My husband and I love those shows where they throw a guy out in the wilderness and he shows how to survive in seemingly impossible situations. The more I watch them, the more I realize that I likely will never need to survive in the Sahara or the Sub-Arctic. I do however find myself feeling on an almost daily basis as if I've been cast out into a strange world full of obstacles to tackle and unknown creatures to cope with. This will be the chronicle of one woman trying to survive the jungles of parenthood.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I Like Cake! (do de do, do de do do do do)

     This post is going to be all about cake.  What exactly you ask does cake have to do with surviving parenting?  Well it's not so much the cake per se, it's more about the making of the cake.  Here's where you start saying to yourself, "I'm lucky if I have time to make a peanut butter sandwich, much less a cake.  Is this woman nuts?"  Just hear me out!  For me, making cakes is both a valuable mama-time experience that I enjoy as well as a useful endeavor that serves a function and saves us money since we'd be getting cakes for various and sundry occasions anyway that would be less tasty, less fun and much more expensive. This alleviates any and all guilt associated with aforementioned mama-time activity!  I know, most people will tell you that you shouldn't feel guilty as a mom for needing some mama-time and they're right but that still doesn't mean I don't feel just a wee twinge when sitting down to watch an episode of Dr. Who on Netflix with my feet up surrounded by two loads of clean, unfolded laundry.
     Now, if baking isn't your thing, then find something that is that fits the requirements of being something you really enjoy as well as serving some sort of useful purpose to your household or the world in general.  Cook new meals, knit diaper soakers, repurpose old furniture, plant a garden, volunteer with animals or whatever does it for you.  You don't even have to be good at it, you just have to enjoy it and feel good about doing it.  I am not a skilled baker.  I make crooked cakes and flatten them with generous use of a cake leveler.  I can't make a rose out of frosting or ice a cake so it's smooth which is why I use a lot of fondant because it's very forgiving and a lot easier than it looks.
     Ok, now on to the cake!  This is a cake I made for my dad's birthday while he was out visiting us.  He's in the timber industry and I don't know how to make a jelly roll for a log cake so instead he got a stump cake.  It's a devil's food cake from a mix with chocolate frosting from a can and homemade peanutbutter cream frosting as filling.  I covered it with a combo of storebought marzipan (for the top and mushrooms) and homemade peanutbutter fudge marshmallow fondant (recipe the very bottom of the post if you want to try it.)  There's coconut grass and the fondant and marzipan has been painted with paints made from gel food colors and green apple schnapps (I didn't have any clear alcohol and water melts fondant.)  I've decided that I don't have to show you the picture of the back where I tried out some "moss" effects and there are two green spots that look sort of like boogies.

Just for fun, I'm subjecting you to a few more past cakes. Remember, this is my mama-time activity so humor me. :)

 These are the guest cake (carrot cake with orange filling and frosting, YUM!)  and Spice's cake for her 1st birthday party.  She was somewhat underwhelmed with the cake.  She sort of picked at it for a few minutes and then decided she'd rather be picked up instead.

This is the cake I made for Sugar's 2nd birthday (at McDonald's as she loves "Burgers, Fries and Milk" right now.) Word of warning for anyone ever considering it, don't use marshmallow creme with fondant, they don't like each other.  That runny stuff that looks like an over abundance of mayo isn't supposed to be there.

We did cake every month for the first year on our girl's monthly birthdays.  I only made a couple of those myself as we usually did really mini cakes or itty bitty cheesecakes so we didn't have cake for two weeks every month.  This was the topper for Spice's 8 month birthday. She had swine flu.

This one was YUMMY! It's matcha green tea and vanilla flavored layers with strawberry preserve filling.  The icing is vanilla and the fondant is matcha flavored too.

Peanutbutter-Fudge Marshmallow Fondant:
I covered a large area of my sanitized, dried kitchen table with sifted powdered sugar mixed with 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, about 14 inches across and an inch deep. You can cover the table or whatever surface you're using to knead on with shortening, but I find it's easier to clean powdered sugar off the table than Crisco and if you use enough sugar, the fondant still doesn't stick.  I coated my bowl (I use a microwave safe ceramic one from IKEA) in vegetable shortening as usual and my spoonula too. Then added in one full bag of mini-marshmallows, about two tablespoons of water and roughly half a cup of peanutbutter and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the marshmallows are fully meltedand quickly coated my hands with Crisco before pouring the melted marshmallow mixture into the powdered sugar.   I kneaded it together until it felt just a little softer than I'd make regular marshmallow fondant as the peanutbutter makes it a little chewier once it's set. There are lots of good marshmallow fondant recipes and videos online and I'd try that enough to be comfortable with making and using it before trying this one because it is a little harder to work with.  This batch had a nice, mild chocolate peanutbutter flavor that I prefer to the straight marshmallow as it is less sugary tasting and you can knead in as much or as little cocoa powder as you want to adjust color and flavor but I wouldn't add more PB as it would be TOO chewy.  I've also done it without the peanut butter and used strawberry extract in place of the water for a yummychocolate covered strawberry fondant that I make darker.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grocery Store Survival 101

