Friday, April 30, 2010

Notes by a wedding cake maker

I have this little wedding cake business going. This is turning out to be the most busy wedding season I've had so far. And I'm going to be gone for several weeks right in the middle of it. There is a new grandbaby on the way and no wedding cake (or ten) will keep me from being there!

Here's some of what is on the board for the rest of the time:

One all strawberry shortcake wedding.

One all cheesecake wedding (four different kinds)

One all pie wedding (seven different kinds)

One cupcake wedding with a leopard print theme. Leopard print cupcake papers to match the bridesmaids shoes. I have to construct a cupcake display that is red and black with leopard print ribbon. Also, a cappuccino cheesecake with chocolate decorations to look like leopard print.

No. I am not making that up just to make this blog post more interesting.

One wedding cake dyed purple. That is- vanilla cake colored purple. That's thinking outside the box!

And just recently I got a request for a groom's cake in the shape of a Chinook Helicopter. That's on the side of a four tiered wedding cake.

I am only ONE person here. I don't have a staff like Ace of Cakes' Duff does.

It's going to be an interesting summer.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Somebody call Jay Leno

Yesterday I talked to my grandson on the phone. He will be five next week and I asked him what kind of birthday cake he wanted.

A solar system cake.

Really! What is a solar system?

The planets.

Do you know the planets?

Yes.

And he proceeded to name all the planets.

Did I mention that this child is only four years old????

His mom is reading library books to him about the planets.

This kid has it going on. It is so fun to witness and he'll be a blast to teach.

Check him out here and tell me if you don't agree:

Quiz Show Boy

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let Them Eat Bread!

Yesterday we were out of bread. It was a problem because my bread comes in from a far away place. Because I'm picky about bread.

What? Me? Picky? I bet that surprises you! HAHahahaha!!ha! ha.ha.ho.ho.

Hm.

Well. I am. We/I don't like the soft, squishy bread impersonators on the grocery store shelves. I grew up on hearty, grainy bread and homemade bread too. We're them kinda people. Health nuts. Granolas. Oregonians. So for the family I now get the health nut's delight Nature Bake but the only way I can afford it (it's around $5 a loaf in the stores) is to get it from their headquarters where they sell it frozen for $2 a loaf. Their headquarters is far away.

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar....
I so relate to that.

But my bread ship didn't come in this week so...


I decided to make bread.
Except for Katie's artisan sourdough bread, I haven't made old fashioned sandwich bread in a while.



I pulled out my trusty old recipe and scrounged together some flour and got to it.




Have I told you that my favorite possession in the whole wide world is my Kitchenaid professional oven? If my house was on fire, this is the object you would see me trying to drag out of the house. Okay, maybe not, but I would want to.

Mr. Dirtywrench says we paid more for it than we ever paid for a family car. That's only because we don't pay much for family cars. This was a floor model and I got a screaming deal on it too. It was soooooo worth it! I love everything about it. I love that it has a proofing setting for raising bread dough. I don't have to hover bowls around the woodstove any more.



Oops. Shoulda used a bigger bowl.



I'm not sure why but this bread rose perfectly and didn't fall. I used a combination of bread flour, whole wheat flour and all purpose flour- because that is what I had.



And on the convection setting of my most favorite possession in the whole wide world, the bread baked up golden.




It's funny but this bread turned out soft and squishy and fluffy and light. Not hearty and grainy like I prefer at all. Probably because I didn't put anything hearty and grainy in it. And it still called like a siren to me all day. Buttered.....toasted.....honey.....jam......buttered.....
Help! I'm eschewing grains these days. I'm really not eating bread. It's just for the family. I confess I ate more bread yesterday than I ate all last month.




Here's my recipe:

Old Fashioned Sandwich Bread

Dissolve together and proof for five minutes:
3 packages of instant yeast (or six teaspoons)
One cup warm (110 degrees) water
1 Tablespoon sugar

Mix together in a large bowl mix with a whisk or beater:
1 cup white flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
and the yeast mixture

Place bowl in a warm place for fifteen minutes.

