Hunter turned nine! Oh yeah, also the Pittsburgh Penguins won!

Ready for candle lighting ceremony

My youngest son turned nine today!

Oh, yeah, also the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup. Today they made history on two fronts. First, they are the  2017 champs, and second, they made the first back-to-back Stanley Cup win this century. Go, Pens!

Back to my birthday boy.

Hunter was the fifth child to be born in seven years. His older (only) brother prayed nightly for a brother from the time we announced our pregnancy until the day we learned he was, indeed, a little boy. Prayers are answered: Hallelujah!

You might think that would make them closer than they are now, but I suppose it’s a case of “familiarity breeds contempt.” I console myself with the thought that there’s a reason these old phrases were coined and still repeated. My family is just playing out the ol’ human legacy on our own terms.

Birthday boy and bunny-eared Mom

To read more about Hunter’s arrival nine years ago, turn to this true story:

In order to properly celebrate that auspicious arrival, Hunter requested I bake his current favorite cake: Red Velvet. Naturally, I had no Red Velvet boxed cake mixes in the house. I had never made this cake from scratch before. No worries! I have the internet.

I quickly saw this homemade Red Velvet Cake recipe with over 600 reviews, and rated 5 stars! The blog name made this choice crystal clear. Check the recipe out here: 

I made the recipe twice, with minor variations.

The first time I made it as written (okay, I subbed 1/2 C water for 1/2 C coffee since, as a Mormon, coffee’s forbidden) and two 9-inch rounds baked for 45 minutes at 325°. The cake pans were over half full with batter when I put them in the oven. That set me on edge. I had just cleaned the oven and didn’t want a repeat.

The cakes baked up frighteningly puffy, but didn’t spill over. Bullet dodged. As they cooled, the cakes fell in the center. Although my toothpick suggested otherwise, I was worried that the cakes were too moist. Had I underbaked them? I leveled the cake rounds and they were baked through, but so darn thin that I needed more. Birthday celebrations at my place require a lot of cake!

I tweaked the second batch by reducing the oil from 1 C to 3/4 C and omitting the water/coffee. I beat them for less time than I had the first batch to prevent falling centers. With less volume,the pans filled up halfway and I felt confident as I pushed them into the oven. Two new 9-inch rounds came out looking amazing.

I whipped up my current favorite frosting, Ermine, but added in 2 oz cream cheese during the final beating. My hubby claims to hate cream cheese, but I’ve noticed he’ll gobble up a cream-cheese-containing dish as long as it’s flavor is overwhelmed by something else.

Since I’m under the impression that frosting Red Velvet Cake with either Cream Cheese or Ermine is hotly debated, I determined to finish the argument by smooshing them together. It’s the culinary equivalent of the get-along shirt.

I layered the four round cakes with my Cream-Cheese-Modified Ermine Frosting (this frosting mash-up seriously needs a new name) and we hauled the cake and picnic foods over to Nanny and Poppy’s place after church. Aunt Jen joined the party a little later.

The cake was a big hit with the birthday boy and everyone else. Josh didn’t notice the understated cream cheese (point for me!). Actually, I’m probably the only one who noticed it’s mild tang. Josh told me it was the first time he enjoyed Red Velvet Cake. I knew this one was in the books when my step-mom said, “There’s no need to go to the bakery for cakes anymore.”

The bottom two layers from my first batch were best.

So here’s my take on my cake recipe variations: Although they seemed too moist to me originally, I preferred the first batch of cakes, when I followed Monique’s recipe to a “T.” Stick with her instructions and try the 1/2 C coffee infusion if you’re not otherwise constrained.

Hunter’s birthday swim

After obliterating most of the cake, some of our gang went swimming at the community pool during the Children’s Hour. It’s a retirement community and they retain most of the swimming hours for themselves.

Since no babies wearing swim diapers are allowed in the pool, I monitored Juliette in the little kiddie pool. This poolside option was donated by an unknown benefactor who is clearly sensitive to the plight of un-potty-trained littles and their harried parents. Thank you a million times over.

Red Solo cup party: toddler style

The photo may give you pause, so, yes, I did monitor her from inside the baby pool. I actually fit in there with my legs fully extended! A lifetime of being petite has taught me that whenever there are perks to being short, you enjoy them.

Dressed for the Pens Playoff game 6

After shuttling everyone back from the pool, the party tuned into game 6 of the NHL Playoffs on tv. Now, I’m a Pens fan, but I’m a bigger fan of my boy Hunter, so we spent some time together out on the back porch while everyone else cheered on the team.

At Hunter’s suggestion, we made up superhero names and abilities for ourselves. He became “Green Lightning” (speed) and I became “Stretch-Chica” (flexibility). Hunter Green Lightning fought imaginary foes coming up over the backyard hillside while I held Juliette and swung her to sleep. He’d come back now and again with tales of his latest battle.

As the evening wore on, Hunter wanted to snuggle, so he dragged the chaise lounge he’d been sitting on over by my swing. I laid sleeping Juliette down and rocked her gently while squeezing in next to the birthday boy. The sun gently slipped away and the stars came out. We reclined together on a single chaise lounge and described constellations until sleep overtook us.

Inside, the rest of the gang broke out in happy shouts as the Penguins won their back-to-back Cup. I wouldn’t have traded my evening with Hunter for anything. For me, our hushed repose was the perfect birthday night.

I’d like to stop the story there, it was such a pleasant ending. But some days, peaceful endings just turn out to be peaceful blips.

As we herded everyone to the van around 11:30 pm, we startled a bird which was nesting in a tree in the front yard. If you haven’t heard, I’ll be the first tell you this fascinating fact: most birds can’t see a thing at night. (Yes, smarty-pants, I have heard of owls: I’m talking about pretty much all the other birds.) Well, our sudden proximity really shook up this bird.

Liv happened to be directly underneath the bird when we learned a new fact about birds: birds, like humans, sometimes crap their pants when they’re startled. Except there are no pants to catch the mess.

Let’s just say Liv’s peaceful ending came once we arrived home, with a long, hot shower and a full bottle of shampoo.

Happy 9th birthday, Hunter. It was one for the books.




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