Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Four-Layer Chocolate Cake

Last week I made this cake for an office birthday party: 

Then I instagrammed it.

It was well-received to say the least. If you'd like to recreate this beauty, here's how I did it:

1 chocolate cake (I used a basic chocolate cake recipe, but you can do a box-mix)
1 bag of mini Oreos
1 chocolate pudding mix
4 brownies - optional (we had four Publix brownies just waiting to be thrown in a recipe)
1 jar of buttercream frosting

Bake the chocolate cake in two round pans. Let cool.

Crush up 20-30 (or whatever you desire) mini oreos in a bowl or bag. Set aside. Cut brownies into inch squares. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix up regular chocolate pudding. Refrigerate as directed on the box. After it's refrigerated enough, mix in the brownie squares and crushed mini oreos.

After cake has cooled, one at a time, flip the cake out of the pan, cut it horizontally in half. Set the bottom half on a cake carrier base. Spread 1/3 of the pudding mixture on top with a rubber spatula. Set the upper half on top like a sandwich. Spread 1/3 of the pudding mixture on top. Repeat with second round cake.

Frost the top with buttercream frosting. I only used a little bit, but if you're daring, you can try to frost the sides too. Sprinkle remaining oreos on top and around cake base.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This cake served about 15 people, everyone getting small slices. A little goes a long way, because it's rich. It was amazing!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Simple Baby Mermaid Costume

I almost didn't make a costume for Daisy this year, because I've been traveling and tired and just not feeling very creative. However, on Saturday I searched baby costumes, and gained inspiration, so I whipped up this costume in about an hour. 

A mermaid is a great costume option for non-walking, non-crawling babies. Daisy still basically immobile. 

First, I went through my give-away stash (these are shirts that I haven't taken to a thrift store, because I thought I might re-create them someday). I didn't have any green or hot-pink, so I used this peachy shirt: 

I cut off the sleeves for the fins. Then I cut a pointy tail part out of the main shirt. I took this photo before doing a fitting with Daisy. I ended up doubling the length of the tail, so plan on cutting out the other half of the shirt and adding it to the tail. That leaves a seam right in the middle of the tail, but it was easily hidden by scrunching the tail around her legs. 

Keep the hem of the shirt at the top (waist of the baby), because I used it as a drawstring by threading a shoelace through the hem. 

I arranged and sewed the tail like so (plus an extra panel at the top to double the length. Daisy has long legs). 

I cut out the sea-shells from a pink reusable shopping bag, which doesn't fray. Felt would be another great fabric for sea shells. I sewed the sea shells on, but you could also use iron-on adhesive or hot glue. 

Then we slipped her into her new costume and did a little photo shoot. We have to stop doing baby photo shoots at 5:00pm. She's not into smiling at that time of day. 

She's our little mermaid this year!

I haven't decided if I'm going to make coordinating costumes for Zane, Rufio and me. I'll let you know if I get inspired. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

DIY Wipes Update

This is an update to my previous post on making your own baby wipes. The main difference from my previous tutorial is that you do NOT have to use an electric saw to cut a paper towel roll in half. 

All you need is an N*Sync shirt and a sharp knife, and the shirt is optional. 

My dad is a knife connoisseur (does that word work in a non-food context?), and said that as long as it's not serrated, a smooth sharp knife will easily cut paper. Listen to the experts in your life, people! I cut four rolls of paper towels in a couple minutes with my watermelon knife. 

The second part of this update is that you don't need to use as many ingredients for the solution. I halfed the recipe by the recommendation of my other DIY wipe-making friends, and it's just fine.  It's basically: 

1 TBSP of baby oil (and an extra little squirt for good measure)
1 TBSP of baby lotion 
1 TBSP of baby wash 
2 cups of hot water

Mix it up, stick the half paper towel roll in, after five minutes flip the roll, after five more minutes take out the soggy cardboard center, start the wipes from the center wipe, and Boom Shakalaka! You're done! For $.12 a wipe!

