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The Sweet Life

I'll do yours if you do mine?

guitarcake.jpgAcoustic Guitar Birthday CakeI like to think that I keep up with what’s going on in the world despite my frenzied days with two young children.  But one of the pitfalls in the glam life of a stay at home mom is that it’s impossible to keep up with technology!  I know aboutsocial media but I can't seem to keep up no matter what I do….  I love creating, baking, decorating cookies and cakes, period!  However, the problem with trying to have a small, custom bakeshop from home is that baking and decorating cakes is but a fraction of the job. Social media is paramount in keeping customers updated on your work.

I was pleased that I managed to set up a website on my own.  It was even more improved after my friend Usha used some tips from her company website workshop to help me fine-tune it.  But she has only two days off and I’m not going to bother her or my brother to constantly “help” me…it’s annoying and time is too precious to worry people on their days off.

I keep thinking back to my college BFF Dena.  She had children, got married and did that whole thing way before I did...a whole decade in fact.  She married right after law school and had three beautiful boys and a successful careerwolfcookies.jpgWolf Cookie Favors .  Today, she is no longer married but she is happier then ever and living the life she once dreamed about. 

Wait...I'm digressing, that has nothing to do with this story.  When Dena had small children, she was working as an attorney and she bartered childcare for legal services.  She sent out the occasional letter on behalf of the childcare center and she represented them when necessary.  In return, her three boys were comfortably taken care of all day.  How clever is that?  She ended up becoming best friends with the owner of the childcare center and I believe it's changed her life forever. 

The barter idea does seem entrepreneurially brilliant.  I hired a photographer once to take pictures of my son when he was born and her website touted, "will shoot for coffee."  Well coffee beans in hand (good beans okay!!  Majorca and Starbucks) we met for a photo shoot and I asked if she really meant it.  She said bartering took the pressure off, she could enjoy her art of photography and she was a coffee addict so it worked out. 

As I try to keep up with the baking business of mine, that wolfcake.jpgWhite Wolf Birthday Cakeidea of bartering keeps popping up in my mind.  I need someone who is social media savvy.  A young lady I met at a wedding told me about Instagram two years ago; she insisted it would be fun and amazing for me to use as a tool. 

I smiled politely and thought to myself, I'm on Facebook...what more do I need?  Two years later...I just signed on to Instagram!  My friend Kim absolutely insisted I do it for business purposes.  She has a good head on her shoulders about his kind of thing so she gave me a deadline and said set it up by January 26th.  I listened and now I can't believe I didn't do it earlier.  It's SO much more fun than Facebook.  Facebook seems like the slow lane and Instagram is HOV.  I love it.  The problem is: there's still Twitter and if I keep trying to keep up, who is going to bake and decorate all the cakes? 

So, I need to barter...I need to find someone who can help me organize my social media and my pictures, store my data (my computer is now full and another helpful friend suggested and put my data on the cloud but I was too embarrassed to tell him that I have absolutely not idea how to transport it to the cloud!)  Overall, my needs are so small that it's not worth hiring someone. I mean I can't pay the mortgage baking cakes but it's significant enough that it's becoming overwhelming and I want to focus on the art of baking and decorating.  That’s my strength, not social media, computer data storage, label making or bookkeeping...so if you want to barter, please let me know.  Who wouldn't want a birthday cake, cookies or cake pops for graduation, mother's day or just because....?!  Oh...and check me out on Instagram, I would give you my address but I have no idea how to write it.  It's under ameetabakes and somehow I think you'll figure it out sooner then I could explain it!

 

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Boys and Their Guns

We live in an area where guns are not unusual.  The majority of Virginians embrace their right to bear arms and as a consequence, manyIMG_8252.JPGCamoflauge Sugar Cookie www.ameetabakes.com children are exposed to them at a young age.  We are not of that mindset.  I've never purchased toy guns for my kids and I just am not a fan, the same way I'm not a fan of Barbie...there is nothing wrong with it but it's not my preference. 

