A Tinkerbell Birthday


I recently posted about how Rory could hardly handle the anticipation of her impending third birthday. What we didn’t tell her was that her birthday party was happening about 2 1/2 weeks before her birthday.

IMG_5262She decided quickly that the only kind of party she wanted was a Tinkerbell party.  Last year’s party was a loud, busy, and crazy book swap party which was a blast.  This year, I wanted to have a smaller party for two reasons: First, Faith and Favor do much better in calmer, more controlled environments and second, I wanted to put a lot more detail and thought into this year’s party so I knew it would be easier with fewer kids.  We ended up going with a cousins only party.  It was still plenty crowded and lots of fun!

When Rory decided on Tinkerbell, the first thing we did was put the invitation together.  Jonathan wrote a great limerick (another one of his superpowers that nobody knows about) and I designed the card using my Silhouette software (best Christmas present ever!!!).

IMG_3484All of the guests were given fairy costumes when they arrived.

IMG_5335 IMG_5326

The birthday girl, of course, was given an extra special fairy dress.

I sewed circle skirts for the girls following this tutorial, and I made a fairy “cloak” for our lone gentleman guest.  I made the wings from kids’ wire hangers and white tulle.

IMG_5250

IMG_5277

IMG_5352 IMG_5271

IMG_5253

IMG_5284IMG_5256IMG_5341 IMG_5365I made Rory’s dress pattern from tracing a tank top…and just kind of guessed along the way.  The scariest part was that I surprised her with the dress, so I couldn’t try it on her as I went.  Thankfully, it fit just as I had hoped.

IMG_5264

IMG_5255

The day was full of fairy activities.  We made fairy wands and fairy houses.  The houses were definitely a hit and took a lot more time than I anticipated.  I was amazed that all of the kids were really into it.

IMG_5323

IMG_5381 IMG_5370

I initially planned to make a fairy house as an example for the kids.  I never got around to it, and I am SO GLAD I didn’t do it.  The creativity that comes out of kids is outstanding and I would have squelched it with my realistic and organized fairy house.

IMG_5423 IMG_5431

And then the food.  I love themed party food!!!!!

IMG_5332

The “cookie cake”was a hit. It was definitely a time intensive process, but totally worth it.  I made vanilla French macaroons with a chocolate ganache filling.

IMG_5308 IMG_5305

We also made “toadstool mushrooms” (marshmallows dipped in colored white chocolate), Jonathan carved Rory’s name in a watermelon (yet another superpower), and no fairy party is complete without ants on a log.

IMG_5311 IMG_5317

We sang happy birthday, Rory was thrilled, the kids were entertained for the entire party, and nobody cried (that I can recall).  It was a birthday miracle.

IMG_5441

IMG_5450
IMG_5462

Happy 3rd Birthday little Rory!

Meal Times

We take our meals pretty seriously around here.

When we first met the twins they were eating one, maybe two meals a day.  Because of this, when we first started feeding them, they would eat two or three times the amount of food I would.  And they would eat anything.  (We actually took video of the first meal they ate with us, but I’m not going to post it, because it’ll probably make you cry seeing how fast they ate and how ravenous they were.)

Their first few days with us, they literallly had food with them all the time.

Since they’ve gotten used to having food around, some of their food anxiety has gone away.  They’re still hungry a lot, but don’t get anxious when food is in sight any longer.

Adoptive parents are probably the only people in the world who celebrate when their kids become picky, because it means they’re finally full.  We make lots of “meal deals” at our home: eat your carrots, and you can have more bread.  Finish your corn and you can have more rice.  And then sometimes Faith tries to make deals with us too: eat my rice and then more bread.  Eat my sandwich, and then cake.  Favor can eat my beans and I’ll have more tortillas.  Sorry little one, it doesn’t work that way.

Rory also takes her food very seriously.  The fastest way to get her to melt down is to run out of the food she was happily eating.  She happily crams as much food as possible into her mouth when she’s eating.  Obviously.

