Category Archives: boy

Birthday lessons

July is a huge birthday month in our family. Beginning early in the month, we celebrate 10 human birthdays and one very large dog’s. And the following month doesn’t slow down much either. There must have been something in the water from the years 1925 to 2006.

The month kicks off with the birthday celebration of my oldest nephew Owen and ramps up a few days later as we mark the 90th birthday of my grandfather, Ed. Our recent wedding travels limit us from being there in person to celebrate this year but from 9 to 90, there are plenty of lessons these two have taught me over the years. Things like:

The meaning behind the phrase, “I remember the day you were born.”

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Your choice in beer should align with that of your favorite sports team, whichever relationship develops first.

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And when it comes to extracurriculars, choose something you can play as you grow older.

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Blondes really do have more fun.

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You can dance if you want to.

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And more than anything, remember, family is everything.

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Happy Birthday to all of my favorite guys this month!

 

 

 

Super Spring Break

If you couldn’t tell from my overgramming last week, my nephews (and my sister) came to visit us to celebrate their spring break. Unfortunately I spent most of the week at work, but I’m grateful for the afternoons and evenings I spent brushing up on my toilet humor, identifying fire ant hills and avoiding getting jinxed.

Days were spent punching water spouts at the splash park and evenings cheating at mini golf. We even managed a second attempt at the beach since the first time was ‘too boring.’

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On Thursday, we celebrated Jake’s 5th birthday the only way Jake prefers to celebrate, with superhero masks and store-bought cookie cake.

IMG_4663IMG_4664IMG_4669IMG_4670IMG_4671Friday we had a picnic at the beach and then spent the afternoon drop-kicking waves to cap off the trip. And is it just me or did we do so right next to a Nana lookalike? IMG_9943

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We miss them already but we’re soaking up the quiet and resting up the busy months ahead.

Lessons in layer cake

Some of you may remember when I made my first attempt at an ombré cake back in March for my
Mom’s birthday.

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It wasn’t a complete flop but I rushed through it, failing to execute the preschool-mastered skill of color order. Yes, it still tasted good and fit in with the whole St. Patrick’s day theme that weekend, but I knew I’d need to try it again when I could devote the time and patience it took to not screw it up.

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So in celebration of Matt’s birthday this week I decided to give it another shot.

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My first tip with making this cake is to do it on a Sunday afternoon when you have no commitments other than careful measuring and wait time. If you’re anything like me, you often try to multitask when you cook and bake.

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This is not the cake to do that with. This layer cake is a special occasion type of cake because it is equal parts time-consuming and indulgent. From the cake to the buttercream icing, there’s no shortage of butter and that’s a good thing. Throw out your paleo/whole/vegan/healthy eating plan for enough time to eat a slice. You can thank me later.

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Ombre layer cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. Grease and flour two of them and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternating between milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. Add no food coloring to the first bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate.  Add one toothpick of color into the second bowl and mix until combined. Two for the next and closer to four for the final one. The key here is to only mix the batter until the color is combined as the colored layers already tend to be a little tougher than those that aren’t.

Need another photo to take a break from the instructions? Me too.

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Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool. Trust me it helps. Wash and dry your pans to bring them back to room temperature before you bake your other two layers.

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Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

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Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier.

When you are ready to ice your cake, check your layer order several times before you place them on your cake stand. Trust me. The two middle layers look a lot a like and can be very deceiving. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

I like to keep this cake in the fridge between servings because let’s face it, it’s going to take you at least a week to eat it all. Offer it up to friends or strangers that you just met. Everybody loves a good layer cake.

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Dunk tanks and Explosives

This weekend I flew home to celebrate my nephew’s 8th birthday, complete with a mix of water sports, explosives and cotton candy. I know what you’re thinking. What else could a bunch of 8 year-old boys want, right?

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Right.

I can take little to no credit for the party or the details because my sister handled it all herself. Perks of moving thousands of miles away I guess. Since Owen’s birthday falls just after the holiday, he’s chosen to celebrate it outside shooting water at his friends for the past several years. And this year was no different, except that he decided he wanted it to be Fourth of July-themed as well. Talk about a practical kid!

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My sister rented a cotton candy machine and a dunk tank. We held the entire party outside in my parent’s backyard and sprinkled in a few kid-friendly fireworks, complete with a Jake-led water gun crew to put out the flames once the show was over. These boys are all on a baseball team together so it was the perfect mix of sports and sugar.

