Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Sweet, Sweet Baby

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Rescue Pack....Coming to the Rescue!! The Tale of a Diego Birthday Cake

For Isaac's third birthday party, originally he wanted Chicken Little.  I racked my brain trying to think of a cake I could make.  After watching Season 1 of Cake Boss on Netflix, I decided, what the heck?  I can make a Chicken Little figure out of rice krispy treats and cover it in fondant.  Beneath that confident exterior though, I was sweating bullets... "Chicken Little???  Really?  Could *I* possibly pull that off???"  I tried to convince him several times to switch to a different theme....something more Unprofessional-Cake-Decorator-Mommy-Friendly.  When we went out to get his partyware, wonder of wonders, he changed his mind to Diego...which he LOVES to watch, and I kinda like as well.. I mean, it has nature and animals...what's not to love??
Anyway, he changed his mind to Diego.  I was psyched!!!  I could see the rescue pack coming alive in my mind's eye!   Since watching Cake Boss, I was secretly harboring the desire to play with some fondant...they make it look soooo easy.  So, I purchased all my supplies and headed home.
This morning I got started.  I began by making two 9x13 inch white cakes.  I had purchased both Decorator's icing AND regular Betty Crocker cake icing...just in case...  I like to have my bases covered.  I had read and seen on the show that you first cover the cake with a smooth layer of icing and then lay the fondant out over top of that.
Both cakes came out of the oven smelling tasty.  I cooled them in the pan for 10 minutes and then on a rack till they weren't hot to the touch....then I stuck them in the fridge for a quick cool down.  In the meantime, I drew a picture of what I wanted the cake to look like:

I cut the first cake in the shape of the main part of the backpack and drew on paper the exact size I wanted the "pocket" portion to be and used it as a template on the second cake.  Easy, peasy....

Now the part that always gets me....icing a crumbly cake.  On Cake Boss, they make it look sooo routine.. just squeeze out perfect lines of icing all over the cake and smooth it down.  Yeah..okay...this ain't Cake Boss.  I gotta tell you... those crumbs were sticking to my icing like candy to a sugar-toothed Clepto ...  it was insane.  It took lots and lots of smoothing and maybe a few choice words under my breath before I finally got it smooth enough for my satisfaction.  AS SOON as I got it all level and pretty looking, my sweet little Isaac stuck his fingers in it.  It's a pity my windows were open...  the neighbors I have not yet had a chance to meet down the road, now know my voice.

So, after the icing was FINALLY on (oh, and I did find that putting a little water on the spatula helped in smoothing down the icing) I began mixing the color in the fondant.  Now, on Cake Boss, they have this nice little roller thing that presses the fondant out all nice and smooth and thin...  that's on Cake Boss...that's not in my kitchen. After I rolled the fondant out and was all excited to put it on the cake, I found that it was stuck to my bar.  Not cool...not at all.  I had to pull it off, put a little confectioner's sugar on, and try again.  I won't bore you by telling you how many times I did this during the course of the cake decorating process...  I finally got a piece on the main backpack portion and moved along to the top pocket.

I laid it out over the piece, cut off some of the excess, folded the rest underneath, and laid it on top of the other cake.  Whew...  on to the fun stuff...finally.  I love the detail part...  the additions that make it come alive.  I colored fondant for the face pieces and used an oval cookie cutter for the eyes and a circle shape for the pupils...  the rest was free hand with a knife.  I made a flap to come over the top of the backpack.  When I lifted the edge of the cake to put the flap under it {{{shiver}}} a piece of the fondant tore and the icing was coming through.  This particular area had come to my attention before.  It just didn't look good and it was driving me NUTS.  I tried to patch it.  I tried to spit on it...  just kidding.  Finally, I cut the strap for the back and managed to "finangle" it over the ugly area and make it look like I meant to do that...LOL.  I added a blue zipper on the side, letters for his name on top, and VOILA!  A Diego Rescue Pack Birthday Cake!!! (Just to give credit where it's due, my 11 year old son was the only one who could get the letter "A" out of the cutter...)

Okay...a confession for you...  I had purchased a number "3" candle for Isaac's cake.  I didn't want to stick it in the cake so I was just going to set it beside it and light it.  I sat it out:

And I thought, Oh my gosh!!!  They made the three BACKWARDS!!!  Why didn't I notice that when I bought it????  I took it off the board and was congratulating myself for the fact that I had some extra candles on hand for just such an emergency.  Later on, the kids were in the kitchen and I showed them the candle...."Look, y'all ..the 3 is backwards!"... and as I'm saying this, I flip the three around and OH MY GOSH!!!!  It's NOT backwards...  so, there I am the middle of an epiphany...  my kids are looking at me like I've completely lost my husband is looking at me with an incredulous look on his face and shaking his head...and I'm dying laughing...  it was an authentic moment for me... I truly thought they had made the three backwards and I just could NOT believe the kids and I bought it and didn't notice...