However, my son has recently started asking questions about guns since he hears about them from boys at school.  My son Rohan is in the first grade.  He believes himself to be a future paleontologist or wildlife biologist.  In other words, he loves animals.  So when happened upon a new dinosaur game on the iPad, I was surprised that he started talking about "killing" predators.  I discouraged him from playing the game but he wasn't that interested until a few days later. 

We were up early on a Saturday morning and he started telling me about different types of guns.  Really?  Rohan had never even played with a toy gun, how did this happen so quickly? It freaked me out but not as much as him saying that he no longer felt bad if he "had to" kill dinosaurs even though he previously felt really bad about it.  How can three days bring about such a change of heart?  In explaining the game to me he started showing me different guns and I was stunned to see the exposure that seemingly innocent dinosaur games can lead to if not monitored on the iPad.  I didn't want to shut him down without understanding his point of view so we talked about how guns really serve no positive purpose (hello he is six!).  He didn't seem convinced because according to his research, there are "predators" out there.  I told him how survival skills allow animals to protect themselves from predators and the natural life cycle requires that they get their food by hunting.  He understood but he was still not convinced. 

When my husband came down for his coffee and joined the conversation, my son used the term "handgun" to describe the best means of chasing small predators.  It completely freaked my husband out and we launched into a full explanation of the power of IMG_8263.JPGAnimal Print Sugar Cookie Hearts www.ameetabakes.comguns and the danger they bring.  How did he go from Dino Match and Dino Days to Dino Assassin so quickly?  You’re thinking that obviously this mom should monitor the iPad more closely.  I do!  We are very aware of applications he uses and this gun issue was a recent three-day affair.  His dad finally "lost it" when Rohan kept talking about guns and killing animals when he was trying to read them bedtime stories that night.  He forbids him to use any applications with guns.  Rohan is a huge rule follower.  If we say no to something he won't even broach it.  For crying out loud, he won't watch SpongeBob because it's for seven-year olds.  Rohan went to bed in tears that night.  We all understand now that he is not to play any games involving guns.

Ironically, we had a friend visit today with his ten-year old twin boys.  They each have their own iPad (their mom won them with her Stella and Dot business!).  According to Ethan, the filters that his dad installed with the application Mobicip, prevent him from using sites such as nike.com, microsoft.com or even apple.com.  Ethan is an avid athlete so he is particularly frustrated that he cannot access Gamestop’s website or that of Dick’s sporting goods (I’m sure we can all guess why that one is blocked!)  However, what he can access is Halo, a violent game for teenage boys.  He can also access Call of Duty, which according to him is one of the most popular games out there.  He told me that in order to access one of the blocked sites, it would take him about 10 minutes to hack into it.  He is only ten!  This generation is going to be wired so differently from the way we were raised.

Rohan now knows that gun games are off the table.  We’ll revisit that when we have to…hopefully not for a long time.  Just when I was heaving a sigh of relief, he informed me that he now he wants to play a game where he shoots an apple off someone's head with a bow and arrow (“it’s not a gun mom so it doesn’t fit in your rules!”)  Since he’s never seen or heard of the Hunger Games, I can only assume there may be a history lesson involved in this newfound interest.  When I asked about William Tell, he had no idea who I was talking about so there goes that theory!  And so it goes on…  Parenting is hard work!

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Christmas Cookie Crazy

xmas5.jpgMagicall Snow Globes www.ameetabakes.comOkay so I'm not going to lie, I'm obsessed...well I enjoy...no I'm obsessed with decorating cookies, especially at this time of the year.  I wake up at least two hours before the kids so that I can enjoy my coffee and icing colors and just go to town. 

Up until just a couple of months ago, I always considered myself more of a cake person but I have definitely switched sides.  It wasn't an easy switch.  I've always received rave reviews about my cakes (yes I know, not modest but you’ll see why I feel the need to tell you this…) but when I started cookies over a year ago I was met with mixed reviews. 

