Monday, April 27, 2009

Random Sampler

Audrey baking for the ward service project bake sale at the Music Academy.
Cupcakes for the bake sale (they all had music notes and symbols).

Close-up of a couple of the cupcakes.

Sunday morning Lucky and I sat quietly, watching the sun come up. He looked so serene and noble I thought I'd take his picture.
Apparently he was not in favor of this.

This morning before the boys and I worked outside I snapped a couple of quick shots of my wonderful Lady Banks rose....the white one this time (he's my favorite).

We planted several different clematis plants under this guy and his yellow version cousins today.

Henry's reflection in the overflow valve on the bathtub.

The Many Faces of Henry

Since our family is preparing to take part in the outdoor drama "Promised Land" this summer, I thought I'd better work with Henry on his acting skills....namely his facial expressions.

For starters, I thought we'd just work on a nice friendly face.

More friendliness. And apparently some asymmetrical lip poses.
Show me.....SURPRISE!!!

I think he was posing for his 8 x 10 glossies, for future talent agents.

He was getting kind of sassy here. Actors.

He seems to have a talent for asymmetrical mouth movements. I should put that on his resume.

A very versatile expression.....did he just wake up? has he had too much formula? You can see the possibilities, can't you?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to Emma!

Well, our baby girl turned seven years old yesterday. Hard to believe she's that old. She looks so much older than seven in this picture, to me.

Here she is with her lovely assistant, Thomas, showcasing one of her gifts: the Playmobil airplane, complete with lavatory with a see-through door. (Apparently the Playmobil figures don't have privacy issues.) She also received the matching airport, not pictured. Papa and Nana and Mommy and Daddy went in on that gift.

Emma loves to draw. And draw. And draw. If you stay still long enough, she will draw on you. So we got her a couple of her very own sketchbooks.

She also received an American Girl doll. This one is Molly.

Blowing out her candles. She chose the cake, which technically is cupcakes. It's a shark/buoy/fish/channel marker motif. From the book Hello, of our favorite cake resources.

Here's a close-up of one of the sharks. He looks pretty ferocious doesn't he. I'd hate to be swimming in frosting and come across him.

But alas, poor Jaws was no match for my crew. Emma made short work of him.

And Thomas spared no mercy in devouring his companion.
It was a strange gathering without the Easons, who are on their family megatrip and blogging about it too. But we had Papa and Nana there and we all had a good time. Emma picked homemade chicken noodle soup (with homemade noodles courtesy of Audrey) and buttermilk biscuits for her birthday dinner.

Grandma and Grandpa Finlayson gave Emma the American Girl doll and a lovely Sunday dress. Grandma and Grandpa....this is just for you:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Talented Musicians

What talented kids we have! Not only does Audrey play the piano and the flute, she is also a well-known nose-recorder sensation!

But seriously, here is a short video of Audrey performing this past week with her tiny Music Academy homeschool band at a local nursing home. The video is a little shaky; Austin was cameraman for a bit while I was tending to Henry. They performed more songs than this, but because I was holding Henry AND being cameraman for those videos, I won't torture you with the earthquake-like motions of those clips! Audrey can play much, much more complicated pieces, but in her band they play pretty simple music. I'll have to post a solo video of her one of these days.

This past week the kids and I have been working on our own little family band. Audrey on flute, Austin on piano, me on guitar, and Emma and Thomas on rhythm instruments with Henry banging on his exer-saucer while making very realistic crying noises. So far we're working on This Land Is Your Land, I Am a Child of God, and Into the West (from Lord of the Rings soundtrack). Maybe if we get pretty good at those, we'll post a video of us performing. Right now, we're just having fun and enjoying playing music together.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sod and Seeds and Spring

For several years I have wanted to put in a potager, a French kitchen garden, and fill it with herbs, flowers, and vegetables. I've also always wanted a cutting garden for flowers. I decided to combine the two and place them off the back porch.

A week or so ago, we finally started work on it. Austin and I tried to remove the sod (mostly weeds) with shovels but besides being back-breaking work, removing sod with a shovel is not exactly speedy. In fact, it's down right slow. So we rented a sod-cutter, and boy howdy, does that thing get the job done fast! The only problem is YOU STILL HAVE TO PICK UP THE STINKIN' SOD! I don't know why we were so surprised that it was so heavy. Maybe we thought it should just be like picking up squares of carpet. I don't know. At any rate, we're all exhausted but glad that all the sod is up.
Picking up after the sod has been cut

The view from the porch....there's that wonderful sod cutter

And magically, it's all gone (and by magic I mean hours and hours of hard labor)

Now we just have to wait for the fence guy to give us an estimate and get some topsoil, mulch, and crushed stone hauled in before we can start planting

