Friday, August 31, 2007

My son is home and a super successful cake!

I got the biggest hug (well several). I guess he did miss us! He said he didn't start thinking about it until he was on the plane and then he was getting so excited to be home. Which is good. It really means he had a great time. Our toddler, Henry was SOOOO excited all evening and this morning he has claimed all of Adrian's shoes as his and keeps going to Adrian to beam at him.

Now the cake. It turned out GREAT! I have this Croatian Desserts recipe book and all the cakes look and sound scrumptious, but... the book STINKS. I "hope" the more recent editions caught some of the errors, but there will be listing of ingredients, but no mention of how and when to add it in the directions. Directions will say, "mix eggs", but they really mean separate the eggs into whites and yolks and mix the whites to stiff peak and yellows to creamy and light. The ONLY reason I have been able to decipher it is because I'm married to a Croatian who knows a lot of these recipes and he can tell me if they turn out or not.

This particular cake I've made several times - Dalmatian Cake, but last night was the best attempt yet. A pretty cake it is not because the "icing" is simply cooked yolks, sugar, milk and 1 tbsp. of flour - nothing like the typical sugar and butter we know. So, it's not "showy", but oh my goodness is this yummy! All the cakes and desserts from this book, if you figure them out, are amazing, but without fail, EVERY first attempt turns out a bit of a flop. I think I've had ONE cake turn out right the first time and that was recently and I think only because I was able to decipher the directions well enough from prior recipe failures! LOL

The biggest compliment (besides the two kids snarfing it down) was from DH. He WILL NOT say something without meaning it, ever, so he said, "This cake is amazing. It's the best one of these yet. This is better than the Dalmatian cake at that fancy restaurant I went to." I attached a picture of my cake and the picture of the cake from the book. I wish it would take better pictures, but it does look nice and it is SOOOOOOO yummy - an almond pastry, custard filling, light caramel syrup, and a soft sponge cake with more caramel syrup and more icing and almonds for decoration.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I reclaimed the cake/sewing studio!

Ah, sweet success! I unburied the storage room, though probably only temporarily! I started to clean out my son's room yesterday and oh boy, what a disorganized nightmare. I can't decide for Adrian what he should keep or not, but I can see that his room needs have CHANGED dramatically. He still likes some of his toys - Robo Sapien and Legos and Beyblades are about it. So, he needs room for these, but he is drawing and writing and painting ALL the time and needs a place for the supplies and the finished product. Right now he has three tiny drawers with his desk and that just isn't enough!

I realized half his closet - no more, was used for other family storage. We still need to use some of that space, but I did give some back to him, but of course, what does that mean? The family stuff now has to find a new home AGAIN and I KNOW a lot of it will end up down in the storage room! DH wanted to know if I had room to store the receiver he wants to sell and I know I shot him a glare... NO WAY. If he wants to sell it, he needs to deal with it. We still have FOUR turntables he's been "meaning" to sell for 4 years that I finally tucked away about a year ago because I got tired of the stack of boxes on the way to the laundry room.

But... Adrian comes home TODAY and I've now made things a big disaster again with reorganizing, ugh!!! and I have a splitting headache AND I need to make a cake! It's going to be quite a day I think!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Adrian!

Today is my oldest son's 11th birthday. We already talked with him for a good while on the phone and I feel better. Plus, he's coming home TOMORROW!!! Yay! And he still wants the cake - go figure! What a strange kid!

I also got an order for about 10 days for now and it will be cute. Gonna make my first bow for on top of the cake! I'll have to practice that one a bit and show you my progress. It's something I've been wanting to learn how to do anyway!

Now off to clean my son's room!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sleep not cakes seem to be a primary theme!

And last night? I got a FULL night's sleep! I took a HOT bath last night around 9:30 pm, and was in bed and probably asleep immediately by 10:30 pm. I woke once between 2 am and 3 am with Henry, and then he slept until 8 am which is UNHEARD of!!! 5 am is our "usual" rising time!

DH also went to bed early, even before me, and he got himself up this morning and let me sleep in - a double gift!!! I didn't have to wake at 5 am with the little guy and I didn't have to pry DH out of bed either! Sigh... life is MUCH better when you get sleep!

