Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cake Balls

I have had some requests for my cake ball recipe recently so I thought this was the best place to post it to save time. I need to start by saying that my friend Tracy was the first person to turn me on to cake balls. She made them after her daughter's birthday party and told me how she did it. She used cupcakes that were already made and iced but this is the general idea.

I use chocolate cake mix and fudge frosting to make them but you can pretty much use anything. Red velvet is nice with white icing. It's pretty much up to you. And the coating can be milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. I have also used white chocolate tinted different colors.

Here is the basic recipe for cake balls. Variations are endless!

When you are taking pictures of the cake box try to have your focus set on the box and not the vase behind it that you will end up cropping out anyway. (*bangs head*)

Also a good idea to take pictures BEFORE you start using the icing so you don't get random food bits in your picture.

Make the cake according to the directions on the box. Then let it cool completely.
After it is cool, start to tear it up and break into crumbs.
It is best to use your hands for this because you can get smaller crumbs this way.
It's a messy job, but someone has to do it. Use a large enough bowl to fit all these crumbs and the icing that you will be mixing with it. It is best not to mix the entire cake all at once.
After about 1/4th of the cake is in the bowl, start mixing with frosting. Repeat until all of the cake and icing is mixed well.

Then chill the cake/icing mix in the refrigerator. If you are making this in one day, I recommend putting it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. If you are making them over 2 nights after work (which I often do), cover and put in the refrigerator until you get home from work the next day.

Then roll chilled cake/icing into balls. I use a cookie dough scoop to keep the size uniform. That normally yields 44 cake balls at that size. After you have rolled them into balls, return them to the freezer for about 30 minutes.
While the cake balls are chilling, melt chocolate in a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler use a bowl on top of a pot. I have both and think either way is easy to use.
After chocolate is melted and the cake balls are chilled, place the cake ball in the melted chocolate using a spoon and roll around.
[You may also insert a stick in the cake ball and just roll the stick around in the chocolate. If you do that, I recommend covering the tip of the stick in chocolate before inserting it into the cake ball. Then you can set them up in a piece of styrofoam to harden.]
Shake off the excess chocolate and place on a piece of parchment paper to set.
Aside: At this point Matt asked me why I was taking pictures of the food. I told him it was for my blog and his eyes rolled so far back in his head that I think he still can't see. *HMPF*. I think he is just jealous that he doesn't have enough to say about life to even compose a post for a blog. Or maybe he is still bitter that I wrote about his stint as Joseph in our church Nativity Scene. Some people just hold on to things and never let them go....
Allow the cake balls to set completely on parchment paper before moving to a storage container.
You can also add sprinkles immediately after you put it on the parchment paper (before the chocolate hardens, which happens pretty fast). I made some with sprinkles for my little neighbor who is turning 2 tomorrow!
Also, it is a very good idea to test it and make sure that it is delicious.

I hope you enjoy! And please send me your variations if you make these also. I love to try new things. You can see where I made these into cupcake shaped cake balls by clicking here. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

She Keeps Getting Older But I Stay the Same Age

Ok, sure. You can say that it took me a long time to move Avery from her crib to a big girl bed. You could say that waiting until she was almost 3 was a little much. But she was happy in her crib! She didn't want a big girl bed! Who am I to argue with that?

If it weren't for my mom and her evil big girl bed at her house I would have been home free. But no, she couldn't resist. She started Avery in that big girl bed sometime after Christmas. Avery would spend one night a week at my parent's house and enjoy a perfectly fall-free night in a regular bed with no bars. Plus, she didn't get out of that bed until someone came to get her. As if there were some kind of invisible barrier at the edge of the mattress that prevented her from sneaking out to watch TV late at night.

The nerve.

I held on as long as I could but last month I gave in to her requests for a big girl bed at home and put her in a toddler bed. (baby steps, ok) She can get in and out herself, though most mornings she still prefers to call for us when she wakes up rather than getting out of the bed on her own free will. Going to bed at night isn't as easy as putting her in the crib once was, but she isn't bad, either. I guess what I am saying is.....we all survived. Things are fine.

But I was sad to lose her crib bedding because it was so sweet. Giving up her baby bumper pads, sheets and dust ruffle was tougher than I wanted to admit. It belonged to my baby. My infant daughter. I just couldn't see putting it in the attic until the heat destroyed it and we eventually threw it away. Plus, it was custom designed to match her room and there is no way we will find something at a store to match.

That is when I had the idea to make her bedding into a quilt. And thank goodness my friend Blake has a crafty mom who was able to make it for me! It is actually better than I ever expected it to be, and as you can see in the pictures, Avery loves it. (you can click on pictures to get a more detailed view of the quilt)

comfy! And a pillow made out of her sheets is so cute!

starting to get sleepy

...and she's out.

