Archive for November, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house.

The cat (not the real one) is dressed for Christmas.  My grandchildren who live 20 minutes away stopped by recently to help me get holiday decorations out and up.

I had a list on the chalkboard in the playroom of our tasks for the afternoon.   First item was to dress the cat.  They enjoy taking turns crossing off the items on the list so that we can get down to the final item of snack time and book time.

They decorated the wreath in the kitchen with Christmas items.  Next was setting up my Advent Calendar.

Then it was Craft Time.  I had printed out some templates of Christmas trees and reindeer for them to color.  I thought they would put the individual items around the living room.  As they were working, my grandson asked if I had a sleigh they could color.  No, I didn’t.  “You can find a sleigh on the internet, can’t you?” he said.   Off to the computer and soon I was back with two sleighs.

The children decided they wanted to make a poster so did I have big pieces of construction paper they could glue their items on.  Yes, off to the basement.

My granddaughter thought it would be good to have a Santa to fit in the sleigh.  Back to the internet.  I suggested that I would print a Santa in color so they didn’t have to color it.  That sounded good to them.

Grandma wasn’t well prepared for this Craft Time.

Here is the poster my grandson made of Santa and the reindeer flying over a tall brown house.  Notice the fancy jeweled collars on the reindeer.

My granddaughter had requested a piece of black construction paper for her poster.  It is a little difficult to see the red house that Santa and Rudolph are preparing to visit.  I did ask her why she wanted black construction paper.  The answer – “Grandma, it is dark out.  It is night time.”  But, of course.

The children always look forward to decorating the “kids” tree with mini Disney books. There were also Dora ornaments, penguins, cats, snowmen, Care Bears and teddy bears.  My grandson divided the ornaments as they started – one for you and one for me.

Lunch time – While my grandchildren ate pbj’s and fruit, I read to them a few of their favorite Christmas books.

Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotten,  Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous  Christmas by  Jane O’Connor, Russell’s Christmas Magic by Rob Scotten, and A Merry Bunny Christmas by Rosemary Wells.  Another favorite is The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing.  Unfortunately it was checked out at the library.

All the items on our list have been checked off so let’s head to the Snow Village to play until time to go home.

Hopefully this year when they assign houses in the Snow Village, I won’t have to live in the hospital again.

Thanks for visiting Grandma in the Mailbox.  Soon I’ll tell you about some gifts that I put together for my grandchildren in years past.  I hope you stop back to read about them.

Happy Birthday #6 – The Cake

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Last week my grandson who lives 20 minutes away celebrated his 6th birthday.  Recently I showed you the cakes that I had baked for his past birthdays.  His request for his 6th birthday cake was Perry the Platypus or Agent P.

For those of you to whom (like me) Perry the Platypus is not household name he is featured in the animated TV series of “Phineas and Ferb” on the Disney Channel.  Perry appears to be a docile family pet, but he also leads a second life as a crime-fighting secret agent.  And needless to say, my grandson loves him.  He has an Agent P tee shirt and a stuffed Perry that goes to bed with him.

Research – I needed to do some research so off I went to the children’s department at the library.  I checked out the graphic novel “Hey, Where’s Perry?” and the  DVD “A Very Perry Christmas.”  Aha, now I knew what Agent P looks like – just have to capture that likeness atop a birthday cake.  Oh, my he is teal in color.  That could be a challenge.

Let me cut to the chase.  I’ll show you the finished product – my grandson’s birthday cake, and then I’ll relate the interesting search for edible body parts to bring Perry to the cake.

As I started planning the cake, my first task was finding a Perry I could transfer to the top of a cake.  The graphic novel showed Perry in action poses that would have been difficult to use so off to the internet.  At I found a template for Perry.

I cut out the body parts and covered them on both sides with clear Contact paper to use as a template for Perry’s body.

I really wanted to use fondant for his body, BUT I had never worked with fondant.  Fondant usually comes in large tubs, it is expensive, and I needed  teal fondant.  Shopping trip #1.  Somehow I ended up in Party City.  Eureka.  I found it.  They had Duff Goldman fondant – in small eight ounce containers – and in teal.  Wow.  Was I a happy grandma.

Home again to the internet to read all about the care and handling of fondant.  Luckily I had also purchased a fondant roller which was great in allowing me to get the thickness I wanted and a smooth body.  I was assured by all the articles this could be done ahead of time if the cut outs were stored at room temperature in a tight container.

I took a deep breath, put some cornstarch on the parchment paper and started kneaded the fondant to make it rollable.  Rolled it and then cut around the body template with a small paring knife.  Perry was coming to life.  How exciting.

Of course Perry needed a tail, feet, a beak, a hat and eyes.  I ruled out fondant for these since such a small amount was needed for each appendage.  Then I headed out to the mall on shopping trip #2 in search of edible body parts.  I went t0 the bulk candy shop.  The sales associate asked if she could help me.  I wandered around and found nothing so I told her that I needed some candy to mold into a beak, tail, feet and hat for a birthday cake.  She walked over to the bins of colored Tootsie Rolls.  She said that she had been told that cake decorators use those on cakes.  You warm them in your hands, and they becoming pliable and can be rolled.  Oh, how neat.

Home again I rolled out the orange for Perry’s tail and the yellow for his beak and his feet and then cut around the templates for each of these appendages.  However, the chocolate (brown) ones didn’t meet my standard for making Perry’s hat.  I was almost there.  I figured if I could not find anything, I could always use brown buttercream frosting for the hat.

One more idea meant shopping trip #3.  I went to a local tea shop that has imported candies.  Maybe I could find a caramel to use for the hat.  And I did.  The owner told me they were fresh having  just arrived.  I told her that I was buying the caramels because they were just the right color.  You should have seen the strange look she gave me.

Only the eyes remained.  I had decided to use a small breath mint for eyes.  Of course, I bought a few different ones – different shapes etc.   I selected small round ones that I altered slightly with a sharp knife.

I had the parts of Perry prepared the day before the birthday so on my grandson’s birthday it was just a matter of baking the cake, frosting it and assembling Perry.

When I bake a 9 x 13 inch cake for a birthday, I use a 9 x 13 x 2 inch plan (deeper than the traditional pan).  I use 1.5 boxes of cake mix and bake the cake about 8 minutes longer because of the extra batter.  This makes it  more like the size of a 9 x 13 inch cake from a bakery.

After the cake cooled, I frosted it with buttercream frosting.  (The recipe is in an April post “Happy Birthday #7.”)  I took a deep breath and carefully put Perry atop the cake adding his tail, feet, beak, hat and eyes.  The band on his hat is black buttercream frosting as are the pupils in his eyes.  Perry holds a sign saying “Happy Birthday, Agent C” for my grandson.  I piped orange frosting at the edges and around the bottom that you do not see.  The finishing touch was to sprinkle some orange sugar atop the cake.  Can you guess my grandson’s new favorite color – yup, orange.  Action figures of Phineas and Ferb and Caroline peek over the top of the cake at Perry.

My grandson loved the cake and all his family and grandparents enjoyed having a big piece of cake.  I got the caramel hat!  Yum.

This was such a fun project.

Thank you for visiting Grandma in the Mailbox.  I am taking a Thanksgiving break next week – no post.  I’ll return the following week with plans for Christmas.

Thanksgiving Postcards in the Mailbox

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Soon it will be Thanksgiving.  Time to cuddle up with grandchildren to read Thanksgiving stories and also to send postcards to their mailboxes.

We do have some favorite Thanksgiving stories that we like to read together.  “The Night Before Thanksgiving” by Natasha Wing, ” A Plump and Perky Turkey” by Teresa Bateman, “Give Thanks” by Jan and Mike Berenstain, and “Arthur’s Thanksgiving” by Marc Brown.

Recently my grandson who lives 20 minutes away spent the afternoon with me.  We stirred up a batch of “mix” (see recipes – July 19) and settled down on the sofa to read these books.

If you have visited in the past, you know that I send postcards to my grandchildren at holidays.  The postcards that I am sending for Thanksgiving came from, my favorite source of postcards.  I selected these to send.

After searching for riddles for the cards, I found some  really good ones at  There were many cute and funny ones.  Deciding which to use will be a challenge.

Why did the turkey cross the road?  It was the chicken’s day off.

What are unhappy cranberries called?  Blueberries.

Which side of a turkey has the most feathers?  The outside.

What is orange and falls off walls?  Humpty Pumpkin.

Why did the turkey eat his food in a hurry?  He was a gobbler.

How do you make a turkey float?  You need two scoops of ice cream, root beer, and a turkey.

Can a turkey jump higher than the St. Louis Arch?  Yes, the Arch can’t jump at all.

How many cranberries grow on a bush?  All of them.

What sound does a turkey’s phone make?  Wing, wing.

How are teddy bears like turkeys?  They both have stuffing.

Why did they let the turkey join the band?  He had drumsticks.

I know a drummer that the last riddle will be perfect for.

I’ll write two riddles on each postcard and they will be ready to send off in a few days to arrive at the homes of my grandchildren before Thanksgiving.

Thank you for stopping by Grandma in the Mailbox.  Soon I’ll show you the birthday cake that is under construction for my grandson.  I hope you stop back to see it.

Happy Birthday #6

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

In a few weeks my grandson who lives 20 minutes away will be celebrating his 6th birthday.  I am have been the “official” cake baker for this young man for the past five years.

The first year the bewildered little fellow watched his sister and her friend blow out the candle on his cake with Care Bear decorations.   He did sport a smile when he dug into the frosting and cake to sample it.

At 2 years he was in love with Elmo.   A stuffed Elmo went to bed with him every night so we decided Elmo would make a perfect cake for him.  I had never used a shape pan before so I decided that I should bake a practice cake.  I could not begin to eat that cake alone.  Luckily a young college student  from France was in town visiting his father.  I gave them the cake.  An unlikely couple to be eating an Elmo cake.  They gave thumbs up as they went back for a second piece.

For his 3rd birthday we asked what kind of cake he would like.  The answer of a train cake was no surprise since he, at that time, would spend hours each day building Thomas the Tank Engine layouts.  It seemed perfect.  If you peer closely, you’ll see a photo of him as the engineer in the train and his sister  riding in the caboose.

Only a few days after his 3rd birthday, he said, “Grandma, next year I want an excavator birthday cake.”  What????  You know they say you can find anything on the internet.  I found an excavator birthday cake at   I modeled his 4th birthday cake after that one.  As you can see, he is driving the machinery and his big sister is directing traffic showing him where to dig next.

His 5th birthday cake was “a piece of cake.”  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.   Toy Story was his favorite movie.  And a small stuffed Woody went to bed, to church, everywhere with him.  He said, “I would also like some action figures.” That made an easy project for me.  He had dressed up as Woody for Halloween; his sister was dressed as Jessie so photos of them topped the cake also.

At one point he had said that he wanted a car wash cake.  Yes, a car wash cake.  By the way you can find such a cake on the internet.  It would be so simple to make.  I thought that maybe this would be the year for a car wash cake, but he had another idea.  He is the boss.

I have a plan for his cake.  Practice again – this time only on the decorations.   I have 10 days to get it perfect or to come up with Plan 2.

Thank you for visiting Grandma in the Mailbox.  Postcard time is around the corner.  Please stop back to check out the Thanksgiving postcards and riddles that will go into the mailbox for my grandchildren later this month.