Thursday, September 30, 2010

And Now An ELMO Cake!

EDIT: I'll be adding pictures and such soon. This was written a few weeks ago and I never got them put in. SORRY!

Mike has been gone all week playing for libraries in very northern Minnesota. At one point he could see Canada across the water! Funny thing is that he is often told he sounds like he is from Canada, which he didn't agree with after listening to Canadian radio and TV personalities. Then at one of the libraries (less than 30 minutes from the Canadian border) someone told him he sounded like he was from Canada! Made me laugh since he just can't get away from that accent of his. For the record he is from the Milwaukee area and has no relatives that live anywhere north of Milwaukee.

Because of Daddy's absence we invited a friend over to play one day so I could have an adult conversation and Little Guy could burn off some energy. About 3 hours before they arrived for dinner and playing I realized that the next day was that little boy's 2nd birthday. And I hadn't planned on anything special for him. So off to the races I went and whipped up a cake!

This was a very simple, not that great looking, but did the job and made two little boys happy kind of decorated cake. My Little Guy LOVES Elmo and I have seen many different Elmo cakes around the internet. I've always figured I'd make him one, but never really had a good excuse to add more butter cream and cake to our lives. I figured this was a good reason to do so!

First I whipped up our standard chocolate cake recipe. I just did a single recipe worth and split the batter between two round pans. I don't have any special cake pans (I think they sell an actual Elmo pan) but I think you can make a lot of fun cakes with your basic round and square cake pans! This made for two very thin layers as the recipe would typically make one round layer or an 8x8 pan. I did this so they would cook faster since time was of the essence. Once they were out of the oven I flipped them out of the pans, let them cool a few minutes and then put them in my cake carrier. I put the first layer down, added a thin layer of raspberry jam to adhere them and then popped the second layer on top. Since the cake was still warm I threw it in the refrigerator to cool while I got the frosting going.

I didn't have my butter cream recipe out so I winged it from memory and made it extra stiff so I'd be able to use it for piping. Once I took out some for the nose and mouth I thinned out the rest to make it more spreadable. No time for a crumb layer, but with a bright red color and a thick application it went on fine. Then I threw on the marshmallows and used the flat end of a skewer to apply some food color as eyeballs. I took some of the thick frosting and added orange food color to it. I was able to shape it into a nose pretty quickly and it turned out way better than the eyes. I wish I had kept more frosting white and shaped the eyes since the marshmallows are a little odd looking.

The mouth was a dilemma as I didn't have any black food coloring left. I used brown and it is okay, but I really need to get black if I'm going to do this again. I did the wrong mouth shape at first, but after checking a book with Elmo's picture I tried to fix it. It's definitely not perfect, but again, it worked.

Last, since I had extra red frosting (Why didn't I have extra for the Thomas the Train Cake? That's where I really could have used it!) I put it into a pastry bag and tried to make hair all over. I should probably tell you that I have two REALLY old pastry bags and one has holes all over it. I also have a total of 3 tips. I have no real professional tools (maybe it should go on my Christmas list?) and I just do the best I can. I really wasn't liking the way the monster fur turned out, but didn't have time to try anything else.

Again, this was not my best cake, but it really surprised the birthday boy and my Little Guy LOVED having an Elmo cake in the house. Of course, it was really hard for him to wait until they came, but he enjoyed his piece and the left overs the next day!

And I should mention that we met this little boy and his mom through our Bradley class. I cannot say enough for the wonderful support we've gotten from the families in that class. The seven families have all stayed in touch and we are all celebrating 2nd birthdays this year. There is nothing like having moms to encourage you through the challenging times and cheer with you through the wonderful moments. It is so awesome to have a group of people with similar outlooks on birth and child rearing that are going through the exact same stages as you at the same time. I am so grateful that we took that class and that our group has stayed in touch! This summer we've welcomed 4 more new siblings (Peanut, another little girl and a set of twins, one boy and one girl) and we've got one more on the way fairly shortly. Such fun!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fall Is In The Air...I Think

To quote a friend "What is up with our psycho weather lately?" I couldn't agree more! This week we have literally been on a weather roller coaster with highs going from mid 60s to 87 with none really in the middle. It has been a-- is today a shorts and t-shirts day or should we be layering more than just the long sleeve shirt and full sweatsuit?--kind of week. Every other day has been hot, then cold, then hot, then cold and now today is a second in a row cold one. So, since the weather folks say it is going to stay chilly all weekend I am going to say that fall is officially in the air! That and the 40 mile an hour winds are expected to die down finally so we'll be able to enjoy some calm air.

