It’s really hard not to laugh when your child cries that she injured herself because she was trying to scratch her ear like a dog.

Rachael’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates 5th Birthday Party

While I was blogging yesterday, Rachael asked me to blog about her 5th birthday party. Never intending to blog about her party, I don’t have too many step by step pictures. Many of the pictures I did take were after the party, after the food had been demolished.

Rachael has a tendency to pick her party theme a year before and stick with it the whole year. On the heels of her Snow White themed 4th birthday party, she declared that she wanted a Rapunzel birthday the following year. Tired of the princess parties, (she had The Little Mermaid the year before) Mike talked Rachael into a Jake and the Neverland pirates party. It didn’t take much convincing, as Rachael loves Jake and all of the Neveland lore. Not long after, Mike showed her pictures of pirate ship cakes, and it was determined that I was going to be attempting a 3D Bucky cake. While I looked forward to the challenge of carving a 3D cake, it wasn’t anything I had done before. So there was definitely an Oh shit element to this whole thing.

First things first
I decided to make a map of Neverland for the invitation. I found some fantastic handmade paper at Michaels, and I also picked up a calligraphy pen, red wax, and wax seal. So, I tried to draw the Neverland freehand while looking at a picture from Peter Pan. Yeah….it looked like an amoeba. I have some artistic talent, but this was clearly not going to happen without assistance. TO THE INTERWEBS! I found a decent picture of the island, printed it and placed it on top of the handmade paper. Since the paper was a bit thick and soft, I was able to use a pencil to trace the outline and then ink over the indentations with a black felt tip pen.

I colored in the details with regular old Crayola colored pencils and wrote in the details with the calligraphy pen. The finishing touch was to seal the map inside the envelope with a red wax seal. I chose to use the initial of our last name. Several parents commented to me that their kids were so excited over the invitation and wax seal. One girl said it made her feel like it was addressed to a princess. Another girl carried her invitation with her everywhere. Rachael was ecstatic over them. It was nice to know that the effort had made so many kids happy.

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Let them eat cake!
As I said, I had never carved a cake before but, I’d seen enough episodes of Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, and any other cake decorating show you can think of that I thought, It can’t be that hard. Fortunately, once I found the right cake recipe, it wasn’t as hard as I feared. I made the recipe in two tube pans, and it was amazing: dense enough to hold up to carving; rich and creamy without being sickening. When I did the trial run cake, I felt like the shape kind of looked like a toilet with the lid down, so I changed up my approach for the final go. I lopped off the uneven top, (and then promptly devoured) of one of the cakes and placed it on the bottom as my base. I did the same with the second cake, carved out the rectangle center for the main deck, and then placed the carved out section on the top back. Finally, I carved the front of the ship to look triangular. All pieces were held together with icing.

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Crumb coat stage

Tip: Don’t forget to crumb coat your cake! If you don’t, you’ll end up with crumbs in your icing. To crumb coat, simply apply a relatively thin layer of softened icing. I then place it in the fridge to get stiff. Then you’re ready for final icing and, if you choose, fondant.

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Here’s the breakdown:
Mast is a dowel rod covered in fondant
Waves, windows, gold details are colored fondant
Waves were made using Wilton fondant and gum paste mold
Cannon is a dowel rod covered in colored fondant
Slide is licorice
Crows nest is a painted Dixie cup that has been cut in half
Sail printed from spoonful.com and is secured with skewers and hot glue

I knew this wasn’t going to be enough cake for the number of people we were having, so I made these cupcakes.
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Also loved these.

Decor

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Note the scurvy dog. Hahahahahahahaha *cough cough* *sigh*
The silhouettes were gathered from Spoonful and Internet images. I placed them on canvas, (secure them with something so they don’t slip) and paint over the images. The canvas soaks up the paint pretty quickly, so you can remove the pictures pretty much right away.
I don’t have too many pictures from outside, but we had things broken up into pirate ship, Pixie Hollow, and Mermaid Lagoon sections. On the deck I placed nets and had them entangled with sea stars, Mardi Gras beads, and jewel stickers. Over the patio we set up a canopy as Pixie Hollow. Unfortunately we ran out of time, so my full vision of that didn’t come together. We wrapped twinkle lights up in the cross bars, which were supposed to be obscured by green crepe paper just so you could see the twinkles. We also didn’t have time to hang the fairies from the cross bars, but had a Pixie Hollow table cover. Clearly, Rachael was devastated by the incompleteness of it all.
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Funtivities

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Mermaid Lagoon. Canopy leaves from Ikea.

