Tag Archives: friends

celebrating seven

Party 4

In our family, we typically throw big birthday bashes in the early years. For both girls we did them for the first six years before scaling back to small scale older parties. Last year was a special year because the girls were six and twelve (half and double), plus it was E’s golden birthday (12 on the 12th), so we did a big combo party. But once seven rolls around we let the girls choose a few friends and plan out their own special day.

Party 2

F chose a pretty perfect afternoon, if you ask me. We met up with friends and saw the movie Finding Dory at the Chase (one of my favorite theaters). Then we walked a few blocks to Jeni’s for ice cream before spending a half hour or more browsing the shelves of Left Bank Books.

Party 3

It was a perfect afternoon, and the girls promptly fell asleep in the car on the way home.

The weekend before was the great grandparent hand-off – we met them in the middle of nowhere Indiana, and opened some family gifts with them on the porch of a restaurant there. F got quite a few new books, some cute fall outfits, some legos, some Harry Potter figurines and checkers set. Plus that pogo stick I mentioned before! She also got the item top on her list this year – a travel neck pillow (in blue, of course). She’s wanted one since she first saw them in an airport gift shop years ago, but this year she was particularly enamored with them.

Party 7

Party 6

Party 5

Party 8

Party 9

I’m calling birthday week a success!

spring camping weekend: round spring

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This past weekend was our bi-annual group camping trip. We try to go every spring and fall, and we rotate through some gorgeous places each time. This year we went to Round Spring Campground, located on the Current River, near Eminence, MO.

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The weather was just perfect, sunny and warm (almost hot) during the days, and cool and comfortable in the mornings and evenings. Not too cold at night, just cool enough to feel comfortable in a tent.

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Speaking of tents – we just purchased a new one during REI’s annual sale, and with a generous gift card from my sister and family. Our former tent was getting a little tight for the family, and had been worked hard on all those family and school camping trips. M agonized a bit on the final choice – looking for something large enough to accommodate four people (most of them TALL people), plus space for gear and friends as the girls get older. He bit the bullet and bought the big guy, and everyone teased us for our mini-mansion at the campsite. Let me tell you – it was the perfect size. And we still might add on the “garage” piece to the front of the tent at some point.

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Most of our trips involve hiking and beach relaxing, and we always have a few kayaks to tool around in. This year we decided to go on a float trip, and we rented canoes and kayaks for the whole crew. (That’s all of us, photo taken by the guy with the school bus and boats that picked us up.) We drove up to Pulltite and got in the water there, and then floated back down to our campsite – just under ten miles according to the map.

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I didn’t take my nice camera (or phone) on the river, so I don’t have any photos of that portion of our trip, but a friend snapped this photo of M, F, and I in our canoe from a distance. E took a friend, and together they manned a two-person canoe for the entire trip. No small feat for their first time. E got the hang of it quickly, and they only got stuck in a tree once!

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There was a lot of river swimming and playing with rocks. And a lot of screaming when this giant water mocassin was spotted in the river full of children. I think we freaked him out, and he moved along to another spot.

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The kids played a lot of kickball, spud, and ghost in the graveyard, and the parents did lot of standing around, talking, drinking, laughing, cooking… The parents did take on the kids in an epic kickball event that was a lot of fun.

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Camping 4

Camping 3

We always divvy up the meal planning and execution, and Saturday night’s Indian feast has become a staple. I wish I had photographed Saturday and Sunday morning’s spread – just fantastic. Sunday morning the mamas did nothing, while the men made Mountain Man for breakfast and served us hot coffee, mimosas, and Kakao chocolate while we waited.

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We moved slowly on Sunday, packing up, hiking to Round Spring, setting up lunch at a nearby beach for a few more hours, before finally heading home mid-afternoon. A really nice way to celebrate Mother’s Day and rewind a bit from all the work and stress of late.

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Dinner at Dewey’s (while the seasonal Tito Santana is around), long, long showers for everyone, and a busy washing machine before the sleepy Monday start again.

