Photo of the Week:

reflectionwithgorilla

lifenut

snapcakephoto


Compartments

Ancient History

How to Make a Fun and Easy Mario and Luigi Cake

Teddy had a very difficult time deciding what kind of cake he wanted for his fourth birthday. He swung from Thomas the Tank Engine to Mario Kart to Oscar the Grouch. He even proposed incorporating all three into a complicated and bizarre cake where trains, Italian plumbers, and grouches live in harmonic world of sugar, buttercream, and a complicated set of tunnels for travel. I told him I was not able to grant that wish. I’m a mortal mommy.

Finally, I made the executive decision to make a Nintendo cake. He adores Mario Kart and the family of characters. I had an idea for a cake that would be very simple and hopefully super fun.

nintendobirthdaycake_1

It was easy to assemble. I ordered the six Nintendo figurines from Amazon. The set includes Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Toad, and Princess Peach. They are solid plastic and could be fun toys after the birthday was over.

I baked two 9-inch rounds of strawberry cake, then frosted it with a typical buttercream frosting. To make the platform Mario, Luigi, and Donkey Kong are standing on, I frosted a single raised donut and put it on top of the cake.

The gold coins were purchased from a candy store. They were tall enough to surround the donut. I opened the foil a tiny bit and slid a toothpick inside, then resealed the foil. I stuck the toothpicks in the cake around the frosted donut.

nintendobirthdaycake_3

Then, I arranged the Nintendo figurines where I thought they’d look cute, putting his favorites on top in a place of honor. They were heavy, so I had to press them into the thankfully-thick bed of frosting. If you make the cake, make sure you have plenty of frosting so they don’t tip over. I put the cake in the refrigerator so the frosting would harden and took it out right before we sang.

nintendobirthdaycake_2

Teddy was thrilled with his cake! He loved it and so did the other kids.

Routine Leaves a Message on My Voicemail

I thought you’d pick up the phone? It’s been months. Anyway, uh, I guess I have a few things to say to you.

First, I miss you! Remember when we used to make your bed together? I thought that new coverlet thing and the weird pillow you found at Goodwill would spice things up between us. Yeah, the pillow tips over. Who cares? Then, your husband read something in a magazine about how it’s actually healthier to leave beds unmade because sunlight and air kills microscopic creepers? Can I be frank with you? It’s just a handy excuse. I will be over to make your bed with you tomorrow.

Second, school started a week and a half ago. You used to run into my arms on the first day and wrestle me to the ground. Oh, how we got things done! The meals, planned. Laundry in beauteous bouncy piles! Pretty desserts! Playground rotations with the little ones! You seem to still be stuck in summer a bit. Hey, I can’t get completely mad. Technically, there is still a month of summer. Sunshine and hot weather don’t make you want to think about all those mittens in the basement that need to be sorted, or fall clothes, or driving to Goodwill with bags to donate. Hey, while you’re there, check out the throw pillows.

You can’t stay away from me much longer. Already, you are driving the same route multiple times a day, passing the same fences, trees, ceramic birdbaths, speed traps, potholes, the Starbucks drive thru. I’m your backseat driver. I’m in the rearview mirror dancing along to the music.

I get that you’ll want to dropkick me to Brazil around mid-April. That’s cool. I need a break from you, too.

routine

Anyway, call me back. Better yet, I’m just going to show up. You’ll be so glad I did.

How Our Big Family: Serves Meals

There are 11 of us with teeth. That means I need to feed these 11 mouths at least three times a day, plus snacks and treats. My renditions of bland spaghetti, random casseroles, ambitious soups, and tough meats are foisted on my mostly-understanding family.

Mealtimes with this many people to feed could be complicated if we tried to do it small family style. When I was a kid, our family of five passed around bowls and platters of food, dishing it onto plates by ourselves. I could put 13 green beans on my plate, making them look like more by artfully spreading them about my mom’s flowered Corelle.

Until recently, our dining table was actually two tables shoved together. The same thing happens in restaurants. Everywhere we go, people must shove multiple tables together for us. If I started my blog today, I might call it Tableshovernut. Even with two tables shoved together, it was still a tight squeeze. It forced us to adapt. My kids do not know the joys of passing the mashed potatoes to a brother. Also, we do not have footmen to serve us because I am not the Dowager Countess, although I aspire to be just like her someday.

We have a single, longer table now, but have kept many of our serving philosophies.

BREAKFAST: This is the most chaotic meal of the day, especially during school-year weekdays. Kids tumble into the kitchen on their own. If you’re old enough to go to school, you are old enough to pour yourself a heaping bowl of cereal or make waffles in the toaster oven. They make oatmeal in the microwave, too. Once they hit age 10-ish, they are allowed to cook eggs if they have time. I’ve never been one of those moms who cooks a full-on massive breakfast every day. That’s a Saturday or Sunday (or dinner!) thing.

olliecereal

LUNCH: During school breaks and summer vacation, lunch is something try to plan carefully. The crazy-casual breakfast vibe grows up into planned sit-down meal with assigned lunch helpers. At the beginning of the week, I assign jobs to the older kids. They are either Lunch Helpers or Lunch Cleaners. The Lunch Helpers assist with all aspects of food prep and serving. I usually have 2 or 3 helpers, depending on how much needs to be done. They adore being Lunch Helpers. If you are not a Lunch Helper, you get to clean up. They rotate and I make sure to change up pairings.

When the big kids are at school, they make their sack lunches the night before and store them in the refrigerator. This has helped mornings run more smoothly. That leaves the little ones and I at home during the day. We eat like toddlers and preschoolers whenever we are hungry. I cut off crusts and mop up at least one spill per day.

DINNER: I try to plan out meals at least a week in advance, keeping an eye on the calendar for busy nights like most families. Those nights require the crockpot or something light and easy. My husband loves to cook, so he prepares several dinners a week. When everything’s done, we begin scooping onto plates, starting with Ollie, going in order of age from little to big. I started it this way so by the time I got to the adult plates, the little ones’ food would be cooled down enough to eat. We stand at the stove and counter and pass plates to the table, where, ideally, everyone is sitting with their drinks already poured. One kid gets that job every night—usually someone who can be counted on to not spill. If they want seconds, they get up and serve themselves but must ask who else anticipates wanting seconds so they keep themselves in check.

Before we eat, we say a prayer. Usually, the kids rotate through this, too, although Teddy insists on praying every night. After thanking God for Thomas the Tank engine, we thank him for our food. Also, we prayed for Ollie when he had an illness recently. Now, at every meal, Teddy prays for Ollie to “feel better soon” even thought Ollie (knocking on wood like a deranged woodpecker) is currently enjoying good health. Coincidence? You be the judge!

SNACKS AND DESSERT: I have always tell the kids they can have all the fruit and veggies they want. They have free reign, but I appreciate being asked first in case I had plans for those strawberries or that bunch of rapidly decaying bananas. Consequently, all of them eats fruits and veggies every day and I don’t have to force it. We have crackers in the house occasionally, but then I realized a box of graham crackers lasted about 17 minutes. Sometimes, I’ll stock up on Babybels or string cheese, but sometimes cheese is problematic. Plus, they always put cheeses on their school lunch sandwiches so calcium isn’t an issue.

Desserts are not an every night thing. Sometimes, we will stove-pop some popcorn in coconut oil or scoop ice cream. If I’m bored during an afternoon, i might bake cookies or cupcakes and that ends up being dessert.

Keeping mealtimes running smoothly and sanely is something I still work on and adjust.