Yay for 100 Posts for My Simple Sparkles! A big milestone! But I didn’t want my 100th post to just be about having 100 posts, so I thought I’d continue catching up on some of the fun activities that we’ve been doing but I didn’t blog about because of the whole first trimester thing… So let’s talk about making some pretty cakes!
For a Christmas present, I got my mom, sister and I a Wilton Cake Decorating Class! We’re lucky enough to live pretty near (I mean, an hour drive or so) the Wilton headquarters where they have the Wilton School. So being big fans of buttercream frosting, we chose to take the Buttercream Basics class where we learned how to decorate cakes with buttercream frosting, using some basic techniques.
We started off my learning how to level cakes and establish the outer or base layer of frosting! The base layer has always been a problem for me, so it was nice to learn a good method to do it – we started with piping on a good layer of frosting (vs. just putting it on with a spatula). Then our instructor showed us good techniques with a spatula to smooth it out!
My sister is a bit of a perfectionist so she was REALLY good at this part!
After we had assembled the cake and established our base layer, then we got to pick COLORS! I had tried for a rose gold type of color for my base frosting and then tried to pick out a few complementary colors. The instructor didn’t want us to blend different food coloring colors (probably to save time) but I couldn’t resist because I really wanted the right colors!
Then the instructor walked us through how to use different tips to achieve different types of decorations (e.g., flowers, rosettes, shells, writing, etc.). It was great because we were all provided with the basic tips and got to take those home with us! (I already had a TON of decorating tips, but it’s always good to have extras of the basics!)
So I started with yellow edging around the top and bottom!
And then, after a LOT of trial and error, here’s my final cake!
As shown there, I was a big fan of the rosettes! But I also made sure to include some writing, some scallops, some shells, some ribbons, etc. I was trying to practice a lot of different skills! My mom and sister did the same and I think we all ended up with pretty cakes!
The final products….
Overall we had a really good time and I think we picked up some good skills too! (Maybe some that I’ll try on birthday cakes for our little girl next year!) If you live in the Chicago area, I definitely encourage you to check out the Wilton School! They have a lot of different classes to make pretty cakes and cupcakes, and some especially for kids!
So I hope you all found that to be a fun 100th post for My Simple Sparkles!
Anyone who knows me, knows that my artistic skills are extremely limited. Like REALLY limited. I was good at staying in the lines with a marker or crayon but other than that… and painting? Forget about it! But, for my mom’s birthday, she wanted to do a fun activity (remember we did the pasta making for Mother’s Day last year!) so my sister and I rounded her up and we all headed over to Pinot’s Palette in Glenview, IL. And it was so much fun!
Due to timing, we actually ended up with a really difficult painting (we learned that anything involving people and their limbs – arms or legs – qualifies as difficult!). I had previously done a painting here with work colleagues, but we had an easier floral motif. This one – a woman walking through a rainy street – was MUCH more challenging.
So first, we fortified ourselves with some yummy dinner at Flight across the street!
We highly recommend the scallops and flatbread. Ooh and the cheese tray!
Then we headed over to our painting location to face the creative music.
We started off with blank canvases. And we all hoped it would improve from there!
We started with the woman’s figure in the middle. The hardest part! We all had some struggles with the legs in particular…
Then we moved on to the background.
I think they intentionally kept the background a bit abstract so that we wouldn’t be able to mess it up too much!
Mom ran into a few issues but luckily one of the art experts from Pinot’s Palette was able to help.
Lauren was looking pretty confident! (And rightly so!)
With a little bit of assistance (and thankfully, the ability to paint over mistakes – thank you fast drying paint!), we each had our finished painting!
I think they turned out pretty well! Or at least, better than we all thought they would at the beginning given our limited painting skills!
Overall, this was a really fun activity and even those with limited artistic ability (*me!*) can still participate, have fun and end up with a decent painting afterwards! If you’re in the Glenview area, check out Pinot’s Palette – or if you’re not, I know there are a lot of similar places around the country!
As I previewed in last week’s Midweek Sparkles, G and I have been playing Pokemon Go! For those of you who don’t know what that is, I encourage you to check out the overview of the game here, or I’ll try to summarize in a few sentences. Basically, it’s an app for smart devices that put you in the role of a virtual trainer who’s goal is to collect Pokemon (animal-like creatures) that live in this virtual world.
Except the virtual world is actually an augmented version of our reality. You can’t find the Pokemon from sitting on your couch – they exist out and about in the world around you. For example, usually water-type Pokemon are by actual bodies of water. So in order to find Pokemon, you have to go out into the world and go places (especially if you want hard-to-find Pokemon).
As you start to collect Pokemon, you’ll notice that your stash of Pokeballs (the things that you catch the Pokemon in) will start to get low. This means you better visit some Pokestops to collect supplies. Pokestops are located at significant real-life locations (churches, stores, parks, gardens, etc.) and you have to be in a certain proximity to pick up the goodies they have!