Now cakes - I have an appt. today for a cake for a sweet 16 party, so I'm curious what we will come up with and then I need to do some shopping for Adrian, my oldest DS's, birthday cake! He wants the Dalmatian cake which is a YUMMO European cake with sponge layers and cream layers and almonds and a sort of brulee too... sooooo good!

But first, I should probably clean the bathrooms because they are beginning to look neglected.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A little sleep a little more progress

Last night was ALMOST a normal night's worth of sleep, but why do I feel WORSE? I think my body is in revolt!

Well, I did paper the one wall and all the books have made it back to the shelves in all rooms and DH has gone ALL through the house to get his stacks and stacks and stacks of papers to FINALLY deal with them. Some have been waiting for a YEAR!!!

The toys have made it downstairs and most things are falling into place. HOWEVER, my cake studio is agai BURIED with all the things we found that need homes, so after cleaning it ALL up, I need to do it ALL again. Plus, we had a pretty good storm on Saturday night and my recently cleaned out patio is again full of debris - is someone trying to tell me something?

I must be a mad woman because now I plan to paint my son's room before he gets home... we'll see, not if I continue to feel this tired!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why can't I Sleep?

So, I worked my hind end off yesterday (and all this week actually) and I didn't nap, didn't load up o caffeine. We even went swimming in the evening so I could relax my muscles - and amazingly, I'm not sore or stiff this morning! I went to bed at 10:15 and fell asleep within 10 minutes I would say. But... Henry woke up at 2:30 am for a little bit, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I tried for half an hour, then got up to go to the bathroom and came downstairs to read for about an hour. I went back upstairs a little after 4 am and still couldn't sleep. I was FINALLY feeling myself drift off sometime after 4:30 am and Henry woke up at his usual 5 am... I'm not getting more than 4-5 hours of sleep ANY night and working HARD all day every day, so what is the deal!?!?! Did Henry's first two years of waking 5-7 times a night condition me to not needing sleep? I know I need it because I'm always in a fog and my brain really doesn't "fire" right, if you can understand that? I just don't get it! I should have slept HARD all night long! And now I'm afraid I'll have to take a nap with henry because I can't POSSIBLY be able to sustain this lack of sleep indefinitely. Sigh... What is WRONG with me? An opportunity to sleep and I'm up half the night???

Friday, August 24, 2007

Doin' the happy dance!

First I emptied six full bookcases, and then (drum roll please) I moved, all by myself, FOUR seven foot bookcases upstairs. Only one was easy because it was just the shell. Two had doors and the fourth was the corner unit with more framing and a weird diamond shape, but oo-boy, I DID IT! I also moved the other two bookcases to the other wall downstairs. Now I just need to prime and paper two walls and then my job is MOSTLY complete. The last thing to happen is to move the toy room stuff dowstairs, but that will seem like a piece of cake after all of that heavy stuff going UP! Yay! Yay! Yay!!! I'm leaving sorting the books to DH because only he can know what he wants upstairs ad what he wants downstairs.

Now, to shop a little for fun and then off to the pool to ease these achy muscles!

Did I mention the main reason for the cake studio?

We are getting two cats! We have always had a cat, but our cat died a couple months ago at the age of 13 and we are ready now for two new babies. Well, one is a baby, the other is the baby's mother.

Our old cat was somewhat lame. He broke his tibia and fibula in a freak accident when he was a young cat and while he never limped or had problems, he must have lost the strength to jump... which in a way was a nice thing - no kitty on the counters! Not that I would wish that on any kitty, it did spoil us!

Well, it's been a couple months and we promised Adrian that we would get two kittens when he came home, however, while he was gone I started looking at the craigslist listings for shelters and rescues just to get an idea of what was out there. I read countless ads and saw there were frequent adoption events and way too many kittens around.