Add:
3 cups warm milk
5 Tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons salt
5 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 Tablespoons oil

Beat together then gradually add in 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 1/2 of white flour to the dough. Using a dough hook in a mixer or kneading by hand add in up to two more cups of white flour until the dough is elastic and smooth, about ten minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl to rise until double in a warm place one to two hours.

Cut the dough into four equal parts and shape into loaves. Place into greased bread pans and let rise until doubled one hour or so. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped lightly.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Glorious Appearance


It's finally the time of year when there are reasons to take the camera into the garden.

Seemingly overnight the ground reawakened and the colors of spring appeared.




I walk around checking on the progress of old favorites and new acquisitions. I have a number of peonies that I planted over the last few years that haven't produced flowers yet. I am anxiously checking them for the appearance of buds.



My shade garden is finally looking more filled in. I always remember the saying that applies to new plantings of perennials- the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap!



There aren't many flowers that are truly blue in color. Pulmonaria is not only blue but pink and purple on the same plant too.



I love the fragrance of hyacinths but haven't been very successful in growing them. I have a number that are quite spindly. This one is in Grandma's Garden, an area where I planted the contents of the bulb planters we were given at Grandma's funeral a few years ago. I can't bring myself to clip these and bring them inside though I would enjoy their fragrance in the house.




It's hard to pick a favorite spring flower but I've been nurturing this helebores for about three years now and it finally has more than two or three flowers. It is known as a Lenten Rose because it blooms so early, even the end of winter, around the holy season of Lent and the flowers last a long time.

I've come to know the cycles in my garden and the oh-too-quick succession of flowers. Lilacs are next! Always in time for Mother's Day here.

What's blooming in your garden?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Weekend Report

The Good. The Bad.
...and the Ugly.

The weekend started out with a baking session- apple pie for a bride to taste and carrot cake for a birthday order.
The Good: the pie came out well.
The Bad: the cake...not so well.
The Really Bad: because I had to dash out to meet the bride and her family I missed seeing my sister's little sugar muffin who came a-visiting. Rats.

The Pie Tasting
The Good: The meeting with the bride went well. They are having seven pies for their wedding.
The Not So Good: They ordered seven different pies- chocolate cream, banana cream, coconut custard (not cream! Anyone have a recipe for this?), berry, peach, rhubarb and....pumpkin!

The Opening Day of Little League Baseball


The Good: Peter didn't hide under his bed and Samuel got to pitch.


The Bad: It rained.


Weekend Project
The Good: fifteen years after the pantry closet was built, it is getting a real floor.

The Bad: Mr. D. is short one two-foot piece to finish. Ya mean we have to buy another 2o square foot box to finish?


The Weekend Chores

The Good: lush grass meant lots of clippings to mulch the strawberry bed.


The Bad: the strawberry bed is only half done.
Boys! Mow again!


The Good: I planted a Japanese Maple and got flower beds weeded.
The Bad: I'm only.....one tenth....done. And then I'll have to start over.


Final Performance of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.


The Good: Alyssa had a great time playing Marcie and we had a great time seeing the show.

The Bad: Peter forgot to get Snoopy's autograph.


Now for the Ugly:









(Seth, I know you are waiting for this new facebook picture...)

Friday, April 23, 2010

No You're Homonyms

Quiz: Which sentence uses the homonym incorrectly? (No cheating now!)

A) Getting fired from his job severely jolted his complacency.

B) They surrounded themselves with a bunch of complaisant assistants.

C) After winning eight games in a row, it was natural for us to grow complaisant.

D) The voters are too complacent to try to change the government.



Until today I did not realize that complacent has a homonym. I've taught the lists in this vocabulary book that includes these words and sentences at least four times now. Maybe more.

I'm kinda slow.

That's what keeps homeschooling interesting-- I learn stuff. I think I'm supposed to be teaching stuff but really I'm learning stuff. Everyday. Stuff I probably should have known before.

So without looking at a dictionary or some other vocabulary help, can you choose the sentence with the word used incorrectly?

If you can, do you know if there is some word trick for remembering which spelling goes with which definition?

