Twenty-Six

Yesterday I turned twenty-six years old. My day started out pretty rough–thanks 6am garbage truck who wakes my son every Friday morning!–but I ended up having a great day. We had some wonderful friends take Evan for the evening and Brinton and I were able to go out to dinner and just enjoy each others company. After dinner we caught the tail end of the Waikiki fireworks from the top of the Ala Moana Center and then walked around the mall for a bit picking up my free birthday perks from a few makeup stores. I also stopped to buy an adorable Curious George stuffed animal for Evan. I know it was my birthday but I knew he would love it so much!

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Later we went to buy Brinton a suit for his sister’s wedding and then went out for fro-yo at Menchies. It was such a good evening and a much needed date night. We haven’t been out just the two of us in quite a while and it was so nice to be able to go out without worrying about if Evan was getting antsy or not.

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Brinton also surprised me with a beautiful necklace from Wrenn Jewelry. Their jewelry is just so stunning–I want everything! The necklace he chose for me is absolutely gorgeous. I’m wearing it in the picture above, but I’ll post a better picture on the blog and on Instagram next week when I’m actually dressed. It’s pjs Saturday around here today…no shame, y’all.

I asked my mom to send me a few pictures of me when I was little. Here’s a few good ones of baby/toddler Maria. Ha, you can see I’ve always had quite a little personality.

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I hope you all are having a fantastic weekend. Thanks to everyone who called or messaged me with birthday wishes! I appreciate you all!

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Nine Alternatives to Birthday Cake

My 26th birthday is this week, and it has gotten me thinking about how I want to celebrate! I always love the idea of cake, but I’m actually not that big of a fan of eating it. I do get a good cake craving every now and then, but in general it usually isn’t my first pick. I’ve also been trying to make healthier choices this year, so I thought it might be fun to brainstorm some birthday cake alternatives and share them with you all! Don’t get me wrong…not all of these choices are going to be healthier options…but some are!

Most of these pictures are from Pinterest or Instagram, and I’ll link to the website that they came from if they are not my own. I would have loved to make everything myself and take my own pictures but I didn’t have the time to do that (plus if I made and subsequently ate all of these things, it definitely wouldn’t be healthier than birthday cake!)

Fruit Pizza

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipe coming soon!)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Angel Food Cake with Fruit and Fresh Whipped Cream

Pudding Cups

Mini Pies, Cheesecakes, or Crumbles

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipes here and here)

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipes here and here)

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Ice Cream in a Cookie Bowl

Cinnamon Rolls

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipe coming soon!)

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipe coming soon!)

I hope this gives you all a few new ideas for ways to celebrate your birthday other than with cake! Do you have anything to add to the list? I haven’t decided what I’m going to celebrate my birthday with yet, so let me know in the comments!

Linking up with Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Evan’s First Birthday Party

First birthdays are HUGE here in Hawaii. I’m talking hundreds of people, a full on catered affair with entertainment, activities, and the whole nine yards. I wish I could say that we wholeheartedly embraced that tradition while celebrating Evan turning one, but our budget was teeny tiny. Instead, we decided to have a casual, laid-back, fun afternoon at the beach with our friends. It was perfect! Evan loved his party and had such a fun time playing in the ocean with all his friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was amazing, Evan was so excited to play in the sand, and he really enjoyed his smash cake–although he preferred to just rub the frosting into his legs rather than actually smash and eat the cake. Silly boy.

Oh, and everything was monkeys. Evan has always loved monkeys! I decided on a blue, green, and yellow color scheme, and then kept it super simple. Except the cake. I went all out on making the cake. To be honest I was a little disappointed at how it turned out (my ganache layer under the fondant was so lumpy!) but everyone still loved it and it was delicious. My friend Tami made the tassel garland for me (thank you again Tami it was amazing!!!) and her husband Darren helped Brinton shop for all the food and set everything up at the beach. We have great friends. They helped me keep everything together and running smoothly. Anyway, here are pictures!

Evan 1st Bday 001 Evan 1st Bday 003Tassels Evan 1st Bday 007Evan 1st Bday 005 Evan 1st Bday 006 Evan 1st Bday 013Birthday Collage 1Birthday Collage 2Birthday Collage 3Evan 1st Bday 014Evan 1st Bday 019Evan 1st Bday 021Evan 1st Bday 022Birthday Collage 4Evan 1st Bday 023Evan 1st Bday 024Evan 1st Bday 025Evan 1st Bday 026

One year old, monkey man! Happy Birthday!

