure what goes one between other couples when it comes to birthday gifts but I think that we are unconventional.  Usually, I just tell him what I want and then we end up going to the mall and buying it together.  Sometimes I will just go ahead and buy myself something and then tell people it was a birthday gift from him.   I think the main reason is that we are both really picky people.  Also, we might be a little lazy.

On Mother’s day, we were at the mall and I spotted a pair of Steve Madden sunglasses that I liked.  I bought them and then told him that it could be his gift to me.  He was totally fine with that.  Father’s day is coming up and I guarantee you that we will do something similar for his gift from us.  Would this make other people mad?  Is it hurtful to have a spouse that doesn’t put much thought into birthdays or gift giving?

I know that it does feel special to have a surprise gift because we have both unexpectedly given great gifts to each other in the past and we both loved it.  It makes me think we should really think about doing that some more.  One year, he gave me an iPod right after they came out. I was shocked because it was one of the good ones, with video and everything.  I had mentioned that I wanted one but totally didn’t expect it.  For his birthday last year, I got him a nice North Face jacket.  He was so happy because he like them but thought they were too expensive.

Now I feel really bad about this.  Maybe we need to care more.  Maybe we need to be more into accepting any gift rather than getting what we want.  Oh well. Until then, I know what I want for my upcoming birthday  – a Nook.

Reading has always been something that I loved to do. In fact, when I was an adolescent, my parents used to ground me from books! Crazy, Huh?   That just doesn’t seem right.  Honestly, it was the only thing that would work as a punishment for me.  Reading was basically all I did! I was a nerd, okay?

In grade school I was super into The Babysitter’s Club.  In high school, I started reading a lot of the classics.  In college, I read a lot of biographies and history books.   Now that I am an adult, I read a lot of  crime, mystery, memoirs, and non-fiction.  Anything good and interesting, I will read.

I only have a few concerns about this ereader.  One is that I am kind of a tight wad and buying books has always bugged me.  I’ve always been a library gal.  The problem is that my toddler is way too active to take to the library.  When I do take her, I am only there for her.   Borrowing ebooks is an option at libraries now so I’m hopeful that will offset the cost of buying books.  My other concern is just wondering if I will like it, although everyone I know has told me that I will love it and use it.

Stay tuned to see if the husband is listening to my requests.  If I have anything to do with it, he will be.

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Roach Killers by Thelonious Gonzo

This year we have decided to travel to Austin for our summer getaway.  My husband has never been there, and I have been telling him what an awesome city it is.  Since we had our daughter, the only trips we have taken have been to the big city of Dallas.  My husband loves going to Dallas and thinks it has great places to eat and shop.  He doesn’t think we can do anything in Austin that we couldn’t do in Dallas.  To me, Dallas is more of a concrete jungle.  When we go there, I feel like we spend a lot of time driving and getting in and out of our car.  I’m really excited for him to experience Austin’s cool and laid back vibe.

My sister lived in Austin when I was a teenager and during the summer I would go stay with her for weeks at a time.  I loved it.   She took me to Hamilton Pool and Mount Bonnel.   One of the best memories that I have of Austin is going to Horde Fest back in the 90’s.    Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthew’s Band and Rusted Root.  My best friend and I had never been to an outdoor concert before and we had no idea what to expect.  We were sheltered, okay?  It was a super hot Texas day and we just about died of thirst but it was a blast.  We were so young and dumb.

I even enrolled at the community college there for my sophomore year but punked out and went back home for a stupid boy.  Not the one I married.   Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed in Austin. Probably would’ve married a Longhorn fan. Yuck.

To be honest, I am not a big traveler.  I’ve been to NYC, Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles and lots of other places, but I’ve become the biggest homebody ever!  My husband it getting really sick of it, but I love to stay in my little comfort zone and sleep in my own bed at night.   Plus, I’ve developed quite the fear of flying.  I’m sure that some of my travel phobia is really laziness.  It’s so much tougher to get motivated to go anywhere with a baby or small child.  I’m amazed at the families who take a bunch of kids to Disney World.   The thought of that totally overwhelms me at this point.

One of the things that I don’t enjoy about traveling with a small child is staying in a hotel room.  It’s such a hassle to park your car, check in,  and get your luggage to your room, all with a toddler.  I find it exhausting.  If we can find what we are looking for, we are going to use  homeaway to find a place to stay during our trip.  I think it will be so much better to be able to pull up into a driveway and go right into our rented guest house or cottage.  No elevators, no parking lots.  Oh, and how convenient would it be to rent something with a fenced in back yard for my girl to play in?

Something that I do enjoy about traveling is the food!  We would rather eat at a cheap, fun, and unique greasy spoon than a fancy shmancy restaurant.   When I was younger, my favorite place to eat in Austin was Chuy’s but now that Dallas has a few, it’s not as big of a priority to get there.  Some of our favorites types of food are tacos, burgers, and barbecue. Oh, and anything sweet!    I need to check Urbanspoon to see what is popular.  It’s always fun to find those hidden gems.  I saw a spot on cooking channel about G’Raj Mahal Cafe that really intrigued me.  Indian food is something that I am not super familiar with but the little bit that I have had was yummy.  I’m not sure if it would be a good place for a toddler, though.

I also need to make a list of things to do with a two-year old in Austin.  She is very active so any place where she can run her little legs and explore will be great.  We are thinking Zilker Park and Barton Springs.  Lots of the rentals we have looked at have been near that area.  Hopefully, we can find lots of kid friendly places to take her so she can burn off some of her energy.

The husband and I both love to shop so I”m sure we will be looking for lots of fun stores to visit.  I remember loving a used book store near downtown. That might be a good place to take my daughter. She loves to look at books.  We may even take a side trip to some outlet malls.  I don’t care for outlet malls but my husband thinks he gets good deals shopping them.   We definitely have to go to Ikea and get a cinnamon roll.  I’m obsessed with those suckers.  When we go to Dallas, I make my husband go there several times just so I can eat them more than once on my trip.

I’m really excited to see how Austin has grown and changed since I last visited. It’s been about ten years now and I know that there must be tons of new stuff to see, eat and buy.  If you have any tips please share!

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