Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

So here we are a week later. Another Thursday night. Another evening of me allowing myself to be selfish and just R.E.L.A.X.
There are dishes sitting in the sink. There are things not yet crossed off my "to do" list for the week. The checkbook register needs to be updated with the last week's purchases. There is trash to be taken out. And I could do something about it. And being that it's only 9:00pm, I just might get around to a few of those things yet this evening.

Maybe. But for now, I think I'll keep writing this blog.

I'm not loving this regression in the weather. It took me all of 5.28 seconds to adjust to the sunny days and warmer temperatures. I was handling days packed with walks, park outings, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk very well. Those days were flying by. These rainy, mostly cool days that have kept us trapped inside have been nothing short of a bummer. And I can't seem to fill the minutes indoors with enough activities to make the day go by faster than at a snail's pace. Seriously praying for the warmer, sunnier days to return.

Kyra has recently discovered that she can tackle Kylie. All day, every day you can hear my voice squeaking, "Kyra! Get off your sister!" Fortunately, Kyra hasn't really hurt her. In fact, most of the time Kylie just giggles and giggles. Which only makes Kyra think that it's okay for her to do it again. And again.

During the few moments of the day that Kylie is sleeping and Kyra is in her room for "quiet time", I've recently started listening to Pandora Radio. I created a Jon McLaughlin channel and as a result have been enjoying nothing but fantastic music. I'm getting Matt Wertz, Coldplay, Michael Buble, Matt Nathanson, John Mayer, Dashboard Confessional and Sara Bareilles to name a few.

I bought the girls Easter dresses a LONG time ago. In fact I'm pretty sure it was snowing on the day i bought them. Yesterday I purchased their shoes and ruffle socks to complete their adorable little ensemble. I am so excited to get them all dressed up and follow them around with my new camera like the paparazzi.

I am so excited for Easter. Period.

My sis-in-love, Susan, emailed me today with our confirmation for our Philadelphia chocolate tour on April 10th! She got us tickets as a Christmas gift to me. Not only does it involve me eating lots of delicious chocolate confections, but she also bought me guaranteed time away from my kids. Seriously one of the best things you could give a mother of two toddlers.

Speaking of time away from our kids.... My husband has a lot of that coming up. I feel like every time I turn around, we're ticking more days off the calendar this spring/summer that he will be away. I know he travelled a lot last year, but I just feel like my life is so much busier this year and I feel like I could just collapse under the thought of all the days/nights I'm going to play "single mom" in the coming months. I'm not gonna lie, I've totally been having a pity party for myself in my head today because of it. And I feel guilty about it. I know there are people in the world dealing with a lot worse and I just need to trust God to be my strength and my sanity. But right at this particular moment, that is easier said than done.

I think the warmer weather last week, (in combination with our friends all freshening up their own homes), has given me the itch to finally get some projects started/finished on our home. I want to paint. I want to finish the play room. I want to buy new curtains. I wand to clean places that nobody ever sees. I want to purge things we seldom or never use. Now I just need to come up with a brilliant plan on how to do all these things with Kyra wrapped around my right leg and Kylie on my left.

And on that note... I can't help but go get some things done in the couple hours I have left tonight.

Have a great (hopefully warm and sunny) weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Two weeks ago Jim started classes with the Elijah House School for Prayer Ministry. This means that every Thursday night for the next 12 weeks I will be home alone with my girls. At first, this was a little overwhelming to take in. That's 14 total nights (or two full weeks) of feeding the girls dinner, bathing them, and putting them to bed all by myself. And it may not sound like much, but after I've been with them by myself ALL DAY LONG, trying to keep up with their average pace of 6900 miles per minute, I can just barely muster up the energy to go the extra 2ish hours alone.

However, I've discovered over the last two weeks that once the girls are in bed, I have this rare opportunity for something called "me time". I have vague memories of a past life where this concept existed, but recently Thursday nights seem to be getting us reacquainted.

I've been able to actually reply to emails that have spent days sitting in my inbox, run a couple of miles, play online games, read magazines (thanks Susan for my subscription to Real Simple!!!), and well, blog.

All week long there have been little things here and there that have made me smile or brought me to the verge of insanity, so tonight, I thought I'd sit down and put some of these random things on paper, er, the internet.

Here goes....
My baby brother, Ethan, left on the 14th for a couple of months in the Dominican Republic/Haiti. We've lived in different states for 7 years now and I've missed a good part of his life, but for some reason just knowing he isn't in the US of A makes me miss him. It also makes me realize that even though I haven't been there for it, he grew up and God is shaping him into a man after His own heart.

Let me just tell you how proud I am of my "home-improvement challenged" husband for taking apart, cleaning, and putting back together our mold ridden shower in the master bath (including caulking the entire thing). I know this was a big project for him and I was impressed that he was even willing to take it on. AND he did a GREAT job. No mold, no leaks = success!

