Monday, October 24, 2016

A Super Nerdy Baby Shower!

My friend J is due to have a baby in November, so I hosted a baby shower for her at our house earlier this month.  J is a chemistry professor, and I'm a geologist, and we're both giant nerds, with a bunch of nerdy friends.  J is going to be having a beautiful baby girl, but since neither of us are girly-girls, I wanted to avoid the pink-plosion and keep things more fun and less gender-specific. And thus, the Super-Nerdy-Baby-Shower was born.
Mini Reese's "pies", Nerds in test tubes, "Sucrose" Candy, and a print of this book that doesn't exist but totally should, which went home with the mom-to-be.

I wanted to encompass a wide array of nerdy themes, because we are all-inclusive nerds.  It doesn't matter your particular brand of nerd--you are welcome here.  Star Wars, Trekkies, scientists, comic book hoarders, book lovers, and gamers unite!  ...but in a relatively laid-back, low-maintenance kind of way, because I'm still in the process of moving, and planning my own son's birthday party, on top of work and all that jazz.  Life is crazy, yo.  So let's have a fun gathering and play some fun games and eat some fun food that's got a nerdy spin to it.  

DECORATIONS:
I bought a large blank banner to create a high chair decoration for Lil' Man's birthday party, and saved the rest of it for this party.  After much ponderance of the periodic table of elements, I was able to spell a word that was *mostly* composed of periodic elements (alphabetic order cheat sheet if you need it).
New element #110: Gr ..."Growinapersonium"?


Then I borrowed a few labels from my office to give the house a touch of a "laboratory" feel.


In the event my boss reads this post--yes, I returned all of the labels unharmed for use on actual projects.

FOOD:
I probably had the most fun with this element.  There were so many great ideas out there, it was really hard to whittle things down. But ultimately, I went with a lot of pre-made foods, because I knew I was going to be limited on time.  Then I added fun nerdy themes to those food trays.


Cake truffles from AmyCakes in a nod to Star Trek.


Technically, it was a 5 Leia dip, but whatevs.  Also, pita chips for "KRUNCH!", DNA pasta helixes, and Element #111: Ch (cheese).


Lemon Oreo "Coins" and Super Star suckers.  Templates for the cubes here.
The "POP" station, and some "PUNCH" (ginger ale, orange juice, Orange Crush, and pomegranate juice). Free printables for comic book word bubbles here


Since J is of Jewish heritage, I also decided to make hamentashen cookies.  Not inherently "nerdy", but I thought it would be cool to throw some culture up in this party, too. I was a little nervous about making this recipe, since it's not my heritage, but the mom-to-be told me they turned out great, so apparently this Gentile can cook some decent cookies (with the help of a recipe provided by the mom-to-be).  (Note: recipe at the bottom of this post.)

GAMES:
I've been to a lot of baby showers in my day.  And I've played a lot of baby shower games.  Most of which were either: 
a) gross ("Guess This Melted Candy Bar in a Diaper" or "Taste this Baby Food", for example), 
b) involved way too much physical activity ("Chug this Beverage from a Baby Bottle", "Lick This Ice Cube & Yell 'My Water Broke'", "Toilet Paper Diaper Race", etc.), or 
c) were potentially insulting to the mom-to-be (i.e. the "Guess Mom's Waist Circumference" game, which seems totally inappropriate in ANY situation, let alone around an uncomfortable, hormonal woman).  

We'll have none of that, thank you very much. Rather, how about a skill that might actually *help* the mom-to-be, and that other moms at a baby shower might have some experience with?  Like...say...
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: BABY EDITION!
I'll say right now: I totally stole this idea of Pinterest.  But come on--Price Is Right has a good ol' nostalgic feel--who hasn't stayed home sick from school and yelled "ONE DOLLAR!!!" at their TV screen?  The mom-to-be and all the other attendees get to try to assign the prices to each baby-related item.  The guest who gets the most right wins a door prize, and the mom-to-be gets...A NEW CAR!!!  Okay, no.  But she does get to keep ALL of the items on the table.  So there's that!


And of course, because J is one of my friends from our old Wednesday night trivia team (TheBomb.com), a round of baby-related trivia seems appropriate.

I also appropriated baby photos from each of the guests who attended ahead of time, and put together a "guess who's who" game.
Here's a hint---this one is me.

