Let me apologize for the two day hiatus, but I can’t wait to show you why I went silent…
For the last few days (not nearly enough) my boys and I had the honor of playing host to my friend Jody and her wonderful family. Seriously, guys, her boys are the kind of young men I hope that I am raising mine to be. Anyway, like most parents with busy lives, having out of town guests gives us the opportunity to do and see the things in our own back yard that we neglect to otherwise make time for. It was wonderful. Here’s the rundown:
The first day we had to do a crawfish boil and Jamie knocked it out of the park again!
The whole visiting gang loved them and took home all required seasoning to have their own boil at home.
Day 2 we headed to the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, where Longfellow’s Evangeline waited for her love, and then we were off to the Lake Martin Bird Sanctuary.
Day 3 we took our little boat into the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in the USA, so the boys could fish and we could take in the beauty of our wildlife here in Louisiana.
A view of the bridge under I-10
I loved this guy’s eyes!
Beautiful Red-tailed Hawk (I think)
Osprey on the nest
We finished up at Gator Cove with a delicious meal and their amazing “pets.”
Day 4 we headed to Avery Island and toured the Tabasco Factory and the Jungle Gardens. It was beautiful and I finally got to see a river otter up close! Sadly, he was camera shy and ran across our path so fast, but he was huge and gorgeous! I am a huge bird nerd, and we have one of the greatest collections on Earth. Jungle Gardens plays host to many of them.
The beautiful Roseate Spoonbill
Spawning alligator gar
Last night they cooked us some fantastic brats that her husband, Chad, made himself and they were amazing! I didn’t get pictures because I was too busy eating.
It was a wonderful visit and I can’t wait to do it again! It’s good to remember all of the things that Louisiana has to offer and it’s great to be blessed in friendship! It’s also very refreshing to host kids who love the outdoors and aren’t sneaking off to play video games all of the time. It was a good thing for my kids to be with other guys who share their outdoor interests and reminded them to hang on to them.
I just can’t say enough about how invigorating a visit theirs was.
Here are a few more pictures of what Louisiana gave us and what my awesome Wisconsin friends brought me…
I’m going to be brief today. If you celebrate the resurrection, reflect on the life we are given and enjoy your loved ones. If you don’t celebrate the resurrection, enjoy your loved ones and the good things in life.
I am putting my phone down today! It’s going to be rough, but I can do it. I need to bask in the warmth of my family and count my blessings. Plus, you guys aren’t going to be playing in the kitchen today. It’s all business for a holiday, isn’t it?
Enjoy this amazing day and try not to choke any relatives. Thank you so much for following me!
I was just nominated for the Liebster Award! Since I’m so new to the world of blogging, I had to do some research to find out what this meant and it turns out that this is an award given by bloggers to other bloggers to help spread the word about up and coming new blogs. In German Liebster means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. I am so blessed and excited to be recognized.
Thank you, Taylor from Peas Romaine Calm for the nomination and for your patience with me in getting this post together. It is very encouraging and a total honor to be recognized by your distinguished peers! I guess I better bring my A game! I sure hope I’m doing this right.
The rules of the Award:
Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Copy and paste the Liebster Award badge to your post.
Nominate 10 new bloggers.
Answer the 10 questions the person who nominated you asked you.
Create 10 new questions to ask the bloggers you nominate.
Notify the bloggers you have nominated by leaving them a comment on their blog.
How did you pick your blog’s name? Well, I love learning to build things around the house, organizing, cooking and eating, growing my own food, to laugh and all things nerdy (Comic Con, SciFi, the whole shebang) and I agonized over how to convey my interests. Since we moved closer to town and I was trying to gain self-sufficiency in the ‘Burbs, the name was born.
Describe yourself in three words. Fun, resilient and resourceful.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? Clearly, food.
What single quality do you most appreciate in people? The ability to speak and understand sarcasm.
Where do you get your inspiration to write? My life, my kids, my kitchen, this world.
What is your all time favorite type of cake? I’m going to go with Ho Ho Cake.
Would you still blog if you knew nobody was going to read it? I do believe I would.
What’s your favourite (non-blog) website? Sadly, I log a lot of miles on IMDB.com
If any Hollywood star, dead or alive, could play you in a movie of your life, who would it be? A few years ago I would have said someone like Jayne Seymore, but if I keep eating like this, I’m leaning toward Melissa McCarthy and I’m okay with that.
My 10 Questions to my Nominees:
What made you start your blog?
Who is your greatest inspiration?
