My first positive cake decorating experience

A few years ago I made a list of things I will never do.  At the very top of the list was cake decorating.  After too many disastrous, I-am-way-too-embarrassed-to-show-you-pictures birthday cakes, I threw in the towel.  But the over last year I have formed a more positive relationship with my oven.  Baking has become one of my favorite hobbies.

So when the opportunity to make a birthday cake for an end of the summer/birthday party came my way, I seized it!  This is probably the first actual cake I have ever decorated that turned out halfway decent.  This is a simple flip flop cake that would be fun for a Labor Day barbeque or little girl’s birthday party.

My cake decorating attempts have only begun.  I have not one, not two, but three kid’s birthdays this fall!  I am already getting some ideas.

BTW – You should probably never say you will not do something.  There are some things on my original list that I currently do and enjoy.

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Guess we cannot blame the watermelon

Our VBS barbeque was last Friday.  Between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, we counted forty people who got sick with a stomach bug.  There are probably more we do not know about.

All three of my children got sick all within a couple of hours of one another.  My husband came down with it on Sunday.  I avoided it. I rarely dodge illnesses.  I tend to get everything they get.  My first thoughts were they all ate the watermelon at the picnic and I did not.  Could it be the watermelon?

I felt like I was conducting a forsenic investigation yesterday as my husband and I did a poll over facebook and over the phone of who got sick and if they ate the watermelon.

There was a small amount of people (we counted maybe two) who got sick and did not eat the watermelon.  There were also a few people (we counted two) who ate the watermelon and did not get sick.

Most families who had a mix of sick people and healthy people had a direct correlation.  Those who ate the watermelon were sick.  Those who did not were well.

As our investigation progressed we realized we probably could not blame the watermelon.  A few doctors we know said you cannot get food poisoning from a watermelon.  They said it sounds more like a contagious stomach virus.  

According to Wiki Answers  if there are pathogens on the outside of the watermelon, they can be pushed to the inside edible part if the watermelon is not washed. Bacteria or a virus could have possibly been on the watermelon. But they also could have been anywhere:  the potato chip bowl, drinking fountain, door knobs etc. Food poisoning tends to occur within a few hours and there were still people coming down with it almost 48 hours after they ate the watermelon.

We will never know if we can blame the watermelon.  It makes for a funny Vacation Bible School memory.  Half our church was out on “VBS” Sunday and there were a mere four kids present to sing the VBS song (we usually have 20-30).

We tend to think of cold and flu season in October through April. Not June. Many said it was a good reminder that any time you have large groups of people in one place–wash hands.  Utilize hand sanitizer.  Don’t share cups.  If you feel sick, stay home.  If your kids are sick, keep them home.

We all said VBS week was well worth it despite a large percentage ending it with a stomach bug.  Most of us have never been part of an outbreak before!

Simple Spa Day

I have been a part of a MOPS group since 2006.  About three years ago our group started a tradition of having a “Spa Meeting.”  It is one of the most popular meetings.

The first year we had it, my youngest was only a few months old.  She had gotten over bronchiolitis and I was still very sleep deprived.  This meeting came at the right time.  The free hand massage and hair cut was amazing.  I was grateful for one of the moms who generously held my baby the whole time so I could enjoy it.

Here is how we do it.  It does vary from year to year.

We offer 10-15 minute massages.  In the past we had a woman come in and do hand massages.  This year we were lucky to have someone who was able to do neck and back massages.

We offer eyebrow waxing.  This is always very popular!  The sign-up list fills up quickly.

We offer some type of craft that goes along with “a self care” theme.  In the past we made neck wraps.  This year we made a therapeutic sugar scrub.  Several of the ladies said it made their hands feel super soft.  We always choose a craft with simple household items that is affordable.

We have a table lined with every single color of nail polish you can think of!  It is fun to socialize and paint nails or toes.We have another table with hand creams, satin hand treatments, and ring cleaner.  I honestly don’t know what the satin hand treatment is!  I usually spend so much time at the massage and nail polish table, I miss some of the others!

At the center of the room is always a big jar filled with a special elixir punch.  It is very simple–lipton green tea mixed with ginger ale with lemons and limes to garnish.  It is such a small part of the spa day, but I look forward to it every year!

I think many of the moms appreciate a relaxing environment to socialize, share, and get to know one another better.

Our Spa meeting does not cost an excessive amount of money.  Many of the volunteers (massage therapists, beauticians) donate their time.  They are welcome to pass out business cards or promote their business.  The hand creams, nail polish, ring cleaner is all donated or borrowed.  We do spend money on craft supplies, but it is kept simple.  You could easily do a spa day like this in your own home with a group of ladies.  Or for a teen girl’s birthday party or girl’s night.  It might even become a tradition everyone looks forward to it each year!

Snowman cheese ball

This is a cheese ball my friend Jennifer made for our mom’s group as an appetizer demonstration.  This would be a fun holiday idea!  Snowmen make good “winter” party decorations so you could easily do this for a New Years Party or even Superbowl Party.

