26 May 2008

Memorial Day in D.C.

What a lovely day. We went next door for dinner last night and stayed up late, so we slept in today! We finally got into Washington around lunchtime, so we wandered down to the Sculpture Garden for a picnic lunch and listened to the music festival nearby. Gabriel loooooved the ducks and the fountains, and he was super excited that we let him put his feet in the water. It absolutely tortured him that he couldn't get all the way in for a little swim, but a bit of yogurt and dancing distracted him enough to keep him warm and dry!

We then headed over to the National Air and Space Museum. We thought that a bunch of huge pieces of metal would totally bore Gabriel to death, but he was fascinated! He couldn't get enough of the planes and other aircraft. He pointed, yelled, sang, jumped (kind-of... his feet don't quite come off the ground yet), and danced around all the planes. Maybe he'll be a pilot? Or a plane fixer-upper? I guess we need to invest in a model airplane!

All during this time, the parade was forming up, practicing, and marching by. Gabriel especially liked the horses and drums, but any music is fine by him. Let me put it this way: we did a lot of dancing in public today!

After some museum-ing, we met up with a friend from high school (Brenda) for a nice, relaxing visit and Spanish food. Gabriel loved playing peek-a-boo, and we were very glad Brenda was patient: Gabriel was quite fussy and tired by the end of a long, fun day!

As for last night, it was great! Our neighbor had her family over and invited us to join the party. Gabriel was the center of attention, and he knew it. It was like having a little celebrity sitting in my lap! He danced, pointed out body parts, waved, smelled flowers and demanded others smell flowers, clapped, and pointed to his heart's content. By the end of the night, G had eaten a bit of everything (including some of a brownie, a pill bug, and a bit of dirt from the garden) and shared hugs and kisses and high-fives with everybody present! What a little star! He is great entertainment and seems to liven up any party!!!

14 May 2008

Happy Birthday to the Mama!!!

Today is my 29th Birthday... am I really that old??? Anyway, it was a wonderful day! I got to sleep in, then we had a playdate at the park, Jake took us to lunch, I got to bake my birthday cupcakes (yes, it was fun for me), Jake made dinner, and then I got my birthday present: a place setting of my china!!! Yea for Angie! It really helped that the weather was nice today and yesterday. I am soooo affected by the weather, so nice weather is grrrrreat for my mood.

Now about these cupcakes: S'mores Cupcakes. Does that sound decadent and awesome, or what? They have a graham cracker crust, a dollop of Scharffen Berger chocolate in the middle, a rich and moist chocolate cake, and a toasted marshmallow icing. They are fab, but filling. I made some tiny ones so that Gabriel could have one, and he couldn't get enough. It was G's first cupcake, and I think he was very happy with the experience. We put one on his little plate, and he would poke his finger in the middle and lick it off! Then he ate the rest of the cupcake, and when that was gone, he was wiping the plate with his little fingers to get all the chocolate and icing off! What a funny guy! I got the recipe from Martha Stewart, and she got it from a little shop called Trophy Cupcakes. Here's the recipe for anybody interested:

Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Icing
Makes 2 Dozen

  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Marshmallow Frosting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. Sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.
  4. Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.
  6. Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.
  7. Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip (such as Ateco #867 or Ateco #809). Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.
Marshmallow Icing
Makes enough icing for 2 dozen cupcakes

  • 8 large egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.
As for baby news, Gabriel is getting so smart. We knew that he knew his body parts, and we make special effort to name them if he points to them or as we change his clothes, etc. I got stuck in a waiting room yesterday, so I started asking him about his body. I started with the usual "where's your nose?" and "where is your eye?" I ran out of the easy ones, and started asking the harder ones. I had no idea that he had such a detailed knowledge of his anatomy! What a smarty pants! When I asked him where his foot was, he was tired of pointing, so he just lifted is foot to me. I pushed for an answer, and he finally pointed to his foot in exasperation as if to say "you know already!!!" It was so funny!

He also has started this thing where he squeezes his rubber duckies as hard as he can. But you really have to see it to get the full effect: he's usually naked and standing in the tub, and then he shrugs his shoulders, smiles really big, sucks his tummy in, and squeezes as hard as he can until his arms shake and his face turns red! It totally cracks us up!!!

