Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rot those teeth! (Part 3)

Last night, we celebrated Mia's 7-month birthday. Yes, it's that time of the month already. And I was inspired by the number 7. Not in a Pitt-Spacey kind of way, thank God! No it was more like a Care Bears thing. I was sitting on my couch, just thinking of Mia and the number seven, and "Rainbow" immediately came to mind. Because of its seven colors, obviously. And as I was about the speak the word out loud, I remembered the Care Bears who sort of lived on a rainbow (or something like that) and one of them in particular who had a rainbow on his belly: Cheer Bear. How totally appropriate for a birthday! 

And since I wasn't about to dress Mia in a bear suit which would be insane and borderline murderous in this weather (I'm crazy mamma, yes, but not *that* crazy); I decided to have her wear a Rainbow. What? I'm not *that* sane either!

So I contacted Ruby Tutus on Facebook and placed an order based on the inspired theme above. Rock star theme, might I add. And indeed the result was absolutely fantastic! See for yourself:

Mia's 7-month Tutu is a unique creation by Ruby Tutus

Corrine is the über-sweet mumtrepreneur behind this lovely idea. The concept is simple: anyone can go online, browse through the albums and order any of the featured tutus or request an entirely unique design which is what we did. All the tutus are hand-made by Corrine herself who goes the extra mile (literally) and delivers them by hand. Which was perfect because we got to meet in person and chat a little.

Mia's tutu is made of 7 colors, just like the rainbow on her cake.
Oh yes, there's a cake. With a  rainbow on top (hence the title of this article, duh).

As I was about the order a beautiful cake by our usual home-made pastry chef, Hubby challenged me: "I bet you would do great with those 3D things. After all you love arts and crafts and playing with clay. You're just too lazy, aren't you?"

Challenge accepted! (stupid pride)

So I decided to bake a cake myself.

The request I had initially prepared for our chef was simple: A rainbow cake with an actual 3D rainbow on top of it, and a cute Cheer Bear sitting somewhere and lots and lots of mini marshmallows all around to make the clouds.

I had Googled everything so I could give an accurate description of what I wanted and in the process I discovered that there are two types of rainbow cakes: the one with the clear colors as layers, and the one with  all the colors mixed together:



I had the first kind in mind as it looked like a real rainbow and found out that to make this cake, each layer must be baked independently and then, arranged together into one unified shape. 

So I got all my ingredients in place, including the crucial food coloring which was also going to be necessary when creating the fondant. And I started searching for some Care Bears toys because I wasn't confident about my fondant sculpting skills just yet. 

This will sound redundant really, especially after the infamous Wheat Quest, but I looked everywhere, in vain! I went to Spinneys (Motor City), Carrefour (Mall of the Emirates), Early Learning Center (Motor City) and Baby Shop (Mall of the Emirates)... Nothing. 

Since this wasn't a real necessity, I settled for My Little Poney and a couple of dolls. With the Care Bears in mind, I got a Bear-shaped pan from Spinneys and instead of saving it for another occasion, I decided to try everything now. The purpose being to get as much practice as possible before Mia's one-year (real) birthday.

It turned out to be a ... Hmmm... Let's say a very special cake, which and I'm quoting my sister here, "stings the eyes". I could almost hear her scream in pain through her email as her little pupils burnt with disgust. 

OK, it was not *that* bad but it definitely was not what I had in mind. 

And it nevertheless had one impressive quality: it carried everything I fiercely shoved in it without breaking apart!

Also, I should probably mentioned I did not go for the rainbow cake anymore as the guests who usually attend our fun gathering could not make it that time and we ended up being only two couples. Oh, and the two beautiful babies too. (God I almost forgot there was a 7-months old reason for me to do all this mess!) 

So I settled for a regular orange cake with chocolate ganache; with a top floor chocolate cake with  strawberry ganache. I stuck that rainbow right in the middle and the toys at the top. And of course, I added all my mini marshmallows to create the clouds all around the rainbow.

It did indeed sting the eyes:

Don't ask me what that freaky Zombie-bear (as my friend called it) is doing in the back; I don't know. And don't ask me why I put so many marshmallows on the rainbow; I don't know. And don't ask me why, oh why all these dolls; I don't know!

