Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

These are not my grandchildren, just kids I love.  And this picture is too beautiful not to share.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homemade Eggnog Latte

It was a sad day for me when they closed our local Starbucks.

But it was a happy day when I discovered I could make something pretty darn close to the Starbucks Eggnog Latte at home.

So simple.  I just choose the cup I want to drink out of and fill it halfway with the delicious Kroger lowfat eggnog I found in the store last week.  I heat that up in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds, then pour in my coffee.  A little stir, a little sprinkle of nutmeg, a little happy.

Now.  Off to dig out the rest of my Santa mugs.


Friday, December 6, 2013

My Sound of Music Live Review.

Loved it.  I really did.  But then, I love all live theater.  I am very seldom disappointed.  (Wait.  Urinetown really disappointed me.  But that's 1.)

I know.  I am a horrid critic because my mother taught me to look for the good in everything.  She could say something nice about anything or anyone -- even if a production was horrid, well, "at least those people got up there and did it.  That's something not everyone can do."

There has been a lot of flack on the internet this morning (and even before the production) about Carrie Underwood.
Nope, she wasn't Julie Andrews.
Yep, her acting isn't the greatest.
But she was sweet.  And she seems to be very sincere -- I think those were real tears in her eyes as she listened to the fantabulous Audra McDonald sing "Climb Every Mountain."  (They were definitely real tears in my eyes!)

AND, if casting Carrie Underwood as Maria prompted kids to tune in (as I'm pretty sure was the whole plan), great.
If kids tuned in and loved the production, better.
And if this production has sparked an interest in live theater, best.
Because for live theater to survive and thrive, theaters need to be filled.  People need to buy tickets.
Let's face it -- popular celebrities sell tickets.  Nick Jonas as Marius, Reba McIntire as Annie Oakley and even Greg Brady as Captain VonTrapp.
It might not make the disapproving critics happy, but if it keeps Broadway busy, touring companies touring and regional theater suceeding, it makes me happy.

So, more live theater on TV, please.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Very Happy Thought

When I was 6, Debbie and Denise Norris (the ultra-cool daughters of my dad's best friend) took me to the Vondee Theater to see The Sound of Music.

Nothing has ever been the same.

My grandma had this album, and I probably wore out the grooves.  I knew every word, every orchestra swell, every sigh.

Inside the album was a booklet -- the story of the making of the film.  I read it over and over.

I wanted to be a nun.  And a governess.  And Julie Andrews.  And marry Christopher Plummer.
I watched Lost in Space just to see Angela Cartwright.
I encourage brides to walk down the aisle to Maria's Processional.
Salzburg, Austria and Stowe, Vermont are on my travel bucket list.
I have seen many stage productions of the show, including one in which Greg Brady (Barry Williams) was the Captain.  Eek!

And tonight is the LIVE television production starring Carrie Underwood.  NBC, 8:00 PM.

I am so excited!  The DVR is set!
I watched the "making of" program on Bravo this week and teared up -- it is going to be so so sweet.

Be there!   Auf wiedersehen, darling!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My 10 Important Books

On Facebook, writer Susan Braun  (her blog is here) asked her friends to list 10 books that had touched them in some way -- maybe not changed-your-life sort of books, but ones that have stayed in your heart.

I started to write a response, but had a need to explain all my choices.  So I thought I would just blog about them:

1.  The Dictionary.  For Christmas 1971, my grandma and grandpa gave me a big Webster's Dictionary, complete with the finger tabs for each letter.  I loved it, and read it.  I still love it, but don't read it.  Much.

2.  Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.  Mom let me order this from Scholastic when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade.  I read it so many times the color on the cover wore away (mine looked just like the one on the left).  I asked for a notebook like Harriet's, ate tomato sandwiches, wished I had a nanny and wrote down everything I could.

3.  All of  a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor.  One of my favorite people ever was Mrs. Mildred Graves, the children's librarian.  My librarian.  When our house was struck by lightening and caught fire, my library books were ruined by water.  I was so afraid I wouldn't ever be allowed to check out books again.  But when mom and I explained what had happened, all I got from Mrs. Graves was a hug, and the assurance that I would always be able to check out my beloved books.  And then she recommended this one to me -- the very first chapter is about a lost book and a loving librarian.

4.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  My grandma had a beautiful hardbound edition of this book, and I remember reading it, serialized- fashion, every other week when we went down to Sunday dinner with her.  I was probably about 13 when I first read it, but didn't fully understand why I ached for the Joads until I studied it again in high school and again in college.   For me, this is The Great American Novel.  Enough said.

