Oops, I did it again…

Weigh-in was today.  Last week after I weighed in, I walked confidently to the front of the meeting with a big smile on my face.  I had lost 8.4 pounds.  This week was more of a sneak quietly into the back.  I gained 3.8 pounds…  Almost half of what I lost the week before.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect to gain.  On Saturday, we celebrated my birthday with pizza and cake and ice cream.  Then Sunday (my actual birthday), my grandpa made the BEST bbq ribs.  Also, after I ran the 5k on Saturday, i took a brief sabbatical from working out.  My legs were so tired, and it’s been kind of nice to rest a bit.  I’m confident that once I get my routine back on track, I’ll start losing again.  But for now, I’d like to stop worrying about it and share my Birthday Week details!

My week was just awesome.  My 16 month old niece visited Tuesday through Saturday and we had SO much fun.  Every time I see her, she’s just smarter and cuter and all-together even more awesome than the last time I saw her (which I really didn’t think was possible).  We went on a lot of walks with the wagon and she helped me push the cart at the grocery store.  The house is so quiet without her here!

Friday, I made my birthday cake.  Now, before anyone gets all concerned about me making my own birthday cake… I WANTED to do it.  I don’t bake cake all that much anymore, especially since I’ve been eating healthier.  This is a cake that I’ve made several times.  In fact, it’s sort of my specialty.  I’m to the point where I almost have the recipe memorized.  While I was baking, I was SO excited.  I didn’t have to go back to the store for any extra ingredients.  I cleaned up as I went along.  Nigella was on the Cooking Channel.  (I’m kind of obsessed.  Her voice is what my inner dialogue sounds like when I’m baking, even though the only accent I can do in real life is Southern.  And even then, it’s not so much “Southern” as it is “hick.”)  Anyway, things were going pretty well.  I took the cakes out of the oven (they looked flawless) and let them cool for a very appropriate length of time on the cooling racks.  After they had cooled, I leveled them off and started frosting.  As soon as I finished, I noticed a crack in the top layer about an inch long.  I called to my mom, who was talking to my aunt, for advice.  She kept on talking while the cake kept on cracking.  I kind of pushed it together with my hands to try to save it, but it just kept falling through my fingers.  After many half cuss words were said, and surprisingly no tears spilled, I decided to just let it be.  There was talk of going to Central City or Grand Island to get an ice cream cake, but I decided we’d eat this one.

She’s a beaut, right? As my friend, Kim, called it: Pangea Cake

Since we had family over, I didn’t really have an opportunity to let go of steam regarding the cake.  So, I did what any normal person would do.  I went to Jazzercise… Angry.  I know you probably think Angry Jazzercise is not possible.  Well, it is.  I mean, it’s not EASY, but it’s possible.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy, but it was exactly what I needed.  By the time I got home, my sister and sister-in-law had arrived, so I was happy.  Also, one of the last songs of the set list was “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, and that’s a REALLY hard song to stay angry to.  Friday night, we had a dance party with Little Miss Whitney on our deck and it was so much fun.

Saturday morning was the 5k and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  (At least, not for me.)  It had rained the night before and was cool and cloudy and I just loved it.  I had so much fun running with my sister.  There were a lot of random spurts of “dance running.”  We were also passed, about halfway through, by a woman pulling her two kids in a wagon.  I mean, she was walking fast.  But still, she was walking.  We eventually passed her right before the finish line (mainly because she let us).  According to my watch and the lady calling out the time, we finished in about 43 minutes.  HOWEVER, once they posted the times, they had me listed at 45 minutes AND said that I was 40 seconds slower than my sister when we pretty much finished at exactly the same time.  It’s not a big deal, but I was still a little pissed.  Then we went to a pancake feed at the airport, took naps, and CELEBRATED.  My mom had bought a little toy Batgirl to put on my cake, so that made my cake appear kind of badass.

I like to think Batgirl is saving Southern California from a giant earthquake/mudslide.

Waiting to blow out candles with my grandmas.

Yep… I DID blow them out with one breath. There was A LOT of smoke.

All-in-all it was a good Birthday Week.  We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo yesterday and had so much fun.  I’m ready to get back into a routine, though.  What I’m not looking forward to is running in this heat and humidity.  It’s 103º F in Aurora right now.  Yikes!  I think I might have to wake up at 5:00 am tomorrow to run.

