SMASH CAKE - Rainbow Cake with Roses - First Birthday Party

First Birthday, and the new Mama's first Birthday cake. It's can't be that hard, right? 

First things first. What I originally thought would be her smash cake turned out not to be suitable.  But at least it looked cute!

I bought Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix on BOGO at Publix.  On a whim, I added a few drops of neon food coloring to each little batch before I poured it in the pans.With the party on Saturday, I baked my cakes Wednesday night. I doctored my cakes by adding 2 Tbsp. of plain all-purpose flour along with an extra egg, 3 Tbsp. butter,  and 1 Tbsp. of sugar. The cake is a little heavier and more dense than it would have been.

I baked two 6 inch and two four inch for Arleigh's smash cake. When the cakes cooled completely, I wrapped them in wax paper, then aluminum foil to keep them nice and moist before the weekend party. (The cake was SUPER moist, so baking early caused no problems at all.)

Since I had originally thought this would be the smash cake, I bought cool whip cream cheese frosting for the inside layers and used the neon blue food coloring (with one dot of green) to make turquoise. 

 FYI  - Cool Whip frosting (in the freezer section) is THE BOMB.

Friday,  I made the hour long trip to Columbus to decorate cakes at my Mom's, since the party was held at the camphouse in their neck of the woods.

I followed the easy rose decorating directions on you tube and from I Am Baker.

I'll be your guinnea pig. Here's what I learned.
  • I should have planned this better in general. I'm the QUEEN bee of procrastination. I tend to plan and make to-do list like crazy, but I have the ridiculous ability to change it all at the drop of a hat and go a different direction. (Like the colored cakes that were just going to be white with confetti and the teal icing that was going to be pale yellow.)  It's a blessing and a curse. Then again...I baked at my house, transported the just baked cakes to my mom, and then moved the iced and assembled cake to the camphouse. These poor cakes were gonna be a hot mess anyway you look at it. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
  • I should have baked 4 - 6 inch or 4 - 4 inch cakes and not worried about tiers.  I think it would have looked better. I had two of each pan, which is why I baked 2 of each layer originally. My Mama, being the sweet Mama she is, told me it looked like a hat...Fits in perfectly with our Arleigh in Onederland theme. :-) 
  • I should have been more careful adding color into my layers and with leveling out the batter in the cake pans. Because I was adding color, they were beaten too much, which made more peaks in my cake pans. I had to pull out my handy-dandy cake saw leveler.
  • Don't forget to use dowels to sturdy the cake.
  • I should not have tinted my inside layer icing. When I started icing my original crumb coat, you could see the turquoise through the original roses, which meant I had to color my outside icing. or I would have used it for the inside and done a plain white crumb coat on the outside. I'm just not quite talented enough to hide all the bad stuff.
  • The roses required 3 batches of old fashioned decorator icing for one itty bitty cake.They are super SUPER easy to do and make quite the adorable statement.
  • NEVER - (AND I REPEAT NEVER) use something so intensely colored for an almost one-year old's smash cake. I looked like a blue smurf after decorating, and we made a last minute decision to give Arleigh the top tier of the white birthday cake for her smash cake. I haven't played in icing colors in a long time, so I had no idea how bad it would stain.

  • The cake stand we used for Arleigh's cake was the Mikasa ribbon stand that held our keepsake tier at our wedding. Sentimentality is my forte. The cake held the bride and groom from my grandparents wedding, also used at my parents wedding. The cake photos on the table are from our parent's weddings.  (See the stand in the back right corner of our table?)
  • And the dowels used in Arleigh's first birthday cakes? Those were from our wedding cake, too.  (Yes, my mother and I both save everything.)
  • Her cake knife was an engraved gift from a family friend. We'll use it every birthday, and eventually she can use it at her wedding. (I used my mom and dad's at my wedding.) 

Yes, I am a sentimental NUT CASE. :-) I had no business making Arleigh's cake either, yet, I did it! And it looked pretty ok, but it tasted fabulous! :-)  Mommy made it trumps pretty much everything. Made with love. Lots and lots of love.

I guess I should mention I was a 4-H Breads Sweepstakes winner back in the 90's, and I took a Wilton Cake decorating class in that era as well. Does that even count?  I'm thinking I would love to take more classes. I do love baking! It was lots of fun, and I may even try it again! :-)  I was proud. 

I'm already planning on baking her a #1 cake for her "real" birthday in February. 

What do you like to "control" with your own parties? What is your party forte?


