Loving lately…

This post from Funny Shade of Green has made me even more excited for our upcoming camping trip.

The True Detective opening was one of the most powerful two minutes of television for me when we were recently watching the first season on DVD. It’s an HBO show, so be warned that you’ll see a few things in this video.

ChicRunner posted a 4-month marathon training plan that seems do-able. Running a marathon is still on my “life list”, but it’s been a while since I’ve even gone running (pushing a jogging stroller in 95 degree heat is just not pleasant after work). Got to get back out there!

We use our original flavor Table Topics cards nearly any time we have people over at our house (thanks, Meghan!), and I discovered that they also have a Family Gathering version — these would be great for family reunions! And how fun would these be on road trips?

Holy mackerel — video of someone beating Super Mario Bros. in under 5 minutes. Memories!

Also loving? Getting our house decluttered and keeping it clean.


Thoughts on a Second Birthday

Sometimes I read blog posts about parenting looking for answers to questions that I have. And sometimes I read them because I want reassurance that everything will be ok and that I’m not alone.

This is the latter kind of post.


Just for the record, the world has not ended because …

  • I used ridiculous amounts of food coloring in Aoife’s birthday cake.
  • We totally forgot about singing “Happy Birthday” (which I’m actually ok with, because that was always the part of my birthday parties that I hated the most — still do!).
  • We, Aoife’s parents, did not buy her a gift. We counted our trip to the zoo last month as her gift.
  • We had Aoife open gifts as people came with them. This way she could see who the gift was from, there were no meltdowns because she had to wait for a designated gift-opening time, and the giver could talk to her right away about the gift. This was also less overwhelming for Aoife (and for us).
  • There were visible glue globs on my paper bunting cake toppers.
  • We had the party at a local playground and used completely disposable dinnerware. There was no cleanup and I had no regrets.


Could I have made this birthday party into a Pinterest-worthy event? Sure, if I would have taken a few days off work and spent money I don’t have. But my aim is not to give Aoife picture-perfect birthdays. It’s to shower her with love (and yes, a few gifts) and help her make memories that are worth keeping, and I think this was a success.


I’ll be sure to keep you posted when she’s in her thirties and going to therapy because, dammit, we didn’t sing at her party.

Rainbow Layer Cake

We recently celebrated a second birthday for our sweet little girl. She’s not to the point of having a favorite color yet, but she’s learning colors right now and I wanted to have a colorful cake for her. Forgive the phone pictures — it was late when I baked.

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Looks delicious, right? And colorful — wait, what’s that? No?


How about now?

This cake was a lot of fun to make and, for the record, my first layer cake. Here are the steps so you can make your very own.

You can use any white cake mix or recipe; I used the vanilla cupcake recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, which is my go-to. For two layers, you’ll need to make a double batch (or just mix it up twice like I did — I only have one round cake pan). Mix up the batter and divide into six bowls. Add food coloring accordingly so that you have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

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Can you believe how technicolor that batter is?

Once you’ve got your batter prepped, add to a round 9″ cake pan. I added all of the purple first, then blue, green, yellow, orange, and red so that my rainbow would be right side up. Really, this doesn’t matter too much — it won’t go in perfect layers and will have more of a tie-dye effect.

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Bake according to your recipe or package directions. If you have only one cake pan, like me, you’ll have to bake your cake and let it cool before you can remove it and then proceed with layer #2. Once layer #1 is cool, you can use a butter knife to go around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. If it’s completely cooled and you are very very lucky, it will come out of the pan clean. You’ll want to turn it upside down on your surface so that the curved top of the cake is facing down.

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Voila! You can see layer #2 in the background. This picture was taken the following morning. I did this whole process in two sessions: the night before the party, I baked the cakes, let them cool, and then wrapped them individually in freezer paper and put them in the refrigerator. Then it was 11:30 and I went to bed.

The next morning, I put layer #1 on my lovely cake transporter base and then started prepping the frosting. When I say prepped, I mean I opened the tub of Duncan Hines “Fluffy White” and dumped it in the KitchenAid mixing bowl, whipping it to make it go farther and spread a little more easily. If you’re using packaged frosting, you will probably need two tubs (this will give you a little leftover for taste-testing).

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Like so. I’d hoped to finish everything before this little munchkin woke up, but to no avail.

Once your frosting is ready, you’ll want to put frosting on top of layer #1 before you put layer #2 on top. I used maybe half a cup of frosting in the middle. I probably could have used more, but I wanted to be sure that I had plenty left (and I did — too much. It was delicious).

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Put your second layer on top, with the curved top side facing up. I followed the directions in my cookbook for essentially doing a crumb coat. Lightly frost the sides and top of the cake and then place it in the fridge for around 30 minutes, until the frosting isn’t tacky anymore. This will help ensure that you don’t get crumbs in your frosting.

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When you take the cake out of the fridge, then you’re ready to finish up your frosting. Add frosting to the sides and the top, using a butter knife (or a cake decorating smoothing tool, if you’ve got it — I don’t!) to smooth it out as you go. My motto is “When in doubt, add more frosting.”

Once you’ve got it looking pretty even and uniform, put more frosting in a plastic zipper bag and snip one of the corners, or use a cake decorating tip and bag to dot frosting around the base of the cake and the top edge. This really helped make the cake look more structured and it filled the gap at the base. Plus it added more frosting.

If you’d like, add sprinkles to the top to hint at the rainbow goodness inside.


