Sunday, February 24, 2013

Out - Please Leave a Message

I must be kinda dense. I don't know why anyone wouldn't enjoy doing something like this. Thanks to MommieN. for joining me on yet another adventure.This little day trip couldn't have come at a much better time. My kids were getting ready to leave on a ski trip for the week...something I've got completely irrational paranoia about...and birthday season always has me a little stressed out. Just one more birthday to go, thank goodness. I'm looking forward to ice skating this weekend with a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds, but that just means I've got a cake to get started on.

I don't talk about it too often because it makes me a buzzkill, but I really hate skiing. I hate just about everything about it. I enjoy the "whee!" factor a bit, but not enough to overcome the things I just detest...the cold, the people constantly threatening to run me down, my own lack of skill and confidence.

So, when the kids came back on Friday, I snuggled up to Mam one evening and told her I felt badly that both my kids love something so much that I really don't enjoy. I said that I'd missed them and that it was strange to be here all by myself. I didn't say so, but I really don't enjoy being the odd person out either.

"Well, it's kind of like hiking, Mom," Mam said, trying to placate me. "You really like that and we DON'T."

I didn't know what to say. Mam was obviously unclear that my problem had more to do with spending activity time alone than with not having an activity to do. I might've preferred a stake through the heart to a declaration that no one likes hiking but me. 

How in the world did I produce these people?? And what am I going to do with them for a weekend in this same state park this summer?

Monday, February 18, 2013

11 - Tiggers are Wonderful Things


is my 11-year-old. Even though at-home, old-fashioned birthday parties are appparently passé, he still wants me to make his birthday cake. Cute. Of course, I've set ridiculous expectations in this regard. Silly me. It started with the Curious George cake, then the Elmo cake, the 3D train cake, the fire engine cake, the Spiderman cake, the soccer field cake, the Superbowl cakes, the chess cake (ooh, that one kinda rocked!), the SF Giants cake, the laser tag cake, which gets a lot of hits on Google...I'm sure I missed a few in there.

This year, Smunch wanted to go to a trampoline place for his birthday. It made for an easy cake idea at least. The idea was easy. The execution is never quite so easy...especially with increased hours at work and such. It just meant I had to start early. I made lots of colors of fondant.

Smunch wanted a yellow cake with strawberry and whipped cream filling. Done.

And if he was going to have a trampoline party...well, had to look like a trampoline, didn't it?

And if it was going to be a kids' party, there had to be kids...or else it was just going to look like some funny, stripey cake decoration thingy.

Very P.C., huh?

If there were going to be kids, they were going to have to be jumping, somehow. Fortunately, I made some basketball dunking penguins once upon a time. I almost felt experienced with this sort of thing.

I got this done around 11pm, the night before the party...and then added a border to the bottom the next morning because I just can't leave well enough alone.

It's pretty impossible to take pictures of little boys jumping on trampolines in a dimly lit warehouse. I tried, but the cake was probably a pretty good approximation of what it looked like anyway. I gave up trying to get a real photo and took a picture of one of the TVs they had monitoring the trampoline dodgeball arena.

Geez. That looks just like...a birthday cake!

So, Smunch successfully turned 11 and had a bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy party with his friends (who are a pretty awesome group of boys, I might add) on his birthday.

And even though I got more pictures of cake and little fondant people than I did of the sweaty little 10 and 11-year-olds, I think it was all a raging success for everyone.

On the Good Ship Lollipop

At our elementary school, third grade is a big deal for lots of reasons, but the Famous Americans report ranks right up there near the top. You might remember that Smunch became Jackie Robinson a couple of years ago. It was a huge deal, not just because he stutters, but he had to memorize a five-minute presentation, come in costume and have a certain number of props. It was stressful, both for him and me.

This year, Mam chose to be Shirley Temple Black. I'd never really thought of Shirley Temple as having contributed that much to American society, so it was fun to learn more about her. Not only was she a very, very famous little girl, but she did some interesting things as an adult too. She was a delegate to the U.N., she was an ambassador to Ghana, she was ambassador to Czechoslovakia and she was the first female chief of protocol in the United States. That's kinda cool.

Know what else is cool? The third grade teachers finally decided this year to turn this into a real third grade project. The kids wrote almost all of the presentation themselves, they didn't have to memorize anything, costumes were optional and props were mostly absent. So much more low key and so much less stressful for everyone involved...unless you're sick on the day of your presentation, as Mam was. Then it's kind of sad to lay your curly little tresses on the sofa all day.

