Friday, August 31, 2012

Garden Catch Up

This week with a lighter baking schedule I was able to spend some much needed time in the gardens.


Unlike the rest of the country we have not had endless days of heat and sun beating down on us. We had a couple weeks of high temperatures but most of the summer has been very tolerable indeed. The garden hasn't seemed to mind the lack of heat, though we aren't getting more than a few ripe tomatoes yet. The catch-up time this week has been pleasant work with mild 70s temperatures.


We took one evening to harvest the corn. We only got half of the crop we planted since one whole patch of SE corn did not germinate at all during the cold, clammy weather the first week of June. The other patch of tried and true Peaches and Cream rewarded us with a wheelbarrow load of first ears.


 
My husband and I prepared the corn for the freezer all by ourselves. No kid helpers around this year, for the first time in forever.




This week I also harvested some massive cabbages. According to my garden notes these are Stein's Early Dutch.
I was worried that they would split before I had time to harvest them but they didn't!


I was also very pleased to see that they had no bugs! No aphids and no cabbage worms, both of which I have always had trouble with. Last year the aphids were terrible on the cabbages. The difference is that this year I did a bit of bug control with a rather surprising method. My daughter, Katie, recommended that I pour diluted raw milk over the plants. I did that a few times and this is the result! I am also pouring diluted raw milk on my first ever planting of brussel sprouts. Right after I planted the starts I heard from my gardening friends that they had given up on trying to grow brussel sprouts because of the incessant aphid problem. We'll see if the raw milk has the same insect repellant effects but so far, so good!


Alyssa took the job of slicing and salting and pounding those cabbages to prepare sauerkraut. She got two crocks out of those three cabbage heads. There are still three more cabbage plants in the garden so I may need to get lots more kielbasa to go with all this kraut.

The trucks loaded with bins of fruit are starting to wind there way around the valley roads towards the packing houses so summer is definitely waning.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Five Weddings

...in one weekend is enough. I pulled it off and didn't collapse when it was over. I did get a little help from my friends.
This was for a small, home wedding for a chocolate loving couple. They ordered chocolate fudge cake with mocha cream filling and dark chocolate cream icing.




The bride wanted a "cascade of flowers" and the strawberry loving groom wanted a strawberry cake with strawberry filling (the small tier for him) with the rest chocolate cake for the guests. I will post my strawberry cake recipe here soon. My dear husband delivered this cake so I could stay in the kitchen working on two more. He's getting good at handling that responsibility.



If you notice, a lot of my cakes have been presented on wood cuts for that extra rustic look. Two of them this weekend in fact. Chocolate cake with hazelnut cream filling and coconut cake with lemon cream filling was accompanied by a blackberry pie and two cheesecakes, one plain and one chocolate chip.



Sometime I think I'll do a post on inspiration, the photos that brides give me- I want a cake like this. This cake was inspired by a Martha Stewart wedding cake photo. I actually like mine better. I had a lot of fun decorating it because it was something different, and despite the fact that I had to do it in the middle of the party with people watching me (I hate that!) because I couldn't carry this cake with the heavy fruit on it without it all falling off. The dessert choices also included peach pie and marionberry pie. I've heard some wonderful feedback from the guests at this wedding. They seemed to enjoy my offerings and that pleases me after I worked so hard on them.





On Sunday another wedding required one hundred bite sized  tartlettes.
With all the baking I've done during my 21-day cleansing diet, nothing has particularly tempted me until these little devils. Chocolate truffle tarts made with Belgian Callebaut chocolate were the siren call. I had to box them up and get them out of the house, tout de suite!


And the lemon mascarpone cream tartlettes too! Raus mit du!



The tartlettes accompanied this rustic (again) wedding cake, decorated with herbs from the garden (again) and something fun and imaginative to remember the carving that the groom did when his proposal was accepted by his sweetheart. I have to thank my son's girlfriend, Sarah, for helping me get this wedding delivered on time. AND she cleaned up the kitchen for me after I left.

So next weekend I have only one wedding cake and it makes me feel almost like I'm on vacation!

