Friday, June 24, 2011

Pull string pinata

Pinatas used to scare the heck out of me.  As I have thought about this, I believe this deep fear comes from the fact that my birthday is in November, which meant that if I ever wanted one of these contraptions it would have to be indoors.  My parents allowed me a pinata one year, which was enjoyed in the confines of our basement.  Give a few 6 year olds a bat and a small space and it makes a great deal of sense why that was the end of that particular childhood dream. 
Fast foward about 25 years.  Not much has changed in the world of pinatas, but I did get this wonderful inspiration from a blog called Young House Love for a pull string pinata.  The pull string is perfect for 2 year olds because everyone can participate and it alleviates my fear of blindfolded toddlers toting plastic bats without much direction.  This was a fun little project and Julia did actually help a little bit with the paper mache, though mostly she was a big mess.  We filled the pinata with mini playdough, packs of pretzels and goldfish crackers, and boxed raisins (which again, is also great for 2 year olds, they don't mind the healthy treats). 
Click on the link for Young House Love for the full fledged tutorial.  She does such a good job with it, I won't waste time rewriting it all.  I mostly found that you have to just figure out what works in regard to tying it up and finishing off the enclosure for the candy. 
A few things that I learned from this project:
  • It is a little bit anti-climactic for the 2 year olds.  They loved pulling the string and seeing the candy fall, but needed some encouragement to pick it up.  It was well worth the 5 second initial joy of pulling the string though! 
  • When you buy the punch balloons, anticipate using the whole pack of 6.  A few balloons popped during the production of this craft and a few were confiscated by Julia. 
  • Store bought pinatas are actually pretty expensive!  This entire project (including the treats inside, which was the primary cost) totaled about $15 and I didn't have to worry about party favors because the kids could take these treats home.
  • And a random personal observation, when you get weekly preganancy updates on the size of your baby, a belly at 37 weeks is compared to a watermelon, but it's also pretty congruent with the size of this pinata.  This I learned during the production of this fish and seeing the photos of me side-by-side with it. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

cake inspiration

My friend Shana could put any baker to shame.  I wish that I could put as much precision into baking, but I just don't seem to have the patience for the heap of ingredients and measurements.  Half of my baking recipes come out good.  The other half?  Well, I never quite know what went wrong. 
I have found a fine balance of boxed mixes that I always use and some good old fashioned recipes that can never be duplicated from a box.  I will always use Betty Crocker's dark chocolate brownie mix because it's a winner everytime!  At the same time, there is nothing like my great grandmother's homemade biscotti cookie recipe or some of the great baking recipes that I've found in my Moosewood Cookbook.  Here is a fine blend of both - a boxed cake mix and some yummy homemade buttercream frosting. 
This is an EASY EASY EASY cake to make!
First of all, this was my inspiration from Prudent Baby:
If you are super precise, the above tutorial for you.  I knew that I wanted to do a crab and I had icing dispenser to make the design.  If you need a little room for error, see below (or just check out the website and create your own masterpiece)!  The adaptations that I made turned this big project into a quick 20 minute icing job once the cakes were done.
  • Bake 2 round 9-inch cakes and let them cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, make your icing.  I use this recipe for buttercream frosting from My Baking Addiction, which I used for the Cadbury cupcakes that I posted around Easter time.
  • When cooled, use a knife to cut off the top layer of the cake to make sure that you have 2 completely flat surfaces to work with.  (set risen pieces aside to use for the crab body and claws)
  • Ice the bottom layer - place a filling on top of this layer if you'd like.
  • Place the other layer on top and ice completely.
  • Take the extra cake pieces from the layer that you cut off and cut out a crab shape.  You can use a stencil, but you can just as easily freehand this, which is what I did.
  • Do the same for 2 claws
  • Arrange on top of the cake and ice over it.
  • Whip up your color using food dye
  • Using a star tip on the icing dispenser (whatever those things are called...) go over the design.  You can't really mess up!
  • Add M&M's for the eyes

 And here is the finished product.  I added the other claws directly onto the cake.  It gives better effect for the front 2 big ones to be raised. 

Happy 33rd Birthday Charles!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lobster and BBQ - does life get any better?

oH hApPY daY!
Put us on the coast of Maine and call all of our friends - we would be perfectly content spending every weekend this way!  So our lobsterbake/fish themed party went off without a hitch.  It was comfortable and fun, which was a perfect way to combine the party of a two year old and thirty-something year old.  Thanks to Charles for being such a good sport and sharing your birthday while also taking on some pretty hefty labor in the kitchen.
Here are a few of the little additions that pulled together this whole thing. 
A bit of a whimsical Cape Cod.
 Fish bar for the kiddies. 
How easy is this?  We had a few imports from Sweden, some guppies, and even some sushi (rice krispie treats wrapped in fruit roll ups with some sprinkles as the "tobiko").  We put this on a little table and at some points had to move the fish to higher ground to make sure that the kids actually ate a real meal too.

 The cake for Charles.  This was so much fun to make.  Probably because I'm not a baker and I have always been intimidated by anything baked that requires some advanced decorating skills.  This was among the easiest parts of the preparation (except for the part where I forgot to by confectioner sugar for the icing and had to send my parents out for the 5th trip of the day to the grocery store).
Julia's cupcakes - cinnamon toast cupcakes with buttercream frosting to boot!
 Julia's lobster encounter.  She was trying to show off for her friend Charlie, so at this point she attempted to convince him that she kissed one when it was alive.  She is a brave soul, but does embelish a bit.
 The homemade fish pull string pinata.  This filled a whole five second span of excitement for the two year olds.  They were excited to pull the string, but could have cared less about all of the treats that fell out.  In about a year or two that will all change!
 Julia and daddy blowing out their candles.
 Some love for Becca
 and an extra squeeze for Andrew!
I am excited to share some of the details of the party and the ideas that inspired them throughout this week.  On Sunday we recovered from the party and celebrated Father's day, which included 9 holes of golf for daddy with Julia and I as his favorite caddies.  I then proceeded to experience several contractions throughout the night...a little reminder of the relaxing that needs to occur before our next big event!
At 37 weeks, with not many more to go, this week ahead is one of pure decompressing! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

brought to you by the number TWO!