For the more detailed tutorial, please see my other post. 

Staybridge Suites

A hotel review.

Zane and I stayed in Tallahassee for two weeks while he worked up there. I usually stay home when he travels, but whenever he booked this school back in the spring, we asked if I could take the baby and go with him, and his boss said yes! It was SO nice to not be separated from him for two weeks, and on the weekend in between, we got to visit my sister, so that was a bonus.

We stayed at Staybridge Suites, to which I can give my highest recommendation.

I've never stayed in a hotel for two weeks straight or all day long during a day. I was a little worried about that, but it was delightful.

Staybridge in Tallahassee is on a beautiful lake, with a walkway and dock. There's also several pavilions that I saw many guests take advantage of. Daisy and I enjoyed an afternoon in one of them.

The rooms were super clean and up to date. We had a suite, which was basically a one-bedroom apartment.

The kitchens have a medium-size fridge, microwave, dishwasher, toaster, coffee maker, and two stove burners. They're also equipped with cutting boards, pots and pans, knives, storage containers, cups, silverware, etc. We were able to purchase groceries and eat a couple meals in the room.

But we didn't have to do that on Tuesdays-Thursdays, when the Staybridge offered a social time in the evening that included free drinks, salad bar, and a light dinner. Dinner options included (depending on the day): ravioli, burgers, pizza, and a taco bar.

Additionally, every morning Staybridge provided a beautiful breakfast spread. I ate breakfast there nine different days, and I could have chosen to eat nine different breakfasts. I went with waffles most days, but there was always an egg and breakfast meat option, cereal, oatmeal, breakfast breads, and fruit.

The staff were super friendly and helpful. Since I was there for two weeks, they started to recognize me (Daisy helped that part). One day I needed a screwdriver to put batteries in Daisy's mobile, and the guy at the front desk tediously opened battery case, discovering that I needed more batteries than I had brought down to the lobby. I was able to borrow it and return it later (which was good, because traveling upstairs and downstairs with Daisy was tedious in itself).

Taking pictures with baby becomes an activity when you're in a hotel all day long. 

Every morning the breakfast attendant welcomed me and said sweet things about Daisy. In fact, Daisy got lots of ooh's and ahh's from the staff and other guests. She's really good at making friends.

The cost varies depending on how long you stay. Staybridge is set up for long-term stays. We met a couple who was staying there for a few months while the husband worked in Tallahassee. Based on the website, they could have been staying for as little as $70/day. We live in our house for about $40/day, and Staybridge provides some meals and cleaning. Pretty good deal!

The only downfall is that our key cards got deactivated a few times. The first time was my fault, because I put it next to a magnet. My card was deactivated maybe four times in two weeks, which felt like a lot, because I had Daisy with me every time and she didn't care for the elevators. The front desk staff were really friendly about replacing the cards, but I didn't like having to get them replaced in the first place. First world problems, I know.

Staybridge offered really great hospitality, and I definitely recommend looking them up if you're ever staying somewhere for an extended period of time.

P.S. I'm not getting paid by Staybridge. I just wrote this because I had a great experience.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baby Bump Backwards

This week I've been remembering my pregnancy, because it's the anniversary week of when I found out I was pregnant. Daisy's almost four months old now, and I'm basically back to my pre-pregnancy size. Everything looks a little different, but I fit (squeeze) back into my old jeans, and that makes me feel pretty great. 

The past year has gone by slowly and fastly all mixed together. Daisy was a little micro-being in my belly last year, and now she's this: 

Being back to my normal size makes these preggo pictures seem even more crazy. I can't believe Daisy was inside me!!! Okay, I obviously do believe it, but it's still a strange miracle that I'll never stop being amazed by. 

June - 38.5 weeks
June - 37 weeks

April - 30 weeks

March - 25 weeks

February - 20 weeks

February - 18 weeks

January - 16 weeks

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Day The Test Was Positive

Monday marked the year anniversary of when I found out I was pregnant. I really love reflecting on the past and imagining the future, so it's been a very contemplative week for me. 

