Friday, January 27, 2012

PB, Pine Cones, and Birdseed

 A couple of weekends ago, when we were all still recovering from being sick all week, we spent a long weekend at home together. Normally this isn't an issue, but it had been COLD out so we couldn't play outside and we had already spent so much time in our home while being sick that everyone was a bit stir crazy!  I tried to come up with all sorts of ideas to keep Mia entertained. We played with just about every toy she owns (which is a LOT). We watched movies. We put up a tent and tunnel in our basement (she enjoyed that for about 5 minutes and then it was old news). We played with stickers and colored. We played with play-doh. We baked. We made I SPY jars out of old baby food jars, cous-cous, and random tiny objects we collected around the house (note: she enjoyed collecting the odd bits and ends more than actually playing with the jars, so evidently we need to just do some scavenging when we're bored). Finally, as a final straw, and since Sunday was actually much nicer outside, we made pine cone bird feeders. Luckily, last fall Mia and I collected a bunch of pine cones from the trees in our backyard and had put them into a container in the garage for safe keeping, so I could just hop outside and grab those instead of having to dig around in the backyard for some. So, we smothered them with peanut butter and dipped them into bird seed. We added a piece of yarn to tie them to the tree and viola! Pine cone bird feeders. Mia enjoyed eating the PB right out of the jar (or off of a pine cone), which was weird since she doesn't normally seem to like PB all that much (she's a nutella fan, though!). She also really enjoyed the mess of smearing PB and bird seed all over everything! Plus, she finally got to leave the house long enough to "help" hang the bird feeders in the front tree.  Turns out, the birds probably never even got to them as the squirrels hijacked them (pine cone and all) within a few days. Now we just have bright yellow yarn hanging from the tree.

 Mom said "Don't touch anything!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sittin' in Style

Just wanted to share our new chairs with you! (Note: this post is mostly for my MIL, since I'm sure she's anxious to see pictures of the new dining room chairs that they got us for Christmas.)  To go with our "new" refinished dining room table, we got 4 new dining room chairs from Pier One. I think the curves of the chairs pair nicely with the pedestal and curved feet of the table, and the gold works beautifully in our dining room. The gold damask backs are my favorite part - a little something fancy without overwhelming the design of the whole chair!
 Meanwhile, I finally moved my grandparents' vintage swivel club chairs up to our house! I had requested these chairs when my grandma was selling the house and downsizing to a condo because they were one piece of furniture that made me instantly remember so many wonderful days and nights spent with my grandparents.  At the time, I didn't have a spot for them, but when we re-painted our living room taupe I realized they could take the place of 2 cream-colored IKEA chairs that we had. I think they're a nice, grown-up addition to the room, and I love having that constant reminder of my grandparents in my home.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I hit the big 3-0 a couple of weeks ago, and decided to throw myself a big 'ol birthday bash to celebrate! I had multiple demands:

1) I wanted an excuse to buy a ridiculous cocktail dress which I may never wear again,
2) I wanted to ride around in a limo with some of my closest friends,
3) I wanted supper, drinks, and dessert at Chino Latinos, one of my favorite spots in Minneapolis, and
4) I wanted to party like a college kid at our old haunt, Gasthof's (a German polka bar!).

Thanks to some planning and coordinating on my hubby's part, some stellar babysitters, and a couple of much-needed shopping outings, we were able to pull it all off!

1) I found a dress - a champagne/gold short, off-the-shoulder, ruffled Calvin Klein dress that I would never normally wear - so it fit the bill perfectly!  I also found some super high, super sparkly heels to go with it.
2) We rented a limo from one of my brother's friends, which was far cheaper than any of the other options in the cities. Unfortunately, this also meant that we were riding around in an OLD limo, complete with a cassette player and someone's glass of whiskey left in a hidden compartment.  And we squeezed 7 people into a back that fits 6.  But we brought a few bottles of sparkling wine, real champagne flutes, and enjoyed our ride to Chinos.  At Chinos, I was informed that my brother had snuck into the limo and left me with a "dirty 30," which I soon found out meant a 30 pack of nasty beer - in this case, Hamm's.  Luckily, he also left us with a nice bottle of sparkling wine, so after our photo op with the Hamm's we moved back to champagne!  We were fortunate we had the extra booze because the limo overheated on our trip home, so we cracked open our 4th and final bottle of sparkling wine as we were stuck in a parking lot somewhere in Columbia Heights for a bit (until the driver gave up and called us a couple of taxis to get us home).