Apple turnover season starts too. I know this because there is a big box of apples sitting in my kitchen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Beauty

Vintage table cloth from my neighbor's yard sale- $4
Milk glass vase from an antique shop in Michigan- $6
Homegrown dahlias- Priceless!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gimme Space

A couple years ago when I was working on getting my kitchen licensed, I had to do a couple things in order to meet the requirements for a domestic kitchen license, which is different than a commercial kitchen license. Oregon will license a home kitchen for baking and other small business ventures like salsa and jam making. This license does not require things like a triple sink. One thing it does require is that the business supplies be separate from the family supplies. In my kitchen with all the cabinets fully occupied with family food and dishes, this was going to be a challenge. In the end what we did was re-organize the pantry shelving space in my hall pantry closet. I bought a free-standing shop cabinet from a lumber store for my business inventory and clean, white Ikea shelving for our home inventory. I loved it and along with one separate spare refrigerator (kept out in the cold produce storage room in the barn) it mostly fit my needs.

But then my business started growing and so did my inventory. More cakes pans in more sizes and shapes, more cookie sheets and bigger bins of flour and sugar began to take over the space. After a big shopping spree in the city I'd bring home things like fifty pound bags of sugar and flour and eleven pound tubs of cocoa powder. I had a little trouble fitting everything into the cabinet. The other pain in the neck was that the refrigerator I used for everything in my business was, like I said, out in the barn, which required much dashing through the rain eight months of the year.

Then last year we started our little addition on the house. One of the new rooms going on was a "storage room" which I called my "new pantry" and it was finally finished in time for the wedding season to begin. This was significant because it meant that my spare refrigerator would be just steps away from the kitchen. No more carrying frosted tiers of wedding cake down the driveway! Also, with a bit (or more than a bit) of that wedding cake money I bought a brand new refrigerator for our family kitchen. My plan was to take the used refrigerator out of the kitchen and move it into the new pantry so that I would have two spare refrigerators, one for the business and one for the garden produce and overflow of family food. When we moved the old refrigerator out, it gave up the ghost in protest. Just like that, my vision of lots of refrigerator space during the new baking season disappeared.

The last time I posted an update about the building project, we were finishing the interior of the new pantry. I put down the tile floor and my husband finished trimming out the room and putting up a strong large shelf. After finishing the mudroom, we had the building inspector come in for a final look and he gave us the "Okay" to occupy our own house. Thank you, Mr. Bureaucrat!

So here is how it looks now-
On one side of the mudroom is the door to the pantry. I agonized, as usual, over the paint colors but in the end I like them just fine. I love the tile floor and the white trim. There is still a bit of trim to go on the wainscoting and I need to pick a color for the doors. They will not stay white in a house of boys. That is a decision for another time when my brain can function in such a capacity.


The wall of the new pantry has space for three appliances but we haven't decided if we want to bring a freezer in or not.



I did end up with another refrigerator just a week ago when son, Neal, moved his old one out of his house. It has made such a world of difference in my life. I now lack for nothing. The heavy duty, custom made shelf wraps around the room and has been perfect for all the odds and ends that I haven't been able to easily store anywhere else, like glass cake pedestals. Martha Stewart doesn't have anything on me. I feel like I have upgraded my little country cottage to Bedford levels.


Best of all, I am no longer tripping over these bags of flour and sugar that used to clutter my closet and my corners. Eventually I hope to have a full set of shelving on this wall for all my canning supplies and jars of canned goods. I haven't devoted much time yet to organizing the space but in the meantime it has made my life blissfully uncluttered.

Having this space and these refrigerators just steps away from my working space in the kitchen has made is possible for me to produce three, four and five wedding cakes a weekend. I'm more organized, more efficient and more professional. The hard work and support of my family made it all happen. I am blessed!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not More Wedding Cakes...

Are you getting tired of seeing wedding cakes and hearing about weddings yet? If you are you may want to step away from my blog until about October. Maybe something unrelated to weddings will start happening then.

There are other things going on- like my beloved oven suddenly and inexplicably malfunctioning and ruining a wedding cheesecake. At first I thought it was me malfunctioning from exhaustion while baking just one more thing before bedtime. But when the early morning cheesecake also got over-baked, I figured out it was my oven and did a little Stationary Panic (anyone ever read Patrick McManus?) wondering how I was going to bake thirty-four cakes, two more cheesecakes, a dozen cupcakes, five slab pies and one hundred tartlette crusts for the five weddings next weekend.

Long story short is that the oven is working today. Suddenly and inexplicably. Either because my husband cut the power and rebooted the oven's computer, or because of all the prayer, or more likely- both! I don't care how, just Thank You, God!

