Monday, February 15, 2016

Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

I know, I know. Everyone has a molten lava chocolate cake recipe. It's getting a little overdone.

Eh, who am I kidding? What could possibly be overdone about rich, gooey, chocolately goodness?!

I'm not sure where I originally got this recipe, but I've been using it for years and it's my favorite for two reasons: 1. It uses only a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, and 2. It is so easy!!!

Just wait till you see how simple this recipe is.

This is all you need.

Start by microwaving half a stick of butter with 2 ounces bitter or semisweet baking chocolate for about one minute.

The butter will be melted and the chocolate starting to get soft. Whisk them together until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth.

Add all the remaining ingredients (sugar, egg, flour) one at a time, whisking after each ingredient.

Pour the batter into greased 1 cup ramekins and bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes, depending on how "molten" you want it. :)

Fresh from the oven. Yum!

Allow to cool for a minute, then run a knife around the edge and turn onto a plate. I love mine topped with some whipped cream.

And that is all there is to it! I love whipping these up for a relaxing night with my husband. 20 minutes (including baking time) and we have a rich dessert to indulge in! I decided to make them this weekend to complete our Surf and Turf Valentine's.

One of the other great things about this recipe is that, instead of using 1 cup ramekins, you can use muffin tins and make "mini" cakes. Bake them about 7-8 minutes and they're great for a double date!

Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

Makes: 2 large cakes (or 4 mini cakes, see below)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes


  • 2 oz bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 3 Tbsp flour


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease well two 1 cup ramekins.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is fully melted and smooth.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, whisking after each addition.
  4. Pour batter into ramekins and bake 12-14 minutes, until center is barely set. (Can cook longer if more "brownie" texture is desired.)
  5. Allow to cool a minute or two, run knife around edge and turn onto plate. May be served with whipped cream, ice cream, or fresh fruit.

*To make "mini" cakes: use muffin tin instead of ramekins and bake 6-8 minutes. Will make 4 mini cakes.

I'll be joining these link parties: Link Party List

Surf and Turf Valentine's Day

I decided to be adventurous this Valentine's Day.

You see, my husband and I went to Disney World last week, and even though a lot of it was paid for, our wallets were feeling a little thin. Also, we were exhausted. (I hope to do a full post on the trip later, but let me just say that a toddler with the stomach flu put a damper on the whole experience.) We really weren't up to a big night out complete with finding and paying a babysitter. Plus, we had a church conference Saturday night and Sunday morning, so going out again just seemed too much.

Enter lobster.

A coworker of mine said that he and his wife would do lobster at home for Valentine's, and I thought it sounded like a great idea. And how hard could it be? I did a little internet reading and said, I can do that!

Since the lobsters were pretty pricey, I decided to go surf and turf and picked up a couple steaks. I made up a quick marinade of soy sauce, garlic, and oil and got them ready for the grill.

In actuality, cooking a lobster is really easy. You bring a large pot of salt water to boil, put in the live lobster, and allow it to cook for about 15 minutes, depending on how big it is.

I must admit, it was odd to bring home a crustacean and plan on boiling it alive!

I was kind of afraid it was going to escape! But, it was fairly docile and didn't put up much fuss. :) I tell you what, though, it was heavier and more slippery than I imagined! I thought I might drop it!

Here he goes, into the pot!

We did have one ... issue, I guess you could call it. No one said anything about how bubbly that pot was going to get.

The gas burner was going nuts as salty, fishy water escaped the pot and splashed everywhere. It made a huge mess!

Does anyone who's done lobster before know what I did wrong? Or is this normal?

Either way, the lobster came out looking nice bright red and yummy! Though, at first glance, you do wonder how people learned to eat these things. As my husband says, "whoever first decided to eat one of these must have been really hungry!"

Add some fresh green beans and rice pilaf and we had ourselves a meal!

I wish I had more pictures of us eating the lobster, but I was having too much fun! (Oh yeah, and my toddler stole my phone to play some games.)

This is the best I have, and it's really not a great picture of me, but at least I can prove that we did tear into that lobster and eat everything that we could.

I feel a tradition in the making! What Valentine's traditions do you have?

I like to join these Link Parties

Monday, February 8, 2016

January 2016 Blog Report

If you actually came to visit this page, you are either very kind or perhaps looking for a laugh. Or maybe you just didn't actually believe that someone would post a blog report with such pathetic numbers.

