I make cakes.

The real reason for not blogging isn’t my usual list of excuses: doing the dishes, chasing the kids or even incessantly sweeping the floor.

I’ve been making cakes.

Do you ever get to a point in your life where you’re like, how did this happen?  I’m not trying to get deep here by any means; after all we’re talking about cake.  Chocolate cake.

I just mean to foreshadow with a moment a few weeks ago when I was up until midnight making cakes. How did that happen?  When did I become a cake maker?

Let me tell you how.

When our oldest was one (just over two and a half years ago), I was pretty adamant that I wanted to make and decorate her cake.  I saw an infomercial for a massive cupcake.

You’ve seen it. The Big Top Cupcake.

And for the record it is no way 25 times bigger than a regular cupcake. They have worse measuring skills than I do.

Anyway, with the help of my mom I went at my first, pitiful attempt to decorate a cake. I hated every moment of it. You see, I have little patience for anything I can’t ram. And when decorating a cake, you just.can’t.ram.  I figured it wasn’t the best looking first birthday cake ever made, but she loved it. And again, it was chocolate.

The first cake I ever made. Not bad, but not great.

So, fast forward a year and our then two-year old wanted a bumblebee party with a ‘bumblecake.’

My mom (what would I do without her!?) ordered me a bumblebee cake pan mold and passed onto me her ‘tackle box’ of icing tools as if she was passing on a family heirloom. I was ready to do better.

And this was the moment, when I looked back on my work and said yes, I can make cakes.

The ‘Bumblecake.’ This was a bumblebee cake pan. The wings were heart cookies I made and the tail was a sugar cone.

And so it began my quest to outdo myself at every cake attempt.  And last fall when our oldest turned three she, the requester of all requesters, asked for a blue flower birthday party.

Not the most difficult cake to make, but it sure did look like some flowers. And it sure was blue.

I made three flowers out of cupcakes because she was turning three. And blue is her favorite color!

Just six short months later I find myself exhausted, sticky from homemade frosting and facing a disaster of a kitchen.

Two cakes in one night did a number on my kitchen.

I volunteered to make two cakes in back-to-back days.

Cake 1: Thomas the Train Cake for our beloved nephew.

I bought a small Thomas the Train and then focused mostly on the scenery. I like to challenge myself, but there was no way I was going to actually assemble a Thomas out of cake.

Cake 2: Nerf Gun cake for my brother and his fiance’s bridal shower. (Why the hay a Nerf Gun cake?  Good question.  You can read their blog to find out.)

I made two cakes in sheet pans, and put chocolate ganache in between and then cut out another square cake out to raise up the Nerf Guns. It was my hubby’s idea to use the two Nerf Guns pointing at each other. Be warned: black icing is a mess!

And then only one quick week after that I found myself face-to-face with the Big Top Cupcake mold that is TWENTY-FIVE TIMES BIGGER…I mean four times bigger…than a regular cupcake. Our youngest was turning one. It was time for redemption.

Mama Burde, you can do this.

With a purple dream cupcake theme, I made it happen.  I was so pleased with a sweet little purple cupcake cake for our sweet little baby boo.  And of course, she loved it.  And of course, it was chocolate.

Finally, redemption from the Big Top Cupcake!

Our little boo loved her cake!

I still like to ram when I make my cakes; there is so much that always needs to be done. My husband has even joined the Burde Bakery for clean-up duty.

So if you need a cake…think about contacting Mama Burde.  By looking at the pictures on my blog of course and make it your dang self!  I have dishes to do!  But really mamas, if this Mama can do it, so can you!

Here are the recipes I use (if you’re at all interested):

Cake

I firmly believe there is only one type of cake to make: chocolate.  No really, you can use whatever, but I have only used chocolate.

Make a regular box of cake mix, but add additional: 1T vanilla, 4T vegetable oil and 1 egg.  Make as directed, then put in freezer immediately after pulling it out of the oven.  I have kept my cakes in the freezer for a week before and they stay so moist! Decorate them right out of the freezer.

