Saturday, February 27, 2010

Preserving that Precious Smile

The day after Ethan's first eye appointment, we checked another first off our list with a trip to the dentist.

When we arrived for his dentist appointment, Ethan made himself right at home with a coloring book that he sprawled out with on the floor.

After about five minutes in the waiting room, it was time for Ethan's turn in the dentist's chair. We all cracked up when the dental assistant asked Ethan about his teeth and he made these funny faces while trying to show her his teeth.

Just like we lucked out with Ethan knowing our eye doctor since he's our neighbor, the dental assistant is also our neighbor. I guess that's what happens when you live in a such a small town. Anyway, she was wonderful with explaining what she was going to do to Ethan and making him feel comfortable. She brought out a large teeth model to show Ethan and he got a kick out of her chomping its' teeth.

They let Ethan hold the little mouth mirror while they counted his teeth - 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.

After counting his mouth full of teeth, they brushed his teeth with a standard toothbrush. They want to work up at each visit with adding additional tools and features so that Ethan remains comfortable and doesn't get a fear of the dentist.

Once Ethan's teeth were brushed, the dentist came in to do the examination. Ethan's favorite part was the large, overhead light they shined in his mouth. The boy loves flashlights and thought that Daddy could use one of those things at home.

By the time we were finished, Ethan was getting a little impatient and nervous. He really wanted to sit on my lap, as he had done at the eye doctor, but he managed well in their booster seat.

The dentist gave Ethan a clean report on his teeth. Yippee! Then Ethan got to pick out a toy and he chose a plastic snake. It was kind of nice that they had normal toys to choose from and not just toothbrushes. Ethan loved the snake and took it everywhere with us for a couple of days until it was lost at the grocery store. (I hope someone didn't get a scare with a little snake peaking out from the grocery store shelf.)

We struggled with picking out our dentist for Ethan. There are two dentists to choose from in Phillipsburg and Jim goes to one and I go to the other. We ended up going with Dr. Miller's dentist office, which is Jim's dentist. They did a wonderful job, especially the dental assistant. I think it's probably time for them to update their examination rooms though. Things were looking very 1970's back there.

We have one more "first" next week and then Ethan will be done with appointments for a while.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baked Shrimp Scampi - Barefoot Bloggers

For our second February cooking challenge, over at Barefoot Bloggers, Ina Garten's Baked Shrimp Scampi was the featured recipe.

The bread crumb, butter and lemon topping is what really makes this recipe. Can you see the flecks of lemon zest in the topping? For serving, we squeezed lemon wedges over the dish to bring out even more of the lemon essence.

Finding fresh shrimp in rural Kansas does not exist. I looked at our small selection of frozen shrimp and all that they had was precooked shrimp. The small package of precooked shrimp was about $12.00. I would have probably needed two bags to make this recipe. Since Jim doesn't even like seafood, I had no desire to splurge on an ingredient that wouldn't be enjoyed and savored by everyone and that would bust my grocery budget. I decided to make this dish with chicken instead. As a bonus, chicken breasts are on sale this week at Whites for under $2.00/lb. (I will only purchase chicken breasts when they are under $2 per pound and then stock up the freezer. I don't understand who is willing to pay over $4 per pound for chicken.) I also substituted standard bread crumbs in place of the panko bread crumbs. I could actually get the panko style crumbs in Phillipsburg, but they cost a lot more than traditional bread crumbs. Plus, I already had bread crumbs on hand.

The dish was easy to make and had strong notes of butter and lemon. You can't go wrong with that flavor combination. However, I think this dish is better suited for spring and summer. The strong lemony flavor just really says warm weather to me. I served the chicken and topping over a plate of egg noodles. I would typically use fettuccini noodles but I had these in the cupboard left over from a previous recipe and I try to use what I already have on hand.

Today, I'll use some of the leftovers as a topping to a salad for lunch. I think that sounds even better than my dinner serving over pasta.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Eyes Have It

Ethan's beautiful, expressive, green eyes went for their first eye doctor's appointment yesterday.

