Thursday, December 17, 2009
I've been thinking that I should merge my blog posts and tweets into one feed, and I figured out how to do it, but I'm not so sure that Blogger would let me post that feed instead of the direct one. If that makes sense. Until then, though, keep checking that sidebar if you want to know what I'm thinking/feeling/doing.
I do have some things to share with you, though. I am way, way, way behind on posting about cakes. Most of them were tweeted, but I'd like to go a little more in-depth about them.
Since we're playing catch-up, we might as well start with the baby shower cake I did in September. It's a cookies & cream cake with from-scratch white chocolate fondant and marshmallow fondant decorations. Little fondant candies, doughnuts, gingerbread men, chili peppers, flowers and butterflies are pouring out of jars labeled "sugar" "spice" and "everything nice", swirling around the cake on a rainbow ribbon, and culminating in a baby girl sleeping inside of a flower. Because "that's what little girls are made of", right?
Next came the brownie "burgers". (Actually I think they were a day or two before the baby shower cake? They're after it in iPhoto for some reason. Whatever.) Emily sent me a link and told me that if I were ever going to cater a birthday party for her, she'd want these cupcakes. So I brought them to the Hail & Farewell for her husband (and her!) when they transferred out in September
Everyone lost their minds over these things. I don't really understand what the big deal was; they were so easy, and I've seen them done a lot better. The only thing I added of my own was the "cheese" and the "lettuce". They're both fondant. The lettuce was done a few days in advance so that they'd dry in the ruffled shape, and the cheese was done at the time of assembly so that it would still be soft. The ketchup and mustard are all-butter buttercream. The Commissary was out of white sesame seeds so the "buns" don't look as real as they could have, but then again I think sesame seeds on yellow cupcakes is kind of weird anyway. I have no idea what these tasted like because I didn't have any - I'd had food poisoning the week before and the thought of eating cupcakes, brownies, or a brownie inside of a cupcake was just NOT appealing to me in the slightest.
Here's a cake that Brandon decorated by himself. He loves to work with "icing that's like play-doh" (aka fondant), probably because it's play dough that he's allowed to eat.
Here are the cupcakes I made for the cakewalk at the Harvest Festival that Brandon's preschool had. They're applesauce spice cake (recipe on the side of the box of Duncan Hine's spice cake mix) with maple-cinnamon buttercream. They smelled sooooooo good.
The one in the front left was supposed to be a ginkgo leaf. I'm really disappointed in how those ones came out, but I like the rest of them. I finally mastered the 1M swirl! Yaaaaay.
This is an apple piecake that I made for the Harvest (day-before-Thanksgiving) Potluck at Brandon's school. I had a ton of maple-cinnamon buttercream left over, so that's what I used for this. Marshmallow fondant leaves and apples.
Best use of fondant leaves to cover up a sloppy, not-properly-lined-up basketweave "seam":
For Brandon's actual birthday (on Thanksgiving), a 6" cake was added to the Thanksgiving dessert spread. This was my first attempt at a frozen buttercream transfer, and I LOVED it. I loved doing it, and I love how it came out!
The Gravedigger Cake. Oh, man. The work that went into this thing! Here's the chocolate panels from one side:
Chocolate was definitely the best way to get that detail - for me, at least. I've been working with chocolate a heck of a lot longer than I've been working with icing. None of this was piped, btw. It was all done with paintbrushes. (Traced onto wax paper taped over a reversed photograph. So the side touching the wax paper became the front; nice and smooth. The frozen buttercream transfer for the AT-AT cake was done the same way, only piped and then frozen.)
Here's the cake before I added the flag/candle and gumaste Brandon.
I'm not happy with how the flames turned out. I should have probably done them out of fondant so that they'd have been smoother.
Here it is with Brandon falling off the back. The gumpaste flag was molded onto an extra-long skinny candle.
It was an enormous amount of cake for such a small party. Some of it got taken home by guests, but some of it went right into the trash. :(
Here's another Brandon cake, his entry for this year's Interfaith Baking Contest.
And here's my entry:
A lot of baking goes into a topsy-turvy. Each tier has three layers, each a different size. Here they are, stacked up and thawing after coming out of the freezer.
I think the best way to tell the story of this cake is to post the description I submitted to John Mayer:
"The other cake is the topsy-turvy Christmas tree that I made. I've been waiting for an excuse to try one for quite some time now. I knew, however, that even if I made it as small as physically possible (which I did), it would still be way too much cake for my family of four. So I decided to bring it to my husband's Command Holiday Party. We're relatively new to this command (transferred here in May), and every command Holiday party we've ever been to has been a potluck, so we had no idea that this one was CATERED. So I walked into a *catered event* carrying, not only a cake, not only a tiered cake, but a bright green, ostentatiously conspicuous, topsy-turvy cake. I almost died of embarrassment, but as it turns out, the catered desserts were fairly unappetizing, and everybody was glad that I'd brought something better. Made with love!!!"