The short story is that I was expecting my monthly cycle on Friday, but still hadn't gotten it on Monday, so I took a test right when I got home from work. Here's the excerpt from my diary that afternoon:

I just took a pregnancy test and got two lines. I can't stop crying. I can't believe it. Zane won't be home for a few hours, so the only one who knows is me. And Rufio can't understand why I'm sobbing and laughing and begging God for it to be real.  
Oh God - there is a baby in me! I can't believe it.  
I don't want to tell anyone but Zane, but I have to wait to do it in person.  
I never expected two lines, but I always hope. At first it just looked like one, but I saw a faded second line. I kept blinking. When the stick dried, it was obvious. That's when I started crying.  
I can't believe it. 
I wrote more about that afternoon in this post. We told Zane's parents after dinner that night. They were in a parking lot at Publix on speakerphone, and Zane said, "My boys can swim!" After that we bought the only "Grandma" onesie at Target and headed over to my parents' house. My parents weren't sure what we meant until we said, "We got a positive pregnancy test."

I could hardly fathom a child actually wearing the onesie some day, but here's a picture of Daisy wearing it last month:

We didn't know if she'd be a girl or boy, of course, so this is definitely more boyish. 

Last year, Daisy was a little tiny pea in my belly, and today she's this:

She's a laughing, cooing, grabbing, pooping, eating, spitting-up, smiling, sweet little baby. (She cries sometimes too).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Baby Photos

I have wanted to do a pumpkin baby photo shoot with Daisy ever since my friends did it with their baby several years ago. You can find his cute pictures here. 

This weekend we were at a Zane's company retreat, which included an afternoon of pumpkin carving. We asked one of his coworkers if we could use her pumpkin to snag a few shots of Daisy in it before she carved it out. 

She said she was honored that we chose her pumpkin. After gutting it, she rinsed it out in the sink for us too! (Thank you so much, Nicole!!) 

We were up at a beautiful farm in Georgia, which provided a perfect backdrop for our photo shoot. 
Getting naked.

I slipped her in, but alas! She was too big for the little pumpkin. I guess baby James was either in a HUGE pumpkin, or Daisy's just bigger. Probably both. 

That's when Nicole suggested we carve leg holes for her. I was like, "Are you sure? It's your pumpkin!" She was totally into it now, so she and her cohort Shawna worked on getting some baby leg-sized holes carved in the bottom. 

Getting into the pumpkin was not very comfortable for Daisy, and I thought we might not be able to get good pictures...

...but after about 30 seconds (which felt much longer), she calmed down. She never smiled, but we got a lot of photos of this expression:

I'm not sure that she liked being in the pumpkin, but she put up with it for us. What a compliant kid!

My favorite shot of the day. 
 We tried for a family photo, but Daisy wasn't into looking at the camera.
She was about done with the pumpkin outfit. 

It took three people to get her out (Thanks, Nick!), which was an equally uncomfortable experience for Daisy as getting in. Afterwards, I wrapped her up in a blanket and snuggled with her, and she was smiling and cooing within minutes.

Fall fun with the baby!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Comfort Giver

Daisy was playing with a block this morning and got a little fussy, so I said, “Do you want to snuggle a little bit?” I put her up on my shoulder, and she fell asleep in like 2 minutes. I guess she was tired!! 

I was in heaven. 

There’s nothing so sweet as having a baby sleep on you. I held her for a long time just basking in the absolute joy that I felt holding her. I remembered how I used to YEARN to hold my own child. I would imagine what it felt like to hug my own baby, and that's exactly what I got to do today, what I get to do everyday. She wants me. I give her comfort and peace and rest. I can’t believe how wonderful that feels. 

As I pondered those feelings, I thought, “That’s what God wants of us.” He delights in giving us comfort and rest and peace. 

And yet, I don’t go to him for it. 

