Friday, March 22, 2013

Ombre Cake


Ombre, the progression of a colour from a dark shade to light, is all the rage right now. Hair, clothing, and decor have all been affected by this trend and now we're even seeing it in food. I've seen lots of pictures on Pinterest of layer cakes in shades of purple & pink and thought a green ombre cake would be the perfect addition to Wesley's St Patrick's Day First Birthday Party (photos here).


I started with two boxes of white cake mix. You absolutely could make your own cakes from scratch but it would be tough to get a pure white cake, which is important for your colours to turn out, and I'm a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. I divided the batter in to 4 bowls and added gel food colouring a little at a time until I got the shades I wanted. I cheated a bit and used two different colours of green so that each layer really looked different but just one colour with increasing amounts would work too.


I used 9" round cake pans so that the layers were thinner. The trick to a successful layer cake is ensuring that your layers are level. I've read that if you bake your cakes at a lower temperature for a longer time then they won't rise to get that dome top. I've tried that and it doesn't work for me. Instead I used a cake leveler to slice off the tops of each cake which also helps to keep their heights uniform.


I froze each layer of the cake in individual freezer bags overnight so that they would be easier to frost. For the icing I used a simple buttercream frosting (recipe here), warming it slightly in the microwave to make it a little more spreadable.


The palest shade of cake is your base layer. I spread a generous amount of icing on top and then gently placed the next darkest shade of frozen cake atop it, continuing until all four layer are stacked. I then frosted the whole cake, starting with the sides, with a thin layer of icing. This is called the "crumb layer" as it traps all the tiny crumbs that tear away from your cake as you frost it. I let that frosting set (about 20 minutes) then added another layer of buttercream icing. I finished it off with a few shakes of green sprinkles and a single green candle.


Cutting in to the cake is fun when you see each layer of green cake come together, fading to the palest shade. Mine crumbled quite a bit when pulling out the first few slices because I cut them so thin (they were each 4 layers high!) but that could perhaps be avoided by using a denser cake recipe.


I received a lot of compliments from our guests and I have to admit that the cake was pretty tasty. It's definitely a fun twist on a classic layer cake and one that I will likely repeat for many birthdays to come.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

50 Shades of Green


Saint Patrick's Day has long been my favourite holiday of the year. My friends & I used to meet up at the pub around 9 am and stay there all day long drinking green beer & Baby Guinness shooters, watching Irish dancers, and staying out way too late. Since the birth of our son, March 17th will be celebrated in an entirely different manner so for Wesley's first birthday we decided to combine the two holidays and throw a green-themed birthday party.

 {the invitation}

 
I made two banners: a name banner for the mantel and another tissue paper tassel garland for the kitchen (tutorial here), both strung up with Divine Twine. My sister helped make a flower arrangement using spray mums and pale green mini carnations. My other go-to decoration, the tissue paper poms, dangled from the chandelier in the front entryway along side a GIANT green balloon, weighed down by a bag of dried peas. I arranged some more balloons into little groupings trying to create an ombre effect.

 

One of my goals for my last month of maternity leave was to print & frame some of our favourite photos of Wesley. For his party we decided to display them along our mantel so you could see how much he's grown in a year's time. 


In keeping with tradition, our guests were asked to wear green. The birthday boy wore an aqua polo and green pants from H&M while I wore my mint corduroys with a white blouse and my 'W' necklace. 


We maintained the green theme with the food, serving guacamole, salsa verde, & spinach dip along side green grapes, honeydew melon, cucumber, & snap peas. In addition to St Patrick's Day staples like Guinness and Bailey's we had Stewart's lime cream soda & lime slices in water for the non-drinkers. 


To satisfy the sweet tooth, Rice Krispies treats drizzled in green chocolate and an assortment of green candies were on hand. It's hard to say 'no' to candy when little wooden scoops pour the perfect little portions. 

{the cake, served with mint chip ice cream}


As guests left they were treated with shamrock sugar cookie favours (which my husband spent much time icing for me) and Baby Mum Mums for the littles. I had so much fun planning the details of this party and it was exciting to start some new traditions. I love colour-themed parties and this one worked out perfectly. Our house is still decorated and will stay that way until the enormous balloon in the front entryway drops and it's time to pack up all of the green - until next year.

While most the decorations were built by me, I did have some help as well. The 36" balloon, paper straws, mini wooden scoops, & Divine Twine can all be found at sweetsocial.ca, among many other beautiful party supplies.



Monday, March 18, 2013

One

Yesterday was a big day for us. Our little St Patrick's Day baby celebrated his first birthday and we celebrated one year of parenthood. We're so lucky that Wesley has so many loving people in his life - it really does take a village to raise a child. I still feel, and probably always will, that he's my little baby but now when I look at him I definitely see a big boy. He's a sweet & tender guy with a very adventurous spirit who loves to climb on anything and everything but will hug any and all stuffed animals he comes across. It's been amazing watching him grow & change, teaching him & learning from him. It really has been the best year of my life.

 {newborn}

 {one month}

 {two months}

 {three months}

 {four months}

 {five months}

 {six months}

 {seven months}

 {eight months}

{nine months}

 {ten months}

 {eleven months}

{one year}

In the excitement and chaos of his birthday party I forgot to take a 'one year photo' of Wesley - sigh - so instead his Baby Book will have a picture of him stuffing green cake in to his mouth. It really captures what the day was all about anyway.

Happy Birthday Wesley!
xo Mommy

Friday, March 15, 2013

Table For Two


It's been a busy week with not much time for blogging. Wesley's birthday is on Sunday so we've been running errands and party planning like crazy this week (you can expect to see the details on the blog next week).

