Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What a Great Grandma!

Nathan got a special surprise in the mail today! A birthday present from his great grandmother on James’s Dad’s side.

We had gone to see Caroline in Florida with Jim and Donna (James’s Dad and Stepmom) in 2007 when Nathan was about a year and a half old.

She decided she wanted to be called Grandma Great - and I love that! She is such a fun lady and so young at heart and healthy. She swims and has always eaten healthy. James says all the Schaklee products have well preserved her! :-) But she’s just really fun, has a great Milwakee accent and lots of spunk! I wish she and Jim lived closer because they are just fun people to be around.

We were surprised on Saturday to receive a call from Grandma Great to wish Nathan Happy Birthday during his party! That she remembered and called impressed me a lot but she also told Nathan that a package was in the mail for him! Wow.

Well we got home yesterday to find a large box and as soon as Nathan saw it, he was all about opening it.

At a very early age he realized that boxes in the mail bring fun things so they should be opened immediately!

The first thing we found was a really great card with a recorded message from Grandma Great to Nathan and then it played the “Itsy Bitsy Spider”! Very cool. Nathan loved the card and laughed when he heard Grandma Great’s voice. Then he got really excited when the song started and he said “that’s my favorite song” (I’m sure because it is about a spider).

Then he dug into the box to find Dinosaur Eggs that he can open and find dino bones. Each egg comes with a tool to break it apart and a little brush to clear away the dust - just like a real paleontologist!

It was all we could do to get him to wait until after dinner to dig into one of the eggs!

He was so excited and she sent all 6! So he will get to have one of each of the dinos and best of all, one was his very favorite dinosaur - the Parasaurolophus. That’s the one he decided to do first!

What a cool gift! And Nathan was really into it too.

He was a very serious digger and although James held the egg to keep it steady, Nathan really did most of the work.

I didn’t expect the egg to be so hard, but it was pretty solid. I was so proud of Nathan because he worked hard and got all the bones out.

Daddy had to assemble them and we will need to glue them together so we don’t lose any small parts but it was a really fun experience and Nathan loved it!

Unfortunately we only had time to do one last night, but he will have lots of fun working at finding more bones.

Way to go Grandma Great!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nathan’s Erupting Volcano Cake!

Well, the party was a great success and so much fun! Wish you could have been there!!

I know everyone is wondering how the cake turned out, so here’s a description with photos of what we did (in case you want to try it too) and a video clip of the eruption!

When Nathan first decided he wanted a dino party with a volcano cake, I thought it would be pretty easy to make a cake look like a volcano, use chocolate and red icing and maybe put a little dry ice in a glass in the center for smoke. Sounds good! Well, a five minute search on the internet had me considering not just smoke but a marshmellow creamy erupting cake! It was too intriguing to not try out at least.

So we started with the cake - chocolate of course. Nathan helped with the mixing and tasting:

We baked the cake in a bunt pan with about 2 cups of the batter baked in a small round metal bowl. I froze it to make cutting the cake easier. Then I decided to go off on my own a little and add a “lava” center. Who wants just plain chocolate cake? So I mixed whipped cream with cherry pie filling and we used that to hold the cake together until I could freeze it again!

I split the bunt cake portion to add filling, then split and cut in half the smaller round cake. I had a tall narrow glass that perfectly fit the bunt hole so I used that to cut the smaller pieces to fit around the top of the cake to make it more mountain-like. I could have made it a little less rounded and more mountain-like if I’d had some extra cake to work with, but this was looking pretty good.

After the cake was really frozen, Nathan and I iced it and stuck it back in the freezer.

Then the night before the party James and I added icing to the bottom of the pan and made grass from coconut and green food dye. I found a place online selling small dino candies that we added to the cake for color.

The recipe for the lava was really simple - mix 2 jars of 7 oz marshmellow cream and 1/4 cup of water in a pan over low heat and add red food coloring. Then you just pour it into your glass, add several pieces of dry ice and about 1/4 - 1/2 cup hot water to get it bubbling!

I made and tested the lava on Friday afternoon and it worked great! I also found that I love dry ice. It is very fun to play with but be careful not to touch it. Also, buy it the day you want to use it! By Saturday morning the bag I bought was gone and James had to go get more. (It disappeared in the freezer over night but luckily our local Kroger sells it!) Trying to make Saturday a little easier, I refrigerated the extra lava and just reheated it in the microwave when we were ready to serve the cake. Next time I would just make it fresh because I didn’t save myself any time. I also ended up having a few glitches with the lava during the actual event, so things were not perfect but after a bit of running around and adding hot water, we finally had lava oozing and bubbling all over the cake!

Nathan was thrilled, everyone was impressed and we had enough dry ice left over to have billowing smoke the whole time we ate cake! Here’s the video clip - listen for Evan who says “bubbles” several times, I think he was impressed with the cake too!

Let me know if the video doesn’t play right - I’ve never done video on the web before so I am hoping it will look good!

Here’s some photos of the decorations and Nathan’s gifts.

Here's the party table all decorated for Nathan's big day:

Nathan loved his giant T-Rex balloon!

And even Evan got a fun dino balloon:

Grandma & Grandpa Beebe arrive for the party:

Nathan couldn't wait to open presents! He got a cool batting game from Grandma and Grandpa Vandever:

Lego Dinos from Mom, Dad and Evan:

A cool transformer from Grandma & Grandpa Beebe:

And a Pixar Cars truck from Grandma and Grandpa Beebe:

Evan was very excited about the Cars truck and we all helped Nathan change his transformer jet plane to a robot and back again!

Grandma Beebe played Legos with Nathan and Evan:

And we all had a great time with Nathan!

While I put Evan down for a nap, Nathan, Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa Vandever went outside for batting practice:

It felt pretty good at the end of the day to hear that this was the “Best Birthday Ever!”