Wednesday, April 29, 2015

strawberry cake

my maw maw grew up as the only girl in a family with three brothers.  her mother didn't cook and someone had to feed them, so she taught herself how to feed those hungry boys.  she got married at 16 and had three sons.  she spent the rest of her life cooking for others until she could no longer find her way around the kitchen.

her sons finally gifted her with some grand-daughters and she filled our bellies and spoiled us rotten our entire childhoods.  i would beg to stay at her house and cry everytime i had to leave.  she would plop me on the kitchen counter and teach me how take the yucky white parts off the yolks with a fork before she scrambled them with a very generous "pat" of butter.  she would make me jelly toast (again with the butter) with the crusts cut off and squeeze me into a high chair in front of sesame street even when i was way too big and old to be a) in a high chair and b) watching sesame street.  she would draw me bubble baths and afterwards wrap me up in a towel and carry me to her bed to dry me off.  she saved all of her ring boxes for me to play with, "lights, camera, action....SNAP!"  i could spend hours sniffing her perfume or playing in her silky night gowns.  she would pat my back and sing me songs until i went to sleep. 

she was so little and cute and had a way of mispronouncing words that made her even more adorable.
ofree winfree = oprah winfrey
oher-doers = hour d'ourves
hi-dee = hello
eye-talian = italian
sundee, mundee, toosdee = the days of the week

she would serve my sister bowls of ice cream topped with approximately one million marichino cherries.  she drank tab.  she could peel an apple with a knife and the skin would coil and never break.  she wore purple wind-suits.  she chewed blue extra. her hobby was ironing.  she always wore lipstick.  she was a mall-walker.

she was always "worried" about her weight, yet she had an insatiable sweet tooth and ate a bowl of ice cream every night up until the end.  when alzheimers took everything else from her, it left her sweet tooth behind.   when she was well, she was famous for her peach cobbler (ohmyword, the very best) and her strawberry cake.  the cake was requested by everyone for their birthday and still is to this day even by my relatives from the other side of the family.  it's her legacy and i am so glad we are able to keep her memory alive when we bake it.  (now the peach cobbler is another story.  she must've taken that recipe to the grave).  she was sick for so many years and as the illness continued to steal her away from us, it became harder and harder for me to remember her before.  but when i bake the cake, i feel her with me.  i do.
some of you have requested the recipe, so here it is! (warning: it's so sweet that your teeth might fall striaght out of your head upon first bite...or let's be honest...upon the first lick from the batter bowl).  but that's how she rolled, the sweeter the better.
maw maw's strawberry cake
1 box of duncan hines white cake mix
1 large box of strawberry jello
1 tub of frozen sliced strawberries, in juice/syrup, thawed
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. water
4 eggs, seperated

combine cake mix, jello, 3/4 of the strawberries and juice/syrup, oil and water.  beat well.  add egg yolks and mix until incorporated.  in a seperate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.  fold the eggs whites gently into the batter.  pour into a greased cake pan (i use a bundt pan) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick test is clean.  let it cool completely before icing.

powdered sugar (an ungodly amount)
1/4 of the strawberries and juice/syrup
1/2 stick of butter softened
1/2 t. vanilla

blend softened butter and powdered sugar together.  i used half of a large bag of powdered sugar and it wasn't enough (my icing broke).  just keep adding until you feel a toothache.  once incorporated, add the strawberries and vanilla and mix well.  pour over the cake.  as much as you can tolerate.

do not share this recipe with your dentist.

do you have a recipe that makes you feel close to a loved one?  if so, i would love to know about it.

p.s. while on the topic of family legacies, below are pictures of my precious ninety-one-year-old paw paw and my peony blooms from one of the gazillion plants he has given me over the years for my yard.  this plant started from his and i'll treasure it forever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

a minecraft party. yes, minecraft.

i am a boy mom.
it's been that way for seven years now but i still feel like i am getting used to it.
i have a sister.  we didn't watch star wars.  i never pretended to shoot things.  i played with barbies instead of video games.
so in this boy world of creepers, endermen, steve and zombies, let's just say i'm still learning.
in the past we have paid to have the boys birthday parties somewhere else: little gym, a karate dojo, a a bowling alley.  it's awesome: i just buy a cake, some favors and show up with our credit card.  
this year, ben specifically requested that we have a minecraft party at HOME complete with a scavenger hunt.
after a mild panic attack, i started planning.
and when in doubt: pinterest.

pinterest is a godsend.  there are really good boy moms who have created minecraft pdfs and banners and games and decorations and activities all from the creative cells in their brains.  then they post these original (and awesome) ideas on their blogs, pin them on pinterest, and invite the world to use their ideas FOR FREE.  it's insane.
i want to hug these women.
so here is our minecraft party, planned completely from the ideas of other women around the country whom i have never met.
high fives!

chris painted some cardboard boxes to look like creepers and set them up in the yard for target practice. we set out ben's nerf guns and had the boys work on their target practice as everyone arrived.

the boys would shoot the creeper at one station, reload and pass the gun off to the next person.  then he could move on to the next station.  it worked out pretty well, although i did have to have a pow-wow with them to explain that they were not to a) pick up the creeper boxes and throw them at each other and b) shoot anything that breathes.  boys are wild, man.
we then divided into three teams.  led by an adult, they had 45 minutes to find as many items on their list as a team.  i got this idea from a blog, but had to customize our own list.  i found some free minecraft fonts that i will link at the bottom of this post.  the boys each took their goody bag with them to collect their items.  well, the scavenger hunt ended up being a foot race, so it took waaay less time than i planned and every team found every item.  because of this we had some time to kill later in the party.