It would break my heart if Daisy didn’t come to me for those things. I feel on top of the world when I comfort her. It would/will be so hard when she doesn’t want me, when she struggles to get out of my arms. I know that it’ll come, because independence has to come, but for now I really really love her dependence on me. 

And I need to acknowledge my dependence on God. 

Being a parent rocks my world, my worldview, and my understanding of God. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kennesaw Mountain

Last weekend we visited my sister and bro-in-law in Kennesaw, Georgia, which is just north of Atlanta. Lemme tell ya - it's hard to live away from your sisters. We're now all three separated by states or continents, and I can't say I like it. It was extra fun to see Kevin and Lydia since we hadn't hung out in months!

One of the things we did up there was hike Kennesaw Mountain. I wish I had checked out this national park site about it before we went. Lots of history!!

It's totally free to do. Parking is kind of a bummer, but we lucked out with a spot right next to the visitor center.

The weather was beautiful, and the entire trail was shaded anyways. It's got several educational signs about this area during the Civil War. There's actually a museum in a different part of the park, but we didn't go it this time.

We passed several other men carrying babies in carriers like this. There's apparently a man club of baby daddies, because they all nodded to each other in passing as if to acknowledge one of the brotherhood. 

Just having some laughs at the top of the mountain. 

Daisy faced outward the entire hike up the mountain, but at the top she started flipping out. I had tried feeding her at the base, but she wasn't interested (not sure what that was all about), so I thought she was hungry. I went total granola and tried to nurse her at the top of the mountain sans nursing cover, but she still wasn't interested. So, I did my regular soothing, swaying, patting, and she eventually went for her thumb. 

At that point, we faced her inward, and she soothed herself to sleep. 

Reminiscent of our Grand Canyon adventure. 

It was a fun hike. I was pretty tired, but it was just the right length that I didn't give up or die. We had a really great time. Later that day we stopped by a pumpkin patch on our way to dinner. It was actually pretty hot outside, but we dressed up Daisy for this one picture:

Baby in a pumpkin patch is a right of passage...at least for me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Baby Potty Training Update

It's been a while since I updated you guys on my infant toilet training experiences. Other than feeling a little awkward or embarrassed about toilet training an infant, it's been going great. If you want to read more about poop, then continue. If not, this isn't the post for you. 

I've been really laid-back about it. I only attempt to catch her first morning poops, because those are the only predictable ones she has. Right after she nurses in the morning, I sit her on the potty seat, and within a minute she goes. 

I have a little song I sing, but sometimes I don't even get through the first line, and she's gone already. 

I don't attempt to catch them everyday. If I have to be somewhere in the morning, then I don't even try. It's a convenience thing for me right now. I've caught three in the last week. The first week after I bought the potty seat, I sat her on it several times without any luck before she finally got used to it enough to go.

She's in her happiest mood right after her first morning feeding, so she normally laughs and smiles while I'm holding her on the potty. If she ever starts to fuss or cry, I take her off. 

One of my biggest motivations is that the clean up is SO much easier than changing a poopy diaper. There's hardly anything to clean at all. The diapers mash it all over her, but the toilet just catches it. It's also nice to save a diaper, cloth or disposable. 

I've accidentally caught a couple pees, but I haven't started training her for that yet. Many cultures train their infants to pee on command. I've attempted it a couple times with no luck.

So far, so good! 

Check out all my posts on Infant Toilet Training.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

To the Women of America

I'm usually an unconditional supporter of my sex, but there's one thing that I just cannot stand: women leaving a public toilet seat covered in pee. 

I think it's great that you choose to hover. Good idea. You don't want to get all those germs on your thighs, but I shouldn't have to clean up your poor aim. I'm not a nurse. I'm not a janitor. I'm another woman who needs to use that facility that you've marked like a dog. 

If you can't get it in the pot, then clean it up for the next person. Show a little care for your fellow woman. 

Can I get an "amen"? 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shopping Adventures

Shopping with a baby is a necessary evil and therefore, an adventure.

