Friday, August 31, 2007

whole lotta cakin' goin on- #2

A second, more traditional shower cake from last weekend. The lady said "Simple and elegant, cornflower blue. Do whatever."

Oh good!

I was thinking of using rolled buttercream fondant overall to practice for a wedding cake I have in January - but the petit fours order did me in. I stuck with white buttercream.

I tried a different technique in frosting: "crumb coating." You slap a layer of thin icing over the entire cake without caring about crumbs, to seal in moisture AND those annoying crumbs. Allow it to crust over, then re-ice. Voila! No crumbs in your outer layer of frosting! I don't usually have problems with crumbs in the frosting (technique, darlings, technique--THIN icing, and never let your offset spatula touch the cake, ONLY the icing) - but I wanted to give this a go. It's really good, but it means you're going over the cake twice. If you have crumb issues, though, this is the way to go. Here's what the crumb coat looks like (it looks like the dickens!):

Added a few roses and buds, a few fondant pearls dipped in pearl/luster dust, a few squiggles - voila!

I know the pics are dark- but the ones with flash washed out the cake. Must learn how to take better cake pictures! I think the kitchen is a less-than-ideal photo location, however.

ANYWAY. I earned every bit of that 1.6# from the leftover cake scraps, I did.

whole lotta cakin' goin on- #1

Last week was a creative week. An experimenting week. A decadent week. And at my weekly weigh-in, I'd gained 1.6 lbs.

I enjoyed every bit of it! Except the gaining weight.

Of all people, my Weight Watchers leader called me up and asked me to make petit fours for a bridal shower she was hosting. Just because I've never done something doesn't necessarily mean that I can't, so I told her I'd give her a guinea pig price whilst I played around with ways and means.

To the store! I bought two Sara Lee pound cakes, torted them (meaning, cut into three layers), spread homemade strawberry freezer jam between the layers, cut into small shapes using a 2" round cookie cutter, and used a quick-pour fondant icing over the top. Oooh. This definitely works... but too pricey using Sara Lee. However, I can make pound cake.

So Thursday I baked an almond cream cheese pound cake in a 9x13 pan, torted it (note: two layers are just fine, no need to go for three), filled with my homemade strawberry freezer jam, and cut into squares and triangles.

I also had some extra chocolate cake for a different shower, so I made petit fours out of that as well--using ganache instead of fondant as the covering. Ooh. I still have about a cup of it left in the fridge, too.

Ganache is one of those things that is ridiculously easy to make, but looks like you fussed. If you ice your cake perfectly smooth with buttercream, then pour ganache over the top, you'll have a showstopper dessert, guaranteed. And the only two ingredients are chocolate and whipping cream. I used equal amounts of dark chocolate (Guittard) and heavy whipping cream--heated the cream to a boil, then poured it over the chocolate to melt.

Doesn't look so hot at first:

..but after stirring it for a few more minutes, it looks amazing:

Here's the fun, time consuming bit: put your bit of cake onto a large offset spatula (a MUST for decorating cakes!) - I used a spot of ganache or fondant underneath the cake to "stick" it temporarily to the spatula.

Ladle ganache over the top, being sure the sides get covered. (I didn't bother to ice the petit fours in buttercream first, egads, that would be a lot of work). Then allow it to drip dry on a wire rack.

Whoops, wrong picture. That's dry. Here's with ganache:

Decorate with white chocolate, a rose, a squiggle or two... that's it. These actually were the preliminary experiments that I didn't send to the WW leader... we ate these! :D

Monday, August 27, 2007

jest doin' my dooty, ma'am

Today I had to report for jury duty at 8:30. Realizing the scarcity of parking around the Pierce County Courthouse, I decided to park at Freighthouse Square ( several miles away) and take the Tacoma Link Light Rail system to approximately where I needed to be.

Got parked at 8:20.
Waited for Link - got on link at 8:30. Gonna be late.
Got off Link in the Theatre District at 8:36.