I'm really writing this for me. I'm hoping that starting a habit of writing blog reports will help to motivate me and give me measurable goals and progress.

I started my blog three months ago, so honestly, I feel like I'm doing pretty well. I've already learned a ton about what kinds of things bring visitors besides perfect pictures and headlines. You have to get your name out there, and have content that people are interested in. Still, some of my most popular posts have surprised me.

My original goal for January was to get 2,000 page views, but sickness in the house caused a speed bump and I basically took an unscheduled week off. I'm sure this is why I didn't hit my goal.

My favorite social media sites are Pinterest and Bloglovin', so that's all I'm showing in this report.

Google Analytics

Obviously, Google is the best place to check my pageviews. You can see clearly the spike on January 15, which is oddly from my third most popular post: Home Reorganization Stage 1.1. But that's one that I posted on my personal Facebook page, so I'm sure I just had lots of friends check that day.

Overall, I'm happy with the fact that views have remained fairly steady despite the fact that I didn't link to nearly as many parties this month.

Pinterest Analytics

Followers: 25

25 followers might be kind of sad, but I think it's a good start. I'm actually more thrilled by those few Likes and Repins on my Sticky Toffee Pudding and Link Party Tracking Sheet.


Followers: 4

So if 25 Pinterest followers is sad, I don't know what 4 Bloglovin' followers is. But again, as I'm just starting out, it seems like a lot to me.

Top Posts for January

  • Link Party Tracking Sheet - 550 Page views
    • I was very proud of this one. I had been planning it for weeks before finally posting it, and still hope it's being passed around among bloggers to be used. I got three features on link parties which really boosted my view count.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding - 350 Page views
    • This one still surprises me. It was a last minute post based on a recipe I'd been meaning to try, but with a couple party features, apparently people have liked it!
  • Home Reorganization Stage 1.1 - 200 Page views
    • This is another surprise, and I think it's on the list because it's new. But as I hope to make it a series, perhaps it will continue to be popular
Total posts in January: 5

Goals for February

I'm struggling with this part a little, because while I want to push myself, I'm still learning what I'm actually capable of. I don't want to set a bunch of goals and not make any of them.

I'm also learning that I have two types of posts that I write: those that are just fun and those that have some substance. I like to think of the former as "fluff." They're easy, and sometimes get me some views, like my recipes, but mostly they're filler. Because what my blog is really about is helping people learn Excel and providing specific spreadsheets for them to use. But my spreadsheet and tutorial posts take a lot more work. That's a good thing, since they're the substance of my blog, but that just means they take time and effort.

So with that, here is what I want to accomplish in February:
  1. Publish at least 3 fun and 2 Excel posts.
  2. Be better at visiting new blogs and commenting on their posts.
  3. Increase traffic to 2,500 views.
Eventually I'd really like to work on creating custom spreadsheets upon request and perhaps host Excel trainings, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. If anyone reading this has interest in that at all, please let me know so I can get working on it sooner rather than later.


Basically, I have a lot of work to do. I knew when I started my blog that if I actually wanted to turn it into a business and make money, it would take a lot of time. I'm still learning the best ways to apply that time, but think and hope that I'm off to a good start.

Here goes nothing for February!

These are my current favorite link parties:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Basic Excel Number Formats

Excel is all about numbers, right? Well, sort of. Certainly it makes calculating things much easier, but I also love how nice and organized the grid is.

But that isn't the point of this blog post. Today I want to talk about number formatting.

Have you ever seen a table that looks like this?

Ugh! What a mess! First, it's hard to read. Second, you have no idea what you're looking at. Money? Counts? Percentages?

One of the most essential skills in Excel is knowing how to format your numbers for easier reading. Like anything in Excel, there are several ways to do this. I'll start with the simplest and most straight-forward.

In the Ribbon

In the Home tab of the Ribbon are several number formatting options ready to go. See the Number section of the Home tab.

One Click Formatting

There are a few formats that you can choose with one click. These are the buttons directly above where it says Number in the Ribbon.