I am that Mom - THE FIRST YEAR

My surrogate big sis from college McCall over at Finding our Way --- Lee, Me and the Girls is doing a series called I am that Mom. It has me thinking. What kind of (albeit new) mom am I? Where have I succeeded in this first year and what would I do differently? There's no failure with new moms, just survival mode.

First, I am that Mama who thinks I have the prettiest baby on the planet. I know, I know. Moving right along.

I am that mom who let the list of expectations about motherhood fly out the window even before Arleigh arrived. Failed expectations (for myself, the hubs, new baby, or even the grandparents) could leave me feeling hurt, and there is no point in having pitty parties with a baby at home. I set my expectations low. Really low. (Thank goodness for a Mama who knows when I need a massive dose of reality.)  When you end up in the hospital a month earlier than expected and you come home with a baby (to a nursery your family had to pull together) after an unexpected c-section, you realize real quick there is no point in having expectations. Honey, it's about survival.  We've had a pretty crazy first year. Her early arrival, c-section, NICU, breast feeding not working, salmonella, her acid burnt bottom, 6 months of runny noses, 5 months of ear infections leading to ear tubes, low iron...but yet, when I look back on it, it was absolutely nothing compared to what some Mamas face. Absolutely nothing. You have to laugh about it and keep on trucking. I'm just thankful we've (almost) made it through the first year without any major issues. She's a statistic (4 in Alabama) on the CDC website for Newport Salmonella outbreak of 2012. Way crazy, yes?

When your 75 year old neighbor says her child slept through the night when they came home from the hospital, I am that mom who laughs in the face of said elderly neighbor. (Not very nice, I realize.) Don't believe the "my baby slept at so and so" hype. One, itty bitty newborns need to feed. Two, their version of night may be 4 hours, or they may not remember. I am that mom that lets her baby cry at night if I know she is full and fine. Not a ridiculous amount (although probably ridiculous for some of those never cry parent types), and not when she was teeny-tiny. It did help put her on a schedule early.

Although now, I am that mom that wishes my baby was still getting up at night, because I miss all the quiet moments with her on my shoulder. All the moments you wish away you wish back once that period of babyhood is over.  And you may even wish for her to occasionally feel just sick enough to want to lay her head on your shoulder. That said....

I am that mom that will intentionally wake up my sleeping baby because as a working Mama, I don't get enough time with her. Even with Arleigh 11 months old, I get all sad thinking about her as a bitty baby 6 or more months ago, when she needed me at night to come to her rescue with that bottle. Or just needed me. That phase ended so quickly. It's a catch-22. You want them to sleep on a schedule, but yet you miss their sweet smelling squishy baby goodness when they don't need you. She's so incredibly independent. Scares me a little. Even when I wake her, she is NOT Miss Cuddly Sweetness. With all 4 of us piled in our king size bed, she's my wild little 11 month old, gigglying loudly, crawling and sliding off of Clarence (the 80 pound lab-brother), bouncing up and down at the end of the bed, climbing the headboard,  sticking her fingers up her Daddy's snoring nose, or sticking her fingers in my mouth to inspect all my teeth. (She's always on an adventure!)
I am that mom that wishes I could do better at prioritizing my life and spending time with family. I have a bad, bad, habit of over scheduling my life, and John and Arleigh are the ones that are missing out because of it. They need me.  Prime example - I'll be in the grocery store picking up some kind of fabulousness for an over the top menu with family or friends. When truthfully, they would be just fine with pizza. They all need my time. Not just my time as a Mama, but my time as a wife, daughter, or a friend.

I am that mom that didn't do a great - or even good - job of making church a top priority for our family this year. We fell out of the habit again, and with John working on Saturday, we let Sundays become our family rest/together day, and didn't really give ourselves a day for church family. Arleigh does great at church - mainly because it's the same place she goes to school, so I can't blame this one on her. Bad habit that needs breaking. If you haven't read Angela Thomas's 52 Things Kids Need from a Mom, it's a must read.  I evidently need to read it again. Mainly the part about....scratch that. ALL of it.
I am that mom that gets jealous of the time Arleigh gets to spend with her Daddy, and the time Daddy gets to spend with Arleigh. This one is hard for me. I take Arleigh to school in the morning, and her Daddy gets to pick her up noonish and spends all afternoon with her until I get home. Because I'm a working mama, sometimes I don't get home until bath and bedtime. (Which is why I sometimes wake up my sleeping baby.) John gets so much more time with her, which makes me so sad because I miss out. I'm thrilled they have a great relationship and he's an awesome daddy. But I do wish it was me who got to be all motherly.