Dream Whip Frosting

1 and 1/2 cups shortening (Crisco)

1 envelope Dream Whip

1 T vanilla

1 T almond extract

dash salt

2 lbs powered sugar

2/3 cups cold water

Mix Crisco and Dream Whip then add vanilla, almond, salt (beat together) then add water (beat again) then add powered sugar.

Super easy!

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The Office Coffee Game

And other office etiquette that I completely forgot about.

I started my own marketing business in January of 2008. Since then I have been working completely from home (in yoga pants of course), with short visits to my clients for meeting and things.  And as my relationship with each of my clients grew over time, I started going into their offices even less; we got more efficient and I got more yoga pants.  And Mama Burde is happiest in yoga pants.

OK, I swear this post is not about my obsession with yoga pants.

Earlier this year, a long-term client of mine asked if I could work some regular office hours and become a more important role in their business.  This client is amazing, awesome, all of the above great things and I was grateful and excited for the opportunity.

I started regular office hours for two mornings per week at the start of this month.  Having never had to be at an office, dressed and looking my best since I had kids (our oldest was born in the fall of 2008), I was worried about getting all of us girls out of the house and on the Burde bus in time.

Did I mention my office hours start at 9 a.m.? Not so bad.  But, we sleep around here.

But what I didn’t think about was the fact that I have not been in a professional office environment in just over four years.  That’s a long time.  I have realized over the past month that I am like a bull in a China shop, ramming around the office jamming fax machines, forwarding my phone unknowingly and of course spending way too much time with the coffee maker…which we will get to.

I feel like I’m fresh out of college at my first job.  And exactly what are the office etiquette rules?  I know I can wear jeans on Fridays, but what about just general professional manners?  I do consider myself a professional, but lately I feel like a fool.  Here are a few issues I have blundered through over the past several weeks…

So, say I need to talk something over with one of my new co-workers.  I do the ‘office dance’ in front of their office or cubicle wondering: Do I just walk in? Do I knock even though their door is open or they don’t even have a door? Do I call first even though it’s a small office and they’ll hear my voice not only on the phone, but from the cubicle next to them where I’m at?

And what if they’re on the phone when I get there…do I quietly stalk their telephone conversation and wait for them to hang up or do some awkward hand gesture and tilt my head to the side with my hand in the shape of a phone as if I’m a mime saying, ‘call me!’

And as always with efficiency on my mind, if I can talk in a loud voice and ask them a question, do I really need to get up and walk over to them?  Can’t I just holler (not to be confused with holla) to save myself a little time?

That actually happened today.

The woman in the cubicle across from me has a little window that faces my door.  We happened to make eye contact when I was checking to see if she was there so I could ask her a question.  What did my all-rusted-up-on-office-etiquette-behind do?

I just yelled.

But you know what happened?  She yelled back!

Now since 2008 I have also enjoyed my own coffee, from my own coffee pot, at my own strength.  Office coffee is different.  But what I discovered is that there is this Secret Office Coffee Game.

Here’s how you play.

There are two coffee pots. Each person that goes to get coffee tries to take from the coffee pot with the most in it, assuring each pot – while might be low – does not technically require you to make another pot.  The person that goes into the break room to find two pots of coffee with about a ¼ cup each left, loses.

Guess who loses?  Me.

But overall, I just love my new schedule.  I have managed to get out of the house in time and have successfully sent two faxes!  I also removed my phone from Do Not Disturb so people can actually get through on my line.

As for the Secret Office Coffee Game, I still need to work on that.  I wonder if there is an App for that?

It’s a Tastic Christmas: Part Two

It’s a Tastic Christmas: Part Two
Craft-Tastic

Who would have ever guessed I’d be one crafty Mama?  Not me.