What quality do you think your readers most admire in you?
The best post you’ve ever written is…
Do you think you’ll ever retire from blogging?
What is the best book you’ve ever read?
What is something few people know about you?
When is your favorite time of day to write?
Why do you blog?
The song which best describes you and your blog is…
Please tag me in your post after you finish so I can see everyone’s answers! Thank you to my followers and for nominating me. I hope I can measure up and bring a little entertainment into your lives!
So, what does the average person do with a terrible cookie icing utensil that has never worked properly? Throw it away, of course! What does a nerd mom do with said cookie icer? Make Darth Vader magic for her kids by filling it with sour cream and decorating a celebratory pizza.
Let me give you a little backstory: for the last several months my oldest son has been dealing with the worst kind of bully. This kid has called him the foulest sort of names, shoved and hit him, called his sexuality into question before others, called him fat (he’s not), told him that his bio parents only gave him up for adoption because he’s ugly (most certainly not true) and told him he was going to be returned because of said ugliness. As a parent, this is the worst thing to watch your child suffer through, but he’s at that age where I can no longer rush in to fix it for him. While I did email a teacher and tell him to secretly keep an eye on the situation and said the same to a couple of other teachers, I didn’t want my son also branded a tattle tale.
My young man is stoic, almost to a fault, however, and greatly downplayed the ongoing situation, so I didn’t know the extent of what was still happening. His bully was slick and never got caught. I say “was” because yesterday my young man finally had enough and took care of business, laying this kid out and going from the shy, quiet kid to the school hero in an instant.
We don’t condone violence in our home and never encourage our kids to fight, but we do tell them that, without any other options, you defend yourself. And that’s just what he did. I couldn’t be prouder, and to celebrate his act of heroism, my fancy-schmancy nacho pizza became all his.
And that is how my normally eye and taste bud pleasing nacho pizza became a little less pretty, but a whole lot cooler.
You can do this several different ways, but I went all from scratch last night. I made the giant corn tortilla and the meat, but you can substitute store bought tortillas and a taco seasoning packet with your ground beef in a pinch. I’ll use the store bought corn tortillas here, but will post the homemade tortilla recipe shortly.
This one is so delicious!
Loaded Nacho Pizza
1 lb ground beef
1 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (to your heat preference)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup salsa
corn tortillas, enough to cover the bottom of a pizza pan
1/4-1/2 cup prepared nacho cheese
1-2 cups shredded taco blend or other cheeses
Lettuce, tomato, olives, sour cream, etc. for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the ground beef. Brown the gr. beef, then drain. Add the salsa, chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, then add the black beans. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally until the beans are warm, 3-5 minutes.
Grease a 16 in round pizza pan or an 11 X 17 inch cookie sheet and line with tortillas. Bake in a 450° oven for 5-7 minutes, until tortillas are warm and slightly browning, turning over if necessary.
Remove the tortilla pan from the oven and spread the nacho cheese all over the tortillas, as you would with regular pizza sauce. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the pizza and then sprinkle the meat and bean mixture over the cheese (you may only want to use 1/2-1/3 of the meat mixture and save the rest for tomorrow night’s awesome burritos or nachos).
Bake in your 450° oven for 6-8 minutes, or until all the cheese is melted.
Remove from oven and top with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, etc.
Every parent knows that there are ups and downs to this child-rearing thing. We will always love our kids, laying down our lives if necessary, but there still are those days. Days when the messes defy logic, when the eye rolling and attitude are so bad that I have to remind myself that I wouldn’t do well in prison, and days when it’s all so overwhelming that you just want to sit down and cry. As much as we have all wanted to head to our blanket fort with a good book and a flashlight, hanging out the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that’s not usually an option.
Each child is different in so many wonderful ways, but they all have something in common; the need for some consistency and structure. This helps build trust and stability in their lives. Because my boys are adopted, they seem to need it even more than most (something hammered into us during the months of parenting classes we were required to take to foster/adopt) and I see immediate negative results when we deviate from our routines or have a break down in structure.
For example, when Jamie worked in the oilfield, he was gone two weeks and then home for two weeks. He would get home from a hitch with a touch of “Disneyland Dad Syndrome,” not enforcing rules and letting the back talk happen more. The rapid deterioration of basic manners and dropping of chores happened almost instantly and it would take me a week to get us back on track. I’m not blaming him at all, just stating my observations.