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Today’s my birthday so I feel like I need to post something, BUT I am 100% exhausted.  My niece was visiting us for the week and we’ve had family visiting from out of state so it’s just been an extremely awesome tornado of chaos.  I’ll give an official summary of the week’s events later, but here are a few highlights.

– I lost 8.4 pounds at weigh-in on Wednesday.  I even stepped on the scale twice to make sure I didn’t do something wrong.  This brings my total to 28.4 (47 lbs if we’re counting pre-WW weight loss) and I got my 10% key ring and 25 pound “weight” to put on it.

– Saturday I ran my first 5k.  It took 43 minutes and we got passed by a woman pulling her two kids in a wagon, but still… we ran the entire way.

– After fighting with myself over what to do about my birthday cake, I decided to indulge a little (okay, a lot) and make my AMAZING Chocolate Butter Cake with Fudge Frosting.  Someone, somewhere did not like this, because after I got it all frosted, this happened (It’s supposed to be a three-layer, nine-inch round cake):

Did we still eat it?  Abso-frickin-lutely.  It still tasted amazing.

Also… Big shout out to the Emily’s!  They both passed and made it through Jazzercise instructor training!  One of the best birthday presents is the fact that I can take their classes SOON!  (I feel the need to acknowledge that they are actually separate people.  In fact, in a lot of ways, they’re complete opposites.  It’s just easier to lump them together.  I don’t want them to ever feel like Mary Kate and Ashley did toward the end of their acting careers when they got all serious about not wanting to be ‘The Olsen Twins’ anymore.)

Now… For my reverse birthday present, I would like to share the playlist that got me through the 5k on Saturday.  And yes, it is entitled:  Sally’s Incredibly Awesome Birthday 5k Running Playlist. (Warning… if you’re lactose intolerant, you may want to stop reading.  This playlist is full of cheesy guilty pleasure songs.)

1.  Sally Is A… – Shwayze (I will admit that I listen to this song at least once a day.  You probably should, too.  It’s not great for running, but I thought it would be good to listen to while standing around waiting for it to start.  However, the gun went off way before I was ready, so there wasn’t much wait time.)
2.  American Girl – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
3.  The Story of Us – Taylor Swift (Not a great choice.  I regretted it when it came on.  I needed something more upbeat and fun at this point.)
4.  Uptown Girl – Billy Joel (This is the beat of my favorite comfortable pace to run to.  I made a playlist for my mom for when she walks and included a lot of Billy Joel and Hall & Oates.  I had to listen to it on a run one day and it was actually really amazing.)
5.  What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction (yes, One Direction may be under the delusion that teenage girls need to hear that they’re beautiful from a boy band to actually feel beautiful.  But… The song’s catchy and I LIKE it.)
6.  You Make My Dreams Come True – Hall & Oates
7.  Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen  (I put this on every playlist.  It was at this point of the race when I started dance running.  I needed it.  I’m not sick of it yet.  Why am I not sick of it yet?)
8.  Wait Til You See My Smile – Alicia Keys  (This is one of my favorite songs for that time of the run when you’ve hit your stride and are just going.  There’s a good piano part that keeps the tempo up, even though it’s a really calm and relaxing song.)
9.  The Bitch is Back – Elton John (At this point of the run, I passed a friend’s house (Thanks, Dawn!) and it gave me me kind of a second wind.  This song always makes me want to do air punches and kicks.  But let’s face it, most songs make me want to do air punches and kicks.)
10.  Brokenhearted – Karmin (next to “Call Me Maybe,” it’s my favorite guilty pleasure song.  And this chick’s from Nebraska!)
11.  Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye  (I’ve been wondering when I will become sick of this song.  I discovered it much, much later than everyone else, so it’s taken awhile.  The answer to my question, though, was exactly the same moment it started playing on my iPod, but I didn’t want to go through the pain of getting it out and changing it, so I suffered down most of 15th street.)
12.  Hey Juliet – LMNT
13.  Only the Good Die Young – Billy Joel (This was playing during when I finished.)
14.  Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
15.  Part of Me – Katy Perry (next to Bulletproof, this might be my favorite routine to Jazzercise to.  I was proud I didn’t make it to this point of my playlist.)
16.  Standing Outside the Fire – Garth Brooks (I decided to put this one at the end, in case I was still running.  My mom used to bawl during this music video and my siblings and I were obsessed with it.  Youtube it.  You won’t regret it.  It still kind of gets to me!  I also thought there would be a possibility that my brother and sister would have to carry me through the finish line.  Luckily, they didn’t.)
17.  Ride Wit Me – Nelly featuring City Spud  (I figured if I reallllly went slower than I though, this would cheer me up.  I know every word.  Every.  Word.)