Remembered that Tacoma is Stairmaster City, and my walk would be 5-6 blocks uphill. Steep uphill. Think San Francisco.

Arrived, panting and sweating, at 8:55 am, and of course the Jury Assembly Room has its doorway at the FRONT of the room so everyone can see me slink in late.

So much for using transit. Gonna have to leave a bit earlier and dress in workout clothes if I try that route again!

We got treated to a big rah rah pep talk. The lady was genuinely friendly, though. I was privately thinking she'd have to be, dealing with people who are grouchy about missing work for a $10-per-day gig performing civic duties. Scattered throughout the room were motivating signs: "We Appreciate You, Jurors!" "You are THE BEST!" "Thank you for your service!" and so forth.

Then we got assigned a color coded number and sent to different courtrooms, where we met with a judge and the attorneys. Following that meeting, I received a huge packet questionnaire, a "Voie Dire," my chance to tell the truth and let them know just how biased I would be about certain things if I were to be a juror on that particular trial.

After completing that, I was free until 3 pm, at which point we all were to return and be called out for questioning regarding our responses to the form.

In my break period, I went back to Puyallup, made lunch, cleaned the kitchen, swept and mopped the kitchen and both bathrooms, and got D. enrolled at Maplewood for band this fall. Then, remembering the lessons of the morning, left at 2 to ensure I arrived back at my destination well before 3! I armed myself with a magazine (American Music Teacher), a book (Miracle on Maple Hill), and a sock that I'm working on for D. After an hour and a half of sitting, knitting, reading, and dozing... I was told to go home and come back tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.

I haven't violated anything by telling you all of this. I'm just describing the process. Not who, what, details, or even the questions they asked me in the questionnaire...though I'd love to (snicker). But anyway. I'm supposed to be available from 8:30-4:30 for the next 10 days. Boy, that's $100 plus mileage! *sigh*

As we walked from the building in a clump, one man was describing his experience as a juror on a federal case. Apparently you can't get out of it if the feds want you as a juror. And they have you for 6 months, not two weeks. But back in 1981, the guy made $50 a day, which wasn't complete hay back then.

So, tomorrow: knitting and reading. Oh, and no internet. Bites.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

forewarned is forearmed

I'm dismayed to see that Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass is currently in post-production by New Line Cinema (the ones who brought us the exceptional Lord of the Rings movies).

I read this book several years ago, since it was being marketed specifically to children who were impatiently waiting for the next Potter to come out.

I recall the amazing characters, the compelling plot. And the unease that grew within me with every passing page. "He (Pullman) can't be saying what I think he's saying," I recall thinking to myself. I finished the first book, gravely unsure. I bought the second and third books in the trilogy. And finished them. And was floored.

Pullman's books offer a great read, no doubt. But who is the hero, and who is the villain? The villain, as you read on, is no less than God Himself. And the hero is Lord Asriel--whom we later learn is chief of the fallen angels. Mrs. Coulter (Lord Asriel's estranged wife) represents the Church. A vicious, conniving, frightening woman she is, too. We later learn that the main character, Lyra, is the child of Asriel and Mrs. Coulter. Did I mention that all the characters in Lyra's universe (a parallel one to ours) have daemons? A physical manifestation of a human's soul in animal form, of the opposite gender (nods to Carl Jung). By the final book, the epic battle between Asriel and the other fallen angels leads to the overthrow of God Himself and the creation of the Republic of Heaven.

And this is marketed to children.

I don't know how deeply New Line will delve into the anti-God, anti-religious themes of the trilogy. Maybe it will just play out as a girl on a quest to find a family. But some kids, after having seen the movie, will just have to read the books. And parents need to know. They just need to know about this, to determine if this is something to avoid, or to read with great amounts of supervision and discussion.

Just KNOW, parents. KNOW what your children are being exposed to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If you hurry you can place a bid.

If not, you can just read her story on eBay. I can relate only partially, having only two children to her six, but still, it's a good read.

