Our Family Unit
  • Traditions
  • January30th

    1 Comment

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    Like I mentioned last week, one of our Family Traditions is Birthday Cakes.  The kids get to pick out the subject/theme and I do my best to create a cake that lives up to their hopes.  Jessie and Buzz have birthdays only 2 days apart and this year we were coordinating birthday celebrations with a visit from Grandpa Dan & Marmie, so we celebrated one on a Friday and the other on Saturday.

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    For her 3rd birthday, Jessie wanted a pink and purple cat cake.  But since most of the 3D cat cakes I saw online looked fairly creepy, I decided the better route was a fun layer cake with cats on top.

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    Seeing her “cat cake” for the first time.

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    I made a 6 layer Neapolitan cake, using Sweetapolita as inspiration.  I had my own favorite chocolate cake recipe, but used her strawberry and vanilla cakes.  The vanilla cake was good, but the strawberry cake was OUT OF THIS WORLD!  It’s made with real strawberries!  So. Damn. Good.

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    As a side note, Jessie got a camera for her birthday.  Other than the floor, Buzz is her favorite subject.  I have no idea where she learned to walk around sticking her camera in people’s faces.  ;)

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    Buzz 1st Birthday party was a Cat in the Hat theme.  We thought it was fitting since we actually announced his pregnancy with the help of Dr. Seuss, not to mention there are some ridiculously cute Cat in that Hat ideas on Pinterest.

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    Having the two birthdays celebrated so close together worked really well for the actual cake baking.  I ended up sharing cake batter and frosting between the two.

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    The bottom layer was more of our favorite chocolate cake, a 10″ round.  Then the middle red and white section was a 4 layer strawberry and vanilla cake using an 8″ round, and then the top layer was more chocolate, a 6″ layer cake.  For both cakes, I made my own marshmallow fondant.  It’s so easy to make and so easy to work with, I can’t justify anything else.

    Although, I do have a question, does marshmallow fondant sweat more easily than the kind you can buy?  Or is that just the nature of fondant?  I tend to have very sweaty cakes and I can’t quite figure out why.  I’m sure some of it is just condensation as it comes out of the freezer, but I haven’t yet figured out a better way for keeping it cool (and safe from prying fingers) while I work on it, usually over 2-3 days.  I’d really appreciate any tips as I have a feeling the kids’ ideas will only get bigger and grander over the years.

    Oct bdays-15We had such a wonderful time with friends and family, celebrating our littlest man’s first year.  Cakes are a tradition that help build excitement for the kids, with or without a party.  They’re a bit of creative outlet for me and Kyle, who is the true artist of the family, always improves them with his ideas.  I don’t know if you’ve been counting, but that was 2 strawberry cake recipes, 2 vanilla cake recipes, and 3 chocolate cake recipes in 48 hours!  You can see now why I’m in the market for a treadmill.

    Aren’t these two precious though?  What great excuses to overload on sugar!

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  • January21st



    Happy New Year everyone!  I realize I’m a little late to the party, but things have been busy around here…planning for this new year and looking back to figure out what worked and what didn’t in 2013.

    One of the things I’ve been looking at in that process is holiday traditions.  As a family with young kids, we’re just in the early stages of building out the traditions we want to celebrate year after year.  It seems like we often go through a lot of trial and error to get there, cleaning up after more than one flop that looked like it would be so easy on Pinterest.  But I think we’re making headway…
    easter2013-2One thing the kids love is Easter Baskets.  I enjoy putting them together (plus it gives me an excuse to go to Target without the kids in tow) and they love getting them.  Other Easter traditions, like Egg Hunts, I’ve realized don’t have to depend on me.  It seems there’s always at least one group of friends doing one that we can join, and it’s less stress for me.

    I grew up celebrating Independence Day with a hometown parade and Kyle’s family never missed fireworks.  So we try to hit up both on the 4th of July.

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    Birthdays…this is one that seems to be ever-evolving.  We don’t do birthday parties every year for every kid, but we still want to make the day special for them.  So we’ve started decorating their bedroom door with birthday streamers and giving them a grand entrance to the day.

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    Another thing we like to do for birthdays is an elaborate (as I can manage to make it) cake.  They get to pick the subject/theme for their birthday cake and then I do my best to surprise them with it that night.  Lucky for me, at 5 and under they are all still easily impressed.  ;)


    Chocolate Monster Truck Cake


    6 Layer Neapolitan Cat Cake


    3 Tier Cat in the Hat Cake













    I love fall, and the week of Jessie and Buzz’s birthdays seems to kick off a 2 month holiday at our house.  So far, we’ve never missed Pumpkin Carving with Dad, although cleaning the seeds isn’t really anyone’s favorite part.