Ethan's most commented on feature are his big eyes. They twinkle with mischief and imagination as they take in the world.

I've been meaning to make his eye doctor's appointment since he turned three and finally got around to getting it scheduled. I have been wearing glasses since I was six, and probably could have used them sooner, so I wanted to make sure Ethan's eyes were checked out early. When Jim and I would talk about what features we hoped our baby would inherit from each of us, Jim always hoped our baby would have his perfect eyesight and not my poor vision that requires a rather strong corrective prescription.

We arrived for our appointment and they got us in right away. Ethan was a little disappointed that he didn't have any time to play with their Legos table in the waiting room. To start off the check up, they had Ethan sit in my lap and I would cover one eye while he would identify pictures projected onto the wall. I beamed with pride at his ability to cooperate and identify all of the symbols that they tested him with.

Once the initial screening was complete, the eye doctor came into the room to examine his eyes. Ethan got a kick out of the flashlights that the doctor shined into his eyes and all the little games they played. Ethan passed all their tests with flying colors.
The doctor reported that his eyes were healthy and aligned correctly. He also told us that his vision is a little far-sighted (or near-sighted, I can't really remember - mommy fail) and that being a little off 20/20 at this age is good because our eyes get a little more near-sighted as we get older and this allows for some cushion in his vision. Maybe Ethan really did get lucky and inherit Jim's eyesight.

Dr. Ron Juenemann did such a great job with Ethan. He made him feel comfortable and had him laughing and his little games for checking his eyes. He actually is our neighbor, so Ethan is somewhat familiar with who he is and I'm sure that sort of helped out as well. (There was also a K-State football helmet on display outside the examination room that got bonus points, too.)

Ethan was excited to receive a race car sticker following the check up and he was also given a gift certificate for a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. I was excited to learn that Dr. Juenemann's office doesn't charge for their first eye check up - yippee!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow, Menu Planning and Other Randomness

Hello bloggies! I hope you all are enjoying your weekend. We've had steady snowfall all day, so I've pretty much just camped inside and tried to remain warm and dry. I apologize for the long delay in posting. I just haven't been overly inspired recently and nothing too exciting has been going on. Today's post will just be a hodge-podge of randomness.

We started out the day with another batch of spinach-berry pancakes. I'm seriously in love with this recipe.

After breakfast, we ended up skipping out on church. I had every intention of going but the snow was just too much of a deterrent this morning. Weak, I know.

Jim and Ethan attended the Gun Show that is in town this weekend. I decided to skip it this year and let them have some male bonding time. The event is always so crowded and it's not really my cup of tea. I told Ethan that he had to be the responsible, supervising adult at the Gun Show. Daddy could not be trusted to not splurge on yet another gun.

While the boys were off drooling over all the "toys" at the Gun Show, I decided to make some serious comfort food for dinner. French dip sandwiches. I can smell the meat in the crock-pot upstairs and it smells so delicious! Yum!

I keep sneaking bites of the meat and hopefully there will be enough left over for dinner tonight and to save for another meal later in the week. I made this recipe - so easy and so yummy!

One thing that I'm really trying to work on is meal planning. We tend to eat only about half of our dinners as a family. Far too often, we all end up eating something different and scattered in different directions. I don't know how we fell into this bad habit but I need to work on correcting it, fast! I strongly believe in the benefits of eating supper together as a family, around a dinner table. We eat in front of the tv far too often.

I also find that when I plan my meals in advance, my grocery budget is much more in control since there aren't so many wasted food items, prepared foods and extra trips to the store to pick up forgotten items. Of course, when going to pick up those forgotten items, several other extras find their way into my cart. 

