Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Please Pray for my Hometown

You may have heard about the shootings in south Alabama. Please pray for all the victims and their families. I grew up in Geneva. My parents still live there. Reliable Metal Products is directly behind the house where I spent the first 18 years of my life. Yesterday, my mom was just talking to me about the layoffs they've had recently. And now this, which has affected and will affect so many people. I know we live in a fallen world where things like this happen every day, but this still hits close to home and is hard to comprehend.

"God is sovereign. God is everywhere. God is holding us in His hands."


Jacob's 2nd Birthday Party

Theme: Curious George

Though I did hire out the activities portion to a nearby kids' gymnastics center, I managed to home-make a variety of things to go along with the theme. The party place provided plenty of fun activities led by someone other than me, brightly-colored paper goods, juice for the kids, and, of course, plenty of space for our guests (our apartment is woefully inadequate for more than 4 people and the Clubhouse at our apartment is no fun for 2-year olds). Plus, Jacob really seemed to enjoy all the bars and balance beams, jumping and climbing, and the mats and ball games. I wish I'd had a video camera!

Well, here's what I contributed to the brouhaha:

I made the invitations to look like a Curious George book cover:
(If this is an actual Curious George title, I couldn't find it, so I made it up. I drew the letters, scanned them in, and added the image from one of the books we own.)

I shamelessly stole the easel image below from a card on this wonderful Curious George resource site, but I will have you know I added a disclaimer on the back of each invitation.

I also put together some party favors, which included a Curious George book (of course!), play-doh and bubbles, which are all three of Jacob's favorite things. I printed out more of the "book covers" to decorate the bags, and included a thank-you message.

And, finally, I made and decorated my very first cookie cake (thanks for the recipe, JL, it was yummy!). Jacob isn't really a fan of regular birthday cake, but he seems to tolerate icing and LOVES chocolate chip cookies, so it seemed like a perfect fit.

Though I love the original George, I think the PBS version is cuter, so I used a mask from this PBS Curious George website as a rough template and freehanded the cookie dough into the shape of his face before baking it.

I did not plan very well, so I did a lot of improvisation with the decorating portion of the cake. The eyes are white chocolate bark, which I had on hand from an ill-fated attempt at making holiday cookies. I used J's shape sorter to make them into ovals, but ended up carving them down to size anyway.

Some other things I learned about making cookie cakes:
1. A large round pizza pan works great for baking the cookie. (Thank you, Angelika, for giving this to me as a wedding present. It has been useful in so many ways!) I probably could've used the pizza stone, too, but I'm not sure how that would've turned out.

2. Watch your oven and don't leave the cookie unattended. We took the cookie out about 5 minutes early, but it still wasn't early enough. It didn't have that soft, chewy texture I like so much. And don't forget that they will continue baking if you leave them on the pan to cool.

3. Decorator's icing might have worked well for this, but seeing as I didn't have any cream of tartar or egg white powder, I went with some other recipes I found on the "pretty internets," as Mary says. I used a version of buttercream icing for the brown, which tasted great. I think I should've used buttercream for everything. Mmmmm.

4.For the outlines and detail work, I used a version of a shiny cookie decorating icing using corn syrup and made it chocolatey and dark by adding cocoa powder. It was the right color and consistency, but I think I should've used a bigger tip so the outlines would show up better. But, it was my first time decorating a cookie, and I didn't have many choices of tips to work with, so I think it turned out okay. Except for the non-existent nose!

5. Chocolate-chip cookie cake portions left undecorated make George look like he has smallpox.

6. If you are making a cookie cake for a large crowd, you might want to consider making one this size and then making another, plain cookie cake in a different pan. We served about twenty folks (5 toddlers included) and only had one tiny piece left at the end. Of course, we probably should've cut smaller slices...

Jacob seemed to enjoy his cake, at least! Look at that clean plate! (I heard a rumor that he snuck some cookie cake from one of his guests, though. We'll have to teach him some manners!)

Here's a shot of Ethan wondering how his mom is going to top this for HIS birthday party next year...

I don't have more pictures of the "activity" portion of the party. I actually took very few photographs of the event. Gaines' awesome sister Amy was the "official photographer" and took some FANTASTIC photos. A ginormous number of fantastic photos. Which she is uploading for us. Yay! I can't wait to see them all!

(Illustrations by H.A. Rey © Houghton Mifflin. Company Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H. A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Company and used under license. Licensed by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. All rights reserved.)


Share the Love

I love making stuff, so the first FIVE people to respond to this post (at Facebook or here on the blog) will get something made by me. This might be the incentive I need to get creative again!

This offer does have some restrictions so please read carefully:
- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make.
- What I create will be just for YOU.
- It will be done this year (2009).
- It will be something made in the real world and not something over the internet.
- It might be a mix CD, a painting, a knitted scarf, a poem, baked goods, a poem about a painting of baked goods...who knows! There are other things it might be too, but I promise whatever it is, it will be made for YOU and with YOU in mind!

In return, all you need to do is post this on your blog or facebook and make 5 things for 5 other people.

Void where prohibited, use only as directed, for a limited time only, store in a cool dry place. Let's keep it going!

Thanks, Kristen!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday, Jacob!

Just two short years ago we welcomed you into the world, and now you are walking, talking in (almost) complete sentences, and memorizing your many books. You have been Mommy's biggest helper since Ethan was born not even a month ago, and we are so thankful for the joy you bring to our lives every day. You amuse us with your antics, frustrate us with your desire to do things "by self," but most of all you warm our hearts with your tenderness towards those you love, especially your new little brother.

We are thankful God gave you to us and that we get to be the parents to such an amazing little boy. You have turned our world "side-up down," and we are glad for the difference in perspective you give us each day. We love the way you notice even the small changes in your environment, how you like to sing and make "muk-sic," and how you are quick to make sure you've hugged us on both sides and given us a kiss before we leave to go on an errand or when Daddy goes to work. We praise God for small graces, like how you bow your head for prayers and always say "Amen!" and that you know the last word in each line of the Doxology and most of "Jesus Loves Me." When asked, "Who made you?" you say, "God!" May your love for Christ abound and may reflect His love more each day. You are a fantastic big brother!

Happy Birthday to our very own curious little monkey! We love you, Jacob!


Monday, March 02, 2009


I was aware of the phenomenon known as thundersnow, but without any personal frame of reference.

Until today. Awe-some.