When Daisy was six weeks old, I took her shopping. I fed her in the car right before we went inside. She slept in her carrier in the stroller through the first two stores. In the third store, she woke up, but she was happy until we went into the dressing room.

The dressing room had a teeny tiny stalls. I had to squeeze in the stroller, squeeze myself in, close the door, and move the stroller in front of the door so I could dress in front of the mirror.

Immediately upon removing my clothes, Daisy started crying. The tile floor of the dressing room echoed her cries pretty loudly.

I stood over her in my underwear and tried to soothe her by holding a pacifier at her mouth. She kept crying. I pushed the stroller back and forth in the small, cramped space. She kept crying. I got her out of the carrier and changed her diaper on the little tiny half-bench in the dressing room. She still kept crying. I tried to give her the pacifier again, but she swatted it out of her mouth and onto the floor. The one pacifier I had was now contaminated, and Daisy kept crying.

I had five dresses with me. I really needed to try at least one of them on, because I was trying to find a bridesmaid dress for a wedding.

So, I resorted to feeding her in the dressing room. I was pretty sure she was tired, but I was afraid everyone in the dressing room (maybe whole store?) thought I was torturing her. Leaving would take too much time, because I'd have to get dressed and un-wedge us from the tiny room. I sat on the tiny bench and nursed her for a few minutes. She stopped crying. Whew!

I set her back in the carrier, and as soon as I tried on the first dress, she started up again. I gave up, changed clothes, un-wedged us out of the stall, and left the store (which took much longer than that sentence sounds).

On the way out three or four people commented on her crying. They weren't mean, but just the fact that I drew attention at all made me uncomfortable. There's something really nice about going in and out of a store without anyone noticing your presence at all. Am I right?

Daisy cried most of the way home that day. She was exhausted, but she just doesn't sleep well in her carrier.

That being said, I need to let you know that Daisy is a GREAT sleeper in her bed. It is a huge blessing, and I'm really thankful. She's three months now, and her schedule is pretty solid. Her first wake-up time varies, but it's something like this:

8:00 - Wake, eat, play
9:00 - Sleep
11:00 - Wake, eat, play
12:00 - Sleep
2:00 - Wake, eat, play
3:00 - Sleep
5:00 - Wake, eat, play
6:00 - Sleep
8:00 - Wake, eat, play
8:30 - Sleep
11:00 - Wake, eat, back to sleep

Often she'll sleep 1-2 hours per nap, but sometimes she'll sleep 3-4 hours. It's GREAT if I'm staying home all day. I can get a lot of stuff done while she sleeps.

However, if I have to leave the house (say, to go grocery shopping), it becomes a problem. There's no built-in shop time, so no matter what, I usually have a fussy baby while shopping. Today, I thought if I kept her in a moby wrap in the store, then she'd be happy. She was happy until it got to be an hour after she ate, then she started fussing, and I had to endure the looks of other shoppers.

I know that people aren't ticked off that she's crying. She's not having a tantrum, she's just a tired baby. But it's still so awkward.

We left for the store immediately after she ate, but I couldn't shop fast enough to get home before she needed to sleep again. I could save the shopping for a Saturday, but the stores are much busier then, and it seems a waste to not go during the week if I have time.

What do you guys do?

Monday, October 1, 2012


This is my first review of a book when I know the author! My mom's good friend Georgia Brution just published her first book, Escape. I received my very own signed copy this weekend!

Escape is the story of twelve year-old Micah as he navigates some difficult family situations. He finds adventure through escaping into a world of seafaring pirates. The lessons he learns in his adventures become relevant to his life back home. 

There are probably a lot of kids who have found themselves in simliar life situations, and would love to escape as Micah does. Micah's story is one of adventure, family, and hope for positive change. 

This is a cute story that perfect for late elementary and middle grades. It's a younger reading level than what I've been reading lately, so it was a sweet escape for me from my heavier novels. I look forward to one day reading Escape with Daisy! Maybe by then we'll have some more Georgia Bruton books on our bookshelf! 

I recommend this book and the author!