I’m trying to help my kids gain independence, but I feel like it’s my job to show them how to obtain and use it wisely. I believe that giving them household responsibilities as kids teaches them to be responsible adults. I want them to enjoy their childhood, of course, but I try to think of the end game as well.
The biggest factor for us is that the boys and I all have ADHD and our brains move a bit too fast at times. If I’m thinking about what I’m going to do after I put the laundry away, chances are I’m going to forget about the laundry and move on to the next thing. I’m like a pinball around the house, moving from job to job, but somehow getting it all done. It’s not always that easy for the boys, so I have come up with a few things to help them remember. I hope they inspire you and I’d love to hear some of the things you all have tried with success.
Here are a few ways to organize our kids’ and our lives.
1. Give everything a place to belong.
“Clean your room!” We have probably all said this a time or two, but know that this means different things to different people. In a child’s mind, it often makes sense that, if Mom can’t see it, it must be clean. Or, if I push everything into a pile over here, I’m good. Under my bed was a fantastic place to stash things when I was a kid; Voila! Clean (sorry, Mom). I learned a long time ago that everything needs a place to belong, leaving no gray area.
I labeled all of their drawers and wall hooks for easy putting away and finding things. The book shelves have labels too: coloring books here, legos here, etc. It helps them see the benefits of being organized.
I showed you the cup tower I made before and can’t stress enough how much it’s helped cut down on dishes, but it’s also the place where we keep the little important things like name tags, chore lists, any medicine, etc. Hard to miss, therefore hard to forget.
My guys are responsible for emptying the dishwasher, so I’ve even labeled drawers and hooks. They don’t need to ask me where everything goes anymore and they don’t have an excuse to shove things in any drawer they choose.
I have a laundry basket for each of them, but if I can ever teach them that it’s easier to hit the basket than collect dirty clothes from all over the room, I’ll let you know.
2. Make expectations clear and put them in writing.
My 42-yr-old post-menopausal, ADHD brain has a hard time remembering what I have to do today without writing it down, and God help me if I go to the store without a list. Young, hormonal kids saddled with tons of homework and the distractions this world sends their way aren’t much better off. Putting expectations in writing leaves no margin for error and simply helps them remember.
I created these lists for the guys to check throughout the day and I think they like them. Now every morning, instead of, “Did you do X, Y and Z?” I can just ask if they checked their lists.
It’s the path to privilege in our house. Completing your list for the day earns you TV time at night and allowance accrues. Completing the list consistently for the week can earn weekend video game time.
I used to have a larger sheet with it all on one page, but breaking it down into specific times of the day has made it less overwhelming and much easier to keep track of. The boys actually get kind of excited to grab dry erase markers and check things off.
Again, they want independence, so managing their responsibilities on their own is a great way to achieve that.
3. Have a schedule and stick to it.
I used to get a little flack and people thought I was so weird for not going out more often to weeknight or late weekend social events. If you know me, you know that even though I’m happy with my own company, I can be a bit of a social butterfly, so it wasn’t easy going into my cave. I’m not saying that life ends when you become a parent, but it does change. Dramatically, so when you get 2 boys at once dealing with childhood trauma.
Something I learned early on was that, while my kids will test me a lot, routine and consistency set them at ease. All kids benefit from routine and mine thrive under it, so yeah, we have to leave the party at 8 pm on a Friday night to be in bed by 9:30, and yes, dinner is always between 6 and 6:30 so we can be in bed by 8:30. I have schedules for the boys, but thankfully we have them memorized now.
A friend of mine was marveling at the fact that my kids are never late to school, but it’s because they know what’s expected. If you’re late, you don’t get TV, but if you’re the first one to the table, you get the easy morning jobs. Trust me, that’s not to say we don’t push our luck and that I never have to lose it in the morning, but it’s way easier than being a constant drill sergeant.
This is also a great way to teach kids the relationship between their actions and consequences or rewards. It can also make mornings a contest, and with 2 boys, everything is a competition. “First guy to the table calls what we have for breakfast” is a big deal around here.
Knowing what is expected and having that written reminder makes life easier on all of us.
4. Teach your kids the life skills they won’t learn in school.
Most of us had the advantage of Home Economics and Wood Shop classes in school, but that seems to be a thing of the past. I’ve discovered that teaching my kids things like cooking, sewing and building can be really enjoyable for all of us.
Being a perfectionist made this a challenge in the beginning. I struggle with the “if you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality, but I’m learning to coach gently and let go of the reins a little.
Andrew loves working in the kitchen and building with wood, while Daniel shines at engineering and numbers (he’ll always have a balanced checkbook). Stirring and shooting from the hip are Andrew’s favorite things, but Daniel will measure everything perfectly; if it’s one of his favorite foods, he wants to know how to make it exactly right. They take pride in learning these basic skills and it’s a nice chance for us to spend time together.
Canning, housework, animal care, lawn care, how credit cards and mortgages work, are all skills they will need later and mine love learning everything. The trick is making it not seem like work.
5. Remember to have fun.
This can be tricky for perfectionists driven to try new things every day (no names), and it’s too easy to forget. The laundry needs to be done, bills paid, dinner made…the list is endless, but all the while our kids are growing up around us.
I’ve been so busy cooking, building and writing lately that I realized my kids were getting used to me being on the move all the time. They weren’t underfoot in the kitchen or asking me to play cards or outside with them anymore. Sure, we have a few games on the weekends and family movie night, but we haven’t been connecting like we should.
Last night I decided that we were having chili dogs for dinner and I was going to meet them in the yard for some football. I was ashamed of how surprised they were to see me come out and ask to be put into the game. Their excitement warmed my heart and reminded me in an instant why I signed on for this gig. I don’t need to have a successful blog or publish a book, I wasn’t supposed to learn skills so they could brag about my cooking or building abilities and I don’t need to be able to brag about having the best mannered kids on the block. I am here because I love these kids and I’m challenged with
making them into fine young men. A big part of that requires the greatest gift I can give them; My time and My FULL attention. I’m also proud to say that I was showered with compliments like, “Wow, Mom! I thought your were worse than that!” and, “Holy cow, how did you beat me when you are kinda’ old?” High praise, indeed…sorry, didn’t mean to brag.
Try something they love, or at least pretend to be interested. Luckily, my boys are nerds too, so we can do the Comic Cons together or watch good movies together, but there are generational differences that are hard to relate to. For example, I can’t even pretend to like some of the cartoons and music out there, but I’ll try everything once.
Read something you love to them and do the voices. It’s fun and a great reminder to them that parents have personalities.
6. Take time for yourself.
But wait…didn’t you just say to give them my full attention? Yes, but it doesn’t have to be 24-7. When we forget who we are, depression can creep in, so we all need a few minutes of our own company to recharge and stay comfortable in our own skins. Take five minutes to just sit and watch the sunset or sunrise and drink a cup of coffee. Have someone watch the kids long enough for you to take a bubble bath without the knocking on the door starting the second your toe hits the water.
You are so valuable and need those moments to refresh. Keeping yourself happy and healthy if vital to the kids’ survival…I mean, vital to their well-being as well as your own. Yeah, that’s it.
Yes, it’s official. I’ve been sucked into the kitchen far too often lately and I have lost my mind. Initially, this blog was going to be a recipe here and there kind of deal, but now I’m cooking and making things I haven’t in years. Today, for example, I have a sick child home from school and have decided on soup and grilled cheese for dinner, but in order to keep the recipe momentum going, I dug up one for something I haven’t made in over 20 years.
Ho-Ho Cake is basically a giant Swiss Cake Roll and was really easy to make and safe to eat when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but now maybe not so wise for my 42-yr-old metabolism. Did this knowledge stop me?
No way! I love this cake and even though it was a bit of a challenge and I’m now going to have to eat lettuce for a week, I have to share this one. The filling tastes just like the real stuff and IT IS SO GOOD!
I’m going to take you on a ride through one woman’s struggle to make a delight of her youth after a 20+ year hiatus. Be sure to read my account of what actually went down after the real recipe.
Servings: a small village Prep time: Who cares? It’s a giant Swiss Cake Roll!
1 box Chocolate or Devil’s Food cake mix and for that:
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
3 TBSP flour
1 & 1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 small packages unsweetened chocolate chips, melted
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2 & 1/2 TBSP hot water
Directions (what you’re supposed to do)
Prepare your chocolate cake mix and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes on a lined or greased 10 X 15 inch cookie sheet. Cool completely. Remove carefully to wax paper.
2. For the filling: Mix the flour and milk in a sauce pan and cook, whisking or stirring constantly, until thick. Cool completely and add the remaining filling ingredients, beating at high speed for 5 minutes. Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the icing: Beat all ingredients until smooth and spread about 1/3 of the icing on the chilled cake, placing a thin layer on top of the filling.
Carefully, roll the cake into a log, using the wax paper to lift and being careful not to roll the paper into the cake. Use the remaining icing to frost the outside of your rolled cake. Chill to set, then slice and enjoy!
