Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Do You Believe?




Theresa Caputo is coming to town.  She's going to be five minutes from my home. When I heard the news I totally did this:

The thing is, I believe she is legit.

Now wait, I know you're thinking her show is edited to make it look like she can hear from the beyond.  I realize the show is edited.  After all, nobody wants to watch a show in which messages from our deceased loved ones include "I saw that time you got drunk and made out with my brother" or "you really shouldn't use that soap to wash your nether regions" (nether regions? That is a first for this blog!).  Maybe some of it is even staged and edited in ways to intrigue the viewer, but the message is always the same - I am okay and you will be too.

There is always so much left unsaid when someone passes away.  When R. died we had been fighting for weeks. We basically lived in the same home but existed in different worlds.  The day before he died we made up and my naive 23-year-old self thought that everything would be okay.  I really didn't know that he would wake up, eat a tuna sandwich and die just hours later.

For some reason I only remember bits and pieces of that day.  I remember seeing the nurse's car in our driveway.  I remember my mom and my aunt coming from hours away in what seemed like minutes. I don't even know how they knew to come. I remember my aunt suggesting I apologize, so I did, for what? I don't really know.  All I know is that it made me feel better about him leaving us.


I want to know if he heard what I said.  I want to know what he thinks of our son who he had only just begun to know. I want to know if I'm making the right decisions. The truth is I've been terrified since the moment he died.  I remember turning to someone and asking what I was supposed to do now?  Of course there was no answer, just a shocked face. 

I would love to attend Theresa's show because I believe in her message.  I would love to experience her gift in person - not just for myself, I would love to listen to other people's stories and hear encouragement from their loved ones.  With my luck, my loved ones would point out something embarrassing about me in front of hundred (thousands? *gulp*) of people.

PS - I know the commenting system is still broken.  Truth is, I'm so tired of fixing up blog stuff. I was kind of hoping one of my super awesome designer people would have pity on me and help me out. That didn't happen so when I'm not so tired of blog stuff I will fix it myself so the one person who wants to shout out pharmacy ads can get back to spamming. I got your back dude!



Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy Party...

 Eleventh birthday parties are hard.  I don’t recall my eleventh birthday party, but I’m sure my mom had the dilemma of entertaining a bunch of “tweens” for a few hours.  Of course, times have changed. I actually feel things have become a little more complicated for birthday parties.  

This is how we partied in the early 90's! Of course I entertained with my Hot Lixx guitar while my cat showed everyone her butthole.

These days kids show up to parties armed with IPads and their favourite Nintendo DS games with no intention of socializing with other kids, except to show each other what they built in Minecraft the night before.  Back when I was 11 if we wanted to bring a Gameboy to a party you had to pack some extra double A’s, deal with the whole no back lighting issue and if you are way old like me, you were not able to save your Super Mario game.

Last year we did the whole laser tag party.  It was expensive, stressful and LOUD.  This year we decided to have a small movie party at home for a couple friends.  The package of invitations I bought came with six invitations, so we invited six kids.  I figured it would be better to have just a few kids (expecting some to say no) than to have a stressful, chaotic party.

Speaking of stress, parents these days don’t RSVP anymore!  When did we, as parents,  decide that letting someone know to prepare for your child to enjoy a party (with enough food for them to eat and a Loot Bag with their name on it) was not a common courtesy?  I had one RSVP this year – and that was to decline.  The other five kids just showed up unannounced.  Luckily, I just went out and assumed they would all come, but the whole time I was nervous that our only party guests would be a couple of cats (although cats in party hats would be pretty fun).  

Preparing for the party knowing that it may only be us was a little disheartening, but I wanted to throw a pretty awesome party with the theme of our favourite movie of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy. 

“Groot Bags”
When I think of a party theme, the first thing I think of is ways to play with words.  Of course the first thing I could think of was “Groot Bags”.  At first I figured I would just get some store-bought bags and write “Groot Bags” on them.  Luckily I forgot to buy bags when I was at the store.  I had all the items to put in them but nothing to put them in.  I figured I would put the items in paper lunch bags temporarily so I could at least sort everything out. 

That is when the “Groot Bag” was born.  I realized the paper bag would be a perfect colour for a Groot face.  I took out a dying brown marker and drew a Groot face.  I’m not much of an artist, and it didn’t take long to realize that something was not right.  After a few more tries, I decided to draw the face right on the bag and cut the top to look like the top of Groot’s head.  It was perfect – and surprisingly easy!


These are so simple to make that I'm sure you can figure it out from the picture alone, but for a few pointers I made one of those fancy collage things from my phone to show the process of the Groot Bag! 


I made friendly Groot faces but you can make him mean if you are in to that sort of thing! 