For example, my mother is not a fan of cookies; she thinks they are way too much work.  Why you ask?  Well, you xmas2.jpgSantas Helpers www.ameetabakes.comhave to let the ingredients reach room temperature, mix the dough, chill the dough, roll it out, cut the shapes, chill it again to keep it from spreading, make the icing, mix the colors (are you tired yet?  Hang in there, we haven’t even finished a cookie!), let the colors set (overnight for the darker colors), sketch out the cookie, decorate the cookie letting some parts dry before moving on, then let the decorated cookie dry in it’s entirety for no less then five hours but usually for 24 hours. 

It’s a process for sure, which is why they cost more when you order them from bakers versus buying them from a place that churns out hundreds at a time using machines.  As a rule, I always allow my children to eat from whatever batch I make and they each get to decorate one for themselves.  I often put my six-year old son's name on a cookie or write, "I love you" and stick it in his lunch box, he loves that.  My daughter, Asha, just loves to decorate them but she generally xmas1.jpgSanta Brunch Cookie Platter www.ameetabakes.comeats them before the icing even dries. 

My husband, the biggest critic I know, did not like to eat the decorated cookies.  He absolutely loves my chocolate chip cookies but he was not a big fan of the iced sugar cookies.  It should have hurt my feelings but it made me more determined then ever to figure out why especially since he has a sweet tooth...and a salty tooth...oh what can I say, we are just both foodies in general!  

On occasion, my son told me they were too hard.  I thought it was just his picky palate until I made cookies for my cousin Jo who said she practically cracked her tooth on one because the royal icing dried so hard.  (To make myself feel better I have to tell you that Jo thinks I make the best cake pops on the planet and she loves my cakes and she is brutally honest which is one of my favorite things about her).  But geez...that was not xmasfamilytree.jpgFamily Christmas Tree www.ameetabakes.com something I wanted to hear. So, I started experimenting and it got a little better, then a lot better. 

 A change in my recipe rendered a softer cookie.  More tweaking to royal icing and I got a softer (and more glossy) xmas3.jpgbite.  But it's only this Christmas that I really feel I have the perfect cookie in size, thickness and taste.  I made some for a neighborhood Santa brunch and they were a huge hit.  The caterer at the brunch, Kyler's A+ Catering, was a Food Network winner and he loved them.  He asked for my card, as did Mrs. Claus.  I mean come on...Mrs. Claus wants to order cookies from me, how awesome is that?  But best of all, my husband, former critic and naysayer now loves my iced cookies. 

So this morning, I'm trying to finish decorating as the coffee maker turns off (at 6:25 am) because it's already been on for two hours.  The good news is that I won't have to take time from my kids when they wake up because while most people only get this adrenaline rush from going to the gym (or other things...), I definitely get them from making cookies.  The only problem now is keeping my husband from eating the orders!

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Married or Maiden Name...Just Get Over it and Pick One!

marinecorpscake.jpgMarine Corps Cake for Retiring Colonel www.ameetabakes.comWe stood at the gate to the White House one recent evening, checking in when I started to get a sinking feeling.  What name did I submit, married or maiden?  It’s an ongoing problem for me and I blame it on too many things, all stemming back to my worst attribute, indecision. 

When we got married, I had been working at The University of Mary Washington for over a decade where I was known as Dr. Vashee, a role that gave me a strong sense of identity.  Hence adopting a new last name, which was phonetically easy but visibly complicated to pronounce was a difficult decision to make, and I took my time with it.  I didn’t want to go to work and change my name, after working at that institution for so long it seemed silly to establish a new name.  It didn’t help that my friend Julene who got married the previous year told me that changing her name immediately after marriage was the worst thing she did and she felt that she lost her identity overnight.  I was already on the fence at that point and I’m pretty sure her statement was the deciding point for me.  

As for hyphenating, my nieces Maya and Leena advised me strongly against a hyphenated last name; they planned to change their very long hyphenated last names as soon as it was legally possible.  That helped me rule out a hyphenated last name.   It was all a lot to think about so I kept my maiden name and went along my merry married way.   I know it irritated my husband, especially when he was addressed as Mr. Vashee, unless it meant he was getting a discount from the mulch guy, or any vendor who used to service my parents' business for years and now did occasional home improvements for us.   When the topic arose, my husband indicated that he would like to be more of a ‘family,’ and have the same name. 