Here is what's on the menu for the next week:
  • French Dip Sandwiches, green beans, baked apples
  • Chicken Piccata, red potatoes, asparagus
  • Enchiladas (using left over meat from french dip), yellow rice, beans
  • Shrimp Scampi, pasta, caesar salad
  • Lasagna, garlic bread, peas(?)
  • BBQ Ribs, coleslaw, biscuits, sweet potatoes
  • Pheasant Pot Pie
  • Calzones, green salad
  • Elk Tenderloin, rice pilaf, broccoli
Jim and Ethan are outside enjoying the snow right now. I love getting Ethan all bundled up in his snow gear. He just looks so cute and reminds me of the scene from The Christmas Story where the little brother can't put his arms down due to all his winter layers.

On a whole different subject, I've been contemplating getting a gym membership. I really enjoy getting outside and walking or jogging. The snow, mud and wind seem to be endless this winter and I'm starting to get restless.

We own an elliptical and other equipment, so it is totally wasteful for me to pay for a gym membership but I get so bored on the elliptical and think having a gym membership for a couple of months, until it gets warmer outside, would help provide some motivation.  We'll see...I don't think Jim is too keen on the idea. He has seen me start, and give up on, way too many exercise plans.

Well, I hear Ethan stomping his boots upstairs. Better get up there and help him out of his snow covered gear and get him a cup of hot chocolate to warm up with.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Engagement Anniversary

Yesterday was the anniversary of our engagement. Six years ago, Jim proposed and we started building our life together.

I went to a PEO meeting yesterday evening and Karen Rankin had the program. She did a wonderful presentation on the history of Valentine's Day. Everyone at the meeting was invited to share their favorite Valentine's memory. Out of the nine members that were present, I think six shared that they were engaged over Valentine's Day. This prompted me to remember that we also got engaged at this time and I shared our engagement story.

Jim proposed to me on February 15, 2004. We had been dating for about four years at this point, since we were in high school.

I had accidently found the receipt for the engagement ring, when Jim purchased the ring in April 2003. I knew he had the ring for almost a year before he finally proposed. It was such a torment to know that he had the ring and to have to wait for him to pop the question.

Every holiday and special date came and went with no proposal. I would get my hopes up every time - 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, my birthday, etc. Still there was no ring. I was getting pretty impatient by this point.

Valentine's Day was approaching and was tired of getting my hopes up and then not getting that ring on my finger. I'm not the most patient person in the world. I told Jim that I thought Valentine's Day proposals were over rated and unoriginal. I didn't actually feel this way but I was trying to prepare myself for not being proposed to during the most romantic day of the year and having my hopes crushed and ruining Valentine's Day for us.

Little did I know, Jim had been planning on proposing on Valentine's Day. I ruined it and still feel badly for pitching my little hissy fit and ruining his plans. This was a wonderful lesson in patience. Sometimes it's good to let go of my controlling tendencies and let things happen and not try to dictate how and when they should happen.

So Valentine's Day came and I have no idea how we celebrated. The next day came and I was in a very sulky and foul mood. I had really hoped to be proposed to, even though I had specifically said that I didn't want it. Irrational and bitchy, I know, and I'm ashamed at my immature behavior.

Jim worked hard all day to cheer me up. I finally got over my bad attitude and we decided to take a walk to the park. (We were living in Hays, KS at the time and went for a walk to Frontier Park that was about a mile from Jim's apartment.)

We checked out the limestone fireplaces that are in the building located behind the playset in this picture. The year before, on Valentines, we had grilled hamburgers and roasted marshmallows in this pit and had carved our initials. We searched for our initials and I was delighted to see that they were still there, a year later. Yep, we vandalized public property - shame on us.

We then walked across the bridge at Frontier Park. In the middle of the bridge, Jim asked me to marry him. He didn't get down on one knee, that's not his style or personality. He held me close and whispered it in my ear. It was intimate, private, personal and perfect for us.

Of course, I said YES!

I still love my ring, the man who gave it to me, and it was worth the wait!

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Love You to the Moon and Back

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day! Mine was kind of a let down but still wonderful since I got to spend the entire weekend with my two favorite boys.