Wanna buy some Pokemon cards? Click here. If not, click here anyway.

Monday, August 20, 2007

would you all please just stop...

...blaming me for the current bad weather you're having in Texas on up through Michigan?


Monday, August 13, 2007


We received our 10-box shipment of school books and materials today from k12. Five boxes for D, five for S. The UPS guy just loved us, I could tell.

S. proceeds to treat it like Christmas: "Ooooh, I got FIVE BOXES!! YIPPEEE!!!" and falls to with the scissors, as I organize the chaos.

D, however, knows What This Means. School. Slimy, Gross, Nasty SCHOOL. And proceeds to offer up various and sundry snide, snarky comments, earning a total of 65 pushups (combined). Finally, having heard enough raptures from S, he goes for the personal insult:

"S, you have a brain like PLAY-DOH!!"

"A brain like Plato? Thank you very much!"

Ahh, seeing the 8 year old thus handle the 10 year old made the day sweet, very sweet, my friends.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

a certain shade of gold

This morning as I awakened slowly, I knew. Perhaps it was the cool nip in the morning air that washed over me through the open window, but more likely it was the shade of gold sunlight that slanted through the bathroom and partly through the bedroom window. Either way, or maybe because of both combined, I feel the change coming. Summer is fading.

I snuggled back in the covers to sleep in late. I've been battling a virus that has recently morphed into conjunctivitis... more commonly called pinkeye. Contagious. Yesterday only my right eye had it; this morning my left has gotten with the program to keep my right company. At first glancing at myself in the mirror, I thought I should be called "She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," except my pupils are not slits, though my sclera were indeed nice and red. (For Crystal's benefit, that was an oblique Harry Potter reference).

Awaking again at 8 am, I heard S. crying out in the room next door. Her ear has been painful for the last few days, so I'd been treating pain symptoms with Tylenol. This morning, however, there's a fever, so I know it's time for antibiotics. I usually try to avoid antibiotics because they're so overprescribed, but I know in her case she needs it. She seems prone to ear infections, and I do know from experience they can be sharply painful. Thankfully, Woodcreek Pediatrics has a walk-in clinic open on Saturdays, and it was blessedly uncrowded. We were in and out of there in 15 minutes with two prescriptions. I dropped her back at home and headed off to Costco to fill the medications. THAT took an hour and 30 minutes. *sigh*

So between S and her ear infection, my father (who does not have shingles, thankfully!) with some dermatitis thing, and me with my red, dripping, burning eyes--only half of the family is well and functioning normally. The abnormal part of the family has been snoozing (ah, glorious) - but I think that certain shade of gold in the sunlight is causing the normal part of the family to have an abnormal sense of industry. D. has been pestering to go somewhere, anywhere, all day long. Mom has been doing laundry out the yin-yang. A. has changed license plates on the van, taken two doors down and sanded their edges so they don't squeak or rub on their door jambs, gone out to the garden and harvested a bunch of zucchini, and now he's wandering around looking for more ways to be of use.

The beginning of the end of summer. Enjoying every minute of it while I can!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

home again, home again, jiggety-jig

(the title idea was shamelessly stolen from Tammy- but it just fits, yanno?)

So.... we let the tarantula go.... and after driving through Sequoia, we were done. Ready to go home to Washington. We'll do Yosemite another trip.

Have photos to post, but I'll put them in one of those "slide" thingys that Lori always uses. Tomorrow.

I love the fact that Washington is GREEN. Well, western Washington. The landscape plants looked lovely with Mr. Jones' careful tending of them in our absence... well, I'd say they looked even better than if we had stayed HERE, I think. He's Mr. Detail Guy. That's a polite way of putting it.

So I'm enjoying the remaining bits of summer... organizing and cleaning house (Flylady zone right now is the kitchen, so I'm jumping in where she is and having a good time, 15 minutes at a time) - mentally preparing for teaching in another 4 weeks, and relaxing as I go. My parents are now visiting US. That was poorly planned....spend two weeks in CA, just for CA to come spend two weeks with us? Duh. space it out a bit!