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Digging for buried treasure. I wasn’t fully prepared when people arrived, so I just had the kids bury the plastic dubloons and jeweled necklaces. They buried the treasure and dug it back up over and over again.

We also had coconut bowling, (the kids had a blast with the real coconuts. I was glad we had more than one!) and playing inside the Bucky tent that a good friend was kind enough to lend to me.

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For favor bags, I just got the Jake bags from the party store. Inside were wooden instruments I found in the dollar section at Target that I painted so the kids could play pirate rock at home. I also included eye patches and Jake tattoos. Finally, I made under the sea chocolate lollies from the Wilton chocolate pop mold.

I think my little pixie was pretty happy!

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“Move! I’m trying to get somewhere….real!”

I’ll start off by saying that I’m pretty irritated that I’m even writing this post. I never intended to throw my hat into the ring on Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. But after I read a piece on CNN about her recent Vogue interview and photo shoot, I became too aggravated to leave it alone.
Many are criticizing Mayer for taking a “provocative” picture, (um, check out them sexy ankles?) for the Vogue spread. It seems as though women are angry with her because it was an inappropriate picture to take as a smart, powerful, female CEO. Plenty of stories have also been written about her only taking two weeks of maternity leave and no longer allowing telecommuting.

The thing that aggravates me is that none, NONE of this would be at the forefront of national news if she weren’t a woman. As to the picture in Vogue, she is perfectly entitled to let the photographer take a picture which highlights her femininity and the fact that she’s *GASP* pretty. I’m not sure why there is an insistence that if a woman is smart and powerful, she must also check her femaleness at the door.

It's pi plus C, of course.
http://xkcd.com/385/

With regard to her maternity leave…..WHY DO YOU FREAKIN’ CARE?!?!?!? (I guess the mommy wars extend on up the corporate ladder.) This is her family, her job, and her choice. (Also, pretty sure she didn’t leave her child alone in front of the tv to watch porn with a bottle full of bourbon.) Why not focus on the US’s abysmal family leave laws instead? The focus should be on the fact that many women don’t get any sort of choice when it comes to how much maternity leave they take. And paternity leave? Pthttttt! Why not talk about the inherent sexism in most company’s allowances for the fathers. My husband received two whole days! Any other time he took was vacation days.
As to Ms. Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, I am in no position to judge the rightness or wrongness of that decision. I am not at the helm of a floundering technology company. I don’t know the specific and behind the scenes challenges Yahoo is facing, and am in no way qualified to comment on them. What I do know is that much of the indignation about the decision seems to stem from the fact that she’s a woman. She just had a baby! She should get it! This is nothing more than the opposite side of the “thinking with your uterus” coin. In this case, she’s catching crap for NOT making a decision with her uterus.

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Rather than spending all our energy on what Ms. Mayer is doing, why not focus on something that matters? Perhaps:

– Girls in Afghanistan who have to worry for their lives because they want to go to school or have the gall to speak their minds

– The rampant rapes and murders of women in Sudan and the Congo

Sexual slavery in Asia

– The virtually unchecked rape and murder of women and little girls in India

– The problem of femicide in Italy and Latin America

– The fact that women are prevented from being in positions of authority in many evangelical churches

– The fact that equal pay and work conditions in the US is still something we’re fighting for

– Calling women like Sandra Fluke a slut and a whore because she testified before Congress on behalf of a friend’s medical need for contraception, (or the choice to use it for any reason)

– And while we’re on Congress, the fact that there are people who write laws which control women’s bodies and their medical decisions and also use terms like “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape”

– That the first questions people still ask when they hear a woman was raped are: How drunk was she? What was she wearing? Did she really say no?