After you collect the Pokemon, as a trainer, you work to build up the Pokemon’s skills, abilities and power, through collecting “candy” and “stardust” (see the link for more information), and then eventually through taking them to gyms to battle other people’s Pokemon. Again, the gyms are actual, physical places in our world – monuments, buildings, churches, landmarks, etc. And in order to battle at a gym, you have to be pretty close to it – no couch potato battles here!
The Good side of Pokemon Go!
Ok, well I’m a bit biased because I like the game, I also think that there are some very positive aspects of this game! First, it gets kids, teenagers and adults up off their couches and out into the real world. While I don’t think video games are bad – I think that it can be a bad thing for people to spend too much time sitting around. This game requires that players be active in order to be successful: visiting Pokestops, finding Pokemon, battling at gyms and incubating eggs (you have to walk for a certain distance to “incubate” Pokemon eggs and hatch new Pokemon).
I also think this game encourages social playing vs. solo playing. When you’re walking around searching for Pokemon, it’s much more fun to do in a group (and that’s normally how I see people doing it!). When you become a trainer, you pick one of three teams (Red, Blue, Yellow) to join. In order to hold onto gyms and be successful, you need to partner/join up with other members of your team! Being active and social are two great aspects of this game that are not always a part of video games.
The downsides of pokemon Go
Of course the game isn’t perfect. From bad connectivity to draining phone battery life – there are some logistical challenges. Also, it does encourage people to be ON their phones ALL the time – at restaurants, hospitals, etc. – in order to catch elusive Pokemon. And, I’ve seen numerous people run into things/people, trip or just generally be a bit unaware of their surroundings because they’re trying to catch a Pokemon on their phone. (Don’t Pokemon and drive!)
All of these things though, come down to responsible use (well except the battery life thing – yay for portable batter chargers!). You should play the game at appropriate times and in appropriate locations!
Tips and Tricks
So right now is a bit challenging because SO many people are still figuring out the game and SO many people are playing the game. G and I have talked about how after game play settle down in a few months, it’ll be easier to do things like capture/hold gyms. But in the meantime, if you want to play, here are a few tips/tricks:
Catch every Pokemon you can – even if you have 10 other Pidgeys: I made the mistake in the first day I played of not catching every Pokemon (thinking how many pidgeys or rattatas can one girl need). But that was a mistake. First, catching Pokemon give you things called “candies” which are specific to each type of Pokemon (e.g., “Pidgey candy” or “Spearow candy”). You need to collect these candies in order to “evolve” Pokemon into stronger versions (e.g., a pidgey evolves into a pidgeotto and then into a pidgeot). Also, every time you catch a Pokemon, you get “stardust” which is used to strengthen Pokemon!
Transfer extra Pokemon to the Professor: So if you’re collecting every Pokemon, do you really have to keep 25 rattatas in your inventory? No, of course not! It’s actually better to transfer extra Pokemon to the Professor (you can do that by scrolling all the way down on the Pokemon’s profile to the “transfer” button). Not only does this clean up your Pokemon inventory, but you also get experience points and candies for transferring Pokemon to him!
Pay attention to which Pokemon you keep: So if you have 25 pidgeys and are going to transfer 24 of them – which one do you keep? The first thing to pay attention to is the Pokemon’s CP (Combat Power). This is a summary of how powerful that Pokemon would be in a battle. Obviously, higher CPs are better. (You can raise a Pokemon’s CP by “Powering Up” with stardust and candies.) But you also want to pay attention to the characters attacks. Just because Pokemon are the same type does NOT mean that they have the same attacks. So while you can power up characters to improve their HP (hit points or health), their attacks don’t change. You may want to consider keeping a Pokemon with a slightly lower CP but higher attacks, you can power them up to get more CP!
Try “populated” areas to find more Pokemon: Not finding a lot of Pokemon where you are? Try going to a place where there are a lot of other people, and more importantly, a lot of other people playing the game! While this has not been confirmed by the game makers (to my knowledge), we have found a lot more Pokemon (and better Pokemon) in highly populated areas (like downtown Chicago) when compared to less populated (our neighborhood). Even among similarly populated areas though, try to go to areas where a lot of other people are playing – for example, we find a lot of Pokemon in a neighborhood around us that has a lot of kids and families, but we didn’t find many at all in a neighborhood that had a similar number of people but who were mostly older.
Add yourself to your team’s gyms: So it can be difficult to take over a gym and then hold it – but you can strengthen gyms that are already held by your team if you raise the “prestige” of the gym and then add a Pokemon. Just like trainers, gyms have “levels” based on the quality of the battles that have occurred there. Higher level gyms can hold more Pokemon (basically people who’ve won the gym leave one of their Pokemon there to defend the gym). If you see a gym that’s held by your team – consider battling it anyway. If you raise the gym level (say from Level 3 to Level 4), you also increase the number of Pokemon it can hold. You can then add one of your Pokemon – giving you points and experience, and making it harder for other teams to take the gym!
Anyway, I could go on and on – but I thought I’d share some of our tips and experiences. I hope everyone who is playing Pokemon Go is having a good time (and being safe!). Let me know if you have any questions on the game and I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability!