Monday, March 14, 2011

Play Ball!...Again

Last weekend was a super sports extravaganza all over the place. Smunch had two hours of practice with the Mavericks Friday evening, followed by an hour of basketball practice. We started Saturday morning getting Smunch to the tournament ball field at 7am for an 8am game. *yawn* Daddy took that on while I dropped Mam off with a friend so she could make it to opening day for softball. Then I took off for the tournament myself.

It was early and chilly. The Mavericks have been practicing for just a couple of weeks. The other teams at the tournament have been playing together for months...or years in some cases. It was a valuable lesson in humility for a bunch of boys who'd tried out and made the team.There was a lot of stealing during this game. The Mavericks' are Mustang 1 level PONY players...and they've only barely started practicing for their regular season. Mustang 1 is the first level where they learn to steal bases and such. So, it's a little mystifying to them yet.Smunch is attempting a steal of second in the picture above. See the ball? He didn't make it.

I left after that game and picked Mam up, fed her lunch and whisked her off to her last basketball game. Smunch was also supposed to go to his last basketball game...and maybe if his coach hadn't given out trophies at practice the night before, he would have done that. Instead, he decided to play the second game of the baseball tournament...and I made him call his basketball coach and tell him. Unfortunately, the coach didn't answer, so he had to leave a semi-intelligible message an hour before the game and Daddy took him back to the diamond.

The Killer Penguins made their last stand. It was one of their most challenging games of the season and only seven girls were available for the game, instead of the usual 10. The girls played hard and they did well. I don't do a very good job of keeping score, but I think they were probably a little behind at the end.

No matter, I had to whisk Mam off to her opening day softball game with the Pink Butterflies. We weren't too terribly late to the game. Just missed the first inning. Mam seemed to have fun.I forgot to take off her basketball jersey and didn't even notice until the end of the game.

I called Daddy when the game ended to see if I needed to head back to the baseball facility. I didn't. The score was 21-0 and the game was almost over. The Mavericks would have one more game on Sunday. Just about the time we set the clocks forward an hour for daylight savings, I got the e-mail that the game was at 8am the next morning. The boys would need to be there at 7am again...only this time it was an hour earlier.

Daddy got the early morning job again and Mam and I made it there during the first freeze our butts off in the foggy, breezy early morning while the Mavericks got pummeled one last time. It might just go without saying that we did *nothing* for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hasta, Killer Penguins

According to our schedule, last Saturday was the final stand for the undefeated Killer Penguins. I'd offered to make a cake for their celebratory end-of-season party. Of course, I didn't know at the time that the end of season party would be scheduled on Mam's birthday. It prompted us to have her party the previous day. And it prompted me to take the entire week off work to complete two cakes at once.

In typical Killer Penguins fashion, they vanquished the competition.Mam scored three baskets and her teammates scored many more. The other team might have scored three total. I was glad they scored, at least.This basketball season was so much fun. The coaches were great, the girls really enjoyed each other and played really well. Not surprisingly, that meant I wanted to make a really special cake for them.

I started experimenting with making fondant figurines. I'd never tried that before and wasn't the least bit sure I could pull it off. I liked my killer penguins though...and judging by the number of people who asked me where I'd found them, I'd say other people did too.I wanted an "icy" look to the cake, so I chose not to blend all the color into the fondant and make it marble-y. And knowing I had a team and siblings to feed, I put it together just like Mam's ladybug cake.It sat like that for a couple of days, which was a pity because it didn't look nearly as marble-y by the time I got to decorating it. We had to go to several stores before we found an appropriate basketball hoop. I just couldn't imagine making an edible one of those. Store #3, which was out of them, called store #4 and put it on hold for us. I made a little lake and piped on some snow.I added borders to both layers and carefully started placing penguins. Note to's much easier to have a consistent border if your cake is in the middle of the plate.As a final touch, Daddy helped me engineer a dunking penguin.Somewhere along the line, I got an e-mail saying the reservation at the restaurant was for 46 people. I briefly panicked and made a quick sheet cake...which was, um, not particularly attractive, but functional.

Driving the cake over to the pizzeria was a little dicey and dunking penguin didn't show up entirely intact, but it was easy to fix and the cake went over well. The crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to Mam and most important, she got her trophy, as the coaches described her as a "little fireball". Ah, yes. Fireball, indeed.Naturally, it turns out that the coach's schedule was wrong. The Penguin's last game is this coming Saturday, overlapping with Mam's first softball game. There won't be any more cake.

Turning 7

I'm finding that it's hard to plan anything truly special for my daughter's birthday. I don't necessarily do a whole lot better with her brother, but as soon as his birthday's over, it's already too late to start thinking about hers from scratch. So, it was several days after Smunch's birthday that I sat down with Mam to talk about a guest list.

I don't know where this child came from. I really don't. She isn't a thing like her mother. I can tell you that. I always had a few really good friends and some peripheral friends, but I wasn't friends with everyone. Mam, is friends with just about everyone. There are some notable exceptions, but there are 24 kids in her class. Even if she's not fond of a quarter of them, that's still 18 children to invite. In the end, she invited 17, including a kindergartner from down the street, a friend who goes to another school and two girls who aren't in her class this addition to a full half of her first grade class.

I made a snap decision that if we had to have that many children at our house, they were going to watch a movie. I chose "A Bug's Life". Despite the ladybug in the movie being a rather surly male, I figured it was probably as close to "on theme" as I was going to get.

The kids started arriving at 4:30. By five, they were sitting down creating their own mini-pizzas out of English muffins and all the fixins I could come up with. Pizzas were flying into the oven and flying right back out.It was complete chaos. Kids were loud, kids were crazy, some kids were grumpy. Prodded by her current "boyfriend", Mam announced it was too loud. I suggested she rethink inviting so many kids next time.

Once kids started finishing their dinner, we sent them off to play Twister in the family room with Daddy.With 15 kids, it was still crazy. Not too many kids can play Twister at once.

Mercifully, we started the movie as soon as 5:30 rolled around. And a beautiful silence filled the air as 15 children became complete zombies in front of the TV. Of course, there was plenty of giggling, but relatively speaking, it was so under control!When the peace was finally over, at least there was cake to keep them occupied.Naturally, half of them complained about either the fondant or the strawberry filling. Cake never occupies kids for as long as you'd hope. We ended up having Mam open her presents...something children rarely do at birthday parties anymore.

When that was over, they all went HOME. And that was the best part of all! That and the next morning...Mam's actual birthday...when she got her brand new bike, which she already loves.Funny to think there was a time when I was near certain that she'd never be able to ride a bike...much less have a crazy birthday party.

Ladybug Birthday

Mam decreed that this year would be a ladybug year for her birthday. Well, O.K., I thought. I had visions of an oval-shaped cake that I could decorate as a ladybug. That's a lot of red stuff. It's hard to color things red. It takes a lot of coloring. It took a long time for my vision of this cake to finally take shape. As always, it had humble beginnings.This was a white cake with strawberry requested. Naturally, upon actually tasting it, Mam decided that she doesn't like strawberry filling. Such are the whims of a 7-year-old.I wasn't so sure what color I wanted this cake to be either. I wanted it to be bright and cheerful. Ladybugs make me happy. I wanted this cake to have that same effect. After seeing Mam's rather extensive guest list, I also decided it needed two tiers.And now it was yellow. It wasn't quite the bright, cheerful yellow I'd been looking for, but I decided to go with it rather than doing anything rash, like making a whole new batch of fondant...because yeah, I make my own fondant and color it myself.I added grass. Lots of grass. As much grass as I thought I could add without turning it into a jungle cake. The grass is just rolled out fondant, cut with a pizza cutter. I added a leafy fondant border...because it just needed a border.I made daisies out of gum paste and let them dry so that they curved just so. I made ladybugs out of red fondant, rolled into egg shapes and cut in half...then added heads and spots with a FoodWriter pen.Last, but not least, of course, I had to add the flowers and the ladybugs to the cake. It was looking promising, but it was hard to know for sure until they were on.I always take a picture at this step because I'm so worried that I'll write on the top of the cake and that'll ruin everything. Honestly, the writing, while being elementary school perfect, turned out oddly centered. Fortunately, a few strategically placed daisies and ladybugs seemed to make up for it.I admit I was pretty proud of this one. It turned out every bit as cool as I'd envisioned. Mam loved what it looked like, even if she's refused to eat any of the leftovers. Of course, I don't want to be stuffing myself with them either. Maybe next year, I should just whip out the canned frosting and a box of cake mix!