The bottom tier was Chocolate Candy Cane (devil's food cake with mint buttercream & crushed candy cane filling; glazed with mint-chocolate ganache and then iced in vanilla butercream.) The middle and top tiers were Almond Sugarplum cake. (Almond butter cake with a "sugarplum" filling of my own invention, inspired in a general way by Alton Brown's sugarplum recipe.) I don't really know how the Sugarplum cake turned out in the end because I never ate any of it. I don't think anybody did. It was too much cake even for a big party. I actually don't know what happened to the leftovers, I was told that it fell over after a certain amount of pieces had been cut off of the base. Which, to be honest, I expected.
I was actually fairly unhappy with those last two cakes, to be honest. (By which I mean, MY last two cakes. I think Brandon's tree was adorable.) They were ambitious, and impressive in their own way, and they went over VERY well. But the icing wasn't smooth and the piping, simple though it was, was really sloppy. I wanted - needed - a chance to practice the basics.
Ask, and you shall receive. This cake was requested by the "room mother" of Brandon's class. (Well, she asked if I could make a cake. I came up with the design myself.) The Teaching Assistant for his class is transferring next month, and today was her last day with the 2-day class. Each of the kids gave her a flower, and then we gave her this cake.
I'm finally starting to get the hang of the reverse-shell border. Kind of.
The roses had me in tears. The icing I'd made myself wasn't stiff enough and they were just flopping all over the place as I was trying to pipe them. So I had to go with the backup can of Wilton decorator frosting. I don't like having to use it, because it has trans-fats in it...but guess what? You need the trans-fats. Ever since they started making Crisco with no trans-fats, you can't use all-Crisco buttercream to make roses. The petals end up feathery and cracked. 50/50 butter/Crisco works for some people, but not for me, because my hands are too hot and it melts in the bag and gets too soft for roses. (It's fine for everything else, though.) So I went with my usual compromise of pre-made, kill-you-slowly icing for the roses, and icing-that's-ever-so-slightly-less-unhealthy for the rest of it.
So, that's what I've been working on for the past season, at least as far as decorating. I hope you've enjoyed this journey through the last 4 months worth of cakes. I'm planning something special for Christmas Eve, so stay tuned!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I couldn't recline the seat because Brandon was sitting in the back of the stroller (it's a sit-n-stand, so when Brandon's sitting, they're back-to-back) and refused to stand instead, and I guess Jack was having trouble getting comfortable sitting up straight, because he assumed this position, in his sleep.
I repositioned him after I took these pictures, btw.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Brandon: "Um...I can't think!"
(a day and a half later, literally out of nowhere)
Brandon: "Mommy! I remember now! Sophia is a good guy."
Me: "...So, you want to invite her to your birthday party?"
Brandon: "Yes. She's a good guy."
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Man, did that bring back some memories. Things that I was already thinking about, because it's Election Day. Let me explain...no, will take too long. Let me sum up. (Princess Bride reference, y'all!)
I used to spend a lot of time...too much time...on a message board - really more of an "internet community". We all met on one message board, got tired of being treated badly by a few people on that message board, and struck out to form our own community. In time, it evolved that a few of the members were, well, dominant. Some were just prolific and opinionated posters. Some were just plain domineering. I know I can't have been the only one who felt as though I couldn't disagree with them, because I would be attacked. Attacked for disagreeing. Have assumptions made about my character, because I disagreed. So I left, in a flurry of misunderstanding and hurt feelings.
How does this relate to Election Day? Well. Let's go back about a year and a half. John Edwards had just dropped out of the Democratic primary. I was bummed because he was the candidate I had been backing. I expressed my disappointment, and stated that I thought the Democratic Party was shooting itself in the foot, because I did not believe that the American people would elect either a woman or a minority. I wanted to be wrong - and I stated that quite emphatically - but I just didn't think that the country at large was ready. This, apparently, was an unacceptable, an unbelievable, a racist opinion to have.
Why did I have that opinion? Because of the things I had seen, the people I had met, the things I had experienced. I don't think it's conceited or self-serving to say that I had probably met, and lived among, Americans from more walks of life and more parts of the country than anyone else in that community. Sure there were some who had traveled extensively, around the country and around the world - but not many had lived among the rednecks like I had. And what my experience had taught me was that for a larger portion of America than any of us were comfortable admitting, a female or minority President was just. not. acceptable. And I came to this conclusion after living amongst the kind of people who are decent and noble enough to actually join the military - not just slap a made-in-China "Support the Troops" ribbon magnet on the back of their SUV (right next to the Confederate Flag sticker and the full-rear-window Bible verse) and call themselves "Patriotic". What about the rest of them? How much worse must they be?
For a moment, for one ever-so-brief shining sliver of a moment, I thought that I had been proven wrong. Because Barack Obama won the election. But you know what? I wasn't wrong. I was completely, 100% right. This country was not ready. Because the ignorant, the hateful, the "Conservatives"...well, we've seen the way they've been behaving for the last 12 months. And everyone else? Well, we're letting them get away with it, aren't we?