I am that mom that tries really hard to stop and capture memories. And not memories for Arleigh. Memories for myself and John.  I really thought you had kids so you could revert back to silliness and go to the zoo whenever you want. If it's not, I am so confused. I get the raising your own kids to be outstanding adults, Christian leaders, and citizens part, too. But I'm after the fun factor. :-) We've got a long life after she's grown to have a clean, organized house.  My mom is the one who told me this bit of news. One day, you are going to look back and realize it's about making memories for yourself as much as it is for them.

I am that mom that will let you borrow my baby to make your own memories. I've tried really hard to be generous to those who want to spend time with Arleigh outside our home during this first year. She's spent the night with other family already, and typically if someone wants to keep or see her we've made it work out. From our own experiences, it's really easy for new parents to shelter your baby - even unintentionally - from family, which can make them feel shut out, unloved and undervalued. (I can speak from experience on this, even when you don't mean to do it, it hurts.)  I'm trying really hard to let Arleigh develop her own special relationships with extended family members, and let extended family feel like an important part of her life. This doesn't come naturally; you have to work at it. Especially when you have multiple sides to the family. But I have to remember she's part of everyone who's a part of me, and they need to have time with her, too.

That being said, I am that mom who has to bite my tongue a LOT. Because I do value the relationships in our lives, I try to play the role of diplomat a little too much.  Although she is MY baby, and she came from MY womb, some folks feel like she is THEIR baby. (Ok, so I guess I did need to get that off of my chest after all.) This is one of the few things that has left me in tears this first year. It's so hard knowing that you are the new mom and you think know what's right for your child, yet sometimes you feel like you are standing in the middle of a school of fish moving in the opposite direction. I think most moms get a taste of this at some point or another. What do new Mama's who think they are right do? What they know is best and put in ear plugs for the rest.  I'm definitely learning that what I may view as all out defiance from some folks against my wishes is simply a gigantic misunderstanding.  Just keep the peace....someone has to do it. Moving right along....

I am that mom who is most definitely still learning and growing. It's a challenge and an adventure. But she's loved. So very, very, loved. And she's absolutely adorable. Did I mention that part?

How are you doing on Mommyhood? What did you wish away with your babies that you wanted back?


Putting the Christ back in CHRISTmas

Our first Christmas with Arleigh was a wonderful mix of different. It was our first Christmas without the last patriarch in the family, my Pop, which meant this was the first Christmas with new traditions of our very own.          
Our first new tradition... Christmas brunch at our house. I've never been home for Christmas (always with the Junkin side), so this was all new to me. I did a trial run of what we were having at AOM's birthday party.  Hot ham and swiss sandwiches, Pluck it bread, Chicken Salad, Pasta Salad, Christmas Day breakfast casserole, fruit....It was very yummy in our tummies. :-)
On to the presents.  AOM is one lucky little lady. The grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousin supplied her with this load of LOOT. We need a bigger house because of it. NO JOKE. After the Mansell, Sansing, Junkin sides of the family, plus my friends who are family, Arleigh O was racking up the stuff. Our car was loaded to the ceiling 3 times with stuff. She got more at one stop than most kids get all Christmas. This is just a sampling....
 Then Santa came and supplied her with this load of loot at our house Christmas morning. Santa doesn't wrap in our family. Does Santa wrap for you?   Santa brought AO the little people first farm, which I got on my first Christmas. My Mama didn't tell me until after Santa came. How cool was that!  (Great Mama's think alike, apparently!) She also got the Little People doll house, which has a flushing toilet. Her first baby baseball, a xylophone, and her first cabbage patch doll. Which brings us to this...

Gifts of the Magi - Christmas gifts with a little more Biblical Meaning

Before we even get started, I am in no way saying the overload of presents is wrong for your family. I'm doing this for my family because: 
  • Arleigh is more than blessed with plenty of stuff from the Grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, cousins, friends...you get the idea.  I don't think she will miss out on any presents.
  • We don't have room for much more "stuff" - We are busting at the seams of our little bitty starter home.
  • Mama needs a budget and expectations on what is acceptable. I need to buy presents worthy of lasting and not just "stuff" to fill up space. The presents need to have a meaning or a substance. I need to think before I buy.
  • There will always be three presents, which (you've got to admit) makes it much easier when shopping. Not to mention one day with sibling rivalry. 
  • If we start this now while AO is young, it will be our own tradition as a family. One that they will hopefully want to pass on to their kids.
  • I really think we're raising a generation of kids who expect the latest and greatest at all times. (This applies to me as well.....Have you seen her smocked dress collection?) Toning it down and honing it just a little will (I hope) have dramatic results one day. It can't hurt.
  • And the biggest reason? There is not enough Christ in Christmas.