Like all good wives (right!) I wanted him to be happy so after five (yes FIVE) years, I changed my name on my social security card and presented it to him in a birthday card.  He was thrilled but it was that kind of feigned happiness where you know he feels like, This should have happened anyway, it’s not a birthday kind of thing.

When it came time to renew my passport a few years ago, I changed last name which made it much more official.  I’ve actually noticed that since I had my children, I go almost exclusively by my married name.  I want to make sure that the schools, their friends, etc., are aware that I’m their mom.  Except…I haven’t taken the steps to make it official everywhere….my credit cards, driver’s license (I know, I know…unacceptable, I know!), credit cards, hotel and frequent flier numbers; the list goes on and on and on….  It’s always an issue when we book a flight, I can’t necessarily remember which name I used so I have to check.   I felt the same way when I voted most recently.  I was asked for my last name and I had to pause because I had no idea which one I used.  Usually it’s fine but yesterday it was not fine.

militarycake.jpgIn honor of Veterans Day, another Marine Corps cake www.ameetabakes.comAs I was standing at the gate of the White House, being turned away, I realized that enough is enough. As for how I got in this latest predicament?  At our school bus stop a few weeks earlier, a neighbor mentioned that his wife works at the White House.  We were full of questions about her experience there.  Our son is in the same class as their little boy and the boys ride the bus to school together.  To our surprise, his mom, Addison, sent us some dates and asked us to pick one for not only a White House tour but for a tour of the West Wing.  It was all very exciting.  The tour was limited to six so my parents joined our family of four.  I had to send in our names and social security numbers along with other key information.  I was especially touched to find out that Addison had taken her day off, Sunday, to drive all the way to DC to give us this tour, something she had not done is over three years. 

We met outside the White House but when we went to check in, there was a problem with my ID.  My driver’s license was still in my maiden name but the name I submitted was my married name.  I realized that in writing out my husband and children’s names, I just wrote mine the same way, not thinking about what was on my driver’s license. We stood outside the White House and I was horrified, my husband was disappointed, the kids wanted to stay outside with me and Addison had taken her precious time (away from her two young children) to do this for us and I was such a loser that I didn’t even know my own name enough to submit the correct one. 

Finally my husband told the kids they were doing the tour, without mommy.  He sent me a text a few minutes later to let me know they whitehousepressroom.jpgOur group in the White House Press Roommissed me.   Then a text about how much better it would be if I were there.  Yet another to let me know he loves me.  The next text was about the kids being bored and that’s when the text messages began to go downhill.  They were about the kids being disinterested, running around too much and complaining about the tour.  I may as well have been there because I felt like I knew what was going on…except I couldn't do anything about it because I was outside the gates.  I was surprised because my son loves museums; he loved even the Portrait Gallery, which would have been boring for most children.   My husband was appalled and embarrassed at their behavior.  Note to self, they do not like being out of the house in the evening and even the White House does not change that fact.   Our host and tour guide, Addison, was gracious and generous.  She provided an in-depth informative tour, which my husband and parents raved about.  My dad is still talking about it today and he is hoping to see some news from the White House pressroom now that he knows exactly how it looks.  Addison also gave the children and our entire group White House chocolates and a challenge coin from her office.  She had clearly planned ahead and her thoughtfulness only made me feel worse.

On the way home during a semi-silent, semi-apologetic car ride with a semi-annoyed husband, he asked me what name I used for the flights we just booked to the Bahamas.  I didn’t want to even admit it to him but I honestly have no idea.  This insanity obviously needs to end so I plan to go to the DMV this week and remedy the situation.  I love my new identity where I’m most frequently referred to me as Asha or Rohan’s mom.  When I volunteer in my son's classroom, the children call me Mrs. Rohan’s mom and this morning one boy asked if he could just call me Mrs. R.  “Sure” I responded.  

