Logan’s 6th and Scarlett’s 3rd Birthday

(January 15, 2014: I feel so bad that this post never went up when it was supposed to. I was waiting for hubby to take the photos from his phone and put them on the computer. Can you believe he hasn’t done it yet? I need to pester him hard for it this week. I will add photos to this post once they are available but for now, here is the post so you can read it.)

Originally written November 21, 2013. Photos added February 11, 2014. See, even getting those took a long time.

 

You know you needed a break from blogging when you don’t even care that you missed important milestones, like birthdays. But better late than never, right?

Logan had his sixth birthday on the 11th and Scarlett had her third birthday on the 13th. With their birthday’s being right on top of each other, sometimes it feels rather overwhelming to make each one special and not lumped together. This year we kept them separate and simple.

Logan wanted a cow cake. By now you should know how he feels about farm animals. He’s twice had a farm cake, and once had a drawn cow cake, but this time I went with a sculpted cake.

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SAMSUNG

We invited some friends and went to our favorite park which is only a 5 minute drive from the house. Since his real birthday was on a Monday, we chose to celebrate the day before, on Sunday, so that daddy could be there. The park was crowded, as is typical for a weekend, but we settled ourselves in the small amphitheater so as to have a place to sit and place the cake. (Picnic tables are not available here.)

My kids love running up and down the rows of seats and on the small stage of the amphitheater, so it was the perfect place for them to play. They ran with daddy and played games until they couldn’t any more.

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Then it was time to cut the cake. I made sure to only cut the outside parts of the cow shape and I left the middle round cake intact. Why? Because I came up with the brilliant idea of removing the frosting and reusing it for the butterfly cake Scarlett had requested. Glad thought it was a sane idea that would prevent us from having loads of cake to eat later. So I did.

Glad decided to stay home the evening of Scarlett’s birthday (he still works most evenings, but can cancel the classes if needed). I cut and frosted that cake that had once been a cow’s body and turned it into a butterfly. Not my best decorating attempt, but she was happy, so I didn’t go for perfect.

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SAMSUNG

She picked out and ate all the chocolate gems before I could get a good pic. You can see the dents they left.

Logan, as usual, had requested more animals for his gift. I told him maybe, then bought him a book instead. ūüôā I want him to get used to the idea that there is more to the world of animals than small plastic toys, so I picked out an abridged version of “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle”. We have been reading it a chapter at a time before bed, and he and Lila are enjoying it.

He also picked out a farm puzzle for himself, and our friends got him a scooter, plus a small bag of … you guessed it – plastic animals. He was delighted.

Scarlett is easier to please. Her only request was a pink butterfly cake and gifts were up to me. She picked out a tiny cheetah stuffed toy, which we named Itsy Bitsy, and I got her an ABC puzzle set as well. On the weekend we took them to the same Bunny Bounce Funland play place that we went to for Lila’s birthday and they enjoyed it.

Understandably Lila feels a little left out at this time of year, since her birthday is six months away, so she tries to get in on the act by making her cake and gift requests now. This year she told me that she wished her birthday was here already, and she also asked if it could be moved to Christmas. She has a cousin who’s birthday is on Christmas Day and she thought it would be great if her’s were there too.

Fortunately for her, Christmas is just around the corner and she will have forgotten the birthday feeling-left-out-edness (ok, I know it’s not a word) in favor of getting to spend Christmas at Nana Mable’s house and visit with some cousins she has never met.

Christmas is shaping up to be exciting this year.

Lila’s Fourth Birthday

Another year has gone by and my baby is now 4. This past year, I think the best word to describe her is stinker. Yes, she has always been trouble incarnate, but this year especially so.  The terrible twos are nothing compared to the terrible threes!

So this year she chose butterflies for her birthday theme. She wanted a butterfly cake and butterfly gifts. That gave me a rather broad spectrum to work with, but I managed to get some things that she loved.

The day before her birthday, we took these butterfly cupcakes to her school so she could share them with her classmates in the summer camp.

The body is chocolate gems, the wings are mini-cookies, and the antennae are fruit rolls cut into tiny strips.

The body is chocolate gems, the wings are mini-cookies, and the antennae are fruit rolls cut into tiny strips.

Then on her birthday, I made this butterfly cake. I used my carrot cake recipe, swapping half the carrots for zucchini, and using cheese in the frosting instead of it all being icing sugar. It tasted quite nice, but I want to experiment with it and find a way to eliminate the icing sugar and make it with honey instead.

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In the afternoon we went to a fun play place, Bunny Bounce Funland. They had an inflatable bouncy house with a slide, a play area with a ball pit, trampoline, small swing and various other jungle gym toys. There were also a few arcade games and mini basketball/bowling games, air hockey, etc. that you could get tickets from to cash in for various items.

