Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Three Weeks Off and a Birthday Party

I have been a busy, busy momma these last three weeks.  My little baby turned three years old and to celebrate, we threw her a party.  I love throwing parties so much that I have asked my husband-of almost four years-at least a hundred times if we can get married again just so I can plan another reception.  It's surprising, really, but the answer is always no.  It's a good thing I know that he loves me or I might start to develop a complex!

Over the next several days, I will be posting pictures and tutorials here and there of the things I made and/or put together for the occasion.  Today I'm starting with a recipe for gumdrops.  I saw these on Bakerella's website and knew I had to give them a try for The Roo's Sweet Shoppe themed party. Since I took three weeks off to craft, create, bake and make all the party details, I figured I would have enough time to make a batch of these delightful little treats.  For some reason, I waited until almost the last minute.  So, on the Thursday before the party (which was on Sunday) at about 11:00 at night, I made a batch and a half of rainbow gumdrops.  Thankfully they were easy, pretty and so darn fun to make.  I was finished just after midnight and the results were unbelievably spectacular.  I will definitely make these again!  Here is the recipe and how I did it.  Enjoy!

Sweet Shoppe Rainbow Gumdrops

9 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 1/4 cups boiling water
6 cups sugar
flavoring oils/extracts for candy making
food coloring
additional sugar for coating

-In a large pot, mix cold water and gelatin and mix with a wire whisk thoroughly to combine, let sit for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon of flavoring oil and 1-2 drops food coloring to the bottom of each pan.

-Add boiling water, stirring until all of the gelatin has dissolved.  Add sugar and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Continue to boil for 25 minutes, stirring constantly.  (*tip-place a wooden spoon across the top of your pot to prevent it from boiling over.)

-Ladle the mixture evenly into each pan (one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me) and then stir with a small whisk or fork to incorporate the food coloring and flavoring oil evenly.

-Cover with plastic wrap and place pans in the fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours.
-Spray both sides of a sharp knife with cooking spray and cut the gelatin into 1/2" squares. 
-Spray both sides of a thin cookie spatula with cooking spray and gently but forcefully wriggle the spatula under the gelatin to loosen it from the pan.  Use your hands to peel-pull it out of the pan and drop into a bowl of granulated sugar.

Coat all sides of the gelatin in sugar and place on wax

Leave the gumdrops out on your counter to cure for two days.

from top to bottom: marshmallow, apple, lime, banana, tangerine, strawberry and bubblegum gumdrops.
Come back tomorrow for another birthday tutorial!


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Ugly Face Goodbyes

My daughter started her very first day of preschool this past Tuesday. This was a "HOOGE" (as she says it) day for us since we have never been separated a day in her life. We thought we were all well-prepared.  We took her with us to the first interview at the school a month ago.  The day we received her acceptance notice is the day that we immediately started The Big Countdown. We were trucking along with the positive comments, "You get to go to school in 18 days!!" or "How exciting! You're going to make so many friends to invite to your birthday party!"  "Only 10 more days!"  Every day we talked about it, every day we updated the countdown.  And everyday she would say to me "Mommy is really going to miss me when I go to school, but that otay, Mommy!  I be back!  That otay!" She is so cute and so sweet.  I love her!

The first day of school finally came. She was so excited when she got up that morning exclaiming "I get to go to school!".  She ate breakfast, brushed her hair, put on her favorite "Taylor Swift" dress, decided against the fuzzy pink boots in favor of the black patent Mary Jane's (because that's what Taylor Swift would wear, don't you know), said goodbye to all of her puppies and grabbed her little backpack.  Since it was my husband's day off, he and I both took her to school.  All the way there, we talked about how fun and exciting it was going to be to meet new people, learn new things, and play with some new toys. She was ready!

We pulled up in the parking lot, found an up-front space to park and got out. She was so cute in her yellow jacket and her tiny pink back pack, all shy but totally thrilled to FINALLY be going to school. More children arrived, she bravely smiled and introduced herself to each one and their parents. Then the Directress came to collect the children and lead them to their classroom. That's pretty much where it kind of went down hill. That's the moment that reality sunk in and she realized that she was about to be separated from her parents and this was not, in fact, fun or exciting. "No thank you," she said, "I want to go have coffee with you, mommy!" Oh, how my heart started to break into a thousand teeny tiny pieces for one teeny tiny heart broken little girl. How the heck was I supposed to survive this?  How the heck was she going to survive this? I could feel the tears start welling up in my eyes and I knew I was about to lose it. I told myself that it wasn't going to do her any good to start crying myself, so I just held her and told her to be my big brave girl (a phrase she knows and is very proud of) and that we would be back in an hour. My husband took his turn to console her and then The Directress took her, still desperately trying to cling to him, and said firmly and meaningfully, "OK, bye Daddy, bye Mommy! We'll be fine, see you in an hour!". At this point all we could do was turn around and walk away.

