Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Very Hungry Cupcakapillar

Jonah's birthday was on Monday, and I was a bit nervous about one thing. A couple weeks prior, the whole family was driving in the car. From the back seat, Jonah piped up "Go to the party store!" Why? We asked him. "It's Jonah's berfday! Get party hats and balloons and berfday cake!" Later that evening I asked him what he wanted on his birthday hats and cake, a subject I had previously discussed with him. All he had specified was that he wanted chocolate cupcakes and Chuck E Cheese. Now however, his tune was different. "Want.... want.... BUBBLE GUPPIES!!!! Bubble Guppies berfday cake!! Bubble Guppies Berfday hat! BUB BUB BUBBLE, Bubble bubble guppies!!!" Bubble Guppies is Nick Jr's newest show. It's cute. He learns a lot from it and the music they sing is actually enjoyable even for the adults. I would have loved to comply and gotten him all things Bubble Guppies for his birthday. The problem lies in the fact that it's Nick's newest show. They've only aired a pilot season. There is no merchandise on the market. No party hats, no balloons, no cakes.

When he first told me he wanted chocolate cupcakes, I went on the interwebs to find a cute way to present a plain old chocolate cupcake. I found this and was immediately inspired  by coco cake cupcakes! The Hungry Caterpillar has always been a favorite book in our house.  Over the past three years, we have spent countless hours, reading the book countless times.  Jonah loves it! He would appreciate it. Or so I thought before he began asking for Bubble Guppies.

As there are no bubble guppies cakes or figures to put on a cake, and as I do not have the skill required to make our own Bubble Guppies cake, I decided to stick to the plan. I showed Jonah the picture from the above website, and he said "mmmm, very hungry caterpillar for in my mouth! UMMM!" and pretended to take a bite from the picture. Promising, I thought. So that was the green light! Here is how I re-created the cupcake cake and made it our own.

First I made way too many cupcakes in three different flavors. Yellow (the kind Johan picked at the store), chocolate (the kind he originally asked for), and strawberry (because I wanted it!) I also made a mini strawberry cake for the head. I used a small spring-form pan; the same that was used for both of the kids' first birthday smash cakes. I did use cake mix to cut some of the stress out of the weekend, since we were also traveling to Toledo to visit Daryl's family.
Once the cakes were cooled, I frosted the 22 yellow cupcakes for the caterpillar's body. I lucked out in that I had planned for the body to be 22 cupcakes, and that is exactly how many the yellow cake batter made! I tried to make a swirl effect in the green icing by not mixing the coloring all the way through, but that method didn't work very well. I piped the frosting on using a decorating tip and a zip top bag since I couldn't find my pastry bag.

I then set to work to create pictures of the food that the caterpillar ate on Saturday, giving him "a terrible stomachache." On the suggestion of a friend, I used taffy-like candies such as starburst, laffy taffy, airheads, caramels, tootsie rolls, and flavored tootsies. Some of them had to be microwaved for about 7 seconds to get them soft enough to roll out and mold into the shapes I needed. I used a very light coating of cooking spray on my hands, surfaces, and utensils to avoid sticking. I rolled some of the candies together to get the swirling effect seen in the illustrations of the book. This part of the cake was a lot of fun! I felt like I was a kid playing with playdough again. Once I had the candy decorations made, I frosted the chocolate cupcakes with a butterknife and placed the decorations on top.

Then I used six tootsie rolls to make the feet, yellow starburst and green laffy taffy for the eyes and nose, and purple laffy taffy for the antennae. I frosted the mini cake with red frosting and added the face candies.

At the party store, I found some wrapping paper with a leaf and fern print, on clearance for fifty cents! I used it to wrap a cardboard cake sheet (also bought from the party store) to make it look like the caterpillar is sitting on leaves. I arranged the body out of the green frosted cupcakes and then placed the head. I barely had enough room, and was nervous that the head wouldn't fit! I placed the tootsie roll feet underneath the green cupcakes, and the "food" cupcakes along the bottom of the sheet.

I placed rainbow sprinkles along the caterpillar's back as his fur. This was not as tedious as it first seemed, and only took a few minutes.
Finally, I had a Very Hungry Caterpillar cupcake cake that I was really proud of! Jonah absolutely loved it. Before we headed out to meet our family for the celebrations, I let him have a little peek. He was really excited to see it. I was so relieved that he did not mention Bubble Guppies again the entire day! He was too excited about his party and cake to think about what wasn't there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Week In Training Review: Week 5

This week, I've been trying out a new app on my Android to help me with my outside runs. On my treadmill, it is easy to track pace, distance, and calories burned. Outside, it is easy to track distance by mapping out a route on the computer, and average pace by timing the entire run, but getting times per mile and real-time pace is a bit trickier. Recently, I've been looking into purchasing a GPS watch but when I saw the prices, I decided to figure out a way to make-do with what I have. The app that I was previously using was called SmartTrainer, and I did not like it very much. It was inaccurate, would crash frequently, and did not really do the things it claimed to do. I need something that can tell me my current pace, what time I finished each mile, and my overall time and distance.

I decided to try Endomondo first. It has all of the features that I need, and the paid version has a setting that saves the battery of the phone. Unlike SmartTrainer, it only uses GPS rather than a combination of GPS and tracking your steps. This seems to make it much more accurate.While the real-time pace did not seem accurate at all and jumped all over the place, the overall average pace seemed extremely accurate and consistent.

I really suggest that if you're going to use a phone during your runs, that you get an armband. I bought one that is made for an iphone, by Belkin, but my android fits inside and I can still use the touch screen through the protective cover.

This week's schedule:
Week Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat. Sun.
5 Off 4M 4M 6M 6M 3M off (traveling)


I met a personal record this week and ran eleven miles! I am showing this Monday's workout because the eleven miles was supposed to happen on Sunday but due to traveling, it had to happen on Monday. Even though technically it belonged to week 6, it is really part of week 5's schedule.

I was beginning to become discouraged with my long runs. Until this Monday, I had been unable to get to 10 miles. I was beginning to doubt my ability to finish a 13.1 mile race by August 21st, which is when my first half marathon is going to be. But now that I've broken through that wall, I am much more confident that I can do this. My only long run before the race will be only 8 miles, so this past Monday was my last chance to prove to myself that it's possible.