Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Peacocks and plant life

We took advantage of the long weekend to visit a spot that's been on our list for a long time. We were hoping to make it there while I was on maternity leave but just didn't get to it. We thought the holiday would be a great opportunity because it was supposed to be too cool and overcast for a good day at the beach. I should have checked the forecast again this morning, it ended up being totally clear and sunny, and was about 83 degrees by the time we headed home.

Anyway, we had a great time at the LA Arboretum. I was so looking forward to seeing peacocks and the place did not disappoint. We saw one before we were even inside the park and once inside, you could hardly look in any direction without seeing a peacock. You could hear them all over, too. I don't think I could ever get tired of looking at their beautiful, shimmering blue necks and their gorgeous, sparkling tails. I especially love their black (brown?) and white accent stripes. I have never seen so many peacocks, or seen any so close. As we were walking, I thought that heaven must be full of peacocks...

The grounds were full of lovely trees and plants and beautiful flowers and things to explore.
We especially enjoyed the "Serpent Trail" through the Australian gardens. Alice wanted to stop and look at every mosaic. We decided this one looked like a balloon and with a stick for a string, she was ready to float away.
 We followed the winding trail until we found the snake's giant head and glittery eyes. Alice gave him a stick for a tongue.

We came across this peahen, blending into this little garden. I stopped to take a photo and we realized there were nine other peacocks and peahens hiding among the plants with her.
 And then we noticed one more, a tiny baby hiding at her feet. You have to look so closely in these photos to see it's little head among the plants.

 We left before we made mama too nervous and headed over to the Peacock Cafe for lunch. Ivy was all smiles.
 And I loved the peacock maĆ®tre d’ that roamed around, looking for handouts.

 After lunch, we strolled down the lawn toward the fountains. Alice took off and I loved watching her through my lens, running uninhibited across a private expanse of grass.

 She loved those fountains, she's always drawn to water when we're out and about at places like this. She would have been happy to stay there, if we'd let her. If only we could have taken off our shoes and clothes and floated away.
 I lured her away with the promise of a lake, which we found full of clamoring carp and turtles. Alice found a stick and went "fishing."

 We saw the cottage and other lovely gardens, and once we found the waterfall, we knew it was time to head home.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Alice!

We celebrated Alice's birthday this weekend with visits from both sets of grandparents. My parents came to visit on Friday and left late on Sunday, and Jon's parents arrived on Sunday afternoon just in time to let us have cake and presents during the overlap.

I worked on decorating Alice's birthday cake before we started the celebrating.

My trusty helper was hanging around, ready lick the spatula...

I kept up my tradition and made Alice another birthday dress, finishing it just in the nick of time on Saturday night. When I was shopping for Easter dress supplies, I came across this awesome Liberty of London fabric featuring none other than Alice's very favorite - Hello Kitty. I bought enough to make another Geranium dress but I'm glad to see that there's still some available (and on sale!). It's a lovely floral print featuring subtle Hello Kitties playing various musical instruments. Totally adorable. I love that it doesn't scream "Hello Kitty," you can hardly tell unless you look closely. Alice LOVES it. When we went outside to take some pictures, Alice grabbed her toy telescope and wouldn't drop it for the photos. So, you know.

We went out for Alice's favorite food for lunch but our favorite Chinese restaurant is closed on Sunday so we went to another, slightly fancier joint in town.

Before we got everything underway, we had a quick chat with my brother who had sent down a gift for Alice since he couldn't make it down. 
He told her to go out and look on the front porch...
Where she found a tiny broom and dust pan just her size. Now she can do her very own sweeping without bashing up the walls!

And then she dug in to the rest of her presents. She got a few new books including some of my childhood favorites, which I can't wait to read with her.

She was especially enthusiastic unwrapping this one, "It's a new Disney movie!" 

 Aristocats! We had been watching Aristocats on Netflix but we've canceled our subscription for now, and it's really hard to explain to a three-year-old why some of our movies are "on the computer" and some of them are not...
My parents recently stayed at Safari West, a wildlife preserve and breeding zoo, and loved all the giraffes they saw. Naturally, they thought of us, and got this fun puppet for Alice.
And then it was time for cake! Since all the best chocolate cake recipes call for buttermilk, or at least milk, I made a chocolate mayo cake so I could enjoy it without giving Ivy the dairy colic. I topped it with this delicious buttercream and then used this technique I saw on Pinterest to put a sweet Hello Kitty on top.
Pink and chocolate, just like her little dress.
The decorating technique worked pretty well but I think it would work even better if you were coloring the entire image with frosting, like the tutorial. Then it would be a solid chunk of frosting that would flip right over onto your cake. I ended up piping back over the design again, which worked well too, except my chocolate buttercream was a bit too thick and then a bit too hot after I nuked it to soften it up. But I got it working well enough to write out her name just in time to eat it! 
She was much more excited to blow out her candles this year but she still wanted a little help to reach the candles.
And then she blew them all out! I was so proud!
And then we all enjoyed a slice while we watched Alice eat a hole through the middle of her cake, eat all the frosting, and then dig through the layers again. The mayo cake was so delicious, without any hint of mayo tang, and the frosting was perfectly fluffy and not too sweet. Definitely a combo that I'll keep handy in my recipe box!

 After cake, Alice broke out all her new toys, including the Play-Doh Fun Factory. She wanted to try to do everything all at the same time but we finally convinced her to put the play-doh away so we could watch Aristocats and snuggle.
I think she had a great time celebrating and we all had so much fun making her day feel extra special.

Happy Birthday to our very first big girl baby girl! We love you so much and I couldn't imagine life without your little voice and your laugh and your imagination and your sweet, sweet little face. 
one birthday suit, and three years of mama-made birthday dresses.