Our Family Unit
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  • January30th

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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

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    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.
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    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.  ;)

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    Chocolate Monster Truck Cake

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    6 Layer Neapolitan Cat Cake

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    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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  • June21st

    My sister, Megan, got engaged at Christmas (yeah!) and asked me to be Maid of Honor (yahoo!) but really, since I’m married, the official title was Matron of Honor (boo!).  The job came with lots of fun, but one of the best was planning her Bachelorette Party.  Megan loves a good party, but isn’t exactly a “party girl”.  I asked if she wanted the weekend in Vegas, complete with strippers, drinking games and bail postings…but she declined.  Instead, we wanted to celebrate HER with friends, good food, and lots of laughter.  So this is what I came up with for a clean and classy (ok, just clean) bachelorette party.

    For the Menu:

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    Although technically a Chef by trade, Megan loves designing and making her own clothes.  So I thought what better way to celebrate her than by having a ‘Project Runway’ style party.

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     Have you heard of an “Ugly Dress Party” where you wear your ugliest dress, most likely some 1980′s prom dress with puffed sleeves?  I liked the idea, but wanted it more “wedding-y”.  I decided instead to supply the ugly dresses (old wedding dresses from the thrift store) and let the guests reinvent them for prizes.

    I picked five categories:

    • Most Creative
    • Most Sexy
    • Most White Trash
    • Most Romantic
    • Most Vegas

    Then provided all kinds of supplies to help make the alterations.  Things like beads, fringe, feather boas, glittery stickers, iron on rhinestones and jewels, sticky letters, lace, ribbon and more.  The tools were things like scissors, an iron, hot glue guns and safety pins – afterall we only had about 90 minutes to redesign!

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    We ended up splitting into 4 teams, leaving the tiniest thigh-high dress as-is and designating it the sexiest!  Then we went to work…cutting off sleeves, raising hemlines, and adding bling.

    While we designed, we played a couple clean games that I’d found on Pinterest and modified to fit Megan.  The first was a He Said/She Said game.  I designed the below in Photoshop and handed them out at the beginning of the night.  After everyone made their guesses, I gave the answers and whoever had the most correct got a door prize.

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    The second game was Bachelorette Jeapordy (original idea found here).  There were 5 categories

    • Ric’s Early Years
    • Know Your In-Laws
    • By the Numbers
    • Tainted Love
    • His Favorite Things

    with 5 questions in each category.  I emailed Ric ahead of time to get his answers and then wrote each question on a card and put it in an envelope.  The night of the party, I divided the 25 envelopes among the guests.  Megan would call out a question… “Know Your In-Laws for 300″ …and the person holding that envelope would read the question.  If Megan got it right, she picked a door prize; but if she got it wrong, the reader picked a door prize.  Ric, I promised Megan that I’d tell you she knew them all!  ;)  

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     Here’s the list of questions I used…

    The Early Years
    1. What was his first car?
    2. What was his high school mascot?
    3. At what age did he get chicken pox?
    4. What was his first word?
    5. Where was his first job?

    Know Your In-Laws
    1. What is your future mother-in-law’s maiden name?
    2. When is his sister’s birthday?
    3. Does his family have any nicknames for him?
    4. How did his parent’s meet?
    5. Your new last name is from what ethnic origin?

    By the Numbers
    1. What is his zip code?
    2. What are the last four digits of his social security number?
    3. How many broken bones has he had?
    4. What is his dress shirt size?
    5. What year does his driver’s license expire?

    Tainted Love
    1. What is the name of his first girlfriend?
    2. At what age was his first kiss?
    3. Who is his celebrity crush?
    4. What was the date (month and day) that you met?
    5. Who was his craziest girlfriend?

    His Favorite Things
    1. What is his dream car?
    2. Where in the world does he MOST want to visit?
    3. What is his favorite type of food?
    4. What is his favorite band/musical artist?
    5. What is his favorite thing about the bride?

    After the games and second helpings on food, it was time for the fashion show.  We had Megan wear the dresses and then each team presented the dress and described their inspiration and process.  

     Most Creative

    This one had a back story…destination wedding gone wrong, it somehow included a fight with bird.

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    Most White Trash

    This was nicknamed the Mullet Dress, because it was all business in the front….

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    …and PARTY in the back.

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    Most Romantic

    They turned this cap-sleeved dress into an asymmetric sweat heart neckline and decorated the original cape, too.

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    Most Vegas

    When you add beaded fringe, glitter pasties and the groom’s name on your butt; you’ve got to be ready for Vegas!

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     The overall winner was the Most Romantic and Megan wore that dress during the rehearsal.  I’m sure the grandparents were a little confused when they saw it, but Megan was a great sport about it!

    After the fashion show, we enjoyed more food, opened gifts, and passed out favors (mini sewing kits).  It was a great night celebrating a beautiful bride.  So much creativity, so many laughs and other than a few compromising photos…totally clean!

    Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches

    3/4 pound diced or shredded cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1/3 cup mayonnaise
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons curry powder
    1/3 cup raisins
    1/3 cup slivered almonds or roasted, unsalted pistachios
    8 slices whole wheat bread or 4 8-inch round pita breads
    4 large lettuce leaves, torn in half or shredded

    Mix together chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, curry powder, raisins, and nuts. Make four sandwiches, dividing chicken mixture evenly among them and topping each with lettuce.

    Serves 4