Saturday, March 19, 2011

DIY Bash

Ok, I know I have some unfinished business to tend to, but it''s just taking me a really long time to finish. I have no other explanation than that. It's very personal, introspective stuff and I am kind of agonizing over it as is my wont. So, I'm sorry, but it's just going to have to wait.

In the meantime, can I tell you about Man-Cub's birthday party and how I was actually a good mother for about a weekend? Of course I can, I have the keyboard!

So, we decided to let Man-Cub have kind of a bash because he turned the big 1-0. Let me clarify: when I say "kind of a bash" I mean a Wits' End kind of bash, not a Hollywood or even a South Jersey kind of bash. A bash to us means more than four kids, goody bags and streamers. I bet they probably throw bigger and better bashes in prison, but the point is to Man-Cub it was a BASH!

The Viking and I worked as a team to plan the whole thing and it must be said that we would not have been able to pull it off without Mom and Daria pitching in. The Viking secured the use of our church's gym, kitchen, and sound equipment. He borrowed a smoke machine and disco ball from somewhere. He advised Man-Cub to invite about 9 friends and tell them all to bring their Nerf guns and plenty of ammo. He then bought a few rubber chickens and a mess of glow-in-the-dark stuff. Intrigued? You should be.

I bought the party supplies: tablecloth, napkins, plates, forks, cups, streamers, candles. We were going to order one of those party packs from one of those well-known online party suppliers, but then I realized I could do a much better and cheaper job myself so I put in a little extra legwork and time and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

I also provided the food. Man-Cub is easy to please when it comes to party foods so Pringles and Sprite were all I had to buy. I decided to make the cake myself. He wanted cookie cake again (which seems to be the "cake" of choice amongst elementary-school-aged boys) and though I had made one last year with mixed results, I decided to learn from my mistakes and try again. And, boy, was I glad I did!

I DO NOT HAVE PHOTOS! I know, it's so very boring have to read only words all the time with no photos for variety, but we have no camera. Redheaded Snippet keeps losing them. Yes, let's blame her, it's easier. Anyway, I am suffering, too, as I've noticed not being able to share photos (except for those of dubious quality) has greatly reduced my enthusiasm for blogging altogether We're all hurting, people.

But the cake! The photoless cake! It was SO GOOD! I used Emeril's recipe and it looked and tasted perfect! I've never liked cookie cakes because they've always tasted...just...weird. But tasting a homemade one made me realize that it's just the processed, store-bought ones that taste that way. Homemade cookie cakes taste pretty good!

However good the cookie cake is, however, it does not satisfy most grown-ups' tastes for birthday cake. My family members can't help but groan when they find out we've let one of our kids have a cookie cake or ice cream cake for their birthday party (that's another one that young 'uns seem to always want: ice cream cake). And this time, I knew one cookie cake would not be enough for the entire party so I decided to make another cake just for the grown-ups.

I had seen a cake on my favorite blog that looked so good that I actually remembered it (and where I'd seen it) when the time came for me to bake one. There was no recipe. But I figured it out! I never feel more triumphant than when I do that successfully! And this was successful!

It was a four-layer yellow cake with lemon curd and whipped cream filling and whipped cream frosting.

I am not the best baker in the world, just so we are clear. I can bake things that will taste pretty darn good, but, lacking the artistic skills that God chose to bestow on all three of my sisters but not on me, very little of what I bake looks very pretty. I told Daria I would be a great baker for the blind.  I should start a cooking blog called, Ugly But Tasty. I would ROCK that! And this cake was no exception.

I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I think it's called All-Purpose Buttery Yellow Cake. I bought a jar of lemon curd (in retrospect I probably should have bought two). I baked two 8-inch rounds, let them cool, then carefully cut them in half so I had four layers instead of just two. Between the bottom two layers I spread lemon curd. Then I whipped up some cream and spread some between the second and third layers. Then more lemon curd between the top two. Then I coated the whole thing in whipped cream. That's the part I can't seem to do neatly. I would show you photos, just so you can see the ugliness (and maybe even impart some wisdom to me on how to neaten things up), but I DON'T HAVE ANY, REMEMBER?

You know a cake is good when someone asks you, "You made this cake?" And you know it's really good when, after you've said that you did, they immediately ask, "From scratch?"  And you know it was really really good when that person is your mother!  It was a HIT! The lemon and whipped cream were lovely together. The cake was moist but perfectly dense. It reminded us of wedding cake. It was probably my favorite of all the cakes I've baked. I will definitely be making it again. And I WILL, as God is my witness, get photos!

So, the food was a hit (the boys loved the cookie cake), but I'm sure you're curious about all the supplies The Viking bought in the beginning of this post...

He and Man-Cub invented a game for the boys to play.  I think they called it Capture the Chicken.  Think Capture the Flag only in a church gym with the lights dimmed and a smoke machine and a disco ball and tables set up as obstacles and barriers and glow-in-the-dark rings and flashers and Nerf guns and lots and lots of Nerf ammo.  LOTS of Nerf ammo.  Oh yes, and rubber chickens.  The Viking made a soundtrack of Man-Cub's favorite music (he's got quite eclectic tastes, I must say) and blasted it and those boys ran all over the place jumping and shooting and laughing and shouting and, for some reason and according to the rules, clucking loudly from time to time.

Blessedly, they were in a separate room from where I was preparing the feast.  In fact, for the first time, I made birthday preparations in near-total peace.  At least until EGOD arrived.  That woman...I swear...she is just misery personified.  She arrived in a snit, complained loudly to anyone she could corner and even grumbled loudly that she shouldn't have been there.  She did not like that a) we have chosen to attend a church that is so far away from her home and b) we chose it as the location for Man-Cub's party.  I'm telling you, I need extra measures of supernatural love and patience whenever she is around.  I suppose that's why God has her in my life, to teach me to rely on him in order to love her...

It was delightful to see Man-Cub acting like a silly, rambunctious yet well-behaved little boy with his friends.  And we were encouraged to realize that most of them are from church and all of them are good boys.  We have always prayed specifically for good friends for both of our children and have been grateful to see God answer those prayers for Redheaded Snippet in the way we had hoped for.  And now we're starting to see the same answer in Man-Cub's friends as well.

Of course, once the evening was over we were exhausted with aching feet, heads and backs.  But it was worth it to see Man-Cub having the time of his life and knowing we didn't have to spend a small fortune to do it!

Now if only we can get Redheaded Snippet excited about having her Sweet Sixteen party in the church gym...

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