Dec 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Not to be rude or anything, but what are you doing here? Go unwrap some presents!! Eat some cookies!! Scare the children with your Santa impression! :)
Whatever you do, go enjoy yourself. :)

Dec 20, 2009

Secret Santa Party

Every year, a good friend of mine always plans a Secret Santa party. We do it so a bunch of us can exchange gifts with our kids without breaking the bank by buying gifts for everyone. So we do a yummy pot luck, and I always make the cake.

This year, I made a christmas tree cake, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. Here's a couple pictures.

Dec 3, 2009

The Holiday Train

The weekend before Thanksgiving was the Lights Festival on Michigan Avenue. We have been meaning to go every year for the past ten years or so, and we never remember in time. This year, we finally remembered just in time.
So we packed up the kids and took the train to Michigan Avenue...and if we ever do this again, we'll do it very differently. The crush of people was so insane that we couldn't really move. And, we were at the beginning of the parade, so it was pretty boring - lots of downtime between the floats. We were carrying the kids, partly because they couldn't see unless we picked them up, and partly because there we so many people I didn't want them to get stepped on. And, let me tell you, holding a child high enough so he can see over the heads of all the adults - for an hour - is exhausting.

Parts of the crowd were funny and interesting, and parts weren't. There was a group of college students behind us, and one of them would complain every time I lifted my son up so he could see the float. I mean, seriously? She's complaining that a four year old child can see and she can't? He's a child. I think she'd like it less if he started crying because he couldn't see.

Anyway, we after the parade was over, we picked up something to eat, and then slowly made our way to the subway station. It was still incredibly crowded, and there were CTA officials regulating the number of people allowed on the train platform, but the kids were doing fine so we all waited patiently. When it was our turn to head down to the platform, we were rewarded with an amazing surprise: The Holiday Train!

Every year, the CTA takes one train and decorates it like crazy with lights, tinsel, decals, window decorations, you name it. They go all out, and you can see the lights and Happy Holidays signs for blocks. There is even a flatbed car with Santa and his sleigh, and he waves to all the passengers waiting on the platform. But this is the only train decorated like this, in all the trains running on all the lines. And we were lucky enough for it to pull into our station.

It was amazingly crowded, but the conductor was patient and we managed to find a train car that wasn't packed to the gills, so we squeezed on. The kids were staring around with wide eyes and grins on their faces. It was very cute.

We got off at our stop, and DH got out his camera for some pictures. Most of which came out really well. We waited on the platform so the kids could wave to Santa, and then we headed home.

Nov 23, 2009

More Funny Things Kids Say

Last week, Youngest came running up to me, clearly very excited.

"Mommy! Guess what? I can do numbers in my head. See?" He then stared intently at me for about thirty seconds, then said. "See? I can do it."

He was so proud of himself that I didn't have the heart to tell him I couldn't hear him. :) And after he left, I nearly busted a gut laughing so hard.

Nov 16, 2009

Funny Things Kids Say and Do

Last week, I took my kids on the subway to my husband's office. We had a great evening strolling down Michigan Avenue, then ate dinner and took the train back home. The boys loved it because, of course, trains are cool.

The Chicago buses and trains all have a recorded voice telling the passengers what stop is next, which Youngest thinks is just as cool as the train ride itself. The boys will get out their own toy trains and drive them around their room, announcing the next 'stop' in a voice similar to the one used on the subway system. It's really cute.

Yesterday, Youngest took it to a new level. We'd finished eating lunch, and I always make the boys take their plates and cups to the sink. Youngest is always the last one left at the table. Always. And, he's always talking or singing or making some kind of noise, so I didn't pay much attention to all the noises he was making as he was getting out of his chair.

He picked up his plate, held it in front of him and said "Next stop, Kitchen." Then he made train noises as he chugga-chugged his way to the sink.

I nearly died laughing. :)

Oct 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

I am not sure how this happened, but I think someone gave my neighborhood the wrong calender. Because, even though today is Halloween, my neighborhood did trick or treating last sunday. Why? I have no idea. So we took the kids out, along with everyone else, and they brought back quite a lot of candy.

But it gets even more interesting. The city of Chicago has no 'official' times for trick or treating, except that it must be on Halloween. So, there is still trick or treating in my neighborhood today, because it's Halloween. As a result, my kids will get to go trick or treating twice, and will have pulled the most amazing haul of candy that's probably ever been known to mankind. It will be all I can do to keep their teeth from rotting out (or to keep myself from sneaking into said candy). But they are beside themselves with excitement because they get to wear their costumes again. :)

So, here are some pictures from last weekend.

