Sunday, August 24, 2014

It Takes Two

I have to disclaimer this post. It has taken me almost a month to write because I wrote it and it was amazing and then I went to publish it and it completely disappeared. Poof! Now you see it, now you don't. Nor will you ever see it again. 

I nearly died. 

And then I said a lot of words that rhyme with otherducking luck muck tuck. Except I sound way more like Dr. Seuss right now than I did then. 

Then I slammed the laptop shut and turned on Pawn Stars. 

So, here I am...several weeks later, re-writing and saving every 6th word. I hope we all make it out alive. 

Last week we celebrated Blue's 2nd birthday.

And in honor of that, I'm going to regale you with his birth story.

All 15 hours of it.

Hahahaha. No, I'm not. Not even I want to rehash that kind of crazy. It hurt. It took them almost 90 minutes to get the epidural in. Then I took a nap. Then he was born. And then I had a chicken sandwich from Wendy's.

And here we are, 2 years later. To be quite honest, I'm a little surprised that he is growing into a very loving, kind, adventurous, and flexible little boy. I know that's due in no small part to Neal's playful love and attention and me dragging him all over God's green earth to visit friends, relatives and Civil War battlefields. He's amazingly well-traveled. Not as well-traveled as my nieces, who both had and had used their passports by their second birthdays, but moreso than the average toddler.

In continuing with our tradition of ridiculously over-the-top birthdays, Neal and I decided to have Blue's 2nd birthday at the Louisville Zoo. I mean, if you can't give your only child an elephant when he turns 2, what's the point?  So, the date was set, the invitations mailed (which were these adorable customized zoo tickets from the Etsy store, Nowanorris. That is not Blue, by the way, but how freaking cute is that kid? And apparently, my invitations scored off the charts for realistic appearance because I got all kinds of questions about needing more tickets for the rest of the family and should they bring these tickets with them to get in? Just FYI should you go this route.)
and travel plans made for guests far and wide (which really just included Shana, who spent a chunk of her departure day sitting on the tarmac at JFK and my sister and nieces who left the heat of FL for the heat of KY.). 

Due to total lack of time and energy, I failed to complete all of my normal OCD-OMG-you-must-be-kidding-why-are-you-making-straw-flags-for-a-toddler-birthday-party tasks and settled for what I could find in the big box stores. Michael's was a total bust, as was Party City. Apparently, if your son's birthday party theme isn't Thomas the Train, Elmo, Daniel Tiger or Spiderman, you are up a creek without a cute plate/cup/napkin set. Ditto for girls. Your daughter isn't a princess? Good luck, Chuck. So, I had to do the unthinkable. I had to go to Hobby Lobby. (I know, I know Webb...I'm so sorry). But there in aisle 10 was the zoo party stuff and it was completely acceptable. I gathered. I purchased. And on my way home, I prayed that every female staffer who wants to be on birth control will win the lottery and buy out Hobby Lobby and provide a bowl of Ortho-Tricycline on the break room table. 

The last little detail was the cake. The zoo, at great expense to us, required their own catering service so lunch was covered. But the cake, should we want one, was up to us. Of course we want a cake. Isn't it a party? Isn't that how you SPELL "party"...C-A-K-E? Yeah, thought so... 

Shana sent me a pin. I think we should do this, she said. It will be fun, she said...

I chuckled. I snorted. And then I rolled my eyes. Sure thing, cupcake. I'm all over that. Oh wait...I don't bake. I will whip you out a rosary with one hand tied behind my back but I don't freaking bake. But, apparently, Shana does. She was confident we could pull this off. So I agreed. And then I ran by Nord's in Louisville to solidify plan B. 

If you would like really excellent step-by-step directions on how to bake this cake, I would suggest clicking on the above link and following it exactly. If you would like some snarky, basic directions on how to bake this cake but with a different design for the number and a totally different frosting on the outside, read on, my friend. Also, spoiler alert: I have pictures of Shana in a zebra mask.

1. So, step 1 is to realize approximately 48 hours before your party that no store in your rinky-dink Army town carries an appropriate set of number cookie cutters. Wal-wart gets close but they only had Wilton's 2" numbers and we used a 2 1/2" number. You could go smaller but I think the number would run together and the total effect would be lost. So, hop on Amazon and order the 2 1/2" numbers. Bonus points if you do it in the middle of Wal-wart with less than 17 minutes to go before shipping is extended to the day AFTER your party. Make sure you do all of step 1 for the best possible story later.

2. Gather your supplies...
* 1 box of pound cake mix (yes, they make this. Neal learned something in the baking of this cake, too.)
*1 box of whatever cake you want the around the number to be. (We used yellow. Or butter. I can't remember. You'll have to ask Shana.) 
* Whatever ingredients the box mixes call for...eggs, oil, water, etc. 
* Assloads A lot of food coloring in multiple, yellow, green, blue. I had all of these because we've been making sidewalk chalk all summer, which I also highly recommend. 
* A really good loaf pan. All of my pans are in questionable condition. While I don't mind to occasionally cook some rust into my family's meatloaf, I didn't want to poison any of our guests so I spent the $5.86 at Target for a new loaf pan. Shana said that baking this cake with a brand new pan made it much easier. 