This is where the Ugly Face comes in. I lost it. My face crumpled, my mouth turned down and went all crooked, the tears exploded out of my eyes and the mascara ran like a flooded river after a hurricane. It was not pretty. I was so embarrassed that I was crying so hard that I couldn't make eye contact with the other parents who were saying "comforting" things like "First day, huh?" or "Don't worry, it gets easier!" etc. My voice warbled out a half-hearted, hiccupy thanks and I got into the car. There was about a hundred and twelve thoughts of how The Roo must be thinking that we've just abandoned her, or that we're such a horrible parents for putting her through such a traumatic experience.  But there was the voice of reason too, telling me that we were doing the right thing and we're giving her the very best head start on her education and that it will get easier.

We drove to a nearby French bakery where we had just enough time for croissants and cappuccinos. The hour passed like a second and before we knew it, we were on our way back to pick her up. 

We relaxed quite a bit when we saw her calmly meandering through the other children and observing their activities.  At one point we saw her reach up and take the directress' hand for comfort.  When the directress turned to look down at her with such genuine affection, we knew that we had found a place where she would be happy, comfortable and have lots of support from everyone.  This was a place that would nurture her curiosity and encourage her capabilities.  The first week schedule is set so that the new students make a gradual adjustment to the separation.  Everyday the time increased until Friday when they are there for just an hour short of their normal release.  So, when I picked her up yesterday, it was her fourth day and she had spent almost two and a half hours playing with her new friends.  When it was time to go, she was the last of the new students to leave.  It turns out that the other kids didn't want her to go, they had her in the middle of a preschool huddle, giving her hugs and kisses and telling her that they love her and will miss her.  That was a pretty special moment for me.  Every parent wants their child to be loved and accepted and I am so lucky to have such a sweet little girl with such a beautiful, genuine soul.  I know that this first year of Montessori school is just the very beginning of a whole new set of firsts and let-go's, and I am really looking forward to the joys and new experiences that we're going to share. 

All of the sudden I find myself with just over three hours to myself every day and I have to figure out the best way to organize my time.  I have so many things on the agenda for 2012, I think it's going to take a few weeks to settle in to my new routine.  Well, to even figure out what that new routine is going to be!  So, here's to hoping that you'll get a few more blog posts a week, hopefully some tutorials and a few biographies on some of my very favorite people.  Stay tuned, there's lots of good stuff coming our way! 


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Granny Squares!

I have been wanting to learn how to crochet for the longest time.  I can knit and purl in a straight (kind of) line and crochet stuff without really knowing what I'm doing.  I mean, once I tried to crochet a scarf for my husband and it ended up more of a lap blanket.  My sister, however, is really, really, REALLY good at it.  But because we live a couple of hours apart, we don't get to spend a lot of time together.  When we do get the chance, it's someone's birthday, or it's a holiday etc and time is very limited.  We almost never get to see each other on a whim.  Well, the last two days were different.  She rolled into town at about 9:00pm after a mini-vacation with her family (sight-seeing on the Washington coast) and after a good night's rest, we got up this morning and discovered that we had all day to do nothing.  Such unexpected bliss!! And since our mom had very generously offered to take all five kids to the park (how could we say no, right?) we were left with a quiet house, a few balls of yarn and a couch to share. 

Taken from twobluebirds.tumblr.com

I saw this picture on Pinterest about a year ago and showed it to my sister.  I love the bright color with the fresh white contrast.  This, I told her, is what I want you to teach me.  I want to learn how to make a granny square!  So, she handed me a bright blue hook, knighted me a "New Hooker", welcomed me to the club. 

There was lots of giggling, especially when she explained what "frogging" means (to rip it, rip it ha!!!) and lots of "Wait, hang on, what was that?  Can you do that again, I'm confused..." Followed by a bunch of "HOLY COW I'M DOING IT!!!" and "THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!" and wild gesturing at the fourteen-year-old-boy (who really couldn't care less that I was, in fact, making my very first granny square) that "oh my gosh you have to see this, look!!  LOOK KID I'M CROCHETING!!"  Really, teenage boys don't care, trust me.  Although, he did give me a sideways glance and a crooked little half-grin. 

Hey, that was encouraging enough so I offered out a few more happy exclamations of my new found talent.

Hers is the red and blue one.  Look!  See how pretty they are!!!  I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself.  Yes, all because of the crochet.  I mean, hey, I switched colors!!  And it was EASY!! 

But see, then I kinda messed it up so Big Sister had to take over.  See how perfect her...I dunno, do you call them stitches?...hooky bits...are?  Isn't she talented?  Ok, so maybe you can't tell from this photo but still...she's good.  Have I mentioned that she's only recently learned how to read a pattern and do more than make the simplest scarf.  Yep, she's amazing.

There you have the final product.  I am not sure what we did to get from a ball of yarn to that cute little square, but I think I can figure it out.  Maybe I'll check out a granny square how-to book at the library.  Do you think I can make a blanket out of all different granny squares?  I wonder how many different kinds of granny squares there are.  I bet there's at least a hundred.  I wonder what my husband would say if I added crochet to my crafty repertoire.  Ha ha...maybe I'd better stick to sewing!!  By the way, feel free to take a look at my sister's blog and/or her etsy shop.

Happy New Year!