We've talked with Santa and decided it's time to get a little more perspective on Christmas. From now on, children in the P&J Mansell house will receive four presents. We had discussed doing this this year, but I let folks talk me into the "it's her first Christmas, you have to buy more" mentality, which was (excuse the word) stupid. This year, Arleigh got traditional Santa, PLUS her Gifts of the Magi. Not again. There is no point in going this overboard on presents. Mama and Daddy need boundaries. My kids need to realize the real meaning of Christmas - which has nothing to do with presents.

The biggest benefit for Christmas presents with biblical perspective - If three gifts were good enough for baby Jesus, why shouldn't they be good enough for our own kids? Why do we have the "keep up with the Jones" mentality, when we should be worried about keeping our kids on the right track with their heavenly Father?

From a budget perspective, we can reign in requests to fit whatever budget we set. There is no point in an overflow of stuff that is used or played with for two months and then forgotten. It requires us - as parents - to actually think about the gifts we are giving.  When Arleigh is older, it will require honest discussions about the biggest point of Christmas - the birthday of Jesus. Imagine that thought - Christmas is about CHRIST.

When I was first searching online and asked for ideas on Facebook about traditions within your own family for Christmas, I was surprised with the friends who already do some type of variation of the three present rule. They may not tie back in to the categories directly, but they set boundaries for themselves and their kids for a holiday that is becoming more and more excessive each year.

Present 1. Christmas Eve night PJs from Mama and Daddy. Just like baby Jesus got swaddling clothes. (for 33 years I have always had Christmas pjs, so this one just has to stay.)

Present 2, from Santa. Representing Gold. This is their big ticket item, or the item they would like to have the most. It can be a gift for the entire family, or it can be a gift of enduring value.  Like dance or swimming lessons, or a trip to make memories with the family. Or a keepsake piece of jewelry.  This year, Arleigh is the proud new owner of two Britax Car seats.  (Which, by the way, she absolutely loves.)

Present 3, from Santa. Frankincense.  Back when baby Jesus received Frankincense, it was a comforting, holy anointing oil. For Arleigh's purpose, the gift that represents Frankincense is a spiritual gift. Something that can further her relationship with God. One day, it could be a new bible, Christian CDs, the cost for a special retreat or church trip, or a new devotional book. This year, she got Noah's ark and a Veggie Tales movie. 

Present 4, from Santa. Myrrh. Myrrh was used when someone died, to clean their body. This one is always a little harder for me to make a literal present. One day, this could be lotions, new towels, bath robe, makeup or house shoes...you get the idea. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. This year, Arleigh is getting a bathroom redo, which (don't tell her) we were planning on anyway.

I should probably mention that within our little family four-some (Me, John, dog-child Clarence, and 10 Month Arleigh) we really don't do a ton of presents. I couldn't tell you the last time John bought me something for a birthday or holiday on his own. We're just not holiday gifters. Givers, yes. But within out little family, it just isn't a priority. We give to each other with what we want year round, or I just buy what I want. I have friends who would go insane at the thought of no present from the hubs at Christmas or your birthday. It's just not on the list of battles I choose to pick. It's really not that big of deal in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I've had my feelings hurt before. And maybe one day Arleigh O can take dear old dad shopping like we did with my Daddy years ago. 

Maybe presents are more important to your household, and this would never work. And that's fine, too. As long as your kids know the real reason for the season, the message is in their hearts.
Daddy, The Lab Child Clarence, 10 Month old Arleigh
The memories from Christmas are my favorite part of the holiday. Especially this one. I was conked out on the couch for THE FIRST Christmas afternoon nap, and woke up to this precious sight. My three loves playing in the new doll house. (Inspecting the above mentioned flushing toilet.) Such a sweet sight, and a very, very, precious memory.

We didn't get in our Birthday Party for Jesus this year. Hopefully next year. I already bought Happy Birthday Jesus plates and napkins, so we have a head start! 

Hope your Christmas was a fabulous as ours!  What are your favorite Christmas traditions?