Baby Groot Pudding Cups

I found some really great instructions to make Groot cupcakes. I didn’t have plans to have cupcakes at our party, but I thought I could add the cookies to some chocolate pudding and make our very own Baby Groot pudding cups.

I followed this recipe for vanilla bean shortcake but instead of adding food colouring, I added some cocoa powder.  Unfortunately the cocoa powder, although I only added a few pinches, made the recipe turn out crumbly and practically impossible to roll out.  I added a bit of water and was able to roll it out but it was very difficult to work with. 

I made a stencil out of an old birthday card (if you use paper it gets too thin and greasy from the cookie dough).  Baby Groot is very easy to draw. The best thing about it is you are drawing a tree, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but I do recommend that you stay away from thin lines (watch the neck and the arms), you’ll find out why later. 


Roll out the dough and cut around the stencil.  I made six (pretty large) cookies with this recipe.  Once you have your shape cut out, follow the directions from this YouTube video (fingerprints for eye sockets, spoon edge for mouth, lines in body with spoon).  I had made these cookies a few days prior to the party so I put them in a Tupperware container and froze them until they were ready to be decorated. 

When I opened the container the day of the party it was like a Baby Groot massacre!  There were heads and arms all over in the container.  I matched up what I could, melted some modeling chocolate and attached the limbs back on.  Luckily they held pretty well, but I think this could be avoided with thicker arms and necks and without a modified recipe. 

I decorated the cookies with a black sparkly icing pen and set aside to let them dry.

For the pudding, I bought two packets of Jello chocolate pudding and followed the directions on the packet.  To make it look more like dirt, I smashed up some cookies (this was my favourite part) using a sandwich bag and a meat tenderizer and sprinkled them in the pudding.  


While they were extremely fragile, they turned out to be a cute addition to our party table!

Star-Lord Cake
It’s not very easy to buy a Guardians of the Galaxy cake around here, and if it were I would have put down some good money to have it made by a professional.  I am not a very good working with food so decorating a cake is way out of my comfort zone. 

Last year I made an Iron Man cake and it (luckily) turned out to be pretty decent.  I had the gel food colouring left over which came in Handy for the Star-Lord cake.  I had to go out and purchase a black gel colouring to make the “silver” part of the mask, but other than that I had everything else on hand.



The cake was made using approximately 18 cupcakes.  I am a big fan of not having large knives out around small children so these cupcake cakes help with my anxiety level.  Trust me, these are very easy to make, the secret is to use a lot of icing. Really a lot. I used three of those little store bought canisters when I only imagined using one.  I guess you could say I only used 2.5 canisters though because some of it was wasted (or eaten) when I made too much of some colours.  The easiest way to learn how to make these pull-apart cakes (without me rambling on) is to follow the directions here (only make a cool Star-Lord mask shape, not a turtle). 

Basically you ice the bottom of the cupcake, stick them in place on a platter and make it into the shape of a cool Star-Lord head.  Then you add icing over the top of all the cupcakes (icing over the cracks so they look like one complete cake).  Don’t worry about smooshing the cupcakes if you have to, it makes the cracks smaller and uses less icing.

After you have a plain coating over the whole cake, use your favourite icing tip (or cut a hole in the corner of a sandwich bag if you are brave and draw out the colours of your mask.  I started with the red eye circles and worked my way out and hoped that it would turn out to be a decent cake – like I said, cake decorating is stressful!  Once I had the mask completely painted, I lined it with my Wilton Black Sparkle Gel Pen (I mentioned it earlier for the Groot cookies too).  I can’t stress enough how much I love this product (no I’m not getting paid to say that).  It really made me feel like I had control over the icing and everything turned out great. 

To finish it off, I took some red gel colouring and mixed it with some sugar and sprinkled it over the eyes (to make them look a little more sparkly). 

Decorations


I was very lucky to find official Guardians of the Galaxy decorations in the clearance section at Party City for $1 each.  I bought some blue and orange streamers and hung them from the curtain rod behind the table and hung up a poster we had.  Other than that, the main focus was on the Groot bags, the cake and the pudding cups.

Games
I didn’t expect much for games.  I knew with eleven year old boys, they would rather shoot each other with Nerf guns and run around and  make my neighbours downstairs hit the ceiling with the end of the broom handle.  I did find an excellent Guardians of the Galaxy Bingo printable online (everclevermom.com) but that only lasted about ten minutes before the Nerf battled recommenced.

Overall, we had a great party.  There are plenty of other great Guardians of the Galaxy party ideas out there, but I just ran out of time/money.  If you do a search you can find a pretty cool Groot pinata but my apartment was not big enough for that and I would probably start to cry with kids smashing Groot's face in!