Kyra has been playing dress up a LOT lately. And I love it. I just can't get over how cute she is in the skirts and gloves and heels and tiaras. Today she even asked me to paint her fingernails and toenails. Let me just say I think she's awesome.
Hello SPRING! I have been ecstatic over the sunshine and warmer weather we've been getting this week. We've gone to the park twice, taken several walks around the block, done chalk drawings on the driveway, blown hundreds of bubbles, and played with a water table Kylie got for Christmas (yay for finally being able to use it!!).
Kylie learned how to blow bubbles (like the kind with the wand you dip in the soap). I couldn't believe it and it's just so gosh darn cute.

With the warmer weather/opportunities to play outside we have also expanded the number of ways we can injure ourselves. This week alone Kylie has busted her lip open twice, Kyra scrapped up her hand, and the girls legs are multiplying with bruises as if they were somehow contagious.

I've discovered Kylie prefers to go down a slide by any means other than the way it is intended: on her back, head first, and our recent favorite, just plain walking down them, which leads to tumbling head over heels down them, which leads to busted lips.
Yesterday we made popsicles. The EXACT SAME KIND my mom used to make when I was little. They're made with Minute Maid Berry Punch with strawberries and blueberries in them. The only difference is my mom used to make them in Dixie cups with wooden popsicle sticks and I've gone the more "green" route and am using plastic molds. They still taste the same to me though and I'm so happy I remembered that part of my childhood.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to go SHOPPING by MYSELF. I was able to browse every rack in every store, try on as many clothes as I felt like, and remind myself that I actually really enjoy shopping.

On my shopping trip I bought a dress and hat for the Little Light House garden party. I am SOOOOOOOOO excited to be going to it this year!!! I get sad every year I see the picture of my mom and sisters, knowing that I'm missing out. Not this year though!!

There are many more random thoughts from the week floating around in my brain right now, but lots of them are about some of the less interesting or more disgusting moments, so I think I'll just end it here.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Little Lunch Adventure

I've always been a fan of Chick-fil-a. From their menu to their business plan to their faith-based origins to their playground for kids, I love it all. And much to my husband's jealousy, I somehow manage to eat there at least once per week. Usually I dine-in with my girls so they get a chance to burn off some energy in the play area after we eat, but this morning we spent a while at an open gym day at a local church and the girls had done plenty of running and energy burning so I decided to just drive through on the way home.

We pulled in just after noon, so it was crazy busy. The line for the drive-thru moved surprisingly fast and when I pulled up to the window to pay and get my food I was impressed by the way the employees were working together to move things along quickly and effectively. I got my food and pulled away. Typically when I drive thru, I pull into an empty parking space and get the girls all situated with their food before I begin the drive home, but today (and being Chick-fil-a at lunch time) there weren't any empty spots. I did my best to stay focused on the road as I handed Kyra and Kylie their chicken nuggets, but then I realized that the girls drinks had rolled onto the floor, so about 5 minutes down the road I pulled into a gas station to pick them up and get us all situated. That's when I decided to check the bag with my food. Only when I opened it, it wasn't my food.

I had ordered chicken nuggets and some of those addicting waffle fries, but instead found a side salad and fruit cup in the bag. Talk about a bummer! Had it been a chicken sandwich and fries or even a chicken wrap and fries, I would've just kept on heading home, but alas, no fries so I turned us around and headed back to the busy Chick-fil-a.

I locked my girls in the car (they were in a pseudo trance watching Veggie Tales anyway) and ran in with the bag of healthy food to exchange for my higher calorie meal. I began to explain and right away they announced that they had already realized the error and were expecting me. They gave me a 12 piece nuggets (instead of the 8 piece I paid for) and the fries and told me to keep the salad and fruit too. I was very pleased with the fact that not only did they make things right (in less than 60 seconds from the time I entered the store), but they made an effort to compensate me for the error. As if I needed another reason to heart Chick-fil-a.

When I finally got home and was eating my delicious 12 pieces of chicken, I actually found a bone in one. It sort of weirded me out, but then I thought to myself, "well, at least I know it's legit chicken!" I'm not gonna say this makes onto the "reasons I love Chick-fil-a" list, but it didn't deter me either.

So that was my little lunch adventure today. Who knew driving-thru for fast food could be such an experience?!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Whoooo Wants Cake?!

On Saturday we celebrated with my sister-in-love, Katie, as she and Declan prepare to welcome their first baby in May. The baby shower was exquisite with beautiful flowers and home made decorations adorning the restaurant. All the creativity and time put in by Katie's sister (and my other wonderful sister-in-love), Susan, seemed to pay off as I looked around the room and realized it was the cutest yet classiest baby shower you could imagine. I was honored and excited to make the cake for the event. And this post is about just that.