Women have had to fight for our right to vote. Women have had to fight for the right to control our own bodies and make private medical decisions. Women have had to fight for workplace equality. With all these real fights going on, I would hope that we’d be too tired to worry about something like a picture in Vogue.

Keeping Up Appearances

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This morning I was running late for my rheumatologist appointment. So I had to make a decision almost no woman wants to make: hair or makeup?” Ultimately, I chose makeup since my face is breaking out like I rubbed my face with deep fried, chocolate covered Doritos. I rejoiced in it being cool enough outside that I could wear jeans. I chose a loose peasant top that would disguise my “I had two babies and it wrecked my body” belly and the “Lyrica made me gain 20 pounds” back fat. I had already done my check to make sure the sight of my feet/pedicure wouldn’t cause people’s faces to melt off like Toht’s. I was reasonably presentable.

For as long as I can remember, what I looked like and what people thought of me was important. My mom and I constantly fought over my clothes and appearance upon leaving the house. You can’t wear spandex; you’re too big for it. You really shouldn’t wear chokers; your neck’s too short. Your hair looks like broom straw/greasy mess.
On top of that, I live in the DC/Metro area. Appearance matters. Period. Which neighborhood do you live in? Where did you go to school? Where do you work? Where do you vacation? Which shade of beige is your minivan? (Note to self: Shades of Beige = AWESOME fanfic idea. Must get on that shit!) Oh my gosh, I loooove your Coach purse. Only $400? What a bargain! The cult of personality also lives here. Introverts need not apply.

You can imagine how all of this might make someone who already has anxiety issues not want to go places. I can’t go to the mall. What if people….notice me? All of these neuroses became supersized once I became a stay at home mom. All of a sudden, I was thrust into a solitary world where all my friends either worked or didn’t live close by. I needed some new comrades, ladies who understood my plight and could provide some much needed companionship for both my children and me. I needed some kindred spirits.
So I compartmentalized. I became what I felt like I needed to be in order to get along with people, to be accepted. I tried to stay positive at all times, (which is especially awesome while battling depression and the chronic fatigue of undiagnosed fibromyalgia.) I tried to engage in socially appropriate small talk, (which, as we all know, socially awkward introverts are extremely good at.) I tried not to say anything shocking or offensive, like fuck. (Conversation tip: mentioning how awful it is that they’re going to air commercials with images of aborted fetuses during the Super Bowl is an effective method for abruptly ending a conversation.) You should have heard the silence in my Christian aerobics class when I mentioned that I wasn’t sure that I believed in God. I’m pretty sure I saw some take a step back as their eyes widened at the admission, and I, once again, wrapped myself in the familiar Snuggie of social awkwardness. (Oooo, another great idea! Hot damn, I’m on fire today!)

The thing that I’m finally starting to realize is that compartmentalizing requires walls, and keeping those walls up is exhausting. I need to allow myself to be myself…fully. I need to revel in last night’s Elder Sign victory AND get the cutest blouse ever at Loft. I need to feel free to say that something can suck my left tit when it pisses me off AND own the fact that I like planning and throwing successful parties which allow me to tap into my creative side. I need to be okay with joining the PTA AND saying fuck more.

Maybe I shouldn’t say fuck AT the PTA meetings.

Purple potatoes are delicious AND alliterative

I first saw purple potatoes on Chopped on the Food Network. Since then, I’ve been wanting to make them because….they’re purple potatoes. Over the weekend I spotted a bag of mixed purple, new, and Yukon potatoes at Costco and snatched them up.

I gotta say, I did squeal a little when I sliced the first purple potato open. I got all Sally Field on it: It’s purple! It’s really purple!

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Since they cook up just like any other potato, I decided to roast them all together in the oven. Don’t they look like little jewels?

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I coated them in some vegetable oil, (you can use other oils, like olive oil. I’ve found vegetable oil yields the best texture with potatoes, especially if you want some crispiness. Soggy, oily potatoes are just gross,) season them well with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. 425 degree oven for 40-45 minutes and you have delicious and pretty potatoes.