Currency - Noted by a dollar sign

  • A dollar sign will be added to the front of the number (Note that you can select other world currencies as well)
  • Thousands will be separated by a comma
  • Decimals will be rounded to two decimal places
  • Negatives will have a dash in front

Percentage - Noted by a percent sign

  • The number will automatically be multiplied by 100 to denote a percent
  • A percent sign will be added to the end of the number
  • No decimal places will be displayed

Accounting - Noted by a comma

  • Thousands will be separated by a comma
  • Decimals will be rounded to two decimal places
  • Negatives will have a dash in front

Increase/Decrease Decimal

  • See those two buttons with all the zeros? If you look carefully, you'll see that one shows one zero turning into two, and the other has two zeros turning into 0. That means that one button will increase the number of decimals shown and the other will decrease the number of decimals shown.

Drop Down Formatting

Above the one click format buttons, there is a drop down with a few additional options.


No specific formatting. This will display your number with no formatting and all the decimals.


This will display the number with no symbols or commas, but will default to two decimal places.


Same as above, currency will add a dollar sign, a comma to denote thousands, and two decimal places.


Very similar to currency except that negatives are denoted by parentheses () rather than a negative (-). Also, the alignment will shift so that decimals and thousands will line up with other numbers in the column.

(Note that for the following three formats, you'll want to make sure you've entered a date or time, otherwise you'll end up with gobbeldy gook.)

Short Date

Will display the date as M/D/Y.

Long Date

Will display the date as Day, Month Day, Year.


Will display the time as Hour:Minute:Second AM/PM


Similar to above, percentage will multiply the number by 100, add a % sign, but will now include two decimals.


Excel will round any decimals to a fraction with a single digit denominator.


Remember that old 4.24 x 10^4 format you learned in school? That's that this is, though is uses E to denote the 10x.


You have to be careful with text. Excel will start treating your number like it isn't a number anymore. I would only use this if you really know it's what you want.

More Number Formats

If you haven't found a format at this point that fits your exact needs, you can find more options in the drop down under More Number Formats. A pop up window will open.

Notice that all of the drop down formats are listed, but if you click one, there are several more options listed. Excel will even show you exactly what the number will look like under Sample.

There are two new formats listed here: Special and Custom. The purpose of this post is to do the basics, so I'm going to talk about those in a separate post where we can go into the details.

For now, you should have enough to get you started in building your tables and spreadsheets and making them easier to use.

As always, don't be afraid to try some things out, and feel free to email me at

Good luck!

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Format Excel for Printing

So you've been learning how to use Excel. That's awesome! There are so many things that are much easier to do in a spreadsheet rather than writing them down or calculating by hand.

But sometimes, you do want to print that spreadsheet and file it somewhere or maybe hang it on the fridge. And that requires knowing the basics of Page Setup and Printing.

There are four main places where you can edit what will display when you print. While I walk through these in a certain order, you can adjust them in any order and it should work just the same.

Check out this video for a full walk-through where I format my Link Party Tracking Sheet.

Print and Print Preview

Check the Print Preview. You can do this by clicking File -> Print from the top left corner, or I have Print Preview in my Quick Access Toolbar.

Take note of what the page looks like. Does everything fit? Are you missing any of your data? Are the gridlines showing (or not)? You can adjust all of these things and more before you print.

The following are things you can change in the Print Preview page:
  1. Print Active Sheets - You can tell Excel to print the Worksheet you currently have open, all the sheets in your file, or just the part of your sheet you have highlighted. Your choice!
  2. Pages - If your spreadsheet is huge, you can tell Excel to only print a few of the pages. Just give the page range. Be sure to check to the right at the preview to make sure you get the right ones.
  3. Collated - If you're printing multiple copies, you can decide what order you want the copies to print.
  4. Orientation - Choose which direction the paper goes, Portrait or Landscape.
  5. Page Size - If you're printing on something other than 8.5" x 11", you can change that here.
  6. Margins - Excel with automatically print with 0.7" margins unless you tell it otherwise.
  7. Scaling - This can be a very handy tool. If you know you want your spreadsheet to print all on one page, or have all the columns on one page but let the rows continue, you can change that here. Pay attention to the preview! Sometimes scaling really shrinks your sheet or creates strange white space. Make sure it looks right before printing.