Jim had planned a Valentine's evening that included a trip to Kearney for dinner and entertainment. It was his first Valentine's that I completely put him in charge of planning. I was so looking forward to being surprised and having a romantic date night with my husband. Unfortunately, I came down with the flu and spent the weekend either in bed or veggie out on the couch surrounded by a pile of tissues. Romance was definitely not on the agenda.

Valentine's Day started out perfectly with Ethan crawling up into our bed proclaiming "It's not dark anymore." This is how I'm woken up every morning, as soon as the sun starts rising. We snuggled together for a little while in bed and watched cartoons.

Guess How Much I Love YouEthan told me he loved me all the way to the moon and back and forever and ever. He makes my heart melt! We've been reading Guess How Much I Love You a lot lately and we have a lot of fun coming up with different ways to measure our love for each other. Oh how I treasure these moments. I can't imagine that someday he'll be telling me to not say "I love you" in public and running off before I have the chance to give him a hug or even forgetting to tell me goodbye. I so hope he's a momma's boy and lets me continue to compete with him on who loves the other more for many more years to come.

We exchanged Valentine's Day cards and small presents. I received a clock for the basement and Jim received a new Wii game and package of Reese's Peanut Butter hearts. (I've been good and have only eaten far.) Ethan spent the day sneaking pieces of Valentine's candy that he received from his friends at daycare. I pretended to not notice and let him indulge in his mini-sized treats.

The sun finally came out a little bit this weekend. It was still chilly and windy, but Ethan was eager to get outside and play after all the snow and mud we've been battling all winter. 


Ethan came inside covered in mud from head to toe. He had been hard at work digging holes in our driveway with his bulldozer. I just think little boy's knees should be worn and covered in dirt. Jim's jeans are also covered in mud but those aren't even remotely cute. My poor, cheap washer is in for some heavy duty cleaning in the future.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Handmade Valentine's Day Cards

Ethan had his daycare Valentine's Day party yesterday and all the children brought Valentine's Day cards to exchange with each other.

I'm a big fan of handmade Valentine's Day cards for children. I know that eventually Ethan will be begging to bring those boxed cards with Spiderman on them but, until then, I want him to take part in making special cards for his friends.

This year, we cut out a bunch of hearts and Ethan decorated each of the hearts with glitter glue and crayons.

After the heart's decorations were dry, we made a hole near the bottom with a paper punch. Place a lollipop through the holes to form a flower. Secure the hearts in place by wrapping the stick of the lollipop with a green pipe cleaner to make the flower steam. We placed some bug stickers on the flower petals and then attached a cut out green leaf on the stem that had the Valentine's message written on it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes - Barefoot Bloggers

I recently joined a group of bloggers that challenge each other to cook two new dishes each month. The recipes are all selected from Ina Garten - aka- The Barefoot Contessa. I thought that joining the group would help to push me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen and the incentive to try new dishes that I normally wouldn't pick myself.

I'm a big fan of the Food Network and one of my favorite shows on the channel is The Barefoot Contessa. Her Chicken Piccata is heaven on a plate. She lives in the Hamptons and her cooking style reflects her location. I so want to join her and Jeffery for a breakfast brunch on the beach.

So, back to the Barefoot Bloggers challenge. The first recipe chosen for February was Coconut Cupcakes. I'm not a big fan of coconut but I haven't given it an honest try in my adult years so I was looking forward to trying it again with an open mind.

The recipe for the cupcakes can be found here on the Food Network's website. The recipe has a five star rating, so I had high hopes for these cupcakes. However, seeing that the recipe calls for six sticks of butter made me a little disgusted at that thought of so much butter in just one batch of cupcakes. After all, this wasn't a Paula Deen recipe.

I ended up cutting the recipe in half and had enough batter to easily fill 16 cupcakes and way too much frosting.

I had a great helper in the kitchen that was using his toy mixer while I made the cupcake batter in my stand mixer. The recipe was easy to make and made less mess than the water that was spilled everywhere by the other cook in the kitchen.