Oct 24, 2009

Fall Fest '09 and Happy Diwali!!

Last saturday, my kids' school put on a great Fall Fest, and the weather even cooperated for most of the day. My dad had also come to visit, so all of us trekked on over to the school as soon as there was a break in the clouds.

Like last year, they had a petting zoo and pony rides, and even had a camel ride. My oldest son had ridden the camel last year and loved it, so he was practically first in line for another ride this year. He rode with my dad. Then, my youngest was watching and decided he wanted to ride too, but only if I would go with him. So the two of us went....and then he decided that camel rides were not for him. :)

Fortunately there were lots of other interesting games and such that kept his attention until it was time to go.
Last saturday was also the Indian holiday of Diwali,
or the Festival
of Lights. We went to a friend's house to celebrate with them, and I wore a saree for the first time in forever. I'd almost forgotten how to put it on. :)

We had intended to set off fireworks later that evening, but the kids were so tired that we ended up going straight to bed. Anyone know if fireworks will keep until July?? :)

Oct 20, 2009

Cakes for Fall Fest

Like last year, I baked a bunch of cakes for Fall Fest - a festival put on my kids' school. Instead of doing all the same design, though, I decided to do all different ones.

Since it was for Fall Fest, I did one with a Halloween theme: a pumpkin, witches, ghosts, and bats. I'd also done a chocolate one of the same design, but the top layer split down the middle (again!) so I had to set that one aside.

Next, I did a flower and butterfly design with strawberry cake and strawberry icing. Then, I dusted the flowers and butterfly in gold powder to give it a shimmery look to it.

I did the same gold dusting with this star and moon design, which I made with lemon cake and lemon icing. I had intended to put some blue on this cake, but that didn't look right so I left it this way.

All my cakes sold, so I'm pretty happy about that. I hope the people who bought them enjoy eating them, though!! :)

Sep 13, 2009

A Trip to Paris and Brussels

My wonderful husband surprised our family with a trip to Paris this year!

The trip came about because of my oldest son. I started reading the Magic Treehouse Series to him about three years ago, and almost two years ago we got to the book where the two main characters go to Paris and climb the Eiffel Tower. When we finished it, he turned to me and said “Mommy, can we go to Paris? I want to climb the Eiffel Tower.” I smiled and said sure, we’d go someday, and then figured that would be the end of it.

Not so. He continued to ask me at least once a month for the next two years, “When are we going to Paris?” So, finally, my husband planned out a great trip for us, then surprised us with it after it was all planned out. My oldest was beside himself with excitement.

After we landed and got settled, the first place we went was (of course) the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t go up to the top because the lines for all the elevators was several hours long. And there was no way any of us was going to walk up the thousand or so steps. So we took some pictures, walked around some more, and then came back the next day. Fortunately the lines were much shorter, though still long (an hour).

The elevators were pretty cool, powered by these huge wheels and moving at a slant up the side of the tower. Then we had to change to another elevator to go the rest of the way up. Both boys were really excited because elevators are just too cool to them, much less one that goes diagonal. The view from the top was impressive, but windy. And insanely crowded. So we didn’t get many pictures.

After the Eiffel Tower, the kids were about ready to go home, because they didn’t think there was anything left to see in Paris. But it didn’t take much to convince them there was more, a lot more. We walked all over the city, took a boat ride down the Seine, and checked out a cheese shop. We didn’t go in, though, because as we were staring at the window display, someone came out. Strong, pungent cheese smells filled the street around us, and my youngest wrinkled up his nose and asked me what that smell was. When I told him it was the cheese, he said he didn’t like it and wanted to go. He’s so cute.
We also took a bullet train for a day trip to Brussels. The boys LOVED the train, of course. Brussels is a quaint and pretty town. We were still a little jet-lagged, and had gotten up at 5am in order to catch this train, so we were too tired to walk around the city. Instead, we bought tickets for the local hop-on-hop-off tour bus, and sat on the top to see the sights. We sampled the amazing chocolates, had some authentic Belgian waffles (which are so amazing I will never be able to enjoy regular waffles the same again), and then headed back to Paris on the evening train.
Over the next couple of days, my youngest son developed a bit of a limp. I have no idea why, except that he probably wasn’t used to walking so much (we didn’t bring a stroller). I had been taking turns carrying the boys on my back whenever they got tired, but with my youngest son’s injury it was clear he couldn’t walk. So I carried him on my back for the next two days. During that time, we went to Notre Dame and climbed up to the bell towers. And yes, I carried him up all 400 stairs. The funniest part was when we got to the top and I told him I had to put him down for a moment. He sighed heavily and said “Yeah, Mommy, I’m tired!” I laughed, then asked him why he was tired since I’d carried him up the whole way. He looked at me like “oh yeah,” then peeked through the fence at the view. He’s so funny.