The kids had a load of fun, and Glad passed the time playing some arcade game. We had planned on staying 1/2 an hour, but ended up staying 1 1/2 hours. None of them wanted to leave even though it was past their dinner time.

At home we cut the cake and they decided that on birthdays, dinner should just be cake. ūüôā All the more reason for me to make it healthy.

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Then came the gifts. Lila had already gotten some before – a bubble blower set from daddy and an outing with me to a shop she had repeatedly requested to go in. It was one of those small costume jewelry/makeup/hair stuff¬†places. She picked out a large pink hair clip, a set of clips and elastic’s with strawberries on them, and pink nail polish. In her words, “I have to have nail polish, Mommy, because I’m big now.” Ha.

The ones she opened were a Winnie the Pooh puzzle set, matching earrings and necklace set, faux gold butterfly earrings, a shirt with butterflies on it, and a mini purse that contained “makeup”: some chapstick and sparkly pink pressed powder.

She has wanted to play with makeup for some time, and once climbed way up to the high shelf in the bathroom where I keep my makeup (to keep her out of it) and took my bag down. When I found her, she had eye-shadow all over and black waterproof mascara on her face, lips, and legs. What a cleanup job! So I figured it was best to get her something she could safely play with.

She had a fun day overall. She is already talking about what she wants to do on her 5th birthday. Slow down, girl, and enjoy being four.

Moist Carrot Cake

Here is a new recipe for you, adapted from one I found I know not where. The original called for a full cup of oil and 2 cups of sugar, and while is was good, it was also oily and too sweet. I wanted something healthier since in our house we are striving to eat as clean and healthy as possible, so I experimented and changed the recipe around a bit. I reduced the sugar to one cup, and the oil to 1/3 of a cup. The remaining liquid comes from yogurt. I also use brown sugar (when I can get it) and whole wheat flour.

Because it is so healthy, I often serve it for breakfast or lunch once a week. It goes great with coffee, or served with yogurt and fresh fruit. My kids love it like that.

I’ve learned from cooking shows that one of the secrets to light moist cakes is to not over-beat the eggs or the batter, to sift the flour to add air, and to gently stir in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Try this and you will find your cakes will be lighter. This particular one comes out very light and airy when these tips are followed.

So here is the recipe.

Just out of the oven.

Just out of the oven.

Begin by finely grating 3 cups of carrots. Do a little extra so you can pack the cups, about 4 medium-sized carrots. Set aside.

Then mix together:

4 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup plain yogurt

1 cup brown sugar

Mix together (don’t beat) until all ingredients are just combined. Add the carrots and stir.

(Optional: You could substitute half the carrots for grated zucchini. Raisins make a nice addition too.)

Next, sift together on top of the wet ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix gently with the wet ingredients until the flour is just mixed.

Pour into a pre-greased and floured 8×8″ pan and bake in a 350F oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

This recipe also makes great muffins. Just reduce the baking time to about 10 – 15 minutes.

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Yummy! Especially with my morning coffee.

 

This post is being linked with Spatulas on Parade‘s Foodie Friends Friday linkup.

SpatulasOnParade

My Perfect Fruitcake Recipe

I’ve spent years trying to find the perfect fruitcake recipe. I’m particular about fruitcake. I like it moist, with lots of fruit but no nuts, and no odd ingredients that are hard to find. So after reading and researching hundreds of recipes, the solution was to put my own together.

Here you will find my personal fruitcake recipe – tried, tested and delicious. I followed the fruitcake tips found at this link¬†and they came out better than any recipe I have tried before. I only have a small oven so I worked with 7″ x 2 1/4″ square and 7″ x 2″ round pans. This recipe is enough for two pans that size or you could use a larger one. Check this site for approximate pan size conversions.

Perfect Fruitcake

Ingredients:

4 cups dried fruits – I used 3 kinds of rasins, apricots, candied cherries, candied fruit peel, tuttie fruttie, and dried amla (gooseberry). You can use any dried fruits that you like or have available. If you enjoy nuts in your cake, substitute part of the fruit for chopped nuts. Walnuts and almonds are good options. (Tip: make sure your rasins are seedless before you put them in. I didn’t and only discovered the seeds after all my cakes were baked.)
Rum – enough to cover the fruits (you could use brandy instead, either one is ok)

2 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat but you could use cake flour if you want)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each of cloves, nutmeg and ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup cooking butter, softened
4 eggs
orange juice or rum

Steps:

1) Begin by presoaking your chosen fruits. Place in a bowl or pot that has some expanding space, since the fruit will swell as it soaks up the rum. Add enough rum to cover the fruit, then cover with a lid and allow to sit. The site I mentioned above suggests soaking them a minimum of 3 days. I did them for a week.