Jennifer used a bell pepper cut in “a hat” shape, olives, and a baby carrot.  The recipe is from Taste of Home and is fairly simple to follow.  You do need to refrigerate the cheese ball overnight (or at least 8 hours).  And it’s tastes delicious with crackers!

 

Kiddie size gingerbread house & Kiddie size tea party

I had three Christmas parties last week, two evening meetings, and one get together with friends plus I started running again and clocked in around 12 miles total last week. So that’s why I have gone MIA from this blog the past couple days.  I have found some great holiday crafts, foods, and activities over the last few days.  I am starting with this mini gingerbread house…

This is a small gingerbread house my daughter brought home from school.  Each of the 1st graders made their own using a small milk carton to hold up the graham cracker walls.  Each child had to bring candy for their own house.  We just went through leftover baking items and even Halloween candy.  This is what my oldest came up with.I never grew up making gingerbread houses.  This tradition came from my husband.  I never realized the time, efforts, and patience it takes…not to mention massive amounts of frosting.  For preschoolers with busy hands and a short attention span, a milk carton graham cracker house is a good alternative.

Another activity I did which might become a tradition is I set a Christmas tea for my daughter and her best friend.  I got a tiny Christmas tea set years ago second-hand and never used it.   I put little snacks on the tiny plates and filled the tea-pot with apple juice.  My daughter and her best friend loved having their own special Christmas tea.  I set it up in our upstairs guest room where they would be free from the distractions of younger siblings.

Keeping the holidays from going “bah humbug”

I have not had the greatest track record mood wise when it comes to the holidays.  I spent most of Christmas 2006 sick in bed.   Then I passed the flu/stomach bug/plague or whatever you want to call it to my husband on the 26th.  In 2007 I was caring for a newborn boy who had no interest whatsoever in sleeping.  I remember calling my family in the Midwest crying and wishing they could get on the next plane to Oregon and rescue me from the chaos. In 2008 my little boy who was age one was growing in his eye teeth and was absolutely miserable.  I showed up to the Candlelight service and burst into tears even before it started.  The last two years were a little bit better.  However, last year on December 26th I fell into an emotional anxiety ridden roller coaster due partially from exhaustion and also from a hormone imbalance.  It took me several months before I recovered.

I dislike how the holidays breed exhaustion.  I remember someone telling me how much they loved the peacefulness of January.  There has to be a way to make the holidays both fun and not complete push over the edge.  So this is my own set of personal goals to keep from slipping into “bah-hambug” mode.

1.  I will not turn on the 24/7 Christmas music station until the day after Thanksgiving AT THE EARLIEST.  Yes, this music pumps me up, but it starts to drive me wacky to the point I despise it.

2.  I will not complain about my husband’s busy work schedule especially because Christmas falls on a Sunday this year which means one less church service to lead.

3.  I will try to exercise at least 3-5 times a week during the month of December

4.  I will begin to pack for our Christmas vacation to the Midwest at least five days in advance.

5.  I will do some sort of giving project with my kids.

6.  I will stay home from a holiday party if I am already drained and exhausted.  For some of you this is very easy to do.  For us extroverts, it is challenging.  We seize opportunities to hang out with large groups of people.

7.  I will start working on my handmade gifts in mid November (already started on them!)

8.  I will do a special holiday related activity with each of my children.  I did this last year and it was the highlight of my Christmas season.

9.  I will do the Advent Calendar with my children.  I will not be overly hard on myself if we miss a few days.

10.  I will watch National lampoons Christmas Vacation with Rob even though I have seen it at least 27 times, but I know it is a family movie.  It is important to him.  Besides I laugh so hard on “the electruted cat” scene that I make Rob rewind it over and over again.

Big Group Party Idea #3 – A Soup Exchange

The holidays are creeping up on us, but I WILL NOT listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.  Too many times I start putting on all Christmas all the time radio stations right around now.  By December 1st I want to go back to my 80’s dance music when I hear the seventy-fifth version of “I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus.”

But yes, the holidays are upon us and that means holiday gatherings.  I have attended a MOPS group since 2006.  I started attending a few weeks after we moved from Michigan to Oregon.  In most MOPS groups, the moms are divided into discussion groups.  Each group is strongly encouraged to get together around the holidays outside of the regular bi-monthly meetings.

The first year I suggested our group do a cookie exchange.  I had never been to one and it sounded like fun.  A few days later one of the girls in my group approached me and said she wanted to do something healthier.  Little did I realize the majority of the girls in my group were into nutrition and healthy eating.  One even taught nutrition classes.

So we ditched the cookie exchange and did a soup exchange instead.  It was fun!  We each made a different kind of soup, sampled them, and took leftovers home in tupperware containers.  I had lunch for the next three days.  We sat around eating our soup and finished the night by playing cards.  Of all my years in MOPS this was my favorite holiday gathering.