5.  Plainsong by Kent Haruf.  I'm listing this book for two reasons.  One, it is one in a long list of great books that have been recommended by my three dear friends who belong to book clubs -- Jeannine in Indy, Jill in PA and Pam in Tennessee.  They share their lists with me, and I share great books I've read with them.  When we get together (in May for the 500, every other July at 7Springs, and every once in awhile for a Girls' Weekend), we try to choose a book we can all read and discuss together; we read Gift From the Sea for a trip to Amelia Island, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil when we went to Savannah, and a recent favorite of mine, Me Before You this last May.  I love and look forward to our discussions.

Two, this is just a great book.  Read it if you haven't.

6.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  My Master's thesis was "Patterns of Politeness in the Domestic Novels of Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and Anne Tyler:  A Linguistic Study."


As boring as that unfinished thesis was, I did fall in love with Jane Austen, and try to read at least one of her novels every year.  Plus, I think I have seen every movie and television production of her books.  I haven't (and won't), however, read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Ick.

7.  The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  When I went to the University of Akron, everyone was required to take two classes:  Western Culture and Eastern Civilization.  Ugh.  I was finishing up the second degree I had started at Purdue and didn't think I needed these.  But they turned out to be two of the best classes I had ever taken -- eye-opening jump off points to all sorts of amazing history and ideas I hadn't studied before.  I ended up taking another elective in Chinese culture, and have been a little obsessed with China ever since.  (And yes, I am extremely jealous that Clay has walked the Great Wall.)  So when I first heard about this book, I bought a copy ASAP.  If someone asks me about my favorite authors, I always say "Amy Tan" first.  She illuminates Chinese culture plus beautiful human stories.  Plus, she rocks.  Really.

8.  When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.  I really like this book, and everything by Cynthia Rylant, but the coolest thing about this pick is that she is the first author I actually knew.  She taught at the University of Akron at the same time I did, and her office was right down the hall from mine.  While there, she married one of my favorite professors, and they lived right around the corner from us.  Did she ever speak to me after we were first introduced?  Well, no.  Except for a "hi" in the hallway.  Did she know I lived around the corner?  Probably not.  Did she even know my name?  I don't think so.

But I'm still counting it as knowing her, and it was still very cool.

9.  Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.  I wrote about these books the very first month I started blogging -- July of 2007.  You can read my Harry Potter post here -- I wouldn't change a word of it, except that I called Outlander "Highlander" -- what a difference 6 years can make.

10.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  Yes, I did balk at this book.  For almost 10 years, Pam (see #5 above) begged me to read this.  I understand -- when I find a book I love, I want someone else to read it ASAP so we can talk about it.  But it was fantasy/time travel/romance.  Ick.  I don't read that stuff.  Correction -- I didn't read that stuff.  I finally gave it, became hooked and read or listened to the entire series.  Clay started in as well, but he finished much more quickly than I did (he, weirdly, only reads one book at a time).  He now needed someone to discuss the books with while waiting for me to catch up.  Sweet geek that he is, he went online and found a community of Outlander lovers, and Diana Gabaldon herself, who shares his birthday and who we met a couple of years ago.  (I know!  Yowsa.)

We read these books at a time when we needed an escape; the books gave us something to talk about besides ourselves and our troubles.

These books led us to new and amazing friends.

These books were truly life-changers.  Thanks, Pam.

11.  The last book I finished.  (Let me clarify this by saying that I don't always finish a book I start.  This is another difference Clay and I have -- even if a book is uninteresting, he will finish.  I agree with Will's 7th grade English teacher and my friend, Mrs. Lemming, who advised the kids that if they get 50 pages in and the book doesn't catch their interest, abandon it.  There is another book out there for you.)

So if I finish a book, it probably means that I loved the book.  Or that the story caught me.  I wouldn't say that I loved Gone Girl, but there was no way I could abandon that one -- the characters were all creeps, but the narrative was incredible.

Right now, the last book I finished was The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  It was just lovely.  And heart-wrenching.  And I know it will stay with me for a long time.

And what am I reading now?  Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost.  And The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones (from a Slate article -- "The Best Books You've Never Heard Of."  True.)  And Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, because Will is reading that one.  And Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg which I picked up at the library last night, just because.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Disney Craftiness

I'm still in that post-Disneyworld glowing state.  How best to keep that glow alive?  Read Disney blogs and get crafty.

