#AboutThatLife

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gotta love nap time. penny’s on her second nap so i’m trying to whip out a blog post while pumping (-_-) and hopefully will be able to grab a bite to eat.

there is a cute children’s book store called jack & allie’s in my town, and it’s about a 5-minute drive from our house. they have camps, classes, and a lot of fun activities for babies, toddlers, children, and parents. genie told me last night that she planned on bringing olivia to story time today. the time is perfect: 11:15-12:15 because penny usually wakes up from her first nap between 10:30-11:30am. i had to wake her up from her nap as usual and then drove us over to the bookstore.

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after hearing a story about martha, the talking dog (a funny story that i’ve read before), the children participated in a coloring activity. it was penny and olivia’s first attempt at coloring. penny didn’t color but i’m glad she didn’t stick the crayons in her mouth. olivia, however, did color a bit!

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she loved this rocking chair!

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penny was really excited to see other babies – she kept smiling and looking around – and she also loved exploring jack & allie’s. we had been there a few times before to purchase books but that was before she was mobile.

now that penny is nearing the toddler stage, life has become even more eventful and exhausting! she loves trying to walk but it’s hard on our backs since we have to hunch over to support her. stair-climbing is also another assisted activity that she loves. thankfully we have carpeted stairs and we stand behind her. since she’s moving around a lot more she actually gets tired faster. sometimes she wants to nap after only being awake for 2 hours or so and i stretch it out so she can make it close to the 3-hour mark.

penny’s schedule: 5/24/16

6:30am:  wake up/milk/play/eat/take a walk

9:30am – 10:58am: first nap (had to wake her)

11:15am-12:15pm: story hour @ jack & allie’s

12:30-1pm: lunch

1pm-1:30pm: walk outside

2pm-3:30pm: second nap (hopefully)

3:30-6:30pm: milk/play/take a walk/dinner/bath time

7:30pm: bedtime

this is what our typical day looks like. of course, the daily activities differ depending what we’re doing or where we’re going, but it’s great knowing what to expect. i hope she takes two naps for a while! usually babies transition from two naps to one anywhere between 14~18 months with a rare amount transitioning earlier.

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mealtimes have been tough as penny hates sitting still so we have to offer a variety of food. some days she’ll want to chomp on a banana and other days she won’t even take a bite! the temper tantrums are fierce! she wants everything her way…

these reusable pouches that i ordered from amazon are amazing. you can put basically anything in there. yogurt used to be our go-to food but she doesn’t really like it anymore. who knows why? i still offer it to her in the pouch and she’ll eat it that way, if at all. i also put in fruit and veggie purees… she doesn’t like being spoon-fed too much anymore so having her hold on to the pouches helps us too.

she also really loves pizza. we had pizza for dinner last night and didn’t pick up the pie until penny had already eaten dinner. then she saw us eating pizza and naturally wanted some. she ended up eating an entire slice sans the crust. o.O

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last saturday, i attended my childhood friend, christina’s wedding in providence, rhode island. it was held at roger williams botanical garden and the venue was gorgeous! dennis had to work last weekend so i drove up solo and my sister met me at the hotel. it was fun going as sisters and getting some bonding time in.

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we used to hang out often in middle school and high school because we grew up in the same church. it became few and far between once all of us were in college but we still usually got together during the holidays especially for a christmas eve dinner at christina’s, or yuge (her korean name is yujin), mom’s house. finally, she moved out to los angeles to pursue a career in the television industry. she’s made cameos and worked on shows like pretty little liars and night shift, and is currently an associate producer on the middle.

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yuge’s brother, justin

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yuge’s brother, justin

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congratulations to yuge & abi!

 

 

happy 1st birthday, penny

it’s done! it’s over! all those months of endless planning… finding ideas on pinterest… crafting during penny’s naps and bedtime… fretting over the tiniest details… they are no more. and honestly, it makes me kind of sad. my friend, jennie, celebrated her daughter’s first birthday this past sunday. her baby girl, kaylee, and penny, were born on the same day: 5/15/15. unfortunately since they reside on the west coast we weren’t able to attend each other’s parties. but we discussed them in full length last night after we had somewhat recovered from the weekend festivities. we both agreed that we were enormously relieved that it was all over… but we felt a piece of us was missing.. what is our purpose now? haha.. jennie said we are crazy, and i guess i would have to agree.