People look around at the things Glenn Beck says and the ignorance at the Town Hall meetings, and they say..."what the hell?" And I say, "did anybody really NOT see this coming?" Really?? Really??? None of this stuff is new. Having a black President just brought it all to the surface. I think it's time for everyone to take a deep breath and calm the f*** down. It's time for the White House to actually get something accomplished, it's time for the "Conservatives" to consider the *meaning* of those Bible verses they keep on brandishing around like weapons, and it's time for everyone to stop, think, and remember that just because we're Americans, that doesn't mean we should be running around acting like dumbasses in front of the rest of the world. With great power comes great responsibility. And really, what WOULD Jesus do?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
See how it looks like his left eye is turning in towards his nose? But look at where the light is reflected in both eyes: it is exactly the same. Basically the bridge of his nose is somewhat flat, and wide, and some of the whites of his eyes are covered up. He looks like his eyes are crossed, but they're not.
This was the conclusion I came to after seeing the opthamologist. She wasn't ready to rule out intermittent strabismus, though. It's hard to tell with a child so young, because he can't really participate fully in the tests. He can look into a machine, but he's not going to be able to tell you what he sees. Plus, if his eyes only cross some of the time, then if they don't cross while he's at the doctor's office, then she won't see it, right? So we're going back again in 3 months to be evaluated again.
In the meanwhile, though, I've been paying very close attention to Jack's eyes and looking at lots of pictures. Most of the pictures where he looks cross-eyed, either the light reflections are symmetrical, or the picture is too blurry to be able to tell. (Or only half of his face is lit, so there IS no light reflection in the crossed eye!) So my conclusion was...inconclusive, but I was pretty sure that his eyes are normal.
Then I took this picture.
It's still hard to tell, because if the light reflection *is* symmetrical, half of it is hidden. But his eye does definitely look more crossed than usual in this one. It might very well be a symmetrical light reflection. I really can't tell. But this picture went into the "bring it to the doctor" file, for sure.
ETA: There's also this one.
The cross is a lot more subtle, but the light reflections definitely look asymmetrical to me. See how in his right eye (on the left of the picture) the point of light is towards his pupil, but in his left eye, it's towards the white of his eye? (Click on the picture to see the super-zoomed version I've been studying all evening.) I think this is the most convincingly crossed picture I've seen so far. It's just so tough to be sure, because he obviously does have the wide nose bridge, the first picture I posted proves that. But he might also have an eye that actually crosses a little from time to time. *Sigh* I just hope they have the capability to provide Vision Therapy here. Because if they don't, and he needs it? Oh, you'd better believe I'm demanding to be sent somewhere that does.
Friday, October 30, 2009
So, yeah, I already have my menu pretty well planned out, but I want to make sure I'm not missing anything. We have a friend coming over, and he's bringing his Japanese girlfriend with him - he wants her to experience a "real American Thanksgiving". It's flattering, and ever so slightly terrifying. I want it to be perfect.
So...what one dish is absolutely essential at Thanksgiving? Lurkers, it's time to de-lurk. I need as many answers as I can get. :)
Now ever since we've moved here, Brandon has had a tendency to be moody. He likes to play alone in his room, and he DOES NOT want Jack to be in there, ever. They fight over toys and get on each others' nerves. But in the end, this is the kind of kid that Brandon is: he had a scary dream - not about monsters, or getting lost, or Daddy never coming home - but about his baby brother getting hurt. And when he had this dream, he didn't cry in his bed, or come to me for comfort - he went looking for his brother to make sure he wasn't alone and hurting. He loves his brother more than anything, enough to get out of bed in the scary dark.
I have a good kid.
Monday, October 26, 2009
- Jack may have strabismus. He may have pseudostrabismus. It's hard to tell which it is, but his right eye looks like it's turning inward some of the time. We'll find out when we go to the opthamologist on Thursday whether he's actually cross-eyed, or if it just looks that way because of the shape of the bridge of his nose. (FYI - while researching this usually Asian trait [pseudostrabismus], I came across a blurb stating that there is Asian DNA floating around the Lithuanian gene pool due to Mongolian invasions. So since the Mongols invaded Lithuania, and the Moors invaded Sicily, my children are truly world-wide mutts.)
- I have a call in to the developmental screening people at the elementary school, re: Brandon's stutter.
- The first few days on Yasmin were hell, I felt SO MUCH worse. I'm starting to feel better now. Time will tell if it does the trick for the PMDD. But I can tell you right now, it makes my skin really dry.
- It is rainy, and windy, and COLD. Like 60 degrees. To a family who spent the last 4 years in Hawaii, 60 degrees and raining is almost unbearably cold. Winter is going to be rough for us this year, LOL.