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a tale of two cookies

Weeks ago I talked to two different friends about making some cookies for them. The timing seemed perfect – we’d be past the girls’ big birthday weekend, and I’d also be past a big project deadline at work on July 31st. Then that deadline got pushed back to yesterday (thank goodness), but that also meant that I had taken on extra projects on top of my real work – work that required some pretty late nights (and early mornings) in the office. After I sent off the documents around six-thirty on Friday night, I headed home for dinner and then a marathon cookie decorating session. Well, two sessions to be exact. I was operating on about four hours of sleep from the night before, but the load on my shoulders felt lighter, and I was actually looking forward to the task.

First up: Donut cookie favors for a very special one year old.

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Maybe a month ago, I saw the cutest donut cookie-making video ever. As soon as my friend mentioned that she was throwing a donut party for her daughter, I asked her if she might want some sweet-themed favors. You know, because platters of donuts just aren’t enough! Sometimes I just need to create a reason to try out something new. It never ceases to amaze me that I can find a willing volunteer to humor me.

Earlier in the week, E and I tried out the recommended recipe for these piped butter cookies. (The recipe makes a small amount – maybe 40 tiny cookies – so when we finished piping one batch, we’d mix up another.) I think we made four batches in the end – you really have to make it as you go – the dough gets really tough to pipe after a few minutes. But fresh out of the bowl, it was really easy to work with.

E and I came up with a list of the donut types we wanted, and then I piped enough of the various styles to make them. Most used a round tip, but the crullers used a star tip. They baked up buttery with a little crisp (perfect) hot out of the oven. We sampled plenty of “testers”.

I roughly followed the icing recipe, although it’s really hard for me to not use my tried and true royal icing recipe with meringue powder. So I used a little powder, for glossiness and stability. These sprinkle donuts got a layer of icing before being dropped face down in the dish. When we flipped the first one over we squealed. So, so cute. (These are just a tiny bit larger than a quarter, for scale.)

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I made white icing, pink icing and chocolate glaze (by adding cocoa powder). The crullers got white icing thinned with a little more water to form a glaze. The cinnamon rolls had cocoa powder “painted” onto the swirls (E did that job), and then the same thinned glaze in the rest of the swirls. Even the long johns / eclairs got a tiny piping of white where the cream goes in!

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Around midnight I finished these up and left them to dry while I started on the second project of the night…

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Lavender whales and teal narwhals for a baby girl shower! I had also made these cookies earlier in the week – they were not as fun to make as the donuts. I used my very favorite, perfect for cutting dough, ready and chilled overnight in the fridge. I thought making 42 of these might take an hour from start through cleanup – I’ve really got a good system down. But the cookie cutters that my friend found were plastic, and appeared to have been made with a 3D printer. And while it was incredible that she actually found a narwhal cutter, the shape of these cookies was not ideal for cut cookies. I realized this the first time I lifted the whale cutter from the dough and attempted to release it onto the tray. It wasn’t budging. The tiny little grooves in the plastic were hanging on, and that thin little bend in the tale? Not releasing. I took one look at the more intricate narwhal and knew I was screwed.

M helped me troubleshoot the issues, and after a lot of trial and error, I managed to use a combination of pre-spraying the cutter with cooking spray before each cookie, and then using a chopstick to gently coax out all the tiny little appendages. Half the narwhals looked like they had suffered horrible poaching injuries on the first round. Slowly but surely I managed to get them out. I’ve never been so glad to finish a set of cookies!

Decorating them was a breeze though – I loved the way the colors turned out, and when I finished them up just before four (in the morning), they looked so cheerful sitting out to dry.

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I set my alarm for six and got up to finish off the details – just a few little bubbles and water swirls and pink flower to up the baby cute factor. My friend had the tags made and the twine ready, and they came together in a cute little package. I dropped them off and headed home to survey the damage.

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This is what a crazy week and an all night icing session looks like.

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But man, those cookies were cute!