Dino Dig Birthday Cake

There is probably no boy on earth who enjoys the pleasures of a birthday celebration more than Henry. He loves birthdays almost as much as he loves squirrels!(And that’s sayin’ a LOT!)

Henry’s birthday always begins in his uber-creative mind a few months before the actual date arrives the week of Thanksgiving. Somewhere around the beginning of the school year, Henry told me he knew what he wanted his birthday cake theme to be this year. The conversation happened after church one Sunday at Culver’s where we usually take my daughter and her family for lunch. As we waited for our meal to arrive at our table, Henry sidled up to me for a chat. As he described the cake he envisioned, he enthusiastically gushed words like ‘Velociraptor’ and something about ‘Indominus Rex’ and other Jurassic World dinosaur-ish lingo. Henry had obviously set his heart on a cake that looked like a “paleontological dig site”—he wanted me to make the cake and said he would help decorate it.

So began my Pinterest search for ideas and inspiration. There was no shortage of ideas. I knew right away that I wanted to figure out a way to make dinosaur bones for the dig site. This educational site offered some freebie coloring sheets, so I chose two dinosaur skeletons from their site and resized them to fit on his cake. I laid a sheet of wax paper over the printed dinosaurs, then melted some cake decorating white chocolate candy melts, put the melted white chocolate in a Ziplock® baggie, then cut a hole in the tip of the bag to create a frosting bag and traced the outline of the dinosaurs to create the bones for the dig site. I also had enough white chocolate left to write out Henry’s name and the number 12. I let the designs set for a day to harden up nicely before peeling them off the wax paper and gently placing them on the cake. (I actually made two sets…just in case there was breakage.)

Meanwhile, I baked the Schultz family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe in a 9×13 baking pan.

Meanwhile, I baked the Schultz family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe in a 9″x13″ baking pan. I also made a half-batch of another chocolate cake recipe in an 8″x8″ baking pan for a second half-layer. The first cake is super-dark and very moist; the second layer is less chocolate-y, and a little more dense and less fragile. I frosted the entire cake with my daughter’s favorite recipe for cream cheese chocolate frosting. I kept my frosting job a little rough and dirty looking – after all, it is a dig-site.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting Recipe

1 stick butter, softened

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. cocoa powder

4 1/2 c. powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. milk (I used a little more)

Here’s the frosted cake with the white chocolate elements in place.

I found some chocolate-filled cookie wafer tubes at our local Dollar Store, cut the tubes to various lengths, then added them to the edges of the second layer to resemble a retaining wall. The cookie crumbs were saved to be scattered here and there like clumps of dirt.

On Saturday morning, Henry arrived excitedly carrying a little treasure box of Lego Minifigs and other cake-topper elements for his dig site. Henry and his big brother Charlie worked together at putting frosting grass on the top layer of the dig site.

I dug through my box of ribbons and found an orange one to use as a rope to cordon off the dig site. The fence posts would be the 12 birthday candles. Charlie helped construct and place the fence around the dig site. Henry finished the decorating by placing his Lego creations wherever he felt it was best.

The birthday boy was happy. Very happy. Over-joyed, really.

We had to light those candles and blow them out, of course!

I fully realize that Henry is on the threshold of becoming a teenager and there will come a year when he will no longer request a decorated cake from his Grandma Cindie. That year isn’t this year, so I will bask in the joy and blessing of this happy birthday boy and his cake.


A few more pics of the fun details Henry added to his paleontological dig site birthday cake:

My Apple Cleaner

We’ve heard it said that, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I’m not sure if it’s true, but an apple is definitely at the top of my list of favorite healthy snacks. However, I am not a fan of the food grade wax which covers apples to keep them fresh longer by protecting the apple’s moisture content. [You can read about it here.]

I can appreciate the purpose of the wax and know it’s “food grade,” thus, edible. But, still…yuck.

So, here’s my simple solution for cleaning that wax off my apple.

Baking soda

I wet the apple I plan to eat, sprinkle it with a little baking soda, add a bit more water, then gently rub with my wet hands, and rinse.

Squeaky-clean and ready to eat.

A Family Story Found in an Unexpected Place

According to my Facebook post on January 1st of 2015, on that date in history I found one of my mother’s memories from January 1st of 1955!

How cool is that?