While on the phone with my friend Jane tonight (who is a medical doctor) - A. came to me and mentioned that Dad had been dealing with side pain all day, and now had a blotchy rash/blisters in that area. Her over the phone diagnosis is shingles, and get him to the doctor tomorrow morning ASAP to get him on antiviral meds. I can't wait to see if she's right. That sounds weird though.... sorry for dad, because shingles are downright painful, on top of everything else he's been dealing with - but proud of my friend who can diagnose disease over the phone-- that's just cool.

Okay. With that bit of twisty weirdness, I'm going to bed. Photos later. Big ol' herkin' trees.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

the itsy bitsy big-ol'-herkin' spider: a tale of two wallets

The Week With No Kids came to an end! We drove to camp Saturday morning, excited to be reunited with our children--who are just as excited to be reunited with us, I am pleased to learn.

We loaded up the gear. D. tells me that he could not find his wallet all week long, and was unable to purchase anything from the snack shop for the whole week. I am horrified, because I know good and well where his wallet is, in the side zipper pocket of his duffle bag. Did I not tell him? Or did he not explore his belongings well enough? Maybe a combination of both. HOW TOTALLY SAD! Here it is, 108 degrees and all the kids eating snow cones except for him. *sigh*

So I pulled out his wallet for him and sent him off to the Trading Post, where he buys, not a snow cone, but a Marshmallow Gun. Hoo dawgies! It's a contraption made of pvc pipe that you can aim and shoot marshmallows from. OH the joy! Because we had no marshmallows, he ended up shooting bits of Trader Joe's Buried Treasure at me and S. on our way up to Visalia and Sequoia National Park. Lacking marshmallows, he had to get some practice in, after all. Notice, of course, that he did NOT shoot anything at his father. He values his life, that boy. And just think, if he DID have his wallet the entire week of camp, he probably wouldn't have had enough money left to buy a marshmallow gun at the end of the week! Gotta look on the bright side of things.

A and I were entertained with tales of camp, the skits ("ya gotta keep your worms warm!"), the activities, the falling out of canoes, going down the giant water slide (scorecard: D- 7 times; S - twice); hearing about a kid bitten by a rattlesnake. (Eww!)

Our ultimate destination upon leaving Camp Ironwood was this place called Three Rivers, just outside of Sequoia - where if you drive 11 miles offroad on North Fork Road, you get to this amazingly beautiful place to go swimming in the river. So we ventured there as a family, 100 degrees and bumpy, windy road (S getting nauseated)- and were rewarded at the end with a lovely, cool dip in the river. There were other families back there, as well as a man panning for gold (he found some!) - so we were in good company.
Clever me, I am not in the picture. :)Scenery. It's gorgeous back in there, more so when it seems like everything should be dry and barren, and then there's this luscious stream with green green green.

When it came time to leave, D. started to get a sore throat and not feel well. S. got car sick. We got back to Visalia and D. crawled into bed (our room air conditioning worked only sporadically so the room was swelteringly warm). We made plans with my parents for dinner; D only wanted macaroni and cheese for his sore throat. A. patted his back pocket, searching for his wallet. No wallet. With a dazed look passing between us, we knew: his wallet was back at Three Rivers, about 70 minutes away, and not a lot of sunlight left. Choices: get it now, or wait until morning. Decision: get it now.

My parents, children and I went to a Perko's restaurant, while A went back to Three Rivers. After he left, I mentally kicked myself - I should have gone with him! There's no cell phone coverage out there. So I'm sitting at Perko's, calculating just about where A is on his route, and about what time he would return. The service was abominably slow at the diner, so we had lots of time to discuss and wait. D. ordered a double burger, but when it finally arrived he just sniffed at it. Hurt too much to eat. Grandpa ordered D. and S. a banana split, and oddly enough, THAT went down just fine.