It would really help me a lot.

Thanks.

P.S. After some contemplation, I am thinking that since complacent is used most commonly, most people know what it means and complaisant is not often used. I think that is why I didn't know the word complaisant existed nor did I understand its use and definition. Or maybe it is used more than I thought and I make the mistake of assigning it the definition of complacent.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Makeover

Our house is a little country cottage. When we first bought it I would have categorized it (and I did) as a shack. It had low, six foot ceilings in places, floors that were caving in and it smelled like a bar (spilled drinks and second hand smoke). Yeah, it was great. I cried for months after we bought it.

But then it was transformed when Mr. Dirtywrench came up with a brilliant plan to tear down two thirds of it and rebuild around that part we were tearing down while we were living in it with five kids. It was a shack within a house for awhile. It's a curious story that I may tell you about sometime.

But it's been sixteen years and we're starting over at the beginning doing some freshening up and finishing parts that were never finished (can we say pantry closet floor?). Mostly this is my project. Mr. D. would rather not. He is attacking that closet for me though.

One of the things that was bugging me was how cluttered our bedroom had become with furniture. I was feeling smothered by dressers. I hatched a plan to consolidate the furniture, reorganize and lighten up.

This is one corner of the room last winter.
There were two more dressers in the room too. I really wanted a chair that would provide our quiet place for reading and laptop internet surfing. Our little country cottage, when occupied by the family has no quiet places. I was determined to create one.


First I changed the color of the room. It was agony picking the paint. The minty green that it was when I intended it to be sagey green, taught me a lesson- take the time to sample paint, ponder, cogitate, and discuss before making the final selection. In the end we painted the room Benjamin Moore's Tranquility. We love it. Please note I said We. That is monumental. Mr. Dirtywrench and I both love the color. I'm pretty sure that is a first. The color is a grayish, blueish, greenish spa color that is soothing and changes tones in the changing light. Really interesting.

Next I searched high and low for a piece of furniture that could take the place of three dressers. I needed storage space that was efficient and that didn't take up all the floor space in the room. After checking nearly every furniture store in the city, I landed at Ikea and found the perfect piece. Ikea is all about efficient use of space and has become my new favorite store. Mr. D. has decided he despises Ikea and he has never even been there! So now we have something new to disagree about.

Though it may not look like it, this wardrobe as enough storage space to empty three dressers and all the overflow contents of the closet. It was exactly what I had in mind.

Once we had settled in to our new arrangement, and I had saved a bit more money I was ready to create a quiet, comfortable reading space.

After scoping eight furniture stores I found this chair waiting for me. It was just the right size and the perfect color to complement Tranquility. It is very comfortable and I talked the salesman down $100 off the price!



So the room has been lightened up from this....



...to this. And I love it! (Mr. D. likes it too.)
Did I done good?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Power Shopper and Power Blogger in Portland

I had a long day in the big city. Most of it was spent in Power Shop mode.

I started by running in and out of no less than eight furniture stores looking for a reading chair for my newly painted and rearranged bedroom. I needed a comfy but small chair to fit the small space. This is a tall order when all of America seems to be going Texas style. BIG. Overstuffed and oversized was the norm for most of the furniture. Finally in the eighth store I found the perfect, and I mean perfect chair. And I got it at a discount because of a flaw. Score! I spent less than I budgeted! Love that!

Then it was on to Costco where I loaded up on cheese and vegetables, and later Ikea and Home Depot for pantry closet remodel supplies.

I was in a rush to beat the traffic to the other side of the city. There was a special event going on at Powell's Books (the best bookstore in the Northwest!) and the traffic is the worst in that part of the city.

I made it to the bookstore 45 minutes before the event was to start.

And this what it looked like:



They were all there to see Ree Drummond. The Pioneer Woman.

They were just handing out the last ticket for those who wanted to have one of her cookbooks autographed. They had handed out 350 tickets and clearly there were many more people than that. I didn't need a ticket since I already have a signed book, courtesy of the most wonderful, the sweetest and most self-sacrificing angel on earth. Thank goodness, I wouldn't have to wait about six hours holding the last ticket to have a book signed! Except if I was last maybe I would have been able to have a nice chat with Ree Drummond about pies or something.




