BBQ Under the Oaks – Wishful Thinking

You know how you have an idea in your head and you envision it to be fabulous without really thinking about logistics or other little issues such as weather? Perhaps you did think of rain but you didn’t count on excessive heat that normally occurs in August.

Sometimes you have to admit defeat and give in – make little concessions and realize what’s more important such as comfort and just being with family, instead of how pretty something would have looked under the oak trees during a summer evening in the south.

I was having a Martha Stewart (MS) moment. This happens occasionally and as I get older I’m learning to set my eyes on more realistic goals. But recently I had a MS slip up once again in preparation for a “Family Celebration”. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday, Father’s Day, and my parents’ 46th wedding anniversary in one big event. We were going to have a family BBQ on my parents’ farm underneath some stately oaks covered in spanish moss, but with temperatures reaching 96 and air so thick you could hardly breathe, comfort won out and we went with Plan B to have the BBQ inside.

So the mason jar tealight extravaganza we were going to hang from the oak trees was nixed and a two layered banner I spent hours on wasn’t used. Instead we had an indoor BBQ at my parents’ house and it turned out perfect anyway. We had a wonderful time and the food was amazing. We had grilled hamburgers and sausages from the guys, and baked beans, potato salad, fresh broccoli salad, deviled eggs, Strawberry Cheesecake Salad, and homemade cupcakes from the ladies. And more importantly, everyone was comfortable – no gnats or mosquitoes, and no sweltering heat.

If I had thought of it, I could have brought my banner over and hung it on Mom’s fireplace. Instead it sits hanging on my fireplace as if it were still waiting to be transported to the pasture to be hung between two pine trees. The mason jars are sitting in my Mom’s guest room. I guess I’ll save them for another event when it’s cooler – maybe in the Fall. My sister added ribbon to each jar and they turned out so pretty but for now we’ll just have to use our imagination on how it would have looked illuminating the old oak trees.

Here is a pic of the unused banner. Using a bbq/picnic theme, I went for the Kraft and gingham look.


The banner and its toppers are cut at 7.5 inches from Straight from the Nest and the letters spelling “Family Celebration” are cut from Storybook at 2.5 inches. The red gingham paper is from DCWV’s “Nana’s Kitchen” stack. The banner base is cut from 8.5 x 11 Kraft cardstock. I was able to fit two banner triangles on one sheet and used 9 sheets in total. I threaded short pieces of twine, knotting them at the back, to connect all the banner pieces together and then added two longer lengths of twine on the ends for hanging.

Family Celebration Banner

Now back to the MS moment that did work – I tried out a new recipe I found on Pinterest and it was a hit. Family members asked for the recipe and I would like to share the source and recipe here. It’s a perfect summer dessert and I will definitely be making it again. It’s called “Strawberry Cheesecake Salad” found on “Mommy’s Menu”. The only alteration I made was to leave out the bananas. You’re supposed to add in the bananas right before serving but I did a taste-test in between and fell in love with how it tasted just like Strawberry Cheesecake without them.

Strawberry Cheesecake Salad
Serves about 10

12 oz. whipped topping (I used Cool-Whip)
1 small package of cheesecake pudding powder
3 (6 oz) strawberry yogurts (I used Yoplait)
1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced
*3 bananas, sliced (add just before serving or they brown) – (I omitted this step)
miniature marshmallows (add just before serving)

In a large salad bowl stir together whipped topping, yogurts, and pudding powder. Let this set up in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Wash and slice strawberries. You can add strawberries to salad or wait to add them with sliced bananas and marshmallows just before serving. Keep refrigerated. 

Strawberry Cheesecake Salad

Note – it doesn’t say how many marshmallows to add so I tried half a bag and stirred and then I just went for it and added the whole bag of miniature marshmallows. It turned out great and as it sat in the fridge an hour before the BBQ, the marshmallows got softer in the pudding mixture and got even better. This salad reminds me of Watergate Salad or what we call here in the south, Pistachio Fluff. It uses the same idea – cool whip, pudding mix, some kind of fruit, and miniature marshmallows.

I also made cupcakes in honor of my husband’s birthday and tried out a new cake mix – Betty Crocker Supermoist Cake Mix, Golden Vanilla. It made a wonderful cupcake and I will be using this brand again. I couldn’t lay my hands on my favorite buttercream icing recipe so I used the one listed on the back of Domino’s Confectioners Sugar but it turned out too sweet. I had my mother-in-law and sister taste it and we all thought another stick of butter would mellow it out. It did and it was delicious! I will now use this altered recipe for future cakes:

Icing Recipe (I doubled Domino’s Recipe and added an extra stick of butter)

Makes Plenty of Icing for Piping Swirls onto 24 cupcakes:

7 1/2 cups – (2) 1 lb. boxes of Domino® Confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 cups – butter (3 sticks), softened (Land O Lakes salted)
8 tablespoons – milk
2 teaspoons – vanilla extract

In a large bowl with electric mixer at low-speed, combine sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes until creamy. If desired, add more milk until frosting is spreading consistency.

