Jack’s 7th Birthday Party

Saturday we celebrated Jack’s Birthday!  Because it usually falls on Memorial Day weekend, and this time it was on Sunday, I bumped the party up a week so we could have it before school ends.  After planning a Star Wars party all year, he changed to Gravity Falls theme about three months ago.  There’s a lot less Gravity Falls merchandise than Star Wars (nothing at all versus millions) so this party took a strong DIY attitude.

Mummy Wrap race was a good starter while we waited for everyone to arrive.

The kids snacked on “Mabel Juice” “Chipackers” “Gnome barf” and eyeballs.

They also bedazzled their faces and drew their own Waddles the Pig Balloons.  

The main event was a treasure hunt. I offered a Team Dipper and Team Mabel trail – what a surprise that they split themselves by gender, right?  I’m quite proud of the hunt.  It took them around the house and yard with simple puzzles that needed only a little adult prodding to figure out.  They had to get creative a few times to find the clue.  I’m glad they were a little stumped at first, and it gave the groups time to each try ideas.  At the end they had to bring their pieces together to solve a decoded message.  But they solved the whole thing in about ten minutes.  The final message told them to look in the basement for Bill Cipher (the show’s villain) that I had made into a piñata.

This was the sweetest moment for me.  Jack came back from the piñata frenzy near tears, saying he didn’t get very much stuff. Four of his friends immediately grabbed fistfuls from their own bags and put it in his.  What great kids!

Cake, presents, and some water balloons and mummy racing finished the party.  We put on the show to let the kids watch while waiting for parents to pick them up.  

It was a rousing, great success that I’m sure Jack will remember well.  Shout out to my parents for being GREAT help running the party, and to Ben for jumping in to help out in games or clean up after the ruckus.

Mother’s Day 

Another tooth bites the dust

In this case, the dust is an apple 😉

Sam demanded a picture too.

What a good way to start the week!  Now Jack is regaling me with all the tooth fairy lore he has picked up from classmates.  Dylan wrote a letter and got to keep his tooth AND the money AND a bag of skittles.  Blakey says there is a different fairy for each kid.  If you leave a glass of water out she will dip her wand into and change it to her color and you will know what color your fairy is.  I wonder what new fairy tale he will bring home after sharing his news at school today.

7 Habits Assembly

Jack was asked to participate in a school assembly about their Seven Healthy Habits Program.  It was an honor to be chosen to be a part of the program, they singled him out for his responsible nature and exemplary use of the Seven Habits.  Ben and I got to attend and see him speak in front of the K-2nd grade audience.  He was very nervous in the weeks leading up to it.  We are so proud of him for speaking in front of so many kids!

American Cake: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I helped at the dessert table for the church’s Girls Camp fundraiser night.  Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is one of my favorites.  I decided to use the recipe from my American Cake book and adapt it to cupcakes.



It was years ago when I last make one of these.  If I recall, it was a fairly straight forward all-in-one dump cake.  Melt butter and sugar, layer pineapple, mix the rest and pour it on top to bake.  THIS recipe was crazy!


Make a separate butter sugar topping.  Cream the butter and sugar, sift dry ingredients separately.  Mix lemon zest and juice with sour cream, alternate that with the dry ingredients into the butter. THEN whip your egg whites and fold them in.  SO MANY BOWLS!

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They were totally nummers, but I’m not sure it was worth all the hassle of production.

As you can see I tried both whole rings and chopping the pineapple.  The chopped version was the definite winner.  It absorbed the caramel topping better and melded with the cake.


Sam Storm: Master of Disguise

These were all between 9am and noon.  Not pictured: the ninja hood and wooden sword that kicked off his fashion show.

American Cake: Delta Caramel Cake

Flipping through the book, this cake caught my eye.  That caramel frosting spoke to me.  Though it was delectable in the end, I had some trouble with this one.  Surprise!  A recipe from the sea-level land in the humid Delta region didn’t translate well to the dry mountains of Colorado!

This cake comes from the chapter “1946 to 1962: Tupperware, Bake-Offs,® & a new domesticity.”  The frosting is described as difficult, but completely worth it.


Things started off ok.  Beautiful batter, two greased tins, and a preheated oven.  Sam-interference was minimal.


The cakes puffed up, over-browned on the edges, then deflated while cooling.  Dang it.