Directions (what I ACTUALLY did)
Yep, got that right and even took my cake trimmer and made it perfectly level. Don’t do this. You’ll see why.
Yep, got the filling perfect and everything was tasting and looking pretty good at this point.
For the icing: I realized I had no unsweetened chocolate chips and with a sick child at home, I wasn’t going to the store. No problem, I had some store bought chocolate frosting I could use. Why not? I’ll tell you why not in a second. I spread a little of the frosting over the filling and we were off to the races.
Level and loving it!
Frosted like a boss!
Now to neatly roll my perfect rectangle into a log. Ever so carefully, I lovingly rolled that beautiful thing up into a photo-worthy masterpiece! It was breathtaking!..until it cracked because I just haaaaddto shave it level and the cake was now too thin to hold up. I contemplated keeping this little secret and showing you only the final product, but I’m letting you in here, people. This is the real story.
There was still hope at this point, 1 cup chocolate chips mixed with 2 TBSP coconut oil makes a great “Magic Shell” frosting, but a little whipping cream and an extra dab of coconut oil could give me chocolate spackle!
Now, to grab the double boiler and melt the chips and coconut oil (microwave doesn’t work so well for me), but BLAST! No double boiler in sight (The problem with kids emptying the dishwasher over here is that the dishes only make it to their designated area about 65% of the time). No problem, I totally MacGyvered it!
2 cups chips, 2 TBSP coconut oil
Redneck double boiler?
I tried spreading my store bough frosting, but it just ripped more of the cake off, so I filled the holes with a cake decorating tip and bag of said frosting. I put this eyesore in the freezer for about ten minutes, not even able to will myself to photograph its hideous visage.
When my spackle, I mean, chocolate drizzle was ready, I set to work trying to save the disgusting log thing. I used a rubber spatula and tiny cake decorating knife and managed to smooth things out pretty nicely. Sure, it’s a little shiny and resembled a chocolate poo from a distance, but it was presentable, in my opinion. I took some lovely pictures and almost used one as the featured image until I realized that it shows you just how much chocolate filler I used…I present to you:
CHOCOLATE SPACKLE WITH FROSTING AND A DASH OF CAKE!
You know what though? It’s darn good. Sure, I can only eat a quarter of a slice without risking diabetes, but that’s healthier, right? Plus, one slice will last like three days and the rest freezes like a champ!
The moral of the story? Just follow the main directions and you should be okay. In fact, unless you’re notthe klutz I am, just serve as a sheet cake. Just kidding, your friends and family will love this. It’s really not difficult…unless you are me and we’ve all seen how well my cakes work out.
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It’s that time of year, people! Time for me to impress my husband with my ability to inhale vast quantities of my favorite crustacean (I won his heart 17 years ago when I ate almost ten pounds on our first date). Of course some of you may not be able to get your hands on this fantastic feast, BUT there are many places that will ship live crawfish if you are looking to give it a shot.
Join me as I walk you through a typical boiling day…well, we normally steam them.
Decide the day before your husband is set to leave for a 2 week orientation class in Alabama that you need to have a crawfish boil. Call your awesome crawfisherman cousin and get yourself a sack ordered. Everybody split up and run for last minute items.
We went with:
40 lbs live crawfish
5 pounds potatoes
3 lbs smoked sausage
liquid and powdered seafood boil seasoning
Extra powder boil, Tony’s and Cajun Chef hot sauce for finish
A 20 pound weight
Open your first beer and get those crawfish purged in salt water. Change the water, adding more salt, until it stays clear. Chances are you’ll need a second beer at this point.
While the crawfish are purging, make sure your big pot is clean and fill with about 2 inches of water, liquid and powdered seasoning. Place the lid on the pot with the 20 pound weight on top of it and turn on your burner.
Freak out and run to the store since you just realized that you are out of propane.
Okay, now you’re back from the store, the new tank is connected to your burner and we’re on to the next.
Realize that since there has been a steady influx of neighborhood kids into the house and yard all day, you totally forgot to prep your vegetables, buy sausage and make dip. It’s time to run back to the store and buy that sausage.
Okay, now you’re back from the store…again. Make the dip after cutting the sausage and peeling the onions.
Dipping Sauce Indredients
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Cajun Power Garlic Sauce (a mild Frank’s-type sauce can work)
2 TBSP Tony’s
Mix well and adjust to taste.