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before the party, two things that had worried us the most were the weather and how penny would sleep in an unfamiliar place. there was no rain date and we absolutely would not have been able to comfortably accommodate all the guests indoors especially since we had rented a photo booth. the event was held at my parents’ house and everything was set up in the backyard. turns out, the weather and penny’s sleep were the least of our worries. saturday ended up being in the mid-to-high 70s and sunny and penny slept on her own, no problem.

what we didn’t take into account was that penny would get sick. she started showing symptoms around wednesday afternoon after her last nap. she woke up with flushed cheeks and was fussy. later, she started feeling really warm and had a fever of 102.2. her fever went up and down the next several days and she also had diarrhea. tylenol seemed to help her immensely and she continued to sleep well albeit in pain (we could hear her moaning and crying a little in her sleep.)

we packed up most of the car on thursday night since we were going to head up to boston on friday after her morning nap. she did great on the 1.5 hour drive – all smiles – so we were hopeful that she was getting better. the tylenol wore off and she still didn’t have much of an appetite – we kept trying to make her drink milk, water, and pedialyte. we had to wake her up from her first nap away from home and she was not happy. she hadn’t improved by saturday so we let her sleep as long as she wanted for her first nap – it ended up being 3 hours – while we started setting up for the party.

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even though she wasn’t feeling well, she enjoyed taking walks outside.

a positive note from that morning was that dennis received a very special surprise: his brother, dan, and wife, crystal, flew in from maryland that morning just to attend penny’s birthday. dan, crystal, and i had known for 2 months that they were flying up for the day. i ended up telling dennis’s mom so that she and my fil could come up to boston a little early to spend time with dan and crystal too. she’s good at keeping secrets.. dennis’ dad, not so much. xP

we definitely needed their presence too because we all seriously underestimated how much time we would need to set up for the party. we began around 10am when penny fell asleep for her nap and were still scrambling to finish as guests began to arrive a few minutes before 3pm. even though my sister and her boyfriend, brendan, had arrived around 11 to help we were still backed up! we are talking 8 adults here…(dennis’ parents arrived around noon.) after penny woke up at 1pm, dennis’ mom took care of her while the rest of us ran around like chickens with our heads cut off..eesh. i hate the feeling of not being ready so my stress level was on high that day.

since we were so concerned about penny’s well-being i feel like we didn’t get to mingle with the guests as much. dennis and i also forgot to do some of the things we had planned because we were trying to rush everything like photos, doljabi, and the cake while she was in a good mood. granted, she probably would’ve been overwhelmed even if she was 100% because of how many people were there but being sick made it worse. she did a total 180 when dennis and i took her inside so she could eat dinner away from the crowd. we also just let her sit in her diaper and she was much happier… the hanbok that she was wearing was stiff and hot and that had made her even crankier. her mood improved drastically after a full belly and we were able to take her outdoors for the “happy birthday” song and she even took a few swipes at the cake and ate the frosting.

we are waiting for the photographs to be ready… in the meantime we were looking at the photo booth pictures and photos that people took with their phones. in hindsight, yeah, we could have always made it better… but i am grateful that the weather was perfect, everyone had a great time, and penny ended up feeling better near the end.

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we waited to open the gifts the next day

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spending some time with grandpa lee before going home

now that my life isn’t consumed with planning penny’s birthday,  i can catch up on eating (i hadn’t been eating well, or enough the last month or so.. basically just shoving food in my mouth or skipping meals altogether so i could focus on penny’s birthday projects) and taking care of myself because i let all that go out the window. dennis and i are going to aruba for a destination wedding in a few weeks and i haven’t been to the gym since i went ONCE in punta cana back in january. is a beach body even feasible in two weeks’ time? probably not.. but i could, at least, start going so i can be “ready” for this summer. maybe tonight…

in any case, dennis and i are looking forward to making weekend trips to boston this summer. now that we know penny’s a good sleeper even when she’s not at home (hopefully, it wasn’t a fluke) we are even more excited for the summer! i think it helped that she was in her own room on the third floor while the rest of us slept on the second. plus, we brought everything from home that she’s used to like her white noise, bedtime books, and this fisher price puppy that plays lullabies. we did the same routine during naps and bedtime and she did fabulously. it was her first time sleeping in the pack ‘n play as well. we bought a mattress for it so she’d be comfortable as the thin pad that comes with it isn’t really suitable for sleep. she goes in the pack ‘n play now and then while we prep food in the kitchen but she had never slept in it before. we couldn’t be happier with our sleeping beauty!

