Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bartholemew

We have a new resident at our house. His name is Bartholemew, and he is Ben's sort of evil twin. Your first guess might be that Ben made him up. Nope. He is Brian's creation... let me explain!

Whenever Ben gets out of the shower, he curls up in a ball on the floor and covers himself with one of our big towels. For those of you with toddlers, you know this is code for "I am no longer visible to the naked eye." So each night, Brian "looks" for Ben, calling his name, checking under the bed and behind doors, etc. Last night, Brian decided to spice it up. While Ben was hiding on the bathroom floor, Brian "found" him in our closet. This is what Ben overheard from under his towel:

"Hey Ben! What are you doing in our closet? I thought you were under the towel. What? That kid under the towel isn't Ben? Then who is he? Bartholemew?! Where did he come from? I have to get him out of here!"

At this point, Brian walked over to Ben under the towel and started talking to him as though he were the fictional Bartholemew. He explained that we didn't have any more room and that he could stay the night, but he would have to leave in the morning. Ben was so confused! He kept saying, "No, I'm Ben!" Then he ran out to find me. "Mommy, I'm Ben!" To which I said, "hey Barty - have you seen Ben?"

So, next time you come over, look closely. You may be talking to Ben, or you may have to hang out with that shifty little fella, Bartholemew. I've included some pictures to help you distinguish.


Ben:


Barty:


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cakes

I have a love/hate relationship with making cakes. My fascination started right before Ben turned 1. I really wanted to make his birthday cakes myself. Luckily, two of my neighbors were well-versed in cake decorating. I asked lots of questions, bought a little starter guide book that Wilton publishes, and set out to make the cakes for Ben's birthday.

The theme was "bugs", and I made a big sheet cake and a 6-inch round smash cake, both covered with bugs and primary colors. I remember my biggest challenge was getting the icing smooth. I picked up a couple tips from Liz and Destiny... put you can see that I still had a lot to learn!
My next project was for Ben's friend, Elise, who lives across the street. Her mom found this cupcake cake at Wal-mart and took a picture, and we just made it ourselves. I think it came out really cute!
Just a few months later, the Ivankovich twins were turning 1 and Missy wanted a survivor themed party - so I offered to make the cakes for her. I researched different ways of getting the pattern onto the cake (because I am definitely not talented enough to draw something like this freehand.) What I ended up doing was taking a piece of plexi glass out of a cheap picture frame from the dollar store. I made a batch of royal icing and traced the survivor emblem on the glass in reverse. Once it hardened, I use the glass as a "stamp" to put the picture on the cake. Then I just had to fill it in with the different colors. I made a smash cake for each of the boys. Aaron's cake was very similar to Josh's, but it was covered in stars....

Then came Ben's 2nd birthday, and he wanted a Pooh Bear party. I didn't like the current Pooh Bear pan that Wilton had in stores, so I found this vintage one on Ebay!
I remember this cake was a group effort - I was piping stars on one side of Pooh Bear while Mom was doing the other side. I wanted to give people the option of yellow or chocolate cake, so I turned these chocolate cupcakes into honey bees. I used the Wilton grass tip to make them look "fuzzy". The wings are fondant. I used a heart cookie cutter to cut them out and then let them sit out to harden overnight. The eyes are mini marshmallows cut in half, with a dot of icing on them. They were so cute and a big hit with the kiddos!
In August, we drove to Mississippi to visit the Krutz Family! It was going to be Abby's birthday while we were there, so I bought this pan on our way over there and made the cake as a gift! Abby was having a pancakes & pedicures party (which I think was the cutest thing ever) and she loved her butterfly cake! It was a very girly day! :)

I made this one just for fun... I wanted to see if I could use a cream cheese icing to pipe decorations the same way I used buttercream. I found a recipe for a "crusting cream cheese icing". It was yummy and worked just as well. I think I brought this one to a potluck with our church small group.
Here we are at Ben's 3rd birthday party. In January, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted for his party and he said he wanted a "Horton" cake. It just so happens that Wilton does not make a Horton pan, or any sort of elephant pan for that matter... So I had 6 months to stress about how to make a Horton cake. Brian said I should use the internets to gaggle it - hee hee - he's such a dork. I did, however, find instructions for this cake on a "coolest cakes" website. I made the ears a few days ahead of time - they are made from marshmallow fondant and wrapped around two pieces of cardboard. Looking back, I should have wrapped the fondant around sugar cookies instead. It would have been cool to say the entire cake was edible... oh well! The head was made from the Wilton mini-ball pan, and I carved the body, feet, and trunk out of a 9 x 13. My biggest frustration was the grey icing. I guess I didn't mix the color into the bowl evenly enough, because when I refilled the bag to finish piping the stars, the icing was lighter than the rest. Lesson learned.... This was the most recent cake I've made and my first attempt at 1) a tiered cake and 2) a cake covered entirely in fondant. Of course, I waited until the night before to tackle this one, so I was really stressed out. The fondant is actually marshmallow fondant - which is cheaper, easier, and yummier than the real stuff. It is still a pain to make, though, 'cause it's really sticky and it gives my kitchen aid mixer a work out. I initially wanted to make the flowers out of pink, blue, and khaki colored fondant, but I ran out of steam and patience at about 12:30 am . I decided to just do pink and decorate it with the leftover cream cheese icing that I used underneath... I just tinted it blue. I think the cake turned out precious, and it was a big hit at Lyndsey's baby shower.
So, why the love/hate relationship? Because while I enjoy getting creative and seeing the end result, I usually am ready to call Wal-mart and order a cake about half-way through! By the time I'm done, my kitchen is strewn end-to-end with sticky, icing covered dishes. There is also a lovely layer of powdered sugar coating every horizontal surface. Add a toddler and newborn into the mix, and I probably should just give it a rest! I guess I'm a glutton for punishment though, because if a birthday party or baby shower or some other cake-appropriate event comes up in conversation, I'm shouting, "I'll do it!" before I can stop myself. Besides, my cakes are soooo much yummier than the ones at Wal-mart! ;)

Next up: Mimi's 4th birthday complete with a Dora the Explorer cake!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sleepover Night

Sleepover night has been re-instated, much to Ben's delight!

Let me explain. First of all, Brian and I are firm believers that kids should sleep in their own beds. Both Ben and Grace have been in their own beds, in their own rooms, since we've brought them home from the hospital (well, Grace had to sleep in our walk-in closet for a week or two 'cause her room doubles as the guest room - but you get the picture). To each his own, but the idea of the "Family Bed" is definitely not something we subscribe to! Consequently, both my kids are great sleepers and have no problems falling asleep in their own rooms.

Fast forward a couple years from Ben's birthday. One night when Brian was working I decided to snuggle up with Ben in our room to watch a movie, and he ended up sleeping in there with me. We definitely missed the targeted 8:30 bedtime, but we had tons of fun giggling, pillow-fighting, and cuddling. Sleepover nights were born! From then on, we held sleepover nights two or three times a month. Until.... Baby Grace. Sleepover nights don't really mesh well with 3 am feedings, so we had to put our special activity on a brief hiatus. I haven't thought about it in a while, but last night Ben asked, out of the blue, "Is it sleepover night?". Well, you know what buddy, it IS sleepover night! (Thanks to your little sister sleeping through the night.) It was great to have our little tradition back again. The best part - at about 5 in the morning, I woke up to Ben BELLY LAUGHING! I thought, oh no, it is way too early for him to be up... but when I glanced over at him, he was fast asleep. Apparently something in his dreams was cracking him up. I rolled over and went back to sleep with a huge smile on my face, grateful for my sweet little boy and sleepover nights!

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