Tuesday, July 16, 2019

three shining dragon eggs

When I asked my daughter what she wanted for her 18th birthday cake, she said, “Surprise me,” but I had no idea what to make until I came across these Game of Thrones dragon egg cakes. My daughter is a huge fan of the show, and they looked simple enough: just three eggs. How hard could it be?

And then I read up on the process — hollow chocolate eggs filled with buttercream, hundreds of handcut fondant scales, multiple cakes — and began to have second thoughts. But then my older son (also a GOT fan) got wind of the idea and was like, This is the cake, Mom. The cake. DO IT.

So I squared my shoulders and set to.

For two weeks, I chipped away at that cake, running to the store for piping gel and chocolate candy melts and glycerine, and ordering brushes and ivory dust and petal cutters from Amazon. I scoured the Internets for egg-shaped pans. Except for some outrageously expensive ones on ebay, there were none — NONE — but then at the last minute I posted an ISO on our church website and one of my friends actually had a set and said she’d give them to me, WHAT ARE THE ODDS.

Hollow chocolate eggs were also impossible to source, so I finally just ordered molds and made my own. Which turned out to be ridiculously easy and now I can make professional-looking chocolate-coated peanut butter eggs whenever I want.

I needed three batches of chocolate cake (each batch made one whole egg), so I made four just to be safe.



I made fondant in three different colors and spent hours painstakingly cutting out each of the scales with the petal cutter (and now have the blister on my thumb to show for it).



The deeper in I got, the more obvious it became that I was in over my head. This was, by far, the most complicated cake I’d ever made.

Saturday, the day before the celebration, I worked all day, from ten in the morning until 8:30 that night.






















"If you don’t like this cake,” I told my daughter, who had no idea what I was making, “I will disown you.”

Now, about the display box. A few days before, I’d politely asked my husband if he’d please come up with something in which we could present the eggs. He dug in his heels, claiming he had no idea what to do. I pushed back: Figure it out. And then Saturday morning, he traipsed out to the barn to work on his own projects, and I blew up. This was birthday time, dammit. HELP ME.

My older son played intermediary — feeding my husband ideas for the display box and commiserating with me over the impossibility of being married to that man — and eventually my husband started whacking something-or-other together out in the barn. One thing let to another and before I knew it he’d built her an actual present.



That man.

For two days, none of the children were allowed to look in the fridge (even though the other three had all helped at different stages, I wanted the final product to be a surprise for them, too), and then Sunday evening, after the birthday supper and presents, we banished the kids to the upstairs while my husband brought in the trunk from the barn where he’d been chilling it in an empty freezer. To help keep the cakes cool, he explained.

He placed three loaf pans upside down in the trunk and covered them with black cloth, and my older son — who argued that he should be allowed to help because he knew more about Game of Thrones than we did and could give us valuable staging advice — nestled his Bose speaker under the fabric. I positioned the eggs, and we closed the lid and locked the trunk.

For the big reveal, everyone gathered on the porch. First my husband presented her with the key to which he’d attached a strip of leather, then, Close your eyes! and he dashed back inside for the trunk. As he came out the door, my son hit play on his phone. As soon as the muffled strains of the Game of Thrones theme song reached my daughter, her eyes flew wide.



My son presented her a Game of Thrones knife...





And then she knelt to open the box.



She cracked the lid, the music swelled, and there they were: three shining dragon eggs.






video credit: my brother

It was every bit as spectacular as I’d hoped, and then some.







This same time, years previous: the quotidian (7.17.18), four weeks down, three to go, ouch, Saturday nights, the quotidian (7.16.12), whole wheat zucchini bread, in the pits.

Monday, July 15, 2019

the quotidian (7.15.19)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace




Awaiting their cargo: zucchini boats.




How the younger boy stacks it.




In place of the supper salad.




Lap dog.




Making deliveries.




Tallest girl has the smallest room.




Karate clown.




For the birthday girl: a popsicle stick ship, complete with a treasure chest filled with gold (anklets). 




Emotional wreckage!
Because her older brother 1) gave her airpods (!), then 2) said they were actually his 
but that he was letting her use them for two weeks, and then, finally 
3) said that her pair was coming in the mail in a couple days.




Aw, aren't they sweet?

This same time, years previous: putting up walls, reflections from Orlando, in which a pit bull bites my butt, zucchini fritters, the quotidian (7.14.14), a tale, er, tail, in the woods: forts, ticks, and pancakes.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

all things thursday

Firstborn bought himself a car!



Thank goodness, because transportation negotiations were getting a little intense.

*** 

Have you ever been to a Fry Party? I’d never even heard of one until last week when we got an invitation to one on The Fourth. Bring side dishes, they said, and anything you might want to fry. We’ll have two caldrons of bubbling oil at the ready.

And they did! We stood around watching things fry and then eating them: mushrooms, chicken, pork, zucchini, cauliflower, bread, cheese sticks, french fries, potato chips, twinkies, oreos —

THE OREOS! Have you ever had a fried Oreo? This was my first time (so many firsts!) and WOW. Talk about a revelation!

In the oil, the Oreo (which was dunked in a simplified pancake batter prior to frying) swells and softens, the chocolate becoming less crunchy cookie and more rich cake. I couldn’t get over the transformation, and the deliciousness.