- This is going to be the first year since...well, EVER...that I don't have a Halloween costume. I wanted to do Ratatouille - wear a chef coat and put a Remy toy on my head, holding my hair - but the Nex Depot only had chef coats in L, XL, and XXL. Boo. I wanted to do this one last year, too, but I ordered a chef coat from a website that never shipped it and eventually canceled the order like 6 weeks later. Maybe it's just not meant to be. (I ended up throwing together a Foofa costume last year.) Since my kids are being Batman and Robin, I might have to bust out a quick Catwoman costume...I have cat ears somewhere...
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Here's the thing: part of me wants to invite everyone in Brandon's class, because I don't want anyone to be left out. The other part of me counted the names on the sign-in sheet the other day and protests this plan because there are 18 kids in his class. And there are at least 5 other kids who AREN'T in his class, who we want to invite. And after all, there's going to be a "party" at school for everyone whose birthday is in November. (Although we're not allowed to bring homemade goodies for that. Grrrrr.) But how do we decide who to invite? I mean, when I ask who he wants to invite to his birthday party, there's 2 or 3 names that always come up. But when I ask about other kids - "Are you friends with x? Are you friends with y?" - he always says "yes". I don't know what these kids talk about when they're in school. I don't want anybody to feel bad because they weren't invited to the Monster Truck Party.
To complicate things, the party is the day after Thanksgiving. I don't know how many people go home for the holiday, but I can't help but feel that this might have an effect on attendence rates.
So what would you do? Invite everybody? Or just the ones who Brandon chooses? Is he old enough to choose his own guest list like that, if it means leaving people out?
FTR, the cake I'm planning, according to the charts at Wilton.com, will serve 70+ people, although I doubt that - those charts are based on teeny slices. So there will be enough cake no matter what. But pizza for 23 kids and their parents is an awful lot of pizza...
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I'm trying a couple of new recipes this year, as well as roasting the turkey (we normally fry, but can't this year because we don't have a yard!), and putting together both Brandon's enormous Gravedigger cake, and a smaller one for the family to eat on his actual birthday. I tried to figure out the order in which to do it all on a piece of paper like I usually do, but it quickly got too complicated. So I wrote out (a summarized version of) each step of each recipe on individual index cards, which are now in order, in a pile about 2 inches high. I am sure I will be tweaking the order for the next several weeks.
I also just did one of my favorite things to do when preparing for a big cooking event: I made my Master Ingredient List. I go through every recipe I'm going to make, and write down every ingredient, along with the amounts required. Then I go back and add them all up. I divide this list into 3 or 4 weeks worth of shopping lists. It's an excellent way to make absolutely certain that you have enough of everything.
Adding an admittedly-too-large birthday cake into the mix really bumps up the amount of certain ingredients that you need. For instance, I'm carving Gravedigger out of 1 1/2 9x13 sheet cakes (and a cake baked in the bottom 2 inches of a loaf pan), with the 1/2 of a sheet cake that will be left over used for the small family cake. Unless my figuring is way off, that's 4 boxes of cake mix. Since I do the "add a box of pudding and an extra egg" variation to make it firmer, that's 2 large boxes of pudding (or 4 small) and 16 eggs. SIXTEEN. And two cups of canola oil. That's just for the cake. Not to mention the 2 cups of crisco, 4 sticks of butter and 4 pounds of powdered sugar for the double batch of buttercream. And the pound of chocolate and 2 cups of heavy cream for the ganache filling - and to tell you the truth, I'm not 100% certain that will be enough.
Again, that's just for the cake. (Which of course I will be baking in advance - as soon as the turkey moves from the freezer to the fridge, the cakes will be taking its place! But like I said, I spread the shopping out over a whole month, so I have to include the cake ingredients in the master list.)
So without further ado, here are some highlights from this year's Master Ingredient List:
- 10 1/2 cups of chicken broth (I make Emeril's green bean casserole, which involves making the mushroom soup from scratch. You end up with a lot of extra soup, and it is DIVINE.)
- about 5 tbsp of salt (recipes from Bon Appetit call for coarse kosher salt, ones from Clean Eating call for sea salt - I'll probably just use sea salt for all of it since I have some nice Maui sea salt in my pantry)
- 3 1/4 cups of half & half
- 10 sticks of butter
- 5 1/2 cups of sugar (much less than usual, since I'm not making the cakes from scratch this year)
- 5 envelopes of gelatin
- 7 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 5 cups whole milk
- 35 eggs
- I already tweeted about this last night, but if there's anyone out there reading this who's desperate to find some relief from their child's sleep problems - ask yourself this: how bad is it, really? How old are they? How many times a night do they actually wake up? Are they able to put themselves back to sleep most of the time? If your child has sleep apnea, or some other genuine sleep issue, you have my sympathy. Let's band together in solidarity to tell the people who feel oh so sorry for themselves because their 6-month-old is "still" waking up once or twice a night, to SHUT THE F*&$ UP. Welcome to the real world, and count your blessings.