I am so excited to have this quilt that will last for many years to come. Now I don't feel so bad about putting away her crib because I get a piece of my not-so-tiny baby girl back.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Traditional Gift for 6th anniversary Is Candy...We're Just Happy My Brother's Are Eating Crow

It turns out that we have beat the odds (ahem, brothers!) and spent the weekend celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary. We didn't make a big deal of the occasion because WE EXPECTED TO STILL BE MARRIED AFTER 6 YEARS so it wasn't a big cause for celebration when we woke up this morning still in wedded bliss. But we did enjoy some time together going to some local favorites in Austin.

On Saturday night we went to Guero's Taco Bar for dinner. Hot damn that place is good. And can I pause here and just say that being able to order an alcoholic drink when I want to is really fantastic. Oh, Bacardi Rum, how I missed you. I tried to pace myself during dinner because the night was young. The salsa, however, had other things in mind. I couldn't help myself, I had to keep drinking daiquiris because my mouth was on fire. I think we spent the whole dinner just making "mmm" and "oh my goodness" sounds. The conversation was obviously riveting.

At sunset we headed over to the Congress Street bridge and watched the bats come out for the evening. I was amazed at the number of people out to see the bats but more than that, I was confused by the people who brought their kids. I can't imagine anything scarier for a kid to watch: one million bats flying out from a bridge into the sky. I know the bats are out to eat all the bugs (which, thank you so much bats!) but do kids? It just seems like a kids worst nightmare come true. And these parents were out there happily exposing their so-called beloved children to this horror. I don't know. Maybe I have this one wrong but I imagine if I took Avery out to see this she would still be screaming 24 hours later.

This morning we went to Stubb's BBQ for their famous Gospel Brunch. This is an Austin tradition but I have never taken Matt there. The music was fantastic. I loved the band this week and the food wasn't too shabby, either.

Here's a picture from the brunch this morning. There is just nothing like Gospel music. The band could not have been more entertaining! After we were stuffed beyond what should be humanly possible we headed home to nap while the kids were napping at my parent's house.

Because it was 105 degrees outside for the 10th day in a row, we decided to head to the splash park for some relief. The kids love it and it beats going to the park and melting at the playground. It is hard to believe that it is only June and we have had such oppressive heat already. I can't imagine what August and September are going to be like. Lord help us!

Jack would like you to know that big is beautiful.
Avery loves those butterfly wings that Lauren made her. She wears them all the time--even without her tutu and leotard that go with them. I'm afraid that we'll have to pry these off her more days than not...
Do you think Jack enjoyed the sprinkler park or what?
But after only about 20 minutes the kids were longing to go into the pool. We gave in and decided to head into the pool. It's the only other responsible place to be in weather like this. We were just trying to be good parents.

Avery was pretty ticked at us that she actually had to get out of the pool and eat dinner. Apparently it was a huge mistake to think that transitioning from play time to bedtime was going to be a breeze. Clearly she didn't get the message that it is our anniversary and she should cut us some slack.
She did end up looking really cute running around in her new cowboy boots, though. This was right before bedtime (which is why her glasses are off). I thought the light outside was perfect so I let her run around for a few minutes while I tried to get a good picture.
She had fun playing in the yard but refused to give me a break when it came to taking pictures. I hope this isn't a bad sign that she isn't going to cooperate for her 3 year pictures that we are getting taken on Tuesday.

The best anniversary gift we got, though, was the news that a cool front is on its way and it is only going to be 97 degrees on Tuesday! I think that is God's way of making up for the huge rainstorm that happened during our wedding reception. I'm just sayin'....

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Charmed Life

I was a freshman at UT when I got the birthday card from my brother and sister-in-law that alerted me that our family would be changed forever. For the first time, the envelope was addressed to "Aunt Amy" and the card inside informed me that a baby would be born in July of 1996. I was thrilled at the news! I started buying UT baby clothes immediately.

It turns out she made her entrance into the world a little early, June 26th to be exact, and she was beautiful. The whole family rushed to Illinois to see her. I've been told that my parents raced out of the car like fools to be the first in the house to hold the new baby girl. I'm fairly certain they didn't even notice my brother or sister-in-law because this was the first grandchild in the family.

I resisted the urge to visit right away so that I could let the crowd die down. She was 2 weeks old the first time I laid eyes on her and I was in love. She had thick black hair and beautiful rosey cheeks. I loved holding her, talking to her, getting up early with her--which was totally out of character for my 19 year old self. She was perfect and we all knew it. All we did was stare at her. I couldn't believe that I would have to return to Texas after only a week. I didn't know how I would be able to stay away. I remember being teary eyed for the first hour of the drive back to Texas.