Family Really is Everything

In order to know where we are in life, sometimes you need to know where we've been for it all to make sense. 

For the first years or so of my life, Christmas eves were spent at my MawMaw and PawPaw's, opening presents from Aunts and Uncles and watching for Rudolph's nose in the sky with Uncle Bruce. Once the Sansing family started changing generational hands, my Daddy took it upon himself to make sure we keep the traditions alive. Now we meet for Sansing Christmas at the Camp. 

For the past 33 Christmases, I've gone to my Pop and Granny's on Christmas day.  Junkin Christmas was a little different this year, too. We had it early, at my Mama's house. There were no traditional pictures in front of the tree with unintentionally coordinated outfits. It was different, but a good different. It's a hard pill to swallow when generations and patriarchs leave. But, I am ever-so-thankful that both sides of my family view family togetherness and family relationships as the most important thing in life.  They really do. I'm closer to some of my second and third cousins than most people are to their first cousins. Some of my first cousins (that's you Danielle and Brock) are more like siblings to me. And we're closer than most siblings. And to us, it's absolutely normal.  Family is the only way to keep tradition and family values alive. We actually love each other....and for the most part, (GASP) actually really like each other!  

The new era in the family is a little different. People these days are more scattered. Mama's and GrandMama's have to go to work. Daddy's have to work on the weekend. We can't go to my Mama's and have lunch every Sunday for Arleigh and Swayze to make their own memories, and it really stinks. The thought of me and Brock fighting over the last chicken leg at Maw Maws, creating mysteries in the scary closet, almost stepping on a rattlesnake, milking cows, gathering eggs, feeding goats, feeding our summer watermelon rinds to the hogs....the list for our "old" Sundays goes on and on. 

Or the fact that Arleigh can't just get off the bus at NanO's every day. She's not going to spend nearly as much time with her grandparents as I did throughout my childhood. Granny's was HOME for me. And it's not that we don't want Arleigh to grow up the old way, but for the fact that miles are between us now.

I learned to cook and put on a spread from Granny. I learned hospitality from Granny. I learned values and love from Granny. My secrets died when she did. Just like Josh learned everything from Pop. They were our neighbors and our grandparents. It was our own little island away from the world. When I'd run away from home, I'd run through the woods to my Granny. (And my Uncle Richard, too.) There we were perfect. There we were loved. There we got to be kids. Real kids, with no TV (oh the horror!). We'd get off the bus in the afternoon and be greeted with a special snack and half of one of Pop's canned cokes. On rainy days as a treat we would play in the junk room upstairs. We'd play dress up, store, library....or (my favorite role) Shirley Temple from the littlest princess. (With my pretend fire place while I read books on apple boxes.) And can you even imagine...My favorite books growing up - My granny's and my Mama's. I loved Nurse Cherry Ames, the old Nancy Drew, all of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Box Car Children, anything by Grace Livingston Hill or Louisa May Alcott. (I've often said I was born in the wrong era! Bet you didn't know that about me!) When it was pretty, we played in the barn, picked catawba worms, peas, or muscidimes, went fishing (but you better have Pop's permission), played behind the old chicken coop in our pretend play house that didn't exist. Or when we got older and would go down in the bottom, and cross a fallen tree to our little island in a washed out gully and play war with sling shots and find pieces of old bottles and broken china, because of course our island was the middle of an old dump. A whole different world from the way Arleigh gets to grow up now. A world most kids - and even adults today - have never seen. A world where you couldn't mow grass, fish or even hunt on Sundays. They were about church and family. A world where Grandmothers were always home, and always would stir up something special just for you...just because you were you. A world where you put on a spread every night for supper, because that was your gift to the family. It was a very different world, but a beautiful, much simpler world.

That's our biggest challenge as a family. How do you still let kids be kids? I didn't grow up with Mario Brothers. I grew up with a real brother.  We didn't have those kind of things.  How do you make sure family gets to still be family? How do you make sure that kids spend enough time with family to really understand where they came from and where they are going?

We're all a work in progress, aren't we. Figuring it out day by day. That's my challenge to myself for 2013. More family time, and then even more. We've only got one family, and I want Arleigh to know how important it really is to who you are as a person.  We're lucky, because my family is made up of pretty awesome individuals that would be great influences, in their own way, on Arleigh. I want her to be well rounded because she's made from a village of people. How do you do? Do you let others influence your child, or do you think it's all on you?