3) Although there were 7 of us in the limo, we had a group of 15 at Chinos for supper!  Great company, great food, great cocktails, great dessert (complete with sparklers!), oh, and "Happy 30th Mandy!" on the menus!

 4) Gasthof's.  What can I say?  I had to ditch the super high heels in exchange for flip-flops in order to really polka, we went through many boots of cider (without breaking a one!), we saw the Kaiser (but alas, not the little old man I used to polka with in college), Maria did her part to dance with another older gentleman, E-train joined us here, and we were out of there by 12am (as soon as the music changed from polka to club music).  Not much has changed - the crowd is a bit different, and they've had to amp up security, but it was a great end to a great evening!


 After our limo overheating, and then taxing home, we put the drunker ones to bed and the rest of us hung out for awhile in the basement recapping the night's events for our babysitters.  Unfortunately, on our way home, we found out that miss Mia had gotten sick two times since we left, but our babysitters were AWESOME and took care of things.  The next day after Dan and Kendra made us breakfast and took off, David, Mia, and I spent most of the day lounging on the couch, napping and watching movies. The following week we dealt with Mia being sick and having to stay home with her off and on (she went from having a stomach bug straight into having mild bronchitis!).  David picked up some of the stomach bug Sunday evening, so all three of us ended up home together on my actual birthday, Monday.  Luckily they were both doing much better, and we were even able to get out of the house and hit the Blue Door Pub for lunch together!  She went to day care Tuesday and Wednesday, only to end up coughing so bad Wednesday night that she made herself throw up, and so, she and I stayed home together Thursday.  I then got the stomach bug Thursday afternoon, and David got the cold, and we all ended home together on Friday.  Whew!  Thus, no blogging.  After trying to play catch up all week this week, I think I'm starting to feel normal again (although I think I now have a sinus infection- bah!), and thankfully Mia is all better.

Oh, and for those mommys interested - at her 2 yr checkup last week she was 26 lbs and 35" tall.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


No time for an actual post, but just wanted to pass along this blog post that I read last week and loved!  It's from one of my favorite blogs to follow, Life in Grace - she is amazing and inspiring, and I can completely relate to her love of January!  Speaking of birthdays....I have some stories and photos to share from my big 30th birthday bash, but I'll have to share them another time as I'm currently prepping for a big first day of "work" with my 2 new undergrad students!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Birthday Cake

When I decided to throw a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse-themed birthday party for Mia, I really wanted to figure out a way to make a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cake. For those of you that don't have a toddler, here's a shot of the club house.

Originally, I was going to try to make the cake in the shape of the clubhouse, so I purchased a dome-shaped soccer ball cake pan (bottom), another, smaller full ball cake pan (head), and some cookie pop pans (for the ears). Then, three days before the party I panicked and decided that more than likely wasn't going to work. Luckily, I found this post on another Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cake in which she made the clubhouse topper from modeling clay. After a quick trip to Michael's and quite a few bags of Crayola Model Magic (super soft, easy to work with, and most importantly, light enough to set on top of a cake!), I was set to spend an entire evening making a model of the clubhouse. Two gin and tonics, and one and a half movies later, I had a model!

This made the cake part much easier - I could just make a sheet cake and set the model on top. Since I had seen these fun rainbow cakes before, I decided that I would give it a try. I purchased 2 white cake mixes, prepared them, and divided the batter into 6 equal portions, which I dyed with food coloring gel (it took quite a bit of gel to get the intense colors!).

I used a jelly roll pan for the cake (in order to fit the model on top), so I wasn't sure how to get the full rainbow effect in such a shallow pan. I started dumping the colors in globs across the pan, and then basically made piles of rainbow stacks in each one.
 I had serious reservations that any of this would actually work, but ta-da!  It did! Here's what the bottom of the cake looked like after I flipped it out of the pan!
For the frosting, I used a recipe from my friend, Sara (1 c. butter, 3 c. powdered sugar, a little whole milk, and then I added vanilla and green gel dye). It was so good!

The final product? Rainbow cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and a fabulous Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to top (Mickey's head is actually Styrofoam balls that I spray painted black and stuck together with toothpicks! I found the Mickey figurines on Amazon and they were the perfect size!).

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Amelia turned 2!

I can't believe my baby girl is 2 years old! I couldn't be more proud to be her mama! The last two years have flown by - time seems to literally accelerate when you have a child. As her birthday was on a Monday, we held her big birthday shin-dig on Sunday, which also happened to be New Year's Day. Even with some snow and ice, most of our party was able to make it. Mia was so excited about the party - she watched us clean and decorate the house (and bake her cake) the two days prior and every time we mentioned her birthday she'd yell "Yay!" The morning of the party David explained to her that everyone was coming just to see her, and she put her hands up to her chin and exclaimed "Oh my!" (She's a bit of a ham, if you haven't noticed.) She was especially excited to have both Nanas and Papas come to see her!

As I mentioned before, we did a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse themed party (invites here). The cake was the pi`ece de resistance (insert appropriate French accent here)! It deserves it's own blog post, so I'll work on that later. For now, here's a photo of the finished product. It was pretty fantastic, and best of all Mia LOVED it. We had to constantly supervise her around it once it was assembled.

The party was fun - we ate lots of pizza and snacks, then some cake and homemade ice cream (made by Mia's great-grandpa Leonard!), watched some football, drank some Bloody Marys and beer (or chocolate milk and apple juice for the kiddos), and enjoyed the day with family and friends. The next morning, on her actual birthday, she opened up a few more gifts from us and Nana and Papa EIO, since they had stuck around for the night. Then David and I dragged her to IKEA to look at kitchen cabinets, which obviously is what you should do 1) on a pseudo-holiday when it's incredibly busy and 2) when it's your child's birthday.  I don't think we'll get away with that next year! When we got back we were able to enjoy some down time to watch the Rose Bowl and play with Mia and all of her new toys - we even took time to convert her crib to a toddler bed with safety rails.  This, coupled with a fire call for David, made for a pretty bad night of sleep as Mia got up once at 11:30pm and then again from 3:30-5am (continually getting out of bed, me putting her back in bed, then her getting back out again...).  Whew!  It's going to be an interesting week of sleep!
 Opening up gifts with her cousins' help! Gavin wasn't really sure what to think of all of the commotion!


 Tommy approved of the cake and ice cream, too!

Every day this kid learns or does something new - it's amazing to watch. She's getting to be so self-sufficient, it's terrifying and exhilarating at the same time! She charms everyone when we're out and about - she's not a shy kid in the slightest. Her vocabulary is rapidly increasing, and we're reading longer and longer books all of the time (thank goodness- we needed some new options!). When she goes to kiss someone lately, she makes fish-lips - it's pretty cute! She loves her new play kitchen - she makes pizza and bakes cookies, microwaves cocoa, and just enjoys moving various foods around all of the cupboards and compartments. She loves following the kitty around and trying to get him to play with her (which rarely happens).  Piglet is still her lovey, and he's getting more worn by the day (even though there are 2 of them in commission - we may have to try to switch out one of the new ones and see what she does - she already knows when I switch between the 2 because the "new" one is clean and doesn't smell the same!).  All in all, it's been a pretty amazing year - I can't wait to see the changes throughout the next one!  We love you miss Mia!