The cupcakes themselves came out really well. They were springing, moist and light with a golden butter taste. I'm still not a big fan of coconut but it was a nice compliment to the cupcakes. I made half of the batch without the coconut and they came out just fine as well.

I wasn't a fan of the frosting. It was just much too sweet for my personal taste. My husband, however, was eating the leftover frosting by the spoonfuls.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Berry-Spinach Pancakes

The other day, one of the blogs I follow featured a spinach pancake. I loved the idea and wanted to try it out this morning, while tweaking the recipe to accommodate my tastes and what I had on hand. It may sound scary, but this recipe is a winner!

The pancake is full of spinach, oats and fresh fruit. I couldn't taste the spinach at all in the finished product. While I love spinach, I don't really want to taste it in my sweet pancake. The blackberries shined as the predominate flavor in my pancakes. The blue color of the pancake comes from all the berries in the batter. The color didn't bother me at all, as it was a visual reminder of all the healthy foods the pancake is stuffed with. Ethan got a big kick out of the colored pancakes.

I was also really surprised by how light and fluffy the pancake was. There was a little chew from the seeds in the berries, but otherwise the texture was just like a typical pancake. I was really expecting a dense or gritty final product and was so pleased that it came out so fluffy.

Pancake Batter:
  • 1/4 cup quick cook oats
  • 1 tbsp granola mix (oats, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup mixed berries (I used a frozen, bagged berry mix)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup spinach
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend well.

Pour batter onto a preheated pan that has been prepped with some non-stick spray. Cook until done on each side.

For Berry Topping:
  • 1/4 cup mixed berries
  • Squirt of honey
  • Splash of water to thin, if needed
Place all ingredients in the rinsed out food processor and blend until smooth.

Top finished pancake with berry topping and garnish with a couple of berries.

Enjoy your breakfast and the rest of your day that was started with the healthy fuel of fruits and veggies.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dining Room - Home Tour Part 3

In the previous installments of our home tour, we have taken a look at our master bedroom and living room. Today, I'm excited to share our dining room.

View of the dining room from our front door.

Our family room flows directly into our dining room area and kitchen. The dining room is the most colorful room in our home. Jim left for a weekend bachelor party and when he returned, I had painted the dining room an orangish-red color. I love how the punch of color brought in some visual interest to the room and also made the feel of our home more warm, modern and inviting. Painting the back wall also provided a focal point and helped define the dining room space, since it's an open layout.

Our dining table is on the small side, but it fits our family of three well. Someday, I'll have a larger table so we can actually have company over and fit more people comfortably.

The small baker's rack, on the back wall, holds my collection of cook books. I love cook books and like to have them handy and on display. The art work of the three trees, which hangs above the baker's rack, is one of my favorite finds. It truly made the room. The colors of the trees tie together the green of the kitchen and the burnt orange of the dining room perfectly.

Along the small, side wall of the dining room, we have a hanging display shelf. It holds two of my antique, glass chicken dishes in the middle. (There is a larger, white version of these chicken dishes that sits in the middle of the table. It was a gift from my Auntie Jill and I adore it.)

The top and bottom shelves are filled with our shot glass collection. Jim and I rarely drink, so this is kind of an odd collection for us to have on display. Sometimes I wonder if it gives off the wrong impression. But then I remember that anyone who really knows us, and is in our home, will know what sticks in the mud we actually are. They probably think a few drinks would do us good! Anyway, we started collecting these shot glasses when we were dating in college to have keepsakes of the places we visited. It's nice to look at them and remember some of our adventures. We have shot glasses from Hawaii, Las Vegas, Mexico, New Orleans, ski trips, our favorite college bars and other wonderful places we have traveled together.

Off this wall, there is a door that leads to our laundry room. Further along this wall, is the stairway that leads to our basement.

