Thursday, February 16, 2012

Death by Chocolate Accompanied by Raspberries

We had our annual girls camp funraiser recently.  After last year's experience, we decided to make this cake geared more towards adults.  What better way to do that than make it decadent, with chocolate?  LOTS of chocolate.

K and I had to make several test batches to find just the right cake/frosting combo.  Nobody seemed to mind all that practice and we always had plenty of willing taste testers.  Everyone agreed it was hands down, the yummiest cake I have ever made.

We even had some serious discussions about what we should call it as we were sitting around the dinner table.  Death by chocolate, acccompanied by raspberries.  Chocolate & Raspberries by Death (Shaggy came up with that one, like it was the title of a book.  I didn't think it made that much sense.)  A tribute to Jackson Polluck in chocolate and raspberries.  Double chocolate decadence with raspberries.

But the name didn't seem to really matter all that much in the end.  I think this creation sold based on its looks alone.  It was the final item in the auction and brought in a whopping $265!  I could hardly believe my ears as the bidding kept going up and up.  I never imagined it would go that high.  I felt so guilty that I had used a box mix even though I knew it was the perfect complement to the homemade frosting, not to mention the deliciously fresh raspberries.  I'm still afraid to talk to the family that bought it.  I'm not sure that any cake I make can live up to a $265 reputation. 

But the good news is that this tower of decadence sent one and a half girls to camp.  Hooray for chocolate . . . and deep pockets.

Beautiful Weekend

 It's always a good day for a visit from Aunt N.  We only had her for a weekend, but we managed to have some serious fun in a short amount of time.  I already posted about the less drama party which was a saga unto itself.  But I wanted to post some of my favorite photos from the rest of the weekend.
 Wrestling with a tree.  The tree won.

 I love how much creativity N brings to our home whenever she comes.  And she is soooo not afraid to be silly, which makes my kids adore her.
 She comes from the land of winter and helps us feel more grateful for our non-winters.
 We didn't really need the umbrella, but it was fun to play with.
 Our favorite local park had something for everyone.  J found mud and puddles to drive his RC car in.  B found paths to walk on where nobody had to grab her hand and repeatedly haul her in the other direction away from danger.  Except sometimes when she was about to fall in the river.
 The girls played Hunger Games.  They built a fire to stay warm.  I was lucky to even get close enough for a photo since I was an enemy tribute who was bent on trying to kill them.  They were lucky to get away.  Mwahahaha!
 We had a picnic and laughed about B's craziness.  And I couldn't pass up the opportunity to catch a shot of J's freckles which were especially adorable that day in the lovely diffused light of the overcast skies.
We had a dart gun war.  And a lesson on getting darts out of tall trees.
We caught a spy in a tree.
B learned first hand about pine needles.
 R found a perfect photo op and requested me to take her picture.
 B connected with her inner hamster.
 And K came down with a bad case of the stripes.  All in all, it was a truly beautiful weekend.

More Theatre, Less Drama

If only our society inducted all would-be teenagers into adolescence with a more theatre, less drama party.  Oh, the places we could go.  And the things we could do.  All with maximum enjoyment and minimal drama.  This was the perfect theme at the perfect time.  The big 13.  And for those of you who may be wondering, it really isn't as scary as society would have us believe.  I think it's kind of fun having K around.  Teenager notwithstanding.

She has been looking forward to becoming an official teenager.  Although she's already as busy as two official teenagers.  She landed a minor role in her school's production of Annie.  And she joined the track team.  Swimming is so last year, apparently.  Annie and track are running simultaneously.  She'll have to miss track to attend Annie rehearsals and vice versa.  We'll see how that all works out.  And she juggles her job, and her homework, and all her church youth activities, and her chores, and the extra work we throw at her, and the babysitting of her younger siblings, and her music practice (though this one could use a bit more time and attention), and she even manages to squeeze in some tome to spend with her friends, listen to her mp3 player, and play nintendo games.