Last week we spent a day up in the area of state that I grew up in. It was a beautiful, sunny day perfect for getting out of the city. As we drove through farm country we caught a few glimpses of the colors of fall on the early bird trees. The harvest is well underway, trees are heavy with apples and pears, garden produce was set out in yards and roadside stands and we even saw a sign advertising eggs for a dollar. Yes, we stopped in, but sadly (very sadly) no one was home. We saw the chickens running around so no doubt that the eggs were from free ranged chickens and I am still sad that we couldn't fill our cooler with all the eggs they had! I did put some money in the coffee pot and helped myself to some tomatoes, 2 green peppers, and a handful of tiny onions.

Our first destination was to have lunch and pick apples with a family friend. He and his wife were like an aunt and uncle to us growing up and sadly almost exactly a year ago, his wife passed away. Since then I've tried to stay in touch with him with Christmas cards and such, but it was nice to take him a birthday cake in person. We had picked a ton of apples there last year and our applesauce was almost all gone so he invited us up to restock. It was an off year for most of his trees (too much rain and such huge production last year) so we didn't get nearly as many. The apples are also not as nice as last year, but I am not complaining. These are apples that are completely ignored and therefore very organic and I am happy to get them. It was a bit of an adventure this year since the horses are now gone and the pastures are hugely overgrown (weeds taller than me in some areas). Considering a lack of nap and the height of the vegetation Little Guy was a real trooper! He was excited to see the tractor and to "pick apple up" and goodness knows he adores the applesauce that come of these apples! Peanut was in the carrier and napped through some of the picking as well.

A good friend came to join us and then invited us to her mom's farm to clean out the garden and pick pears. Her mom is moving to another state and the farm was set to close in just a few days so we were welcome to whatever we could find. And boy, did we find! We picked a few boxes of pears, another bucket of apples, the rest of the beets (4 pints worth), a few stalks of brussel sprouts (2 dinners worth), a few last tomatoes, Swiss chard, two hands of beans, and then we found squash. There were some huge plants that had volunteered out in the pasture on the compost pile. We picked all that there were. I came home with 4 spaghetti squash (although 2 are not very ripe) and 19 acorn squash! And her daughter kept a box as well, so I do not know the officially count, but it has to be somewhere around 35 squash that were just growing wild.

After a tiring day of harvesting we headed back to our friend's home to meet her husband and have a wonderful dinner. We also got to meet their new chickens (previously lived at her mom's farm) and Little Guy got to help collect 3 eggs that night. A big day of country experiences for him and a dozen fresh eggs for us, wonderful! We also got to here more about their plans to adopt. They (and we) are praying for a baby for them. They have finished all the paperwork, home visits and such and now we are just waiting for the right birth mother to come forward. They are going to be wonderful parents and I can't wait for the right woman to choose them!

One moment I want to remember involved Little Guy and an acorn squash. I had a big box of squash, Mike had a bunch in his hands (and Peanut in the carrier), our friend has a big armful and Little Guy had one to carry. It was a good ways from the pasture to our van and we had to navigate the horse piles and a couple of fences to get the squash to the vehicle. Little Guy had not had a nap, had spent the day (literally) running around in the fresh air and sun and he was beyond exhausted. At one point I looked back and this very filthy, very tired little two year old was just standing there holding his one acorn squash. There was something about the sun hat on his head, the crocs on his feet, the dirt on his legs and the late afternoon sun behind him that made for the most adorable exhausted two year old picture you could ever imagine. For as slow as he was moving he did get that squash all the way to the van!

I'm so grateful for good friends, tons of free organically grown produce and fall weather!

Hope you have a great weekend,

Monday, September 13, 2010


Just wanted to let you know that there is an amazing opportunity to possibly find curriculum that you need over at Laura's today. Families have generously offered up things they do not need any longer. If you find something that might be helpful just e-mail the person offering it. If you are chosen tomorrow then you will be responsible for the shipping charges.

(Almost) free curriculum is a pretty amazing blessing! Make sure and pass the word on to those who might benefit.