My future plans for this room is to someday have it laid out in a way to accommodate a larger dining table. We have a lot of open floor space between the living room and dining room table that I don't feel is utilized to its' fullest potential for space and function. I am also on the hunt for new curtains for the window behind the table. I would like something that ties together the colors of the kitchen and dining room. I was thinking of a chocolate brown or golden tan curtain with flecks of green and orange woven in to it, but I haven't been able to find anything remotely close.

Thanks for stopping by for another peak inside our Home on the Range in Phillipsburg, Kansas where we are Sunflower Living.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review - Clarisonic Skincare Brush

Clarisonic Skincare Brush Review

I had my eye on the Clarisonic Skincare Brush system since I saw it featured on QVC when Ethan was a baby. At $195 for the system, it was a complete splurge and something I couldn't justify spending at the time.

Here's how Clarisonic describes its benefits:
What it is:
A professional-grade skincare brush.
What it is formulated to do:
From the creators of the Sonicare® toothbrush comes the Clarisonic® Skincare Brush. Sonic technology first changed the way we clean our teeth, it's now changing how we cleanse our skin. The sonic frequency moves Clarisonic's soft, gentle brush back and forth at more than 300 times per second, thoroughly clearing pores and skin surface.
Here are some of the benefits this revolutionary skincare tool delivers:
- Removes makeup six times better than traditional methods.
- Clears pores and reduces the appearance of pore size.
- Cleanses so thoroughly that skincare products absorb better.
- Creates noticeably healthier looking skin.
After hearing from so many people that I know rave about this product, I finally decided, three years later, to make the purchase. I waited until Sephora was having their 20% off Friends and Family sale before making the purchase. I also used my ebates account to receive 8% cash back. (I need to cover the wonderful benefits of ebates in a future post for those of you that haven't discovered it yet.)

After agonizing over the price, I finally pulled the trigger. I felt better about ordering it through Sephora, since they have a very generous return policy. I figured if it didn't live up to all its' hype, back it would go.

When the product arrived, I was really looking forward to starting my regime. As I've gotten into my upper twenties, I've noticed that my skin is more sensitive, has larger pores around the cheeks and nose area and is prone to cystic acne breakouts on my chin and jaw line. I was hoping that this pricey little gadget would help me with these troublesome issues. I'm way too old to still be having to struggle with pimples. I have more issues with them now then I did when I was a teenager.

I started out using the sensitive brush head and the sensitive face wash, called Hydro Cleanser. You can use your regular face wash, but I love the hydro cleanser sample that came with the product. It's my favorite of the three samples that came with my pink Clarisonic. (You can get other colors as well. The pink benefits the American Breast Cancer Society.)

In the beginning, I used it only in the evenings. I now use it twice per day - in the morning and in the evening. I like to remove my makeup with a makeup remover cloth before cleansing my skin. The feeling of the brush is very gentle. More of a buzzing than a scrubbing. I was very surprised at how gentle and pleasant it was.

Product Review
Pores: Almost immediately, I noticed an improvement in my pores. The Clarisonic removed the icky gunk that would plug the pores and make them stretch out and appear larger. With the gunk being removed, my pores appear dramatically smaller and no more blackheads.

Exfoliation: Through this entire winter, I haven't had any flaking skin issues.  My skin is much smoother and has a more even tone.

Acne: I don't have as many plugged up facial pores that would appear almost like little white bumps on my chin. This has been a great benefit. If I slack on using my Clarisonic, my acne will flair up as a direct result. If I use the product regularly, I do not get any cystic acne - those painful, under the skin pimples. If I do end up with one, the Clarisonic helps them heal up so much quicker than before.

Product Absorption: I can really tell that my products are working better than before. I can use fewer products and the ones I use are working harder.

Skin Reaction: It took about a month of religious use before I noticed all the benefits.

Price: Eek! I still think it's too pricey for what it is. I'm glad I waited until it was on sale, so that takes the sting out a little. Hopefully it will last for many years and be very durable. If it lasts the test of time, the price will be better justified. You also need to purchase replacement brush heads every three months at about $25 per head.  

