Monday, July 30, 2012

Their Turn on the Inside

Samuel and Peter have been attending the county fair every year since they were born. Samuel made his first rounds of the animals barns when he was a mere one month old.
Every one of their older siblings have taken animals to show at the county fair- pigs, goats, cattle, chickens and rabbits- which means these two boys have seen a lot of show rings- but always from the outside. This year was their first time to get inside the show ring and face a judge with their own animal.

Luckily, their big sister was around to remind them of all the details they needed to remember in the ring- always, always face the judge- smile!- always move around the front of the goat, never the back. Keep the goat between you and the judge, keep the goat's feet set up in a square pattern, if the judge touches your goat, brush the goat's coat down afterward...

....look like you are having fun every moment no matter how bad the goat is acting- smile!- hold the goat's head up and keep those feet set up, listen to the judge's instructions and follow them exactly, don't act nervous....

For Junior Novices, the boys did really well.

They faced down the judge and pretty well remembered all of their sister's instructions.

Though the goats themselves only got red ribbons (for a lack of "finish") the boys both got blue ribbons for their showmanship.

And Samuel's smile brought home a Reserve Champion showmanship ribbon. If he follows the lead of his older siblings it won't be the last one.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Boys Bake

On the one day this week that I didn't have to bake for Fleur Cakes, the boys needed to bake for their county fair exhibits. I just can't get away from those dishes.

The boys each baked two things, a cookie and a "muffin method" quick bread. They both chose recipes out of my favorite baking cookbook, the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. Samuel made the pumpkin bread and chocolate espresso bars.

And Peter chose to make the chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies and blueberry muffins.  Both boys wanted to choose recipes that would be winners and they know that chocolate is always a winner.

And they were right. All their efforts won blue ribbons but Peter's cookie also won a champion ribbon!

And Samuel's pumpkin bread won a Reserve Champion ribbon.

But best of all, the Chocolate Espresso Bars that Samuel took the time to garnish with a bit of white chocolate (living with the Fleur Cakes kitchen, he knows that presentation counts) won the Grand Champion ribbon! That is the highest prize chosen from all the food categories and means it is also chosen to go to the Oregon State Fair in September. With this boost to their confidence the boys think maybe they'll keep up with this baking thing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wedding Report

Last wedding season I had several Saturdays with two wedding cakes. The production and deliveries went off without a hitch, so I thought...piece of cake...I could do three weddings in a this season I went ahead and said yes, that one extra time and... voila!...I'm booked up to my eyeballs all summer.

This last Saturday was the first challenge to my Can Do Attitude. Three weddings. Three deliveries. 410 wedding guests who expected to eat dessert. That came out to three wedding cakes, four slab pies, three regular pies and 150 cupcakes including these...
....hazelnut cupcakes with chocolate cream icing and toasted hazelnut sprinkles. Hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are an important crop in Oregon and a favorite among my clients that want to showcase Oregon products on their wedding day menus.

With three full sheets of lists to keep me on task and on time I pulled it off- baking, filling, icing, decorating and delivering. Then I collapsed in a heap for about twelve hours.

This little cake was part of a dessert buffet for a large wedding with a vintage theme. I loved the dusty pink roses.

This cake, delivered to a local winery, had mocha filling and icing for the chocolate and vanilla tiers.

This was for another intimate wedding that required simple elegance. Today the groom sent me a lovely email with the compliments of the guests who enjoyed the pies and chocolate cake. It warmed my heart.

This week- five events- including a 70th wedding anniversary party for a couple married here in the early days of our town. I feel privileged to be a part of these special celebrations in people's lives.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Which I Ponder the Mysteries of Life

I've been a neglectful blogger lately. Since it's the middle of wedding season and we were recently jaunting across the country, blogging has been way down towards the bottom of the To Do list.

Yesterday I baked eighteen cakes, today I made 150 cupcakes and tomorrow the plan is to bake 120 servings of pie. I also washed all the dishes.

When I take a moment to put my feet up and sip a cold drink, I read a few pages of my library book, Peter the Great, His Life and World by Robert Massie. Earlier this summer I read Massie's latest book Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pick up the book that earned the author a Pulitzer Prize back in the 1980's. Never in a million years would I have predicted that 17th and 18th century Russian history would hold my attention but these books have. Massie is an engaging writer who weaves many elements of European culture, history and historic figures into his telling of the lives of these Russian tsars. I've learned about Voltaire, Louis the XIV, the French Revolution, and much more than I ever learned in school and I have found it fascinating. Go figure.

A good study of history does many things for a person and today it has lead me to ponder more deeply the great blessing of being born in the twentieth century and all that that means. Most people know on the surface of their thoughts that we have many blessings and luxuries and a relative life of ease, but when a person reads what life was like for a large portion of humankind for most of world history, these realities become more acutely felt.

Even the poorest of people, living on minimum wage or government subsidies in a rented abode somewhere in downtown America live better than a large part of humanity did in the last one thousand years. I don't claim to be an expert on history but it doesn't take much reading to see this pretty clearly. Those of us who own property and have time for such things as travel and blogging are really living like the nobilty of ages past. Nobility? Though I don't own an estate with numbers of servants to run the daily goings-on, I do have many “servants” through which my life is made luxurious. The average person anytime before the nineteenth century, had to find fuel to keep themselves warm and to cook their food. They had to not only make their own clothing but often the fabrics too. They had to grow and preserve their food. The smallest necessities of life had to be made or procured with great effort or price. I can flip a switch for light and heat, turn a knob to cook my food or wash my hair, buy just about anything I need or desire and much that is completely unnecessary. Kings and tzars that wanted to send a communication had to hire someone to take a written document and wait days or weeks for it to reach its destination. I can sit down and by tapping my fingers, instantaneously communicate with innumerable people all over the world. Pretty amazing when you ponder it.