Open a beer, make sure your lid and 20 lb weight are on the pot, turn on your burner and wait for the steam to start escaping in wisps. Add your veggies and sausage in a metal colander for easy removal. Replace the lid and the weight and wait for the steam to start escaping again. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
Remove the colander and add the live crawfish to the removable basket and place into your pot. Place the veggie colander on top, then replace the lid and weight, taking care to avoid major, agonizing steam burns. Should you sustain a major burn, open another beer and wait for the pot to start steaming again. Set your timer for five minutes.
When the five minutes are up, remove the colander and crawfish to a large, clean ice chest. Sprinkle liberally with Cajun Chef Hot Sauce, Tony’s and some of the powdered seafood boil. Coat by stirring and shaking cooler.
Realize that you normally don’t drink beer and that you might be a wee bit tipsy. Switch to water for a while.
Take a moment to briefly panic about how you’re going to feed the 14 people you see before you when you had only planned for 7. Now relax.
Scoop liberal amounts onto giant plates or dump it all onto a table covered with a plastic table cloth or newspaper for easy clean up. Feed all the stray kids who’ve shown up and then grab some for yourself.
Open a beer, place a roll of paper towels close by, get yourself some dip and commence peeling and eating. DO NOT be alarmed by the zen-like peace washing over you. Enjoy it while it lasts as it will quickly dissipate when you realize those freaking kids are cleaning out the ice chest!
Realize that you have defied all odds and are now full, with leftovers in the ice chest. Either peel the tails and freeze them or admit that the beer and food have made you lazy and that your best course of action is to bag the leftovers, jump on the 4-wheeler and deliver happiness to your neighbors.
Kick back, relax and fill those coolers with soapy water until tomorrow. Watch the sunset and count your blessings.
After sunset, facilitate an impromptu dance party in the garage with 4 and 7-year-old girls. Take great pride sustaining little to no injury from the cartwheels you didn’t know you could still do.
To honor a few requests to do so, I dug this bad boy out of the archives. Enjoy!
Yesterday was Jamie’s birthday and I managed to throw a cake together with items I had on hand. I only had a couple of hours before he came home from his last day of school, so I knew better than to get crazy. This got me thinking about the cakes I’ve made over the years and how a few episodes of Cake Boss had me convinced I could be a pro without of lick of training. I have had a couple of successful-ish attempts, but lest you think I suffer from delusions of grandeur, I will come clean today.
My favorite blog is cakewrecks.com and I’m sure that, were I a “professional” baker, I would be heavily featured on Jen’s list of the worst. For twenty years, while on any project, I have reminded myself of the words my friend Carrie once spoke to me; “You have a tendency to get a little carried away and go over the top. Not always in a good way, so put the paint brush down.” Or something like that. Though I’m sure I was offended at the time, truer words were never spoken. While I try to remember these words, I only listen to them about 50% of the time. Sometimes, it’s okay to run to the store and buy a cake.
So today I take you on a journey of discovery, mild success and embarrassment that will hopefully not drive you away from this blog forever. Hey, I never said I could bake. I just cook and build stuff.
The Frightful Fairway
This may have been my first attempt at working with fondant and if I’m not mistaken, I was pretty proud of this travesty. From the shiny, drooping golf bag to the worm-like bridge over the stream and the overall lumpy shape, I look back on this one with shame. Even my Finnish flag is sad and you would think it would be tough to screw up a blue cross (Jamie’s family is Finnish). Hey, I like the graham cracker sand traps though.
The Hunting Horror
I was asked to do this one for my late, great uncle’s 80th birthday and ultimately, I was pretty proud of it. I thought the deer, sleeping hunter and other little touches turned out fairly cute, but the cake tasted, um, not great. The fondant I used killed any hope one had of actually tasting the cake or frosting (I have never found a fondant recipe I like and I will gladly accept any and all suggestions).
Thankfully, my family is kind and professed to love it, but I wasn’t fooled. A toilet paper cake may have been more palatable.
The Tortuous TARDIS
Though technically not a cake, this gingerbread TARDIS was a pain in the keister to make, but I was proud of it. Upon further inspection, however, I realized that the actual TARDIS is not quite as lumpy and misshapen as my gingerbread version, nor do brown bits show through anywhere on the original.
If memory serves (I haven’t watched the show in a couple of months), the real TARDIS also had a light on top which does not resemble a blue nipple-tipped boob you see here, but I could be wrong.
And don’t even get me started on my handwriting.