One Year

It still blows my mind that my sweet baby boy is already one year old. I feel like it was just yesterday that he was a squishy little newborn and would cuddle up on my chest. I miss his milk-coma face! This year has flown by so quickly. Evan has become a whole little person with a big personality. I know it probably seems silly to say this, but I came to the realization a few weeks ago that my baby boy will only ever get bigger. Soon he will be walking and talking, and then he will be making friends and learning how to interact with others, going to school and learning, playing sports or doing theatre…and suddenly graduating and going off to live his life. I just know that if I blink too quickly it will all go by in a flash. He is still a baby of course, for now, but he is quickly becoming a toddler and every day I’m reminded that I am raising an independent and wonderful individual.

Now for some not so sappy stuff: Evan is so close to walking, but is still a bit too apprehensive to give it a go on his own. I can tell it wont be long though! He is already talking up a storm and as of his first birthday could already say six words including mama, dada, ball, quack, bye, and bird (although bird doesn’t really sound like bird yet…) and he has his own special names for a few other things. He has eight teeth, still almost no hair, and if he keeps growing at this rate he will be taller than I am by the time he’s eight. He absolutely loves to throw balls and read books, and bath time might just be his favorite time of day. He specializes in extremely wet kisses, crawling at the speed of light, and pulling every single book off of the bookshelf in less than a minute about twenty times a day. Sometimes he will just sit and giggle to himself, and though it makes me nervous to suddenly hear silence in the other room, nine times out of ten I walk into the room to see him reading. He thinks all cups are microphones and loves talking into them, and recently during meals has really enjoyed pretending to feed me and then eating it himself instead. He is a happy, silly, brilliant, and energetic little boy. I love him so much and I am so proud of him! I am in awe of him each and every day. Happy one year Evan Jay. You are my everything.

One Year Header 1One Year Header 2One Year 8One Year 11One Year Collage 1One Year Collage 2One Year Collage 3PS- This “one” onesie was a super easy DIY. I’ll be sure to post the details for you! When I do, I’ll link it here.

 

Minion Cake

Today is my co-worker’s birthday. Happy Birthday Wilson! It has been a running joke at work for a while now that Wilson looks like one of the minions from Despicable Me (haha sorry friend!), so we decided to make him a minion cake to celebrate the occasion. It was my first time working with fondant, but I think the finished product came out pretty good for a newbie!

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Wilson minion collageInside of minion cakeI unfortunately had to leave work before they cut into the cake, and when I went into work yesterday morning this piece is all that was left! Sadly I don’t have a nice pretty picture of the cake freshly sliced, but at least everyone loved it enough that it didn’t last!

I usually bake my cakes from scratch, but for this one I ended up using a cake mix because I knew I wanted to spend the majority of my time working on the decorating. I chose a very basic milk chocolate cake to help balance out the super-sweet flavor of the fondant, and it did help quite a bit. I frosted and filled the cake with a white chocolate ganache (which was so delicious that I ate the leftovers with a spoon) and then I rolled out the fondant and decorated it.

To make the ganache I used 3 parts chocolate to 1 part heavy whipping cream. In this instance I got my scale out and used 900g of chocolate and 300g of heavy cream. This made more than enough for me to fill the cake and frost it, though if I hadn’t been covering it with fondant I’m guessing that it would have been just enough to get a nice thick, even layer around the whole cake.

To make the ganache, I brought the heavy cream up to a simmer until there were small bubbles around the edge, and then I poured that over my chocolate. I rotated the bowl back and forth a few times to make sure that all of the chocolate was covered, and then I let it sit on my counter for about a minute and a half to allow it to start to melt. I then mixed it with a spatula until it was nicely blended. I found that it was still slightly lumpy, so I heated it in my microwave for about 15 seconds on high, which was just long enough to smooth it out completely. I read on a few sites that you can leave it out at room temperature for several hours until it becomes peanut butter consistency, or you can even make it the day before. I didn’t have the luxury of time on my side, so after it cooled to room temperature I put it in the fridge, which helped it set to the right consistency in about an hour. I don’t really know if you are supposed to do that or not…but I did and it seemed to work just fine!

For tips on how to apply the ganache smoothly, I watched this YouTube video by Three Little Blackbirds. Their website is amazing and the cakes they make look beyond delicious. Though the video is super long, I found it to be very helpful.

I made the fondant from scratch following this recipe here from The Baking Beauties, and then followed these tips from Sugar Coated Chronicle to learn how to have a smooth application. I did add significantly more powdered sugar than they recommended when I was rolling it out, but it is so ridiculously humid here that I really didn’t have a choice or it would have just stuck to the counter. Plus, we don’t have air conditioning (seriously what’s up with that, Hawaii???) so between the heat and humidity it was quite sticky. Luckily it worked out well though. The internet really is an amazing place that I could have all of this help at my fingertips!

