Monday, June 25, 2012

I Used to Mow the Lawn

I used to mow the lawn.  It relieved stress.  “Smart guy”, you’re thinking. “How did her husband convince her that taking over mowing the lawn would relieve stress?”  “Don’t let her talk to MY husband” you’re thinking.  Well, it’s not like that.
From the time my kids were born I got them up in the morning, dressed them and brought them down for breakfast with Dad.  I realized early on that it’s difficult for working fathers and babies to be home and awake at the same time. So whatever else the day held, at least Rick and the kids (even as babies) had breakfast together.
I later realized that on the occasions that Husband was home from work and the kids happened to be awake, Husband was frequently mowing the lawn.  If I mowed the lawn during the day, Husband could be with (and bathe, my evil hidden agenda) the kids.  That was how it started.  I realized pretty quickly that mowing relieved stress.  It allowed me 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, blocked out the world, and let me reflect (or zone out) and unwind.  It was my yoga.  I did not hear the phone ring, did not hear the doorbell and as the kids got older, did not hear the fighting for 45 glorious minutes a few times a week . . .AND the lawn got mowed.  Win, win.
When my kids hit Middle School, a few things happened.  First, we were looking for a substantial contribution for our oldest son to make to family responsibilities.  In the spring, summer and early fall, mowing seemed like the best choice.  Second, more and more kids (both from the neighborhood and from school) seemed to be hanging out here.  By then we had progressed to family dinners and all the (mostly skateboarders) knew that we had family dinner at 6pm and at 5:45 anyone still here got a ride home.  In those days my pantry got stocked and was emptied all in one day.
Truth be told, it’s kind of a chicken/egg kind of thing.  Did I start baking more because kids were hanging out or were kids hanging out because I baked more?  Everyone does the snack thing differently.  One neighborhood family provided snacks for their own kids and their kids’ guests only.  I thought it was strange that those kids and their guests would come ring my doorbell to play outside my house with my kids and drop their trash on my lawn but not share.  I do get it, you can’t feed everyone all the time but it was weird.  Eat your snacks, throw out your trash and THEN come over.  I do remember sending my kids out front with ice cream cones after an early dinner and having them take orders for cone flavors from all the neighborhood kids who were out at the time and thinking “if they haven’t had dinner yet, those kids’ Moms are gonna kill me”.  We always share here, with everyone.
Anyway, chicken/egg or egg/chicken, no matter where you stand on the issue, I started baking.  Initially it CAUSED stress.  After all, my creations never looked like the beautiful pictures on those recipes.  They still don’t.  But something else happened too.  The kids didn’t care.  They hadn’t seen the pictures and didn’t know what I was going for.  Score.  The rewards, much like those from mowing, sort of took me by surprise.  I was back in the zone.  I could block out whatever was bothering me to concentrate on the recipe.  I could be creative, allowing my right brain a little exercise (not quite the same as the physical exercise I got from mowing, but you take what you get).  It really clicked, though, the last day of school one year when I made a Cheeseburger Cake.  All these years later and I still have the picture (see below).  I got complements.  All the kids were impressed.  Not so impressed that they didn’t eat it, but that cake was a real breakthrough.
The mowing responsibilities have moved on from my older son to my younger son, but I still bake…

Cheeseburger Cake | | #recipe

Cake made to look like a cheeseburger.  I’M impressed.

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

"Cheeseburger" Cake

18 oz pkgs of white and chocolate cake mixes and ingredients specified on box
Containers of chocolate and of vanilla frosting
Brown food coloring
Red food coloring
24 orange starburst
Green fruit rollups
White sprinkles
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 8 inch round , a 9 inch round, and a 2 quart ovenproof (8 inch diameter) bowl.
*Prepare cake mixes as per box.  Pour 1 ¾ cups of yellow mix into 8 inch round pan, and the rest into the bowl.
*Pour ¾ cups chocolate cake mix into the 9inch round pan.
*Bake 8 inch pan 25 minutes, bake 9 inch pan 20 minutes and bake bowl 1 hour (or until they spring back to touch).
*Cool in pans for 10 minutes, remove and cool completely.
*Remove a little vanilla frosting and tint red (for ketchup).  Tint the rest light brown.
*Frost the 8 inch cake sides light brown.  Place some green roll ups over the sides to look like lettuce.  Top with 9 inch chocolate cake and carefully frost with chocolate frosting.
*Put orange starburst in single layer on a plate and into microwave 10 -15 seconds.  Form into 9 inch square (with hands) to look like cheese.  Put on the chocolate cake.
*Drizzle the red frosting to look like ketchup.
*Trim the cake from the bowl so it’ll fit flat on the “burger”.  Frost with rest of light brown frosting and put on top of cake.  Can sprinkle with white sprinkles to look like sesame seeds.


  1. This is the coolest thing! I like how you use candy to decorate instead of just food colouring. Probably makes a huge difference with flavour! Great story as well. I always liked being at houses who's parents always cooked. Good times!

  2. That is so stinkin' awesome! The cake.
    And smart on mowing. he gets the kids, you get fresh air. wink wink

    1. My sons have taken over mowing the lawn, but I still make the cake!


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