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The Sweet Life

Six Years old and Knows His Mind!

IMG_9348.jpgToday, April 17, my son Rishi celebrates his sixth birthday!  This year he chose a dinosaur fossil excavation site as the theme for his cake.  Unlike past years, he requested a small party with people in his immediate circle...in other words, mostly family and family friends who visit with him on a regular basis.   It’s odd to not experience the full-scale blow out party I usually plan, but this year was particularly IMG_9290.jpgexhausting for me as well so I was actually grateful to scale back.   The cake part of my business is really taking off and usurping both my time and energy. 

His party on Sunday was fun.  It wasn’t his favorite; that would have been the Dinosaur Party last year. That, however, was when he felt very close to his friends at school.  We invited his entire class and they had a ball.  This year, he was not interested in inviting any school kids....yet another concern for me about his kindergarten adjustment, adaptation ugghhhh....  However, he wanted to make sure that even though he was having a small party, he wanted an “amazing excavation cake” and scary dinosaur cookies to take to school for his friends.  Those requests were easy to honor but the no friends from school thing does break my heart a little...especially since I’ve seen him embrace it in the past, I’m sure you can see it too from the pictures of his preschool party last year.

My neighbor Cathy and I had a good laugh when I told her that he requested a “small birthday” this year.  We laughed hysterically as we recalled the petting zoo party  the year he turned four .  It was iconic on our block.  The pigs, donkey, bunnies and other animals created quite a scene.  Tons of neighborhood kids showed up in addition to the 50 kids I had invited.  Ironically, Rishi stayed indoors for much of that party.  I strictly forbid the opening of any new toys during  my kids’ parties but my sister (who had just returned from a business trip) did not hear my request and she gave him the train set she got from Opening his new Shinkansen Train SetIMG_5852.jpgJapan.  He stayed indoors with the set for almost half of the party enamored with his new toy.  I was miffed but only briefly.  My daughter and the other 100 party guests were having a ball in the “barnyard.”  He enjoyed it too once he made it outside but the crowd was unsettling to him at that party... I could tell from his reaction.  
 

The prior year was all about trains, an obsession of his that lasted a good couple of years.  My husband and I are now versed in Japanese, French, German, American...all kinds of trains, thanks to my son.  I remember waking up on the morning of his third birthday...he was in my room...I know, I know...that’s for another post, another time....but his first words that morning were, “Mommy, I wanted a high speed train and you made me a diesel and a slow train but I really wanted a high speed train.”  To you this may sound ungrateful but what I (finally) heard was just him expressing what he had been telling me all week: IMG_9751.jpghe wanted a high-speed train cake.  I had never made a fancy cake and in fact had been thrilled to find a train mold pan at William-Sonoma because it’s what I used for all the train…I had no idea how to make a high-speed train cake and I should have known better than to think he wouldn’t notice. 

So...at 7am, prior to our 11 am party, I raced to Giant’s bakery where the baker gruffly turned me away because he was too busy.  I went to Bloom where the bakery was deserted and I ended up and Shopper’s where the baker took pity on me and she trimmed a ready-made pound cake to look like a high-speed train.  I was home before 9 am and my friend Danny helped ice and decorate the cake to look like the JR500, one of the high speed trains in Rishi’s train book.  The other kids loved the variety of train cakes filled with candy and goodies but the only cake Rishi requested all day was “a piece of the JR 500.”  He loved it and it was worth the ridiculous running around.  Now I look back and wonder why I never figured out how to make it myself but I guess I wasn’t there yet. 

At two he was enthralled with construction vehicles.  I remember like it was 7bfff9cd_9e5a_47ef_ac23_e910fc602acawallpaper.jpgyesterday how I would take him to construction sites and we would sit there, eat snacks, run around and just watch the machines in action. 

And at one, we had a party at home for his family, my in-laws hosted one for their close family and friends and my parents hosted one for their friends (all two hundred of them).  It was a party that requires a description in an unto itself...but not today!

Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy my six-year old today and make sure he enjoys his day.  We'll visit him for lunch at school and make his favorite things to eat (why is it always about the food with me??)!!   Birthdays are sentimental and I feel blessed to have each and every day to spend with my children and savor each and every moment not just today but every day!

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Birthday Parties for Kids...At Home or Somewhere...Anywhere Else?

vedacake.jpgBirthdays have always been a big deal in my family.  According to my husband, they stopped being a big deal after he turned about 10 but in my tradition, it's always a celebration, regardless of age. 

February has become the busiest birthday month for me...three family birthdays within five days of each other (all under the age of five this year) and just a few days after Valentine's no less.  In my baking world, that translates to crazy!  I spent last month in a tizzy of activity with the birthdays that have consumed every weekend and still continue to do so as March wraps up....