I wonder where she gets that face from…

For Plum’s Sake

We spent a lot of time harvesting plums from our tree on Memorial Day.


 Jonathan loves to climb in the tree and shake the plums out.

We were so confused when one of our plums came off the tree with a stamp on it.  Then, when I took off Rory’s shoes, I saw the exact same mark. 

Watching plums fall.

  The girls then gather all the plums that fall and pick out the good ones to keep and throw the yucky ones in the bushes.  Faith is usually pretty good at figuring out which ones are keepers and which ones are tossers, but I can’t say the same for Favor and Rory.

Faith is trying to show Rory how to choose good plums.

Rory has been potty training, so lots of her time was spent doing this.

 By the end of the weekend, we ended up with about 6 gallons of plums.  We gave most of them away to our neighbors, but made sure to save some for plum crisp and plum jam.

My New Favorite

It all started with my neighbors telling me that the weeds were about to pull up were actually mint.

What can you do with mint?  Lots of things, but the first place my mind went was…

You got it: Mojitos. 

What I really wanted to do was to make a Strawberry Mojito, so I headed to Super Fresh Foods, our neighborhood grocery store for some strawberries.  Believe it or not, there were actually no super fresh foods at Super Fresh Foods, so I was outta luck and settled for a traditional Mojito instead. 

Though there are about 11, 374 recipes for mojitos on the internet, here is mine:

1. Pick and wash 8-10 mint leaves.
2.  Using a spoon, smash the mint in a glass with 1/4 of a lime.  The key is to lots of smooshing without actually breaking the mint up into pieces because then you accidentally drink it.
3.  Add about 3T of simple syrup (simple syrup=boil 1 part water and 1 part sugar).
4.  Add a bunch of ice.
5.  Add about 2oz of rum.  (I buy the cheap stuff.  And, we actually have a scale so I don’t know how much 2oz measures out to.)
6.  Fill the rest of the glass up with tonic water.
7.  Mix and enjoy.

There ya go.  Enjoy!

Homemade Yogurt Using a Crockpot – Tutorial

We’ve been feeding Rory organic store-bought yogurt for as long as she’s been eating solid food.  It costs about $4 a quart, and we go through about a quart a week.  So when Sarah’s sister-in-law introduced us to homemade yogurt over Christmas, I had to try it out in the “More With Less” spirit.  I asked for a personal lesson and later supplemented it with some quick internet research, and made my first batch last week.  Doing it this way saves us about $2 a quart!  Here’s how you can make yogurt at home too:

Required Supplies:
  • 1/2 gallon of milk
  • 1/2 cup starter yogurt
  • crockpot
  • thermometer
  • container(s) to store finished yogurt

I started with organic whole milk from the local grocery store.  From other people’s stories, as long as the milk isn’t ultra-pasteurized you should be good to go for making yogurt.  The higher temperatures of ultra-pasteurization do something to the milk that isn’t good prep for bacteria reproduction.  Homogenized, pasteurized, non-organic, and 2% milk are all fine.

The starter yogurt needs to have live bacteria in it for you to be able to make more yogurt from it.  I used Stonyfield organic yogurt, but you can use any brand as long as it has “live” and/or “active” somewhere on the label, telling you those good bacteria can wake back up and reproduce.  This particular one says “six live active cultures”.  Some people say you can’t use flavored yogurt as starter, but I did and it worked… maybe because this one is “naturally” flavored?  Whatever you use, it will all end up as a plain yogurt batch.

1.  Pour half a gallon of milk into a clean crockpot.  You can measure exactly if you want to, but I just eyeballed it. 

2.  Cover the crockpot and turn it on high.  You want the milk to warm up to 180 degrees first, prepping it for bacteria reproduction.  My crockpot has a nifty temperature probe, so all I had to do was set the desired temp.  A regular kitchen thermometer (for meat or milk or whatever) works just fine too.  Depending on your crockpot, it could take half an hour longer to warm up to 180.