A wonderful woman helped us plan our vacation -- Deborah Breneman of Life Candy Travel (I can't wait to plan our next Disney trip with her!)  I wanted to give her a little something in thanks.  But is her home full of souvenirs from WDW?  Did she need another Mickey ornament for her tree?   So I decided to make her a little something.

I've been experimenting with raw-edge machine applique lately, and really like the look.  It's very easy to do, using the darning foot on the sewing machine -- you can just sew anywhere you like.  And, I really liked this pillow I saw on Natural Life:

So, I gave it a try myself, with a few Disney variations.

"Welcome Home!" was our greeting at the resort gate on our first day.  I cried a little.  (Surprised?)  I sewed a "Hidden Mickey" on the front door -- just sew round-and-round three times!

I had all these fabrics and trims in my crafty stash.  I made the appliques using iron-on adhesive, then just sewed around them and embellished.  If you sew around each element 3 or 4 times, it gives that shabby chic look that I love.

I made my first pillow in the shape of the house, as in the example, but for the second one I added some strips of fabric to make it into a square, which I liked better, and which I sent to Deborah.

Then, because I was really cruising with this machine embroidery technique thingie, I designed a pillow myself:

This one was much easier.  It's just a simple envelope-style pillow.  I chalked on the words, then machine-stitched over them 3 or 4 times.  Using the darning foot, you can sew back and forth a few stitches at the end of a word to lock your threads, then move to the next area you want to stitch, lock a few stitches and go -- clip and trim up the loose threads when you are done.  I made an applique of the star, ironed it on and stitched around it with black thread.  

I made two more pillows using this same technique, but I'll have to wait to show you those until after I give them away.  

And just because, here's Annie, lounging in the library chair:


Monday, December 2, 2013

This Is Why We Do It

Yesterday Chuck and I had a book signing at a holiday show.  We sold all the books we had brought along with us (yippee!) and I promised more to friends.  Chuck was on Cloud 9 -- partly because of our sales  and partly because he was told about a million times that he doesn't look 85 years old!  So it was a good day.

But here is the highlight.

We had a little time to sit and talk, and he told me a story.  He is very good at stories.

A few weeks ago -- the Saturday before Veterans Day, to be exact -- Chuck had spoken at a breakfast for veterans at a church in Fishers.  A troop of Boy Scouts was assisting at the breakfast, and one of the scouts was completely fascinated with Chuck's story (as we all are.)

This boy has Asberger Syndrome, and really isn't comfortable around people -- particularly, he doesn't like anyone to touch him.

The scout went home and told his dad, a local physician, about Chuck, and couldn't stop talking about his story of capture and escape.  The doctor happened to know Chuck, and called him up right away to get a copy of the book.

The following day, when the doctor got home, he gave his son the book.  The son's eyes got huge, and then he hugged his dad.

For the first time in two years.

I told Chuck that if that was the only good thing to come from writing this book, then it was worth it.

This is why we do it.

PS  If you would like to have a copy of our book, just let me know and I'll get you one.  We are also having another signing here in Seymour on December 14 at the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts from 11-3.    You can get it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but Chuck makes more profit by selling them himself.  And of course, you know that his portion of the profit goes to the Wounded Warriors program, because that's just the kind of guy he is.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Any Happy Little Thought

So, that's my December theme.  Happy things.  Enough of the bleh and ugh of yesterday -- all yippees and ooohs and aahs from here on in.

Am I going to post every day?  Probably not, but maybe my posts will be so happy that the glow will last for a couple of days.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Where the Heck Did November Go?

So that blogging every day in November thing didn't happen.

Guess what else didn't happen?  NaNoWriMo.  I started two novels, was really making great progress on the second, and then life just got in the way.  I need to get rid of some of my life if this is going to work.

But what else to get rid of?  Friends?  Family?  Fun?

I'm still having trouble saying "No" to requests for my time.  Because I guess I must really like being asked.  I really like doing things for other people that keep me away from my desk.  I really like all my nursing home peeps who boost my ego -- Mr. V at the Lutheran Home asks me every week when I am performing in Carnegie Hall because I am the best piano player he's ever heard.  And he's old.  Really old.

I'm also having a little trouble when people say, "So, what are you doing now that you don't have a job?"

Ugh.  How to explain that I spend a lot of time thinking about my writing?  Not enough really writing, but a lot of time thinking about it.