Page Layout

Okay, so you went through all the Print Preview options, but there are still things you want to change. Now what? Your next stop is Page Layout. Click the arrow at the top left to return to your file and then select Page Layout in your Ribbon. There are too many options to really go into detail, but here are the highlights of this section.
  1. Colors and Themes - Excel (and Microsoft) come with an automatic color scheme. This includes all the font and highlighting colors. But you can change it to any set of colors you want.
  2. Print Area - You can select any section of your spreadsheet and have only that selection print.
  3. Breaks - Insert and remove page breaks in your file. Note that the break will appear based on what cell you currently have selected. Pay attention to the blue dotted lines that display in the spreadsheet.
  4. Background - add a picture to the background of your file
  5. Gridlines - Choose to show the lines dividing cells when you print
  6. Headings - Choose to show the column and row headings when you print.

Page Setup

Within Page Layout, there are a couple more detailed menus that you can access. Simply click the small arrow near where it says Page Setup. A dialogue window will open.

  1. Print Area - You can select any section of your spreadsheet and have only that selection print.
  2. Rows to repeat at top - Select as many rows as you want to appear at the top of every page you print.
  3. Columns to repeat at left - Select as many columns as you want to appear at the left of every page you print.
  4. Print
    1. Gridlines - Show the gridlines of each cell when you print
    2. Black and white - Only print black and white, no color
    3. Draft quality - Decreases the print resolution to print faster
    4. Row and column headings - will display the row and column labels on each page
    5. Comments - gives you the option to display comments inserted in the spreadsheet
    6. Cell errors as - allows you to show errors as blanks, dashes, or N/A's
  5. Page order - Changes the order in which the pages print

Page Break Preview

The last place I like to go when preparing my file to print is the Page Break Preview. Click on the icon at the bottom right of the spreadsheet. This will display all the page numbers and page breaks. To adjust, simply click and drag the blue lines marking the page breaks.

You should now be all set! Double check the Print Preview (or Page Layout View) to make sure what you wanted is coming out correctly. Sometimes you have to rescale or double check your page breaks, but it should come out just how you want it.

As with anything, there are multiple ways to do things in Excel. I've just shown you my favorite ways to format my files to print. Please let me know if you need extra help or have questions. Have fun!

I like to join these Link Parties.

Twix Brownie Trifle

I love Twix. I think I could say with confidence that they are my favorite candy bars. What's not to like? Crunchy cookie, chewy caramel, smooth chocolate. Pure goodness.

With friends coming for dessert, I decided to make use of my favorite candy in a rich, chocolatey trifle.

One of the best things about this recipe is that, even though there are several parts, they are each incredibly easy.

Start by baking your brownies. I like the Ghirardelli packets from Costco. They make a slightly smaller batch than most boxes.

I decided it was high time I teach my toddler about licking the bowl. Brownie batter with breakfast. I'm not spoiling him, am I?

Mmm, there isn't much better than warm brownies fresh from the oven. Sadly, this time, you need to let them cool completely before cutting into one inch squares.

Next, prep your Twix bars. I bought a bag of the minis since they were a good price. I'd recommend two regular Twix bars per serving. I put mine in the food processor, but I think that made the pieces too small. Next time I'll just chop them with a sharp knife.

Finally, you need to make the pudding. One of the small boxes of chocolate pudding is plenty, plus half a tub of cool whip. Beat the milk and pudding, then add the cool whip. You can put in the fridge until ready to assemble the trifle.

Finally, just layer all the pieces: brownie, Twix, pudding, repeat. I did three layers in these mason jars, and it proved to be plenty! Next time I might use half pint jars instead. Either way, it was delicious!

Twix Brownie Trifle

Makes: 6 pint size servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes (for each layer plus assembly)
Cook Time: 45 minutes (for brownies)


  • 1 box brownie mix plus required ingredients

  • 1 36 oz bag mini Twix bars or 6 regular Twix packages

  • 1 3.4 oz chocolate pudding mix
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 4 oz whipped topping


  1. Mix and bake brownies according to directions. Allow to cool completely and cut into 1 inch squares.
  2. Roughly chop Twix bars and set aside.
  3. Beat pudding mix and milk about 2 minutes. Add in whipped topping and mix to combine.
  4. In pint mason jars or trifle dish, layer brownies, Twix, and pudding. Repeat twice for three layers. Can top with remaining chopped Twix.
  5. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

I'll be joining these link parties: Link Party List

Friday, January 15, 2016

Home Reorganization Stage 1.1 - Put Floorboards in the Attic

I love my house. I lived in apartments for 7 years after graduating college, and so often during those years, friends tried to convince me to buy a house; that it was a good investment. But it never felt right to do so on my own. Within a month of marrying my husband, I got the house itch. We started looking for a house after three months and moved in six months later.

