Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Music -- Nice Thought, Poorly Implemented

The radio station I listen to the most plays all Christmas music at this time of year. It's kind of nice to have a station to go to to get in the mood, but I have two issues with how they implement this.

First, the music starts shortly after Halloween. Really. Before Thanksgiving, still fall, still thinking about colorful leaves and Thanksgiving bounty, and I'm bombarded with Christmas music. It's just too soon.

Second, what's today, December 27? The third of TWELVE days of Christmas? It's gone. The Christmas music is gone. We're all on vacation for a week, trying to enjoy the holidays, the tree, the new toys, and the music is gone -- back to the regularly scheduled music.

I really just don't get it. Are people really that eager for Christmas to start and then more eager for it to be over? Is Christmas music really just background noise for shopping?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Warning: Girly-Girl Event Posting

Sierra had her birthday party last Sunday. It was an Angelina Ballerina themed party at her ballet studio. Allison, the owner of the studio went above and beyond to create a memorable and beautiful party for the girls. And the girls all came so excited to dance! Here's some photos:


The party room, decorated by the dance studio





The cake with Angelina Ballerina in fondant on top... yes, created by me!





Dancing in a line





Look at that form!





Dancing in a circle





What the boys were doing





Dancing with ribbons





Blowing out candles





Poor Angelina after Sierra and Owen ate her...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where Did the Years Go?

Yesterday, Owen turned six! Six! This seems like a major milestone to me. Five seems still so little... a toddler almost. Six... that's like a boy. I mentioned this to my dad once and he told me his theory that the major milestone years (particularly for parents) are the sixes.

At six, they're getting on the bus and going to school. They're beginning to establish some independence from their parents. They're making friends at school and doing things you're not even aware of. (You know how hard it is to get a kid to tell you about his day at school?)

At twelve, they're about to become teenagers. They're really really trying to establish more independence. They're old enough to take care of other kids by babysitting. They're starting to think about *gasp* relationships and sex.

At eighteen, well, you know. They're adults. They're leaving home, hopefully, for college. 'Nuff said.

So after that, do the six-year milestones continue? Or do we switch over to the ten-year milestones? Is there anything particularly significant about 24? 30? (Well that one coincides....) 36? 42? (Perhaps 42 is when we become "old".... Yikes! I'm 42!) I would say that a lot of these ages were turning points for me in my life. What about you?

But I digress. Owen. Owen is six. Yesterday we had a fabulous party at the Higgins Armory Museum and ate a giant castle birthday cake that Owen and I got to cut with a sword! (Yes, I did make the cake... of course!)









And the rest of the party was fabulous too. The kids played in the hands-on Quest Gallery:













Owen got knighted:






(Look at that face -- pure happiness!)


And the kids made shields:



We all had a blast!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Intesticles!

Owen was peeing tonight before bed and stalled. I went in and asked him if something was wrong or if he needed help. He turned and said, "I have a question. A question about bodies." Since he said this while standing in front of the toilet holding his penis, I asked if he wanted to talk to daddy, at which point Daddy came over, too. Owen asked, "Do girls have balls?" We explained, that, no, they don't. "Girls don't have intesticles?"

"What are testicles for?"

Wow. We weren't quite sure how to answer that, but it was certainly a good question. When we told him it was something he would understand when he's older, he said, "Just explain it to me, I'll understand!" Of course you will, sweetie, of course. We explained something about babies starting from two cells, one from a mommy and one from a daddy and testicles make the cells that come from the daddy for making a baby. He looked at us with a puzzled look and admitted that he didn't really understand. Don't worry, son, you will.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer Tacos

The other day I decided to make tacos for dinner. I was sure that I had all the ingredients I needed, so I defrosted chicken (an nice variation to the ground turkey now and then).

I went to get the taco seasoning packet and discovered I didn't have any. Ok, no biggie, I'm resourceful. I looked up a recipe online for taco seasoning to replicate the seasoning packet and sure enough, the internet did not let me down! I didn't have all the ingredients exactly, but I had enough to wing it and come up with something surprisingly good!

Ok, so then, I had everything basically prepared (and by everything, I mean the few fixings my family will eat: cheese and grated carrots) and I discovered I only had three tortillas. Uh oh! Now here's where the new summer version of tacos recipe comes in! I did have some romaine lettuce. I prepared a plate of separated lettuce leaves and Steve and I used these instead of tortillas! I just put the fixings along the spine of the leaf and wrapped the leaf around lengthwise and voila, a yummy, healthy version of tacos.

(I wish I had taken a photo for you -- it looked very summery and delicious.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hedwig the Owl Cake

This is quite a belated post because someone just asked me for advice on making an owl cake for her daughter and when I went to point her to my blog post about my Hedwig cake, I realized I didn't have a post about it!

So for my nephew's 6th birthday, he had a Harry Potter party. Having just recently used my new Williams-Sonoma stand-up bear cake pan to make a Dorothy Bear cake. I had this sudden inspiration where I could "see" the owl inside the bear by turning the bear around. The arms become wings, the legs and feet get shaved down to be a tail, and the ears, nose, and bear tail are removed. Now the back of the bear's head is the owl's face.