Then there is the garden, all green and lush from the August heat. Lush with weeds and green with tomatoes. I plan to show some photos of the tomato crop if I can get out there to take some. If the weather holds out I might actually have a harvest. The very first ripe tomato was found by our one free range chicken. That is her annual August mission- to peck holes in my first tomato. But the second and third ripe tomatoes we ate on our salad tonight-- and they were gooooood!

There is lots and lots of salad in my forecast as my husband and I have just begun a 21 day cleanse. It's not nice when on the first day of a cleanse I have to bake banana cupcakes. Banana cake is my most favoritist cake in the world. I may or may not have eaten a couple crumbs.

If you can stand to see a couple more wedding cakes, here are two from the last batch-

Berry cakes are my most requested design and this is another version. I'm getting better at them and I like this one a lot. So did the bride. It was very sweet when she told me that after she decided she wanted a berry cake, she changed her color theme to match the cake!


She had been planning on yellow and orange and instead changed the bouquets to berry colors.



Here was an unique idea at that wedding reception-


The leaves on the tree are the thumbprints of the guests, each signed with their name. What a nice remembrance.



I also made another version of the "rustic" cake with simple herbs for decoration.


I promise I'll blog about something else next time...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Places

I get to visit so many beautiful wedding venues when I deliver my wedding cakes. Here in the Great Northwest have one spectacular location after another. Many of them are just a few miles from my house. Like this one...

On an old farm with the mountain as the photogenic backdrop for the ceremony, but also flower beds, a pond with a bridge (more photo-ops) and an historic log cabin where the bride can dress.



A working farm of orchards with the former apple packing house converted and all dressed up for company. This one also has expansive views, charming garden paths and quaint cottages.



This family owned property just two miles from here, is also a former farm, with multiple houses to offer for family to stay in comfort on site, on the edge of working orchards, canopied with tall fir trees and again, with Mt. Hood as the backdrop for a memorable day.


It even has a tree house...


...where you can lie in bed and stare at the majestic, snow-covered mountain.



For more expansive views, this is on the edge of a vineyard, high on a ridge overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. This one also has a spectacular view of Mt. Hood (obscured here by a hazy sky but see professional shots here.)


Last weekend I visited another unique spot. This location was on a piece of private property, high up on a mountain ridge at the end of a long dirt road. The bride and groom and their family and friends constructed this lodge pole framework as the setting for their reception.



There was a stage for the band...


...a well stocked bar...



 ....hand constructed buffet tables...


...as well as tables for the guests.

I never ceased to be amazed at the creativity and attention to detail that goes into making the perfect setting for the singular day of celebration when two people join together to create a new family. I love making my contribution to these special events.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wedding Cake Roundup

Two of the five weddings I did last weekend had the same hot pink and orange flower theme.

I was very happy with this cake, despite having to work with two ribbons, they stayed in place and I loved the flowers.




For this cake, the bride sent me royal blue ribbon to use. I didn't think it worked with the pink and orange nearly as well. I didn't like this one as well as the first one but I hope the bride was happy.



My last delivery of the weekend was to a do-it-yourself wedding way up on a mountain ridge, accessible by a long, dusty dirt road. The bridal couple made a beautiful wedding setting on their private mountain property and I'll show you more of that unique event in another post. Their cakes perched on this home-made fir table is a hint at the style of that western wedding.

Now I'm off on a big city supply run for the next round of weddings!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You...

I've been very slow and neglectful about posting things on my blog lately. I blame the wedding season. And the fact that I simply couldn't post because I was recovering from my death bed by going to see my grandbabies. I was on my death bed because of the wedding season.

The weekend before I left for Michigan, I had six weddings. I came close to forgetting about one of them because most of the time I thought I had five weddings. Then this bride sent me an email about her final payment and I did a head bonk and added her desserts to my baking list. Whew! That was a close one!

Not only did I have six weddings, my boys were at the county fair showing animals for the first time. These events combined to nearly kill me. And what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, right? Or it makes you so exhausted that what didn't kill you now, will kill you later.

The day after fair ended, the exhibits came home and I washed the last cake pan, I started thinking about packing a suitcase to leave for the fatherland. I was planning to leave the following day. I'd take one day of reprieve to water my dying flowerbeds, weed the vegetable patch, do some laundry, sweep the floor and take a breath.