"My daughter wanted a jungle party…with pink animals of course!  She also wanted her entire preschool class to come overpinkjunglecake.jpg and she wanted to wear pajamas...so a pajama jungle party is exactly what we had to celebrate my sweet little girl turning four.  Prior to this we had a family party for her and, I have to admit, having family over on a Saturday from 11am until almost 8 pm was less stressful than having her class over for a mere two hours just a couple of days later.  Every year I think it's the last year I'll have a party at home and then I decide to give it one more year.  There have been some memorable ones already, all of which have been hosted at home.  Her first birthday was a family affair.  As much as I would have liked to do so, there was no way that I was going to bake a cake while still nursing, running after two toddlers and hosting a party.  Her second birthday was slightly more ambitious.  We included friends with family and I actually made the cupcakes...progress on the baking front!  It wasn't until her third birthday, the Peppa Pig party, that I really embraced baking and decorating cakes.  I even made the cookie cutter since it was impossible to find at the time. 

Reeya's cousin celebrated her fourth birthday just a day later.  Her mom would not even entertain the thought of the equivalent of a preschool class coming through her house.   She is of the philosophy that there is no need to celebrate birthdays until Sophia is aware that she has one.  She did have a big first birthday party and since then, she has kept it to a cupcake and a dinner out for just their immediate family; perfect and intimate. 

"However, time has caught up with this mother; Sophia now is four, she is well aware of her birthday...and she has an minniemouse.jpgopinion.  So this year her parents hosted her party at Pump it Up, one of the inflatable’s party places in Richmond, which she favors.  I'm amazed by the ability of the places that get you in, entertained, fed  and out within two hours...that is efficiency you can never have at a party hosted in a private residence but somehow I just have not disliked having it at home enough to do that yet...I like the personal feeling of entertaining at home.   I've been told many times that once you host a party outside of your home, you will never ever have one at home again.  Keeping this in mind, I've enjoyed my kids’ parties at home knowing full well that at some point, my children will have an opinion on where they want to celebrate their special day.

circuscake.jpgMy brother and his wife reached their breaking point rather quickly--when their son turned one, a party for which I made my very first tiered cake.  It was a circus themed party and I got me lots of practice making clowns and animals!  It ended up being a blistering hot day and it was so crowded in their home that they vowed to never ever repeat that experience.  So when their daughter turned one a couple of weeks ago, we had a small private family celebration.  In addition, they hosted her birthday at J W Tumbles, which caters towards toddlers.  That allowed them to include their many friends with small children.   It was a lovely party and the kids had a ball.  Again the efficiency...in, out, entertained and fed within two hours.  I guess I do need to think about out-sourcing for future reference, and I would love to hear from any of you about your favorite local birthday party sites for kids.

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Finding Inner Peace through all the Snow Days!!

Finding one's inner peace is next to impossible when dealing with a demanding family.  Who has time for mental down time when you are constantly thinking about your to-do list that never seems to decrease?  When I got a call from my friend Charmaine on January 1 telling me that she was going to yoga and that I was going to join her, I thought, why not?  We showed up to Stafford House of Yoga and I brought nothing...noAum (Om) Sugar CookieAUM (OM) Sugar Cookie mat, no money, no water.  Charmaine had failed to mention that we were signing up for a month...a month of something I knew NOTHING about!  It was a "restorative" class geared towards older people and those with physical injuries...we barely broke a sweat and it was almost boring.  I say almost because we did erupt into fits of laughter on more than one occasion; I felt like a juvenile delinquent and I was worried they would ask us to leave and never return. 

The next day we signed up for hot yoga and it was anything but boring.  The 105-degree room was the first obstacle; it was a rigorous, intense workout with long poses and endless stretches with body parts that have been dormant for far too long.   The practice of yoga encourages you to be early to class so that you have time to adapt to the temperature of the room, relax and unwind.  That alone proved to be a task for us.  Charmaine is generally racing out the door, leaving her four kids with her husband or a sitter, then she picks me up since I'm on her way out of the neighborhood.  Twice we made it just a few minutes after class began and we were not allowed to enter.  At first we were thoroughly annoyed.  Obviously whoever is in charge of the rules does not have children, we surmised.  HELLO...we made it out of the door just in time to relax, isn't that in and of itself progress?!  It was an adjustment to stress out about making it on New Year's Eve 2013...Discussing our Inner PeaceNew Year's Eve 2013...Discussing our Inner Peacetime to relax...a complete contradiction but it makes more sense the longer we practice.  The camaraderie is inspiring.  It helps to have five minutes in the car to catch up, talk about our husbands and compare notes about our children and then just let it all go in class.