And I also spent a lot of November across the hall in the workroom.  I know.  That's why I have a writing desk in the guest room, so that I won't be tempted to craft when I should be writing.  But I can't help it.

Maybe I should write a craft book.  Or be like Debbie Macomber incorporate my crafty adventures into a novel.  Bleh.

And I can assure you that December won't be much better.  Because it's December.

Ugh.  Bleh.  Bah humbug.

But peace, anyway.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Key Lime Cake

 My sweet niece, Carly turned 16 last month, and I wanted to make her a special cake.  She loves the Florida Keys, and has been there many times on vacation.   She also loves Key Lime, so I went searching for the perfect cake for her.  

I had made a Key Lime Cake last year for my office -- it started with a cake mix and lime jello.  It was good, but I wanted to try a different version and found this one on Bakerella's site.  Four layers of moist cake filled with key lime buttercream, then frosted with the same, and topped with whipped cream rosettes.  And graham cracker crumbs pressed into the sides for a lovely presentation.

This cake was a hit.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween Costumes #2

So Paul wanted to be Robin Hood.  Maggie really wanted him to be Peter Pan.  In fact, she even bought him the cutest hat when we were in Disney, and had his name embroidered on the back.   Basically, Robin Hood and Peter Pan are the same costume, right?  One just has a bow and arrow.

We made the tunic out of fleece, using some internet directions I'm not going to link to, because they weren't so great -- we ended up just winging this one, too.  Maggie found the cute green "running tights like Grandpa's" at WM (yes, they were girl's tights, but I hoped if we made the Grandpa connection he would think they were cool, and it worked), and we made the belt and shoe covers from a pair or corduroy pants she found at Goodwill.

For such a cute boy, he's not crazy about the camera.  Under the bed:

 I'm not sure what this pose is, but you can see the shoe cover booties here:

Love this kid.  Our wacky little Peter Robin Pan Hood.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Costumes #1

How happy does it make this Mimi that all three grandsons wanted to be Disney characters for Halloween?  
First up, Tommy and Nate as Chip and Dale:

Those hats really aren't supposed to come over their faces, but that's a pretty cute picture!
Here they are from the side:

I guess not too many kids want to be Chip and Dale, because a quick Google search didn't turn up many ideas (but be careful when searching for Chip and Dale, because some folk seem to think the male dancers are Chip and Dales, not Chippendales.  Yikes.)  So, I winged it, although I started with a good old Simplicity pattern.

This was the same pattern I made Sarah's tiger costume from for Halloween 1987.  Of course, not the same pattern -- I bought a new one.  It's just amazing to me that this one is still available, except that it's considerably more expensive!

 I made their costumes out of fleece, so they would be able to wear them as pajamas since these boys love cozy pajamas!  You can usually find fleece this time of year at a bargain -- I paid about $3.00 a yard.  The pattern advised me to purchase 6 yards of the brown -- that seemed like a lot of fabric, and it was -- I have a ton leftover.  A bit of off white and black for their stripes and tails, and I was off.  The beautiful thing about fleece is that you really don't have to finish any edges, so once I had all the pieces cut out, it was a breeze (well, a breeze after I got the zippers in).  For the detail, I added a stripe of white and one of black on the back, and gave the fleece some snips to make it look fluffy.  I made their little tails like a pyramid, with a little stuffing, and just whip-stitched them on so Sarah could snip them off after trick or treating.  (When Nate first tried his costume on, he told Sarah that his tail hurt.  Turn out I left a pin in.  Sorry, sweet Nater.)  I made each of them a pair of mitts, which I hope came in handy (ha!).

I wasn't too sure how to make their faces, though.  After several failed attempts at machine appliqueing, I ended up drawing then painting the faces onto felt (thanks, Disney Animation Academy!)  I ironed on some stabilizer to make them stand up, then tacked the faces onto brown sock hats.

I had plenty of brown fleece left, so I thought I would make them some pillows.  I cut out the letters for their Chip and Dale, machine embroidered them on and as soon as I can get them to give up their hats, I'll applique the faces onto the pillows!


Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Book Report

I am ashamed to say that I just haven't been reading much lately.