Tag! You’re it!

You guys, last weekend was seriously the Best Weekend Ever.  The past few days, I’ve just kept laughing at random things that people said or did, and it really made me wish I had carried around a tape recorder to catch everything.  Saturday morning was the Havelock Charity Run, so The Emily’s and Kim came to Lincoln on Friday night.  Because, you know, we wanted to get a good night’s sleep before the run.  Well… It should come as no surprise that we stayed up until about 4:00 am, talking about just completely random things.  If we made a drinking game where you had to take a shot every time someone said “Remember that one time…” or just shouted out completely random names of our preschool-high school classmates and teachers followed by a completely random story, we would all probably be dead from alcohol poisoning.  I was a little nervous about the run, so I seriously got maybe 30 minutes of sleep.  I just had all of these horrible flashbacks of running the mile in P.E. class when I’d be, like, a whole lap behind everyone so when the class would finish they’d come and run along me and cheer me on and it was AWFUL.  I just always wanted to be like, “Hey, how ’bout y’all go back inside and climb the effing rope, because we all know how good you are at that and let me finish this alone.”  It should also come as no surprise that Elementary P.E. is where Emily P. and I perfected our swearing skills.  Anyway, sorry about the rant.  My cousin Sarah met us up at the race to be the 4th person in our team.  Since we had a team of at least four people, Pinnacle Bank donated money to the charity of our choice.  I chose Lighthouse, because I think it’s an incredibly awesome and needed place for the young folks of Lincoln.  I didn’t realize just how many people would be running.  I’m not sure the exact number, but there had to be at least a thousand.  I also was not aware how many kids there would be.  Like, LITTLE kids.  When the race started, there was a little boy in front of Emily M. so she tapped him on the head and said, “Tag!  You’re it!”  He didn’t continue the game, but I think it would have eliminated any need for an iPod.  I also understand why they suggest you don’t use an iPod during the race.  They kept making announcements like, “There’s a car on the right side of the street.  Watch out.” or “Don’t run into the giant flag pole.”  I just thought, “Dude, I’m not going to run into a car.” (Those of you who really know anything about me, probably just thought to themselves, “Sally… if anyone’s going to run into a parked car, it’s going to be you.)  And, I DID almost run into pretty much everything they said not to run into.  However, I managed to make it through the race injury-free, which says a lot about someone who has actually managed to sprain her ankle in her sleep.  We ended up placing 390-393 out of 548 with a time of 24:55 AND I didn’t walk.  I didn’t warm up or stretch beforehand (I know, crazy), which I think was a big mistake.  Normally when I go for a run, I run for a song, stretch, then do my actual run.  If I don’t, after about 5 minutes into my run my body’s like, “SALLY!  WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??  WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH?!?!?!?”  That’s kind of what happened on Saturday, but after we passed the mile mark, I was just like “Whatever, I’ve got this.”  It helped that the little boy in front of us (not the boy Emily M. challenged to tag, a different one) and his mom was teaching him how to spell/read all the street signs and also to say “thank you” to the traffic cops.  It didn’t help my confidence that this boy was probably, like, 6, and just running along when I’ve been training for 8 weeks to be able to run anything longer than a block.  There were actually an embarrassingly large amount of kids with ages in the single digits who beat us.  Oh well.  I’ll get them next year!  I can’t say enough how thankful I am for my running team.  They probably could have all finished the race in about half the time, but they all stayed with me and that made it so much more fun and special.

After the race, the only thing we really wanted to do was drink a Bloody Mary.  (Wouldn’t you?)  By the time we were done talking to people and taking pictures (Thank you, Emily P., for being such a great photographer and cheerleader!), it was about 8:30 and we really didn’t know any place that would serve alcohol that early.  HOWEVER, we decided to just start walking down Havelock and discovered that Arnold’s opened up early just for the occasion.  So we sat around drinking Bloody Mary’s and, again, telling amusing stories.  I suppose I should also disclose that my friends also got me a 2-week-early birthday shot of tequila as my punishment for making them run in celebration of my birthday.  In case you’re wondering, there were not other customers doing shots of tequila before 10:00 am in Arnold’s.  After that, we headed to The Isles since Emily M. and I had been CRAVING their cream cheese pepperoni pizza.  Then we got pedicures done.  The Emily’s had to go back to Aurora, but Kim and I took a three hour nap and got ready to go out and meet our friend, Savanna.  I won’t bore you with the details of that, but I will just give you the advice that if you’re going out and decide it’s a good idea to “party like it’s 2007,” it’s not… Especially if the last time you partied like it was 2007 was in 2008.