At first, I felt sorry for my limbs but the classes are invigorating and something keeps us going back...we just haven't determined quite what that something is yet.  Personally, I enjoy the reverence to Hinduism.  I love that a few instructors play varying versions of the Gayatri Mantra, which is a Sanskrit prayer that my husband or I recite to our children every night.  A picture of Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles, hangs above the door, just as there is one at my door at home.  An Aum (Om) symbol is the only picture hanging at the front of the room; pictures of a meditating Siddhartha can be seen in the hallway; and, the owners just commissioned a door to be ornately hand-carved in India.  The smell of incense wafts around the building...it smells like my parents’ house.  The Ravi Shankar-esque instrumentals are so soothing at the end of the session and they remind me of my late uncle (Bapuji) who loved that type of music.  During one session, those sounds evoked an almost visceral reaction as I lay there with my mind wandering back to memories of my uncle.  The bhajans or hymns that are played in some classes are songs I grew up hearing and still hear in my mother's kitchen every morning.  Yes, there is definitely an intimate familiarity to yoga that I enjoy.  The arduous stretches, the intense sweating and the feeling of accomplishment at the end…perhaps it’s that feeling that keeps us coming back; we recently signed up for another three months. 

Ganesha and Aum Sugar CookiesIt was disappointing to hear Matt Lauer talk recently to some fitness experts on the Today show who discussed that fact that yoga does not help you burn calories but there are many "other" benefits, mostly attributed to your health and well being.  I always feel better when I leave but then doesn't that happen with all forms of exercise?  It's not whittling away anything, which is disappointing.  

However...we've all been like bears, stuck inside for 16 snow days, hibernating, baking, crafting, rolling fondant to make shapes (better than play dough and edible!), coloring, singing, reading, playing upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, watching more TV than any parent would admit to allowing...the same goes for the iPad use...you get the picture.  With the cold and dreary winter that we've been dragging through, I find that I look forward to the hour that I can escape and find some calm.  February was a particularly crazy month for me.  Like many of you, I tend to get mired into projects at home, be they baking or doing things with the children and it's nice to build in that time to get away and force a mental escape.  I find this is what is most welcome about yoga in my life at this time.Rolling fondant shapes

I'm not sure if we'll stick with it beyond the next few months but it certainly is a welcome distraction at the present, mental and otherwise...AAAUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMM! 

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You Need a License to Bake?

Having a child puts life in an entirely different perspective.  I can hardly believe how hard I worked to get a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree and then with a full-time job I completed my doctoral degree.  They were goals that I set for myself and achieved and I was clear on what I wanted.  My job was exactly what I had long envisioned myself doing and I was happy living my merry little life.  Marriage didn't impact those goals; it just reinforced and helped support them.  

But having a child, well...it changed everything.  I stayed home and raised my baby, falling pregnant peppapigcookiesReeya's Peppa Pig Birthday Cookiesagain when he was just 13 months old.  The career I left behind was a mere memory but my children were my life. However, staying at home is not without its ups and downs…and for me, having a creative outlet is important.  I've always loved to entertain so I turned that into having fabulous parties for my kids.  You see those annoying over-the-top moms who put way too much energy into farmparty2Rishi's Barnyard Party...one of my earliest attempts at making the birthday cake, before I even knew fondant existed!hosting parties and planning their kid’s birthdays...that is me!  I even went so far as making my own cookie cutters if I couldn't find what I needed.  Well I waited a long time to have children (not of my own volition but we’ll leave that topic for another day!) and frankly I was excited to have some parties to plan!

I used to plan a Multicultural Fair when I worked at the University of Mary Washington, an event that attracted thousands of people.  I had to channel that energy somewhere whilst staying home, spending time with my kids in their formative years and that's when the baking started.  Ironically, I purchased their first couple of birthday cakes because…well, who has time to make cakes and raise kids, right?  Then I started making their cakes and I found that I enjoyed it so I made more cakes.  I got calls from friends who wanted cakes for their kids.  I learned new techniques by watching videos on the Internet and reading cake decorating books.  I made cakes for family friends and their kids...it was a fun hobby but it started getting expensive and very time-consuming.  Once I somewhat mastered cakes (I mean I have a TON more to learn but you understand what I mean) I started on cookies.  This was a brand-new territory for me but I think I'm in love...cookies are portable, forgiving and so incredibly versatile.  They have a longer shelf life and I am pretty sure cookies are going to be my obsession this year.  That brings me back to my original thought...having a goal.  Well this cake thing has kind of taken off. It's evolved...I now bake for the cafe across the street and I have two wedding cakes under my belt...along with numerous birthday cakes, cookies, cake pops and the list goes on....  

