Monday, January 30, 2012

The George Cake

I admit it, I'm pretty pleased with how well my Curious George cake came out for Ben's birthday.  The boys are actually glad the cake is nearly gone so I'll stop talking about it.  But, since I'm not quite done being proud, I'd thought I'd share how I went about making such an awesome cake...just in case someone out there wants to try it, or something similar.

I started by making a marble cake.  It was a pretty dense cake so I thought a nice fudgey frosting would go well.  The frosting I used was the recipe from the back of the can of Hershey's Cocoa Powder:

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter and stir in cocoa.  Alternately beat in cocoa powder and milk.  Stir in vanilla.

This is a really fudgey frosting and sets up quick, so you have to use it immediately.  I wanted hard frosting as my "canvas" so I could trace my design without the mess of a butter cream.  Once the cake was frosted, I used a hot, wet knife to smooth the frosting. 

I went online and found a picture of Curious George's face.  (PBS had a perfect one on their website that was actually a Curious George mask.)  I cut it out and laid it on my cake.  Since the frosting was hard, it didn't stick, and I was able to use a toothpick to trace the outline of George's head.  Once that was on the cake, I cut the picture down further so I had just the light brown part of George's face cut out.  I laid that on the cake lining it up against what I already traced and traced that out with a toothpick.  I mixed up a small amount of light brown frosting, using a small can of white decorating icing and some brown food coloring.  I filled in the light brown portion of George's face and ears and smoothed that with my hot, damp knife.  Once that had set up, I used a tube of black icing to go over the lines I made with my toothpick.  I went around the light parts of George's face and added details to his ears and added a smile.  I used a small amount of white to make his eyes (I did that freehand) and outlined them with black as well.

Then I stopped and demanded everyone come look at my AMAZING work.  Since I was so proud of myself I decided to add a little more detail with some large star sprinkles I had.

And voila, I had a super awesome George cake, which Ben saw and said "It's George!!" and then spit all over it while blowing out his candle.  It was not easy to cut him up...but he did taste quite nice...

It was actually really easy to do, but looked super impressive.  It wasn't "perfect" but all I really cared about was that my kid could tell it was George...and he could!  I hope this gives somebody else some good ideas for making an awesome cake!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Birthday Party!

Today was Ben's birthday party!  He's not two yet...we've got a couple more days...but we celebrated with cake, ice cream and friends today! 

Ben is very into Curious George right now.  We watch it on PBS and he gets VERY excited when it comes on.  We read Curious George books everyday and his new George shirts have become his favorites.  Needless to say, when it came time to plan his party, I thought we'd have some fun with George.  Ben was surprised by a GIANT George balloon, he had George decorations and the best Curious George cake ever!  (If I do say so myself!)  I'll probably post how I did it tomorrow, in case anyone is interested, or wants to try something similar with another character.

Fortunately, the birthday boy was in a pretty decent mood today.  His Papa (my dad) showed up nice and early and we got to spend some quality time chatting with him while I prepared and baked Ben's birthday pizzas.  Gramma and Grampa Rick and Gracie showed up a little while later and Ben attached himself to Gracie immediately.  She was a good sport all day and kept him well entertained!

Shortly after, Bumpa, Gram and Summer came by with Grammy and we dug into our pizzas!  A few minutes later, Cookie showed up and our guests were all together.  We enjoyed our lunch, watched Ben open some pretty awesome gifts and all had a piece of my homemade marble George cake.  (It actually broke my heart to have to cut it up.)  Our guests left after a bit and we are now home playing with little dude and his new toys!

It was a really sweet afternoon, and I'm grateful to everyone who came over to spend the afternoon with us.  What a wonderful way to celebrate my little man's second birthday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Trip to the Vet's Office

Monday I remembered for the 50th time that the dogs need to be registered by the end of the month.  Deciding not to put it off any longer, I began hunting for prior license info, rabies info and all the paperwork that entails.  I had a sneaky suspicion Ivy was in need of her rabies shot, but I was certain Max had his.  I called the vet for some help only to discover that neither dogs were up to date on their shots.  Damn.