Serve with a smile!

So my first layer cake turned out pretty darn good — and tasty, despite the ridiculous amount of food coloring that was involved.



Loving lately …


We had a gorgeous double rainbow here last week, but just a few sprinkles of rain.

Flickr featured 18-year-old Liisa Toomus in their Photographer Spotlight. What an inspiring young woman! And her photos are beautiful.

That post led me to the THINK Global School, a high school in which students travel to international locations to learn through immersion. Fascinating concept, and one that I really admire.

Are you the type of person who needs some background noise when studying or reading? Redditors posted their favorite ambient-noise sites.

And if you’re looking for something to read, the Kansas Notable Books for 2014 were recently announced.

Abstract Ombre Sunset

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I whipped this up at my library’s last Crafternoon session, which included instruction from a real live professional artist (thanks, Nicole!). We used acrylic paintings and explored how to create various textures and mix colors, and then we just went for it. I’m partial to orange, so I mixed up a gorgeously rich peachy orange color and started swiping it on the canvas (8″ x 10″). I used the deeper shade on the bottom, then started adding white. I didn’t mix white into orange on the palette; instead, I just grabbed a glob of orange and a glob of white with the brush at the same time and brushed it onto the canvas. As I moved up higher on the canvas, I just added more white and less orange. Any color mixing happened directly on the canvas.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out — it’s reminiscent of a sunset, I think. When I’m staring at a blank canvas, I get intimidated and am afraid of making the wrong choices — picking the wrong color, making a mistake, using a brush that’s too small. Once I get started, though, it feels natural and intuitive. I’m not sure what all that means, but I like it and am planning to do more painting soon.

Loving lately …

Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed this week:

Emily A. Clarke uses painted cutting boards as kitchen decor.

Man-Made DIY lists a few ways to make stylish vignettes in various areas of your home. I’m drawn to this because I tend to like minimalist design, and sometimes that means masculine too.

Vintage Revivals gives us an easy how-to for copper-accented picture mats.

Velo Vogue features on bicycling in San Francisco, my favorite city ever. I love the idea of taking a camping trip by bike.

Over at SortaCrunchy, there’s a post for highly sensitive parents and how to deal. I relate most to the “sight” portion re: visual clutter. It’s physically draining!

Finally, at least once a week I try to do a yoga routine instead of my usual workout (usually Saturday mornings). I’ve been really enjoying Adriene Mishler’s Yoga with Adriene videos (also on YouTube). She has some excellent routines for runners, and she breaks everything down very clearly and is not super new-agey, which works well for me.

Have a great week!

Sesame Street Revisited


I have fond memories of watching Sesame Street on PBS when I was growing up, and I love sharing that with Aoife as she gets older. We have a couple of Old School Sesame Street DVDs that we rotate through, showing episodes from the 1970s. All three of us here have our favorite bits, quotable moments, and songs that get stuck in our heads. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I find these episodes entertaining even as an adult.

When I was younger, I lived in the country outside a very small town, and it was refreshing to see city life — honking taxi cabs, a hot dog cart, sitting down to read on the fire escape. It was a happy, idealized neighborhood but it still felt real.

Which brings us to modern episodes of Sesame Street. Wow, has that place cleaned up. The buildings are bright and shiny, and Big Bird’s alphabet sign actually looked cleaner after experiencing a hurricane than it did in older episodes. There is more of a focus on family life now, whereas the street housed mostly younger adults (Maria was around 21 when she first appeared on Sesame Street; Bob was age 37 when he first appeared; Mr. Hooper was the grandpa figure at age 61) who only went on to start families after they’d been living on the Street for a while. Remember I said that I was entertained by the classic episodes just as much now that I’m an adult? The newer episodes just don’t feel the same. This might be where nostalgia creeps in. Fifteen minutes of Elmo is a little much. I miss the randomness of the clips — you never knew if you were going to get a song, a number sequence, a trip to the crayon factory. The street itself doesn’t feel real anymore; now it feels like a set.

I also feel like in the older episodes, the muppets acted as real children do. I love in a classic episode of Sesame Street when Bob is playing a guessing game to get the kids to name things that everyone does. The kids (and Bert and Ernie) respond with things like talking and walking, and they discuss the fact that not everyone can do everything (Bert mentions wiggling eyebrows, and Ernie doesn’t have eyebrows). Ernie mentions playing with his rubber ducky, but not everyone has one, and Bert firmly states that he does not love that, coming back with the idea that of course everyone loves watching his favorite TV show, The Wonderful World of Pigeons. Ernie, taken aback, responds, “You know what, Bert? I hate that show!” This is such a real response that a child might have to something, but I doubt that it would be considered appropriate on a newer episode.

I do have to admit that I feel like there is something missing when I watch those older shows. I am almost embarrassed to say that it was only a short time ago that I learned that Maria’s real name is not Maria. Gordon is not really Gordon and in fact has been played by a few different actors over the years. I totally thought that Gordon and Susan were really married, and that Maria and Luis really had a baby … no. At least Bob’s real name is Bob. Now when I see these actors in their roles on Sesame Street, I find myself wanting to learn more about the behind the scenes happenings and the making of the show.

If you’re like me and want to learn more, check out the book Street Gang, published in 2008, or Sesame Street Unpaved, from 1998. If you want to lose yourself in video clips, there are many available on YouTube or on the Muppet Wiki.