diy cake smash photo shoot

when you have a baby, the costs keep adding up. there are the necessary everyday items like diapers, but then there are also optional luxuries such as having professional photos done for your child. like many parents, we opted to do the newborn photo shoot because 1) we wanted high-quality images of penny, and 2) we didn’t mind splurging for our first child. (i’d like to think we’d be as generous with our subsequent children.)

dennis and i didn’t truly appreciate the work that photographers go through for the newborn photo shoot until we were at the studio. i mean, how hard could it be taking pictures of a sleeping newborn? thing is, newborns don’t sleep all the time and they have to be asleep for certain poses. our photographer cranked the heat up in the studio and was constantly feeding penny so she’d be sleepy and full. also, babies are diaperless during these photos so you can imagine what a lot of milk and no diapers can do during picture time!

as much as we love the newborn photos and now know how much work goes into baby photo shoots, we still couldn’t justify paying upwards of $700+ for the cake smash session. a baby’s first birthday is a significant occasion in general but in the korean culture, it is a huge deal. with the big guest list, traditional tie-ins such as the doljabi and hanbok, entertainment for the younger crowd, favors, and food the final total can go into the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands (eek!) in the end, we asked our friend, john, who has a really nice canon to take family photos and pictures of penny for her cake smash. that left dennis and i to arrange the “home studio.”

we chose the basement aka penny’s playroom for the space because it’s spacious and has a lot of natural light. fyi, natural light is your best friend. it’s okay to use both natural and artificial light but, if possible, you want to take photos near big picture windows to ensure the photos come out their absolute best. we chose to have penny’s photo session take place around 3:30pm (after her last nap so she has a long window of awake time). we also decided to use the wall facing the windows for optimal light since the sun sets in that direction.

word of advice: have, at least, one other person present during the photo shoot. i recommend two people though. while the photographer (could be you) is taking pictures of the baby, there needs to be someone distracting the baby by making noises and trying to make them smile and face the camera. also, when you’re doing multiple outfit changes it helps to have extra hands to do the job super quick. while john took the photos, his wife, alice, helped set up the different backdrops. remember: your baby will get agitated sooner or later so you have to make sure you allow plenty of time, but also give yourselves a break! we stopped for a short while so penny could have some milk – don’t forget, they’ll be hungry so have snacks and milk ready!

also, the photo shoot could take more than one day. i ended up taking pictures of penny with my iphone 6 a few days later so i could have more pictures of her, smiling. during the original photo shoot whenever dennis and i made noises for her to smile, she’d end up looking at us. thankfully, dennis’ mom came over to help with wardrobe changes and using props to get penny’s attention. these pictures turned out great too! i was worried about the quality of the iphone photos but i think the natural light helped immensely. all of the photos of her smiling were taken with my iphone!

okay, onto to the preparation of the home studio. i did a lot of research and saw that people purchased a big roll of bulletin board paper or craft paper for the backdrop. some used white (blank canvas and makes the photos super bright) while others opted for colored backgrounds. dennis and i went to jo-ann fabrics to see what we could find and we were pumped to see that they had a faux wood bulletin board paper! the ones that some people were using were 52 inches wide and ours was 48. just a few inches short but the width does make a difference because it determines how close/far you can take your pictures since you don’t want the wall to show. try to make sure you can find a width that’s 48 inches or more.

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make sure you tape the backdrop up high and without cutting it, roll it out so the floor is covered too.

i made the ‘one’ banner and hung it low so it would show in the picture. have a few decorations and/or banners on hand so you can have a variety of “looks.” i saved a fringe banner from last year’s baby shower, made the ‘one’ banner, bought balloons, and saved paper fans from my baby shower and penny’s 100th day celebration.