So I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon for physicals and rabies shots.  Both dogs at once.  Yikes.  Fortunately, very fortunately, I was able to pin down one of the teenagers to watch Ben.  Two dogs and a two year old at the vet is guaranteed trouble.  The kind of trouble that would probably have them asking me to find another vet.

So yesterday afternoon I packed both dogs in my car, one riding in the front rifling through my purse for leftover goldfish and cheese stick wrappers, and the other in the back eating hidden snacks from the carseat and then breathing down my neck.  (Bonus:  My car and purse got cleaned out yesterday!)  Unfortunately, Max is stronger than me, and when teamed up with Ivy, the two of them can pretty much haul me where ever they want.  Needless to say we did not make a grand entrance to the vet's office.

Both were weighed and then ushered into an exam room before any other dogs or cats showed up.  That would have made things VERY interesting.  Max, who is nearly 10, had an ok exam.  He's old, his eyes are getting cloudy, he's losing weight, and has a bunch of fatty lump deposits under his skin, but seems to be doing well.  The vet prescribed more food to be added to his diet to help fight the weight loss (that's right, Max has a new best friend) and at some point recommended we do a Senior Chem Panel to see why he's losing weight.  Since said Chem Panel costs over $200, we're going to hold of on that for a bit.

Ivy was declared healthy, but crazy.  Yup, the vet said she has a pretty severe case of the crazies.  (My words, not hers.)  She has to go back for a thyroid check and after that is done she will be prescribed a whopping dose of prozac and referred to a doggie behaviorist.  That's right.  Therapy for my dog.  (sigh)  We are obviously not in a financial place where intense therapy is something we can really consider for our dog, but I will be trying to at least get some guidance from a local dog behaviorist.  Prozac won't "cure" Ivy, but it might make her more responsive to the therapy.

(And in case you're wondering, my dog really is that crazy.  When the fuel truck delivers fuel at any of the neighbors houses, she FREAKS OUT the second she hears that "beep...beep" of the truck backing up.  If the cat tenses up watching a leaf blow around the yard she FREAKS OUT.  And God forbid a stranger actually knocks on our door, she completely loses it.  We can't have people over, we can't leave her alone and anything unexpected, scary or different is cause for an attack of hysterics.  It's not fun.)

Needless to say, my trip to the vet yesterday was less than enjoyable.  And all that so I can pay 14 stupid dollars to get them registered.  Some days I hate being a responsible citizen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is It the Weekend Yet?

It's been a long week.  Which is really pretty sad since it's only Wednesday...and Monday was a holiday...and technically I haven't even started my work "week" which begins Thursday night.  Needless to say, it's been a rough couple of day.

We kicked off the week with a bad progress report.  Which is frustrating enough, but add a little bit of lying to it, and, well, you can just imagine how thrilled that made Don and I.  I'm not sure how teenagers get it in their heads that school is the least important thing on their agendas, especially since it's the ONLY thing on their agendas.

Add to that the discovery last night that our cell phone bill (averaging $105 a month) was suddenly $350, thanks to someone's apparent desire to hold the record for longest phone conversation with a girl.  I damn near had a heart attack opening that bill.  I am now doing some VERY close monitoring of our minutes now.  VERY close.

Today was pretty much the last straw for me.  I've been working on 1099 tax documents all week (I've done somewhere around 120 for the title company) and today was planning on doing the 1099-MISC documents for the few contractors the office hires.  Imagine my displeasure to discover the online version of Quickbooks I use doesn't support 1099 preparation.  It doesn't support 1099 preparation.  WTF?  What kind of ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE doesn't let you do ACCOUNTING on it?  (I use different software for the previous 120 documents and used a desktop version of Quickbooks last year, so I wasn't anticipating this "wrinkle")  After an hour of some pretty creative two-year-old sensitive cursing, I'm fairly confident that I can produce said 1099-MISC forms without the help from my accounting software, but let me just say, I'm pretty damn bitter about it.