But Mam got to perform on Wednesday instead of Monday...and that was just fine. We got to do a "dry run" on the curls and make sure they worked out. She had fun sleeping in foam curlers and she did a great job with her presentation, despite only just being well enough to be back. She made good eye contact, read slowly and clearly and had more poise than I've seen her have before.

This one is super hard-headed, but she's going to do whatever she wants to do with her life...whether you like it or not.

Monday, February 11, 2013


There is a reason I don't plan big events. I tried it once several years ago and learned that it completely stresses me out. I'm not even worth being around because I'm so worried that things will go wildly wrong. But this year, I put all those fears aside to organize a 40th birthday party for my San Diego. I figured her husband wasn't likely to do it and no one really deserves it more...besides, her birthday is the day after mine and they fell on a Friday and Saturday this year. What better excuse to go spend my birthday with my sister??
So, after months of planning, a friend took me out to breakfast and dropped me at the airport on my birthday. And I hopped a plane to San Diego.
Unfortunately, I hadn't uh, say, read the instruction manual for the new camera lens I've got. I didn't realize you could turn the image stabilization OFF. Who'd want to do that, after all?? Not me. Except it was...until Sunday. So I have a lot of blurry pictures. Whatever.

Leaving my nephews at home with their dad, Karen and I set out for a nice We had such a good time catching up, drinking pomegranate martinis and ordering too much food. I should drive to San Diego just for dinner once in a while. Well, maybe not really, but it's fun to pretend.

Saturday was party day. On the recommendation from one of Karen's friends, I booked the "back room" at a wine bar in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. I'd corresponded with the manager via e-mail and talked to him on the phone a couple of times. But gosh, doing things long distance is always so sketchy. I'd ordered a cake the same way. I found a commercial kitchen that made wedding cakes and had a good online reputation. It was near Karen's house, so I ordered a cake from them. I thought I'd ordered a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and coffee mousse filling, but it didn't quite turn out that way.
O.K., so the frosting's the wrong color, but they wrote the right thing on top and it looks pretty...sorta. The gum paste flowers are lovely, but why are the roses so...uh...white. They're beautiful, but really, really chalky-looking. O.K., now I'm kind of freaking out about something totally ridiculous...and I'm thinking I could have made her a prettier cake (whether that's true or not), so I had Karen drive me to Michael's to buy some "lustre dust" and paintbrushes. I took the roses off the cake and brushed them with color so they weren't so darned pasty.

The first bunch was...well...experimental and reminded me of that children's book The Pinkish Purplish Bluish Egg. Ever read that? No? It's about a mourning dove who finds a funny-colored egg and it hatches into a griffin named Ezekiel. Oh, nevermind.

The second set of roses, I brushed with yellow, decided I liked them and left it at that. I carefully rearranged them all on the cake again and set about resuming my daytime job as a relatively normal person.
I left early to help a couple of Karen's teacher-friends decorate the room at Wine Steals. The room wasn't quite what I'd envisioned, but I think it was probably better that what I'd envisioned. It was a cozy little room in the back of the restaurant. We had our own little private wine bar, food and great company. Karen's friends are a blast.
Who knew elementary school teachers were such fun on the weekends? Well, other elementary school teachers, apparently.
Even our parents, who had also made the trip from the more northerly reaches of California, seemed to enjoy themselves.
If anyone finds this blog while looking for information on Wine Steals, I'd have to say the manager at Hillcrest, Nick, was super nice and easy to work with. I wish I'd caught the name of our wine pourer because she was fantastic. Once I figured out how to get my laptop all hooked up, the stereo system was great, the wine was good, the food was yummy. I don't have a single complaint. We had so much fun!
I'd brought some large truffles as party favors...and I had to take a picture of them because I was so proud of how cute they looked.
And that cake was pretty yummy too, despite the white frosting. I'm certain no one would have looked twice at the pasty white flowers, but at least I was secure in my knowledge that I'd done my part to make the party a little more colorful...well, by coloring the flowers, and drinking three glasses of wine.
Considering I was in a room full of strangers, the party was over far too soon. I'm so glad I put forth a little effort and it turned out so well. I've got an awesome sister. She deserved a great 40th birthday...and then some.