But last year around this time, when our toddler was just over two, I tried a lot of fun Christmas crafts.  I was actually a little worried that this year I would have fewer ideas to try.  Like I have to outdo myself every year or something.  Well, either way, I was wrong.

This year we sure had a Craft-Tastic Christmas.  Our crafty little toddler is so much into craft projects (especially those involving candy), she almost gets the shakes.  And, I think she did have the shakes when I revealed all the candy set up for our Christmas Craft Activity #1: Gingerbread house and tree.

All the candy prepped for our gingerbread activities.

This is about the most simple – and sugary – activity you can do.  They have so many options for premade houses and other things.  I actually found mine on Amazon and since I have Amazon Prime (free shipping), they arrived at my door two days later and didn’t cost me a thing to ship.  You could of course bake your own cookies, but honestly I’d rather spend time organizing all the candy in the little glass jars, which are actually candle holders I had.  Most of the candy is even from the dollar store.

The finished house (notice the massive, uncontrollable sugar smile on our toddler)

NOTE: if you don’t want your child to eat too much sugar, skip to Christmas Craft #2.  Really, no use in torturing them with all the candy!  I pretended our toddler didn’t have a dentist appointment two weeks later.  Which, had great results mind you, because she certainly doesn’t eat candy like this all year (and we have a pretty strict no juice policy).

Christmas Craft #2 Hand and Feet Christmas Tree

This was so much fun! I used our toddler’s hands and our baby’s feet to make the tree and tree stump.  The crafty toddler was on her own with what she wanted to use for decorating the tree.  I had this old frame lying around so I was actually able to frame it and utilize it as part of our Christmas decorations.  I dated it since I figure I’ll hang it up every year.

Our girl, decorating the tree.

The finished product, hung with an old frame I had. Toddler hands, baby feet. So sweet!

Christmas Craft #3 Triangle Tree

So, I did have to prep this the night before and cut out all those darn triangles.  I also taped the white paper together in advance.  Then, I let our girl go wild with glue, buttons, glitter glue and whatever else we have in our massive ‘art project hutch’ (which use to house nice glasses, plates vases, etc….another one of those ‘before we had kids’ moments).  You could really ‘hang’ it however you wanted.  I used double-sided tape, which I keep at least two rolls in the house for all children craft emergencies, and then hung it on an existing hook that was here when we move in.  Voila!

This could really be made a lot smaller, if needed. I like the bigger size though. And please note the cute thing our toddler is doing with her foot. She saw this pic and told me it was her 'new foot thing for pictures.'

Christmas Craft #4 Nativity

With all the crafts and cookies, santa claus and snow excitement, it’s nice to take time to refocus your child on the true meaning of Christmas.  So, we put together this nativity make out of graham crackers, lots of fruit roll ups, marshmallows, etc.  I saw some pictures online, but then just kind of used what we had to make it work for us.  By this activity I really was to the point where I wasn’t going to buy ANY more candy!  It turned out pretty cute.

Fruit roll up nativity! The hay is coconut I colored with food coloring...not cheese.

This time of the year is so much fun.  And, I think there is always good reason to take the time to set up organized projects for your kids.  I think I had just as much fun as our girls!  I am confident, however, that I ate a lot less sugar than they did.

If you’re a little obsessive like me, just ignore the massive piles of glitter and sprinkles all around the house and remember that soon all the decorations and clutter will be gone and we can move into the completely boring months of January and February…even more reason to try and enjoy the mess!

God Bless and Merry Christmas to you and your families!

Cutting Corners

Among other things I have called myself, I am now deeming Mama Burde the worst Christmas Present Wrapper in the History of the Entire World.

It’s pretty bad.

But actually now that I think about it, I once saw my husband tape a paper plate to a box when he ran out of wrapping paper.

Edit: I am now deeming myself the SECOND worst Christmas Present Wrapper in the History of the Entire World.

But honestly, I don’t care.