My household servants are named Maytag, Frigidaire and Cuisinart. I don't need to order anyone to harness the horses when I fancy a trip to town. What in the world do I have to complain about, really?

To bake the cakes and pies that I have this week would have required a small army in any other time and place before now.

In 17th century Russia, speaking a word against the reigning sovereign could result in having a tongue publicly cut out and sometimes even execution for treasonous behavior. When I see people complaining on Facebook about their political representatives I wonder if they realize the great privilege they possess to do so.

How is it that God chose to let me live in this time of ease and privilege? Whatever His plan is, I am resolved to be more grateful.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Daze

We're home from Missouri where it was 99 degrees plus a bit of humidity.
Home- where there is clean, piney, mountain air... fresh, delicious mountain water and the temperature didn't even break 80 degrees today.

There's always lots of catch-up to do after a trip so tonight I worked in the garden and finally got the garlic harvested. This crop will get me through the year with some to plant next October. That's the corn in the background of the photo- about three feet high. In Missouri the corn was tasseled and drying up to a crisp in the drought conditions.

The cherries are getting ripe and amazingly the birds aren't bothering them (yet!). With cherries from last year still in the freezer and pantry, I'll be making juice with these.

Danner had a luxury vacation with our friend and neighbor while we were gone but he was still happy to see his family when we came home.

And we're happy to be home where summer gives us the best it has.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Flatlands Again

It's been a crazy week and I haven't had a single minute to blog about it all. Here's the deal-
Yesterday, Samuel, Peter and I flew into Kansas City, MO for an eventful weekend that started out by meeting up with these fun people-

No doubt you recognize them but for all three of you that don't read Coal Creek Farm, these are the founders of the Phillips family. They're the ones that disco like they're still in highschool, raise pigs and children on a Kansas farm, and once in a blue moon might blog about it.

Peter and Sam instantly made friends with Levi and Isaac. Peter declared that "we're exactly alike!!!"

Because boys....are matter where.

I asked April to pick a place to eat that would represent the regional food of this part of the country. She picked the absolute perfect place and I'll try to blog all about it soon. According to Anthony Bourdain it's one of thirteen places you should eat before you die. It was gooooood.... (Next- French Laundry!)

As good as the food was, the company was what we really came for. We had a great time.

Well, most of us did. We were missing a couple people, namely Mr. D. who had to manage a crisis at home so had to delay his arrival here in the Midwest, and Alyssa who I know is weeping and gnashing her teeth in Switzerland (by the way... have I mentioned that Alyssa has been in Europe for the past two months?) because she missed the opportunity to reconnect with her friend and cohort from our adventures last year in Oklahoma.

Our visit with the Phillips was short and sweet but I know we'll be back in this part of the country again in the future so it will happen again.

More to come!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Wedding Cake Diary

Saturday's wedding cakes were the first of the season to be made and delivered on a really hot day.
They also were both cakes that had a lot of decorative piping, which is not my thing so I have to work extra hard and spend extra time. I started early and kept good control of the kitchen and cake temperature all day. Another complication was my lack of refrigerator space. I intended to have two refrigerators this season but when we went to use the second, found out that it had stopped working. It's a good thing I bought a brand new one last winter or the demise of that one (that I took out of my kitchen when the new one arrived) would have left me in a world of hurt. With some shuffling, I managed to keep both of these cakes in the refrigerator in each phase of their construction. I'm glad I started early because the piping was problematic. Between the occasional lump in the chocolate plugging the decorator tip, to the consistency changes with temperature, and of course my own self-flagellation about the execution, I re-piped several parts.

The bride wanted "lace" on this cake. I've never piped lace before. After several hours and a redesign or two, I was satisfied. (I straightened out that piece of ribbon on the bottom after this photograph.)

My car was nicely cool and the AC was miraculously working. The delivery drive was very, very stressful. At 52 mph, in a 55 zone, I had a line of cars following me down the mountain, including a sheriff's car, fer cryin' out loud. This is why I put a Fleur Cakes~Wedding Cakes decal on the back of my car! Maybe it should say, Back off! Cake on Board!  Or After twenty hours of work I'm not speeding up!

Delivery #1 went perfectly and the cake was in perfect condition. Delivery #2, not so much. The steep, bumpy driveway to the vineyard location was the worst part of all. It jiggled and rocked the cake and caused the weight of the roses to pull on the many layers of cream filling.

This is how it arrived. Can you tell it is starting to sag under the weight of the very expensive, blush and peach colored roses? I stole a couple more roses from some arrangements in the venue and covered up the worst parts. Then I asked the coordinator to please serve the cake earlier rather than later. The lovely bride complimented the cake and seemed to be very pleased so I guess that is what counts the most.

The funny thing is, after all the hours spent on these cakes, baking, filling, icing, decorating, delivering...they don't exist any more! Except in memory and photos....

Friday, July 6, 2012

You wish you were here.

This is an image by the talented Blaine Franger of our town on Independence Day. Please go here to see its detailed sharpness.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I took this photo almost two weeks ago and only now are these same blooms starting to drop petals. They have been happily displaying their beauty on my deck for that long! This is a "Knockout Rose" that I purchased for less than $10 at Walmart a year ago. The plant stayed on the deck in the pot all winter, I pruned it way back in spring and it has been the most vigorous rose bush in my gardens. I struggle with my other, more expensive roses that need more attention. They grow more slowly and put out one or two or three flowers at a time. This bush is only a year old and going great guns. I suspect it is the hearty plant that is used as root stock for the hybrid roses. I'm enjoying it and it is effortlessly adding a lot of color and beauty to the view from my chair.