I can't even begin to describe the joy that I feel as we celebrate Julia's second birthday.  She just amazes me everyday and on days like this it is funny to take a step back to see how far she has come in two short years.
 Maybe it's my own high maintenance attitude toward birthdays, but when I thought about what to do for Julia on her actual birthday, I kept coming up short.  Nothing felt like it could truly capture the celebration that we feel in our hearts for such a milestone.  The other day someone asked Julia what she wanted for her birthday this year and she responded, "Mimi and Papa".  It's the simple things with her and I decided that she would be more content on our neighbor's swings than she would at the zoo.  I could learn a thing or two from her.  Today was our simple day.  We did what we felt like doing and not much was off limits.  She decided to play with playdough on the floor, roll in the dirt in her white dress, and have dessert with every meal.  We met daddy out for lunch and had her favorite meal for dinner - enchiladas and corn on the cob at her request. It all ended with a walk around our lovely neighborhood as Julia rode on her new tricycle, ice cream cones before bed and stories of the day that she was born. 
Ahh, at what age does this become complicated?

Her first official birthday donut
and TWO sippy cups for our favorite TWO year old as she holds her mini water polo ball (a special gift from daddy to jump start her water polo career)

This is our day winding down - (please ignore my attire, at this point in my pregnancy I am a magnet to most stains!).  Most of her energy is spent attempting to let me know how much she thinks she can do on her own, though she always takes time to snuggle.  Two is a big milestone because it is the ultimate transition into this independance.  This picture below is my little reminder that there are still room for these moments of the pure reliance and comfort needed from a parent. 
The perfect ending to our perfect day. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

easily distracted

The other day I had this sudden realization that I had no longer mastered the art of multitasking when I asked Scout (our dog) to go check on Julia who was playing downstairs.
It's those moments as a mother that are humbling reminders that I'm not on top of things as much as I'd like to be. I have found that when I plug away at the little things, the big things seem to come together. We have a ton of party planning ahead for Julia and Charles' birthday party next Saturday. Yet with everything going on, I have found it to be so important to spend some time in my studio working on some special projects. I took a break from party planning this week to make a cute little onesie for a friend who is having a little boy a few weeks after me. I have expanded my sewing horizons to figure out how sewing and boyish things can come together.
I think I have opened the door...and I'm sure there will be more to come due to the fact that there are plenty of boys about to arrive!
Happy baby shower Erika! We can't wait to meet baby B!
And tomorrow is officially Julia's 2nd birthday - although she tends to believe that this entire week has been a celebration for her!  The whale onesie may be a sneak preview of the theme in our house right now. Saturday we will be having a New England style lobster bake. I have gotten some great inspiration from some really creative blogs.  So I am excited to see it all come together. 
Here is a look at the invitation (well, part of it):
More festivities to come!  I love this stuff!
You only turn 2 once, you know!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Last days as a ONE year old!

We've had some proud moments with our little girl this week.  She knows that she is about to turn TWO and will announce it to anyone who will listen.  Suddenly she has this vast imagination, which makes playing with toys so much more fun!  She likes to make tents and create her own little world inside.  Usually this involves rearranging her toys until they are comfortable in her eyes.  I could watch her for hours as it is so interesting to see how she processes everything around her.  For the last week she has been playing with her Minnie and Mickey doll - typically Minnie hits Mickey a few minutes into their playdate and Minnie has to go to "timeout", which is on our stairs.  Julia scolds Minnie and explains to her that she needs a timeout and how long she will be there.  It usually ends with a kiss between the two of them and these characters are back being the best of friends.  These are such teachable moments as she suddenly is developing a sense of compassion and an awareness of the emotions of others. 
This is not without its challenges.  I wonder how this will translate when her newborn brother comes along and cries quite a bit.  Sometimes I forget that she is still so little and I am floored when she hauls off with a premeditated punch to her little friends without a second thought.  I recognize that this coming year will be one big teachable moment for all of us!
Here are some pictures of our day today.  It makes me smile to capture these simple moments. 
Julia's sad face.  She does this quite well - on cue too!
 Happy face.
 My little helper-BEE making gourmet pizza.  I love her eclectic palate!
 She is quite proud of herself!  She says "I do it" approximately 100 times a day.
Most of the time, her efforts to be helpful end up with a lot more cleaning in the long run.  This is her desire to "mix" the butter that I was leaving out to soften. 
 She insists on wearing these sandals on a daily basis.  We bought her these for Christmas and they are still one size big.  Despite the fact that she trips over her feet, she will not let us take them off!  She also HAS to sleep with her cowgirl boots in her crib with her (I am quite proud of this current obsession!)
And a random photo of daddy finishing off her cereal.  Ahh, the things we do as a parent to try to make life easy.
So the countdown begins...Julia turns 2 on the 13th.  
The next posts will reflect my desire for a last hurrah of her last weeks as an only child.  We are excited to celebrate her birthday and have made sure that there are plenty of personal touches at her party!