Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Evan's Baptism Weekend

We had Evan's baptism this past weekend, which was long overdue. I think it's probably been a while since an 8-month-old baby has been baptized at our church. Usually it's done at a much younger age, but we'd been really lazy about arranging it. I was pretty concerned with how he would behave. There really wasn't a chance that he would just sleep through the whole thing like some younger babies do. I was worried that he would freak out when Father Jim tried to take him from us. Part of the baptism is to have the priest take the baby and walk with him down the aisle to the baptismal font, where the whole thing takes place. Since Evan isn't always so good with strangers, or with other people holding him, we kept our fingers crossed that he would stay calm.

Well, I am happy to report that not only did he stay calm, but he actually seemed to enjoy himself, and enjoy all the eyes that were on him. Even from the moment he got dressed in his little white christening suit, he had this air about him, like he knew that he was special, that it was his day. I know it sounds silly, but he acted excited and eager all the way to church, and all during the service, up until his baptism. Then, when the baptism itself was going on, he kept giving Father Jim these awed stares, like he was really listening to everything and taking it all in. It was pretty cute. He was on his best behavior the whole time, and even when it came time to have holy water poured on his head, he took it very well. He looked a little confused, but he didn't seem bothered by it at all.

When it was over, Father Jim held Evan up high over his head and introduced him to the whole congregation as its newest member. Then, Evan got a huge round of applause. It was so cool to watch, I have to admit. I know I'm biased, being his mom and everything, but I'd like to think that if I had been a mere spectator that day, I still would have thought it was a very beautiful, special christening. I couldn't have asked for everything to go better than it had.

Afterwards, Evan passed out almost immediately in the car. I actually had to drive around for a half hour or so in order for him to have a long enough nap before his party. I was glad I did that, because when we got back home, everybody was already there for lunch, and Evan was well-rested and very happy. He hammed it up for all his guests, and thrived under all the attention he received. I think he really blossomed this weekend, no longer a timid, wary baby when it comes to strangers. In fact, he's actually pretty social! Unfortunately, he came out of the whole experience with a bad cold. I think maybe he caught it when we took him to the children's hospital for some appointments last week. On top of that, he's about to cut some teeth, so it's making him extra miserable. I'm glad he was able to have this past weekend, though. I'm grateful for everyone who was able to come and be a part of his special day. Also important? We survived our first official party in our new (not so new anymore) house!

P.S. Yes, I realize all my pictures are on the left side of the page, and not centered or embedded properly in the text. I plead computer ignorance and exhaustion, and promise to do better next time. Or my husband will do better next time!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes

So I had my 30th birthday. I actually feel pretty good about it, even though my son keeps reminding me that I'm starting to look my age. Long ago are the days when I could pass for a college student. Now I get questions like this from Xander: "Mom, why are there so many lines around your eyes?" Or I get exclamations such as this: "Mom, I can see all your white hair!" Ah, kids. You just have to appreciate their pure honesty, and laugh because it is at your expense.

I had a hard time trying to decide what kind of cake to make myself. Originally, we debated the idea of having Andy make a cake for me, but we decided that it would be fun for me to get a break from the kids and just bake in a quiet house. So he took off with the boys and I holed up in the kitchen with my brand-new cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. After much consideration, and after finally asking Xander his opinion, I decided on Red Hot Velvet Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream. Because the cake itself is a three-layer cake loaded in between its layers with piles of buttercream frosting, I didn't want to make the whole entire cake for just myself, Xander, and Andy. I had the good fortune of finding an adaptation of this recipe on Recipezaar where it was turned into cupcakes for Oprah's magazine back around Valentine's Day. So I simply used this idea, cut the recipe in half, and ended up with 12 cupcakes. Perfect! Or at least, a perfect amount for our little family.

The cupcakes turned out really good. I was a little bummed because even though the recipe called for dark cocoa powder, I used regular because I was certain I had used all my dark for a different recipe. About a week after I baked the cupcakes, guess what we found in our cupboard? That's right, the dark cocoa powder. I'm sure it would have made the cakes taste richer and even yummier, but they were still good. Next time I will definitely use the dark. It was also fun for me to play around with using a piping bag to get the frosting onto the cupcakes. I think I've been inspired now to take a cake decorating class or something, because I know I'd have a blast. In the meantime, I'm going to have fun at home experimenting with the delicious-sounding recipes in my new cookbook.

Oh, by the way, in the picture of Xander, he is eating a cupcake, not losing a bloody brawl in a dark alley!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Breakfast (and Leftovers) For Dinner

I love eating breakfast for dinner. It's probably one of my favorite things to eat for dinner. So when Xander suggested having pancakes tomorrow night, I responded with, "How about tonight?!" So thanks to my son, we all had pancakes with bacon, sausage, and some seriously delicious hash browns.

Last week, we were given the gift of fresh vegetables from Andy's parents' garden, as well as a new herb garden. We've already made basil pesto, with basil fresh from the overgrown herbs, and Andy made an inspired pesto pasta frittata this morning with the leftovers. It was awesome. Anyway, we used some of the vegetables in the hash browns this evening, and the result was a really scrumptious hash brown concoction. The fresh veggies liven up the frozen hash browns, and gives them a whole flavor makeover. Plus, cooking everything in the leftover bacon fat doesn't hurt either!

But what I really want to talk about is the pancakes. Oh, the pancakes. I love pancakes to begin with, and I am hardly discriminatory. However, these pancakes were truly something special. I don't know what it was about them. Maybe it was the fact that it has been quite a while since I've made pancakes from scratch. Bisquick pancakes are great, don't get me wrong, but there's no real substitute for pancakes from scratch. They're just so much lighter, and moister, and more flavorful. I found the recipe for them on Recipezaar, my favorite recipe website. There are 217 reviews on this particular recipe, and almost all of them give these pancakes five stars out of a possible five. They are seriously, seriously delicious. Seriously. Here is the recipe, with my slight modifications.

Pete's Scratch Pancakes
adapted from Recipezaar
makes about 16-20 pancakes

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar (I used 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk (I used 2%)
2 eggs, beaten in a separate bowl before adding to other ingredients
1/4 cup butter, cooled slightly (I used Smart Balance 50/50 Blend)

Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and milk, then whisk in the beaten eggs.
Slowly whisk in the flour, making sure not to overmix.
Let batter sit for at least 10 minutes before forming pancakes.
Drop 1/4 cup-sized batter circles onto a greased griddle, flip once bubbles start to form, then cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side, checking to make sure they do not become overly brown.
Serve with your toppings of choice, and enjoy!