Happy Birthday, Poppa

It’s hard to believe that Jan’s dad will turn 87 next week.

16142784_1232329153523504_8453402464626224770_nWe decided to celebrate a week early – since they have plans to drive Florida and will be gone on the actual day.

Yes – he is driving to Florida at age 87.

16142474_1232329160190170_8244534842767304000_n

All of our kids were there to feast on Poppa’s favorite oyster soup (and a cheesy potato soup for those poor souls who don’t yet appreciate the warm milk and fishiness of oyster soup.)

Then we played games –

15977573_1232332460189840_3939402318156689418_nA mild game of Ticket to Ride that included lipstick and selfies and lots of belly laughter.

Steven and Laura won – again.

Yes – they beat Poppa on his birthday.

But he and Matt took second place.

And then – after German chocolate cake and ice cream and presents – we had a wild round of Pie In the Face.

16003168_1232333073523112_1770078695099218374_nA crazy game of Russian roulette that involves a giant hand covered with whipped cream and lots of laughter!

Anything to entertain Poppa on his birthday.

16114599_1232333066856446_5722873145077238127_nAnd boy was he entertained!

That was a birthday party to remember!

Here’s to many, many more!

Happy birthday, Poppa!

Lessons from Christmas

Christmas is over. The tree is down. The lights are packed away and we’ve finally found a normal schedule again. I think.

But as I reflect on the craziness of the last few weeks I’ve decided that this Christmas season has taught me a few lessons.

1. When you give your brother-in-law an elf hat for Christmas and he puts it on with his new safety glasses and then he grabs a tape measure and pretends to be one of Santa’s elves making toys – you immediately take a picture and put it on your blog.

unnamed-1

Because you can.

And it’s hilarious and he will never see it anyway.

I hope.

2.  Changing all the light bulbs in the house on Christmas Eve day to LED might make sense economically – but will create bad lighting for selfies and other photo ops and drive your camera loving daughter crazy.

img_0312

And certainly don’t help my photography skills. Or lack thereof.

But aren’t those kids cute! (just missing a son-in-law who was on duty Christmas Eve!)

3. After 26 years of attempting a beautiful ice cream log for Christmas – I have finally accepted the fact that it will never look good and will quite possibly always look like something less than attractive.

img_0307

And well – less than appetizing.

Which is why we shall always eat by candlelight on Christmas Eve.

3. The stomach flu is always nasty – but it’s extremely unwelcome when it attacks on Christmas Day.

No pictures. You’re welcome.

4. Having a house full of family can wipe out a stocked refrigerator quickly. I took three grocery runs the week between Christmas and New Years – mostly for coffee and vegetables.

The coffee I expected but the veggies were a new and surprising development.

5. Speaking of surprising developments – I have lots of Christmas goodies now hidden in the freezer. While my children pigged out over Christmas weekend, by New Year’s they had decided to eat healthy.

Go figure.

At their current rate of consumption, Jan and Buddy should have them gone by Easter. I hope.

6. I love playing games with the family at Christmas. Really, really love it.

15433775_10211547301422140_5973540434750114619_n

Especially new games like this one – Ticket to Ride.  Which is my new obsession.

I even won a few times – at least until my new son-in-law arrived. Hmmm…somebody should tell that guy it’s not good manners to beat your Mother-in-law at her favorite new game, at her house on Christmas. Good thing I like the guy.

7. Actually – I love them all – the whole crazy bunch! And carving out time together with crazy schedules to be together is the best Christmas memory of all!

Hope your holidays were special!

 

Christmas Week?! Already?!

How did it get to be Christmas week already?

It seems like just yesterday we got home from Thanksgiving and put up the tree!

img_0279

And adjusted it three days later before it fell over.

When we unashamedly turned to all Christmas music all the time.

It wasn’t that long ago that Laura and Steven came over and we made Christmas happen in the kitchen.

img_0284

Spritz cookies.

Oreo truffles.

Cookie dough truffles.

Chocolate covered pretzels.

 

img_0295

Actually – chocolate covered everything!

The Sunday school kids blessed my heart again this year at the nursing home and did a fabulous job performing the Christmas program a week later.

img_0299

The 4H Christmas party was a success – especially the cookie plates we made and delivered to the shut-ins in our community.

It’s been a busy month.

We’ve shopped, wrapped, baked, and watched a multitude of Christmas movies.

The Christmas letters are written and in the mail.

Laura and Steven elf

We made memories with extended family, my folks for a couple of days and Jan’s family for an early Christmas.

And now suddenly – Christmas is less than a week away!

 

The kids will start to arrive on Thursday and our house will be overflowing with love and laughter.