Six months after she was born we met up for Christmas in South Carolina. Tina, my sister-in-law, had such cute outfits picked out for baby's first Christmas but it was 90 degrees outside and she ended up wearing only a diaper most of the time. Once again we all fought over holding her and cooing at our smiley piece of heaven. She had not even rolled over yet because she spent most of her life 4 feet off the ground in someone's arms. We had to make an effort to let her lay on the floor long enough to get the desire to roll over. And when she finally did, we all thought she was brilliant!

That Christmas I started a tradition that would spread to all the girls in my family. I gave her a charm from James Avery. She would get one every year on her birthday and Christmas and they would represent something significant that had happened to her: a baptism shell, a Big Sister charm, a tooth fairy, a flower girl. Then it was on to ballet shoes, volleyballs, an iPod.

But each year it was only a charm, not the bracelet. That would have to wait until she was 13. When she became a teenager I would ask her to send back all the charms that she had collected and I would have them made into a charm bracelet that held all her milestones in one place.

It is hard to believe that today is that day.

A few weeks ago I received a package that held the charms that I had given her over the years. And today, on her 13th birthday, I have a bracelet to give her that is full of memories. I hope that she enjoys wearing the bracelet as much as I have enjoyed building it. I am so proud of my baby niece who is now growing into a young woman. She is a bright student, a promising athlete, a good friend and a great big sister (even if she does call Emma an a-hole). We really couldn't ask for anything more.

I feel so blessed to have her in my life and so lucky that we are able to see each other as often as we do given our distance. I have enjoyed watching her grow up and look forward to seeing what the teenage years have in store for her.

Happy 13th Birthday, Natalie. Your Aunt Amy loves you!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just Jack

My baby boy is now 15 months old. I know I say this all the time but it is just so hard to believe how fast time flies. I wish things could slow down a bit so I could get more slobbery kisses and sweet cuddles at bedtime. Since I know that won't happen I am enjoying every moment with Jack.

He is so different than Avery. It is almost easier to say how they are alike rather than list all the ways they differ. He is much more adventurous. He has no problem going up and down steps on his own, wandering from room to room, sticking his hand in the toilet, opening drawers, etc. We never had to worry about any of that with Avery.

He says about 12 words clearly and then maybe 5 more that only we can really understand. That is also a big change from Avery who was saying at least 50 words by this age. But he is very good at letting us know what he wants either by hand gestures, walking us over to something, or a series of grunts and babbles. It is fun to experience the baby talk and try to de-code the language.

He is very fond of his thumb on his right hand. That is something he shares with his sister. He also loves to read books more than anything. Often in the morning when we are rushing to get out of the house Jack will run up with a book and softly say, "book?" which is his way of asking us to read to him. We almost always do because he is so cute and sweet when he asks.

I'm not sure "freak" is the right word (ahem, Uncle Larry) but he is a very big boy. He weighs 31 pounds and is 35 inches tall. That puts him in the 95th percentile for weight and off the charts for height. His head is also in the 95th percentile so he is pretty balanced out. He is hitting all of his developmental milestones with ease and is even ahead of the curve with fine motor skills.

Enough talk...onto some pictures of my big man...

Future American Idol, perhaps? He was singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" except that he only knew how to say the "Row Row Row" part of the song. Simon Cowell frowns upon those who can't sing the whole song so I think we are a few years away from auditioning for AI.
Here he is running to the camera and yelling "CHEESE!"
If we ever need to get anything done we simply give Jack a book and he is good to go for a few minutes. It's funny to hear him "read" out loud.
I think it is safe to say that Jack has a smile on his face 90% of the time. He is just a really happy guy. I love the way he squeals with delight when we come home from work.
He's also a very curious little guy. Here he wanted to know what the heck those lights on the ceiling were flashing for. He kept pointing up and grunting at us as if to say, "could someone fix those lights? They keep blinking."
We are so blessed to have such a great little boy. It is so fun to learn how to be a parent to him. I love the contrasts between the kids but most of all I love that they play so well together. It is clear that he really loves Avery and most days she loves him, too!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Short Trip

My oldest brother turns 40 later this week and my sister-in-law arranged a big surprise party for him last weekend. We flew to Charleston on Friday, the party was Saturday night, and then we were back on a plane on Monday. We had a really good time visiting for the short time that we were in South Carolina, though, and I am so happy we could be there to surprise my brother. Especially because I like to remind him that I am much younger. :-)

The funny thing about this sign is that the picture they used was taken 7 years ago when we were on a family vacation. If you think he looks good for 40, that's because he is 33 in this picture! ha!