Then my daughter called me. "Mom!! Are you getting dementia?!?!" Well, yes. But what of it? "Mom!!!!  You're flight is tonight!!!!" What? No, it's tomorrow. "No, Mom!" (I think if she had been here she may have given me a really hard shake.) "Mom!! I'm looking at your ticket right now. You leave tonight!!"

Well, that changed everything.

Long story short, we made it and when I got there I slept for two days, waking occasionally to kiss a grandson. We spent a great week together, not doing much, which was a good plan. The boys are staying with their big sister for the month of August, pitching in and living the country life. I am home with my new baking schedule. Only five weddings this week. Should be a piece of cake.

Here are the events that almost brought my demise-

An anniversary cake for this lovely couple celebrating 70 years of matrimony. They spent their whole lives in the same community, raising fruit and building a fine family. I had never heard of anyone reaching such a prestigious milestone and was privileged to be a small part of their celebration.


This sweet little cake is representative of this year's wedding trend- mussy, swirly, rustic icing with simple garden flower decoration. I think there are a million of these on Pinterest and I wouldn't be surprised if my cake has ended up there too. Every week I am doing a cake in this style.


Conversely, I had a couple from Hawaii that wanted this very traditional style with lots of lacey piping. This cake took considerably more time to do than the previous one so thank goodness for new trends.




The wedding I almost forgot was a dessert buffet. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Cakes, pies, cheesecake, tarts and cupcakes. By itself, no problem. In combination with county fair and other weddings- painful sleep deprivation. Do I need to say that I have learned a lot this wedding season about my capabilities?




Another smallish wedding that deceived me in to thinking I could handle one more. The treat was that it was held at a venue I had not visited before and it was beautiful. I will write a blog post about that...sometime.



One reason that I managed to finish and deliver all these events on time is that my daughter, Alyssa, was home from her European adventure. She not only coached her brothers to blue ribbons at the fair but she helped out by getting a few things done in the Fleur Cakes kitchen, like making tart crusts. She also made this fondant logo for a groom's cake with a theme of the groom's favorite football team, the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Now I'm baking for this weekend's weddings. I baked twenty-one cakes yesterday of varying shapes and sizes. Today I'll be baking 150 strawberry shortcakes, doing errands and picking up flowers.

But, I'm stronger, remember?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Peek at the Past

Last fall when I was here in Michigan, I photographed the outside of this interesting house in a nearby town.


So many houses around here have such beautiful architectural details, built during the 19th century when there were many craftsman still carving wood and stone.


Katie had heard that there was going to be an open house at this historic building, the Grosvner House, so we went to see the inside and found many more examples of 19th century craftsmanship and heard some fascinating stories about its history.



I've visited lots of historic buildings but I have never seen a house with some of the special details that this one had, including servants quarters on the top floor of the house with a staircase down to the main kitchen and to the basement summer kitchen.
This house had belonged to a wealthy man who had built his fortune through business in the small growing town eventually becoming a state senator and having a hand in building the capitol in Lansing. Though the accoutrements of wealth were evident in every room, we thought the rooms were quite small for a mansion. No doubt at the time the house was built, 1870, they were considered very large.



Our tour guide bent the museum rules to take us to the basement to see some of the collection of antiques stored there...


...such as this contraption. The latest in laundry facilities- a clothes washer with two cycles- wash and rinse!




The house had a premium central heating system to all the rooms except the servant's rooms. These wood burning furnaces were still present in the basement, each large enough for a five foot log.



The hardware in the house was all handmade with unique details.



The kitchen had a Dumb Waiter that carried food and dishes to the three floors of the house.



Two large china closets held the dinnerware in the dining room.



This was something I had never seen before- the mirror is positioned so that ladies could stand before it and make sure their ankles or petticoats were not showing under their skirts.




I thought my friend David, himself a fine wood craftsman of our age, would appreciate seeing this drawer's amazing dovetail detail on this piece of 19th century furniture.




Many houses today are similar in size to this mansion of the 19th century but few have the handcrafted details that this one has including five carved colored marble fireplaces in the bedrooms.



When visiting places that showcase how people of previous generations lived, I am always reminded how wealthy and blessed I am in the 21st century. I live just as comfortably as that rich gentleman did with his servants and abundance of fancy furniture. Everything is relative.