Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road Trip to Iowa

Andrew and I spent nearly a week taking a road trip to Des Moines with the kids.  My parents went with, in their car, and we got to visit with my brother and sister. 

The kids did unexpectedly well in the car.  Jo slept whenever we drove more than half an hour, so we drove through her naps.  Oliver loved being in the car, and he spent a lot of his time drawing on his magnetic board and playing various games on the iPad.

I recorded most of our adventures on my travel blog here:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brother and Sister

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kids Say the Darnedest Things: Potty Humor Edition

Oliver enjoys watching anything "automatic" at work.  He likes the buttons available for people in wheel chairs to open doors at certain businesses.  He loves automatic sinks and paper towel dispensers.  If anything works on its own, Oliver announces that it's automatic!

A few days ago, Oliver was on the potty, and he started to pee.  When the flow stopped, he looked surprised and pointed at the bowl and said, "Oh!  It's automatic!"

Then, today, at my brother's house, Oliver had to, well, poop.  He sat on the toilet and went.  After I heard a little plunk, he pointed down in the bowl and said, "Oh!  It's an airplane!"  I started laughing and he said in his sing-song voice, "No!  That's not an airplane!"

Kids say the darnedest things.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day 2012

By the end of each weekday, I'm run down and exhausted.  Andrew rides home on his white horse (err, white Subaru) and saves the day. No matter how hard his day's been at work, he still finds enough energy to take the kids outside or chase Oliver around the house.

He has buckets full of patience.  He's genuinely interested in what Oliver wants to share with him.  He has a keen eye for wildlife and catches snakes and grasshoppers and other critters to show the kids.  He's the kind of guy the neighbor kids love to see outside, and they drag him around to show him their neat finds.  Actually, that type of thing happens everywhere.  When we go to the park or the mall play area, all the other kids see Andrew playing with Oliver, and they start demanding he "Watch me!" or "Look what I can do!"

The truth of the matter is that I couldn't do this whole parenting thing without him.  Parenting is hard, even though it's wonderful.  The house gets torn to pieces, there's lots of poop, and there's little sleep.  He deals with as many middle-of-the-night wake-ups as I do, but he gets up to start the day with the kids at 5am and often lets me sleep to 6am, sometimes as late as 7am.  I love Andrew as my husband and partner, but I appreciate him most as my children's father.  He's incredible.

For Father's Day, I decided to be the one to get up at 5am.  This was after handling two wake-ups from Jo and one from Oliver.  I felt like a zombie.  How does Andrew do this?

We set up his Father's Day loot, and Oliver colored on a card I whipped up.  We got him a new chopping knife he'd wanted, and we made him a photo gift.

I let Andrew sleep in until 8am, and then I woke him up to play Minecraft while I took the kiddos to Starbucks (I needed espresso).  When I got home, we all worked on making homemade waffles, which Andrew had requested.After waffles, we took a family stroll down to the creek.  It was about 10am, but it was already over 80 degrees out.

Following creek time and nap time, Andrew put his new knife to work and made us all delicious grilled veggie sandwiches.  Then, he and I alternated watching the kids so we could both get a haircut, because the temperatures outside reached 95, and we were miserable.

I came home to find Andrew and the kids playing with the water table.   They are so stinking cute.

We waited for things to cool off a little bit and then drove to Red Rocks to walk around a bit.  The scenery is breathtaking up there, but we were reminded there isn't much shade.  We walked around until we polished off all our water, and then we headed home.

In all, I think it was a great Father's Day, and I love celebrating my husband for all the work he does at home and with the kids.  Happy Father's Day, Andrew!

America the Beautiful Cake

I did it!  It's Sunday evening, and I finished my fourth and final entry.

My vision for this cake was to be all about our beautiful country because Southwest Airlines flies domestically and covers almost all of the lower 48 states.  The United States is beautiful.  You can travel around our large country and see rocky beaches, sandy beaches, huge mountains, redwood forests, enormous freshwater lakes, large cities, and quaint towns.  I wanted to try to make my cake to reflect that.

On Friday, I re-purposed the classic birthday cake I'd made and carved it into a map of the United States.  I did it freehand, so it's not perfect, but there's no mistaking what it's supposed to be.

On Friday night, Oliver helped me make another batch of homemade fondant, and we dyed most of it green.   After the kids were in bed,  I rolled it out and did the difficult job of molding it around the cake.  Yup, i did that after working on the Baked Alaska.  I was busy, busy!

Then came the tough but fun part.  Last night (Saturday), I used fondant and made miniature icons to represent a handful of the cities that Southwest flies to.  These are the first four I made.  I made the seashell to represent Southern California (I put it where San Diego would go on my cake map).  I made a miniature hot dog to represent Chicago and a miniature ear of corn to represent Des Moines.  The sun, I used for Southern Florida.