mmm, cake.
Here are the kids waiting for Uncle Lucky to come in so that they could be terrified by 75 people yelling, "surprise!" all at once.
Lucky was very excited to see us. When he walked in and everyone yelled surprise, he did a good job of not looking that surprised. But when he saw Mom and then Aunt Debbie he got a very surprised look on his face. Then he saw me and finally the kids and he seemed pretty excited. He is meeting Jack for the first time in the picture above.
Avery and Jack didn't waste any time dancing. Jack actually surprised me by how much he enjoyed dancing. He squealed and clapped his hands and danced around the floor all night. He even let strangers pick him up to dance with them. Avery was a wall flower for a little while before she realized that her little brother was showing her up and got out on the floor to show her moves. I don't have video but if you could just picture Elaine from Seinfeld, you will get an image of how Avery was dancing.
My niece and nephew Ashley and Austin singing "Happy Birthday" to their dad.
Ashley sang some karaoke for the crowd. Avery was fascinated and even went up to the microphone to give it a try. That's when she learned that reading is fundamental. Let that be a lesson to us all; you can't sing bad karaoke songs if you don't know how to read.
The obligatory picture of the grandkids with mom and dad.


On Sunday we went to my brother's house to hang out in the pool and celebrate Father's Day. It was then that I learned that my brothers and sisters-in-law made bets on how long my marriage would last ON MY WEDDING DAY. I will admit that I have done the same but not with family. There are rules to these kinds of things. You don't bet on family marriages failing and you only bet on friends marriages if you don't like the spouse. Geesh. Everyone knows that.

Anyway, apparently we have outlasted the bets so I guess that means we showed them.
Avery (with oreo cookie mouth) really liked seeing her extended family again. She took to Uncle Lucky and Aunt Julie right away.
Baby's First Oreo Cookie. Weird, they don't have a page for that in the baby book.
Oh man, he loved it. We had to stop him from going back for more and more. This shirt was totally trashed by the time he was done. Amazingly I was able to get all the stains out. Thank you Oxy Clean.
Jack had a lot of fun in the pool, also. He was happy to let Uncle Lucky hold him and the pool is really the best place for that since he is such a heavy guy.
Of course whenever he is ready for a nap, Grammie is his girl.
Other than nap time, he is a Poppa's boy all the way. There is no doubt where Jack's loyalties lay.
This is Allie. She is my sister-in-law's niece. Her family also came in for Lucky's birthday so it was a full house, which made it LOTS of fun. Allie is 2 weeks younger than Jack but obviously much smaller than he is. This is the "goodbye" shot on Sunday night. Notice they are holding hands and she is going in for the kiss. He clearly didn't mind!
The line up. Last picture before we left for the airport on Monday morning. Avery had a good time playing with her cousins. She even scored some cool dress-up clothes thanks to cousin Ashley growing up (against all of my orders not to).

Not pictured: the HUGE tantrum Avery threw during the last 30 minutes of the flight home. There are people talking about us, though, and they are praying that we are not on their next flight out of Austin.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Avery

I'm starting with Jack because this will be the only picture of him for the rest of the post. Don't start screaming favoritism yet, though, because he will be 15 months old this week so he'll get a full post all to himself! But that is later. Today is all about Avery because she gets a bad rep around here sometimes and it's probably a smidge unfair to her.

Lately Avery has been cracking us up with the things she says. Here are some examples:
  • After asking her if she wants some dinner tonight she replied, "Yes, please." And a moment later said, "Thank you, mommy, for offering me some dinner."
  • When my dad gave her a stick of gum she said, "Poppa this gum is a rectangle and has four sides."
  • We were driving in the car and when we reached a stop sign she said, "that is an octagon."
  • At gymnastics last night she shouted to us from across the gym, "mom! I am listening to my teacher!" Which was mostly true.
She LOVES gymnastics. It is hilarious to watch her bounce around because she is just thrilled to be there and it shows in every move. I need to video her sometime. Also, she is not capable of going 3 minutes without a weggie.
After gymnastics she came home and to her delight her "boyfriend" Jordan was outside. It is so fun to watch the two of them together because she is just enamored with him and he is happy to impress.
Jordan held Avery's hand and took her over to see the flowers in the front yard. It was just as cute as could be. I am so glad I had my camera right there when it happened.
My friend Lauren made this for Avery. She is so talented! I just emailed her and said that Avery is really into dress-up and won't stop talking about being a butterfly for halloween. I didn't think I could take her asking to be a butterfly from now until halloween so Lauren whipped up this costume. She LOVES it! And you can tell from the picture that she couldn't wait to put it on because this picture was taken 5 minutes after she woke up. She has bed-head and didn't even put on her glasses yet.
Here she is checking herself out in the mirror.
Checking herself out...and Jack wondering what is going on. Coincidently, Lauren gave Jack those jammies for Christmas, ha!
And now all she does is ask us if she can go back to "ballallet" class. She twirls around every chance she gets.
I'm just not sure I am ready for that again. I don't know if I can take her screaming and crying while watching through the 2x3 mirrored glass window from the waiting room. Maybe in the fall....maybe.