So Carla already posted about my cake, but I felt it was worth my putting in my own two cents. It was simply the most exciting and stunning cake I have ever had for a birthday, the pictures do it no justice. My excitement at seeing the cannon candles light up the night was like that of a parrot bedecked pirate joyfully raiding a jolly treasure ship. I couldn't believe the fine and gorgeous detail Carla put in to making the pirates, in fact when I first saw them I had no idea they were painted army men, I thought for sure they hailed from the far off shores of Hobby Lobby or some other such haven, arrgh! Anyways, it was awesome. Oh, and the cake was so yummy!

Jon's Pirate Birthday Cake

When I asked Jon what type of birthday cake he wanted, I expected something like "chocolate" or "angel food." Instead, he said he wanted a 3-D pirate cake! It ended up being the coolest cake I have ever made.

Sweet Potatoes on the Stove

Growing up we always had sweet potatoes cooked like a vegetable...baked in the oven, skinned, mashed, and with a little butter, salt, and pepper added. As an adult I've tried many versions of sweet sweet potatoes (yams with marshmallows and sugar), and not liked any of them as much as a good old pile of mashed yams from my childhood.

Today I learned you can steam sweet potatoes! A friend recently gave us a steamer, and I recently bought sweet potatoes. With the fall heat averaging 90 degrees right now, I don't like to turn on the oven in the afternoon, but this is exactly when I wanted to cook my yams. So, I tried steaming them--it worked great! It took about an hour to cook, and I only had to deal with the heat from one burner plate instead of a whole oven! An added bonus is that my pans are a lot cleaner than the cookie sheets I used to use in the oven. I suppose you could even steam the sweet potatoes and use them with marshmallows (sigh). I'm definitely cooking sweet potatoes on the stove in the future!

A New Bread Technique

I know I only have a few family members who are interested in different ways to make bread, but this is so cool that I have to put it on here! At Enrichment, we learned about an Italian tradition where you soak the yeast with flour and water in the fridge overnight. The result is a "wet loaf" instead of a "dry loaf." The loaf is lighter, moister, and it holds together better. It really is amazing. Instructions for several different bread recipes are at this website:

Family Vacation

What better way to start a family blog than with a family vacation? As the summer closed our last available time for a vacation was the first few days of August, so we decided to go camping in Austin.

Of course, we had to get there first. A three hour drive with a two-year old meant at least one stop at McDonald's PlayPlace. Yes, this was more for the toys than the food!

McKinney State Park in Austin was soon our home away from home. This was our first camping trip in Texas in the summer...we learned that the reason every site comes with electricity is so you can put a fan in your tent! Our second night was probably the coolest...we might have got down to 75 or 80 degrees!

Kaia loved her tent! She was very excited about sleeping there each night...could it have anything to do with how she didn't have to wear pajamas?

She was very upset, though, about the "little animals" that took her "treats." Her first encounter with raccoons involved them stealing her M-n-M's during the night. This wasn't a problem until next morning when she used the toilet and wanted her treat! Fortunately, HEB was only 10 minutes away, between the campground and downtown.

Yes, we lined her special potty with grocery bags. It worked like a charm! The lid even turns the toilet into a stool.

If you ask Kaia about her camping trip, she'll use words like "tent" and "little animals took my treats." She also really enjoyed the playground at Zilker Park, barbecue-ing, the concert we went to (Blues on the Green) at Waterloo Park, and the activities below!

Kayaking along a river and then Lady Bird Lake (pictured) was one of our favorite activities. We all enjoyed the "boat ride," as Kaia called it. We saw lots of birds, turtles, and fish. Last time we took a camera near a large body of water, though, Jon ended up jumping in after it! After lots of stress and several bags of rice we were really happy to still have the camera. This time Jon decided no cameras were allowed on the boat. So, the only pictures we have of the lake were from another bridge the next morning!

Inner Space Caverns is about 20 minutes north of Austin. The natural cave was only discovered in 1963 and has lots of open rooms and little tunnels. We went on a group tour for about an hour. When we were about 70 feet underground the tour guide turned all the lights off and we were in total darkness for about 30 seconds. Kaia tried to get her to turn the lights off again!

Kaia likes to smile and say "Cheese!" or "Ice-cream!" for pictures! The only part of the trip she didn't like was the pool at Barton Springs. A natural spring feeds a huge pool that has natural surfaces on the bottom and the sides. The water is always at 68 degrees. Kaia thought it was a little too cold, so I took her to the shallowest area. I thought that since it was shallow it would be warmer. It was. Sadly, the ground in the shallow area was covered with moss and algae. Kaia was very upset about the "little plants" growing in the pool! We went back to the deeper end and splashed around on the stairs! Jon enjoyed the cool water and swimming with the fish.

We also spent some time walking around the downtown area. Themed guitar statues dotted the streets...Kaia especially loved the Twinkle Lonestar Guitar!

Kaia and Carla outside the Capital Building. We had a lot of fun exploring the building, and taking ourselves on tours of the grounds.

Not too far from the Capital is the Congress Avenue Bridge. Under the bridge is the largest urban bat population in the country--about 1 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats! We were lucky enough to see them emerging from the bridge on our last evening...they looked like huge moving clouds that came out form under the bridge and quickly blew away.

We also soon blew away from Austin. We returned home to real beds, responsibilities, routines, and (wonderfully!) air conditioning!