But what I do know is that the orange cake was yummy. I personally liked it :)Oh and yes, I did use some of my orange food coloring in it just to give it more, Hmmmm.... Panache? ;) 
(as if this masterpiece needed even more colors!! LOL)

If you're wondering where that pink doll went, Mia's BFF Giana took it as a souvenir, which makes this view a little bit kinder on the eye, especially with the big Zombie-bear out of sight ;)

Oh, and if you're interested (thank God, I refrained for this particular cake, it certainly did not need any additions!) here's how you can learn to create a rose with fondant.
This is mostly for you Cynthia ;)

In conclusion, kindly note that there will be a Rot those teeth! (Part 4) because we still have the Snayniyeh to complete.

Rot those teeth!

       Mamma Mia

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rot those teeth! (Part 2)

Sad update: Hubby couldn't find any wheat. Well that's not really accurate. Kindly allow me to rephrase: Hubby couldn't bother to "look for wheat in between business meetings at a (big) oil corporation in the middle of the desert". On the other hand, he was kind enough to offer some Polyethylene, Ethylene and Propylene. Or some whatever's that sound like that. I couldn't remember the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements back in high school. I'm not about to start learning weird names now!

Well, as interesting and über-scientific as all this may sound, I'm still wheat-less. So I think I'll improvise something else. The purpose being to celebrate those first teeth before a wisdom tooth shows up! Since I already have all the candy, decorations and containers ready, all I need is to put things together in a nice arrangement, and we'll be set.

As for Mia's Snayniyeh, well my mom had already done her share in Lebanon and she's planning to make some more when we reach Beirut; the tradition being to distribute to family, friends and neighbors so they can share the joy.

So we'll survive this adventure with our heads held high :)

And we'll get to rot our teeth tonight in all cases. That's the plan every 29th and today's no exception. We've got some major cakeing going on so watch this space for awesome photos to be posted after the celebration.

Rot those teeth! (Part 3), here we come! ;)

Rot those teeth!

      Mamma Mia

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rot those teeth! (Part 1)

Mia's first tooth has made a glorious appearance on June 18, 2011. Well actually, she came with a friend. Yes, it's not one but two first teeth we're celebrating at once. She's so efficient like that, our Mia. Love her!

Of course, this calls for some major celebrating and this time, Mamma Mia is keen on doing everything herself. After all, I need to practice a little bit before our first "real" birthday. So far, we've been ordering cakes each month to celebrate Mia's monthly birthdays, and since her sixth month, we've gotten addicted to those 3D cakes so much, we even had a beautiful one made for our very first Father's Day:

Click on the photo to redirect to the chef who baked that awesome cake
Click here to redirect to this cake's chef

But Mamma Mia has been researching the cutest way to celebrate that first tooth for a while now and we've decided to stick to the traditional "Snayniyeh" which is a Lebanese delicacy made of wheat especially for the occasion. The name comes from the Arabic word "Snayn" which translates to "teeth".

All that would be wonderful if only I could  find some wheat in Dubai! I've looked at Spinneys (Motor City), Carrefour (Mall of the Emirates), Carrefour (Mirdiff City Center), Waitrose (Dubai Mall), Lafayette Gourmet (Dubai Mall) and Choithram (The Greens): Nothing!

So now I have in my house all the ingredients for a magical "Snayniyeh", decorations included, except for the main food!

Ironically, my brother who's currently in Qatar for a project, and who led the "Quest for Wheat" last week, SMS-ed me yesterday just to say, and I quote:
"Found wheat in Carrefour. Ah wait, I'm in Qatar..."
Cute, I know.

But this actually inspired me. Hubby just left for Saudi Arabia today and I instructed him to "Get me some wheat from the Kingdom, or else!" 

Hubby isn't very fond of threats, but he agreed to try, in between meetings of course. And if he can get away from his colleagues; knowing he'd never hear the end of it should they catch him grocery shopping in Saudi for his daughter's first tooth dish. I kind of agreed with him. But for different more crucial reasons. Discretion is key, indeed. His friends may jinx the whole Quest and who knows, even buy the entire Kingdom's wheat  themselves and throw all the precious grains at sea just to play with hubby.

So what's the plan now?

Of course not! We've started practicing for the cute decorations. For that I've decided to use fondant since I've become a fan now ;)

I've never taken any cooking or baking class so I had no clue about fondant, where to buy it or how to make it so of course, I went to my best pal, Google, for some basic information.