*** 

Recently, I found myself with a whole bunch of leftover sangria. My kids had given me a gallon jug of it for my birthday but then I never opened it because, well, it was a freaking gallon of wine, so then I took it to that fry party in hopes of ridding myself of a goodly portion, but hardly anyone drank it, probably because they were so focused on stuffing their faces with fried foods.

Back home, after Google assured me I could freeze it, I poured most of it into pint jars and ran them down to the cellar.



Then, with the little that remained, I made a slushy: a generous pour of sangria, a thick slice of both lime and lemon (rind and seeds removed), a handful of frozen strawberries, and ice.



It was surprisingly lovely. The citrus cut the sweet, the berries added a little textural oomph, and the ice chilled it up nice and good.

Now, on the off-chance that I tire of sangria slushies — and because I’ll soon need to clear out my freezers to make space for green beans and corn — any other ideas for how else to use up my now-frozen sangria?

***

Kickboxing — it’s still happening! When I finished my three-week freebie, I immediately signed up for the six-week trial. I’m at the seven-week point now and am happy to report that I'm no longer in constant pain.



I love having a set work-out time (and getting to work out with my kids), and I love getting pushed to work harder by someone other than myself. I like the mindlessness of the activity — the complete concentration on form, footwork, and not dying — and I like feeling stronger. I’ve progressed from using five pound weights to sixes, eights, and now tens. I can do ten push-ups, and, if I drop my knees to the floor and do them in sets, lots more. My achy, pop-y hip has stopped aching and popping, and my ankles and wrists aren’t as tender. There's a very good chance that I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for years.



in which my son volunteers to stand in for a punching bag

I don’t like, however, that it costs money and requires me to drive somewhere. I don’t like being holed up inside with artificial lighting, cut off from the birds and breeze and fresh air. Also, I miss running — the silence of it, the simplicity, the way the rhythm of my feet pounding on the pavement cracks open my mind, allowing my thoughts to drift free — so I’ll be happy to get back to it again.

I sure am going to miss kickboxing, though.

The studio welcomes visitors to take a free class, so if you'd like to experience the pain and glory for yourself, leave me a message. I’ve already brought quite a few friends, and they’ve all, including my 70-year-old mother(!), had a great time. 

*** 

Speaking of exercise: The Pulse just did an excellent show about exercise — the history of it and its importance, especially for women because of their fluctuating hormone levels and lower bone density. According to them, strength training can really, really, really make a difference. Also, I think they said that a person should get about 150 minutes of level six exercise a week. (Level six = working hard enough that you can still talk, but not sing.) (With five classes of kickboxing a week, I've got that covered!)

*** 

Recently, I’ve started, and then quit, a whole string of books: My Brilliant Friend, a nonfiction book about why families can’t afford America, some novel about Noah’s ark that I can’t remember the title of, and a thriller that wasn’t. Also, for months now I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to wade through White Fragility. It’s definitely a worthwhile book, but after taking that anti-racism class at church, the material feels redundant. I'm afraid that this most recent stalling out might be for good.

I always feel a little guilty about quitting books, like I lack some sort of gene for sticktoitiveness. Spending all that time trying to get into a book, only to quit partway through — what a waste. The least I could do is finish the book to get the thrill of accomplishment and/or relief. Right?

On the other hand, why bother? Reading for fun is supposed to be, well, fun. If I don’t like it, then I’m doing myself a disservice because maybe it’s exactly because I push myself to read un-fun material that I don’t read as much as I’d like. Maybe if I was more strict about picking only fun fun books, then I’d read even more.

Anyway. Do you quit books willy-nilly, or are you a “finish the damn book at all costs and never mind the misery” sort of person? What fun fun books are you reading? (I did just finish and enjoy Where We Come From. What with these upcoming immigrant raids, the story is disturbingly pertinent.)

*** 

For a few months this year, all four of my children are teenagers. For thirteen years, I've looked forward to being able to say that — I have four teenagers! — and now I can.



Four teenagers!



FOUR.



I love it.

***

AND, as of today, we are a household with four adults and two children (legally speaking, anyway).



Happy 18th birthday, Rebecca! You're rocking it!

This same time, years previous: Sunday, roasted feta with honey, the quotidian (7.11.17), the puppy post, let's talk, roasted carrot and beet salad with avocado, soft and chewy breadsticks.

Monday, July 8, 2019

the quotidian (7.8.19)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace




And now I wish I'd picked more.




They. Don't. Stop.




Making everyone love me. 




No lunchbox, no problem. Use a shoebox!




For the overflow: a second drainer.




A cool, thrift-store find.




Henna tat.




Purse dump: the junk I carry.








A new hire.




A smashed muffler and the guilty culprit to go with it.




Lazy days.




Because the afternoon sun is fierce: a made-to-order shield.
(Thanks, Zoƫ!)




When it finally sets, the relief is sweet. 

This same time, years previous: fresh strawberry cake, three things about writing, reflections from Kansas City, the quotidian (7.7.14), let's revolutionize youth group mission trips! please!, grilled flatbread, red raspberry lemon bars, rain.