Saturday, October 11, 2014

the end of the birthday season.

We couldn't decide what cake to make. What do you do for a 2 year old who doesn't really care? Every time I asked my son what he wanted on his cake, he would agree with every suggestion. Do you want Spider Man? Yes, Spider Man. Do you want Minions? Yes, Minions. Do you want butterflies? Yes, butterflies. Do you want cake? Yes, cake, Momma. There was no deciding and I was at a loss and feeling rather uncreative after having just made another kid's cake last week.

His big sister knows him so well.  She suggested that I put some of his favorite things to play with on his cake.  "You know, Mom.  The remote, Dad's phone, the salt and pepper shakers, gumballs." She's a brilliant little 8 year old. So I did. She's my official cake consultant from now on.  The best part.  I get to decide the flavor.  CHOCOLATE with cookies and cream filling.

So after he opened each gift and played with it for 15 minutes before opening the next, we finally ate this delicious cake:

Happy birthday, little dude!  You sure are fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Birth and other such things

I really think birthdays are overrated. I mean, really. The kid did nothing but enter the world. I'm the one that grew her and let's not start about the actual birth day. She had it pretty easy.  My daughter Gertie has been talking about her birthday for MONTHS. "How many more days until my birthday, Mom? 3 months?  How many days is that?" I've been over it since June.

That said, she is one of the most appreciative and grateful children I have ever known. No entitlement, no blatant "I want it my way." She's just thrilled to be at the center of the day. The sheer, honest excitement has been more than one child should be able to handle in a lifetime. She hates being on the outside of a secret so not knowing what her gifts were while the rest of us did was bordering between excitement and frustration. It was adorable actually.

This child, however, changes her mind more often than her underwear, so her cake request went from Smurfs to Muppets to Smurfs and finally landed on My Little Pony.  She did not, unfortunately change her request from white cake. I tried really hard to talk her into chocolate, but to no avail. So, here is her cake filled with golden Oreo cookies and cream filling.

As I was making them, I thought the clouds were super fun and cute and had an extra punch of creativity. ("Pride goeth before a fall") Then when my dad came and ooo'd and aahh'd over the cake, he finally said, "What are those white things? Worms? Do the ponies have worms?"
To which my husband jumped on board and suggested that we should probably put the ponies down since they're diseased.  Some of my snarkiness may have been inherited. Some of it may have rubbed off.
There she is: the happiest 6 year old in the history of birthdays.

(Stay tuned.  There will be another cake next week.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

20 things I learned at my 20th reunion

DISCLAIMER:  I graduated unbelievably young (Doogie Howser, if you will), so you are right to be terribly shocked that I have been out of high school for 20 years already. There, I've said it. I don't like to throw around the word prodigy, but I guess now the secret is out.

I have to admit, I didn't even really want to go to my 10th reunion. I hadn't accomplished enough. I was still a struggling singer/actor, childless (by choice, but still), was going through a "fat" stage of upwards of 125 pounds - I know, oh the horror! - and I didn't feel I had much in common with anyone from high school any more. From what I hear of 10 year reunions in general, they’re of the “one-upping” genre. Everyone is consumed with making sure they look skinny, beautiful, successful and happy.  I, like most other 20-somethings, bought into that mindset, and I didn't have much to show, so I didn't show. (But then I heard all sorts of fun things about it and wished I had been there to experience it firsthand)
Mark and me being very pretentious indeed.  If this doesn't intimidate you, I don't know what will.
(photo credit Flickr bethelbug1)

This reunion, my 20th, did not feel that way at all. In fact, I didn't even put on my Spanx at all! I know! What was I thinking?! I’m claiming temporary insanity. Some things and people changed a little. Some changed not at all. No one changed a ton. The most interesting thing to me is that people’s personalities were the same. I have changed so much since high school that I expected everyone else to be totally different. But the reality of it is that my personality hasn't changed at all. My priorities, my outlook on life, my maturity (some might argue), all of those things have changed, but what makes me tick has not. I don’t know why I expected others to be any different than how I remember them. The quiet people were still quiet, the kind were still kind, and the loud, obnoxious, self-obsessed ones - oh, just say it - ME - were still the same. Almost everyone had grown up. Almost. Oh, just say it - ME. No one cared to put on airs and parade around and I felt like people were genuinely interested in each other’s lives. I did parade my husband around a little because, well, he’s pretty darn hot. We talked about our families, our hobbies, our memories.
Parading my sexy man around and trying to make people uncomfortable. I think it worked it's working.
(photo credit Flickr bethelbug1)