2) When you are ready to bake your cake, drain the liquid off the fruit and set aside to use in the recipe. It will be syrupy.

3) Place a cake pan in the bottom of your oven, then fill with water. This will help to keep the cake moist while baking. (If you are doing more than one cake, check after each one to see if more water should be added.)

4) Line your pan with wax paper or foil. To help it stick, lightly grease the pan with a little cooking oil. Then put the paper in, pressing into the corners and sides so it can fill properly. With the foil, you will have to press it down slowly so that it doesn’t rip. Set aside.

5) Preheat your oven to 300 deg.F. (If you read the link above, you will see they said to cook them at 325 or less. Mine took 1hr. and 15 min. to cook at 300 in the pan size I mentioned. Larger pans will take longer, as will cooking at a lower temperature. Lower it if you have the time.)

3) Toss the fruits with 3/4 cup of the flour in order to cover them well. This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Set aside.

4) Mix the remaining flour and all the rest of the dry ingredients together in one bowl.

5) In another large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar, then the eggs. Measure the liquid that you drained off the fruit and add to it as much juice or rum as you need to make a cup.

6) Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, a small amount at a time ’till it is all mixed.

7) Add the fruit to the batter until just mixed. Spoon into the prepared pan, making sure to not fill it more than 3/4 of the way. If it is overfilled, it will rise too much, take longer to cook, and not look as nice.

8) Cover the pan with some foil to keep it from overbrowning. What I did, since I have such a tiny oven, was I covered the cake for the first hour, then I took it off for the last 15 minutes and the color on top was perfect.

The top pan is the cake, the bottom one the water.
9) Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or knife into the center. It should be moist but not raw. Place on wire rack to cool. Once cool, remove the foil.

10 ) Fruitcakes taste best when they are aged. To age, tear a large piece of foil, then place a cloth on it. You are going to wrap the cake with it so make sure it is clean and one that you don’t mind getting this kind of use. Cheesecloth is best but you can also use tea towels or cotton diapers (clean ones, of course).
Set the cake in the middle and pour rum all over it. The cloth should soak some up, then wrap it well, first with the cloth, then the foil. Store in a cool, dry place.
A minimum of 4 weeks is recommended for proper aging, so you will need to resoak the cloth in rum each week. After that time, your cakes can be frozen until you want to use them. This way, you can make them early in the year and then store them until Christmas (if you are someone who plans way in advance and doesn’t wait until so late like me. : ) )

You can eat these cakes straight out of the oven, but they taste better with some aging. If you haven’t done so yet, go and read this list of tips so that your fruitcakes can come out perfect too.

Happy Baking!

Note: If you try this recipe and you like it, feel free to share it but be sure to link back to this post. Tks.

This post has been shared with the linky party over at Spatulas on Parade and Merry, Merry Munchies at Dining with Debbie. Check them out.

Dining With Debbie

A Little of This and That

So today is a day to go slow, take it easy, relax. We slept late, ate at odd times, avoided all manner of normalicy. Ha. (Is that a word?) Here are a few pictures.

I found Lila under our desk this morning, chewing on Logan’s bottle. He doesn’t like it when she gets it so maybe that is why she is hiding.

Logan and daddy played cricket while daddy was watching India play South Africa. Glad says Logan will be a good bowler one day and that he can already throw like a pro. Check it out.









A tired boy eats his lunch. That is daddy’s cake on his face.

And here is the cake I made for my husband for valentines. We don’t celebrate valentines with anything big. Actually, I think this is the first time we have done anything, and by that I mean he gave me roses and I made him his favorite chocolate cake. It isn’t a big deal to us.



This cake is by far the best recipe I have ever found for a chocolate cake. It is moist and soft and delicious – the only one I ever make now. If you want the recipe you can find it at Simply Recipes. This recipe makes enough for a three-layer chocolate cake, but I only wanted a small one (it is very rich) so I made a third of the recipe. If you love moist cake, this is the one to make.

A few tips:

– Because it is so moist, you have to bake it in small pans. Don’t do like I did one time and make it in a super large one as it will fall apart when you take it out.

– When making the frosting, I found that you can cut the butter down to one third of what it calls for and it still comes out good.

You probably noticed the strawberries on mine. What I did was, after the cake was cool, I cut it in half, frosted the bottom and layered it with cut strawberries, then I put the top half on and frosted that well and decorated it with a few large strawberries cut in half. Mmmmm.

It was good, so don’t delay, make it today. Your taste buds will thank you.

Our Visit to the Zoo and More

First we have pics from Glad’s birthday. For all of you who wanted to see that cake you heard so much about, here it is.

