Friday, October 19, 2012

Gunner is 4!

I can't believe my little Gunner is 4 Years Old!  What?!  When did this happen, and where have I been?  He's such a big kid these days.  He's so independent, does so many things for himself, talks constantly, plays imaginative games constantly, sings songs to himself all day long, rides a two-wheeler, taught himself how to snap, etc.

Yet he needs his mama and daddy so much sometimes, and it reminds me of what a small guy he still is.  Like on Sunday at church when he was so tired in the primary's program practice that he would not participate.  I eventually gave up trying to get him to perk up and sing, and just brought him home and gave him a nap.  Then I thanked Heavenly Father for the motherly insight to hug and love him, instead of forcing him to do something he couldn't have handled that day.

Anywho, he had a great birthday.  It started out with a special delivery.  Our Aunt sent him an edible arrangement.  So cute and fun!  Too bad that he won't eat the delicious fruit that came in it.  Well, too bad for him...

Then I took the boys and his buddy, Greg, to the zoo.  They boys had a great time running and playing.  I really missed my sister and niece and our weekly trips to the zoo last year, and it sort of felt all wrong to be celebrating his birthday without them.  But we did have a lovely time.

I met up with Maggie for a special lunch out.  Gunner was thrilled to have fast food for lunch.  Such a treat since we almost never go out these days.

Gunner spent the rest of the afternoon playing at Greg's house, then they all came back to our house for birthday dinner, cake, ice cream and presents!  A Fun-Filled Day!  He went to bed with his new Star Wars toys, exhausted and happy.

Boy, how we love that little kid.  And here's to another great year!

Gunner's Star Wars Cake

Alright, here's the lowdown on Gunner's cake.  There were definitely some lessons learned on this one, so I'm writing them down.  Hopefully one of these days, I'll be good enough at this whole Caking thing to whip out a nice-looking cake without a lot of time, blood, sweat or tears.

I covered this cake in Ganache this time so that I could leave it out at room temperature and it would keep it's sharp corners.  I'm still learning about how to shape everything.  I used the upside-down frosting technique, which worked great, except for the fact that it came out the shape of a large Rolo.  In the end it didn't matter once I got the decorations on it.

Huge Rolo Cake.  Makes me want it to be filled with caramel.  Yummmm.

I didn't have time to prepare things ahead of time, so it was kind of a last-minute-panic situation.  This led to me working on it for almost two days straight.  Very tiring!  But fun, right?  Hmmmm.

Here's are both cakes finished and on the cake board.  Here are a few things to note:
1.  The Round Cake is a replica of Tatooine.  I used the Wax Paper Transfer technique to wrap the buildings around the cake.  It worked like a dream!  Awesome technique.
2.  The other one is Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder.  I modeled it after a toy, but sort of just made things up as I went along.  That little thing was tons of work.
3.  I loved how the marbling of the brown fondant turned out.  In fact, I thought the two cakes looked so good and clean on the cake board that I almost didn't want to add the extra decorations.

Good thing I did, cuz it totally looks better with everything else.  Don't you think?

Back view.

Here's a close-up of Tatooine.
Gunner helped me make the little rocks.

And a close-up of the Landspeeder.  I used silver luster dust on the gray parts to make them shiny.
Gunner liked that. :)

Here's the new Landspeeder toy we gave Gunner for his birthday that I modeled his cake after.
I got the colors completely wrong, but other than that, I think the cake turned out pretty similar!

The one big thing I want to remember about making this cake is about Quantity, since I'm always trying to figure all of this out every time I make a cake.  How much of 'this and that' does it take to make a three-layer 8-inch round cake (just like the Tatooine cake)?
1.  It took two cake mixes (this recipe), although I used the fourth layer to make the Landspeeder cake.  I would have ended up with an extra layer otherwise.
2.  I made one half batch of chocolate buttercream frosting (I added 1/2 cup cocoa to the butter while creaming to make it chocolate) to fill the cake.  This half-batch would be plenty to fill and frost an 8-inch round cake.  However, if you're covering it in ganache like I did, you could get away with making a 1/4 batch of buttercream for the filling.
3.  Ganache: I used Trader's Joe's Pound Plus chocolate for the ganache.  That stuff is awesome and super affordable.  The recipe for ganache is 1 part heavy cream to 2 parts chocolate. (It's different for white chocolate.  Officially it's 1 part cream to 3 parts white chocolate, although it's tricky to get the consistency right.  You want it to harden into a nice shell, so maybe the proportions should be 5 parts white chocolate to 1 part cream, although I haven't tried that.)
Anyway, the Pound Plus is 17.3 oz.  This makes it 8.65 oz. of heavy cream.
This amount of ganache will just cover an 8-inch cake this size.