By the time I'd finished, I also made dice for Las Vegas, a mug of coffee for Seattle, the Statue of Liberty for New York, and a Mardi Gras mask for New Orleans.  I added in yellow dots to represent the other cities Southwest flies to, and I made a Southwest airplane for the cake, too.

The cake was all about the beauty of our country's landscape, so I wanted to go somewhere beautiful to photograph it for the contest.  We decided to make the short drive up to Red Rocks Amphitheater and Park.  It's Father's Day, so I snapped a photo of my husband with our kids.  I couldn't have worked all of the hours on these cakes if it wasn't for their support, and I couldn't have had these beautiful pictures without my husband's involvement and help.  Thank you, Family!

Here is the photo I chose for my entry with my "America the Beautiful" cake.

Here is my entry pin on Pinterest:

I've really had fun with this contest.  I'm a competitive person, and I get really excited about contests.  This contest was an absolute blast.  I got to be creative, and I got to bake a ton with my kids.  The photo shoots were the best part, though, because that's when I felt like all my hard work was coming together.

No matter how the contest turns out, I'm glad I spent this week giving it my all.  Happy 41st Birthday, Southwest Airlines!  Thank you for letting me celebrate with you!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Baked Alaska with LUV to Southwest

As you might recall, the first cake I tried to back for the Southwest Airlines birthday cake contest was a flop.  The cake collapsed.

I left the cake out all day, wondering what to do with the thing.  Andrew wanted me to slather it in Nutella.  I finally decided on a better idea: Baked Alaska.  As much as I love to bake, I actually don't really enjoy eating cake very much.  Ice cream is another story.  I love ice cream.  Indeed, every year on my birthday, I get an ice cream cake.  So good.

I took my sinkhole cake, and I sliced it up.  I set a few layers on a bake dish and smothered it in a quart of ice cream.  I used the rest of the layers of my cake failure and finished wrapping the ice cream so that the ice cream was completely covered.  I drizzled a few tablespoons of leftover coffee over the cake, and I stuck it in the freezer.

That's when it occurred to me.  I just put a cake in the freezer.  Hello, wasn't I trying to come up with unique ideas for the cake competition?  Why wouldn't I decorate it for an extra entry in the "Baked with LUV" contest?

I started brain storming.  My plan quickly became to make the Baked Alaska look as fancy as possible.  On the side, in large lettering, I would write, "SWA," for Southwest Airlines.  I started to get really excited.  I could visualize the photo I'd put the Baked Alaska into.  Andrew and I would dress up.  I'd get some champagne flutes.  I'd put the dessert between the two of us at our kitchen table.  Maybe I'd light it with candles.  It would be a snapshot into a romantic evening shared by my husband and me and our Southwest Airlines Baked Alaska.  Surely, no one else would think to do the same thing!  Points for originality.

On Wednesday, Andrew stopped by his parents' house to borrow champagne flutes.  After dinner on Thursday, I made the meringue, which is used to decorate the Baked Alaska.  Oliver helped, as he was so excited to use the mixer again.  I pulled the Baked Alaska out of the freezer and frosted the whole cake with meringue, and then I piped designs all over it.  On the side, I wrote, "SWA," just as planned.  I stuck it in the freezer to set, waiting to bake it when the kids went to bed.

As soon as the kiddos fell asleep, I preheated the oven and ran upstairs to get ready.  I put on a dress and tied my hair into an up-do.  Andrew put on a dress shirt and pants.  I love that man.

After the Baked Alaska was done baking, Andrew lit candles on it.  I got the camera set up for self-portrait, and we took a few photos before digging into the dessert.  If the judges could taste the various cakes, the Baked Alaska would be the winner, hands down.  It was so good.  I devoured two slices.

Here's my Baked Alaska submission for the "Baked with LUV" contest:

So good...


Friday, June 15, 2012

Baked with LUV

My initial plan for Southwest Airlines' Baked with LUV contest was to have two entries.  Yesterday, I posted my first entry to the contest: a Southwest airplane made from cake.  After posting, I set to work on my second entry.  Oliver and I baked a sheet cake together.  I was about to pop it into the oven to freeze in preparation for carving when something occurred to me.  I could first frost it like a traditional cake, take a fun photo with it, and then scrape off most of the frosting and freeze it to carve later, as planned.  So, just like that, I came up with another entry for this contest.

I used some of my leftover "Southwest Airline Blue" fondant color from my airplane cake to create numbers for the top.  The rest of the cake, I decorated traditionally.  I finished late into the night again, so I stuck the cake in the fridge for photos in the morning.

Cake decorating steps:

My plan was to take a family photo.  Each of us would have a thought bubble popping out of our heads, thinking of a great trip we would want to take.  I would be thinking of Florida and warm, sandy beaches.  Andrew would be thinking of me in a swimsuit.  Oliver would think about Disney World, and Jo--well, Jo would just be thinking about milk.  We would all be in our pajamas, looking a little stressed out, wanting to be on vacation.  Even if Jo cried, it would only add to the charm of the photo.