3.  When the milk is at the right temperature, turn off the crockpot and let the milk cool back down to 120 degrees.  The yogurt bacteria will grow when the temperature is between 110 and 120.  Too hot and the bacteria will die.  Too cool and they’ll go into hibernation.

4.  When the milk reaches 120 degrees, take about a cup of the warm milk out, mix in the 1/2 cup of yogurt, and add back to the crockpot.  Stir it together.  Put the crockpot lid back on and cover it all with a towel for insulation.

5.  Now wait.  The bacteria just need time to grow and turn that milk into creamy yogurt.  If your crockpot loses heat easily (or if you’re just paranoid), you can check it every hour or so and turn the warmer back on for a few minutes to get it back into the 110-120 range.  Just set a timer or something so you don’t forget to turn it back off – you don’t want to nuke the bacteria!

6.  After as few as maybe 3 hours, you’ll hopefully see that the milk is turning into yogurt.  Water in the batch is perfectly normal.  A lot of people just start the yogurt process before they go to bed, and wake up to put away the finished yogurt in the morning.  It seems like the average wait is 6-8 hours, so that’s what I shoot for too.  Logically, the bacteria stop reproducing when the temperature falls out of the ideal range, so it may not matter much as the hours extend.  Maybe there’s a scientific reason for longer waits… go Google it if you feel the need.

7.  When it’s all done, just stir the yogurt and transfer it to your desired container.  I use two glass quart jars, which is just perfect for the 1/2 gallon of yogurt.

8.  Let the yogurt chill for however long (it usually takes me a day to get through previously-made yogurt anyway) and then enjoy!  I love it with some chopped fruit and a bit of honey.  Don’t forget that you have to save 1/2 cup of your yogurt to make the next batch!

Cake

Last month, we had a non-traditional dedication for Rory and about 40 people came to our tiny little apartment to celebrate and pray for her.  It was pretty great. 

I ended up needing to make a cake for the event at the last minute due to some complications with my previous dessert plans.  I had 1 box of yellow cake mix, 1 box of red velvet, peaches, strawberries, and cream cheese.  And here’s what I ended up with!

 A four layer cake with cream cheese frosting and peaches and strawberries in the middle.  I based the idea loosely off of something I saw here, but used cream cheese frosting instead.  I also preferred the edges to remain unfrosted.

So, I know the pictures are not the best, but the cake was super, super good.  It was a little bit risky because I didn’t frost the cake or add the fruit until about 10 minutes before the gathering started.  It turned out well though!

Birthday Cake

I’m not really a baker or cook but offered to make a cake for a dear friend’s birthday anyway.  I did that before I thought about my crazy weekend schedule too.  Awesome.

The party was at a British themed pub, so what better to make than a Union Jack flag?

I wanted to try fondant (because it’s all the cake rage these days), but didn’t have time to make my own, so I bought the [gross] stuff.  Let’s just get it out there that if you’re buying it from the shelf of Michael’s, it probably shouldn’t be eaten.  We tasted it and decided it would only be used for decoration and not eating.  Because of that I didn’t want to cover the whole cake in fondant.

Jonathan and I teamed up on this one as well.  I baked and frosted the cake, he rolled out and measured the fondant (because he’s good at the math-y kind of stuff), and I painted the fondant red.

And here’s what we ended up with.  Definitely amateur, but not terrible, eh?

Painting the fondant is much easier than I thought.  I painted brandy on first to try to create a barrier between the fondant and the water-based food coloring.  And then I painted.  Ta da!

Next time I do something like this, I’m definitely doing homemade fondant though.

On another note, I picked up some sweet chairs (sweet=cheap and sturdy) for our kitchen at Revive yesterday and can’t wait to paint (possibly) and recover (definitely) them!