We’ll eat too much, laugh till we cry, surprise each with gifts, and in a quiet moment on Christmas Eve with candles in hand, we’ll let Christmas come.

And then – in the blink of an eye it will over.

Just like December.

Please Lord, help me slow down and savor!

Home Hair Cuts

img_0278I am a big proponent of home hair cuts. We’ve done them for years.

They save money and time and generally turn out great – especially when it’s Grandpa giving our young sons military style hair cuts in the shop.

Things get trickier when those little boys become teenagers. They don’t want a hair cut any more – they want a hair style. And Grandpa is smart enough to not touch it.

Me – not so much.

It sounds easy when they say, “Hey mom – could you just take a little off the sides? ”

How hard can it be?

HA.

There’s undercuts and side burns and ears to trim around.

All with an electric trimmer.

They expect me to cut their hair holding a piece of vibrating metal with moving blades on the ends?! While wearing bi-focals?!

Really?!

Do they realize that the difference between perfection and a gaping bald spot is approximately 2.1637 seconds?

Not that I know this from personal experience or that any of my sons have ever, or are even now walking around with gaping bald spots…just hypothetically speaking of course.

A-hem.

Grandpa always tells them the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is about a week.  l think it’s longer for bald spots.

I have only drawn blood on one occasion but nothing that required emergency medical attention. He didn’t really need that ear tip anyway.

You would think that after a few bad cuts they would stop asking, but I guess I raised some really frugal kids.

I do make them promise that they will love me no matter what it looks like when I’m done.

Which is good, because quite honestly, you get what you pay for!

 

 

Cake Wars Drop-Out

Buddy had a birthday this week.

This is the kid who is known for his over-the-top birthday cakes. (Who could forget his infamous M & M shooting catapult cake or his royal pika family surrounded by torches cake!) But this year he left the whole thing in my hands. He had no ideas, no requests, it was all up to me.

But don’t worry – I was ready! After all, I have watched every episode of Cake Wars. I’ve seen every mistakes ever made on cakes and besides, I had an idea.

I was going to make him an electric guitar cake!

Isn’t that an epic idea?! Mind-blowingly amazing!

This cake was going to be so awesome it would probably break Pinterest!

I started by mixing up my cake mix (yes – I cheated and used a cake mix!) but to bump up the flavor and keep it moist, I added sour cream. That was my first mistake.

There will be more.

While the cake baked, I measured Buddy’s guitar, sketched out my design so that everything would be proportional, and cut out a template. This was an amazing template – seriously – I even did fractions to make sure my sides were correct!

I actually thought to myself that I really should mass produce these things and sell them – because honestly – doesn’t every one need to make an electric guitar cake at some point in their life!

When the cake was cooled, I laid my template on top – anxious to get started on my masterpiece!

But the template was too big. What!! Wait, how could that have happened?! I even did the math!

My cake must have shrunk! In a panic I started to whittle sides off, then the top and the bottom. Cake was flying! Forget the proportions of neck to guitar – I barely had enough cake to make a neck!img_0251

Not only that – it was such a moist cake that it kept breaking when I tried to move it from the cooling rack to the serving tray.

I finally had it positioned – a guitar with a neck – and started spreading my buttercream as a crumb coat.

Crumb coat is right. I just kept pulling up cake with each swipe of frosting. This guitar was getting smaller and more messy with each knife stroke. I used up my entire batch of buttercream.

What a disaster! There were cake crumbs and frosting and powdered sugar all over my kitchen and myself.

img_0253I had to mix up another batch of buttercream to hide all the crumbs. More powdered sugar everywhere. My kitchen looked like a winter storm.

So did I.

At this point his amazing electric guitar cake looked more like a fuzzy dwarf electric ukulele.

This did not look Cake Wars worthy. Then I remembered that all the cakes on Cake Wars look so smooth because they are covered with fondant. Yeah – that wasn’t happening.

I considered briefly going with the fuzzy theme and just throwing coconut all over it and calling it a day – but Buddy doesn’t like coconut. So I kept working until my frosting was somewhat smooth – abandoning all thoughts of a piping bag and details.

Instead I turned to an old birthday cake stand-by, a friend that has never failed me, my go-to birthday cake rescue – M & M’s!

img_0255We now had a rainbow dwarf electric ukulele.

And Buddy loved it!

We put 16 re-lighting candles on it, sang Happy Birthday, and watched him try to blow them out over and over again!

It was awesome!

Another birthday cake done.

I’m hanging up my apron now. My dreams of ever winning Cake Wars completely destroyed.

Trust me people – they make it look easy on TV.

But boy was that cake moist!