The cake ended up being delicious, and I am definitely looking forward to working on my cake decorating skills. I’d love to try to make a whole cake with just the chocolate ganache frosting. The fondant always looks nice, but I personally don’t really like to eat it. Granted, this recipe that I used was much better tasting than normal fondant, but I still don’t prefer it. I have three months before I need to make Evan’s first birthday cake…hopefully I learn a little more before then!

Linking up again for Delicious Dish Tuesday! I feel so special because Alesha from Full Time Mama picked my Zesty Chicken Mini-Tacos from last week’s link up as her featured recipe this week. Thanks, Alesha!

PS- None of these links nor the content of this post is sponsored in any way. I just wanted to share with you the websites that were helpful to me as I tried to figure out how to put this cake together!

 

Half-Birthday

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Today, Evan turned six months old. Can you believe it?! I know I can’t. I feel like it was just yesterday we were finding out that we were pregnant, and now we are already celebrating his half-birthday. Crazy! We celebrated by spending the afternoon at the beach and then eating half-birthday cake tonight with some friends and some young women from our ward. It was a great day…though I’m sure Evan would have loved to get a taste of his own cake. Haha.

All within the same weekend (last weekend), Evan figured out how to roll from his back to his belly (he has been able to go front to back for a while now), and how to sit up unsupported. It was a big week! Now that he realizes he can be somewhat mobile, I can’t leave him alone for two seconds! Two days ago I put him on his tummy-time blanket to sit and play with one of his favorite toys, and in the 30 seconds it took me to go into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water, he had gone from sitting, to rolling to his belly, to rolling to his back, and grabbing at the seat belt of his bouncer to get himself close to it so he could play with the buttons. Seriously?! Mind you, Hawaii living means our apartment is pretty tiny, so at least he can’t get too far. But still…he gave me a little preview into the coming months of his increasing mobility, and I think I definitely have my hands full.

Now that he is sitting up on his own, he is having a ton of fun playing at bath time. He loves leaning over the edge of his bath watching the water swirl out of his tub into the big tub. He finds it absolutely fascinating. It’s adorable. He is now babbling nonstop, sometimes extremely loudly (I’m looking at you, Cassi…) and it is sometimes hilarious to listen to him “converse” with us. He has also started doing this adorable lip popping sound…kind of like he is creating suction on his bottom lip over and over again…hard to describe but so cute to watch. If I can catch it on camera I’ll share a video. Almost every morning I wake up to find him in a completely different position than when I laid him down the night before. It has kind of become a game to guess what position he will be in before we look in his crib. Silly boy! And speaking of sleep…he is a champ! He now falls asleep completely on his own after we go through our nighttime routine, and will usually sleep for 10 to 11 hours. Because he is ready for solids but we haven’t started yet, he has recently started occasionally waking up once or twice to eat. I’m guessing once he starts getting solid food he will completely ditch the night feedings, and hopefully sleep up to 12 hours. We are still working on day time naps, but in general he does pretty well. Other than that, he is even more smiley than ever and it makes my heart melt when he smiles so big. I love that he smiles at everyone too. I feel like it makes people feel special when he is so friendly and interactive. I know eventually he will probably start feeling the “stranger danger,” but until then I am really enjoying his super friendly demeanor. 

Up to this point, Evan has been exclusively breastfed, and though our doctor said we could start solids at the four month mark, he encouraged us to continue solely breastfeeding until six months since Evan was striving on milk alone. I’m pretty sure Evan is way ready for solids now–he is already working on his puppy-dog face to try and get what he wants–and he has been staring us down pretty intensely around meal times for a few weeks now. I am super excited to finally start! I’m hoping to make most of my baby food…but we will see what happens when it comes down to actually doing it. Sometimes I have such high expectations in my head that I put way too much pressure on myself to live up to everything I think I’m “supposed” to be doing. In the end, I get stressed out and feel like I have let everyone down when in reality the only one who made me feel pressured was myself. Either way, I hope I can follow through on this particular goal, but if not, life is too short to live it stressing out, you know?

Anyway, here he is! Six months and awesome. I’m afraid if I blink he will be on his way to college. *Sigh* Emotional mom moment? Always.

Month 6 Final

Six month close up

Six month collage 1

Six month collage 2

Six month collage 3Goodness I love this little face!!!