I feel like it goes without saying, that my weigh-in this week was not great.  Running less than two miles on Saturday does not cancel out pizza and drinking.  I gained about a pound, but I’m confident I can take it back off soon.  Since I started WW, I haven’t ever had the mentality of “ohhhh, since I worked out today, I can have pizza tonight.” Or really, ever rewarding myself with food.  Most weeks I earn at least 100 activity points and very very rarely use them or the extra 39 “flex points” we’re given every week.  So when my friends were in town to celebrate my birthday, I decided it was okay to indulge a little.  Sure, it might lead to me needing to kick my butt in working out this week, but that’s okay.  I worked really hard and actually finished my running plan (YAY!  I think this means I’m actually a Runner), so I’m not going to beat myself up over it.  I just have to be careful not to have that mentality all the time.  I also have to be careful not to sink back into old habits.  So, this week I’m going to try super hard to track EVERYTHING.  It’s really embarrassing, but last week I’m pretty sure I only tracked on Wednesday, and the rest of the days in my WW journal were empty.  Maybe I’ll post my journal every day.  That won’t be annoying at all…

Lessons learned this week, or things to keep in mind for the A’Ror’n Days 5K:

– I need new shoes.  BAD.  I got my shoes at least 5 years ago.  Granted, I haven’t done a WHOLE lot of physical activity in those 5 years, but I have had to replace the insoles and the back is wearing down so that it rubs against my Achilles tendon.  And, I may be developing a case of Runner’s Knee in my right knee (according to Google). It doesn’t hurt that bad, but I think I need to fix the situation soon.

– Warm up and stretch!  I can’t be sure, because no one knows what happens behind her vanity/closet, but I bet even Barbara Gordon/Batgirl has to stretch before she runs off to save Gothem.

– Sleep well the night before a run!  It was a special occasion since my friends were in town, but I will be getting a full 8 hours of sleep next Friday before my 5k.

– Dri-fit may be the best invention ever.  Today I wore a regular cotton t-shirt on my run, and it was awful.  I have no problem admitting that it’s probably the main reason I didn’t add an extra mile onto my run.

– I feel like I need to stop being afraid of picking up the speed.  I was just worried I wouldn’t have enough endurance to make it without walking.  However, I had plenty of energy left to “sprint” the last couple blocks, so I need to figure out a pace that pushes me a little more.

I can’t really think of anything else.  I am a sleepy goose today, and I have to head into town to go to Jazzercise.  But I’ll leave you with a few pictures from Saturday…

Kim, Me, and Emily M. before the race

Kim, Em, Me, and Sarah after the race.

Cousins! Me with Kate and Sarah. Kate ran the 10K like a boss.

This is how your friends repay you when you make them wake up early on a Saturday morning to go run. But really… Does it look like I’m complaining?

Also… I just realized it’s been an extremely large amount of time since I posted an actual recipe — and this is supposed to be a food blog! — but I promise I’ll post one soon.  I may just have to pull one out of the archives.

UPDATE: I decided to post my daily tracking, if anyone is interested.  I’m not going to be posting links on Facebook every day.  Don’t worry!

Small Victories

Tuesday night I was writing a post on accomplishments that have nothing to do with the scale.  I usually get a little anxious the day before weigh in and was trying to remind myself that it’s not all about how much weight you lose but also about the small victories you have along the way.  Well… I weighed in yesterday and lost 4.2 pounds this week, which brings my total with Weight Watchers to 21.6 and grand total (from Emily P.’s wedding, which was in August 2010) to almost 40 pounds.  So, that post is being thrown out the window.  Nothing matters except the scale.  Everything else is trivial.  Just Kidding.  Although, I do have to say I’m very proud of myself.  I didn’t really do anything that made me think I wouldn’t lose a lot.  I was just expecting the standard 1-2 pounds.  When I weighed in, my leader, Mary (who is just an extremely positive and helpful person), and I just looked at each other with a very wide eyed surprised look when we saw the number on the scale and then started laughing and it took us awhile to stop.