As for seeds.....we decided to try some major indoors seed sowing this year. They seem to be doing well. I just wish we had started them sooner. We've sown squash, tomato, basil, rosemary, zinnia, hollyhock and viola so far. We have a few more seeds to sow indoors and then some to start directly in the gardens. Once again, a late start to the garden season, but we'll get there. Each year our garden has performed better, so I expect this year will be no exception.
Squash seedlings, just a little over a week old

I love spring. It's my favorite season. (Shhh...don't tell autumn, he thinks he's my favorite!) I was thinking the other day that I don't have a favorite color but I do....spring green. That first green on all the trees and the first growth in the fields. I love it. Makes me feel like I'm in Ireland. I get so excited too when the first flowers start coming out. Here on the farm, we see a couple of crocuses poking through but mostly it's the dogwoods followed closely by my lovely Lady Banks roses.
My favorite dogwood tree (that I can see through my picture window in the kitchen)

Isn't it pretty?

Aaaaahhh.....lovely Lady Banks (this one is yellow, my white one isn't showing off its blooms quite yet)

I love spring.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Cake Obsession

I still have fond memories of browsing through my mother's Wilton cake magazines as a child. I've always loved cake. Looking at cake. Making cake. Decorating cake. Watching people on TV decorate cake. Eating cake. Enjoying each mouth-watering bite and allowing the flavor to transport me to another.....ahem.....sorry. Anyway, my back burner dream (as in, the dream I've had sitting on the back burner all my life but never told anyone about) has been to one day do cakes part-time. No cake shop or anything like that. Just a few cakes a month maybe, and mostly done for friends, family, and acquaintances.

To that end, I have been doing a lot of experimenting lately.....trying new recipes, techniques, and flavor combinations. The time is not even close at hand when I'll be ready to do this for pay, but until that time does come I'm really having a good time getting some research and development in. I've had some successes, some failures, and some so-so results. Here's what I've done so far this year:
Audrey's 13th birthday cake (my chocolate buttercream roses look a little more like cabbages!)

My first fondant cake (with a hand made fondant rose)
Another fondant cake with fondant roses
Here's a closeup of fondant roses from another little fondant cake I did
Jumbo cupcakes turned upside down and covered in fondant

Fondant zebra striped cake with Lindt truffles in the center for my dear friend Xena

Same idea, larger and different shape for Rick for Valentine's Day

2-tiered fondant cake in yellow and black for Mom's birthday, buttercream scrollwork

buttercream frosted cake with buttercream flowers for my sister and her family when they came back from a weekend trip

housewarming cake for a friend--buttercream frosting and sunflowers

chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and peanut butter-buttercream frosting with chocolate peanut butter-buttercream accents

I love this--messy, yummy fun--cupcakes with buttercream "spaghetti", strawberry preserves "marinari sauce" and cocoa pebbles marshmallow treat "meatballs"

Are you asleep yet? Sorry. I promise not to put in this many cake photos next time; I'm catching up. I know not everyone shares my passion for cake. I'm as passionate about cake decorating as I am about gardening. But cake decorating offers quicker satisfaction. I don't have to wait weeks, months or even years for a cake to be finished. And other than some sore feet from standing at the kitchen counter too long, cake decorating is pretty easy on the body. Not that I'll stop gardening. In fact, that's a whole 'nother obsession, right there. Prepare to be bored with that in the future!

Nightmare Bridge

We went to the NC Aquarium last week with the SHCOOP (science and history co-op) group since science was on "oceans" that week. This video is NOT from that trip but from April of last year. The aquarium has a lovely nature trail. Lovely, that is, until you get to the bridge of death. I post it to show the reason why I will NEVER cross that bridge when I come to it....not again. I used to have nightmares as a child about floating bridges, so when we came to this at the end of the trail last year, I freaked out. Thomas, Austin, and Audrey all went over it and loved it. Emma and I walked it together (I'm not sure if I made her cross with me for her protection or for mine). Notice the sigh at the end of the video when I realize I have to go next. Laugh all you want to; I was about to have a panic attack!

A Homeschool Family Home Evening

Recently, all the LDS homeschool moms in our ward and in a close by branch met together one night to discuss homeschooling and to help a few moms who were just making the leap into homeschooling. There were 9 of us! I couldn't believe it when I was sitting there listening to all their stories. I remember being the one and only LDS homeschooler in the area. And now we basically have our own little support group.
We decided to have a family night with all our families (which includes about 40 children!). We had it on a Monday night for FHE at a local park. We all brought covered dishes and the food was great. We played kickball (haven't done that in 30 years!) and had a blast together. Here are some photos from that fantastic night of fellowship:
Austin can fly!

Audrey with friends

Henry had a good time too...when he wasn't fussing.

Audrey in action!

Emma and a friend

Thomas loves to climb (and Emma too!)

I can't wait for our next LDS homeschool family event.

Homeslice Drinks a Bottle

At a recent LDS homeschool Family Home Evening, I took this picture of Henry. I promise, I did NOT put his hat like that!