That's about it for this one.  Happy Caking! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mangle, Anyone?

While my parents were visiting us last week, my mom and I spent an afternoon making pies together.  Three gloriously beautiful, perfect pies.

And then Spiff and I cleared up a five-year misunderstanding.

It took us five years to realize that there was an understanding to clear up.  But don't you worry, because it's all settled, and it's back to peace, love and happiness in Spiffville.

It is all about pie.

Have I mentioned that Spiff loves pie?  He does.  A lot.  A whole lot more than me.  I like pie, and I'll happily eat a good one, but I can take it or leave it, as far as desserts are concerned.

I am more interested in the making of good pie.  Over the years, I have come across a few excellent pie recipes.  I can make a good pudding pie.  I make an excellent lemon meringue.  I even conquered my mom's pie crust (which I have to admit is not the flaky, buttery, tricky-to-work-with pie crust that I still haven't dared to try, but which is delicious nonetheless).

The one thing that has eluded me is the making of fruit pies, which happen to be Spiff's favorite.  I have tried and tried with various recipes, from BH&G to internets, and I always seem to be severely disappointed with the results.  I sorely dislike a black/blueberry pie that taste fine, but is a watery mess when it is cut.  All that hard work, and it turned out like that?!  What a disgrace!

While making pies with my mom, I finally stumbled across a blackberry pie recipe that turns out well.  It baked up well, cut like a dream, and was absolutely not a runny mess inside. Oh, and it was delicious.  I told Spiff that I will be happy to make it again sometime, now that I have something that I know will turn out for me.  He said, "But I still want you to make Mangle!"

I exclaimed my confusion, "Why would you want a gross watery slop, when you could have this?!?!"

We discussed, and we discovered our misunderstanding.

My version:
I made a blackberry pie for Spiff a few years ago that turned out the way I described.  I tried again some time later with the same disappointing results.  Spiff didn't seem to mind, since they tasted good.  After cutting into one watery, mangled-up pie, he dubbed it a "Blackberry Mangle."  A Delicious Mangle.  He continued to ask me to make them occasionally.  I got tired of my pies turning out like poo, so I stopped making them, and I couldn't figure out why he consistently wanted me to make a poorly-made pie.

His version:  I (apparently) made a blackberry cobbler five years ago, which he says I named a "Mangle."    He has been asking me to make a "Mangle" ever since.  I have not done this, and he can't figure out why.  I have no recollection of making that cobbler, or of naming it a mangle.

We have been referring to two separate desserts for the past five years.  He has not been asking for poorly-made pie, but for blackberry cobbler.  Mystery solved!

Now I at least have a good blackberry pie recipe.  If only I could find that Cobbler/mangle recipe I made five years ago, life could truly be complete.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Exceptional Motherhood

Note:  I wrote this, posted it, and then spent an hour fussing over my worry that someone may not it take it to be what it was intended because it's hard to read sarcasm, and because I think I'm funnier than other people do.  So, let me be clear that this is in jest.  It's meant to be funny, me laughing at myself and my current situation.  I'm not currently berating myself for not being able to control everything that happens to my kids.  The examples are real, though.  Enjoy!

We all know by now that I struggle with motherhood.  Sometimes.  A lot.  Not all of the time, thankfully.  There are awesome days when I love my two little sweeties so much that I think they are the cutest little turkeys in the whole world and even their naughtiness and antics don't shake me.

And while I appreciate all of your kind words of encouragement regarding the whole subject of mothering, I'm here today to convince you that there is nothing you can say that will convince me that I'm a great mom.  Let me share with you some examples of the exceptional mothering that happens around my house.  (Be warned that there are potty stories involved.  Skip it if these hilarious stories about my children's bodily fluids will gross you out.  Or you could buck up and read on ahead because my life and stories of my children are so awesome that you won't want to miss out.)