Then I tore the cake while getting it out of the pan.  My bad.  I rushed extraction to get to school-pick-up on time.  Also, Sam was thrusting Duplo’s in my face while I tried to flip the racks.   At this point I let the cakes completely cool and started the frosting later.  Frosting can cover many sins.

Hmm.  The frosting.  So you make a milk and sugar mixture on the stove.  Then take it off the heat and melt sugar into caramel in “4-5 minutes.”  Mine took over 15 minutes.  I don’t know if that was because of the altitude, the pan choice, or my stove’s burners.  Either way, when I added the caramel to the milk mixture it clumped into solid gobs.  “Stir until smooth” wasn’t going to happen.  I think my milk mixture cooled too much while I made the caramel.

Feeling like a participant in the GBBO technical challenge, winging it on a recipe with only a vague idea of my target, I put the pan back on low heat and stirred until the caramel re-liqified and could blend.

The recipe said to put the pan in a bowl of ice water and stir constantly until it thickens to a consistency almost as thick as peanut butter.  I had no idea how long it would take to  set up.  I thought I reached the right thickness when it ribboned on itself and didn’t reabsorb easily.  The instructions warned about needing to reheat the mixture if it sets up while frosting the cake.  My cake was so fragile, I decided to err on the soft side.  Wrong decision:


I spent the rest of Captain America: Winter Soldier scooping the icing off the sides and back on top.  Eventually it solidified. I swirled the icing to try to cover all the crumbs, broken edges, and sunken top.

I made some more caramelized sugar to fill in the crater.  It ended up quite nice considering all my struggles.


I served the cake to friends and it was well received.  Jack particularly liked the frosting.  I agree!  For all its trouble, that caramel icing is a new favorite of mine.  I’ll definitely be putting that on more cakes.  The cake was buttery and delicious and I thought it had a faint caramel flavor to its crumb.  But I’ve been eating salads and I quit dairy,* chips, fries, and candy, so the slice I ate tasted AMAZING.

In summary: Two thumbs up, with experience would recommend.

*Turns out I’m lactose intolerant.  Was having a lot of GI problems, getting worse over the last year.  Tried Beano, Devrom, Activia, etc. Finally tried a week of no dairy/taking Lactaid with small servings.  Symptoms completely resolved!  I feel so much better.  Aging sucks.

Happy Easter 

Hot cross buns

I can’t believe I’ve never baked these before! So easy and tasty, and seasonal.  How have I never made them?

I’m looking forward to a good weekend. Ben and I have a date tonight. We’re going to get Torchy’s Tacos and then seeing Wonderbound, the contemporary ballet company, perform with the Flobots, a local rap group (I think?).

Tomorrow we’re having friends over to rewatch Guardians of the Galaxy in anticipation of its sequel. Looking forward to seeing some friends and having some good food! (The party is my excuse to bake another cake.)  (This is not all that I’ve baked this week.  I made sand dollar snickerdoodles and a batch of chocolate chip cookies already.) 

American Cake: Cowboy Cake

I have a wonderful new recipe book about American cakes. It’s a collection of traditional recipes from the 1700s up to today.  I have been dying to make some and finally found time to try it out today. Sam helped me choose the Cowboy Cake as our first endeavor.


First you simmer raisins in water to soften them and flavor the water. Then you use half that water in the batter and half to make a syrup.  Prepare both, pour the syrup on the batter, cover the Dutch oven and bake it.  No, this was not cooked over an open flame under a starry sky as Ben suggested.   Sam only slightly hindered the process, spilling sugar and nutmeg on the floor and sprinkling water all over.

No eggs or butter are used in the cake. Shortening provides a little fat, and it season with cinnamon and nutmeg. The book notes that they would’ve whipped up very cold evaporated milk for topping, when fresh dairy was hard to come by. I used Reddi-Whip.


It took longer to bake than they said. It’s supposed to be 25 to 30 minutes. At 25 minutes it was still obviously wrong. At 35 minutes it was almost there, but I give it another five for a total of 40 minutes to be sure it was thoroughly cooked.  It collapsed and absorbed the excess syrup within minutes.  I had trouble scooping out the cake.  The raisins and syrup formed a thick toffee-like layer on the bottom.  I don’t know if that’s from over-baking or from letting it cool for hours before serving after school was out.

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I liked the cake.  Very easy, uses only pantry items, and my kitchen smells amazing now.  The kids were cautious but enjoyed it.  Not as much as the whipped cream, but who can blame them?


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