The Minecraft Mess
Andrew begged me to make him a Minecraft cake a couple of years ago and since he’d never asked for a specialty cake before, I was happy to do it. One would think that blocks and simple construction would be a breeze, but that did not prove to be true for me. My fondant handicap struck again and I ended up with a mess of uneven squares and a general appearance of chaos. I even placed it on the busiest platter I own to finish the assault on the eyes that was this cake.
Thankfully, Andrew approved and it actually tasted fairly decent. At the very least, we had a sugar rush for breakfast over the next couple of days.
The Mommy Massacre
My mother, like all mothers, God bless them, will sing praise to this cake all day long, but I know the truth. It’s hideous. This was supposed to be a representation of my mom and some of her favorite things, but her modeling chocolate double ended up looking like the love child of Charo and Steven Tyler (my actual mother resembles neither).
In my defense, my parents were scheduled to arrive at our house to celebrate at 6pm, but my father is a “do it now” kind of guy and Mom called to say that they would arrive between 2 and 3. I hadn’t made any of the figures at this point and I panicked, rushing to finished this shiny, sloppy mess.
The Mediocre Motocross
I think this one may have been my second attempt at fondant, still tasting “meh,” but I liked the look of it, for the most part.
Again with the shininess, but overall, I can’t hate on it too much and my son loved it. I don’t know that I would want to stick plastic toys into a cake again, but this theme was a great way to salvage cake that had fallen apart coming out of the pans.
The Buttercream Blitzkrieg
Time and time again I find myself rushing to finish a cake because I love to play and I’ve convinced myself it’s less expensive to bake a cake than buy one. Somehow I forget the four trips to the cake decorating store usually required.
Anyway, this is another one that I threw together for my mother in a day. The store-bought buttercream was so soft and would droop, leaving gaps where the cake peeked through. Genius that I am (can you hear the sarcasm?), I added more icing on top to fill in the gaps left by the ribbons heading south, ending up with an inch-thick frosting layer around the sides of the cake. Don’t even get me started on the ribbon quality or color choices.
Thankfully, my mother and I love icing and I skipped the fondant, so this one at least tasted yummy.
The Fondant-Free Football
I admit to being somewhat proud of this one. Crooked stripes and imperfect oval aside, I think I delivered what Andrew asked for on his last birthday. The best part was that I stuck to my guns, abandoning fondant and going with straight buttercream, so it actually tasted great.
I was able to use a mesh laundry bag (bleached and clean) to leave the tiny pigskin pattern in the buttercream, further convincing me that my decision to walk away from fondant was the right one.
The Ugliest of the Ugly: The Loathsome Last Minute
Okay, here we go. This last cake is so bad that I almost didn’t include it. I would love to tell you that I made it years ago and didn’t have any experience, but sadly, I made it for Jamie’s birthday…yesterday, as I mentioned earlier. I had two hours, during which I was working on some other projects, so I was spread a little thin, but I opted to bake rather than buy. I am an idiot.
I had a strawberry cake box and strawberry frosting in the pantry that I had picked up for emergency quickie cupcakes, so I got to work. The baking and stacking went fine, but my first mistake was putting the cake together in a box too small to fit my decorator tips into, let alone my hands. Two sides of the cake were unreachable, so I was dropping the icing in from about three inches high.
Again with the store bought icing. I had to try to turn pink icing into something more “manly,” but after an hour of blending reds, I got bupkis. Still pink. This is when I decided it was over and that I would go straight “eye sore.” I decided to decorate the whole thing with my runny frosting and use some black cake spray paint I had gotten a little while ago. The ribbons…ugh, I can’t even.
So, yeah, I totally gave up and decided I actually was in the pursuit of not just eye sore, but completely ugly. I mean, who doesn’t like a good laugh, right? Okay, okay. I’m done making my excuses. Prepare yourself.
To those who have messaged me today, wondering where today’s post is, forgive the delay. My husband is home. ‘Nuff said, I know, but he is applying for jobs through the trucking school he’s about to complete. Somehow I have become the family tech guru when I don’t even know what I’m doing most of the time here in the blogosphere. Sitting and writing have been tough as I have been pulled in that direction all morning. Men are kind of cute when they are helpless.
I have to say with great pride that, rather than asking me to go back to work (which I would totally do), Jamie’s always ready to do what it takes to provide for this family. That may sound old-fashioned and is something I would have scoffed at ten years ago, but it is a gift in my forties. It’s hard not to love the old curmudgeon.