Friday, February 5, 2010

Go Red For Women

Go Red For Women. Today is National Wear Red Day. Did you remember to dress up in the color red today? I'm wearing jeans and a red, long sleeve henley shirt today. Wearing red is a simple way to honor the women, and their friends and family, who are facing heart disease and help to raise awareness.

We still predominantly think of heart disease as an older man's disease. However, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. To learn more about the Go Red For Women movement, please visit

And now for some red eye candy for inspiration.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Look So Familar...

Has anyone ever told you that you resembled a celebrity?

I found this entertaining website today that allows you to upload your picture and then returns with a sampling of celebrities that it has matched you with. It was fun to upload different pictures and see how a different hairstyle or pose would alter the results.

Have a chuckle with us on which celebrities we were matched with.

I think it's funny that Jim and Ethan were each matched with Topher Grace, from That 70's Show, and I think there is a resemblance when you look at the matched photos.
Which matches do think are the most accurate?
Which matches do think really missed the mark?
Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunflower Decorated Cake

For Jim's Mom's birthday, I was in charge of bringing the birthday cake.

I decided to go with a sunflower themed cake for the occasion. It seemed like a fitting cake style for our country living, Kansas grandma. I love all things Sunflowers, so I was excited to make this cake.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I put off decorating the cake until after we returned from church. Being that the birthday party was a lunch event, I really had to hurry to get the cake iced. It's not my neatest work, but luckily, it was a really easy cake to decorate.

The cake is just a Betty Crocker cake mix. I think it's the Triple Chocolate flavor. For the frosting, I made two batches. The first batch is just a typical butter cream and the second is a chocolate fudge frosting. I divided the butter cream into two bowls and tinted them green and yellow using Wilton food color gel. The yellow is a mixture of Pretty Peach and Lemon Yellow to achieve a darker yellow color for the sunflower petals.

Starting with the furthest layer, I piped on the green leaves at the bottom. Next came the back layer of sunflower petals and then the top layer of petals. After finishing the petals, I added some additional peach coloring to the frosting to make the darker color for the outlines. I outlined the sunflower petals and then used a star tip to pipe the chocolate fudge frosting for the center of the sunflower. I think chocolate chips would also make a really neat sunflower center.

For the leaves and petals, I just snipped the corner of a plastic baggy off to apply the frosting and then spread with a knife. I didn't feel like getting my pastry bags and tips dirty. I'm so lazy sometimes. If I had used a tip, the results would have been much more detailed. But for a family birthday party, this method was quick and easy.

Sunflower Living and Sunflower Baking - I think I may have a sunflower problem.

Happy Birthday Mom Knowles

On Sunday, we went out to the farm to celebrate Jim's mom, Shirley's, birthday. It was a milestone birthday, but we'll keep it a secret on how old her birth certificate says she is. She still looks much younger than her age dictates she should.

All of her children were able to attend the birthday lunch celebration, as well as the grandkids. Shirley and Steve's moms were also there for the birthday party. (Ethan has three great-grandmothers. Isn't he lucky?)

We had a classic, Sunday lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and lots of additional sides. The fried chicken was actually picked up at the local grocery store's deli and is the Chester Chicken brand. It was really good with lots of meat on the pieces of chicken. We were all impressed with the quality.

We were in charge of providing the birthday cake. We also had ice cream, with about fifteen different toppings to choose from, and brownies. I started with a piece of cake and then went back a little while later to make a brownie, ice cream sundae. I was stuffed by the time we left. Ethan and I took 2 hour naps when we got back home - we were full, happy and exhausted.

Ethan entertained himself by playing on this bouncing horse. It's been in the family for many generations and Ethan just loves it.

After a filling lunch, we took a few moments to capture some family photos. My camera's batteries were dying, so I missed a lot of the pictures and had to rush to capture the few that I did. Unfortunately, the quality is not very good.

Shirley with her grandsons - Alex, Ethan, Hunter and Zach

Four Generations - Jim, Ethan, Shirley and Eleanor