I can’t believe I was so hung up on my “identity” for so long.  It evolves as life evolves and I love exactly where I am now.  I had a lot of time to think about it, you see, as I waited in the car outside the White House while my family took the tour.

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Farm to Table...Right Here at Home!

farmcakefruitstand.jpgGarden-themed cake:I'm no green rocks.jpgPrepping the gardenthumb and I used to pride myself on enjoying the beauty of flowers without getting messy in the mud.  My mom started me off by making sure I had seasonal flower pots outside the front door when I moved into my home.  She would "freshen" up the pot plants in front of my house each fall, until one fall when she was on vacation and I realized there would be no pretty blooms unless I actually got muddy and planted some myself.Putting together potted plants was actually enjoyable!   So much, in fact, that during a back yard renovation two years ago, my husband had a littlevegetable6.jpgDrip lines obviously worked! vegetable garden built for me.  He then said I could do whatever I want with it, which was overwhelming since my gardening to that point consistvegetablegarden.jpgDrip lines in each trenched of keeping my two African Violets alive by changing the water every time the house was cleaned.  No plant food, no nothing, just changing water kept them flowering and perfect.  An entire vegetable patch; well, that is another story.  Originally, I was not too happy with the location, right up front and on the side of the garden.  I envisioned them in a more remote part of the back yard…but as usual, my husband was right…he usually is when it comes to spatial issues!

Fortunately Ivegetable7.jpgHappy with her butter lettuce had some experts with whom to consult: my mom who took me to Lowe's to buy my first vegetables for the garden; our gardening friend and neighbor aficionado, George gave us our first set of tomato plants and we were off to a good start.  And to keep with a “pretty” garden aesthetic, another neighbor Cindy came over with some books and she inspired me to embrace the concept of a well-groomed garden.  Our handyman, assisted by my son Rohan, helped prep the garden and dig trenches.  We planted anything that sounded like we might use it:  squash, zucchini, eggplants, jalapenos, chili peppers, banana peppers, green peppers, and butter lettuce.  When my mom andveggie1.jpgeggplants and all types of peppers I purchased the first set of plants, they were tiny plants and unassuming, it was hard to imagine they would actually render anything worthwhile.  But then a week or two or three later, woveggie2.jpgbroccoliw...it was a full-fledged vegetable garden! 

We had so many vegetables that I shared with friends and neighbors, we had too much for the four of us to consume but it was thrilling to go out each day and see what was growing.  The unanticipated bonus was having the kids involved with picking vegetables and taking care of the garden.  Rohan is concerned about making sure that we do not use pesticidhappywithherbucketofveggies.jpgPleased with her bucket full of veggieses in the garden.  He enjoys observing the bugs and he is constantly commenting on how good the bugs are for the garden.  He also loves to use gardening shears to cut dead plants.  Asha (my daughter) loves running after the butterflies.  She looks for bugs and asks her brother to identify them.  She also enjoys the flowers just like I do...It's so much fun to enjoy the outdoors in a completely veggie4.jpgmaking zucchini noodles out of zucchinidifferent way.  It’s family bonding in a way that is difficult to express and entirely unexpected.  Try it, you may be like me and just surprise yourself!

vegetable4.jpgsorting the day's haul

 

 

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About Ameeta

Moms of the world...we're in the kitchen all the time so why not make it fun...RIGHT?! After working in the field of higher education for over a decade, I decided to stay home. Being here is wonderful (sometimes!). BUT, I love the invaluable (read crazy but good) moments with my children. One thing I miss about work is having a creative outlet. Decorating cakes and cookies gives me that focus for my creativity. It's therapeutic to work on cakes, cookies and the like. As you will understand, with two young children, lots of therapy is necessary! Hence I've been baking more and more....and in my blog I'll be sharing my culinary adventures with you with a side serving of raising my two kids! For pictures and information about my confections, please visit my site at www.ameetabakes.com

 

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Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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