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    traditions oct-2Even if our block didn’t have a Halloween Parade, I think the kids would still dress up for Halloween.  They love that dress up box so much; we’re in costumes 5 days a week as it is.  Doing it with all our friends and neighbors on the same day just makes it that much more awesome!

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    This year, in anticipation of Christmas, we took the kids to see the Christmas Lights.  It was a lot of fun and I think I’d like to continue the tradition, however we might modify it a bit for next year.  A friend of mine told me that they had their kids go through the normal bedtime routine, then when the kids went up to bed they found “tickets” on their pillow.  When they came back downstairs, the car was running and hot chocolate was ready and they drove around to look at lights.  I think that might be the way to do it next time!

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    We love decorating Christmas cookies each year, but this time around we also did Gingerbread Houses while we were at the grandparents’ house in Colorado.  I liked it because not only do I want to be thinking about what traditions the kids do with Kyle and I, but also to develop a few that are done with the grandmas and grandpas, too.  The Trader Joe’s Gingerbread Kits made it super easy, too easy to pass up.  This’ll be a keeper.

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    Sometimes this stage of life makes traditions difficult.  My kids aren’t quite ready to stay up and ring in the new year, sometimes they’re asleep before the fireworks start, they don’t always  help clean up the mess or smile for the picture.  But that’s not really my goal with our family traditions (although it sure is nice when it works out).  My goal is to be intentional about creating some family time.  The tradition is more of an excuse to do something fun and a reminder to enjoy the little things.  If things never went wrong in the middle of it, think how boring our family memories would be 20 years from now.

    I’d like to incorporate more this year…something for Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day or Thanksgiving.  Maybe swap out mediocre ones with something better or come up with a few that we can do with our friends and cousins.  Maybe something not holiday related.  I’d love to start date nights with the kids or Family Adventure Days where we all go see or do something local once a month.  What is the one tradition your family wouldn’t dream of skipping, no matter how hectic life gets? Tell me what your kids love…

  • August2nd


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    This July has been a  month of family, which has been such awesome!  Especially since it’s so rare to get family all the way out to Cali.  The month started with Grandma Carol and Mike visiting for the 4th and celebrating Woody’s birthday, then Mom came out when Kyle traveled to Canada, then ALL of my family came out for a week up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and finally my sister and her new hubby came to stay!

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    It was great getting to know Ric better.  Technically, I’d only met him twice before (once when he proposed to her at Christmas, and then again at the wedding) so it was nice to finally get some time to just hang out and go beyond the surface.

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    Of course, it was amazing to hang out with my sister.  She and I are pretty opposite in most things and eleven years apart, but we still are very close.  There’s just nothing quite like a sister, ya know?  She’s just great…we made some totally cute headbands for her, me and Jessie (see her photo above) and she and Ric babysat the kids one day so Kyle and I could go perfume shopping and plus, she’s just great company!  Not only that, she went ALL OUT to celebrate my birthday!

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    Lucky for me, she’s a chef.  So I got the royal treatment with food, but she also did a whole fiesta theme with decorations, a scavenger hunt and gave me a pedicure/coffee/shopping trip while she babysat AGAIN!

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     Ric not only put up with it all, he willingly jumped in to make it a great day!  And it was – totally relaxing and absolutely fun!

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     Thanks Sis – for a fabulous 35th birthday but also for being such an incredible friend.  I love you and I miss you already!

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  • July16th


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    My oldest baby just turned FIVE!  I truly cannot believe that.  In my mind that somehow means we’ve graduated from having ‘children’ to having ‘kids’.  Children are innocent and young and have rookie parents, but kids are smart and surprising and have parents that are supposed to know what they’re doing by now.  Oops!  I think I’m a bit behind.

    On his actual birthday, we were helping some friends move and so rather than do the cake & presents that day, we went out for a special breakfast and opened just one special gift.


    An original Nintendo that we picked up off of Ebay and a few games that Kyle and I had saved since childhood (after a bit of blowing on them, they worked just fine).  ;)

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    That afternoon, he and dad had some serious bonding time!

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    The next week, when Grandma Carol and Mike came to visit we did the rest of the celebration.  Pizza is still Woody’s favorite, but Mexican food is the “stuff he eats more and more of” (meaning he always asks for seconds and thirds).  So we had make-your-own-loaded-nachos for dinner.

    The day after his John Deer birthday last summer, he requested a Monster Truck cake for his fifth birthday.  About a month ago he told me, “Mom, don’t forget!  I want a Monster Truck cake that tastes like chocolate when I turn five!”  So that’s what we did.

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    He is such a great kid!  So full of life and personality and silliness.  He so freakin’ smart it scares us sometimes.  He’s an amazing big brother to both Jessie and Buzz.  We are just blessed beyond belief to have him be our son.  I just wish he had more expressive facial features…

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