Lessons for Momma in the wake of the Boston tragedy

In light of the events of the week I have fed my addiction for the 24 hour news cycle (much to my husbands dismay). Yet it somehow pulled me from my self-imposed depression of yet another relocation with a toddler.  This of course is a blog for another day and so insignificant comparatively.  I am a military brat and liberally conservative by nature. Of course I have my personal opinion of the individuals involved in the Boston tragedy. But my reaction as a daughter who's father was in the Pentagon on 9/11 was surpassed by a strong sense of needing to learn something from this for my child.  I am first and foremost his momma.  

In my need for clarity I have overdosed on commentary and newspaper articles about the Boston tragedy which has forced me to a realization beyond the current developmental stage of my little lovebug.   As parents our job is so vitally important to ensure our children know themselves and are proud of who we are as individuals and where we come from. With a child who's last name know one can pronounce, who speaks one language to his Momma and another to his Papa he will experience life differently than even I did.  I must teach him pride in who he is no matter what the circumstance.  It doesn't matter if he never meets people who could lead him down a path of destruction.  I want him to have the skills to live fully.  I know my child is only 20 months old.  I have the luxury of this opinion as we have not yet reached the truly hard part of making this happen.  But this time allows me an unforeseen opportunity.  

I heard family members and analysts alike give their opinions on how difficult it was for these brothers to assimilate to the American culture forcing them to radicalize. It quickly brought my thoughts to someone I once knew.  A beautiful girl who lost her parents and entire family but two brothers in the  Chechen War.  She was 17. I met her a mere seven days after she arrived in the states as a refugee.  All who knew her witnessed how utterly devastating life became for her. Her story was tragic. Yet despite of her horror she was beautiful and extraordinary in every way. On the other hand living abroad I can understand the assimilation issue. But the momma in me feels the issue is much more significant than assimilation. I heard someone say on one of the news shows something along the lines of ... 'As a country America is one of the best examples of embracing other cultures specifically those of Arab and Muslim decent.  We need to remember how hard we have worked as individuals to make this happen.' Living in the UK and traveling throughout Europe this statement really hit home for me personally.  It is true. The drastic division is so apparent it is almost shocking. As an American without seeing it myself I would have never imagined people could live in such a way.  Americans are special this way in my opinion. I want my child to know and feel this pride.  

I believe our generation raises children differently.  We try very hard to make sure our children see people as people. We appreciate differences in others and want this diversity to allow our children the opportunity of interacting with others who are different-whether it be religion, heritage or even something as simple as the foods we eat.  It's such a monumental yet simple task for me as a parent to help my child understand why we are different from our friends and peers. Things as simple as why we do not get happy meals though we are not vegetarians.  Yet we drink rice milk because after reading "Skinny Bitch" I could never force down another glass of dairy milk without thinking of every USDA report I read and the poor little cows. Why every night we pray to God because we believe faith and acceptance of Him is a top priority. Why we eat at a table in a chair not roaming around the house or restaurant. We are who we are by choice and show who we are by our actions.  While these do not compare to extremism of some individuals this is how we live in our home.  I want my child to know to the core of who he is, to be an individual and find his strength and happiness there. 

Now before I offend anyone who may feel I am trivializing the issue I am not.  I also don't kid myself-my own family thinks I'm insane with a lot of the things I do as a parent.  But just as I was raised to stand strong in my beliefs I am not hindered from forging ahead as I please... with confidence learned the hard way.

I do not understand how a person could become someone so disillusioned they could make a bomb full of nails and set it off in a crowd of people.  Or even walk into a school full of children and shoot them.  My solution and hope these things stop occurring is as a parent to know my responsibility.  Teach my child respect of himself and others.    He must feel these things with such conviction they are part of his inherent nature.  

Life is precious.  Strength is invaluable. Confidence is essential.  Love and respect of all are the tools to living and surviving this sometimes harsh world.  As a parent I pray I am given the blessings of teaching this to my sweet little boy. 

My thoughts and prayers are with Boston and the families living through this unimaginable tragedy.

The best chocolate cake you'll ever make. No joke.

 I LOVE cake.
Love it. Want to marry it. Would eat it every single day if I could. Chocolate cake to be specific, but really, any old cake will do. I am Miranda in Sex and the City when she throws away her cake to stop eating it, only to end up eating it out of the trash. Yes, it's that bad.

