A family “Cupcake Wars”

Disclaimer: We’re just a bunch of sisters who like watching Cupcake Wars on Netflix or Food Network (when we’re at a hotel with cable TV).  We have no official relationship of any sort with anyone officially affiliated with the TV show.

December 22, 2015, welcomed the second annual Lopez family Cupcake Wars.

Last year’s Cupcake Wars was our first.  Alli (age 8) and I went up against Lex (13) and Ana (my twin-not-twin).  Alli and I got the kitchen first.  We used this recipe that I found on Pinterest for the cake part, and used store-bought buttercream frosting.  For the decoration, we used some gingerbread men-shaped toppers we found in Target’s baking section.

Cupcake Wars 2014 - 1

I was proud of myself for not ruining the recipe and for cutting the corner of a Zip-loc bag to squeeze the frosting out.  The alternative would be using the standard butter-knife to  frost.

Ana and Lex used a “death by chocolate” recipe and store-bought chocolate frosting.  For decoration, they used a Reese’s cup, a (different) store-bought gingerbread topper, and yellow sprinkles to make a baby Jesus in a manger.  They got the major creativity points.

Cupcake Wars 2014 - 2

Some behind-the-scenes pics (with Papi photo-bombing)…

In the end, ALLI AND I WON!!!  The judges had a tough decision, but landed on the gingerbread cupcakes because WE’RE AWESOMER THAN THE OTHER TEAM’S!  Just kidding, the delightful taste of the gingerbread surprised them, so they chose us.


 

This year, the we divided into the same teams.  I pinned a bunch of ideas, and together Alli and I picked a fun Princess Leia design.  We didn’t follow the recipe, just the picture for the decoration.  We used this site for both our peanut butter frosting and chocolate cupcake recipes.

Cupcake Wars 2015 - Leia.jpg

Every homemade frosting I’ve tried to make thus far in life has failed, Cupcake Wars 2015 being no exception.  The only difference this time around was that the frosting tasted awesome, despite its lack of fluffiness (it’s consistency was more similar to soup than frosting).

In light of that, Alli and I quickly made up two more cupcake designs: a simpler Christmas-themed one, and a Chewbacca that would use the store-bought frosting.

I panicked over our batter for no reason, as it baked just fine.  When I was celebrating evading imminent failure, Ana and Lex began their baking.

They used this chocolate cupcake recipe and made homemade caramel cream cheese frosting (from a recipe I can’t find).  I thought my frosting tasted great, but theirs was AWESOME.  They used strawberry tips for noses, chocolate chips for eyes, and pretzels for antlers.

Cupcake Wars 2015 - 2

Some behind-the-scenes baking… Nothing much has changed.

We made a HUGE mess.

Cupcake Wars 2015 - BTS 5

Then it was time for the judges to taste.  Something went wrong with Ana and Lex’s batter, because the cake was dense and dry.  However, their Christmas-related creativity and frosting were favored over Alli’s and mine.

In the end, they couldn’t choose a winner.  The competition was a draw. Next year, Alli and I shall reign champions!

Cupcake Wars @ Unreached by the Frost

Have your own Cupcake Wars, a great indoor winter activity for all ages! Comment your own stories of family baking/cooking competitions and rivalries!

Our Thanksgiving 2015

I have an uncountable number of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.   have this many things to be grateful for every year, but I really noticed it this time.  This Thanksgiving I’ve been so content. I’ve always been relatively content, but really, it was only in an innocence-of-childhood way.

This year I dealt with discontentment and sadness (I even fell into a minor depression) in a way I never had before.  The old saying may seem cliché, but it’s true: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Many of the things movies and books portray as feelings are choices.
Love is a choice.
Joy is a choice.
Contentment is a choice.

I learned the secret to being content, and the trials of this year have made me a better person.  I’m only 17, so there’s a lot more to learn, and a lot more challenges to overcome.  I hope that when the obstacles come, I’ll welcome them, remembering how much stronger I’ll be when they’re through.

This is how my family’s Thanksgiving went.

This was the first year I drove Papi (Spanish for ‘daddy’) to go buy the day’s newspaper.  I even parked between the lines in front of the gas station!  (It’s not uncommon for me to take up two spaces with the small car.)  After I drove us back home, I made this cute Thanksgiving-y breakfast treat I found on Pinterest!

Turkey food

It’s a turkey!  The bacon is the feathers!  It’s so cute!  My little turkey may not be as good as the perfect Pinterest one, but I made it and I like it.