This morning, I was so tired from staying up late the last two nights that Andrew watched the kids to let me sleep until 7am.  When I finally got up, he had to get dressed to go to work.  Unfortunately, I couldn't wait and postpone the photo shoot to tonight because I needed the sheet cake in the freezer for carving today.  The show must go on, so we took pictures without him.

Things didn't quite go as planned.  Oliver didn't have any clean sets of jammies ready.  So, I put him in underwear shorts and a T-shirt.  I put Jo in a onesie that I thought resembled an undershirt, and I got dressed in an over-sized nightgown.  I got our thought bubbles and Mickey (OK, Minnie) ears ready, set up the camera for some self-portraits, and grabbed the cake.

It went OK.  I felt a little stressed instead of just pretending to be a little stressed for comedy.  Oliver covered himself, which gave the appearance that everyone was dressed for the day except me.  Haha!  I guess it did reflect the life of a stay-at-home mom after all.  Not to do all that extra work for nothing, I settled on the best photo of the group and submitted my second entry.

Here's my entry pin:


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Southwest Airlines 41st Birthday Cake

I love to travel, I love to bake, and I love Pinterest.  I can't tell you how excited I got when I read that Southwest Airlines was having a cake baking/decorating contest through Pinterest to celebrate their 41st birthday.  The winner receives two roundtrip tickets anywhere Southwest flies!  Not only that, the winner gets to be a guest blogger on their blog site!  Scoop me off the floor because I'm weak in the knees!

For those of you who are interested in the contest, here's my Pinterest pin that links to all of the rules:

I first heard about the contest on Tuesday, June 12, the day after it started.  I sat down and considered a million and one ideas, and I settled on two.  You see, you can enter as many times as you want, as long as you have a unique cake each time.

My first idea was to make an airplane cake.  No, I'm not talking about putting a picture of an airplane on a cake.  I decided to carve a 3D Southwest airplane out of a cake!  My plan also involved decorating it in fondant.  Now, I've never carved a cake before, and I've never made or used fondant.  The challenge made me more determined.

The first step was to bake the cake itself.  I dug around for a recipe and got to baking straight away.  Oliver had a great time helping me bake, but the cake was a total flop.  The cake was so soft and moist that it wouldn't really hold together.  As it cooled, it sunk in the middle.  There was no way I could carve it into an airplane.

Rather than waste another half dozen eggs, I decided just to go to the supermarket and buy a $1 box of cake mix.  It turned out much firmer, which is exactly what I wanted for carving.  I finished baking the second cake before bedtime on day one.  As it baked, Oliver and I got to work on mixing the fondant.  Most fondant recipes aren't vegetarian-friendly, but I finally found one that called for corn syrup instead of gelatin or marshmallows.  It held together well and readily absorbed the gel food coloring I'd purchased at the craft shop.

First attempt is on the left, and second attempt is on the right:

Here are my fondant colors.  I call that large tub of blue, "Southwest Airlines blue."

The following morning, day two, I decided to tackle the carving.  The task loomed before me, but I was excited to see what I could do.  I read online that beginners should always freeze their cakes before carving.  It makes them less crumbly.

To be honest, I couldn't believe how easily I was able to carve my cake into a plane.  OK, so it might not be perfect, but I thought it was really good for both never having done anything like that before and for doing it in the 30 minute window that was my baby's morning nap.

Post-carving, I stuck the cake back in the freezer.  When both of my kids were down for their afternoon naps, I pulled the cake back out and lightly frosted it.  Apparently, frosting the cake first helps hold down any crumbs, and it gives the fondant something to stick to later.

As soon as the kids fell asleep for the night, I tackled the cake decorating.  It was so much fun working with fondant.  I was able to cut, paste, and smooth it out relatively easily.  Andrew took a photo of me applying the yellow icing for the detail.

I was up until nearly midnight, which, for a mom of two little ones, is really late.  I can't remember the last time I was up so late when it wasn't for a nighttime feeding.  I think it was worth it, though.  Here are a few photos of the finished product:

I popped the cake back into the freezer to hold its shape for the following day: Thursday, my third day working on the contest, and the day I set aside for the photo shoot.  My plan was to take the cake outside and make it "fly" for Oliver.  I thought he'd love it.  I was right!  What I didn't count on was how hard it would be to make the cake "fly" for him while still being able to get a good photo of it.

Here's the cake flying.  As you can see, Oliver loved watching it fly.  However, you can't see my cake very well.

I got really into the effects of making the cake fly.  A bunch of neighbor kids came by to watch me fly my cake plane.

Ultimately, I decided the plane had better fly lower to the ground to get a good photo of it.  Oliver enjoyed that because he could reach his finger in to eat some of the powdered sugar clouds.  With over two dozen photos to choose from, I finally settled on the last one of the group.

Here is my entry to celebrate Southwest Airline's 41st birthday.  Happy Birthday, Southwest!  I hope you have as much fun celebrating as I have!

My entry pin: