Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Darling!

The happiest birthday wishes to my husband, my best friend, my love, my baby daddy! :) I shall not reveal the ‘dreaded’ number but let me assure you that it is just that, a number. I love every day that we share and I look forward for the many more I hope to be blessed with. Thank you for all you do for your little family, everything is appreciated. The enthusiasm you have displayed in preparing the baby’s room as well as doing an amazing job with it, the back rubs you give me after a long day at work, taking the puppy out in the morning so that I can catch the extra 2 minutes of sleep, the sweet little way you talk to the puppy telling her about her baby brother, allowing me to eat durian in your presence, or simple things like taking out the garbage… every little thing like that is being safe kept in my treasure trove of memories.

I love it that you are uncomplicated and so easy to please, that you put others before you, that you are honest and speak your mind, how you not only allow but encourage me to be whatever I wish to be… I think I could go on about just how wonderful you are even though I know that I forget to thank you or give you a pat on the back and I shall try to be better about it.

In any case, I do feel bad that we’re not doing anything special today, being Ash Wednesday (no steak dinner) and having Baptism class this evening, nor do I have a present (since you wanted to pick your own golf clubs!) or birthday cake (too busy to make one, it’s busy season!), I know you truly don’t mind not having the whole rigmarole and may even been happy that you are not reminded of being a year older! (did I mention you were easy???), I just wanted you to know that you are celebrated by all who loves you!

Having said that, Happy Birthday again sweetie, may our good Lord shower you with blessings of good health, loved ones, laughter and prosperity all the years of your life.

Love you lots!
Your wife, baby and puppy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The face of an angel

Old post written on February 17th, 2009

Yesterday was our 31 week ultrasound and bio-physical profile and my oh my, how has the little one grown. From the little tadpole he was not too long ago, he's 4 whole pounds now. His measurements seem to be within range, although his Daddy is rather worried that his head is in the 83% percentile... but with the growth spurts, the percentiles are always a moving target.

In the midst of the ultrasound, we caught sight of his face, his sweet sweet face, his cheeks were so chubby, his nose the perfect button and he looked like he was all curled up fast asleep peacefully... until he stretches to give his Mummy a quick jab. From the time we found out we were pregnant, I have always been wondering what he is going to look like and whatever it was, seeing my little boy's face made it all seem more real.

His movements are a lot more coordinated and even graceful as you see him move his little arms and legs, I am not sure if it is pure coincidence but I think he recognises my voice... there will be periods during the day when it'd suddenly occur to me that I had not felt him kick and I'd rub my belly and talk to him soothingly trying to coax him to give his Mummy a jab and sometimes it takes longer but he surely knows how to respond!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

70th Birthday Celebration

The entire J gang met in Lake Guntersville, AL on the third week of January for the matriach of the family, Aunt J's 70th birthday celebration. She is Mr. J's oldest aunt and his god mother.

I volunteered to bake the cake since I absolutely love the challenge and spent weeks planning what to make. Her favorite is red velvet and I had never made it before so after a lot of research ( was one of my favs!), I finally settled on the following;

Top layer - red velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting

Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Strauss via the New York Times 2/14/07
Time: 90 minutes, plus cooling
Yield: 3 cake layers

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring or 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.
2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
5. Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from several sources
Makes 6 cups

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream
"The Cake Bible," by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

9 oz. white chocolate, melted, cooled to room temperature
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
Beat cream cheese in mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in the melted and cooled chocolate until incorporated. Add in the butter and lemon juice last, beating well until smooth.

Bottom layer - Chocolate Butter Cake with Brandied Chocolate Ganache layers and Swiss Buttercream frosting (I LOVE this frosting!)

Chocolate Butter Cake
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one 8-inch square, three layer cake

3 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take about 3 1/4 cups of batter.
4. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.

Bittersweet Brandied Ganache
16oz chocolate (1 lbs)
1 stick butter
8 oz cream (1 cup)
1.5oz brandy (3tbsp)

Swiss Buttercream

For a 9-inch cake (plus filling, or some to spare)
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

2. Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

3. Add the vanilla.

4. Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.

This took 3 days to bake and freeze the layers, prepare icing and actually icing the cake on the day of the birthday. It was tiring but worth it because the birthday girl absolutely loved it.

Birthday gal with her cake

Don't ask me why I am flushing, it seems to be a normal occurance these days.

Cakes being baked. This is the chocolate cake layers.

Close up of the end project

Banana cream pie and apple pie. I made these in addition to the cakes as my dessert contribution. The banana cream pie was a sold out.

Shelbie and Drevan, our niece (Mr. J's sister's daughter) and nephew (Mr. J's cousin's son) , I think they love each other :)

All in all, it was a tiring but but weekend.

We're going back to the Lake this Friday to spend Valentine's Day at the new Lodge. I cannot wait to just to get away with Mr. J for some quiet R&R just by ourselves. I love the lazy, luxurious don't-have-to-be-anywhere-or-do-anything-if-we-wanted weekends away. Our last chance till baby comes, and then I can imagine that every outing would never be the same :) But how we look forward to it!

Baby Purchase #2

This weekend, we went stroller shopping and finally decided on the Gra*co Quattr*o Travel System in Deco.

We figured if the next one is a girl, she can still use the color scheme. We met a Mommy at the store with the exact same one for her daughter and she could not stop singing praises about it. We love it and think it rides real well and it seems sturdy with lots of storage space which was important to us cos knowing me, I'd pack everything but the kitchen sink for a walk in the park :)

So with the stroller out of the way, we went to visit one of the short listed Day Care centers yesterday and it is pretty overwhelming deciding these things. I think we asked good questions and were pleased with the place but we'd still like to see a few more before deciding for the sake of due diligence :)

Up next on our listing, choosing a pediatrician.

Stay tuned!

Cord blood banking?

A poll to all you Mommies out there, Mr. J and I are deciding whether we want to do Cord Blood banking. Any thoughts? It costs approximately $2k upfront with $125 annual storage fee. We're thinking that we hope never to need this but if the unthinkable happens, we have a backup plan. Any of you have done this before? If so, let me know who you went with and how it went for you.

Project baby room

How quickly has the weeks gone by??? I'm now at 30 weeks and the final countdown has begun. I think we've progressed well, I am feeling great, baby seem to be doing what he's supposed to be doing and starting Week 32, I will see the doctor twice a week for the Bio-Physical Profile (BPP) and Non-Stress Test (NST) which basically measures the baby's growth and well being. This is necessary due to the gestational diabetes so we're praying all goes well.

Daddy-to-be has been working so diligently on the baby room over the past 6 weeks, we put crown molding up, he painted the walls, his Aunts came to help put up the bead boards one Saturday and everything else, he finished himself this past week. I am really proud of him, he worked on this every single chance he could, every single week night and weekend and it turned out fabulous. The pictures does not do it justice because you don't see the different textures nor can I seem to fit the entire room into the picture but I'll keep trying especially when we have the room 100% decorated and complete.

So On January 31st, Mr. J's two aunts came to help out with putting up the crimson bead boards. It was a long day starting at 7am and ended well past midnight.

Starting up for the day.

Both Aunties hard at work... can't believe they drove for 6 hours to get here and then work the entire day. It is MUCH appreciated!

Still going at it well past midnight...

Walls are up and furniture in. Almost there...

Some of the stuff we've gotten off our Target registry.

Now with the room ready, my work starts, I've got to pick out curtains and rugs and wash all the baby's things, line the drawers, get diapers, lotions etc... it is so exciting, aren't baby things so tiny and adorable???