Now, I’m going to include some before and after – or I suppose, before and during – pictures, mainly because I don’t have an incredibly inspiring video montage on hand.  I do, however, have something to admit.  I HATE before and after pictures.  I hate how the before pictures are usually taken by someone who obviously hates the person being photographed because they’re always taken while said person is in the middle of eating some disgusting looking food or doing something really unappealing.  To me, at least, it suggests that everyone is just a huge, unattractive slob with horrible hygiene before they lose weight.  I think too much emphasis is put on the appearance part of losing weight (though, I admit, I love receiving compliments just as much or more than the next person).  I’m going to stop before I start a long essay on feminism and body image, BUT you get the point.  And, admittedly, I might change my tune when I reach my goal weight, which is still a loooooong ways off.

Emily P.’s Wedding: August 28, 2010

May 30, 2012: 40 pounds later

While I had an incredibly awesome week this week, there have been a lot of weeks when I’ve lost less than a pound, and even a couple where I gained a little bit.  Those weeks it can be extremely frustrating, especially when it feels like you’re doing everything according to plan.  I try to find other things to motivate me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to run a 5000 meter (for you Parks and Rec fans) at the end of June and actually am running a 3k a week from Saturday.  (Any “first race” tips would be greatly appreciated!)  I don’t know if I’d really consider those to be small victories, but it’s definitely something else to motivate me.

So, instead of the usual “Things I’ve Learned This Week” list, this week I’m going to do a “Small Victories” List.  You’ll have to forgive me if it turns into “Sally’s Brag List.”  My birthday is in less than a month and usually during Birthday Month my ego doubles in size.  In fact, I was listening to Beyonce after my meeting because I was so pumped up and found myself relating a little too much to her song, “Ego.”  Then, the more I listened to the words, the more I realized it was about Jay Z’s, um, “member” and found I could no longer relate to it.  But, good for you, Beyonce.  Good.  For.  You.

Also, I want to hear about things that keep you motivated and focused when the number on the scale’s not moving as fast as you want it to.

Small Victories

–  using my actual abs instead of neck during crunches in Jazzercise.  I think since I accomplished this, Advil stock has gone down drastically and the poor people at WebMD are worried that the 25-34 year-old female from my zip code who symptom checked neck injuries all the time actually did have a neck tumor and has since passed.

–  in general, just using WebMD less.  Unless it’s after a double Jazzercise followed by a run.  But they don’t really have an option on their symptom checker for “Everything hurts!  I think I’m going to die!”

– Finally being able to fit into a pair of jeans I ordered a couple months ago that were too small, but I swore I would be able to fit into them after a couple weeks of hard work.  (Side note:  I had a pair of the same style and size only in Long that fit perfectly, but the regulars were significantly smaller.  Has anyone else had this problem with Gap jeans?)

– Having to tighten my watch by a hole.

– In the same vein, having an INCREDIBLY attractive tan line where my watch is, despite using SPF 50 sunscreen religiously because I’m just running All.  The.  Time.  Actually, only a half hour, 5 days a week.  But still.  Pretty awesome.  (Annoying PSA time:  Use sunscreen, folks!  If my embarrassingly fair skin can tan after a very limited amount of time in the sun, with a high SPF sunscreen, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it.)

–  Having to add a new hole to a belt.  Those of you more fortunate than I, might consider buying a new belt.

– Knowing an embarrassingly large amount of Pit Bull lyrics from going to Jazzercise so much.  He sure does like to rap about the President..

– Reaching 25 classes in Jazzercise!  Yeah!  (Actually, I think this would be a lot higher, but none of my Lincoln classes counted toward this.)  Also, for all of you Aurora Jazzercisers out there, Emily M. and I are going to Buh-ring It for the partner challenge these next couple months.  You better watch your back!

– Having someone who didn’t know I was trying to lose weight, compliment me.

– Passing Taco Johns and Amigos on my way to Party City (as mentioned before, it IS Birthday Month, I will most likely be going to P.C. – aka Sally’s Heaven on Earth – every week after meetings until June 24th) and opting to get Subway instead.

– In fact, I haven’t had Amigos or really any fast food in almost three months.  Having said that, I’m now reallllly craving Amigos.

