Thursday, September 26, 2013

choo choo cake

Once upon a time in my former professional life, I did a substantial amount of programming for college students. Everything from invitations to t-shirts to food to favors matched the theme. I both delighted in and obsessed over every detail, often challenging myself to trump my level of creativity from the previous year. At that time, there was no doubt in my mind that my future child would have the cutest and best planned birthday parties ever.

Maybe those years burned me out on party planning. For each of Mason's birthdays, I've tried to get into throwing a humdinger of a themed, matchy matchy party, but I've been surprised at and even discouraged by my reluctance. I admire other children's cutesy parties, but I usually leave them longing to err on the side of simplicity for my boy. Why is that?

For Mason's first birthday, I put substantial work into creating a monthly picture banner, which I've saved and we will treasure forever. For both birthdays, I've made and decorated his cake, a tradition I hope to continue. His cake last year was nothing fancy--just a little smash cake. But this year, I let him choose between two of his obsessions: trains and airplanes. Here is what we came up with:


This choo choo cake recipe was amazingly easy, even for a non-baker and non-decorator like me. And it was a huge hit with the birthday boy. A win on all counts!


(Mason entertained his guests by shouting, "Hurray, choo choo cake!" over and over when I snapped the picture above.)



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

10th and 3rd

While at the National Book Festival on Saturday, I realized that this is my 10th consecutive year of attendance, and Mason's 3rd. How many two-year-olds can say that they've been to three National Book Festivals? I'd bet my savings account that he was the youngest person in attendance on Saturday who has been to all three festivals of his life, unless there's a child who was born between September 18-23, 2011 (after Mason was born but before the book festival began in 2011) who can boast the same attendance.

I love fun facts like that.


And I love that Mason has attended this event every year of his life thus far.


Unlike last year, my boy was unafraid of the characters and marched right up to them to say hello.



Brad, Mason, and I spent the morning visiting characters and playing games in the PBS KIDS tent, and then the boys went home to nap and watch football while I relived book festival life pre-Mason and bounced among the pavilions, soaking up authors' stories, comments, and wisdom for the rest of the day. It's been three years since I've spent all day at this event, and boy was I wiped out on Saturday night. But it was a good kind of tired. Waiting around all afternoon to hear Veronica Roth at 4 PM was worth it, although her presentation was probably the most crowded I've ever seen--the pouring down rain failed to deter her fans. Roth just turned 25 years old, but I'd swear she's going on 40. As expected, she was tight-lipped about what's to come in the third and final installment of her Divergent series, but I did learn that the point of view of this novel switches back and forth between the two main characters. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm trying to keep an open mind.

Did you attend the National Book Festival? What were your highlights?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

National Book Festival

With this year's National Book Festival occurring only four days after Mason's birthday, I've barely had time to think about which authors I'd love to see this year other than Veronica Roth at 4 PM on Saturday. But let's face it--with my two-year-old in tow, how many authors could I possibly see anyway? Instead, I'll be standing in line with Mason to visit with characters from shows on PBS KIDS. And Mason's pure joy at meeting Curious George or Super Why will make me love every minute of it.

Here's the schedule. Which authors are you most excited about?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

a secret to creamy hummus

Hummus is one of those snacks that I most enjoy when it's homemade, but my secret to creamy hummus adds a good 20 minutes to an easy five-minute recipe. I dislike doing it, but I peel the garbanzo beans. And peeling an entire can of them, with no interruptions, usually takes me 20 minutes.

Last year I taught my three- and four-year-old Cooking Thyme students how to peel garbanzo beans, so I am hopeful that in another year or so, I'll put another little person I know to work when it's hummus-making time.

What's your secret to creamy hummus?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

choo choos

A few weeks ago, we discovered a gem only a few blocks from our home--an easily accessible gargantuan platform behind a nondescript office building that overlooks the train yard at Union Station. We come and go as the trains come and go. Even in between rush hours, there's still plenty of activity to keep a little train lover entertained.


This block-long, often deserted platform is Mason's happy place. He wakes up asking to see the choo choos and goes to sleep at night talking about them. He's probably been there 10 times over the last three weeks. Now we just need to ride a train! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

a relentless coach

Thanks to the generosity of five sweet friends, I have the most awesome jogging stroller, yet I haven't taken Mason out for a run in well over a year. (We use the stroller nearly every day, though, for walks and getting around our neighborhood.) One morning recently when Brad left early, I decided that my big boy was ready for a run. I got Mason up, changed his diaper, threw his pajama-clad bottom and some breakfast into the stroller, and off we went.

Yes, I was pushing more weight, but the run was so much more fun now that Mason's talking. He narrated our 30-minute excursion:
"Mommy, I see moon!"
"Two doggies!"
"Big trucks!"
"Two trucks!"
"Two busses!"
"Excuse me, car."
"Excuse me, doggie."
"More milk."
"Bless you, May!" (after he sneezed)

And my personal favorite, from my unsympathetic, relentless coach when we would stop for traffic or slow down the slightest bit:
"Go Mommy!"
"Run Mommy! Run Mommy! Run Mommy!" (chanting)

Mason's chattering was entertaining and his badgering kept me going. Maybe I need to take him on runs with me more often.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

topsail island

I love beach vacations, but I also appreciate variety in my beaches, so we checked out a new place this year: Topsail Island.


How I love North Carolina beaches! The dunes. The lack of commercialism. The raw beauty of undeveloped land. Houses and condos face the ocean, not boardwalks or touristy shops.


Finding lodging for only three people is always a bit of a challenge. We don't need the space or expense of a large beach house. Condos that meet my requirements (right on the ocean with a good view and a swimming pool) aren't plentiful. But I found a fantastic two-bedroom condo on the top floor of the St. Regis complex on the north end of the island. It was perfect--nicer than where we stayed last summer in Duck, and cheaper!


Others warned me that Topsail Island, especially the northern part where we stayed, is very, very remote. And they weren't kidding! No grocery store, coffee shop, or restaurants were anywhere near us. The St. Regis had a bar that served typical bar food and pizza, which we enjoyed on the night we arrived and the night before we departed. Thankfully, we had the best weather we've ever had on any beach trip and had little desire to leave the ocean and pool. We cooked dinners on the charcoal grills that were provided on three nights, and drove about twenty minutes to Surf City three times (once for lunch and twice for dinner) to eat at some of the island's most notorious restaurants: Daddy Mac's, The Bistro at Just Baked, and Island Delights. The latter was a 1950s diner with old school rides for $.25, like the boat below.


We left our house at 5 AM and made the drive in 6.5 hours.


I hate that Mason's growing up so fast, but it was SO HELPFUL that he could walk himself to the beach this year! And he climbed every step and made each trek himself--I don't think we carried him once. (How could we? Our arms were full of beach stuff! How did we ever get to the beach last year with a baby in our arms?!)


We missed the quaintness of Duck, and especially Duck Donuts, but overall Topsail Island was a hit and we would definitely recommend it.