I had been going through mom’s jumble of paperwork, trying to find the important documents I would need as her power of attorney. Mom’s once neat filing system was a jumbled-up mess, due to the confusion of her mind caused by Alzheimer’s. I recall I was making good progress taming that paper tiger and that I found a few delightful surprises in the process.

One such surprise was a file folder labeled “Peet Family.” This file contained many treasures. Old black and white photos. Letters and cards. Newspaper clippings. Obituaries. Genealogy timelines. Tucked into this file category was a simple green pocket folder. I flipped it open, fully anticipating that it had something to do with the Peet family genealogy.

And it did – sort of.

It was a cookbook filled with favorite family recipes which had been compiled for a family reunion in 2000. I had fun taking a break from my sorting project to page through the recipes. The faces of family I had only seen when I was a young child came to mind as their names popped up on the righthand corner of each page. It was exciting to see the name “CHARLOTTE PEET-BOYLES” pop up here and there.

“Charlotte’s Layered-Spinach Salad” was in there, as it should be. It was one of those salads she made often for potlucks or when family would gather at her house for birthdays or holidays. Another family favorite was “Charlotte’s Dream Whip Torte”! My sister would often request that dessert for her birthday. It was not a surprise to find her “Never Fail Pie Crust” recipe was in there too. She never liked making pies until her friend from work shared that recipe with her.  

As I flipped through the cookbook, I noticed that some of the recipes had a family story included. Once I realized this, I went back through the recipes attributed to mom to see if I could find a recipe where my mom had contributed a story. And there it was included under a recipe called “Clara Gall-Peet’s Upside Down Cake.” Clara was my grandma, so I felt like I had found a double-treasure with this recipe and the giggle I received as I read the sweet little story mom told about her early baking attempts.

  

The date confuses me a little, as mom and dad were married in July of 1955, but, at the bottom of the cake recipe, my mom had reminisced,

“My Mom was a good cook and if you arrived unexpected at dinner-time she always had room for you at the table and enough food to go around. This is the first cake I tried to make after I got married. In fact, the date was January 1, 1955. Total disaster for there was no cake – all bottom or top, depending which way you look at it. I had copied 1 ½ tablespoons flour instead of 1 ½ cups. It took me three tries before I got it right.”

Charlotte Peet-Boyles

Still Wheatless in Fitchburg

The Wheatless Experiment continues in earnest in Fitchburg. Almost a month has gone by now, with only a few accidental slips (and one purposeful taste). I have kind of hit my stride, finding it easy enough to stick with my plan and say “no” to temptation.

The best news is that I can still honestly report that the arthritis-type pain in my hips, legs, knees and thumb joints is gone. I do still have a persistent clicking in my left knee (which I’ve had since I was a teen), but no more ache-til-you-wanna-cry pain.

I thank God for this result. Really. I can’t thank Him enough for helping me make this discovery about one major source of inflammation for my body.

And I’m thankful for the various cooks who’ve posted wheat-free recipes on Pinterest, where I’ve been gathering “pins” in search of good substitute recipes for some of our favorite things that we enjoy at Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie, in particular. I’ve got my first experimental crustless pumpkin pie in the oven right now. Here’s the recipe I gleaned from Amee on her blog called “Inspired Housewife.” Click here for the recipe (including a tutorial video).

Only one change: I substituted 1/4 c pure maple syrup for half of the raw honey. I used evaporated milk for the cup of milk called for in the recipe.

So, here it is, cooling on the counter. I plan to serve it chilled with some sweetened whipped cream tomorrow evening to those attending our small group Bible study.

Now for the hard part…keeping hubby out of it until then.

Verdict? I enjoyed it. It was yummy, but hubby wondered why it didn’t have a crust.

Where do Garbanzo Beans Come From?

Good HousekeepingEvery now and again – at least once every summer – I get a hankering for a good Three-Bean Salad, so I pull out my trusty “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook” circa 1976 wedding shower gift and turn right to page 395. (I’m baffled as to why I can remember something as obscure as a page number in a cookbook I use once in a blue moon, but can’t remember where I put the book I was reading a few minutes ago). 

Momma and I aren’t the only ones who have difficulty keeping our thoughts on track though. Case in point. Continue reading “Where do Garbanzo Beans Come From?”

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