Many thanks to my sister for adding some fun colors to the icing – neon green and blue using McCormick’s Neon! Food Coloring. She piped on swirls to all of the cupcakes while I made the Cheesecake salad. We had a great time cooking with only a few stressful moments in getting everything done in time to be carried over to our parents’ home. The cupcakes were tricky in transporting, but overall they fared well.


A Truck Load of Happiness and Love

My dear husband celebrated a birthday recently so I made him a truck-shaped card from Cricut’s “Just Because Cards”. My husband loves all things Ford and this truck reminds me of a 1939 Ford Pick-Up truck. Luckily, he thought it did too and he loved it!

To make the truck-shaped card, I used Cricut’s Design Studio to weld two 8 inch truck shadows together (flipping one). I then cut the truck layers twice at 8 inches (flipping one set of layers) so that the completed truck could be seen from both sides. The patterned cardstock is from one of my favorite stacks called “Linen Closet” by Die Cuts With a View (DCWV).

I typed and printed the sentiment using my computer and added light blue brads to the wheels.  I also raised the fenders with foam dimensionals. The envelope is cut at 7.5 inches from “Just Because Cards” using some more Linen Closet paper.  Since this patterned cardstock has some weight to it, my adhesive tape runner wasn’t strong enough to keep the sides of the envelope from popping open. Luckily, I had a roll of Scor-Tape and this did the trick. This tape is also great for making little gift boxes. I ordered mine from Amazon in the 1/4 inch size. To seal the envelope, I used a glue-dot which makes it easy to open and close again.

Here is a picture of the cake I made him. He loves carrot cake with homemade cream cheese icing. He had this for his birthday last year and requested it again. The icing recipe can be found at this post: Cream Cheese Frosting Saves the Cake! I still haven’t gotten the hang of decorating cakes but I still like to try! Practice makes perfect :).


Cream Cheese Frosting Saves the Cake!

Ok, let me start out by saying that I realize the below cake looks like a 5-year-old made it.  This is my attempt at decorating a carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting for my dear hubby’s recent birthday.  It may not look that great but it sure tasted great.  I used Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Carrot Cake in a box (pudding’s in the mix) and I used the cream cheese frosting recipe found at  This frosting tastes like the real deal.  It’s not too sweet and doesn’t taste “chemically” like the store-bought cream cheese frosting sometimes does.  If you want a real cream cheese taste, try the below recipe.  My husband said that this was the frosting he’s been missing for years.  He absolutely loved the cake and has been raving about the frosting.  He also appreciated my attempt to decorate his cake with care and love :). LOL  He really loved it, honest.  He thought I did a great job which was nice of him to say.

As for my excuse for the appearance of the cake, I recently bought a cake decorating bag and tips and thought it was time to give them a try.  But mainly it was because I was so excited with how the frosting turned out that I really wanted to try to make the cake more special by decorating it.  This was literally my first time ever decorating a cake beyond just frosting it.  So please forgive my cursive handwriting which looks like a mess and overlook my haphazard embellishments running around the cake top and bottom.  At least I got creative enough to try a different color which turned into a caramel looking color.  I was shooting for orange or apricot but I used the wrong neon food color.  What else could go wrong!  I was supposed to use the pink capped bottle but used the purple one by mistake.  Then I tried a course correction by adding drops of pink to the green and purple, and voilà – you get the caramel color you see in the picture.  Oh well, I guess it looks more masculine with it being tannish.

Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

    Carrot Cake with Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

Scrumptious Sugar Cookies with Shiny Icing

I made these cookies the other day and they taste great!  I found the sugar cookie and icing recipes at the following links:

Sugar Cookies with Icing

I used McCormick Assorted Neon food colorings (green and pink  ~ 3 drops each).  I used 2 heart-shaped cookie cutters and 2 different sized biscuit cutters for the circle shapes.  A tip on the icing is to follow the directions carefully.  I jumped ahead too quick and found it hard to stir the ingredients once I added the corn syrup.  I was saved by adding more milk (eyeballing it) and adding a bit more until I liked the consistency.  You are supposed to stir the confectioner’s sugar and milk to a fine mix before adding the corn syrup and I did the exact opposite!  I dumped all the ingredients in the bowl at once and then tried to stir which turned into a gloppy, sticky mess and only more milk saved the day!  For a minute there, I thought I was going to have to dump the whole thing and start the icing all over again.  Live and learn.  Read the directions all the way through first which is something I was taught in school but clearly forgot in this case! 🙂  Luckily, my added milk didn’t hurt the overall icing consistency.  It turned out to be quite easy to spread on the cookies with a simple teaspoon.  So it all worked out in the end and the cookies and icing taste great!