It turns out various major supermarkets in Dubai do sell ready to use fondant. Yes, that's nice isn't it? Well not so much when they are ALL and I mean ALL out of stock! Seriously, I kid you not.

But that's not as dramatic as the wheat issue. Obviously, unlike wheat which I don't have time to grow from scratch, I can make fondant at home.

There's a plethora of recipes out there and I looked for the easiest one because I didn't want to sink in details and get frustrated with complicated techniques. And thankfully, I found one which works superbly well for a lazy beginner like yours truly:

Basic Fondant Recipe: 
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
¾ teaspoon Vanilla
¼ teaspoon Salt
2/3 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
5 cups Sifted Confectioners' Sugar (+ 1 cup for work surface) 
Beat butter, vanilla, and salt together until soft.
Add condensed milk slowly and beat until mixture is very light.
Add the confectioners' sugar cup-by-cup.
Dust your work surface with an extra cup of confectioners' sugar.
Turn your fondant mixture out onto the work surface and work the powdered sugar in with your hands.

Copyright© 2006-2010 All Rights Reserved.
It was really easy to make, and had I not been alone in the kitchen, I would have gladly taken photos of each step. I love you all so much but I was not about to grab my camera with buttery-milky-sugary fingers, so here's what I could do when I had the opportunity to wash my hands in between steps:

Start left and move down to the right:

First I made the mixture which is fairly basic as you can see in the recipe above. Then I poured it on the sugar and started working the sugar in the mixture with my hands. I know the recipe says that I need one cup of sugar for this step but I may have used more butter than instructed. I couldn't find sticks (don't ask, I won't even name the supermarket I went to last night) so I used spreadable butter (which probably didn't help the dough texture) and I had to improvise my 8 tablespoons.

In any case, while researching fondant, I had read that if the mixture is too sticky, add sugar and if it's too dry, add corn syrup. I know there's no corn syrup in that recipe here, but I got some anyway, just in case. Plus, some use it to glue various fondant shapes together so I figured, it's got to be useful at some point.

Once I got a nice dough, I shaped a heart just for you ;)

Then, I proceeded to coloring some portions of my dough. For that, I used regular food coloring that you can find anywhere, even in those insane Dubai supermarkets! Thank God, because that, I wasn't about to learn how to make on Google!

Coloring tips: Make a well at the center of the dough, pour one drop of food coloring in the middle. All cooking sites always advise to be careful and not pour too much coloring at once because it is easy to add and darken the color but it's nearly impossible to go back to a lighter tone.

And so I present to you Mr. Blue & Miss Red which were very useful for the following step.

Since I didn't have a cutter shaped in the form of a tooth (surprising eh? it's well known everyone has some at home) I had to draw it myself with a knife. it turned out to be quite easy actually. Then I inserted two (scary big) blue eyes and a (collagened) mouth and I was set with the sexiest tooth ever!

OK, so it looks a little frightening but this was my very first attempt and I had to get used to shaping that particular dough. Once I got used to it, I went crazy with the shapes and colors! But I'm leaving this for another post because I don't want to spoil the surprise ;)  

So that's it for now; but don't worry, I'll keep you posted on the wheat status ;) As you can see, this post is just the Part 1 of a really interesting adventure, so come back! ;)

Rot those teeth!

 Mamma Mia

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Papa Mia Day!

Today is Father's Day and of course, Mia enlisted her mamma's help to concoct some memorable gifts for Papa Mia :)

First we ordered a cake, just for the occasion. It is the only "First" Father's Day Papa will ever have, so it was worth it. Wishing this will be the beginning of a long line of happy memories together.

We also picked out some nice greeting cards. Mamma signed hers. And Mia signed hers. With a loving footprint that Papa can look at every time he feels a little bit lonely: he should know his baby girl's always just a tiny step away.

Of course, we had a t-shit made for the occasion, hand painted by Mamma who expressed quite accurately how we feel about Papa's current favorite exercising routine.

And since Papa has a zillion ties, loads of shirts, three drawers of socks that come in all shapes and colors, all the electronics he could ask for (he buys them for himself so there's nothing even Santa could add)... We decided to customize something he could use every day. And what does Papa need everyday, aside from Mia's kisses? Well coffee of course. So we made sure every time he drinks a cup, we are there, right next to him!