It's not backwards after all.....  :D

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Fleeting....

Today was Isaac's birthday.  I have to tell you that I nearly got all teary this morning thinking about quickly time passes.  How very little time and opportunity we have to show those we love that they matter.  Childhood seems so fleeting.  My oldest will be 12 in December...12...  I can still remember him singing to bluegrass songs and running in circles in the living room when he was 3, yet it nearly seems a lifetime ago.  I want to redeem the time I have with my children.  I want to show them that I love them and form bonds that will last a let them know that I accept them ...unconditionally...for who they are.  This is truly one of the main reasons I homeschool.  I am getting to watch them grow and learn and blossom into their own special little personalities.  It makes my heart smile.  They are what matters....they give my life song.....  :)

The Moments That Take Our Breath Away...

Love this song by George is ever so true...  Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away...  what do you think will matter when this life comes to an end?  Spend more time doing those....  <3

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Witness to a Miracle

Malachi found a caterpillar on a limb that looked like this:

(this picture was taken from the internet.  I didn't get one of ours....)

We put it in a jar, and he continued to feed it leaves from the tree where he found it.  One morning, I walked in and noticed it had attached itself to the side of the jar with silk.  I was so excited to show the kids...  I figured it meant it was ready to make a chrysalis.

About 24 hours later, we noticed it had formed a chrysalis.  I learned from reading that a chrysalis is actually a final molt.  They shed their skin and the chrysalis becomes the new skin.  It is all cuddled up and cozy and ready to begin its journey to a brand new creature.

About a week or two later ~ SURPRISE!!!!  This is what it became.  How gorgeous is this???  And the beauty of the whole thing is that the makings for this amazing display of wonder was contained inside a simple, seemingly unattractive worm... which makes me stop and pause.... isn't there a butterfly inside of us ALL.... waiting to spread it's wings and dazzle?? .... ♥

This is a picture of my miracle -Malachi- holding the miracle he witnessed....

He took the butterfly outside and placed it on the butterfly bush so its wings could continue to dry.  I thought it was so sweet to notice that he placed it beside a "friend" ...just in case it needed any pointers as it began its new life with wings.

I have to tell you that, I personally, was just fascinated by the entire thing.  We have had caterpillars that made cocoons and became moths, but never a chrysalis to a butterfly.  And to see him so fresh and new was absolutely beautiful.  We did a little internet research and found out that this particular butterfly is called a Red-spotted Purple....which is rather misnamed considering the spots are orange and the predominant color is blue.  Apparently, there is a purple color on the underneath of the forewing.
If you ever find a caterpillar or a butterfly you'd like to identify, the following site is extremely helpful in doing so. It contains a checklist and then provides you with various examples to choose from.

For caterpillars:
For butterflies:

Happy Discovering!

One budding entomologist begets another.....and another......and another....

I've mentioned before that my 11 year old is a budding entomologist. He became interested in insects when he was around 4 or 5, I think.  His interest has been fed with lots of reference books and any other information we can get our hands on.  A year or so ago, he wanted all bug collection paraphernalia for his birthday...which I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for... I so love educational gifts.  When buying most any science related items, I use Home Science Tools:   Their catalog is great...  mine usually ends up dog eared, tattered, and torn by the time the updated one arrives in the mail.  Anyway, so we bought him pins, a pining block, a spreading board, a killing jar, ethyl acetate, an insect net, and an Audubon Field Guide.  We also purchased a shadow box at Hobby Lobby.  (As a side note, the first box we bought was just the frame, glass, and backing.  We removed the backing and used a piece of foam board cut to fit to push the pins through.  It was cheaper and we figured it would work just as well.  In hindsight, it's not such a good idea...the pins push through the back so that if you pick up the box, your fingers get, you have to take the back off to add more insects.  Since then, we have only purchased boxes that the top comes off OR they are hinged ...allowing the top lid to open up... can't tell you how much easier it makes insect pining.)
At any rate, I don't recall ever being much of an insect person.  I've for sure never been fond of spiders...  okay, so that's putting it mildly...  truth is, they totally give me the creeps...totally.  It all started when I was in elementary school.  We had a wood stove...which = wood, which = wood spiders....which are really big, if you must know.  Well, one morning I was attempting to put my shoes on to go to school, and horror of horrors ~ a wood spider was coming OUT OF MY SHOE!!  It reached it's very long, very hairy legs out and placed two of them on my finger...  I saw my young life flash before my eyes...there it was...riding my bike, climbing trees, riding my bike, climbing trees, riding my...oh, I've already said that, haven't I?  Okay, so anyway, that's when my abhorrence began.  However, since Malachi's keen fascination with insects, I have become very aware of them all around me.  The many shapes, sizes, colors, variations....they are truly amazing.
I can no longer walk by a caterpillar without checking it out.  I can no longer hear a buzzing and merely swat at it.  My child has taught me an awareness and an appreciation for the insect world.  I can't tell you the time I've spent with him looking them up in books, on the internet, and even taking them to the local science center to see if someone there could verify what we thought a certain larvae was.  It's been bonding.  The process has made our entire family more aware.
There are numerous jars sitting on my breakfast table with a living thing in them.  :)  We have several with caterpillars, several with cocoons, a few chrysalises in a box, a jar with a snail, and one containing an ant farm.  In the spirit of a true entomologist, Malachi sits there and eats his breakfast...the rest of us decline to dine there currently.  :D
Here are a couple of pictures of his insect collections:

 Pretty cool, huh?  And there are very few, if any, that he cannot accurately identify.  :)

A Flock of Blackbirds

Yesterday provided me with one of the most amazing experiences....

I was sitting outside...  Well, dang..I must digress to more fully bring you to my moment of "sitting"....  I've had this weird sinus/allergy thing that comes and goes.  One moment, I feel relatively fine...the next moment, I give a resounding sneeze reminiscent of "the shot heard round the world" and then proceed into such a frenzied succession that it sounds like it's the full onslaught of Lexington and Concord.  Add in my itchy eyes, nose, and throat.... and my, now, achy ear, and yesterday, I was feeling quite under the weather.  (Although, as a side note, it was remarkably cooler yesterday than it has been)  *You really must refrain from distracting me....Now, where was I?  Oh yes, I was feeling slightly less-than-gungho-farmgirlish, so I was merely sitting.  Okay, so I was sitting till I noticed that one of the chicken water containers was, I got up.  And then I figured since I was up, I'd fill the other three chicken water containers.  Well, and if I've watered them, I might as well feed them, right?  And dang that the chickens are done for the day, why not feed and water the goats, too?  So, technically, I wasn't "just" sitting.  But, once I fed and watered, I decided to sit back down.  As I sat there, I began to notice that it sounded as though I had been thrown deep into the noisy depths of an aviary.  Most peculiar, I said to myself.  As I began to focus on the woods down below the garden, I noted the presence of many birds.  Not one to sit around for long periods of time when there is something to be investigated, I quickly took off for the woods.  It was amazing.  There was this huge flock of blackbirds...  I stood still and eventually they must have forgotten I was there.  They were flying waist high about 15 ft in front of me... flying and landing in the topmost branches high above my head.... coming to perch on the limbs around the creek...  it felt as though I got to experience a part of nature for just a moment that is usually closed to mankind.  I can't tell you the exact feeling I had on the inside, but it was something akin to perfect awe and wonder...  and peace.  There I was, rooted in "my" spot, the sun filtering down through the leaves, the breeze light on my face, gently rustling the leaves of the forest... the birds flying around me... above me, to the side of me, in front of me...  I could hear their chirping and tweeting, the flapping and swishing of their wings....  and it was as though I was in this magical place.  I wanted to drink it in...  to store the sights and sounds in my mind and heart to be pulled forth over and over again, as in Wordsworth's Daffodils (which you can read on my previous post here: .

I thoroughly enjoyed it until I looked over at the tree I was leaning against and saw the MOST amazing caterpillar.  I had to take it and share it with the time I had located Malachi, showed him the caterpillar, and walked back outside, the magic was gone.  I did feel a momentary pang of wistful regret, but knowing I had the moment and had committed it to memory overshadowed any adverse feelings.  It was a step into a magical moment and I had been lucky enough to add it to my journey.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Perfect Moment

Do you ever have one of those *perfect* moments?   ....I'm having one....  right now.  It's hard to believe, but I am sitting in my the quiet.  The curtain of evening is falling, the nocturnal insects are warming up for tonight's symphony....  the fireflies are putting on a little light show...  the temperature is getting to the "just before shiver" stage.  (okay, so I shiver sooner than most people....I'm a warm weather girl)  But, it is absolutely perfect.  The sky is a ...hmmm...what color can I call it.... a deep Carolina blue...  all the surrounding pine trees are now just silhouettes...  It's amazing how much more quickly darkness falls once autumn arrives.  I have yet to see the moon...  it's slow in making it's way over the top of the trees...  but I'm patient.... some things are worth waiting for.
Don't you just love moments that you can *be* in?  Moments where you can put away your cares, stresses, worries, anxieties...  Moments in which there is no need to be "on"...  I am loving this's a treasure.