Family pic. These kind are the worst. I wasn’t prepared to look nice, was hot and sweaty, and I look fat. Just being honest here. I don’t like how I look in this pic at all but have to show it so you can see all of us there. Glad is wearing his new shirt.

Playtime afterwards, once the chocolate and wine had a chance to kick in. Ha. (Disclaimer: Logan doesn’t usually run around looking like that!)
Ok, well, we finally did it. We went to the zoo! I’ve been pestering Glad to take us for several months now, but he was too busy, working every day. He said that when his current job ended he would take us. So last Thursday we went. I kept telling Logan we were going to see animals in the zoo, but I don’t think he was prepared to see so many. He was in heaven. If you look at his legs you can see he was doing a little dance because he was so excited.


The giant pelican. I’ve never seen one this big. It doesn’t look big here, but seeing it up close it was massive.


Happy boy. That is a sambar deer in the background.


This emu wouldn’t take his eyes off of us.


The elegant peacock.


Lila slept most of the time there. Here she had just woken up.


Checking out the lovebirds.


Ducks. Logan was getting tired by this time. I had changed his pants cause he peed, and daddy would only carry him if he took his shoes off. Logan didn’t mind.


This funny looking bird is called a cassowary.


Mommy and Logan.


Daddy and Lila.


Checking out the deer.


The Indian gharial, found only in rivers in northern India.


Happy girl.


Some deer were wandering around the parking lot. They were very tame and wanted to be fed.



He was very tired and cranky by now.


He finally fell asleep on the way home after eating a snack.


But she didn’t.


This zoo is actually part of a national park that is located in the middle of Chennai. It has a large deer sanctuary and they roam everywhere. It is also the cheapest zoo I’ve ever gone to – 5 rupees per adult, kids under 10 get in free. You pay another 10 rupees to bring your camera in and away you go. (You get roughly 48 rupees for 1 US dollar, so you are only paying a few cents to get in.) Of course this is only a small zoo – they didn’t have any large animals like tigers or elephants. For those you have to go to the larger zoo that is outside the city, and we will, someday soon.

It’s been a while since I posted anything about the kids and their progress. Hmm…let’s see. Something cute Logan does is, when he wants something, he will say “uh hu, uh hu?” In other words, “Yes? Can I?” He usually says this when he wants to watch a video. The other day he wanted to make sure I said yes, so he did this.

Says “uh hu, uh hu?”
Claps his hands (for please), then pats his chest (for me).

It was too cute, so of course I said yes. I mean, how can you pass up such a cute request. He had the smiles to go with it too. He isn’t talking yet, but knows how to make himself understood with lots of gestures and the ever present “uh hu”.

For a while now Glad has been trying to teach him to say “meow” (don’t ask me why). Logan can’t get it and will instead say “aum”. Now he thinks it’s a game and says “aum” every time daddy asks him to say “meow”.

My Birthday – by Logan

I thought that for my birthday I would take you through my life in this past year. So let’s get started.

Here I am in the hospital. Is that really me?? I was so scrawny. Even the newborn diapers didn’t fit me properly.

But by the time I was 2 months old I had filled out nicely.

Look at that. I could hold my toy at 3 months.

At 4 months I went on my first vacation. I look like such a beach bum, don’t I?

I got my walker at 5 months and started using it, though I couldn’t touch the floor at that time.

By 6 months I was stealing the girls hearts away. Can’t you see why?

By 7 months I learned that play with daddy can be fun.

By 8 months I could sit in the bath and splash on my own. I loved it.

At 9 months I tried to drive a car. Don’t believe me? Check out the photo below. Mommy caught me heading out by myself. She said I am not allowed to drive until I am tall enough to reach the pedals and I have my license. I hope that will be soon.

At 10 months I took my first train ride with mommy and daddy from Mangalore to Chennai, a 16 hour trip.

At 11 months I could kneel on my own. And I had finally gotten this crawling business down. It’s harder than it looks.

And here I am at 12 months. I’ve got my own bed, can hold my own bottle, and I love this cozy corner.

And I suppose you are wondering what I did for my birthday? Well, mommy organized a small party for some of my friends and she made me a cake. The party theme was “Down on the Farm”. I looked like a farmer in my overalls and we played animal games like pin the tail on the donkey, matching mommy and baby animals, horse races (daddy had to be a horse), and we colored animal pictures.

Here is my yummy cake. It was a carrot cake with chocolate icing and lots of decorations.

Mommy also made me a cake with one candle.

Daddy helped me blow the candle out.

All my friends at the party.

It’s been a long year and I have grown up and learned a lot. ¬†Love you all. –¬†Logan

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