I've been making cakes as a hobby now for ten years. While I was working as a personal assistant for a lady in her home during my college years, I learned all the basics: how to make frosting (from her mom's bakery's recipe), how to properly bake and freeze (yes freeze) a cake, how to frost the frozen cake, and some basic decorating techniques. She even gave me some of her decorating supplies to get me started on my own. And ever since then I've wanted to learn more. But being as it wasn't my actual career, I never ended up getting any additional training (though I've promised myself I'll take a class this year).

When the opportunity to do Katie's shower cake came along, I decided that training or not, I wanted to try some new things (new to me anyway) with this cake. First, I decided that I wanted to work with fondant. Despite it's unpleasant taste, I have to admit that some of the cutest cakes I've ever seen are done in fondant, so I figured it was time for me to give it a shot. Second, I decided to attempt my first two tier cake. It seemed simple enough in theory. But theory and reality sometimes live a long, long way from each other.

I baked the cakes in shifts throughout the week and had them waiting in the freezer. Then on the Thursday night before the shower I practiced playing with and carving the fondant. Everything went superb that night with the trial run, so I was really pumped for the actual decorating the next night. The second my kids were in bed on Friday, I went to work. I made the frosting for the cake in record time and it was the best I've ever made. I pulled the first two cakes out of the freezer, leveled them and frosted them perfectly. I was beaming with delight. It was the smoothest icing job I'd ever done.

Now came the first tricky part for me. I don't have multiple size cake pans, so I was going to have to hand carve the next two cakes that would form the top tier. I had my cardboard guide and began carving just like I've seen the pros do on Food Network. It was easier to carve than I expected and I was mostly happy with how this top tier was going so far. Then I started frosting it...

Oh the frosting! And the crumbs! And the crumbs in the frosting! My perfectly pink frosting was quickly overtaken with dark chocolate cake crumbs the moment I began putting it on the cake. Because of the carving, the edges of the cake were much looser than I'm accustomed to and the crumbs stuck to the frosting like flies to flypaper. I was horrified. But I took a deep breath and began brainstorming the situation. I've heard of bakers doing "crumb coats" of frosting on a cake before the final layer of frosting, so I decided that even though I knew nothing about crumb coats, that I would try to make this first layer of frosting just that.

I got the cake covered in crumby pink frosting and let it set for a bit. Then I did a top coat of frosting and it actually seemed to be working quite nicely. But after I had finished I noticed the frosting seemed to be sliding down the sides of the cake so that it was way thicker at the bottom than the top. Several times I scraped the frosting from the bottom to again even out the sides of the cake, but the more I did that, the more the crumby frosting underneath began to show. My husband finally advised me to just leave it alone before I made it any worse, so I did. I had already put the dowels (hand cut by my hubby) in the bottom tier to support the top tier, so all I needed to do was put the two together and decorate.

As I was getting ready to place the top tier on the bottom tier, that little voice in my head kept repeating, "Don't do it! You'll be much happier with a one level cake that looks nice than a two tier cake that looks bad." But alas I ignored it. (I seem to be doing that a lot lately and regret it every time! When will I learn!) And as soon as I got the top tier placed it became painfully obvious that it was completely uneven.

At this point (as I'm kicking myself for not listening to myself), I decided to take it back off and scrap it. My husband, who named himself my sexy assistant for the evening, decided the best way to remove it would be for him to lift it off with his hands. It was not. The whole top layer began to come apart all over the perfectly salvageable bottom tier, but we somehow managed to scoop it off in mostly one piece.

I used the little frosting I had left to re-ice the now top of the cake and it came out fine, but not nearly as perfect as it had been just moments before. Now I was FINALLY ready to decorate it. But as I pulled out the fondant it hit me that I had used every last bit of powdered sugar to make the frosting and held nothing back for working with the fondant. (When working with fondant you use confectioners sugar the same way you would use flour to keep dough from sticking.)

So I thought to myself, maybe the fondant won't stick. Wrong.

So then I thought, maybe I could just use flour instead. It can't be that different. Wrong.

So then I just decided to work as fast as I could to get everything cut and on the cake. And that worked.

Was everything as clean and perfect as I had planned and hoped it would be? No. Was it still a really cute and absolutely delicious cake (if I do say so myself)? Yes. Did I learn from this cake decorating experience? Yes. And despite my lack of powdered sugar I still found an affinity for working with fondant and am now even more determined to get myself to some cake decorating classes.

Here are some pictures* of the process and the finished product:

I failed to mention my "sexy assistant" made AND frosted some chocolate cupcakes to make up for the missing top cake tier:

Oh and as for the crumby top tier.... let's just say I had a few eager volunteers to put it away for me:

*Cake pictures at the shower were taken by my friend Lyryn.