There was this one ad though that caught my attention, but Adrian had only been gone a week and this wasn't a kitten, but a mommy cat. Then another few days go by and another listing about the same cat. What no one had adopted this sweetie? Oh, and she had a kitten available too... but Adrian wasn't home. Finally, on the third listing, I found myself hoping this mommy cat WOULDN'T get adopted so we could adopt her and then I realized it was SILLY to want a cat on a description and picture only. Maybe she was NOTHING like it appeared. So, I decided to tell DH about the cat and to my surprise he said she sounded perfect and agreed to go take a peak, but first we had to ask Adrian if it was OK to adopt an older (though probably only 1 to 2 years old) mommy cat. Adrian was fine with that, so we made a visit.

She was everything she was said to be and we were hooked - this was the cat we wanted. Her last kitten was still there too and he too was such a cutie, but he was already adopted and just needed to be picked up. And again, this was OK because Adrian would want to be with us to choose a kitten.

All we needed was to take care of some formalities. I mentioned to the foster family that we were also looking for a kitten to go with this mommy cat once my son got home and if she had any leads or suggestions to let us know. A day later she tells me that the adoption of the mommy cat's kitten was falling through and that this little boy was probably available if we wanted him.

Well, of course I wanted him - he was super sweet too, but neither DH nor I felt right about just bringing it two cats with Adrian gone, so again we spoke to Adrian about it and he knows there is the kitten possibility too. To make it even better for Adrian to feel he's part of this decision, we aren't picking up either cat from foster care until Adrian gets home. Then, when he says the two cats together and knows they are mother and son, I'm sure this will be the kitte he will want to take home... but it's not definite. Kids can ALWAYS surprise you!

So... I knew cats were coming to our home soon for a few months and I knew that some people wouldn't like the idea of cats and cakes mingling and I knew I couldn't leave the room ever if a cake or frosting was in the making and that just doesn't work. Cakes take about 4 hours to complete - I don't stay in the kitchen that entire time!!! That's where the "I need a room I can take the cake to decorate" came from. A room with a door that clicks shut. My two options were the study or the storage room and the storage room won out because of all the practicalities of it. This will be a cat free zone, always.

Adrian comes home in 6 days and we plan to get the kitties (hopefully both of them) a week from today! In the meantime I need to finish EVERYTHING! Argh!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

All my plans foiled!

As you can see, the bookcases have landed. What you can't see/know is that this is NOT the study... This is our rec room and if you look carefully, these Elephant bookcases (as my husband refers to them) are IN FRONT OF a bunch of bookcases... why you might ask? Well.... seems I, a VERY spatial person overlooked something very important...will these bookcases, destined for DHs study upstairs FIT up the stairs???? Simple answer (after an hour of careful measuring) is NO!!! I realized it while waiting for the delivery. The movers called saying they were having a difficult time getting the bookcases out of the apt. and into the elevator... then I started thinking... OMG, yes, I cleared out the furniture in the front to be able to fit through, but HOW will they go around the corners of the stairs??? We had a couple big pieces upstairs, so I measured, but they weren't so wide... and that was the kicker. Lengthwise it would work, depth it would work, but because these are 39" wide, there is no room to turn as long as it is. These are beautifully crafted, but they are ONE solid piece, you cannot separate the top from the bottom... therefore, they landed in the walkout basement rec room. The mover's dad is a carpenter and he was saying that these were VERY well made. He said that his dad would charge about $7,000 for these of this quality. He asked how much I paid and I said, "$500. He about choked. I guess if this doesn't work out...which I think it will, we could sell for over $1000 easily (the mover thought $3,500, but I don't think so).

The amazing thing is that they fit on that back wall with 1.5 inches to spare. Can you BELIEVE that? It's like I designed them to go there. We need the storage EVERYWHERE, so it's not a huge deal, but you can see what I have to do, right? Yep.... I NOW have to move SIX seven foot bookcases to fit in these three. Two (or three) will stay downstairs, but shift to the other side of the door. Two (or three) bookcases will go upstairs along with the corner bookcase. It also means WE have to take those bookcases upstairs, not movers, but ME... GREAT!!!

How is this cake related? Well, it's not really, but all this shifting and reorganizing is making it possible for me to have that cake studio. I thought of another GREAT reason why having the cake studio downstairs will be awesome. The storage room is sandwiched between this rec room which is one half library and one have movie/TV area and the new play room I am making. BTW, I got all the furniture out of there yesterday (the desk, two filing cabinets, some drawers, computer stuff and the desk chair - oh, and the movers were running so late? They didn't have time to help me with those things - I did it myself!!!). I still have the book boxes to carry up.