Can you "see" it?:


Maybe you can see it from this angle:


Anyway, here is how the cake turned out. I really love this particular cake because I was able to create something fairly unique, but I did it using a shaped pan that I already had, so the sculpting was minimized. (Unfortunately, I did have an engineering flaw where I propped up the owl part of the cake with cut off platic straws stuck in the bottom cake. The bottom cake was just from a mix, so not a particularly firm cake, and the straws holding the front of the owl failed in the car on the way over. Poor Hedwig was trying to take a nose-dive and poor hubby was trying to balance the whole cake tray to avoid complete catastrophe. Needless to say, Hedwig needed some repairs on arrival and her beautiful feet were never the same....)






Friday, July 24, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, I just finished and delivered the cake I needed to do for the school's auction winner. The birthday girl decided on a dog theme, so not wanting to leave my bear pan idle, I talked her into a dog-sitting-in-a-bowl-of-dog-food cake. Here's the photos:

The Final Cake




Another View




At Home, Prior to Final Assembly


Cute, huh? Hopefully the two halves of the dog will stay together until the party tomorrow afternoon....

[Note: This cake was baked in the Williams-Sonoma Build-a-Bear cake pan. The bear ears and tail were removed and using gum-paste (homemade fondant with gum-tex added) I built up the snout, added dog ears and a dog tail. The bowl is just an 8" layer cake, tapered, with cocoa puffs added for dog kibble.]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nikita

I found this old photo of Nikita the other day and decided to scan it in. This is back when she was a young cat (maybe 2 or 3 years old?) and she used to play fetch (incessantly!) with little plastic rings. It is nice not having to worry about the cat any more, but I do miss her.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bad Dreams

The other night, in the middle of the night, Owen came into our bed. He was really, really upset and crying. He told us he had a bad dream, so we asked him to tell us about it. He said, "We were in an elevator and Sierra said she forgot her hat and ran off the elevator and I didn't make it off,..." and then he started bawling. "So you got left on an elevator by yourself?" we asked. "Yes," he said. So we comforted him and got him back to bed.

I found it very sweet that what was so scary to him was not monsters, or things chasing him, or stuff like that, but it was being alone without his parents. We did assure him that yes, getting left in an elevator would be a little scary, which is why we're always so careful to not let that happen, but that we would be able to find him again very quickly and he would be ok.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Grand Canyon

It's been a month since my trip and I still haven't posted any photos! I put together movie/slideshow with what I consider the best of the photos. Unfortunately, I think almost all the photos are good, so my first version was more than 20 minutes long and wouldn't upload! So I created a shorter version (<5min). I keep meaning to sort the photos (they're a bit out of order,) but I'll post this and update it if I ever make improvements.

video

And, in case you don't feel like watching the whole thing right now, here's just a couple of my absolute favorites:









Saturday, June 27, 2009

MJ -- Just My Opinion

Wow. Michael Jackson died. Shocker.

Do you hear the sarcasm?

It's not that I don't respect what he did for the music and entertainment industry, or that I don't think he was extraordinarily talented, or that I don't think it's profoundly sad that he died. (It's profoundly sad when anyone dies.) It's just that I really feel that what was sad was his life.

MJ was clearly emotionally disturbed. He exhibited bizarre behaviors, he had severe self-image problems that led to anorexia and severe self-mutilation (yes, all that disgusting plastic surgery was a form of self-mutilation,) and he was addicted to drugs. What did people think was going to happen? Why do we wait until something tragic happens to decide to mourn? Why didn't all the people that profess to love him try to save him?

I know, I know, it's really not that simple. When someone is alive, his life is private and not for us to intrude. Everything only becomes public and sad after their death.

But honestly, MJ's death was not a shock to me. I have been sad about his life for a long time. I certainly hope that he is at peace now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Take Her Advice!

Steve overheard the kids talking this afternoon. Owen was telling Sierra that his friends were going to be going to Kindergarten next week (we think he meant next year at a different school) and he wouldn't have any friends at school anymore. Sierra said, "If you just say 'hi' to people, then you'll make new friends!"

She's a genius!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day

I had a good Mother's Day. We took the kids to the Natick Collection Mall to have pictures taken with their cousins and Grammy. Then we had dinner with all of them. The kids were well behaved the whole time and they both ate their dinner. You can't ask for more than that.

But wait... there is more. Here are photos of the gifts they gave me. Every year at their pre-school, every kids paints a silk scarf. They each pick three colors and the scarf gets pinned down to a long piece of rice paper, which becomes the card/wrapping paper. Here's what I got: (Click on the one with the rice paper scrolls so you can read what Owen answered to "What is a mother?")



Monday, April 27, 2009

Levitating Charm

Yesterday we went to my nephew's birthday party, which was a Harry Potter party. The activities were extraordinary -- buying wands and capes on Diagon Alley, attending a sorting ceremony complete with talking sorting hat, taking a potions class, practicing Quiddich, reading tea leaves in devinations class, and having a feast. While buying a wand they got to try out the levitating charm, "Wingardium Leviosa," and a lighting charm, "Lumos." (My brother-in-law rigged up a candle light to a remote and a coke can on a string so the kids could make the charms "work" with the right wand. Cool, huh?)