If you're interested in throwing a similar party, I got all of my fonts from FontSpace.com (In Particular: Star Jedi, Montalban, Trek Arrowcaps, Chemistry, BPMolecules, and Super Plumber Brothers.)

Now...I promised you a recipe, didn't I?

(makes about 2 dozen)

Ingredients:
2/3 cup margarine (or light butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp orange juice (no pulp)
1.25 cups white flour
1.25 cups wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
jam for filling (I used raspberry jam since it was the mom-to-be's favorite, but you could do just about anything)

Directions:
Combine the butter and sugar, then add the egg & orange juice and mix well.  Mix in the baking powder & cinnamon.  Now start adding in the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, alternating between the white and wheat. 

Refrigerate for about an hour, or up to overnight.  When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350F.  Then roll out on a well floured surface and cut into 3-4 inch circles (I used a small glass).  Place the circles on a greased or silpat-ted cookie sheet.  

Place a small dollop (about a teaspoon) of jam in the middle, and then fold into a triangle, using a "pinwheel" type pattern (think of folding a box so that the flaps keep the top shut rather than having to tape it), so that one end of the flap is on top of the previous, but the other end of the flap is tucked under the next flap.  Then pinch the corners a bit so there's a good seal.  This will help keep the cookies from opening up while baking so the filling doesn't leak out.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, so that the cookies are nice & golden, but before the filling bubbles out.


Monday, October 17, 2016

What I've Been Cooking Lately

Honestly...I haven't been cooking that much. At least, not trying out new recipes, since we bought the new house.  We've had pizza over the last few weeks more than I care to admit.  I have been able to find time to test out a few new recipes over the last few months---I just haven't had time to blog about them individually.  So here I'll share my results, along with a link to the original recipe I used, and then note any changes I made.

This is probably one of the most delicious things I've made myself in a LONG time.  And it was pretty darn easy to make.  One day, when I have free time again, I WILL be making more of this.  No tinkering with the recipe--original turned out great. I was nervous about using raw egg in a sauce but it was totally amazing.

I tinkered with this one a lot, but still really liked the results.  The original recipe here is vegan, but we used regular milk. I didn't have tahini or almond butter, so I used peanut butter, and tossed in some grated parmesan to help thicken the sauce.  I also added a few dashes of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce for some heat and smokiness.  Finally, we added smoked sausage for protein.
LOVE my veggie spiralizer.

Saw the Video for this on my Facebook feed and thought a) that looks easy, and b) I've got a ton of basil & tomatoes to use up.  It was very easy, and delicious.

We made these while doing a one week Daniel Fast, and they were super tasty.  I will probably make them again, but use egg as a binder, since they were kind of crumbly (couldn't use egg during the Fast).  We definitely had to let them cook longer than what the recipe calls for to get them crusty enough on one side so that they could be flipped without falling apart (I'd say 4-6 minutes per side, rather than 2 minutes, but if you use egg as a binder that might change the cook time.  Just make one first as a tester to figure out the times, and then fill your pan with patties after that.)
Served with a side of garlic green beans.

French Onion Soup
This was to satisfy a craving, and can only *sorta* qualify as semi-homemade.  I had some canned French Onion soup, but wanted to step it up, so I sauteed some fresh onions first to caramelize them, then added the canned soup and brought it to a boil.  Then I preheated my broiler, and set two ramekins on a cookie sheet.  I cracked open a raw egg into each of the ramekins (a weird trick one of my Louisiana buddies taught me), added a little pepper, and then gently ladled the hot soup over the top of the egg (the heat from the soup & broiler will cook the eggs).  
Next, I placed a 1 inch slice of french bread onto the top of the soup, and topped with 2 slices of Swiss cheese.  Broiled just until the cheese was melted, and then, devour.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: ONE YEAR!!!!

HOLY CRAP.  We survived.  We kept a small human alive for TWELVE MONTHS.
Not only that, but I'm relatively sure that we haven't physically or emotionally damaged him (yet).
This kiddo, all 23.5 pounds of him, is 90% of the time a happy, smiley, laughing little goober, who loves to cruise around furniture, crawl all over the house, and laugh mischievously when he manages to get into something he's not supposed to have (and then cry when we take it away).
90% of the time, he can sleep through the night.
90% of the time, he can eat whatever table food we're eating.
Noodle dishes are his fave.