- Also on the "things that would bother me if somebody said it to me right now, even though nobody has (yet)" train of thought...if there is anyone out there right now who thinks that "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat applies to your life, even though you have never been away from your boyfriend for more than 24 hours - please come see me so I can smack the shit out of you. I hereby claim this song for Navy Wives everywhere. Particularly ones whose husbands are deployed on ships, and who live on an island. Lyrical applicability, people.
- One last thing: back injuries are God's way of saying, "I don't think I was testing you enough. Try to handle THIS, mofo!!!!!"
Friday, October 16, 2009
While I was there, I asked about the PMDD, and...well, here's the comment card I just submitted online:
"I came to my PCM with suspicion that I had a certain medical condition (PMDD). He had never heard of it. He looked it up on the computer and, after asking me NOT ONE SINGLE QUESTION to determine whether or not I actually had it, he proceeded to prescribe me a medication which is SIMILAR to one that is FDA approved for PMDD, but not THE SAME. He said, "It's the same thing," and I took his word for it. But it only took a quick internet search to see that it is NOT. (Yasmin as opposed to Yaz - different dosage of estrogen.) Don't get me wrong, he's a really nice guy, I just don't feel that my concerns were treated with the seriousness they deserved. He did, however, send me over to immunizations to get a flu shot. When I asked if he thought it was really necessary, he said, "Oh yes, especially this year." I am baffled by this comment, since the seasonal flu vaccine that is currently available doesn't protect against H1N1, even I know that.
After waiting 30+ minutes in immunizations, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my Yasmin. I was told it wasn't ready yet, and after waiting for another 25+ minutes somebody finally actually *looked* for it and found that it had been ready, on a shelf, the whole time. Nobody said "sorry for the wait" or anything to that effect. They just put the bag on the counter, and that was it.
By the time I got home, Central Appointments was closed for the weekend, so I have to wait until next week to *TRY* to get an appointment with a different doctor. (The Tricare Online appointment-booking system? Absolutely worthless.)
I spent over 2 hours at the clinic today and all I have to show for it is a flu vaccine I hadn't intended to get, and a medication that isn't an FDA-approved treatment for the condition that I'm still not even sure that I have. Not a very impressive first experience at your facility."
ETA: Yes, I know that Yasmin has been shown, in studies, to help alleviate PMDD, but it's not FDA approved for that purpose, and I don't like going off-label. Also, given my history with side effects from bc pills, I'd feel a lot more comfortable with the lower dose of Yaz. More on this story as it unfolds...
Monday, October 12, 2009
Here's an example from the other day. Names have been omitted to protect the ridiculously ignorant.
VF: You Republican assholes miss the point, as usual. Of course Obama deserves the Nobel Prize. He's a beacon of hope after all the horrors of Bush.
It was nice to have some other people jump in and get into the nitty gritty of it; I removed myself from the conversation after a certain point, as a matter of principle. I think that once you've shown the person to be an ignorant jackass who can't even formulate a cogent though...well, it's best to just let their ignorance hang in the air.
Notice, also, how I never expressed a political opinion, AT ALL. For all these people know, I could *gasp* be a Republican myself. All I said was that the President deserves a certain level of respect. Because even if you don't like him or agree with him, he's still the President.
When I asked why my statement offended them so much, they could easily have mentioned the fact that I implied that they were hypocrites, and dumb ones at that. Did they? No. "Because democrats ruin the country". That's why suggesting that they show some respect for THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA offends them. Because he's a Democrat.
They made my point for me. They didn't take offense to my having called them stupid hypocrites - because it's true.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
- I'm not getting enough sleep.
- My bad (left) knee and bad (right) hip are acting up...I don't know which side of my body to favor. And my back HURTS.
- I find it difficult to drum up the energy to make dinner every night. It doesn't help that my kids don't eat my cooking.
- I'm writing this on a new iPhone app I'm trying out. It doesn't do bullets.
- I'm pretty sure I have PMDD. My demon-from-the-bowels-of-hell time of the month is creeping up on me. I think that last baby knocked something loose, because I never even had any PMS to speak of before, let alone the cyclical multiple personality bs I've been dealing with lately. I thought cutting out caffeine would help...doesn't seem like it so far.
- Have I mentioned that my husband's on a ship and I'm alone with the kids?
- I really, really, really want to sleep in tomorrow. Obviously not gonna happen.
- Jack seems to be taking after big brother with the sleep apnea. Figures. They're opposites in so many ways, except for the reflux and the tongue tie and the sleep apnea - you know, the medical issues that make *everyone's* lives more difficult, but especially their own.
- I don't think I can do italics in this app, either. Oh, I'm really starting to "soar like an irate eagle" now...
- The only toddler-sized ballet slippers available in black from my favorite dance catalog - which are billed as "unisex" - have a floral-print lining. Yes, my boy has started going to ballet class, I DARE you to say something mean when I'm around to hear it. (Incidentally, when I mentioned this on Facebook, the only person who made a gay joke happens to be a Fox News staffer. This seems oddly appropriate to me for reasons I can't quite articulate.)