Later on, after dinner, Sierra went to the bathroom on her own. My sister-in-law went in there a couple of times asking if she needed help, but she said "no." She was standing on the potty stool with her pants down in a puddle of her own pee, repeating over and over, "In gardium mariosa!"

I believe she may have been trying to levitate her pee into the toilet....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Tenth Good Thing About Nikita

1. Nikita picked me at the animal shelter.
2. She always used the litter box.
3. She played fetch.
4. The tip of her tail had an inch of orange and white stripes with the cutest white tuft at the end.
5. She was so soft and loved to be scratched in the downy fur behind her ears.
6. She was affectionate and snuggley (but not annoyingly so.)
7. She helped me through a very hard time in my life.
8. When I had kids, I thought she would be jealous and spiteful, but instead she was fiercely protective.
9. She was my friend.
10. Nikita is in the ground and she’s helping grow flowers. You know, that’s a pretty nice job for a cat.*

*Taken from “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst.


RIP Nikita. You were loved. I will remember you fondly. You are now at peace.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Permission to Think About the Unthinkable

I took the cat to the vet today. I took her about a month ago because the vomiting and loose stools seemed to be getting out of control. At that point she was sneezing a bunch, but the vet didn't seem to make much of that. Since then, her sneezing has seemed to turn into some sort of upper respiratory infection, she sneezes all the time, she's lost a tooth, her mouth is irritated, and now suddenly there's a whole bunch of mucus coming out of her mouth and nose. Plus she's not eating (probably because of the mouth irritations) and she lost a pound in a month. The vet says she has a heart murmur.

It's hard to know what this all really means without a lot of expensive testing. But I don't really want to spend a lot of money prolonging the life of a cat that's really lived a good, long, mostly happy life and whose life is really not very high quality any more. I told the vet that I really just want to make sure she's comfortable. At that point he gave me the option of putting her down. (And, of course, waterworks that I am, I started crying.) So anyway, we decided today to give her shot of antibiotic for whatever infection she my have, give her intravenous rehydration, and switch her diet to wet food to see if she'll eat and gain any weight back.

So now, after the vet opened up the discussion of putting her down, I feel like I have permission to think about it and really examine the cat's quality of life and comfort to evaluate when is the right time. The thought of it makes me feel horribly sad, guilty, and, at the same time, a bit relieved.

There's a lot to think about, including how to discuss this with the kids. Steve thinks that we shouldn't let them know that we're ever choosing to end the cat's life, in case they think we might do that to them. Perhaps we might tell them that we're bringing the cat to a place where they care for very old animals until they die. (Kind of a stretch of the truth -- a very long stretch.) It's not that we want to completely avoid the topic of death, just anything that might scare them into thinking they might die in their sleep or that we might choose to get rid of them. Has anyone had experience with explaining such things to their kids?

I have to say, writing this down just now has felt very therapeutic. I hope there's no one reading this that takes offense at how I am caring for my cat. I really just want to do the most humane thing. She has been a dear friend to me for almost 17 years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One More Tutu

I know, I know, this is getting old. But this one turned out really cute! I made my niece a Lavender Flower Fairy Tutu for her 3rd birthday. I wish I could have been there to see if she liked it! (She was the one that got the Snow White cake.)

Here's Sierra modeling it for me:









Thursday, March 19, 2009

Missing the Best Part

I have to say, my favorite part of making a cake is seeing the reaction of the recipient. Last night (late!) I finished making a Snow White cake for my niece. Her party is this weekend, but we will be away. :-(

So, here's my first attempt at a princess doll cake. (I'm sure they'll be more!)



(I'm a little disappointed that the pearl luster dust on the skirt didn't show up very well, but otherwise, I think she turned out well.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

This past weekend I made cupcakes to go with the Dorothy Bear cake at the school's fundraising auction. I wasn't sure if anyone would cut the bear cake, or if it would be too dense to eat, so I wanted to also make something yummy to go with it. Here's how I displayed it:



Everyone seemed to love the cupcakes, so I'm posting the recipe here. I'll start with the recipe as I found it (online somewhere) and then I'll tell you my variations.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1 box dark chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium size zucchini (2 cups grated)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup white raisins (sultanas)

In a large mixing bowl, add cake mix, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat until well blended. Stir in the chopped nuts, grated zucchini, chocolate chips, and raisins.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9inch cake pan.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool the cake, then frost with cream cheese frosting of your choice.


My variations:

I always make this as mini cupcakes. Bake them for a much shorter period of time. I don't remember exactly how long -- just keep checking after about 10 or 15 minutes. (You know, until the toothpick comes out....) (Someday maybe I'll try it as a cake!)

The second time I made these with regular raisins rather than white raisins. I like this much better. The dark raisins you can't see, and they just add a hint of something juicy and sweet in the cupcake.

Next time I might add a little bit more zucchini -- it was not noticeable, and I think you could push the health factor.

Leave out the nuts if you need to, although I like them. I might even add a few more nuts and raisins.

Sunday, March 15, 2009