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how it looks close-up

 

for the smash cake, i decided to make a giant cupcake. i purchased a giant cupcake pan from amazon and it’s around $15.

i referred to this blog post, and it was really helpful. the only thing i have to gripe about is how much cake batter was left over. the ingredients ask for 2 boxes of yellow cake mix and you end up using about half, maybe a little more. i suppose you could just make more cake or cupcakes with it but after spending all morning making and prepping the smash cake i didn’t even want to eat the remnants.

anyway, if you don’t feel like opening up another link i’ll post the ingredients here:

ingredients and supplies

  • 2 Boxes of Yellow Cake Mix
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 Package Jello-O Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 c. water
  • giant cupcake mold
  • cooking spray
  • glass bowl
  • hand mixer
  • 1 lb. candy melts
  • long knife
  • 2 cans of frosting or homemade buttercream frosting (i opted to make frosting – recipe in included in post.)
  • *food coloring (only if you’re making the frosting – i used wilton)

i poured 2.5 cups of batter in the cone portion (left side) and 3.5 cups in the bottom part of the cupcake (right side).

when it’s done, let them cool in pan for 15 minutes and transfer over to a wire rack to cool completely.

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after they cool, level the raised parts of both the cone and the bottom portion of the cupcake. the bottom photo was taken before i did that. notice how the cone isn’t perfect? i used frosting later on to cover it up and faced that part away from the camera.

with the knife, you also want to slice off the ridges of the bottom part so that it fits into the candy mold later on. you will see what i’m talking about in the next picture.

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this candy mold for the bottom part of the cupcake is optional but it has a much better presentation than if the cupcake was just shown with the cake bottom.

the blog post says to put the candy melts (most of the bag) in a microwaveable bowl and melt the candy for 30 seconds in 3 intervals. i found that two times sufficed for me because the candy was too watery the third time around and wouldn’t coat the sides of the pan to create a thick shell.

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i purchased these from party city

after the candy is melted, pour it into the bottom part of the cupcake mold and make sure to coat the sides. if it looks too thin, you may need to harden the candy and try melting it again. i learned that the hard way. after refrigerating the shell for 40 minutes, i saw that it was way too thin to even take out of the mold so i had to scrape the shell off and redo it.

okay, so after the melted candy is in the mold put it in the fridge for, at least, 40 minutes so that it’s solid. then, turn the mold upside down and gently tap it… it should slide out easily!

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see how the candy walls are thick?

then, gently place the bottom part of the cupcake (with the ridges sliced off) into the mold. i had to keep taking the cupcake out to trim it even more because it was too big to fit into the mold. keep playing around with it.

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ta-da! it finally fit! see how much better the cupcake looks with a candy mold???

after i finished making the frosting, i put in one drop of the pink food coloring. the color i desired was a light pink so i wanted to start off slowly. be aware that food coloring can deepen over time so you want to start with one drop and then slowly add more. you can always make the frosting darker but you would need to add (and then make more) frosting to make it lighter. i only ended up using two drops!

here is the recipe for the frosting, borders & writing (if you’re into all that). i got it from my baking instructor.

icing

  • 1/2 c. crisco
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 4 tb. warm water
  • 1 lb. domino 10x confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbs. corn starch

mix everything but sugar and corn starch.

add sugar slowly, and then corn starch. mix until smooth.

add food coloring drop by drop.

 

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IMG_6036and, viola! i took a cake decorating class at jo-ann fabrics a few years ago. sadly, i forget most of the techniques but the rosette is not hard to do at all. i just practiced a few of them on the plastic pad that i got with my decorating kit.

*note: if you want bigger rosettes, you want to use a bigger tip. mine took a while to do and the frosting was hard to squeeze out because i had used a lot of powdered sugar. more sugar, more stiffness.

please give yourself plenty of time to bake the cake, make the frosting, and set it up. ideally, it would be best to do the photo shoot in the afternoon so your child is well-rested and you have more time to get ready. dennis took care of penny in the morning but i still got up around 7am to prep and bake the cake. i was still working on it three hours later! i also didn’t put the frosting on until a half hour before the shoot, and we took pictures of it during penny’s nap.

it’s kind of sad to see your hard work get destroyed, but hey, it’s a cake smash! i admit, it was fun to see penny get mystified by the cake and then hesitantly touch it. she didn’t go all out as we had hoped but we still got some good pictures!

remember to have fun… and relax!

enjoy the pictures!

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