We got back to the motel, crawled onto our beds and waited. A. arrived back about the time I mentally prepared myself to expect him, all was well, he found the wallet.... AND he had brought back a present to make D. feel better!!

The gift? A tarantula in a mason jar.

I shrieked several inappropriate things and scarpered to the corner of the room, pillow clutched in front of me for protection.

"Mom, can we keep it? PLEEEEEEASE??" I am beleaguered by pleading children. I know good and well that I am the bad guy if I say no. Evil husband for putting me in such a position!

"I am NOT discussing this. DO not ask me again."

Regardless, every so often a child would come and plead with me for arachnid clemency and safe harbor. Surprisingly it was my daughter who was most distraught about my resistance--she, who screams if there is a jumping spider in her vicinity. Hypocrite.

Because I know what happens when critters are kept. Accidents. That's what. And some morning, if I give in to these pleas, I will find a hairy nasty many-legged critter larger than a mouse stumbling about loose in my home, and that is so not the way to begin a good day.

I leave it to A. to straighten things out and explain to them that in no wise will they be owning a tarantula, now or ever, as long as they are not paying the mortgage on the home. D. eventually gives in with good grace. S. is still upset with my irrationality. "Mom, it's in a GLASS JAR," explaining it to me as if I am slow.

We decide it can stay the night... in the jar... on the table on the opposite side of the room from my sleeping position. Even so, my dreams are troubled, fuzzy, and creepy.

The next morning, just past Three Rivers where it was found, we let him go. I say "we" rather loosely; I stayed in the car.

And thus endeth the arachnid adventure.

Moral of the story: don't leave your wallet behind, or you'll get more than you bargained for.

Friday, August 03, 2007

we interrupt this broadcast...

Those of my readers who are pray-ers (and I think most of you are :) ) - IF you feel so led, please pray for my friend Audra.
  • She possibly has a cougar somewhere in her neighborhood, that ate her cat.
  • Her father has prostate cancer.
  • Her mother in law is in hospice with advanced brain cancer.
  • AND.... she learned last night that her identity has been stolen. Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number...
She is feeling at the end of her rope.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

a week with no kids

The last week of July we dropped the kids off at Camp Ironwood, the place my parents used to ship me away to every summer. There's not much to do around Barstow/Newberry Springs, so after taking A on a superquicktour of the camp (he was perishing in the 108 F/42 C climate!) we got back in the air-conditioned car and headed south to San Bernardino, then west over to Pasadena/Arcadia area to visit the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.

Took a zillion pictures.
I was going for light and pattern things:
I just loved the colors on this bark! No, I don't remember what the tree is. Some kind of eucalyptus I think.
There were a great number of peacocks, peahens and chicks running around. This guy was showing off. I've never seen one do that "live" before!

Self-explanatory. Pretty manmade waterfall.

Jacaranda tree. Had to write that in before I forgot what it was. :)

We drove back up to Santa Maria on Tuesday, making a pit stop in Solvang on the way. I MISSED Arne's Famous Aebleskivers by 15 minutes. They closed at 4. DARN DARN DARN. I wanted to see the experts make aebleskivers and get some tips and tricks, and now I have to make a whole nother trip. Fiddlesticks.

We did stop at "Ostrichland" and purchase some ostrich sausages for my dad. They were tasty. In addition we got to see the beautifully fluffy, irritable birds as we drove along the highway. No pictures, sorry, but this guy took an extreme ostrich feeding video and posted it on yahoo for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday we made contact with my h.s. friend Chris and went out to Carrow's with him after mid-week church services. We spent the evening laughing, talking, arguing--just like old times. We left when the restaurant closed at 11 p.m., then continued to talk in the parking lot until midnight.

And so the week with no kids passed by. I kept thinking about them, wanting to be a fly on the wall, watching the kids at camp, seeing what they were doing, learning, experiencing...but this is just an apron string that I need to cut. They'll tell me what they want to tell me.