- The ITT office on base (Information, Tickets and Tours) has fliers with directions to different places - driving directions on one side, train directions on the other. While studying the fairly complicated directions to Ikea, I realized -they tell you how to get there, but not how to get back. Reversing the directions doesn't do me much good when I have no idea how to get back to the highway, and won't have anyone with me to help.
- Said driving directions (which are copied from the Ikea website) say to get off the highway and "head for the Ikea tower". So is that a right turn, or left? Really f'ing helpful, thanks.
-Driving to Ikea, thanks to tolls, costs 3 times as much as taking the train. But if you bring your car, you can actually BUY stuff. And it doesn't take 2 hours to get there. And you don't have to wrangle 2 kids on two trains and a shuttle bus. But it costs about $14 - each way.
- We finally got around to watching the 2nd & 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movies a couple of weeks ago. They were so dumb that they ruined the 1st one for me, too. Bummer.
- Even I find this amount of complaining off-putting. So here's a happy thought: kittens playing in a field of daisies. That is all.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I spent a chunk of yesterday designing the invitations. I decided to incorporate some of the other things he
Then all of a sudden, last night around bedtime, he changed his mind. "No Monster Jam. Batman party!" And the Gravedigger cake? Nope. Batmobile. And the invitation? Nope. He didn't want Gravedigger jumping over the Batmobile and the Mach 5. He wanted Gravedigger hiding behind the Batmobile.
I managed to get him to agree to the original invitation by photoshopping a picture of him into it so it looks like he's driving Gravedigger. Which was always part of the plan anyway. (The picture he chose makes it look like he's leaning out the window, with his arm up in the air...holding a slice of pepperoni. Which is actually a fairly subtle way of working in another one of his favorite things.)
But the cake...that's still in negotiations. As is the general theme. At least with all three vehicles on the invitation, we'll have some more time to hash it out. Two months to go. (And yes, I do have to do this all two months in advance, if I have to order stuff on the internet, it's going to take some time to get here!)
Friday, September 18, 2009
There's a light at the end of the headache-ridden tunnel, though. I've been thinking about how miserable I've been since we moved here, and I asked myself - what's different? I mean, aside from having freakin' moved to Japan? And I realized: caffeine. I went almost my whole time in Hawaii almost completely caffeine free. I actually went *completely* chemical free for a while - no synthetic chemicals went in or on my body for at least 2 years. And then I moved here. And I was jetlagged. And I was eating fast food way more often than I should have, and drinking soda with it. And then I moved into a building with a vending machine in the lobby, with ice cold bottles of Coca Cola and neat little cans of "Super Max" coffee (which tastes just like a bottled Frappuccino, if bottled Frappuccinos actually tasted like coffee). And so I fell off the caffeine wagon. And I can tell you, caffeine really is just like any other drug, because I've definitely been acting like an irritable, depressed, mentally unhinged drug addict.
So now I'm struggling through this massive caffeine-withdrawal headache but I'm feeling a little happier. Except, of course, for the Ghost of Deployments Future that's hanging around until next Tuesday, when it will be replaced for two months by the Ghost of Deployment Present. I can only hope that being caffeine-clean-and-sober will help me get through that without *completely* losing my mind.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
When I got back to the stroller, there was a 7 or 8-year old girl with us, she had apparently followed us over from where I had grabbed Brandon. "Hey!" she said, "You aren't being very nice to him."
Let me pause for a moment to let that sink in.
My almost-4-year-old DISAPPEARED IN A PUBLIC PLACE, because he decided to do something that he knew damn well he wasn't supposed to do. So I picked him up, carried him back to the stroller, and told him he was in trouble. I didn't hit him, hurt him in any way, or shout in an overly loud voice. I think I kept extremely calm, given how panicked I felt. I did raise my voice, obviously, but in my "I am talking loudly so you know I'm serious" voice, not my "OH MY GOD I'M SO ANGRY I'M GOING TO EXPLODE!" voice.
And an 8-year-old girl decided to take me to task for being mean.
I hope that my response sunk in. That it was absolutely none of her business. That he ran away from where he was supposed to be and I didn't know where he was - what he did was very very bad. And it's very disrespectful of her to tell an adult what to do with their child.
I'm still dumbfounded. I mean, really.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
So, uh, what does that say about me, that I can recognize the singing voice of a cartoon character from the next room? Probably that I watch too much Noggin.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
It's azuki beans. Says Wikipedia, "In East Asian cuisine the azuki bean is commonly eaten sweetened. In particular, it is often boiled with sugar, resulting in red bean paste (an), a very common ingredient in all of these cuisines; it is also common to add flavoring to the bean paste, such as chestnut." In Hawaii, they use it as a Shave Ice topping, although I admittedly never tried that. I still haven't ever eaten azuki beans...Jackie ate the whole sandwich. Actually he ate half, fell asleep with it in his hand, then woke up and ate the rest of it. Now I know what to get for him when it's time for a treat!