Anyway, that cake storage room/cake studio is between the two family "play" areas - movies/TV and playroom. I can work in there and still keep my eye on Henry!! I can easily take my rolling cart with supplies and go into his room or the rec room to work too (both have desks/tables)... so I think this will really work and be WORTH all this effort in the end. I just wish it didn't involve two full flights of stairs. I guess it's good I'm built like an ox and can move all this furniture by myself. DH last night couldn't carry the computer monitor because it hurt his injured shoulder.... Hmmm..... I'm going to begin to think he injures himself on purpose when we have things to move. Two moves ago he broke his leg a day before we started packing. I had to pack the entire house by myself. Next move 9 months later, he went ahead for his new job and I stayed behind to pack by myself again.... Then when we got here, I unpacked by myself (well both times) and now, when we are flipping now 2.5 rooms (because of my mismeasuring nightmare of the bookcases), his shoulder gets hurt a week ago and he can't help carry things!!!

So if he can't haul things, why do I keep him around? Isn't that what men are for, to help lift and carry heavy things... oh and reach high places....well, he can still do that.

Boy, me and my bright ideas!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How in the he$$ will I survive today?

Today is a day I thank my lucky stars I have no cakes due... I have bee sleeping horribly and I think it's because I can't get my brain to shut down. Even DH seems to be more excited than usual. We have lived in this house for THREE years and we are FINALLY finishing up all the "stuff" to make it feel like home. Just a little more tweaking and we have a "home" - not just a place to eat and sleep.

Well, tomorrow is a BIG day. I purchased for a great price off craigslist a set of three bookcases - one is shown to the left. A family is moving across country and at the last minute they decided they aren't taking the bookcases!

Here's the ad: Three custom-built oak cabinets feature bookcase tops with adjustable shelves and base units with doors and adjustable shelves inside. Cost $2,600 new; selling as set of three for $500. No delivery. One cabinet shown in attached photo.

Each of these cabinets are 38.5" wide (about 6 inches wider than standard), 85 inches tall, and the base is 22" deep with the top being 11" deep. This is an AWESOME deal. I've seen these listed here and there for $1100 to $1500. I'm surprising DH with them. I used "my" fund to get them for a gift for DH. He has been in a basement afterthought office for almost our entire marriage!

So, anyway, the delivery guys are bringing them tomorrow. They will also carry the boxes and two filing cabinets upstairs for me... So, my plan was to get the room ready for Dh so that when he came home, the office he has been DREADING moving is all DONE... I was going to have the movers do the heavy stuff and I was going to do the rest.

However, I went to bed at 12:30 am. Couldn't fall asleep until 1 am something and Henry woke up at 2:30 am. He was TRYING to go back to sleep, but I smelled somethig funny after about an hour. Yep... poopy diaper. We came down to change the diaper, but of course, he was wide awake!!! Then, just 5 minutes ago, another poopy diaper... and "normal". It's 4 am... DH gets up at 7 am... I still need to pack those boxes downstairs to get ready for the big move and then I need to set up the room... How likely is that to happen if I only manage to catch 2 more hours of sleep? On top of several nights of 4-5 hours of sleep??? I must be getting old... I can't sleep when I'm planning things now... get too excited! Ugh... I'm only 37!!!!

Another sign of getting old is that I forget a scary amount of things. I can't TELL you how many times I have had to THINK about what DHs work number is and I call it all the time (and not speed dial). Same with my bank card code... I had to think for about a minute today and was drawing a blank!!! Scary stuff Maynard!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Oooo, I think I may have room for that studio!

Ok, no cake baking yesterday, but I sure did work hard and amazingly, I'm not sore today!

First, I weeded and laid mulch in our backyard flower beds. I admit, I hadn't weeded for about 6 weeks because it had been so hot and I was just closing the curtains to the burgeoning weed population. It was cool all weekend and I didn't do yard work, but with yesterday's mostly dry, cool day, I felt it was time to tackle the weeds. So, did that, swept the patio area, tidied up and laid mulch in the beds (AGAIN) to help control the weed population.