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owen's 8th birthday, golden birthday, red white and blue themed party, fourth of july birthday party ideas, water sports, dunk tank, firework birthday party, boy birthday party ideas, cotton candy

Happy Golden Birthday Owen! I’m so glad I was able to celebrate with you this weekend!

 

 

 

Cupcakes and Ice Delis

Please accept my apology for ignoring the blog late last week. I had plans to fly home and surprise one of my best friends for her 30th birthday and I was not entirely confident in my ability not to spill the beans. All of them. All over the table and the floor. I love surprise parties, but I get really nervous having to lie to people to pull them off. When you use as many words as I do in a standard conversation, you really have to tread carefully. Fortunately, recently moving out of state gives you a pretty good excuse for missing large events so I had a pretty good alibi.

I flew home Friday evening just in time to join the celebration and catch up with some of my girlfriends. It was a great weekend with friends and family and lower humidity.

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Here’s hoping I can get a few projects started at my parent’s house before they read this and call to stop me. Have a great week!

 

 

Moving Day

Hey there. Me again. Back after a brief hiatus with more photos and fewer words. I promise I’ll be back on a regular schedule once we are all moved in but until then I hope you’ll settle for a photo update of the last few days.

Friday was spent down in Champaign celebrating with family and friends before the 5th running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Technically this year marks the 6th annual race but this was the 5th year of our family running let’s just go with that.

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It was so nice to see my Champaign family and to squeeze the little ones before we leave. We were blessed (and cursed) with nice weather throughout the weekend as well, making for a very hot race the next day.

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Jake and Owen came over for the youth run on Saturday well-prepared with their under armor superhero shirts. I missed the run but highlights included Jake getting a side stitch approximately 30 seconds into a 1K distance, Owen blazing to the finish and Jake asking the volunteer why he was getting a medal if he didn’t win.

Saturday evening we celebrated our move with some of our closest Chicago friends. I feel very blessed to have had these girls (and guys) in my life over the last 6 years and will miss them so much. It’s so nice to have a bunch of people to look forward to visiting each time we come back though.

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Approximately 4 hours of sleep later we were onto Sunday where we celebrated the upcoming arrival of the first grandchild on Matt’s side. If you can’t tell by the shower colors, it’s a girl.

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5 or so hours of sleep later it was moving day. Chicago sent us off just about the same way it treated us all winter long with gray skies and wet conditions but we made the most of it. We had a bit of a fiasco with our movers last-minute so we called in some family to help us make the trip. Once the truck was packed, Matt and his brother started the trip down and I headed to Springfield to pick up my dad and Finn.

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I’m not typically one to consider signs but I am now convinced that Bloomington hates me. You may recall I ran into a big winter storm coming through Bloomington a few months back so I guess it’s only fitting to get hit with a tornado warning on my last trip home.

So dad and I hit the road early this morning with the hope of making it to our new home in a day or so. Matt and his brother are of course already nearly there thanks to a few naps and a lot of caffeine.

Next stop, Florida.

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Happy Birthday Jake!

Today is my youngest nephew Jake’s fourth birthday.

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It’s hard to believe we’ve only had four years of this precocious kid, but the laughter and joy he brings to our family is immeasurable.

It seems like just yesterday I was begging the concierge at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn to go wake up my dad so we could make the drive from Chicago to Springfield in time for Jake’s arrival. Fortunately for my sister, he came much faster than his older brother and fortunately for my dad and I, the concierge agreed.

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Jake’s 4-going-on-14 personality can partially be attributed to his older brother Owen. Even with a good role model however, it’s been clear from the beginning that Jake would dance to the beat of his own drum. He’d also beat a lot of things, but let’s save that for later.

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Jake is all boy. He has been from day one. If something can be used as a weapon, you better believe he will find a way to use it as one. If an object can be scaled, he will climb it. If there is a song to be sung, he will sing it with utmost enthusiasm. And if there are miscellaneous items missing from any one location, he’s your pirate and those items make up his booty.

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He’s sweet too though, often telling his mommy how much he loves her, snuggling with Nana and letting his brother pick him up and carry him even as they get closer in size. Yes that last one is also because he’s incredibly lazy but let’s go with sweet for the sake of this paragraph.

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But beyond all these traits, the thing I love most about Jake is his sense of humor. He’s funny. And not just in a toddlers do funny things kind of way, but in a this kid has pure comedic timing and he’s going to get into a lot of trouble over the years kind of way.

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I can’t wait to be along for the ride. Happy 4th Birthday Jake!

Jake dances to pitbull from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.