But, I highly recommend the one I finished last week:

It's a story of ambitious young brothers who rescue a girl from a frozen river.  She becomes their best friend, and they make elaborate plans to become film makers, specializing in the natural world.  I fell in love with all three of them, and their parents, and want to move to New Hampshire and be friends with them.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Sweet November

Photo by Dave Mellenbruch
So, you know how I love November.  It's the month in which my parents and my in-laws were married,  in which I was born, and in which Clay and I were married.  (How you like that fancy grammar?  I am slowly embracing the Oxford comma, too.) I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving (or as we call it around here, Brown Friday, celebrated with delicious leftovers, a crunchy hike at the refuge and some quality couch time), college football, and artsy/crafty pre-Christmas adventures.

And this year, I'll add one more thing to love about the month:  writing.  Although I've been working on my novels for a while, today marks the official start to my new career.  I have all the things I need:  a brain full of ideas, a newly-decorated writing room/guest room, the encouragement of my family and friends, and my sweet little dog on the floor right beside me.  (I do need a more comfortable desk chair. Or, I might just keep this wooden folding chair I'm sitting on right now -- the slats gouging my butt might be a motivator to complete the 1,667 words I want to write each day.)

And how do I know I need to crank out 1,667 words?  I signed up for NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month.  If I keep on track (which would be way out of the norm for me -- habit is not my strong suit), I should have 50,000 words completed by November 30.

What is my goal?  Of course, my dream would be to have a novel published by a major house, but more realistically, my first goal is just to get it done.  My second goal is to create something that people will enjoy reading.  My third goal is to blog every day this month, sharing my progress on my novel and other random stuff, as usual.  Away we go!


PS  As many of you already know, Chuck's book is published!  You can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  He has signings in the Indianapolis area, and we hope to have one down here soon.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Ignorant Asses Here

I had decided I wasn't going to blog again until I had something really great to share.  Like a finished book in my hands, or a chapter of my novel I felt good enough about sharing with you.  But yesterday, something happened that rocked my world a little, and I need to write about it.

First, a little catch-up.  Two weeks ago, I quit my job.

I know.  I loved it, and it was a very difficult decision.  But I know that if I want to make this writing thing happen, I have to devote myself to it as if it is my job.

A job that may never pay anything and has no benefits.  I guess that's not entirely true -- the benefits are that I can make my schedule, have unlimited sick days and can vacation whenever I want.

Of course, this is all possible because I am married to a sugar daddy who brings home the bacon, carries the health benefits and loves me so much he doesn't fuss about my crazy schemes.  Much.

Chuck's book, the first tangible fruits of my labor, should be in our hands any day now.  When I told Chuck that I had always dreamed of being a writer and holding my own book in my hands, he said, "Girl, do it.  You are a wordsmith.  The queen of words!  Do it now!"  When an 83-year-old veteran who you respect the heck out of tells you do to something, you should do it.  So I am.

I have been re-arranging the toy room into a guest room/writing room.  I always thought I would write in my workroom, but it is far too distracting in here -- too many little kitschy cutsie items, plus, my sewing machine, art supplies and yarn stash are only an arm's length away.  I'm repainting -- so long vivid, happy purple, hello soft grey.  I moved a desk in front of the window, which overlooks our backyard, the creek and the cornfields beyond.

My plan is to write 3 days a week, at least.  One day a week will be for community service, and one day for artsy crafty endeavors.

I hope it works.  I am not the most self-motivated person in the world, but I have so many friends and family encouraging me -- I hate to disappoint people, and want to give them something to read, and soon.

But yesterday, I almost bagged it all.  It's all OK now, and I sort of want to kick myself in the ass for being discouraged.  Here's the story:

My cousin, Elisa, reads my blog.  I don't see her very often, but we have re-connected through facebook, and that's been terrific.  Yesterday, she asked me about a post I wrote a couple of years ago about Komen and funding of breast cancer research.  (Here, if you're interested.)  I sent her the link and she shared in on her fb page.  That post really pissed off one of her friends.  I mean REALLY PISSED OFF.  Her friend wrote that I was an ass, was ignorant, had no compassion for poor underprivileged women and didn't understand the Catholic Church.  (Of course, on that last one, she's right. I've been working on that one for 30 years.)

Well, if you know me at all, you know I cried a little.  OK, a lot.  Then I decided that I would never blog, facebook or write again, if my words were so weak that they could be completely misconstrued.

Oh, it was a sad afternoon.  I moped around, Eyeore-like, convinced that I had really screwed up by leaving a job I loved for a job I had no business attempting.  I did laundry, sorted and packed for our upcoming vacation and did a little shopping, all the while wondering what in the world I would do with myself after our return from the Happiest Place on Earth.  A job offer I had last week, which I have decided would be a terrible move for me, was starting to look not-quite-so-terrible.