While at a friend's house one day, we were jonesing for cake, but there was nary a mix in sight. I found a recipe for a chocolate cake that we JUST had all of the ingredients for, and ended up with the best chocolate cake I'd ever made. It's not fancy, it's simple, and super moist. Since then, I've tweaked it a bit, and make it for most celebrations. After getting babies down at night, I've been known to sit down with the whole cake and a fork. Who needs a plate?

Friends have been asking for the recipe, so I thought I'd share!

2 cups white sugar
1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1   1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional) 
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I use unsweetened Rice milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour your favorite pan, or line your cupcake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. You can also just mix by hand, but mix well... 
  3. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. 20 to 25 for cupcakes.
  5. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
I'm far too lazy for mixing dry ingredients in a separate bowl, so throw it all together in one, just add the boiling water LAST.
Now get ready, your friends are going to be asking YOU for the recipe! 
These also make the most amazing cake pops. Ever. 
Feel free to bring me a piece, it IS my favorite...
xo Melanie

It's a high five for Bird!

My first born, my baby bird, has just turned 5! WTH
This year, as Christmas decorating, crafts, and festivities came to a close, I turned my attention to the looming birthday. It seemed impossible to me, yet it really was so, and as I cannot convince him to STOP growing, we needed to have a party. I suggested a Superhero party where everyone could make their own capes to take home as their favor. One mention of crafts, and he was in! (he IS mine, after alll) I reserved an amazing park, and started dreaming. Here are some images.
Dessert table just waiting for the cake...
I had this "engineer print" done at Staples for under $4! Word!
The pennant banner, I made by cutting comic books (ordered from ebay) into triangles and sewing them together with a pre-folded blanket binding. Easy and one of a kind!
I wanted to avoid any of the commercial superheroes, opting for a generic, kind of old school "super" decor. The Missoni -like tablecloth fabric reminded me of the classic POW! BAM! artwork. Multi-colored lanterns, balloons, and a rainbow "5" pinata rounded out the scheme. I did want to make our own pinata, but we just ran out of time, so we had one delivered to our door by the kind people at Party City. (Learning to let go...)
Cape Making!
Veggie Sliders
                      I really was quite in love with my sprinkle cake. It was chocolate of course...
Have you made Marshmallow pops yet?? Soooo simple, but put on a stick and dipped in sprinkles, instant fancy party. I presented them poked into blocks of floral foam from the dollar store wrapped up in coordinating stripey wrapping paper!
I peeled the labels off of water bottles and popped on some chevron duct tape that I had in the craft closet . Finally a use for it!

I set up games out on the lawn for any kiddos who felt like playing. A 3 legged race and the egg and spoon are classics!
We set up a photo op with a cloud paper background and a tripod for parents to simply shoot and click. I photo-shopped them after!
The Thank you card...

And he's 5. Oy.
xo Melanie


THE cake to take to, or serve at your next party!

 I was invited to an egg hunt this weekend, and I wanted to bring something yummy. Instead of my usual chocolate something or other, I opted for my other go to favorite:

The Lemon, Rosemary, Olive Oil cake.

I am fortunate to have a lemon tree in my backyard here in beautiful SoCal, so I am always on the lookout for lemon recipes. This one is sunny and delicious, and Vegan to boot!
I want to share the recipe with you, so YOU can be a rockstar when you bring this beauty to your next gathering. 
3 cups plain flour
3 tbsp fresh rosemary -whizzed up in a grinder or chopped super fine
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup rice milk
2 tsp grated lemon zest, chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup confectioners/powdered sugar
@ 2 tbsp lemon juice, until soupy.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, including the rosemary. Pour in the olive oil and rice milk and beat into the dry ingredients. Add the canola oil and stir until it's thoroughly mixed. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix those in too. You can do it with out without an electric mixer.
Grease your cake pan with some cooking spray or oil, and pour in the batter (I use a spring form pan). For extra easy removal, I put in a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom. It's thick, so bake for 35-40 minutes or until it's browned on top. Stick a knife or toothpick in and when it comes out clean, it's done!

For the icing, add lemon juice a little bit at a time to your powdered sugar until its shiny, smooth, and thinly glaze-like. 
And that's that! It's one of the tastiest cakes I make, and coming from someone who doesn't waste their time if it isn't chocolate, that's saying something!
*It is also really good for breakfast. 
What? you don't eat cake for breakfast??
Bon appetite! Let me know how YOURS comes out. 
Drop us a line or pop us a photo, we'd love to see it!
xo Melanie