We watched most of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on the Today Show, as we do every year, while Mom finished up the green bean casserole.  At around 11, we hopped into the Pickle (our nine-seater van) and drove up near High Point, North Carolina, to my Grandmother’s house.

All of Mom’s siblings made it this year, and there were a couple of new faces too.  The meal was wonderful.  The number of desserts nearly matched the number of meat and side dishes!

After eating, the kids, which consisted of my sisters, me, and our two-year-old second-cousin, went out to play in Grandmother’s front yard.  Our uncle had cleaned up the leaves the day before, else we’d have raked them up.  So this year, the older girls and I played “Big Boss” and some other improv games (our favorite!).  Soon we included the littles, and we ended the afternoon playing “kung-fu”, also known as “ninja”.  I won once!

The drive home signifies the official beginning of the Christmas season for our family.  Alex and Anjalena requested “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, Home Free’s version, to be the first Christmas song we played.

When we arrived at home, Mom and Papi went through more of the Black Friday ads, the girls went off to play, and I read my book.  It was a great Thanksgiving.  I’m excited to see what new things I’ll be thankful for next year.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. -Ps. 69:30

What You Can Do to Support Adoption

November 21 is Adoption Sunday.  This marks the day we dedicated my younger sisters.  My mom has represented foster/adoptive families at church on this day.  We’re an adoptive family; it’s what we do.

Adoption Sunday doesn’t have to be just for families with adopted kids, though.  Simply because adoption isn’t for everyone, does NOT mean that the Bible’s commands to care for the orphans isn’t for everyone.  The Bible speaks to whoever reads it, not just the families who have adopted.

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (Psalm 82:3)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Fostering and adopting children are not the only ways to defend the fatherless.  Anyone can take up the cause.  Adoption Sunday can be a reminder to everyone to support adoption.

Adoption is HARD.  It’s not for everyone.  Children who can’t be cared for by their biological parents have a deep, different kind of hurt that I will never be able to comprehend.  The repercussions of this vary from child to child, and affect every member of the adoptive family.  Any day is a good day to encourage a family.

And now, from multiple conversations with my mom, and my experience as the big sister to adopted siblings, I present to you 5 ways to support foster adoptive families you know (not in any particular order).

1. Prepare care bags for kids transitioning to foster care
When children are taken from a dangerous or harmful situation and immediately put into foster care, oftentimes, they have next to nothing of their own.  Make a care bag for them with things like a toothbrush & toothpaste, a set of pajamas, a coloring book, and blanket.  There are different organizations out there that collect bags and give specifics on what to put in the bag depending on age.  My Stuff Bags is a good place to start.

2. Bring dinner
Throughout the first couple of weeks of adjusting to having a new child in our house, friends brought us dinner.  It was such a relief to my parents to not have to worry about what to make for everyone that night.  If you’re a cook, make a fancy Chicken Parmesan; or if you’re busy, a family meal from Bojangles’ will do just as fine.

3. Babysitting night
Offer to take care of all the kids for an evening.  Chances are, the parents rarely get to go out on a date, if ever.  Have a Disney movie and the game of Clue ready, and your night is set!  The parents will love a few hours to breathe and relax as a couple.

4. Love on kids individually
A family is a team with individual members.  Sometimes those on the outside lose sight of that, though, and only see “Mr. and Mrs. Smith with all their youngin’s”.  Talk with the older sister about the concert she’s going to next week and the younger brother about the train set he received for Christmas.  Even offer to take the kids out one at a time for an ice cream cone (or a hot chocolate, depending on the season).  A treat and the individual time will make any kid’s week.

5. Pray for foster and adoptive families you know
There are many things you can pray for. Pray for peace, especially if there are still court sessions to attend.  Pray for emotional healing for the adoptive child and the rest of the family.  Pray for truth and honesty to be a core of the relationships.

Adoption Sunday @ Unreached by the Frost

^All the kids on the day my baby sister Alex was officially in our family!

If you have any more ideas, write them down in the comments!

On Sharing a Birthday

On October 20th, 1998, my mother gave birth to her first child, me.  My parents had no idea what they were getting into, raising a tiny human and all, but they did it.  Two months after my birth, they celebrated their first anniversary.

About ten months after that, on October 20th, 1999, my mom was in the hospital again.  She came home with the best birthday present I could have ever hoped to get: my sister Ana.

We’re as close as you can get to being twins without actually being twins.  Someone once told me that we’re Irish twins.  We’re not Irish (we don’t look it either) or twins, but that makes us sound cool.