There are some things I cut corners on.  Wrapping gifts is one of them. It is so beautiful and cheery when people wrap gifts with bows and ribbons and little flares here and there.  But really, I’d rather spend my time getting something else done.

I wrapped all of our Christmas presents in about 10 minutes.  I blasted through about 20 gifts, giving me a two minute per gift wrapping average.  Pretty impressive.

I’m so not a slacker.  I just choose to cut corners on things that I really don’t think matter that much.  The paper is going to get ripped; if you’re my toddler you don’t even see the wrapping paper because you’re so excited to open what’s inside.  If you’re my husband, you don’t care if it’s wrapped or not.  And, if we’re hauling gifts in the car to visit family than it’s all about ramming them in as little space as possible.

So, if I didn’t trim enough paper off the ends of a box and the wrapping is all bulky and my dollar store tape is half hanging on, at least I can say I was able to take the extra time to get the kitchen cleaned up or watch an episode of Extreme Couponing so I can make myself feel like an even more frivolous shopper.

Yes, there are so many better things to do than spending extra time putting a little pizzazz on my gift wrap.

Mommy First. Professionally Unprofessional.

I work from home. That can sound a little sketchy, like when I see the ‘Make $1,000 a week working from home!’ ads. But, it’s legit. In fact, I know quite a few people who work from home in my field. Marketers, graphic designers, etc. can make quite a good living doing what I do and companies can save a lot of money by hiring people like me without having all the overhead, retirement, health insurance and other costs associated with having employees.

Now that I’ve plugged my business…

They call me a ‘working mom.’

I consider myself a ‘mom working.’

I am fortunate enough to not only work from home, but keep a more part-time schedule and flex my hours a lot, doing work at night if needed, or early in the morning before the kids get up. (Yeah, like that ever happens.) Our oldest daughter just turned three in October so I’ve had just over three years to look like a fool in various venues, meaning I look like a mommy first and professional second. I’m OK with that.

I have…

  • Spilled diapers out of my purse as I put it down while meeting with a prospective client for lunch. 
  • Lied to clients (yes, I’ve lied) when they ask what that noise is in the background… ‘nope, not my daughter in the monitor…just the radio in the background.’ 
  • Told many, many poop stories to clients and realized the topic after it was too late to return. I had to finish the stories hoping they’d laugh at the end. Most of the times, they did. 
  • Spoken to clients on the phone while nursing…gotta love the multi-tasking options with the telecommute, minus a web cam, of course. 
  • Along the same lines, but one thousand times more embarrassing was when I quickly dropped something off to a client shortly after our oldest was born. I had leaked and didn’t realize it until I got home. I felt full of awesomeness after that one. And I was obviously full of something else too.
  • Let’s just get all the nursing stories out in the open here…had to pump while working at a marketing agency I do work for.  It was just me and one other employee (male, of course), in their fairly small office.  I had to come out and tell him what I needed to do.  He could only get himself to say, ‘do your thing.’ He was actually great about it!  And now that he has a prescious little girl he can totally relate.

But over the past few years I have become more open and honest about how I run my business. Not that I tried to hide anything before, but I try and be blatantly upfront about the fact that I don’t work full time and I’m not available 24/7 to anyone else but my family. But when I work, I work. And my kids are well taken care of so I can concentrate on something I love to do.

So, the next time you’re in a meeting and you see a mom with drool on her right shoulder and diapers peeking out of her purse, show her a little love. And bring her a latte for crying out loud. She deserves it!

Big. Tall. Fat. Chubby-Wubby.

About four years ago when I trained an employee group on customer service, I told a story that I recall like it was yesterday.  I was in Meijer, perusing the chip aisle, when a little girl, probably three or four, said to her mother, “mom, that lady is biiiiiiiiig.”  Nice.

The truth is, I have been tall for as long as I can remember.  While my driver’s license says I’m 5’11”, when I was last measured I actually came to 6’2”.  My self-confidence must have risen slightly because there was a time I would be too scared to even write that.  Six-two…that’s like a man, I know.