Yesterday I came up with a method for making 1/2" iced donuts out of fondant. I need them for a cake I'm making next week. I came up with this method through the immensely complicated process of thinking, "hey, I wonder if that would work". It's really quite simple.
First you make a little ball out of chocolate fondant, and squash it down a little.
(Sorry for the iffy lighting, I was doing this after the kids were asleep.)
Then you roll out a small piece of white or pink fondant and use the large opening of tip #5 to cut out a circle.
You put the circle on top of the flattened ball.
Now you press the small end of tip #5 into the middle, making a rounded hole.
You could probably pipe sprinkles onto it with various colors of royal icing and tip #1. And I would probably do that if the doughnuts were the only thing I was making. But I'm not looking to put THAT much effort into it. ;D
Other things I'm making out of fondant for this cake include gingerbread men, "wrapped" candies, chili peppers, flowers, butterflies, shamrocks, hearts, stars and a big rainbow ribbon. And a baby wrapped in a pink blanket. Can you guess what the theme is?
Saturday, August 29, 2009
That said, today we picked up treats for the boys at 7-11 on the way home from sushi at More's. Brandon got ice cream, but I wanted to get something smaller and less messy for Jack. I settled on a sandwich of mini pancakes with an indeterminate filling. We could tell what it was as soon as we opened it, although it still needed to be tasted to determine whether it was sweet or savory. Jackson LOVED it. What do you think it is?
Monday, August 24, 2009
So now, with no daily activity to attend and no Harry Potter to read, I all of a sudden have nothing to do. I actually cleaned my kitchen yesterday. I have stainless steel counters, so cleaning them - really cleaning them - involves clearing them off and scrubbing with a Brillo pad. It took all morning. I even ran the self-clean cycle on my oven. I don't think it was 100% effective, though, since it didn't run quite as long as it's supposed to - Japanese power is slightly different than American, and it's an American oven, so the oven timer isn't accurate, it's a little faster than it's supposed to be. I haven't cleaned up all of the ashes yet, though, so I don't know for sure how effective or ineffective it was.
I spent most of Saturday working on Jackson's quilt. The whole thing is an exercise in futility, since he despises blankets. He absolutely cannot be covered up by ANYTHING while sleeping. This is a problem, since it is obscenely hot and humid, and the air conditioner is correspondingly strong, and we don't have a thermostat - it's either too sticky to sleep, or too cold. We had to move Jack's bed so that it's no longer in the direct path of the arctic chill, but still, he has trouble sleeping in his room.
But anyway. The quilt. A room just isn't a room without a comforter or a quilt, whether it actually gets used or not. So I decided to make one for him. This might be complete madness; I'm not much of a quilter. Actually, I've never made a quilt before. There is an excellent reason for this: I don't do precision. I don't cope well with tedious tasks. As a matter of fact, tedious things make me have to pee. (Don't ask me why, I don't know, it's just always been that way.) This is why I don't, generally, sew. I mean, I have a sewing machine, and I wouldn't want to go without one. I can do alterations and I make curtains every time we move. Basically, my sewing is motivated by a desire to save money; a feeling of, "oh, I could do that" - not a love of the craft itself. Cake decorating and knitting, I enjoy enough and care enough about to put in the effort to be precise. (Or at least to attempt precision.) But sewing, not so much. I don't have the patience. So I don't quilt.
But I decided to do it this one time, because I know what I want and I already had a bunch of fabric I could use. (I don't sew much, but I do have a fabulous fabric stash. Go figure.) So I bought a few more prints (apples for AppleJack - get it?, palm trees b/c he was born in Hawaii, birds because he loves birds, etc), carefully planned it all out on graph paper, and started cutting on Saturday morning.
By the time I went to bed on Saturday night, this is what I had:
I still have to put the border on it (multicolored polka dots on a white background) and then put it all together with the batting and the backing. And I have to find batting. But I think it's pretty good for a non-quilter's day's work.
Today...I clean the floors. And go grocery shopping before the enormous aircraft carrier pulls in to port and all of the sailors on board go to the commissary and buy all of the food.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Now of course I could have just brought regular old cupcakes. I could have done that, if I'd been anybody other than me.
If I'd had more time to prepare - say, if this was a pirate-themed birthday party that I had spent a few weeks planning - I would have obtained a toy pirate coin (to make impressions in the fondant) and some gold luster dust, and topped mini cupcakes with little gold fondant coins. But I can only get luster dust through internet-order (does anyone know of a cake supply shop in Kanagawa? I'm willing to take the train), and I had less than 24 hours to work with.
I whipped up a batch of marshmallow fondant, because I knew that would be more efficient than using buttercream - I mean we were talking about 4 dozen mini cupcakes here. I rolled it out, used my smallest biscuit cutter to cut out rounds, and attached them to each cupcake with a dab of icing. (Confession time: I used a tube of white Wilton decorator icing. And boxed devil's food cake mix. Both things that I would never do if it hadn't been a last-minute project.)