3. Make your batter for the number cake using the pound cake mix. Then divide that batter into bowls. Number of bowls = number of different colors you want to use. We baked a practice cake and learned that it takes WAY more food coloring than you would expect to create the vibrant colors for the numbers. Like more than you would think is healthy or wise. A total red dye #5 overdose. Shana said she thought about how much red food coloring you use for red velvet cake and let that be her guide. (That also kinda turned me off to red velvet cake for...forever, I think.)

4. Stop to take a picture of the process for future blogging purposes. 

5. Layer the colors of batter in the loaf pan. All 1 color on the bottom, then the next, then the next, and so on. Once the loaf pan is full, give it a few taps on the counter to get the bubbles out. This keeps the cake from doming in the center when it's baking. Doming = BAD. If the middle is tall and the ends are short, it will be hard to get numbers cut from the short ends. And you really need to be able to cut numbers through the entire cake. The goal is to have the baked cake just as flat across the top as when it started.

6. While the pound cake is baking, stop to make some really fabulous party gifts (or is it "parting gifts"? It was always hard to tell when I watched The Price is Right.)
And photograph the awesome Birthday Shirt you created using your child's handprint, some stencils and craft paint. Congratulate yourself on winning at this whole stay-at-home mom thing. Ignore the fact that you let your child watch 2 hours of Sesame Street while you painted said shirt.

7. Imagine what your child will look like wearing his Birthday Shirt (which is quite different than his Birthday Suit, but which also eventually makes an appearance as he has figured out how to remove all of his clothes and his diaper.)
Congratulate yourself again and then take the cake out of the oven.

8. Slice cake the width of your cookie cutter. (Basically, when you place your cutter cutter into a slice, the enter slice will fill the cookie cutter...if that makes any sense whatsoever. If not, ask Shana.)
9. looks like this:
10. Do that for all of the slices, setting the 2's to the side and building a stockpile of scraps that everyone in your house will snack on for the rest of the night (and perhaps with coffee the next morning).
 See the "2" on the cutting board? That's what happens if you half-ass the food coloring. Go big or go home.
2 other sidenotes about this picture:
a. If ever you have the opportunity to purchase that green tractor at the top of the picture for your toddler, do it. Do it without hesitation. It is the sturdiest toy I've ever seen. I can't tell you how many times it has been launched down the big kids' slide at the playground, hit the bottom with at least 5 end-to-end rolls and launched again. For almost 3 months now. Just buy it.
b. If ever you are tempted to buy those blue IKEA bowls, forget it. Just walk away and remember my voice saying to you, "if you microwave often and value your fingerprints, step away." If you have decided to take up a life of crime and couldn't care 2 squats about your fingerprints, by all means, proceed.

11. Line up the 2's in the loaf pan (preferably all facing in the same direction, but if you get one turned around, it's just a fun surprise for whoever gets that piece) and pipe the second batter in around the 2's.

It's best to pipe it. You don't have to be fancy about it. Ziplocks with the corner cut off work great. See?
Oh, and Shana put on some frog boobs and a monkey mask for this step.
That part is completely optional. But I do think it made the cake taste better.

So, it may be at this step (or, perhaps earlier if you are planner) that you realize we baked the numbers twice. I was quite worried that would dry out the numbers. And if it did, it was only very slightly and was offset by the once-baked (twice shy...oh I slay me), cake and the assloads tons of frosting you'll be using on the outside. So soldier on. You're almost done!

12. Tap cake on the counter. Exorcise those bubbles.

13. Admire your handiwork. (or your BFF's handiwork...whatever...)

14. Let cake cool completely before frosting. Ignore all temptations to cut into it and see how it turned out.

15. Frost cake in whatever way you deem ideal. We had a zoo theme so Shana frosted this zebra print. Let me rephrase that...she frosted this zebra print on the day of the party, in the party room, while I was delivering tickets and ride wristbands to our guests at the front gate. Girl's last name should be Wilton. Or Shilton.
16. In your excited rush to cut open that cake and see if the number trick worked or not (in front of 35 of your closest friends and family), COMPLETELY forget to take a picture. For the record, it worked. It was absolutely awesome and never again will I plan B one of Shana's ideas.

Is it really 16 steps? No, it's like 4. But why would you omit any of them? Particularly frog boobs and the monkey mask.

I have one more post about the party itself because I think the Louisville Zoo should be given some love for the fabulous event they helped provide. But y' it's time for Pawn Stars....


  1. That's awesome! My kids are double digits :( Probably wont fit in the pan.

  2. Incredible! and the cake, too. I meant Shana. Sounds like so much fum ... am thinking there was Sauvigon Blanc involved, too.

    And, i will testify any time that Baby Blue has turned into a delightful Little Toddler Blue - fun to be around! Happy Birthday to all!

  3. I'ma gonna try this for Mr. Fairway's birthday! Sorry about your lost post. Truck Blogger!


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