So yes, it has been a long, frustrating week.  And it's only Wednesday.  The only real productive/positive thing I can say for this week is that I made a few phone calls and am seriously considering starting at York County Community College next fall on an Associates degree in Accounting.  Since all my core class work will transfer over from my degree at USM, I'm realistically looking at 8-10 classes for my Associates.  While it's not a profession I'm dying to get into, I don't really mind it, I have some experience already, and it's a great work from home profession.  For the amount of time it would take, and the money I would be investing, it seems like a really smart move right now.

Up next for the week:  Planning Ben's Birthday Party.  Hopefully that will be less stressful....hopefully....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How Ben Got His Name

I didn't name my son Benjamin after Tom Brady's son.  Well, not exactly.

I'd suggested the name "Benjamin" several times to my husband and he vetoed it several times.  I read about the birth of Tom Brady's son just a few weeks before Ben was born and told Don again that if "Benjamin" was good enough for Tom Brady, surely it was good enough for us.  But he was still against it.

Flash forward to the evening of Ben's birth, six weeks before we were expecting him, and we sat with our laptop trying to agree on a name while timing contractions and watching his little heartbeat on the monitor.  We needed a name.  ASAP.

Since we hadn't picked anything out, I assumed we would be naming him Alec, after Don's grandfather.  We had agreed it would at least be a middle name, but with time running out it was being seriously considered for a promotion to first name.

But, Don surprised me and said he thought we should name him Benjamin.  We're talking really last minute here, as in he went up to the NICU in an isolette that listed him as Baby Boy MacDougall.  The next morning it was settled and Baby Boy became Benjamin Alec.  I'm fairly certain Tom Brady won't mind.  We weren't really copying him.

I can't say the same about those Travoltas though...I'm fairly certain they copied me when their son Benjamin was named a few months after mine....

Friday, January 13, 2012

He's Lucky He's Cute...

I love that my son is learning to talk.  It's really great, and super amazing to watch him puzzle things out and put things into little sentences.  I just really wish he'd start to say things like "No thanks, mumma, I would prefer this sippy cup."  Or perhaps "Mumma, I think I need a new diaper, please change me."  Or, "Mumma, would you please read me the Elmo book again?"

Instead, I get "NOOOOOO" (sippy cup flies across kitchen) or "No poop!" (while the surroundings smell like dirty diaper) or the Elmo book thrown in my face while I'm reading.  I also hear "MEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEeeeeeee" all day long about anything and everything Ben wants to do, thinks he should be doing, or wants me to stop doing.

I love my kid, and I know it's going to get worse before it gets better, but seriously, is it that hard to say "Mumma, I'm afraid I dislike this chicken, might I have some extra peas and carrots?"  It's not really that hard Ben, I promise....

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Down, Four to Go!

I DID IT!!! 

When I decided this year to read 100 books, I wanted to include a few that would challenge me.  I decided to read five Jane Austen novels this year.  They are not challenging in that they make my brain hurt, but the writing style is definitely something that takes some getting used to and is not something I would usually pick up for a "light" read.  But, I am happy to say that I have finished my first Jane Austen novel of the year, Emma. 

It was a slow start.  Very slow.  It took a while to get used to the language, and to be able to sort through all the politeness to find the actual story, but I'm happy to say that once I got into it, I really enjoyed it!  The characters were hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud many times.  But, I also can't tell you how excited I was to finish it so I could move on to something that moves a bit faster.  Since I've got all year to read my five Austens, I think I'll take a little break and read a few "easy" reads before picking up Sense and Sensibility, or Mansfield Park.  A couple of good murder mysteries should clear my head I think...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


My sister bought Ben finger paints for Christmas.  That's right, my sister is pure evil.  Is there anything messier than finger paints??  Ugh!  Today, I decided to let Ben mess around with them.