NEW STUFF:
Blowing raspberries.  It's hilarious.  And he does it A LOT, because we laugh.  We try to discourage it at meal time so he's not blowing food at us, but just about any other time, it just makes me giggle.

New Car Seats:  We donated his infant carrier to a friend who's due in November, so we had to bust out the big boy car seats.  We were given one for the Hub's car (Safety 1st Complete Air), and bought one for my car (Graco MySize 65).  Personally, I like mine WAY better.  The Safety 1st is pretty basic, and doesn't recline for rear-facing--so if your seats aren't angled well, you have to use a rolled up towel under the base to get it to recline enough. It's also super-tall, so in a recline, you have to keep the seat in front of it scooted WAY forward to fit (and that's in a Jeep Cherokee).  The Graco also features a "rapid remove" cover for easy cleaning...which would have been really handy when Lil' Man projectile vomited all over the Safety 1st seat last week (which does NOT have a "rapid remove" ANYTHING and took about 15 minutes to disassemble to get the cover off of for cleaning).

Shoes:
When he moves into the 1 Year Room at day care, they start going outside for play, and to the gym, so they have to have shoes.  We NEVER bothered with shoes before that (I could say it was because we wanted his feet to develop properly, yada yada, but it's really because I'm lazy.  He barely keeps socks on--why bother with shoes?)  Thankfully, a friend loaned us a huge bag of shoes so now he has quite the assortment.
So matchy-matchy!

1st Birthday Party:
This of course means we survived planning and executing our first kid's birthday party!  Our friend B had her daughter the same day as us, so we decided it might be fun to have a dual party for them.  B found an indoor play place that would be able to keep the kiddos entertained, and her sister made cakes for both kids (and cupcakes for the adults and guests).  No big blowout event--the little ones loved the Under 18 Month play area, and the older kids loved the bigger play equipment.  
The birthday babes.

And I managed to NOT go Pinterest crazy:  Only bought him a special onesie, and made the banner for his high chair.  
(Used a blank banner from Hobby Lobby, and then just printed out the ball and letters on regular paper.  Got a bag of mixed ribbon and tied to the banner for extra "pop". Used double-sided tape to adhere to the high chair...with mixed results.)

Everything went pretty well--aside from both kids being kind of scared of their giant cakes.
"You're saying...this whole thing is for ME?"
Too. Much. Cake, MOM!!!
With a cupcake instead.  Much more his speed.

UPCOMING CHALLENGES:
  • We haven't started him on whole milk yet...let alone cold milk. This lil' turkey still likes his formula nice and warm.  And we still need to fully transition to a sippy cup and get rid of the bottles.  
  • Paci's have not been a big issue so far...at home, he only gets them at bed time or during naps, and we keep one in his car seat but he usually just plays with it.  But theoretically, we're supposed to wean him off of those soon.
  • Same goes for the bedtime bottle.  
  • Moving into the new house.  Renovations have been a big challenge--not that we have a ton of stuff to do to the new house to get it ready, but the list we have is enough--especially when we both work full time, and have to pick up the kiddo from day care by 6.  We usually leave work around 4:30p, get to the new house, work for about an hour, and then have to leave to go pick him up.  Sometimes one of us will stay at the house and continue working, while the other picks him up and then goes home to start dinner.  Weekends are pretty well full of more work at the house, but Lil' Man is kinda clingy, or into everything, so we can't let him roam free upstairs while we work (since it's a disaster right now).  Sometimes we can get a grandparent or friend to come over and play with him for a few hours while we work.  

Disaster zone or living room?  (The exersaucer will keep him contained/entertained for about 15 minutes, tops, if we HAVE to have him upstairs.  Downstairs we have a couch, pack n play, and a wide array of toys to play with while someone is working upstairs.)
  • Walking/Talking: While he loves to cruise holding on to furniture, and will let go sometimes to free-stand, he's not walking yet.  And while he loves to babble/jabber, no real "first" word yet.  He does say "mama" "dada" but they're not always directed at us.
  • More teeth:  Ahead of schedule as usual, his upper first molars are starting to come in.  So we've got some fussy days & nights ahead of us.  Guess it's time to bust out the teething rings again!