Anyway, this morning it occurred to me, as I prepared to post the beloved Salisbury Steak recipe after much pleading from my youngest, that I hadn’t really given you the tour of the homestead. I suppose I should show you around, so I maybe I can earn some street cred.
A little history on my evolution:
We purchased our first house in the Spring of 2005; a new construction with 35 acres on the Front Range in Colorado. Our nearest neighbor was over 1/4 mile away and the solitude was nice, but when the urge to garden hit me, I was powerless to satisfy it. The dry, high climate allowed for little to grow besides prickly pear and the rattlesnakes almost killed my husband (not from biting, but from scaring the crap out of him). The wind was so bad sometimes that we couldn’t go outside for days and stir crazy was never far away. Then there were the rabbits. Zillions of them would invade all day, every day. When I planted something and a seedling finally sprouted, those little monsters would immediately eat it. Because of their appetites and the diseases they transmit, we tried fencing; electric and livestock, repellents, our dogs, and more, all to no avail. I finally gave up, but luckily, the view helped to ease our pain.
Jamie was working 6 hours away, near Grand Junction, Colorado and we had just gotten the boys. He would be home for a week, then gone for two and it quickly became clear that the boys needed a dad home every night, so we sold our house and moved close to his rig.
We purchased a home on 6 acres near Delta, brought the horses and settled in quickly. We loved it from the beginning, even though we had neighbors (not too close) for the first time in years, it still felt private. We were on a plateau, surrounded by mountains, with the Grand Mesa in our sight. It felt like we were living on vacation: fishing, camping, hiking, swimming, skiing, etc. all within 5-20 minutes from our home.
The best part was the boys reaping the benefits of having Jamie home every night. That really solidified us as a family and they blossomed in that environment. A huge surprise was how wonderfully my garden there did. We planted a lot of different veggies, ate our fill, but I off-loaded cucumbers and tomatoes by the grocery sack full daily at work. It was, in a word, awesome.
A view from the top of the Mesa in Spring. Our house was almost straight ahead, at the end of those foothills. Sigh.
Sadly, oil and gas tanked and money was getting tighter. I’d spent 8 years working for the family business, but was very part time because of the kids and there were no jobs available in a 100 square mile radius of us.
We ended up moving to Louisiana to follow the work and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Nothing against Louisiana, but there were so many memories packed into such a short time; the adoption, friends and the vast beauty and peace of it all. We had to find homes for our two rescue horses and rescue miniature donkey, store our belongings and then live in our camper for a while until we got our feet back under us.
We lived in a couple of rentals until we were able to buy a place with about three acres, very much in the country, in the small town where my father grew up. It was a tiny house; 2 bedrooms (I had to shimmy around the bed because our room was so freaking small), 1 bathroom and was right around 1000 square feet. Tight for someone who was getting into domestic hobbies and amassing wide range of tools for said hobbies.
It was here that I started to learn canning, gardening, plumbing and more. I tried my hand at a massive raised bed garden, having only moderate success. We had lots of pecan and citrus trees, so I learned to process and bake with our bounty.
We had plans drawn up for an addition, but could never find a builder to agree to come out and do the work. It was too remote for some, and things were too busy for others. We sold the house to a neighbor’s son and bought a place closer to town, in a neighborhood with large lots, but actual neighbors. It was strange, yet we’ve learned to love it because we actually have great neighbors. Whew. And I won’t lie, being two miles from the grocery store was new to me, a fantastic convenience, but sometimes a curse. Best of all, I’ve only had to deal with one snake here, as opposed to the countless snakes at the other house. Win!!
We knew we needed a pool because both Jamie and I are not fans of humidity and the boys needed a way to burn summer energy. The place we bought was at a great price with a little land and a pool, but it was a bit of a fixer upper. At 1.9 acres, it was not wide open space, but land is strangely hard to come by down here, so it would do just fine.
Luckily, I am ADHD and was able to get right to work updating and fixing, accomplishing a ton in the last year and a half. I’ll bore you with the details later because I know this post is approaching long novel territory, so a quick tour of the new digs will wrap things up for today. I hope it’s a great one for you all!
I think I need a laugh and I hope this brings you one…
I’m raising two boys and they have totally made me rethink my stance on in-home urinals. Next house, we’re getting one. My guys are in charge of cleaning their own bathroom, including the toilet, which is terrifying at times.
Lately, we are having a major backslide in our bathroom etiquette and nothing seems to be correcting it, so last night I designed the following poster. It currently hangs over the back of their toilet and I’ll let you know if it works. And, yes, I accidentally erased a comma.