I applied for a license with the state a few months ago (just to check it off my list) and let me tell you,pantryThe Pantry it was an intimidating process.  Last Friday, a state inspector came to my house, she tested my cleaning products, observed me making butter cream frosting, checked my facilities, my pantry (which I love organizing so I was happy to have someone appreciate that effort!), my refrigerator, and she even took one of my cakes back to the lab for analysis.   

I am happy to report that I passed the inspection with flying colors!  The only problem is, I have no idea what my next step is.... I have no desire to open a bakery.  I love baking from home but I have been turning work down (mostly last minute requests) because I want to make sure I have enough time for my family.  Balancing the baking and my family was something my husband and I talked about before I went to India at the end of a week where I made no less than an order a day and some days even more.  

Baking is fun but it is also work (actually it sometimes feels like a third child…and you know how kids change your life!) and now I feel that I need a business plan.  I need to keep better data about my customers and my orders.  I'm setting up an Etsy store so that I can ship cookies at the click of a button...I'm doing a little of this and a little of that but I am irritated that I don't have an end goal in mind.  It's not like going for a PhD and knowing that you achieved that goal.  I am all over the place and I need to get it together and make a plan. I guess making a plan could serve as my next goal, but somehow that thought is not exciting whatsoever.  I may have to table my plan to make a plan and just go bake a batch of cookies…now that’s something I can get excited about!

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Flowers for Valentine's Day, What Do Yours Signify?

As an overworked mom (aren't we all!) the easiest and most immediate escape you can get can be found for free at your local library.  Having or making the time to read…well, I can’t help you with that!  I have always loved to read. As a mom, I've found that the best thing about being an avid reader is passing along that interest to my children.

IMG 8083Cupcake Bouquet

 

We have numerous library books checked out at any given time.  Some current favorites are:  Hey, rishibobbooksDiscovering the joy of reading Wake Up by Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Reeya, age three) and Dougal Dixon’s Amazing Dinosaurs: The Fiercest, the Tallest, the Toughest, the Smallest and SHARKS by Roger Priddy (Rishi, age five).  Also, they are both presently obsessed with their BOB Collections of books, which are beginning reading books.  Listening to them sound out words as they read may just be the sweetest sound in the world to me.  They both asked for books on their birthdays last year, and we spend time every day reading.  I love getting lost in a book even if it means laundry is piling up, kids are restless (well, usually I read it when they are napping or playing) and my husband keeps asking when I’ll be done reading.  He does not read for pleasure as I do (he said the TV is more entertaining than a book!) but he does love reading to the kids which is more important anyway. I mean he may be a lost cause in a literary sense, but the kids are far from that status. 

 

In this time of immediacy with the Internet, cell phones and television on demand...whatever you want, whenever you want it...it's rishiwithlibrarybooksPerusing his library booksa rarity to sit down, take a minute and just read a book.  I've written in the past about being in a book club (http://bit.ly/133rRgz).  I wish I could go more often; it's been months since I made it to a meeting but I try as much as possible to read the selected book. 

 

 

Not many are so stellar that I feel inspired by them, but there are a few.  Last year, my favorite book was The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I enjoyed it so much that it inspired my work in the bake shop (otherwise known as my kitchen!).  One of my most popular repeat orders is a cupcake rose bouquet...I made close to 50 of those last year.  After reading Diffenbaugh's book, I decided to get creative and make something a little more meaningful. 

I used my favorites: hydrangeas, sunflowers and gerbera daisies, along with roses and pansies! 

hydrangeaHydrangea cupcake
sunflowerSunflower cupcake
roseRose cupcake
pansyPansy flower cupcake
 

I love the bright colors and the symbolism each of these possesses:

hydrangea - heartfelt sincerity

daisy - purity, joy and innocence

pink rose - love, gratitude, appreciation

pansy – thought and remembrance

sunflower- loyalty and longevity

The result is meaningful, lovely and delicious.  You cannot get much better than that, especially with Valentine's Day approaching!

 

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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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Pouches' Community Corner

Adoptive parents in Fredericksburg now have a new partner on their journey to a healthy family. In 2016, Children’s Home Society was awarded a $125,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services to extend their Richmond area post-adoptive services to the Fredericksburg area.

ChildrensHomeSociety

Now CHS is looking to find adoptive families in the area who need support before they hit a crisis point. “It doesn’t matter which agency they adopted from, or when that happened,” said Buckheit. “We want to offer a lifetime of support to adoptive families in the Fredericksburg area, especially those who haven’t been aware of our services in the past.”

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The opinions and/or views expressed on this blog represent the thoughts of individual blogger and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine or any of its employees or staff.