Example 1:  We have been having some beautiful Fall weather around here lately.  One day last week, I decided to take the boys to the park.  I love park days like that one.  It's one of the only times when both of my kids are awake that they aren't demanding a lot from me.  No one was whining, fighting, or bugging me!  I do love to sit back and watch them play.

Okay, so this particular park is a dream land for aspiring climbers.  It is designed for older kids, and there are three stories of stair and ladder systems that culminate to a very long slide.  Hobbes climbed all over that structure!  He's 20 months old, and probably shouldn't be able (allowed?) to climb those heights.  But I couldn't keep him off them.  And he performed just fine, aside from having to save him from certain doom a time or five.  So I left him alone to play.  Awesome momming?  Or terribly trusting and awful to put him in such dangerous situations under the eyes of the other mommies/grandmas/daddies who were wondering why I was allowing this to happen?  Hmmmm.

Example 2:  This happened at the above mentioned park, which happens to be downtown, right off a very busy road (safely separated) and close to a busy YMCA.  Not isolated or private at all.  Okay, so I mentioned that the boys were happily playing, so I took the opportunity to answer a phone call from a good friend, who very much needed a listening ear at the time.  She and I had a lovely long conversation while I supervised my kids from afar.  At one point, Gunner ran up to me and told me that he needed to use the potty.  Here's where it gets good.  I was on the phone, in the middle of her important story, Hobbes was on the other side of the park, and I realized that there was no way I was going to gather everyone up and get him to a potty in time.

So he decided to take care of it himself.  He trotted off to a distant tree (closer to the busy road and more seeing eyes), dropped his pants, and peed on the tree.

I was only slightly mortified when I realized that there was a grandma there watching everything and judging this negligent mommy.  (And to my good friend on the phone, it was totally worth it.)

Example 3:  The boys and I were invited to a friend's house the other day to play.  These are new friends from our ward who we have hung out with less than a handful of times.  But we like them a whole lot.  While we were there, I noticed several times that Hobbes's diaper was awfully saggy.  I thought he had just peed a lot, and it was super soaked.  I put off changing him because I was talking to my friend, and I thought it would be fine until his pre-nap diaper change.

After lunch, Gunner notified me that Hobbes was trying to climb over the baby gate.  I went to see what he was up to and found him desperately trying to get to a new diaper from the diaper bag.  Here's what happened.  His saggy diaper was actually a broken diaper.  It had broken at the strap and wasn't even covering his bummy.  He had had his post-lunch poop, and was wet and poopy all down his pants and on my new friend's hardwood floor.  Nothing a little sanitizer can't fix, but still.  Gross.  It's a good thing that this new friend has four kids of her own.  Otherwise I might have been too mortified to ever talk to her again.  

The worst part of this is that I had noticed that something was wrong long before the badness happened.  Should've acted on those promptings, folks.  This is not good mothering.

Example 4:  Hobbes snuck into my bedroom yesterday and came out with Spiff's deodorant.  He climbs onto the toilet to get into our unlocked medicine cabinet (gotta fix that!) that is located directly above.  He loves Spiff's deodorant and will take any chance he can get to get his little hand on it.  He loves smelling it, rubbing it all over himself, and licking it...while saying "Yum" and nodding his head.  Weird kid.  He won't eat raspberries, but he'll eat deodorant.  But seriously, what kind of a mom allows this to happen?

Example 5:  Yep, there are more.  This last Saturday, Hobbes took an early nap, which means that by the time we were done with dinner, he was really really tired.  He gets the crazies when he is tired, and that evening, he was racing around the kitchen annoying me while I was trying to work on a project.  After a while, he started climbing all over the bar stools, trying to get on my lap. I didn't want him on my lap, so I kept putting him off.  To my surprise, he climbed on the back of the stool I was sitting on.  Thinking to myself, "That is so dangerous, I need to get him off now!", I stood up to grab him.  Never stand up if that happens!  He and the chair fell right over onto the tile floor.  The chair hit his foot, and he chipped a tooth somehow.  Poor little guy!  And again, what kind of a mom let's this stuff happen?!

I could go on, but I'm not going to.  I think I've incriminated myself enough for one day.  I think I'll go take a nap while my kid watches a movie.  Good mothers do things like that.