And finally, we printed the nicest photographs and placed them in a fancy frame for him to take to the office because the last time we were there, we noticed our photo dates back to Mia's birth time... We're so grown up and beautiful now, we needed an upgrade for the office!

So hopefully, this was the memorable First Father's Day Papa always imagined, and maybe, even just a dash sweeter ;)

Can't wait for all the celebrations to come! 
We're going to have more and more fun, I can feel it! ;)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Incident in my building prompted some strong views on Facebook

I shared the post below on Facebook earlier today because I was appalled by the incident and we see too many parents relying on housekeepers to take on nannies' responsibilities, thinking anyone can take care of a child. Unfortunately it is not the case and proper awareness must be raised to avoid such unacceptable behaviors: 
People, your housekeeper's not qualified to be your kids' nanny! And even if she were, she's definitely not paid enough! So stop putting them in an educator's position. They most likely will do the job the wrong way.
Just now, I heard screams coming from my building entrance hall. I ran to check what was happening & found out a child crying. Apparently she had gotten into a fight with another kid & to separate them, the "nanny" found nothing better to do than to hit her! She actually hit that child! I am boiling inside! It took a great deal of energy to refrain from kicking the ignorance out of her! But I can't really blame her, now can I?

Other residents at Motor City have been pretty adamant about the whole thing: A stay at home parent is the only acceptable solution.

I personally am a stay at home mom but I completely understand and respect the working parents. Their situation cannot be easy, I am a mother and I would know how hard it would be to be away from my child, and that is why their strength is commendable. Obviously, any parent, mother or father, who could, would spend every minute of every hour with their child. But sometimes life doesn't really care and sacrifices have to be made. Such sacrifices must be respected. 

However, I believe steps can be taken to improve the situation and lessen the risks:

This incident happened earlier today at Dickens Circus 2 | Motor City | Dubai, UAE. There are means to educate children & physical and/or verbal abuses don't fall in that category. It is understandable that parents are busy & after school programs & nurseries are expensive in Dubai. So please, take the time to educate your housekeeper on acceptable "punishment" methods if she is to act as a nanny. 
 (A couple of comments here of parents who stay at home with their children because they do not trust anyone else to take care of their them)

You are both right, I'm certain all parents would agree that children are first priority.

But we should remember that some families need both parents to work so they can sustain a reasonable income. Which by itself is not only OK but truly commendable.

As a mother I know it can't be easy being away from your child all day and it's probably even worse to come back home exhausted at night to see an even more tired child waiting just to spend a few hours with you.
Of course, professional alternatives like nannies, nurseries and after school programs are quite expensive and it is understandable if some families can't afford the extra expense.
In any case, the responsible thing to do is to educate everyone at home about the right approach you want for your child.

It is an excellent advice I read in parenting books when dealing with grand-parents and other relatives who gladly spend time with your little ones.

So why not do the same for all those who live with your child, including the housekeeper?
In any case, once the child is away at school, no parent can protect him/her 100% and mistakes (and sometimes worse) may happen no matter how careful we are.

So to minimize the risks, it is always better to be as prepared as possible and that includes educating those around you on your values, parenting techniques and even their "rights" with your child. For instance, it may be OK for me give my baby a bottle while she's lying down. But I would never allow anyone else to do it, no matter how much experience they have with children.

I'm hoping other parents on the forum, preferably working parents, can weigh in as well. It is important to share all views and maybe use this incident in a constructive way to come up with creative solutions that can help us support each other.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chouette alors!

When grand-mothers take charge, it can only lead to one thing: absolute and unconditional love.
So when a grand-ma decides to share that love with everyone; well it can only be fantastic:

Turning into a grand-ma made téta Violette all excited about her new grand-motherly duties and she suddenly started creating hand-made clothes for Mia months before she was born... From baby's vests to cute tops, all the way to all the hats Mia could wear! 

Needless to say, these items were a complete fashion success and when friends and relatives started asking us where they could find similar gifts for their loved ones, our fabulous téta took charge and decided all babies deserved the best clothing there is, all made with love of course! 

Now you too can order your own gorgeous hat or fancy top by selecting the design and colors of your choice and téta will make it herself, just for you! With love ♥ of course!

It's all here at Drôle de Chouette...  

Take the time to pass by and click on *Like*; you won't regret it ;) Surprises are on the way!