– Running 2 miles, without stopping, under 30 minutes (barely).  But hey, waving at someone you THINK is your bff’s boyfriend  (who, I should mention, I’ve known since Kindergarten) very enthusiastically every time you think you see him drive by adds a lot of seconds to your time.

I feel like I could go on for a while, but I’ve probably reached my limit.  I do have to say, though, my biggest accomplishment – so far – happened when I was in Denver visiting my sister.  I think maybe a 1 ½ years ago, my brother, sister-in-law, and I went to Denver to see Greta and took a big walk around this really cool, Stuhr Museum-like park, and I would just get completely winded but then pass it off as being the altitude’s fault.  HOWEVER, Greta and I went back to this park on this trip and we RAN.  We ran A LOT.  We also went to Red Rocks one day, and while – yes – I did get a little out of breath while walking up the steps to the amphitheater, I didn’t have to stop and do the weird half laugh, half cough thing to cover up my heavy breathing.  I can tell crazy awesome things are happening inside of me and that’s, well, crazy awesome.

Running in Denver

My very Awesome sister.

Also, I’m sorry, Mom, for talking about Jay Z’s manly part.  I’d like to say it won’t happen again, but I just don’t know.

 

Birthday Cakes!

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This past weekend was my niece Whitney’s first birthday.  It’s so crazy to think that a year has past already.  The year has gone by so fast, but at the same time it’s hard to remember life before Whitney.  She has changed and grown so much in one year.  I know that as an aunt it’s my duty to brag on Whitney, but really – she is awesome.  She has soooooo much personality for someone her age.  When we have story time, she’ll pick out a book and let me read about 3 or 4 pages, then she’ll want down and will walk (because she’s already walking like a boss at a year old) over to her books to pick out a new book and lift her arms and say her universal sound for book, up, yes, or more.  Again, she’ll have me read a little bit then she’ll pick out a new book.  This cycle can go on for a long time, but I love it.  I have a confession, though.  This might make me seem like a horrible aunt, but I had to hide a book from her when I was babysitting on Super Bowl Sunday.  She kept bringing me the book “Doggies” by Sandra Boynton.  Now listen, I LOVE Sandra Boynton books and I totally get the point of this book.  It will have one doggy and that doggy’s barking sound.  The next dog will bark twice, and it has a different sound for that.  The next one will bark three times and so on and so forth.  I understand that it’s a counting book and for that purpose it’s great.  I’m sure there are a lot of kids who learn how to count from it.  The problem is, I’m HORRIBLE at making animal noises (with the exception of a velociraptor).  I’m lucky to just get out a “woof” in the right voice, but then I have to do it ten different ways.  Some of them are weird, too.  When have you ever heard a dog that goes “nnn-nnn-nnn??”  I think a dog making noises like that probably needs to go to the vet, because he probably just ingested a bunch of chocolate or raw chicken and things are going to get ugly soon.  Any way… when I was babysitting her, she KEPT bringing me this book.  To top things off, this wasn’t a read 3 pages and put away.  This was a read all the way through book.  I swear she knew what she was doing to me, because this is not one of her usual favorites.  Maybe she just liked hearing Aunt Sally sounding like she was having some sort of stroke or attack, but she was so into this book.  Eventually, I had to put it on her dresser behind the lamp.  She initially looked at me like “ummmm… what did you do with my book.”  It was worth it, though, because we spent the next 30-45 minutes reading Jamberry, Goodnight Moon, a variety of Little Pookie Books, and ended the night with a continuous replay of Barnyard Dance.  I honestly think I probably read it seven times before she fell asleep- and maybe a few times after she fell asleep.  I sooo did not want to put her in her crib.  It’s such a rarity for her to fall asleep while I’m holding her anymore, so I was willing to just spend the night in the rocking chair but I did eventually put her in her crib.  I always have this weird anxiety about putting her to bed that the second I lay her on her mattress she’s going to wake up.  However, she handled the transition magically this time.

I suppose it’s time to move on to the cakes.  Not only was Whitney’s birthday on the 11th, but my brother’s was on the 12th, AND Whit’s cousin Will’s birthday was on the 13th.  This meant I had a lot of cakes to make.  Grant wanted an ice cream cake, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

Will’s Cake – Chocolate Butter Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting

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The Birthday Boy! Isn't he adorable?