I did learn a lot while on that hilariously fun 3-day getaway to the sunny state of Florida where I spent many years of my educational years and I would love to share them with you so that you, too, may be enriched. Lucky you. Here are just 20 of the many things I learned at my 20th high school reunion. They are listed in no particular order of importance and not all of these lessons were learned at the reunion activities, but over the course of the weekend. There, now no one can get mad at me.

1.     All reunions should have name tags. For the spouses, of course. Certainly not because I forgot the name of that one guy I don’t remember ever seeing in one of my classes EVER. And we had only just over 50 graduating seniors in our class.

2.     I was reminded of why I liked people with whom I went to school (and they were probably reminded of why they rolled their eyes in my direction so often). I was reminded of why I hung around the ones with whom I was closest friends. I definitely missed some of the people I was hoping to see, but I loved seeing those that were there.

3.     There was an “I Hate Jill Club” during my middle school years, and yes, I was the only Jill in my grade at the time. I’m not sure when exactly it started or ended but this was a real thing! Of course, no one will admit to actually having been a member of this club and I have a pretty good guess as to who started it (not anyone who made it to high school with me), but there was confirmation that it did exist. Now you know why I turned out to be such a grumpy, sad, introspective hermit. I’m hoping to do some more research and get in contact with the former club’s chairperson to see if we can reinstate the club in my Florida hometown and possibly get a chapter going in the Twin Cities. I’m sure I've got some people here that would like to be a part of it.

4.     Fact: There is no poverty north of the Mason Dixon Line. I know! I was shocked, too, and pleasantly surprised when someone made a similar comment that those who live in the North are rich. I’m a little annoyed that we've been wasting millions of dollars on homeless shelters, food shelves, and free and reduced school lunch.

5.     I am an expert at maintaining a smile while cheerfully saying, “Why no, Ms. I-would-drown-in-a-size-2-dress, I am not pregnant and no, those cupcakes are not gluten free.” That “GF” written on the box stands for “good food.” Sorry about that. Hope you don’t get too sick. (yes I do)

6.     I’m never eating again. I knew I should have worn Spanx!

7.     Some people continue to be a wealth of useless information, but they have such an entertaining way of conveying said information that I am compelled to listen and be genuinely interested. It’s weird, really. 

8.     While some of us have meaningless jobs like keeping children alive, others have jobs so important that their mere presence at work will surely singlehandedly prevent a huge disaster that is so wide-spreading that it could make shrimp dinner taste yucky. 

9.     I can make cupcakes in a kitchen that is not my own and they turn out almost the same.

10.    I can survive 3 days without a microwave. But only 3 days and it is very difficult. I hope to never have to accomplish such a feat of raw survival again.

11.    I can smuggle more than 4 oz. of strawberry puree and vanilla paste on an airplane in my carry-on. (but not toothpaste) I guess it’s not really a liquid, but still. Either the rules have changed or TSA is slacking off.

12.    Depending on the thermostat setting, most heated swimming pools in Minnesota are set to between 68 and 72 degrees F. This doesn't really change much throughout the summer unless it’s a really hot summer. Then the only difference is that the heater can be turned off to maintain the same temperature. By contrast, unheated swimming pools in Florida, though I didn't actually look at the thermometer, felt about the same as my baby’s bathwater, which I would estimate to be around 99-101 degrees. Nothing like jumping into a bathtub to cool off from the 104 degree sun. Then again, there’s not much refreshing about jumping into a 68 degree pool to cool off from a 70 degree day. I understand now why our friend and gracious weekend host asked if our pools in the north were heated with ice cubes.

13.   The more butter in your frosting, the faster it will melt in 102 degree weather with 97% humidity.

14.    Speaking of humidity, I’m pretty sure that no one in the state of Florida will ever need a nebulizer.

15.    I learned that, despite my rantings and seasonal depression from last year’s horrid winter, I still want to move further north. Someone actually came right out and called me a wannabe Canadian. Because Minnesota isn't wretchedly cold enough for me. Why stop there, eh? Why not move to Siberia and never see another blade of grass or green deciduous tree for as long as I live? Was this an insult? I can’t decide. It was just weird. I’m pretty sure alcohol was involved.