Me and Brian on the day we closed!

There is something special about loving the place you live. Even without fancy furniture, wall hangings, and DIY decorations, it will feel like home. My passion is Excel spreadsheets, not decorating vases or scouring thrift stores or building by hand wood frames for the whole house. :) Though I do get inspired every time I check a link party or peruse my mom's blog ( So even though my house doesn't have all the special touches some of you have, I smile every time I drive down the street and return to my home.

But just because I don't feel like the expert in interior design, I certainly like it! I'm learning to not be afraid of projects, and so I've taken on a giant one.

Right now, we have four main rooms on the first floor: living room, kitchen, dining room, and library. We call it the library because it has a whole wall of built in shelves. It gives it a very classy look (and a great place for all my fantasy novels!).

Upstairs we have four bedrooms: the master bedroom, guest room, our son's room, and the office. The office is the biggest bedroom after ours, and for good reason. When my husband received his Master's degree, his big present that he wanted was a large L-shaped desk (and three giant monitors to put on it).

I mean, really, look at this thing!

Without getting too personal, let me just say that my husband and I are not planning for our son to be an only child. And while we could have the kids share a bedroom, it seems a little silly when we have four of them in the house.

And so, here is the Master Plan:

Stage 1: Clean out the Basement and turn it into a TV/Play Room
Stage 2: Convert the Library into the Office
Stage 3: Move Jeffrey (age 1) into the old office
Stage 4: Redecorate Jeffrey's room into a fresh Nursery (for when the time comes)

This is, obviously, a huge undertaking, and one that will take months. As I discovered instantly, each step will consist of several parts. So here I'm going to show you how we did Stage 1.1 - Floorboards in the Attic.

I don't know when I first got the idea, but I suddenly knew that in cleaning up my Christmas decorations, I did not want to put them back in the basement.  I'm almost ashamed to show you this, but you need to understand what I was starting with. This was my basement before this project.

Food storage all on the floor, piles of unused baby gear, and cabinets left over from our kitchen remodel. Ack!

I wanted to put it all (minus the food storage) in the attic. But I had a problem: we had zero flooring in the attic.

I asked Brian if we could put in floorboards. He said sure. Next thing I knew we were measuring the space, dragging Jeffrey to Home Depot, and cutting and hauling wood. While there were a few bumps, it was a resounding success!

We knew that boards would be 4' x 8', and we had a couple of rules: the edge of the boards needed to be on a beam, and we needed to stagger the boards so the seams were not all the same. Here is the diagram we put together (can you tell my husband is a perfectionist and I'm a little OCD?).

Of course, we were pretty silly and tried to take a full 4' x 8' up first. Getting it in the front door, up stairs, and around the corner was easy. Trying to get it up the ladder? Not so much. The wall took a little beating.


Also, it's a miracle Jeffrey napped through this. His bedroom door is 6 inches away from these marks.

So after remeasuring, we proceeded to cutting. Brian has spent a lot of time recently building a workbench in the garage, and even though it's not 100% done, we were able to make good use of it and the tools he got for Christmas!

Don't you love how we used the old wine rack for a stand?

We got almost all the cutting done while Jeffrey napped. And once he woke up, we handed him my bike helmet which kept him remarkably distracted!

As soon as he was asleep that evening, we went about moving the boards. The biggest was now 4' x 6.5', and while it took some finagling, we were able to get it up to the attic. Yay! A lot more up and down stairs and ladders, one foot through the ceiling (another oops) and we arranged all the boards to a perfect fit!

Guess we have to fix the office ceiling now.

Brian then screwed them all down, and I spent the next week hauling boxes, gear, and any other odds and ends from the basement up two flights of stairs and a ladder. So worth it.

This is what my attic and basement look like now.

The old cabinets are getting used or given away, and then I'll have room for a couch, rug, TV, and whatever else I decide will go down here. I'm so excited!

Coming soon: Step 1.2 - Repaint old cabinet and create "Mud Room" by the basement door.

I like to join these link parties: Link Party List