I got the recipes for both the cake and frosting from Smitten Kitchen.  I have to say, this was my favorite cake.  It was my first time using these recipes and the cake turned out sooo rich, that I was worried the kids might not like it.  They said they did, but they’re polite kids so they could’ve just been using their manners.  The recipe was for three 9” square pans, but I ended up using two 9” round pans.  I had every intention of using the left over batter for cupcakes, but by the time I got done with all the cakes it was about 11:00 or 11:30 pm, and I still had to clean.

A couple notes:  You want to use a REALLY big bowl for the cake.  I started with just a normal big mixing bowl and realized after mixing the dry ingredients it wasn’t going to be big enough so I switched to my mom’s giant Tupperware bowl that she mixes puppy chow in.  It was plenty big.

Also… The recipe calls for cake flour, which the Aurora Mall did not have.  To make my own cake flour, for every cup of all-purpose flour I put in, I took out two tablespoons of flour and replaced it with two tablespoons of corn starch.

So… Mathematically speaking: 1 cup flour – 2 T flour + 2 T corn starch = Cake Flour.

This might also be a good time to let you know, Mom, that you are out of corn starch… And also cocoa powder, but we will get to that later.

Chocolate Butter Cake

http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/project-wedding-cake-the-cake-is-baked/

Makes one 8-inch square, three layer cake

3 cups cake flour

3 cups sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)

3 teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups buttermilk

3 eggs

1 ½ cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature (I only had about a half cup of coffee left after my daily consumption, so I filled the rest with water.  I think it turned out fine.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.  (My method of preparing cake pans is spray or butter, then flour, parchment, spray, and flour.  Flouring twice might be excessive, but I’m a little cautious when it comes to cake sticking to the pan)

2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take about 3 1/4 cups of batter.

4. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.

Instant Fudge Frosting

http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/08/espresso-chiffon-cake-with-fudge-frosting/

Note: the recipe calls for the frosting to be mixed in a food processor.  Unfortunately, I don’t have one.  Instead I just used a regular mixer.  It might not have been as easy, but it got the job done.

Makes about 5 cups (this was enough to frost this cake, decorate the owl on Whit’s cake, and have some left over).

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled.

4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

6 Tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

Whitney’s Cake! – yellow cake with Swiss Buttercream frosting

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I have another confession to make.  For the actual cake, I used a box mix.  I had every intention of making it from scratch, but our road was blocked so I couldn’t get into town to get to the grocery store until about 3:00 or 3:30 when our neighbor came through and cleared it.  By that time, i decided to just settle on a box.  My favorite kind of box mix to use is Duncan Hines.  Unfortunately, Aurora Mall didn’t have any.  (Seriously, AM step up your game in the baking aisle!)  I think instead I used Sara Lee.

This was my first time making this frosting recipe.  For decorating, it was a dream.  It spread smoothly.  It piped smoothly.  It was just kind of perfect in that sense.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I liked it a lot better when it was actually on the cake, but I had my doubts when I was just tasting the frosting.

I made two 8″ round cakes and two 4″ round cakes with the box mix.  I reallllly wish I would’ve made the big cake at least 9 inches.  It was harder to fit everything on the 8 inch pan.  Also, the owl kept getting bigger, so then I had less room to write.  If I would do it over again, I would probably do the writing part first.  I was so paranoid of hitting the owl that I felt it didn’t look the best.

Swiss Buttercream Frosting

adapted from: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/project-wedding-cake-swiss-buttercream/

2 cups sugar

8 large egg whites

6 1/2 sticks of butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

Add the vanilla.

Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.

Beth (my sister-in-law) swam at Rice University and owls are so in right now, that it just made sense to have Whitney’s cake be owl themed.  I wish I would’ve taken pictures of every step of decorating.  It was a lot of making it up as I went.  I pretty much traced a small circle on the cake and went from there.  The little smudge of yellow at the bottom of the cake is not the owl having an accident.  Initially, the owl had feet, but when there wasn’t enough room to write Whitney’s name, I had to amputate them.

Oh!  I’m sure you’re wondering how the Birthday Girl liked her cake.  After all, one of the best parts of first birthdays is getting to see the baby go crazy on their cake.  Right?

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She went crazy, all right!  I won’t hold this against her.  I mean, how can you?  She manages to look adorable while crying.  This talent will get her far in life.

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All Better! Seriously, how cute is she?

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Me with Whitney and her adorable cousins, Will and Kate.

Thank you, Beth, for taking such great pictures!