once the boys returned from the hunt, we awarded the winners with torches (aka glow sticks from dollar tree).  then cake time!
after cake , we lined the boys up with their treat bags to take a whack at the tnt pinata (ordered on amazon).

at this point in the party, we had thirty minutes left and no more activities planned.  luckily i made some copies of a minecraft bingo game in case it rained, so we rocked that out for fifteen minutes or so.  we ended the party with some more target practice and/or a wicked game of duck-duck-goose rock-rock-diamond.  for favors, the boys had to make-their-own-goodie-bag by following directions and placing specific items (tnt, gold, diamonds and coloring pages) in their bags.  totally stole that idea, too!
this party was a blast and inexpensive.
below i will link everywhere i found the ideas for the party.
if you want to do this yourself, i'd be happy to send you my scavenger hunt list and my goodie bag list.

pinata- amazon
diamonds- amazon
gold bars- amazon (i have a million of these.  they accidentally sent me the wrong amount and now don't want them back.  so if you need some, let me know!)
banner- FREE
bingo- FREE
cake (so easy: cake mix, green icing and m&m's)
fonts- FREE

tablecloths, plates, napkins, pinata fillers and scavenger hunt prizes were all bought at dollar tree.
feel free to find me on pinterest where i pinned a million things on my board "minecraft party for ben".

Monday, April 13, 2015

greatest hits

can i get a high five?
we survived the weekend.  and what i mean specifically is that we survived fourteen first-grade boys at our home for ben's birthday party yesterday.
y'all.  the energy level.  no words.
it turned out great and i can't wait to share it with you, but first i figured i'd share what else has been going on before i forget.  here are some shots from the past couple of weeks:

1) ben and crosby were asked to be an usher and a ring-bearer in my sister's upcoming wedding.  chels and jake wrote them each the sweetest letter and gave them bow ties and suspenders to wear.  bow ties and suspenders!  i cannot even handle it.

2) we are without a church home and in all honesty are (lazily) looking for the perfect fit for us.  so easter this year had more of a secular focus than in years past!  this holiday snuck up on me this year so everything we did felt a little last-minute.  decorations were never even removed from the box in the garage.  my bad.
but we did manage to dye eggs.  topless.
we celebrated by eating our faces off at my aunt and uncle's house.  jason makes lamb chops and i kind of think about them all year long.  easter = mouth-watering lamb chops.

this kid used to hunt eggs.  now he's enrolling in drivers ed.  i can't handle it.

3) SEVEN!!!!  wtf?  how?
traditional birthday balloons
ooooh, pinterest trick: put your pancake batter in squirt bottles.  do this and you will instantly become the pancake master of the universe.
ben was greeted with silly string at my sister's house.

he loves crab so we took him to dinner where he could get down with a bucket of crab claws.
he wanted to sing and be silly but then got shy and awkward.  he's changing.... sniffle.

looking forward to my birthday this week!
how was your week?  what are you looking forward to?


Thursday, April 9, 2015


seven years ago, i became a momma.  
i was put on bedrest weeks before ben's birth, so i had a lot of time to do nothing but anticipate his arrival.  we were ready.
my c-section was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on april 8, 2008.
we didn't have to be at the hospital until 2 p.m. and i wasn't allowed to eat due to my impending surgery, so we just hung out.  we made some nervous small talk.  we watched tv.  we tried to nap.  ha!  the house was silent.  we joke now that we should have recorded the silence since it was the last time we ever truly heard any.
on the operating table, we were all making guesses at how much ben would weigh.
he came out a whopping nine pounds and eight ounces.
he was giant and crying and i was so fixated on his nose!  whose nose was that???
i couldn't stop staring at him.
and i've been admiring him since.
 ben was born big and has stayed big.  he is big in size and big in personality.  his emotions are big (his cries are kidding), his expressions are big, his devotion is big, his passion is deep and wide.  he loves big and has taught me to do the same.
 he falls in love with one thing and loves it with all of his heart until he outgrows it: elmo, elephants, dinosaurs, gorillas, thomas the train, ninja turtles, star wars, minecraft.
 he is devoted to his daddy like no other.  they have a special relationship and have been buddies since his birth (for better and for worse).  it is in this relationship that ben experiences all of his big emotions, his highest of highs and his lows, too.
 he has music in his bones.  he loves to dance and drum and beat-box.  he adores the beastie boys and jack white.  my heart broke recently when he suddenly became self-conscious.   i was hoping he would be that kid bustin' a move in a crowd of strangers for at least a little bit longer.
 he has recently discovered the art of joke-telling and really appreciates a good pun.
 he loves babies.
 he makes friends easily.  he talks to strangers.  he likes to talk (and talk and talk).
 i feel like i am going to blink and he'll be a teenager and i'll no longer be able to pin him down for a hug and kiss.  he'll grow up and get in cars and drive places and have girlfriends or boyfriends.  it's happening too fast, friends.  y'all are going to have to hold my hand through it all, o.k.?  all i really want is to sniff his fluffy, baby head.  but for now, i'll just keep on watching and try not to blink.
 happy birthday, ben-jammin'.
thanks for showing me the ropes.

P.S.  here's a picture of my boy on his actual birthday:
ben turns six.
ben turns five.
ben turns four.
ben turns three.