I honestly cannot remember for the life of me why I shared that story to the group or what the heck it had to do with customer service.  I’m sure it had some connection, but it’s also likely I wanted to use my platform when speaking in front of a few hundred people to say, “Hey! Teach your kid the word tall if it’s the only thing you teach them!”  I’m not big.  I’m tall.  There’s a rather big (no pun intended) distinction there.

So about a month or so ago our toddler was looking at her reflection in my husband’s car and it was distorted.  She said to me, “Hey mom look. I look fat!”  Then she backed up and went forward multiple times saying, “Fat…regular…fat…regular.”  She was pretty excited about the whole thing, but I was somewhat appalled that she would say that, and I told her she was just perfect no matter how she looked.

Then she said it again when she was all bundled up underneath her Halloween outfit.  It was something to the effect of, “I feel fat.”  Really, did our toddler who just turned three say she feels fat?  While I can’t say for sure that I have never, ever said that in front of her (but she would remember, even if I said it once two years ago), I can say that it isn’t something I say often, if at all.

So, I started paying attention to things and finding out how this word, fat, has entered her vocab so much.  As we’ve been reading books over the last few weeks it’s probably come up at least once per day.  The big fat caterpillar…the big fat cat had a big fat smile…and so on and so on.  Seems totally harmless until your toddler starts using the word like a teenager.

The kicker was when she looked at her precious baby sister the other day and said, “Mom, she has a fat face.”  WHAT?  So, acting quickly I said, “Your sister isn’t fat.  She’s a healthy, happy baby.”  To which she replied, “Well, what is she then? You know, her cheeks and stuff.”

Good question.

At the spur of the moment I said, “Your sister is a cute little chubby-wubby.” And she is.  At seven months she has chubby-wubby cheeks and chubby-wubby legs.  I.just.love.them.  The chubber-wubbers is a happy, healthy babe. 

Our toddler does listen well.  Tonight she pushed her skinny little belly out when I was putting her to bed and said, “Mom look, I have a chubby-wubby belly.  But it’s not fat!”  Success?  Failure?  Is there really a difference between fat and chubby-wubby?  I think I’ll stick to telling her not to comment on her or other people’s appearance and remind her God made each one of us just perfect.  Even my big, chip aisle shopping, tall as a man self.

Code Brown

I guess if you’re a mommy and a blogger then this subject will come up sooner-than-later.  Since this is only my sixth post I guess you can say it came up sooner for me.

I’m not sure what you call explosions of the rear-end kind at your house, but in the Burde nest we call them Code Browns.  And if a Code Brown is called, it means back-up is needed.  It’s no joke.

I can’t remember the last time I called a Code Brown.  Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever personally called a Code Brown.  Maybe once.  I am pretty good at handling any kind of explosion that comes at me.  Armed with a box full of wipes and sincere love for my babies, I can usually get through anything.  Tonight was a different story.

Two little girlies taking a nice bath together tonight ended with mom throwing up in her mouth several times.  Our oldest was being so cute with the babe, talking to her and even singing, ‘This little piggy’ while touching her toes.  Suddenly our oldest looked over and said, ‘mom…what’s this?’

‘I don’t know, honey.  Where did that come from?’  Then I realized the answer to that question.

You can guess where the story goes from here.

As I urgently persuaded our toddler to get out of the tub like she’s chasing the ice cream man, I scooped up the babe and got her onto a nice clean towel.  So, why the Code Brown?  The tub was only the first victim.  The action continued and I was stuck in the bathroom assessing the situation. 

  • Two wet kids
  • One wriggly baby
  • Two Code Brown sites
  • And the clincher…no wipes.

If I have ever complained about Verizon I will never again.  My cell phone worked and I was able to call my husband who was upstairs.  And I said it.  Code Brown.

What does Brown do for me? Well, it makes me dry-heave for one.