So I found a standing-room-only spot in the front near some baby strollers and against some bookshelves to await the arrival of the celebrity blogger.
During the 45+ minutes I stood there I noticed a few things. For one- there were a lot of babies there. They were all wearing cute outfits, dapper hats or perky bows on their heads. I found the presence of all these babies surprising. Usually moms don't take their babies to something that they know will drag on for hours in the evening do they? But anyone who has read The Pioneer Woman knows that PW loves babies and likes to photograph them. Were all these mamas hoping to get their baby's photo on the PW website? I know it made this old mom tired thinking about juggling a little one all night in my lap while waiting for my cookbook to get signed.


I was standing tightly up against these two strollers. The one with the blanket was one of those large double strollers. I was concerned that there was a little guy inside sleeping peacefully and I tried not to bump it. After a half an hour or so of standing very still I finally asked the lady who owned the stroller:
Me: Is there a baby sleeping in there? I'm worried about bumping the stroller.

She: Oh no! It's okay. It's my basset hound.

Me: {blink. blink.}

Okay then!

I didn't photograph it, but yes, there was a big ol' dog napping in that huge stroller. Did that woman think she would become Ree Drummond's new BFF when she presented her hunky pooch in the baby pram when her ticket came up? Was she counting on having an edge over those mom's with adorable babies?

I may eat all those words if this morning there are pictures of that dog on The Pioneer Woman.

Ree was a bit late. She got stuck in that notorious Beaverton traffic and her GPS sent her the wrong direction down Cedar Hills Blvd. I thought that was interesting since I almost did the same thing. In the end I guessed right and her GPS guessed wrong.

Her late arrival meant that her chatting with the audience via a Q & A time was a bit shorter than usual.

There were a lot of people waiting to get her name on their books.

Those empty shelves behind her were full just minutes before.



I thought it was really fun to see PW's mother-in-law and daughter who suddenly appeared as the signing started. The darling cowgirl daughter has certainly sprouted up very tall. The mother-in-law was very elegant and hip at the same time. They walked close by me later when I was power shopping for school books but I didn't invade their privacy by asking them to pose for a picture.
So all in all....seeing Ree Drummond and her family was quite surreal. I've seen so many pictures of these people that it was just plain odd to see them in real life.

They are real people. Imagine that.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Warm Spring Weekend

We had a very busy and beautifully spring-like weekend. After weeks of cold temperatures and snow, snow, snow and rain, it was wonderful to feel the spring breezes and to lie in the sunshine feeling it's warmth soak into my bones.



The weekend of tasks and events started with a birthday order that included this cake.






We brought in the next batch of chicken dinners-to-be.





Since it was also Blossom Festival in the valley, I attended an awesome plant sale...



...or two.






We had another special dinner party with our gourmand friends. My offering was this asparagus gruyere tart.


And I learned how to prepare artichokes for dipping into butter.




After spending the afternoon today making a dent in the ToDo list of garden work needing to be done around here, Mr. Dirtywrench and I took the motorcycle out for its first ride of the year.




The blossoming pear orchards are always the siren call for the first ride.



Life is good.


How did you spend your weekend? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Results

These are the last pottery photos I will post for a long, long time. I am taking a hiatus, a sabbatical, a vacation, a break- from pottery. I have so much baking to do in the next four months that I can't possibly spend even an hour in my studio. Also, this last cycle of throwing, glazing and firing was so grueling it almost killed me. I'm....burned....out.

The ironic thing is....

I really like the work that came out of that last difficult firing.

Here it is.


New glaze. Like it alot.



New technique. Like it too.















I spent one throwing session making twenty tiny bowls. Just for fun.
This was my favorite. It has the new copper glaze on it.




This was unexpected. The effects are a happy accident due to the looonnnggggg firing time.





















Jars are usually a throw-away, quick bread and butter thing. But I like these.





{{sigh}}

Conflicted.