Then I started tackling the storage rooms downstairs. We have one full room, a tiny corner of the laundry room and then space under the stairs. I got rid of some more junk, moved some things around, and VOILA I have about a 6 foot wall space in the storage room big enough for a cake AND sewing studio!!! I brought down a rolling IKEA storage cart from upstairs for either cake or sewing supplies, and I still have about 4 feet for a desk/table. I have two desks/tables that will work, so it's just a matter of choosing the best one and getting them in there. I even have TWO full old kitchen overhead cabinets for my stuff! SWEET! (Literally!)

With this big switch of rooms, my sewing room was going to move upstairs too, but I had some MAJOR reservations about that. That room is CARPETED and carpet makes picking up threads more difficult, but more importantly, finding lost pins is REALLY hard and I would HATE for some little foot to get jabbed with a pin! I would like to think I would notice every pin coming loose from the fabric, but I do home dec. sewing, so these are big, long, bulky pieces and pins always work their way out of the fabric and I wouldn't hear them fall on to the carpet. Plus, it was just looking like my sewing stuff in that room was going to be a compromise on space for me. My supply cabinet would be across the room instead of next to the table and it would be a tight fit.

Not sure how I feel about being relegated to the storage room with unfinished ceiling and walls, but the floors are finished and the kitchen cabinets on the wall are still fairly new (were just too small for upstairs). Plus, I will be right behind the deep freezer where I will store the icing and can thaw and go, right there in the room. Most importantly, the room has a door I can pull closed and forget about everything. I can use the downstairs laundry tub for clean up too (or the bathroom I suppose for quick cleanups and that's right next to me). Plus, I'm the only one who EVER goes into the storage room. I don't even think DH knows what's in there. In his mine, most of it is "mine" because it's holiday decorations, outgrown baby clothes waiting for me to sell on ebay, fabric, and things like our old fish tank, picnic stuff, and so on.
Most importantly it's a room where I can keep the toddler out. He does NOT need to be near sewing or cake supplies - too many small things to lose or get hurt on.

Do I sound psyched? LOL

Monday, August 20, 2007

Good outweighs the bad!

Well, I had the one disappointed customer (and she is being GREAT about it, btw!!!) but I had two other very satisfied customers - that makes me feel better! Phew... Now just to get more cake orders!!! Getting your name out there is the hardest part!

For cake stuff... it's an icky rainy day here in my neck of the woods - feels like cake making weather to me! Plus, I want to start moving furniture all over the place. SOMEHOW I WILL make a little cake studio ALL FOR ME!!! I really, really need a place to spread out, make a mess and have NO ONE CARE! LOL Hmm... sure! We'll see!

In my disappearing post from Saturday (grrrr.) I offered to make payment in cake if someone wants to come over and help me carry books and furniture up two flights of stairs.... Now I know why no one has jumped at the chance for helping me out! They never saw the post! Doy!

OK, so where is my post?

This one will be short, but I DID post yesterday and my blogger info SAYS I posted yesterday, but I don't see it? Are there gremlins in my computer? Well, pooey! Sorry faithful dozen readers! LOL

I didn't write on Saturday because we were enjoying mother nature, but I was up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and wrote, I swear!!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

My first disappointment

I know it happens to everyone, but I have my first disappointed customer and it's mostly my fault and it has made a great "learning" moment. I have a cookbook that makes a GREAT chocolate cake. It also has a very similar recipe for a yellow cake, so I gave that a whirl- without trying it before selling it. I made a spare for my family to try, but I had frozen it for when my son came back, so I didn't try it.

Maybe it was cockiness, but I've NEVER had a flop in American style cakes and same with regular cooking too (I'm sort of a gourmet cook). A DAY after I sent this cake off, someone said that they made the cake from this book and it turned out dry.... EEKS!! So, for the following week's cakes, I made yellow cake from my tried and true recipe.