Sharing a birthday has been a blast over the years.  I can remember one year disagreeing on what theme our birthday party should be.  We were probably about seven and eight at the time.  I wanted Tinkerbell and Ana wanted cowgirl.   My mom, ever the peacemaker, decided we could do both!  If you had been at that party, you would have eaten a pretty fairy-themed cake and potato chips from a bowl with a cowboy boot design.  You would have worn a bandanna while flapping your arms to fly.  It was great.

Our taste preferences have always been different.  I like new and flavorful, and Ana likes the classic and simple.  Sharing a birthday, we’ve discovered what we can agree on: grits and chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  Every year, we ask Mom for a breakfast of grits and for a chocolate-on-chocolate cake.

Sharing a birthday doesn’t mean we do everything together, though.  One year we took two different weekends and each had our own sleepover.  Ana and her friends stayed up late playing MarioKart and eating popcorn.  My friends and I stayed up late eating ‘worms and dirt’ and playing in our sleeping bags.

On my eleventh birthday, Ana’s tenth, our birthday was CHANGED FOREVEEEEEER!

That’s quite dramatic.  We didn’t know it at the time, but it’s true.

Our sister Alex was born.  We didn’t know she existed for a few months.  Then it took a few months more before she came to live with us.  She was adopted, and that entire journey would take up a whole book, plus a couple sequels.  For now, I’ll just say that things didn’t go how we planned, but that God worked it all out for good.

Last month when I turned seventeen, Ana sixteen, Alex turned six.

This is the third year in a row we had a Sofia the First-themed birthday party (in recent years, our birthday “parties” have been for our family only).  It’s hard to find a cartoon character all three kids in the eleven-year gap enjoy.  Yes, I enjoy Sofia the First, don’t judge.  The cake isn’t chocolate, because on October 10th our other sister Anjalena turned seven and had a chocolate-on-chocolate cake.

This was the first year Ana and I both worked.  I was off earlier than Ana (I arrived earlier too) and I didn’t know what to do with myself those couple of hours before Ana came home.  It was weird.

I don’t know how to celebrate my birthday without my sisters.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I Am the Guinea Pig: Tales of Being the Oldest Child

My parents always called me the guinea pig.  Think about the way guinea pigs are used to test things out first (e.g. makeup).  Got that picture in your head?  Good, because that’s me, minus the cuteness.

I was seven and a half years old when I got my ears pierced.  My parents took me to Claire’s and this young employee pierced my ears one at a time.  I was a pretty tough kid, so the piercing of one didn’t cause enough pain to make me not want to get the other one done, but it was close.  Later that day we realized she put the earrings in way too tight.  My dad had to use pliers to loosen them enough to twist them like you’re supposed to do to new piercings.

My other sisters’ ears were pierced at the same time, not too tight.  You’re welcome.

I was in seventh grade when I took pre-algebra.  I was homeschooled, so the instructor remained the same throughout the years, but the curriculum did not.  I used Saxon Math for pre-algebra, which was the first time we’d ever used that curriculum.  Saxon can be a fantastic source for some kids and their way of learning… but not for me.  My brain couldn’t handle all the x’s, y’s, and a’s, especially the way Saxon taught me.

My sisters used A Beka for pre-algebra and the algebras following.  You’re welcome.

I was sixteen when I started some dual-enrollment courses at our community college.  The test to get in was tough.  I relearned algebra II in two weeks to prep for it.  I made it in, and now I know the best (and not-so-great) instructors for certain classes.

My sisters will take a couple months to slowly soak up the information needed to pass the entrance test.  They’ll be able to sign up for classes with my favorite instructors.  You’re welcome.

When the latest Disney Wii game was opened up on Christmas morning, I was the first to play it.  My sisters may not have gotten to play until after lunch.  You’re welcome. 🙂I Am the Guinea Pig @ Unreached by the Frost


Photo cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictographic/5990917604/in/photolist-a8p25Q-haVocF-a8mbBF-85ZLNf-8f5kuW-8odnH7-4RKmoE-sFkSuX-AkGXC-cZwMYj-7S8jTh-2m1aV-7WC5fW-7S8jF9-7S9DZG-7S8k4d-7S8jPu-7S8jJC-2VFGV-84rSAb-a8p2yQ-4n9WiC-a8m8uV-a8p1sm-6bpeWZ-7Socr6-7SruiJ-7Srtdh-7SocDM-7SrtmA-7Soc3k-7SrsW1-8jzX17-ckuP7b-d6uUko-nuqyzZ-7Soc8Z-9q8HBR-2TbLZo-oTP1Eg-2TbJau-d89Xid-siac6e-8XpsTm-4zksGj-5Yb1Ko-A7jNg-4zgd4a-4zkrDS-4zkteW/