16.   I learned, or rather confirmed that no matter how much I grow up in mental, emotional or spiritual maturity, I really do still care what people think of me. I don’t so much care what they think “in the moment,” which is probably the root of the problem because I say things without thinking. But after the fact, after I leave the party, I stress about whether I said something stupid, whether people thought I was funny or just obnoxious when they laughed; did I make someone uncomfortable, embarrass them or hurt their feelings? I know I can be a little opinionated, a little dry and a little sarcastic. And by “little,” I mean “lot.” (And in spite of this insecurity, I still am writing this blog post!)

17.    There is sales tax on clothing in Florida. Actually, I did not just learn this. I just wanted to brag about the fact that there is no sales tax on clothes and shoes in Minnesota. It’s lovely. That's probably why we're so rich here.

18.    There is no wrong color to paint your house in Florida. Really. There isn't. Somehow, you can make any color work, and work well. If you painted your suburban house pink with aqua trim up here in MN, you’d better have just donated it to the fire department.

19.    Never judge a book by its high school cover. This wasn't a new lesson either, but a good reminder. We can’t possibly assume we know how someone’s life is going to turn out. Remember those “Most Likely” yearbook quips? Yeah, we didn't have a clue when we voted on those things. The crazy rebel could turn out to be a pastor. The valedictorian could be a musician instead of a chemical engineer, the girl who set out to be a doctor could be baking cakes and making concrete counter tops. One of our classmates who, I admit, was never voted most likely to succeed, is actually living in a van down by the river. (And by van, I mean company sales van he uses to drive around his 10 state sales territory, and by river I mean lake home)

20.    Even Floridians are conscious of alligators in the lakes...even the "alligator free" lakes.  I lived there for 8 years of my life and never really gave them a thought. No, they're not as vicious as crocodiles, but they aren't docile little puppy dogs either. (They = alligators not Floridians)

So there it is: proof that no matter when you finished high school, you can still learn from it.  I learned so much and thanks to my continuing education, you, my few but faithful readers may also glean from my wisdom.  You’re welcome.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

the beach

Doesn't everyone love the beach? Well, I must admit that I'm a fan of the view of the beach, but I much prefer a clear blue pool. I'm not a huge fan of trying to wash sand off my feet only to put on flip flops and having to trudge through the sand again to get to the car. I remember going to the gulf coast beach often as a child and I would come home with my own little sandbox in the crotch lining of my swimsuit. Fun stuff. In the middle of January, however, I am a huge fan of the beach...warmth, sun, beauty...warmth.

Anyway, this post has nothing to do with the beach except that I did a cake for a beach theme bridal shower. My friend, Sarah sent me a picture of a cake that looked almost like this and asked for a chocolate cake with whipped chocolate ganache filling. HOLY YUM, Batman! That's my kind of girl since chocolate cake is really the the best kind of cake worth consuming the extra calories. So, at the unholy hour of 1:00 a.m., I finished it, smiled and nodded in approval to myself.

I wish you a very smooth wedding and a long life of happy marriage, Sarah's friend!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I made a dress.  I actually made it last spring for an event I went to, but I didn't have time to blog about it.  Ok, so I lied.  I did have time, I just didn't have the energy.  So I'm doing it now.

There's not really a whole lot to say about it.  My dear friend Lisa brought me 6 lovely yards of hot pink silk fabric from NYC several years ago and it's been begging to be used, but I haven't had a perfect dress for it, until I found the pattern that, of course, was ALMOST perfect.  The back was too boring, so I added a big bow and then it was perfect.  I have to say that it was really quite lovely to be wearing bright pink when almost everyone else was in black.

This dress took almost as long to iron and steam as it did to sew.

Upon arrival at the "ball."

My hottie husband and me at 2am. I got him to stay out until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Congratulations 2014 Grads!

I have fun neighbors.  And when I say fun, I mean FUN.  I've gotten to know them over the past 5 years, mostly through theater.  I've had the pleasure of having been in shows with all three of the talented kids of the family.  I first met Andrew when we were in Willy Wonka together.  He was a crazy middle schooler and now he's all grown up, graduated from high school, and off to college in the fall.  Okay, I may be exaggerating a little on the all grown up bit.

