two buck Katy, take two

Remember how I wrote in my original "two buck Katy" post that I was already thinking of a cupcake redux whereby I would attempt the white chocolate buttercream frosting used in the inspiration cake?  Well, we were invited to an Easter egg hunt yesterday so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to bake two dozen cupcakes and manage to only eat a couple!  This time I tried a Betty Crocker devil's food chocolate cake mix for the cupcake base (I'm still not 100% satisfied...I just may have to do this a third time and make the whole thing from scratch), thawed the leftover chocolate/caramel filling I'd stored in the freezer, and whipped up a batch of this white chocolate buttercream frosting recipe.

I used a melon baller to scoop a little bit of cupcake from the top, filled the crater with the chocolate/caramel filling, and then topped each with a generous helping of the white chocolate buttercream frosting.

Feeling like my frosted tops resembled pastel green piles of poo, I plopped a bunny rabbit marshmallow in the center of each.

It's the last thing this sugar bomb needs - more sugar! - but I think it really ties them together, don't you?

Oh, and in case you're wondering what I did with those cupcake balls...

Cupcake appetizers!


Fresh from the Makery: Eli's Bedtime

Just about three weeks ago (!) I started an all-felt reward/punishment "chart" for Elias's increasingly tedious bedtime routine. Actually, who am I kidding? It's never been an easy feat getting this kid to sleep!  But every once in awhile things get so desperate, even for us, that it becomes intervention time around here (craftervention?).  To give you a little background info, here's a quote from my other blog:
In other news, I think it's finally time for some sort of visual reward and punishment system for the bedtime routine that has once again gotten a little out of control.  Like a typical two year old, Elias stalls every step of the way, whether it's a bath night or not, from brushing his teeth, to putting on his pj's, even to the point of stopping in the middle of his fourth (yes, fourth) and final book in an attempt to essentially get a fifth one out of us.  Once we finally wrestle him into bed, he's allowed three return visits, which has basically turned into Neal granting three of a number of requests, one after another, including face massage, back rub, belly rub, and sitting on the chair in his room while he unwinds.  We (and by we I mean Neal, since Mama has no patience for these kinds of shenanigans and Elias knows it) do it because it works.  At the end of the day, an extended bedtime routine with ridiculous toddler requests is better than the post-bedtime-routine screaming that was happening pretty regularly a few months ago.  But kids are like computer hackers.  As soon as the authorities have figured out a way to secure information, the hackers have come up with a new way to hack into your system.  As soon as we feel like we've successfully dealt with the toddler shenanigans du jour, Elias pulls something new out of his sleeve and we have to go back to the drawing board.  Such is parenthood, I guess.
When inspiration struck, after an evening brainstorming session with Neal, I did all the planning and cutting and layout in one night, but things have slowed down considerably since then and it's taken me this long to finally finish, install, and photograph the chart. I kept joking that by the time I finished the project Elias would have outgrown this difficult bedtime phase. Such, unfortunately, is not the case, so I'm excited to put the chart to use this evening. In the meantime, how 'bout we take a closer look? First, the chart in situ if you will:

I had to rearrange the letters a little so bedtime is sort of awkwardly broken up and displayed vertically, but, you know, Elias can't read yet so I focused on the visuals. The top portion describes an ideal bedtime routine, moving effortlessly from brushing teeth to washing hands (or a bubble bath, depending on the night) to putting on pajamas, the sun "totally setting", as Elias likes to say now that the sun is, well, totally setting during bedtime.  I drew very general visual inspiration from a book I used to read to Elias every night, before he could express an interest in one book over another: Fuzzy Bear's Bedtime.

If he does all these things well and without protest he gets to pick out four books to read.  I'm not sure how we got up to four books, but I think the idea now is that he'll get one per action completed plus a bonus book if he's extra good.  He can use the little bookmarks to pick his books in advance, which will hopefully help with the problem we've had of changing course halfway through book number four.

At any time during the bedtime routine, a book can be taken away and put in the recycling bin.

After books, assuming he's done well and eagerly climbed into bed immediately after, he's allowed three "call-backs" (see "ridiculous toddler requests" above).

The three stars represent the three call-backs and while they stick to the felt backing pretty well, they're the only pieces not sewn on to allow them to be removed.  Like the books, Elias will lose call-backs if he stalls or is otherwise unruly during storytime.

A star is removed, obviously, after each call-back request.  The only thing we haven't quite figured out is some sort of next-morning reward for any or, hopefully, one day, all of the stars remaining since that is, ultimately, the point of this whole thing: not only to make the bedtime routine a bit briefer and more enjoyable for everyone but to eliminate these post-bedtime requests.  And who knows how the introduction of a "big boy bed" in the next couple of months will affect all of this...

Anyway, on a crafty level, I enjoyed this project a lot but um, no, I most certainly will not be putting this kind of thing up for sale in my Etsy shop.  It amazes me that you can buy something comparable (for chores and such, not bedtime, which is probably a bit more customized to the kid) but machine-made for so little.  But then, that's kinda why the Industrial Revolution came about, now, isn't it? D'oh!


two buck Katy

Calla lilies, the traditional 6th wedding anniversary flowers,
started blooming in our yard a few weeks ago, no thanks to us. Sweet, huh?
I'm not sure why we didn't think to do this last year, since we were back in Oakland for our fifth year as married folks, but for our wedding anniversary this year, we decided to visit a few of the key locations of our wedding day six years ago, toddler in tow.

The ceremony took place right under this great, big oak tree.

First we frolicked around Joaquin Miller Park a bit, beginning with a visit to the Community Center before proceeding down the cascades area to the small playground just off Joaquin Miller Road.

I have to admit I was a little saddened by the state of the facilities and park.  Perhaps it's the time of year, as Neal suggested, warming up as it has rather suddenly after weeks of unprecedented rain.  Maybe things are only temporarily overgrown. Either way, the lovely wrap-around deck could definitely use a fresh coat of paint.

Before enjoying an early dinner at Cancun Taqueria in Berkeley (I can't believe they only get 3 1/2 stars!), who provided the yummy food for our wedding reception, we attempted to make a cake inspired by the delicious Erica Torte wedding cake we got from Katrina Rozelle.  Since we're on a limited budget, we agreed that spending thirty bucks on a six inch round was a little unreasonable.  Nothing quite compares but using cake and frosting mixes from Trader Joe's, we came up with a pretty tasty approximation. The KR website is lovely but pointless, with no descriptions of their cakes, cookies, no pricing info, nada.  Leave it to a Yelper to provide me with a description of the Erica Torte to jog my memory:
"Sublimely creamy milk chocolate caramel truffle filling layered between moist devil's food cake, finished in white chocolate buttercream and adorned with delicate piping work."
We used chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream frosting mixes (I'm already thinking about a redux via cupcakes whereby I will attempt a white chocolate buttercream frosting...oh yes, I will).

Yeah, okay, not nearly as pretty and no delicate chocolate piping but tasty.
For the filling we combined a jar of TJ's fleur de sel caramel sauce with a box of chocolate frosting mix. Yum.

Best part of the experiment, if I do say so myself. Nowhere near as good as the real thing but it'll do for now. We aspire to a day when we can afford cakes from Katrina Rozelle whenever we damn please.

Nom nom nom.
Oh, and by the way, while I don't know that I'd recommend Cancun Taqueria for catering an event such as a wedding, their food is so freakin' good. Hungry toddler approved as well.