But then Sugar Daddy got home.  He immediately knew something was wrong, as I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve and my emotions all over my face.  He dragged me out of the darkened living room and out to dinner.  Over some much-needed alcohol, he gave me the figurative (but loving) butt-kicking I have come to depend upon him for.  He said he was sorry I was sad, but reminded me that anyone who puts anything out there into the big, opinionated world is bound to be criticized.  We talked and laughed and when we left the restaurant, I was ready to go write something spectacular.

Except that tequila makes me sleepy.

When I woke up this morning, I had a most beautiful thought -- that friend of Elisa's had done me a great favor.  You see, one of the stories I am currently working on is about two cousins who were very close growing up -- almost like twins.  Then, in junior high, one said something horrible to the other, in an attempt to look cool in front of the popular girls.  That hurtful moment tore their beautiful friendship apart until ...  well, I'll let you read that in a few weeks.

Those comments yesterday helped me to remember how awful words can make you feel.  You know -- sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart.  I think my story is going to be much better for this experience.

I'm not quitting.  I'm growing.  With a little help from Clay and a woman I don't even know (who did apologize and remove her original post.)  Many thanks to you both.


PS:  Because I can't let things go very easily, I directed Elisa's friend to two other blog posts about my mom, pink ribbons and breast cancer, here and here.  Because I really, really needed her to know I'm not an ignorant ass.  What's wrong with me?

Another PS:  Although I had first considered deleting the blog post that started all this (or at least re-writing it), I still stand behind it 100%.  I'm never afraid to admit when I am wrong, but this time, I'm not.

Monday, September 30, 2013

September, the Month of Birthdays. And Birthday Cakes.

First, I would like it read into the record that this is my 12th post in September.
Although that's not a record for this blog, it is the most posts of 2013.

 You're welcome.

Here are the September birthday cakes!
Tommy's Notre Dame cake, made the day after ND beat Purdue 31-24 (actually, not so bad, considering this past weekend's loss to Northern Illinois, 55-24.  I don't even want to think about the upcoming Ohio State game . . .)

This is just a 9x13, iced with buttercream.  The goal post are some dowel rod I glued together and spray-painted gold.  He was happy.  And about the cutest 9-year-old I know.

On the same day, we celebrated Maggie's 26th Birthday.  And, because we have a fun trip coming up, I made a Minnie Mouse cake for her.  She shared her cake with her niece, Marley, who came to celebrate with us:

There is a lot of inspiration on the internet for this cake -- you should just try googling Disney cakes and see all the fantastic stuff people are doing!  I have a round cake pan (to make golf balls, basketballs and the like) so Clay (my baker) made a cake in one of the halves to make the Minnie hat.  The ears, bow and dots are fondant, and around the bottom?  Malted milk balls.  Which, as Paul pointed out, don't have milk in the middle.  What's with that?

This past Saturday, we celebrated Paul's 5th birthday.  He wanted a Despicable Me cake, so we sat down at the computer and he picked out this one.  I think he was drawn to it because of the spill.  As a fellow messy person, I was, too.  Here's my re-creation:

Clay's favorite minion is the one sliding down the left side of the cake.  That was a bit of a mistake when I was putting him in position, but it's cute, and something a minion would do.  


Marble cake, iced with buttercream.  The minions, letters, moon and lab floor are fondant, and I painted on the spill and the Gru silhouette.  Fun, fun, fun. 

And finally, Griffin's 7th Birthday Lego cake.  Again, there are about a million Lego cakes out there in internet land to study for inspiration.  I cut all those crazy Legos out of fondant, using a pen cap for the dots and gluing them on the rectangles with a little water, and I painted his name Lego-style on a piece of rolled-out fondant.  

So, it's supposed to look like they are mining for Legos, but when I went to WM to find Lego sets for the cake, the closest I could get was a cement mixer (which was too big for the top of the cake, and which I dropped and broke into many, many pieces as I was trying to get this all set up.  Good old Will, who had spent about an hour building it in the first place, re-built it for me, but warned me not to drop it again!)  So, it's not really accurate, but it worked, and Griff was happy.  

White cake, which I split into 4 layers, then used a different color icing between each layer.  The sand is brown sugar.  I did realize, too late, that if this actually were a cake made from legos, on the side you would just see slim stacked rectangles -- no dots.  I think I'd like to try another Lego cake -- lucky for me, Nate said he would like one for his next birthday.  That gives me 5 months to practice!