Seriously, he's a great kid and I'm really proud of him.  He has a great future ahead of him.  He's a fantastic tap dancer, musician and he's ridiculously smart.

I could go on and on about my neighbors and their wonderfulness, but let's face it, this blog is all about me and my wonderfulness, so I wouldn't want to confuse you.

So I got to make the cake for Andrew's graduation party.  The order was a piano cake with books and tap shoes.  My first thought was how fun!  I mean, when does one get to make a piano cake?  After deciding on the flavor, size and a sign off on a rough sketch, I went to work.

The best part: chocolate cake with raspberry cream filling. I'm sorry, but just YUM!

the cake...


 Did I mention, he's smart?  Pre-law smart.

Congratulations to the class of 2014! 
Now go to college, get a degree, a job and your own place.

Friday, June 27, 2014

101 cupcakes

I've learned my lesson. Well, I should say, I've learned a lesson. Each daughter starts discussing her birthday cake whenever I make a cake and I used to go with that idea and start planning...until she changes her mind and gives me the newer, more wonderful idea. My younger girl even goes so far as to draw me a picture of what she wants which is different each time she designs it. Her birthday is in the fall and she's currently decided on Smurfs. I'll be shocked if I actually blog a smurf cake in a few months. After 50 ideas and "I've decided on what I really really want" statements, I was thrilled when my older daughter decided on a 101 Dalmatians birthday party. A month before her birthday she made her decision and I figured by then it was safe to start planning the party.

It was a movie night slumber party with only a few girls and she had to have the cartoon version to watch projected on the wall with theater popcorn, candy and other theater fare. What made me the most thrilled was that I knew it would be an easy cake (and pretty easy party too). A small cake, a dog on top, a few spots.  Only when it came down to it, I couldn't just make it easy, could I? No, of course not. No, no, no, I just had to go and add cupcakes, didn't I? And what's 101 Dalmatians without Cruella? She's my favorite.

Did I mention that she's my favorite?

Happy Birthday, Sweetness! It's been an incredible 8 years!

Monday, June 23, 2014

40 doesn't really suck THAT much

Since he was a mere 25 years old, my husband has been saying with a groan, "I'm getting old."
I used to laugh at and contradict him. Now I get to finally say, "Yes. Yes, you are."

This past May he turned 40. I think he's learning how young 25 really was. In another 15 years, he'll figure out how young 40 was. And then in another...well, you get the idea.

He didn't want a big party because, well, he's kind of an introvert, but did I let his little old opinion stop me? Of course not! Because I am most definitely not an introvert and this party was all about me anyway.

Feeling not-so-creative, I went for the "40 sucks" theme and it was pretty darn fun to do. Enough of me rambling about how lucky I am to have the best husband in the world (oh, did I not mention that before?), here's what it looked like!

First, the invitations: "you're invited to help make Mark's 40th birthday not so sucky..." blah blah blah.

For dinner, I did a taco bar which turned out to be quite amazing with the help of my sister-in-law’s guacamole and fresh pico de gallo and my mom making sure the serving dishes were replenished. Yes, there were lots of little things to do and cut up and serve, but it was all done ahead of time, so I could just enjoy the party and not make the birthday boy get stuck at the grill all night. I even had my meltdown a few days earlier, so I got that part of hosting out of the way before the party started too. I will not post pictures of food, especially Mexican food, because pictures of food always look like pictures of partially digested food.

The decorations were suckers. Oh so clever, right? I stole the idea from my friend and, well, hundreds of other party throwers who posted the same idea online.

The challenge of cooking for a big group was nothing compared to the stress I caused myself over the cake.  I wanted to make something amazing for him because he always gets the “oh, crap! I need to make a cake, don’t  I?” cake. I wanted something that looked like it sucked, but that didn’t actually suck, so I chose a sucky day at the golf course. Little did I know that I needed an engineering degree just to build the stand for the leaning tower of cake. Please, be impressed.

                                                                               Oh yes, I did.          

It was a fun party with lots of friends and family. I'm happy to be married to a much, MUCH older man.

Isn't he pretty hot for an old guy?

oh, and this happened... 

thankfully not until cake was being served.