He's not a big fan of "slimy" things right now, and as a result I can't get him to eat anything with a sauce on it.  Needless to say, dipping his fingers in the finger paint didn't appeal to him.  But gooping giants globs onto his finger painting paint tools was a smashing success.

So smashing, in fact, that I'm fairly confident that his finger paintings probably won't be dry for a good two to three weeks.

Thanks to a very thoughtful Christmas gift from Auntie Rachel, Ben's clothes stayed clean due to his absolutely adorable owl apron.  It's seriously the cutest thing ever and was perfect for finger painting.

He created three original works of art in about fifteen minutes.  We then spent the next fifteen minutes cleaning up finger paint that was all over the dining room.  (Too bad Auntie Rachel didn't think to get mom an art apron too...) When he was finished, we busted out some crayons and stamps for a while and had some more fun. 

 It was a pretty great day!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Not The Day I Planned

Today has been quite a day.  I woke up expecting a nice quiet day at home with Ben to start getting back to a non-holiday schedule, only to discover that, surprise, I'm working tonight.  So, my list of chores that I thought I would have plenty of time to get to had to be rushed through.  Plans for a nice elaborate dinner, after what seems like weeks of leftovers and quick improv meals, had to be scratched as Don will be on his own to cook tonight.  And, while hunting through my purse I discovered an appointment card for a hair appointment TONIGHT.  Oooops!  So with about 1000 apologies I rescheduled my appointment and decided to do the grocery shopping tomorrow.

I hate days like this, when I wake up with plans for one day and find myself thrown into a completely different day.  But, even though this wasn't the day I was planning, I have still managed to get all my chores finished and should be able to squeeze out a few minutes of "Me" time before I head into work.  And better yet, there might even be a few minutes of Mom and Ben art time!

Looks like tomorrow will be our day to get back into our routine.  Thank goodness for tomorrows....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

There's a few minutes left in 2011 so I thought I would briefly reflect on the past year.

 It was a wonderful year spent with my family, I've been amazed at the changes a year can make in the life of a toddler.  We started the year with a little baby who could stand for three seconds, and ended it with a kiddo with a personality who walks, talks, and (finally) jumps!  Amazing what a difference a year can make for a child.

Jacob graduated high school, which was a big milestone for him and us.  One down, two to go!  With a little luck, 2012 will bring the beginning of Jake's college years and many, many more changes for him.

Marcus was a little overshadowed this year with all the awesome things his little and big brothers achieved this year.  But he is taking drivers ed, and if he's lucky, 2012 will find him with his license and on the road driving.  (Take this as your warning other drivers...)

Don has had a proud year watching his boys grow.  I know he's looking forward to some changes in 2012, and I really hope he can make them all happen.  He's worked hard and it's time for something to change.

As for me, well, I've read a lot, and discovered that I like blogging an awful lot too.  I love being a stay at home mom and watching my son grow.  Everyday (ok almost everyday) I thought about how lucky I am.  I hope 2012 keeps me in such an appreciative state of mind.

As for my resolutions for 2012, I'm making three.

One:  Read more.  My goal is 100 books.  And, more specifically, at least 5 Jane Austen novels (my mini-Austen Challenge) and 5 non-fiction books.  It's not an impossible goal, so I feel pretty confident about reaching them.  And shouldn't resolutions be something you can achieve anyway?

Two:  Write more.  I'm pleased with the amount of blogging I've done the last few months (ok, maybe my Kindle caused a slight disruption, but I'm not going to let that happen again) and I want to keep it up next year as well.  I'm also going to set a goal of writing a few short stories.  I know I can do it, I just need to TRY!

Three:  Well, that one's going to be private.  (Hey, it's my blog, and my resolutions, I don't have to share them all with you!)

Happy New Year!!