Just to give you an idea where I'm coming from I thought I'd share an old post off my previous family blog from when Sugar and Spice were 15 months and 1 month old about what a trip to the grocery store is like with two babies.  If you look closely you'll find lots of dos and don'ts sprinkled throughout. :D Looking back I realize that shopping is so much easier now roughly a year later so if you're still at this stage, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The concept of "running to the store" no longer exists for me so it's a good thing SD works there because otherwise I'm sure we'd end up with some pretty interesting dinners when a necessary ingredient was left out because it just wasn't worth the trip to the store. (Like the other day when I was debating about what I could use to frost Spice's 1 month birthday cake that didn't contain any butter.) If we don't need milk or diapers, I don't go to the store until we have a decent sized list going. I thought I'd share just WHY that's the case when dealing with our two little angels by telling about our shopping experience yesterday (the first one out with both girls since the grandparents left.) This was a GREAT shopping trip mind you, about the best I could hope for. We go shopping in the afternoon after nap and lunch are out of the way normally. We try to shoot for being done shopping right around four when SD gets off so he can help us get stuff into the car and then into the house without having to hang out there too long after he's done working. I started getting the girls ready to go at 1:00 p.m., shooting for leaving at 3:00 since we didn't have too long of a list today. We pulled out of the driveway at 3:40. Other than being late however, we were in pretty good shape. Both girls had been changed, the baby had been nursed and Sugar had a snack. The grocery list was totally written and I made sure I had my wallet and crackers in the diaper bag in case Sugar got the munchies. The strategy for getting out the door is to put Spice in the meitai, grab the diaper bag, pick up Sugar and check to be sure she's still wearing two shoes and then grab the keys with whatever spare fingers I can find to lock the door before getting them each buckled in their seats while Sugar is reaching over trying to tickle Spice. Upon arriving at the store (right next door mind you) I have learned to park beside a cart return that has carts in it. Then I get out, grab a cart and after checking to be sure it has BOTH ends of the seatbelt buckle intact and no bent or stuck wheels I throw the diaper bag in and put the buggy-cover on before getting Sugar out and buckling her in and then getting Spice out to tie her into the meitai. Once in the store, departments are hit by priority and temperature. If there are diapers on the list, that's first, otherwise it's just a matter of getting through everything as fast as possible in hopes of finishing before anyone melts down. Then there's the "mommy moments" that I still haven't gotten over yet. According to my mother, my memory and better reasoning skills are never coming back. For example, yesterday I found myself standing in the popcorn aisle staring at two kinds of microwave popcorn and wondering which had less calories, the kettle corn 100 calorie mini bags or the buttery 100 calorie mini bags... Thoughts like this make shopping interesting to say the least. Then at some point Sugar will see SD working down an aisle usually (she's always looking for him at the store, even if he comes with us) and will spend the rest of the trip going "Dad? Dad! Dad, Dad, Dad.." until locating him again. Also, when shopping with two under two, every third person in the store stops to chat. They ask how old the girls are, comment on how cute they are or, and this is my very favorite (sarcasm implied), say "Boy, you've really got your hands full!!" Also fun is the ever popular "You've got two!"  SD says I should say, "What? Where's the other one?" and take off running with a panicked look on my face. As if I didn't know that I had two and my hands are full. Sugar's newest shopping trick is to wait until someone who's had the audacity to pass by us without stopping to wave or comment and then suddenly SHOUT at the top of her lungs, just to see them jump. So once we've finally knocked out all the room temperature groceries on our list and gotten the last of the cold items in the cart, there are usually one or two things I'll notice we've forgotten and have to run back for as fast as possible while Sugar is turning around and banging on whatever frozen items she can reach and thereby thawing them out that much faster. By that time SD is almost always off work (since we never make it to the store as early as we're hoping) and he entertains Sugar while we finish up and check out. Checking out usually takes a while too because the cashier feels compelled to visit with Sugar, ask how old the girls are and of course let us know that "You guys really have your hands full!" Once we have made it back out to where the car is, I unload and strap in the girls, starting with whoever is the least cranky (they were both actually pretty good yesterday) while SD gets the groceries in. At home, I unload the girls while he starts bringing in the stuff and then I work on getting the frozen stuff put away first and then the cold stuff while the girls fuss and then hand Sugar a snack and a drink in her superyard before grabbing the baby to feed. I'm lucky if I get the room temperature stuff put away by bedtime and about the time the last things are in the cupboard is when I'll realize that I've forgotten at least one thing that was on the list. Yesterday it was potatoes. Guess we won't be having potatoes again until next week. :)


Hi! Welcome to my blog. :)  I am a wife and stay-at-home mama to two girls. Our older daughter is two and the younger is one; they are roughly 14 months apart. They will be referred to in this blog as Sugar and Spice respectively both for safety reasons and in the hopes that they won't someday come home from their Freshman year of high school screaming at me because someone found online where their mother described their potty training routine in detail. I'm madly in love with and married to a great man that I'll be calling SURVIVOR DAD (after all, we are in this parenting thing together) or SD for short.  We met online and if you think that's weird, I'm ok with that.  I think it's weird to meet in a bar. The last member of our little family is our 7 year old German Shepherd mix, Echo.  I'm training to be a doula and loved my natural birth (the second one of the two) but will never rag on anyone for choosing an epidural.  I live in the Portland, OR area and love the great Northwest.  You will probably read a lot on this blog about day-to-day life with two toddlers and a dog and how to get through it without losing your mind and also a liberal smattering of camping, cake baking, babywearing, cloth diapering, reading, simplifying life, green living and internet shopping posts. I hope you hang enjoy reading and feel free to leave comments!  After all, if we don't share resources, how will we ever survive parenthood?