And today he helped me empty the dishwasher for the first time. I handed him all the plastic containers to put away. He would take the containers, one by one, put them in the cabinet, clap for himself, and then come back for another plastic container to put away. It was so cute, and actually helpful. He usually just steals all the silverware and hides the forks in funny places. This was so much better than the silverware treasure hunt I'm used to!

I have some new pictures, but I'll add them when they're developed. I know, I know: I'm a bit slow at getting pictures up as I do it the old fashioned way... we'll be digital eventually.

07 May 2008

It's a Zoo!

Today was totally fun! We started out at Stroller Strides for a good workout at Baker Park. The weather has been absolutely beautiful, and this morning was no exception. Gabriel had a fun ride in the pram, and we saw lots of dogs, ducks, geese, baby ducks and geese, and other birds of all kinds. G was way excited :).

After class, we all went to Ijamsville to the petting zoo. It's a nice little farm that started out as a "pick your own veggies" place, but people were more excited about the animals than the vegetables. So now they are rather famous for their kid-friendly animals. Gabriel got to pet a zebra, donkeys, pigs, cows, a duck (whoopee!), chickens, and a baby goat. He could have pet the grown-up goats, but he was totally scared of them. I don't blame him! They scare me, too! He really wanted to pet the emus, but I talked him out of it... and then the emu went potty and scared the daylights out of him! He especially loved the little chicks. I held them and he petted them; I was so scared he would smoosh them, but he was very gentle and loving. So sweet! I didn't think I'd ever get him out of the chicks room, but I lured him out with the promise of ducks and geese. So, we marched over to the ducks and geese pen, and he had a grand time chasing them around the pen with all the other kids. But then the inevitable happened: the biggest goose decided he was tired of being chased, and he decided to pick on the littlest of the chasers! As I was about to take a picture, the goose bit Gabriel and sent him screaming! It didn't even leave a mark, but he sure stayed close to his mama for the rest of the afternoon :).

Next we headed over to the chickens. I didn't think G would care for them at all, especially considering the unfriendly goose. I was so wrong. We pet and followed chickens for 20 minutes, until I got dizzy from running in circles and herded him over to the cow barn. I milked a cow (for the first time in over ten years), but Gabriel wasn't so sure about the squirting milk situation, so we moved on to other animals. It was a ton of fun!

He also had his little Spanish session with our neighbor, and he was particularly loving. I took a few pictures of him cuddling up to Laura. Gabriel insisted on walking her home, and he had a total meltdown when it was time for us to say goodbye. I am so happy that he is making friends and (hopefully) learning a valuable skill. We'll see if it works out the way we are hoping!

Our little guy is growing up so fast!!! If we are using a fork, spoon or knife, then he has to have one of his own. If we are sitting in a chair to read, then he needs to sit in a chair to read. If we are going outside to water plants, then he has to water plants as well. Such a copycat, but it's so sweet! I really like that he likes to set the table -- it gives him a job to do while I finish dinner. And now that he is really babbling like crazy, I just know that one day he's just going to open his mouth and talk like a grownup! His most recent babbles are "yabba-dabba-jabba" and "boodja boodja biedja bidja." We haven't figured out what it's supposed to mean, but Jake insists he's trying for "Yabba Dabba Doo!"

On a non-baby note, we are sending our thoughts to NYC and West Point this weekend. Jake's sister, Diane, is traveling with Lucia (their mom) and the choir group, ending with a performance on Sunday at West Point. How fun for them! Good luck Randall High School choir!!!

And for you photo junkies, here are some of our favorite new pics. Be sure to check out the "Albums" link in the right column for all the new pictures. Have a Happy Mother's Day!!!

Gabriel's first tree climbing!

Our neighbor, Karen, taught him how to smell flowers

He loves to drink from the water hose

Helping water the plants

Cool kid at the Zoo


Sneaking away from those scary llamas

A Big Pig

Little guy, big horse

Soooo sleepy!

Like mother, like son! He cries if he sees a Starbucks logo and we don't let him have it. We used to frequent Starbucks (and other coffee shops) a lot in London when Gabriel was itty bitty and I needed a warm, cozy place to feed him.

A day at Baker Park

Cherry Blossoms!

A cozy spot by a covered bridge in the park

On the swings with Daddy

How exciting! The bridge has windows!

So many rocks to collect, so little time

Barefoot in the grass, eating the leaves under the Cherry Blossoms