We also visited Sacre Coure, which is an amazing churce at the top of a hill. And I carried Youngest all the way up there, too. I definitely got my workout on this vacation! On the way down, we spotted a double-decker carousel, and the boys rode it three times in a row. It was pretty cool.

On our last day in Paris, we had planned to go to the Louvre...but it was closed! On a Tuesday! So, we ended up hanging out in the plaza just outside the Louvre, and my husband took pictures while the kids ran around and played. I think on our next vacation I’m going to plan more time like this for the kids. They had as much fun in this plaza as they had riding the elevator on the Eiffel Tower. And I enjoyed sitting and watching them.

Aug 16, 2009

Chicago Air and Water Show

Like last year, the planes and jets in the Chicago Air and Water Show flew over our house! Last year, my husband got some great photos with a normal-sized camera and lens. This year, he had a huge telephoto, which got these amazing, up-close-and-personal shots.

This was taken over the trees that are taller than our roof. They did some really cool loops, all while staying in formation.

I really like this one. You can see the pilot inside the cockpit, and it looks like it's just releasing that smoke, or steam, or whatever, out the back. Though I think it had been going for quite some time.

This one is my husband's favorite, and I can totally see why. We enlarged this picture on our computer screen at home, and you can see the pilot looking at us! The kids were on the roof waving (and also covering their ears, even though we put cotton in them), so he probably got a kick out of that.

I'm looking forward to next year!

Aug 9, 2009

Drum Cake...sorta

Yesterday was the birthday party of my best friend's son. This is the boy who was born severely premature, who I made the Fender guitar cake for last year.

This year, he wanted a drum. So I said "Sure! I can make that." But it didn't exactly work out that great.

First off, I made this great, three-layer, chocolate-vanilla-checkerboard cake and slathered frosting over the top. Then, while I was rolling out fondant (like playdoh, but made with sugar) to cover it, the top layer of the cake split down the middle and started sliding off. I fixed it, then tried to roll out the fondant faster since I knew it would hold the cake together. But, in my haste, I hadn't used enough powdered sugar on the counter top. The fondant stuck fast, tearing a hole right in the center. I had to start the mean time, the top layer had completely slid off the cake and a crack was forming in the second layer.

My oldest son was in the kitchen with me, so I bit down on the swear that really wanted to escape, then got to work on the fondant again. I got it rolled out, correctly this time, then got to work trying to put my cake back together. I put the pieces back on the top, washed the frosting off my hands, then reached for the fondant...but the cake was sliding off again, and I swear it was faster than before! And, the middle layer was going with it! I screeched, scaring my poor son, then pushed it back together. I even enlisted his help. But the more I worked, the faster the thing fell apart. In a few short seconds, it was nothing but crumbs and frosting, and I had to toss the whole thing and start over.

I ended up with a two-layer chocolate cake, since I didn't have enough ingredients to make the checkerboard cake again. And the decorating didn't go as well as I'd hoped, either. Some of the supplies I'd gotten didn't have nearly the effect I wanted, and I had to improvise. The final product is a cake that somewhat looks like a drum...then, during transport, one of the drumsticks cracked. All in all, not my best cake. :) But here it is:

Jun 10, 2009

A Train Cake

Last week, my oldest son's school let out. So, over the weekend, everyone in his class got together for an end-of-year picnic. It ended up being too cold to be outside, and heavy rain clouds threatened overhead, so we had to move the party inside. It was still a lot of fun, with all the siblings and parents. The kids had a BLAST running around like crazy, and all us adults just gave them half the room to go nuts while we retreated to the other side. :)

Anyway, when I told my oldest son about this picnic, the first thing he asked was "Are you going to make a cake?"

Awwww! :)

I wasn't on dessert duty - I was just supposed to be bring the hot dogs. Much easier than spending hours hunched over a cake. But he was looking at me with those puppy dog eyes, so I asked:
"Do you want me to make a cake?"

He nodded vigorously, then said "A train cake!"
How could I resist that? So I said okay, and spent half the day squirting frosting in all the appropriate places. Here's the end result.

Apr 26, 2009

Cakes for a Luau themed party

My oldest son's school is throwing a party for their teachers, and they ask the parents to donate what they can. So, I did what I love to do (besides writing) and made a couple cakes.

I loved that the theme was for a luau, because I got to have fun with bright, summery, warm-feeling decorations. Chicago has had quite the frigid spring, so making these cakes was like putting a breath of fresh air in the house. :)