Last week wasn't any less busy. The whole house was sick with a stomach bug so we spent a lot of time indoors trying to recharge. By Friday we were feeling a little better so Wesley & I ventured out on the lunch date I had planned in this post. I struggled to come up with a child-friendly restaurant that was close to home in case of a meltdown. I ended up deciding on the restaurant where I had my first job so I could get a little dose of nostalgia in too.


We arrived right as the restaurant was opening so we had the whole dining room to ourselves. I liked this because I didn't have to worry about the baby making lots of noise. Fortunately, he was on his best behavior: he just played with his napkin and flirted with the waitresses until our meal arrived.



We shared a tomato pizza (my favourite) and after days of barely eating Wesley devoured two whole pieces himself. While we ate, I reminisced about some of the fun things we got to do together during my year at home with him. Outings and play-dates and days spent reading in our pyjamas will be few and far between from now on but they will just be all the more special.  I also think I'll make our little lunch date a monthly tradition - just Mommy & Wesley.

Which restaurants do you take your kids too? If we're doing this every month pizza is going to get old really fast!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happiness Project: Wine Club


One of my Happiness Project Goals is "to be more social". I love getting together with friends but with busy lives it's sometimes quite challenging to schedule regular rendez-vous. A lot of my girlfriends work shift-work so our calendars don't always coordinate. One afternoon, my good friend Tanis & I came up with the idea of starting a "club", a reason for our group of friends to get together once a month and catch up. The idea appealed to me in that we wouldn't have to try to organize individual dates with each other anymore, there was no hard work! And so Wine Club was born.

The plan is simple: once a month one of us hosts at our home. The hostess provides snacks and everyone else brings a bottle of wine. Whatever wine isn't consumed over the course of the evening is left as a hostess gift. We thought it might be fun to have different themes - so far we've had 'funny names', 'pink', 'French', and 'favourites'.

 {sometimes there are repeats}

 {my favourite time of day}


In addition to getting out and socializing, it gives us the opportunity to try new wines. We've had four meetings already and it's been a great success. It's nice to know that when life is busy and you have no free time in a month Wine Club and girlfriends is a constant.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And The Winner Is...


Thank you so much to the lovely ladies who entered my first giveaway and to everyone who has read & shared my blog posts over the last several months. I love hearing your feedback and have found some pretty cool blogs through my comments. So without further ado, the winner of my Share The Love giveaway is...


Congratulations Tanis! I hope you enjoy this small token of my appreciation.

I'm looking forward to sharing more ideas & inspiration and maybe another gift after another 50 posts!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Well Read: Mommy Books


Whoever said that babies don't come with instruction manuals could not have been more wrong. There are hundreds of parenting books offering advice on everything from feeding to sleep-training, sign language to potty-training. It's a little overwhelming. I generally just walk past that aisle of the bookstore on my way to the "chick lit" section but I have stopped to buy a few books that I had heard about in the media. These are three of my favourites.

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman


My husband suggested I pick up this book after he read a review on it in the newspaper - he knows I love all things French! I'm glad I did because it provides a really interesting insight in to how a different culture raises their children. The author describes how French children seem to eat better, sleep better, and demonstrate better manners when in public than American children do, in general. She also notes, with envy, that the parents seem more relaxed as well. While French parents share the same philosophies as Americans (and Canadians, let's be honest) their approach is quite different - and it works! I loved this book. It's lighthearted and fun but also informative. I'm rereading it right now and enjoying it even more than the first time. It's a good book whether your baby is 5 weeks or 5 years old, even if you never apply the concepts.


Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne


Another newspaper book review discovery, the full title of this book is what got my attention. "Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids" - sounds good, right? I've heard this book is actually pretty controversial as his methods are the opposite of what most parents are currently doing. The author, a family counselor with a masters degree in education, promotes the concept of 'simplifying' four main areas of your family's life: environment, rhythm, schedule, and filtering out the adult world. This involves getting rid of any excess toys (his definition of 'excess' and 'toys' is what surprises people), cutting way back on organized activities to allow room for inspired & imaginative play, and eliminating (or, at the very least, reducing) all screen time before the age of 7. You can see how it's controversial, yes? It makes a lot of sense though and provides a really good starting point for creating and maintaining balance in your family's life.

Confessions of a Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler


I first heard about this book on the Crappy Pictures blog that I mentioned in this post. It's written by another mommy blogger based on excerpts from her website and input from her readers. It's the kind of read that makes you feel so much better when you think you're having a sub-par day of parenting. This is definitely the comedic relief every mom (or mom to be) needs.


So if you find yourself with twenty minutes of spare time and want to fill them with some good reads, these are my recommendations.

Have you read any good "instruction manuals" recently?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Giveaway Reminder


It's Friday morning and I'm sure you're thinking, "I really wish that I was drinking a coffee and reading a magazine by candlelight right now". Well, come Tuesday at noon, your dream can become a reality if you ENTER MY GIVEAWAY! It's so easy & then you win beautiful free stuff!

Just share your favourite Erin In Wonderland blog post by clicking on the Facebook button below that post. When you've done that, leave me a comment on the original Giveaway post (link here) or on my Facebook page letting me know which post you chose. The winner will be chosen randomly.

Also a reminder that while a lot of stuff got cleared out yesterday (thank you!), there are still some items for sale on my Kijiji account (click here to see the complete list).

I hope everyone has a fun, safe, and happy weekend!