I found a pirate flag graphic on the internet, scaled it down to 1" square, printed it out on cardstock, and cut out the skull and crossbones. One cupcake at a time, I laid the two pieces down on the fondant rounds and brushed over it with some chocolate "paint" (Special Dark baking cocoa, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk - there's probably a better way to do it but I was improvising). Then I peeled up the stencils with tweezers, blotted them with a tissue and laid them down on the next cupcake. It didn't take that long at all, believe it or not.
Overall, I felt that they were "good enough for the last minute". To me, they looked like something a housewife would bring to a school picnic - which is fine, because that's what they were - but I have a long way to go before I get to the point where I can make a living doing this, I guess. I think they would have come out better if I hadn't been rushing.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
and you had a blank white wall behind your bed (no headboard), what would you put on that wall?
This (in the same colors as the bedding, not the ones shown):
This (again in matching colors):
or (and I know this is out of left field), this:
"Please don't hit me with a hammer."
"Where's your underwear? You can't walk around with no pants on."
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I've been busy. Brandon is in week 2 of swimming lessons; every day around 11am, we make our way over to the pool at the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) for 45 minutes of songs, games, and bobbing under water. Well, Brandon does that stuff, anyway. Jackson and I sit at the side of the pool with our upstairs neighbors who are doing the same. (Turns out there's a family on the 6th floor with two boys around the same age as my boys. We met at story time at the library and coincidentally ended up in the same swimming class.)
It's tough sometimes to keep Jack from jumping into the pool - he really, really loves being in the water - but he does usually seem to understand that this particular pool is only for big kids. I did bring them both to the other pool (the one with a kiddie pool) after class one day last week, and while Brandon refused to practice the things he was learning in class, Jackson immediately imitated me when I started blowing bubbles in the water. It's a shame I wasn't able to take a parent/child class with Jack - I really wanted to, but what would Brandon be doing while I was in the pool with Jack? He's not quite old enough to be trusted to sit by the pool and read a book for an hour.
We've even started driving rather than walking. My sit-and-stand stroller is getting downright painful to steer, what with the 65+ pounds worth of children sitting in it and the center of gravity being so ridiculously far away from the handle. Plus, it's just been so darn HOT. I mean, one day last week we walked out to the 100 yen store in town after Brandon's lesson was over, and by the time we got back to our building, I literally had droplets of sweat on my arms. Like in a Gatorade commercial. I can't remember that ever having happened before.
So, despite my assertion that I would not drive anywhere that I could walk to in less than 20 minutes or so, I've started driving to swimming lessons. I've even been driving to the post office and grocery store (remember that the store is about a block away from our building), purely for the practice. We did take the car off base the other day, but Brian drove. I'm not quite to that point yet. It's not that I don't think I could do it - it's just a pretty big leap of faith to take, and I'm more scared of parking garages than anything else - parking a car is considerably more difficult when you're not sitting on the side you're used to steering from.
Brandon is still #2 on the waiting list for preschool - the same spot he was in when I signed him up in May. The economy is to blame - really. They put a halt on orders over the summer - meaning, they didn't write orders for anybody to move, anywhere. To save money. Only the people whose orders had already been written were able to move over the summer. So many, many less people than usual have transferred, and not a single student has withdrawn from the 2-day-a-week preschool program.
After all the work we did to get him using the potty in time for school, he might not be going. Stupid economy.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I was thinking as I walked to the post office yesterday morning and saw the silver one that's always parked next to the Chapel, "I wish there was a purple one on the lemon lot".
We went to the food court for dinner, and as we walked past the Commissary on the way home, we were talking and forgot to turn down the parking lot aisle that leads to the sidewalk. So we decided to just keep walking and take another look at the lemon lot.
And wouldn't you know - a purple Raum. 11 years old, some dents and scratches - which I actually prefer, because I know it's going to get some more from me - for less than used Raums usually go for. So we bought it.
Note the nifty sliding doors. ;D
(This car here is exactly the same car, except we paid a bit more than this. And that one has a CD player - mine has a tape deck! Woohoooo!!)
I like that it's a car you can only get in Japan, I like that it's small and easy to park (well, it will be once I get used to driving from the other side of the vehicle), I like that it has sliding doors (really, I'll never go back to regular doors! I can't! I won't!) and I like that I can easily fit a stroller in the back. Or shipping boxes picked up from the post office. Or purchases from Home's or Ikea or...wherever.
Not that I'm going to be driving to Ikea anytime soon. I went there with a friend a while back and there are so many highways and toll booths...it made my head spin. Japanese roads scare the bejeezus out of me. It's going to be a little while before I attempt driving off base. But I can now, and that's the important thing. It feels like a whole new world, like the base is, well, my base, my jumping-off-point - not my whole world.
And my car is purple. Purple! Woot!