I think next year we'll do an iPad party where nobody talks to each other, except to show your Minecraft creations.  Sounds like it would be a little less work and a lot quieter! (of course I'm kidding!)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Eleven...


Yesterday you told me there were only five more years and two days until you can drive a car.  I'm not sure if anyone has ever told you, but we are poor.  Driving a car may not happen for you the day you turn sixteen. I'm sure some of your friends will have a new car with one of those big novelty bows attached to the hood in their driveway for their sixteenth birthday, but you most likely will not.

Instead of pouting about it, you will go out and do whatever you can to earn yourself a car.  It may take you years and you may have to put up with a lot of not so ideal jobs, but you will get yourself a car.  That's just the kind of kid you are.

I'm not sure if I ever told you this, but we are a team. A dynamic duo, if you will.  Of course I am Batman and you are Robin.  In our team, Robin always inspires Batman to be a better person.  Robin also has a bad case of "back seat driver" so Batman stopped driving him to school.  --I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I guess what I'm trying to say is we are like superheroes -- forget it, I lost it. Thanks for being an awesome sidekick.

This year you made a new friend.  It was really interesting to see your personality shine with a new person involved in your life.  Then your new friend moved away and I saw how much it affected you.  I also saw how fast you bounced back to your happy old self.  You are so good at adapting to loss and to be honest it kind of makes me sad.  I wish I could offer you more stability, but some things are beyond my control.  I mean who moves to Windsor anyway?

Your tenth year was probably one of our most difficult years ever.  During one of the hardest times, I broke and you were there patting my back and telling me not to cry.  Imagine that, Robin reassuring Batman. You lost way more than I did and you were the one most affected by the whole ordeal but yet you just frowned and moved on and still had the courage to comfort me.  I admire your strength.

I remember the hours before you were born like they were yesterday.   I remember Elton John playing on the little radio in the room.  I seem to recall a lot of Elton John songs playing that day so it was probably a CD.  Who brings an Elton John CD to a birth? Anyway, I remember having no fear that day.  Which is pretty incredible for a first time mom in that situation. I just remember knowing that everything was going to be okay. 

There were monitors and beeps and dings and restrictions and little curly wire things stuck in your big old head.  Even with all those scary things, I just knew things were going to be perfect. At the time, I never imagined that a year and a half later I would be raising you on my own. Optimistic me is such a better person.  You remind me of optimistic me.  Try to hold on to that forever because it's so hard to get back. 

Lately I've been worried about what you will think of me when you're older.  For instance, if you were to go on The Ellen Show, how would you describe your mother?  I'm trying so hard to be more patient and loving so you can confidently say that you had the best mom in the whole wide world and not have to say something like she made the best cookies, she drove me to school every day, she was good at making sure I brushed my teeth, she made sure I had clean underwear.  The problem is, I'm running out of time. I can only hope that you can see through my prickly exterior and know that I love you more than anything or anyone ever.



You are still incredibly smart. It may not always show on paper, but you are smart in ways I could have never imagined.  This year I reminded you to write your letter to Santa (yes you still believe, at least you make me think you do).  I figured you went off to write one of your garbled (although very cute) handwritten notes.  You came back with a Word document complete with images of Skylanders and Minecraft items, oh and fishing gear!.  At the top it said "Dear Santa" and it had a picture of Santa. I was amazed.  You have found a way to deal with your difficulties and it is so incredibly clever.  That two page document of over-priced toys that I hate shopping for made me realize that things are not going to be as hard for you as I thought. Paper and pen is overrated sometimes anyway.

You are insanely funny.  Our cats might not think so, but what do cats know anyway?  You love Lego and Minecraft (oh, I bet you can't wait to open your gift this year...).  You love YouTubers and you talk about them like they are your best friends who are Internet famous and probably incredibly rich.  You like Skylanders (which makes my bank account weep) and you sing Taylor Swift songs (don't worry, I won't tell anyone that you're actually good at singing along).  You love Ninja Turtles, Pee Wee's Playhouse and Power Rangers, which are totally what I loved when I was a kid, so that's pretty cool!  You love video games and it's pretty cool when I let you play games that are above your age rating and you call it "my game" so I don't look like a bad mom while we browse the video game store. You still think girls are gross - except for your mom, of course.

You make me prouder and prouder every day.  Thank you for being such an amazing ten year old.

Love,
Mom.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Breakfast for Schmucks...



This little guy has been hanging in my foyer for a week now. I think I'm finally starting to like him a bit.  I mean, I feel terrible that this skull glued to a board, at one time, was a living creature. I don't know his unfortunate story but I can say hi every morning when I walk by him to my kitchen and give him a good home...and maybe even dust him every few months!
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