K loved the idea of a theatre party.  And was especially excited when she heard that Aunt N was coming to visit us, so she delayed her party for a few weeks so that it would coincide with N's visit.  But the details of this party remained pretty fuzzy all the way through the day she actually turned 13.  We figured we'd just play a bunch of theatre games and call it a day.
Oh, but those dinnertime conversations always get the best of us. Someone has a brilliant idea, or even just the seed of a brilliant idea, and then we have to see if we can pull it off.  We're total suckers for a challenge.  So we made a movie.  Though we didn't really have any idea what it was going to be about until the day before the party.  All we had was the title which I had thought up in order to make the above invitations.
Here is our intrepid cast.  They all played the role of campers who were attending what turned out to be a rather unusual jungle camp.  You don't want to mess with these campers.  Or their camp counselor, who happens to be holding a mop.  A detail which we completely overlooked the entire time we were filming.  So we had to film a couple extra scenes the next day so that it would make sense for a mop to be on our movie cover.  Because this is the movie cover shot.  A cover which, naturally, has not yet been made. 
We had a quick session to sketch out the basic plot of the movie and then let the kids choose what kind of character they wanted to be.  We had a nice selection--bookworm, survivalist, prima donna, tough girl, a couple little tag alongs, leader, and even death on a scooter.  I think they covered all the bases. 
The fire photo and nail photo are not mine.  I have to give a shout out for my friend, DG, who came to the party and took some pictures while I was ignoring every instinct I have and filming instead of photographing.  She was nice enough to share her photos with me.
 I'm not sure what kind of camp invites death, or allows the campers to bring swords along with their pillows and blankets.  But this one did.  Of course this camp ended up having bad guys, secret maps, buried treasure and ghosts, too.  I told you it was unusual.
But, there were some normal things about this camp.  The campers learned a few camp basics like how to start a fire with only sticks and string.  Though no roaring fire was produced.
photo by DG
 Which was probably a good thing since death was invited to the fire starting class.  A class which almost hijacked the entire move making time since Shaggy was teaching.  He is a fire bug down to his core.
 But once we finally managed to hush up the fire instructor, the campers discovered an old legend about some Mayan princess who had supposedly buried some treasure in the vicinity.
photo by DG
Naturally, there was a map.  Aunt N put her artistic skills to good use and created this for us.  This whole legend thing was one of those last minute great ideas that we just tossed in.  But that was how we came up with most of the plot.
Like how the bad guy happened to infiltrate the camp by pretending to be a fire instructor.  As if you couldn't guess, he was after the map and the treasure as well.
photo by DG
And death was his accomplice.  Death had a grand old time chasing after terrified campers and shooting arrows at them.  (Who happened to also have a grand time running and hiding from him.)
One of his arrows hit their mark.  :(   But she didn't mind all that much since she got to reappear later in the show.
photo by DG
And where was the trusty camp counselor during all this mayhem, you might ask.  She had ridden off into town on her little car to buy some camp supplies.  Naturally.
But these intrepid campers pulled together and fought off the bad guy/treasure hunter and his little accomplice death. 

And just so you know, death was not a planned character in the script.  But since J typically marches to his own tune, anyway, we just rolled with it.  So many things in this film happened that way; improv played a large part in helping things all come together.  One of my favorite moments during this party happened as I was giving some scene instructions to the campers.  They were all gathered around me and their eyes were shining and they were just bursting with ideas to help our plot progress.  THAT is why I love doing parties.  (Aside from the cake and the theme and the goody bags, of course.)  I truly, truly love watching the joy and excitement and friendship that these parties bring into our home.  And this one, especially, was so full of laughter and creativity that it was a joy to be a part of.  There was something that cracked us up at nearly every turn.  It's a miracle that we managed to get the thing filmed in four hours.
photo by DG
Rather than just killing off the bad guy, one of the girls had the noble idea to catch him in a trap instead.  Used the trusty book with treasure map to lure him in.
Don't let the book fool you, it isn't a book about flower fairies at all.  Oh, no.  It's all about Mayan princesses and their treasure.  And yes, I do plan on putting together a blooper reel.  Funny faces, mishaps, and random babies wandering into scenes where they don't belong.
Apparently, the trap was good, too good because it killed off the bad guy anyway.  Shaggy did a pretty good death scene.  Which I may or may not have actually captured on film.  Since our post production team is on strike (read: too busy with life) at the moment, I may not find out for sure for a while.
photo by DG
Once the bad guy was safely out of the way (and death had disappeared on his scooter), the ghost of our little dead camper returned to tell her friends that she had spoken with the Mayan princess.  This princess wanted the campers to have her treasure because they had demonstrated such courage and integrity.  And that was a wrap.  Except for the mop scenes we had to do the next day.
 Sure was lucky we had such an amazing director for all of this.  Now if we could just get the post production crew to get in gear.  This film is supposed to be rated PG-13 (of course, what else?), but I'm afraid we have such a slow post production team that it may end up being PG-14 when it finally hits the theaters.  And naturally we're going to have to host a film debut party and invite the paparazzi whenever that happens.
But since that may be rather far away and these are impatient movie stars we're dealing with, we made some giant posters and dropped them off with the thank you cards.  Hopefully that will tide them over until the strike ends.
It was an honor to work with these young actors, who may no longer be able to risist film making.  I've heard through the grapevine that another film is already in the works.
The cake wasn't all that complicated.  I adapted an idea that I saw online somewhere.  I hadn't planned on having a Disney audience, but was talked into it anyway.  I guess it makes sense that they might get fed up with cute and want to go see some gritty action films.  Thanks to Brer Bear who acted as the bouncer.
Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are seeing each other, apparently.  Who knew?
I ordered some of those edible images, but they didn't print them in the right size, so I just used an acutal photo for the screen and these for posters on the back wall of the theatre.

Happy Birthday to my girl who is working hard to discover her talents, and who is not afraid to share them with the world.