Have a great Monday,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Don't Blink

I've been thinking I need to use this blog to record some of the precious things my babies do that I really want to remember. It seems like I often catch myself staring at them trying to take a mental picture of what they are doing or what they look like at just-that-moment. I don't want to forget these moments/activities/words. They are here today and then gone into a whole new phase. Each change is exciting and new and fun, but then I have to miss the one that is gone and I worry that I won't remember some of the mental snapshots-because, let's face it, there are about a thousand of them I already don't remember and what are the chances they'll pop back into my memory at some point?

Hopefully I can stop of few of them in their tracks so I can come back and relish them long after Little Guy and Peanut have passed them by. This morning a few things they do that I love.

"Tank Too" (often with one little splayed hand outstretched)

Tank Too for the drink, for the book, because we told him to say it, or because he realllllly wants this thing to be gone right now. As in 'Tank Too onion' as he hands me the tiniest piece of onion you can imagine distinguishing from the other ingredients in the tomato sauce. He has decided he doesn't want to eat it and he wants me to take it from his finger. His voice gets higher and more desperate until I finally relieve him of his dreadful onion burden.

And sometimes Tank Too gets used because he wants us to take interact with him and his toys. 'Tank Too Mommy train' as he hands me a Thomas. Sit and play with this train, won't you Mommy?

We hear Peas a lot too.

"Done Mommy"

Newer development, but really only used when he is finished taking his nap or is ready to get up in the morning. There will be sweet murmuring and talking and sometimes crying as he wakens from his slumber. But there comes a moment that he is ready to be up and then it is clear and loud, crying or not, "Done Mommy."

Peanut is all about the smiles right now and since birth. That girl was born to light up and make me giggle. We could hardly watch a movie the other night because she wanted to talk to her Daddy. (and really, movie or play with our baby, is that even a fair fight?) She is into direct eye contact and cooing and early belly laughs and big, squish up her face grins. And doing my all time favorite baby move. The same one her brother did (and maybe every baby in history, but I find it to be especially sweet with my two) and made me melt every time I saw it.

The sleepy baby stretch.

The two arms bent at the elbows, fists clenched and up by the ears, neck stretched, back arched, eyes squished shut, lips pushed together, couldn't be more adorable if they tried baby stretch. I currently get a showing every morning around 6. I only get to see it once a day with her, but it sure makes my heart happy. And now that I'm home I get to see it everyday. Pure Joy.

Have a great Saturday, its raining here,

Friday, September 3, 2010

Incredibly Blessed

I'm feeling so blessed these days. In that 'can't believe this is really happening and do I dare tell people because what if I jinx it' way.

First off, I think I gave birth to an angel. Okay, all babies have a bit of the angel in them, but she is such a good girl. Our son didn't sleep through the night until about 7 months. And for months he was an up every 2 hours (more or less) kind of baby. I remember often feeling overwhelmed as the sun went down because night was falling and instead of getting to really rest I would be getting up and nursing, napping, and repeating all night long. I loved it, really I did, but now I do not know how I survived! This Peanut has taken to sleeping like it is her job. Even if she is really awake at night if I put her down as we go to bed she settles right in and sleeps. And SLEEPS. She has slept from 10-6 more nights than not for weeks already. She was doing 5 hour stretches from about her 3rd night. Occasionally we have a 3 am feeding, but often those are nights when she clonked out at about 8 and after she eats at 3 she goes back to sleep until 7. or 8. or 9. The girl likes to sleep. Now that we are almost 3 months in I feel confident I won't totally jinx it when I share the news. Here's hoping.

Don't get me wrong...not trying to brag....just really, really grateful that my exclusively nursed baby is actually a sleeper.

And the second thing that is really exciting and is a total answer to a prayer is that as of tomorrow I am officially a stay at home mom. I couldn't be happier! My maternity leave ended on Monday and my manager was nice enough to only schedule me for today and tomorrow. The decision came down to the last week of my leave and I wanted to give him 2 weeks notice. And he really needed my help for these two days, so I'm doing my part to make sure we separate on good terms. Starbucks has been good to me and I know I've been good to them. They allowed me to pretend to be a stay at home mom as Mike built up his business. I could provide my family with health insurance without working the all intensive, crazy schedule that my sales job required at times. However, with two little ones and a very busy husband it was time for me to be home full time. And with Samaritan Ministries it became possible to think about being home without having to worry constantly about health insurance. I am so grateful!

And as an added bonus today Mike spent the morning with both kids. He has suddenly become incredibly appreciative and awestruck at my abilities! :)

I spend a moment whenever I think of it to just whisper a little thanks. These two little ones are growing up so fast and I'm glad I'll be there for all the moments.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your blessings,