Well, I spoke with the Mom who had bought the cake from me and she said it wasn't as good as last time and then I asked, "Was it dry?" and yes it was... OMG, I hate that I disappointed someone. The worst part is that I spent OVER 4 hours decorating that cake (not baking, not cleaning up, just decorating it) and it was dry.... when I pride myself on moist cakes. So, I took out the "spare" in my freezer and while the cake is flavorful, and not bone dry, it is MUCH drier than normal. I'm offering a partial refund and just to make good, I'll make a small cake or cupcakes with the "good yellow cake" recipe, but it shouldn't haven't happened in the first place. I should have tested this recipe first.

What makes me REALLY mad is that I trusted the cake would be good, but now that I admitted my mistake to an online community of cake people, people are coming out of the woodwork saying how they have had the same problems with this and MANY cakes from this book - and it's a very popular cake book. But some professionals responded that all this "person's" cakes are o the dry side, so they don't recommend it. DARN IT.... I guess this baker likes drier cakes and assumes most of the consumer base does too... or something. Well, I know that some recipes are OK, but I will be TESTING before sending out from NOW ON... LESSON LEARNED!!! It seems my wonderful Better Homes and Garden cookbook which I keep around (since I got married) is a better book than this "bible". Sigh...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Got my new toy, umm... storage solution!

Well, when I got to home depot they had two choices and I preferred this one. It's actually pretty cool! The top box is a typical tool chest, the middle section (which you can snap completely off too) is two metal drawers, and the bottom is a big storage comparment that has a tipping door... opens like a neighborhood mailbox (do they have neighborhood mailboxes any more?). The handle works just like a piece of luggage and can be stowed to make it more compact. It is all wrapped in stainless steel but is still very lightweight. It's not like those big, heavy Craftsman rolling toolboxes. We have one of those too for "real" tools and we LOVE it. I still don't know how I'm going to organize it, but it will be fun. I must be one of the only people on the planet who LIKE organizing things. I usually have very good organizational skills... I just tend to be slow in GETTING things organized... I won't tuck things willy nilly until I HAVE a home for it... which means we do always tend to have a small pile of somethign waiting for a permanent home.

I think I had to get better organized because we have almost ALWAYS lived in a smaller space than we needed really. Hmm... that wasn't true for the last place we lived... and sort of true for the time before. I had my kitchen very well organized and our closets very well organized because those spaces were small, but we had full basement storage before, so I never had to be very organized in the basement until we moved here. Now, we really don't have a basement because most of it is finished living space. When we moved here I got rid of a LOT of long term storage, but we still had WAY too much. Since then, over the course of the last year I have whittled that down another 50% and have for the most part reorganized all storage boxes to consolidate what's left. I have a bit more work do to with that, but now we have "room to spare" for awhile at least. As a matter of fact, our storage room now has working space. I might make that my "cake" room too. We hung some of our old kitchen cabinets in their, so I can store some things down there and do the details of the cake - the part that makes a HUGE mess of my kitchen to keep my "cake" mess separate from the normal daily dealings of the kitchen. It will be especially useful for the cake projector! That thing is HUGE! I'll have to see - carrying a cake up and downstairs isn't much fun either. I just would really like to contain the mess of cake decorating a bit. I TRY to do things as I go, but when you get to mixing colors, and needing different tips for different designs, in the last bit of making the cake, you manage to pretty much cover all working space in bags, tips, bowls and spoons all with very colorful buttercream and, possibly fondant! I think it's the MESS of making decorated cakes that gets people to buying them from someone else and I understand it.... it's a VERY messy job!

OK... I think I've now bored you to tears, but I'm thinking this whole thing through to make sure I have it all straight in my OWN heady before I set about doing anything about it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Want to see a BEAUTIFUL toe?

Seems I didn't manage to break it, but just bruised it up pretty good and probably bruised the bone. Even my little guy is learning that "Mama Boo-boo on toe!"... yep, stay away from the toe kiddo!

As with all hobbies, how to be organized?

I have reorganized my kitchen THREE times in this last year trying to organize the cake stuff as much as possible. First, I cleared one base cabinets and the bottom of our corner cabinet. Then, I cleared another base cabinet and got three baskets for on top of the corner cabinet and last, I made space in my spice drawer for the colors. But now I have things in FIVE places in my kitchen! and if I want to use the cake projector, I need to bring a lot downstairs. I'm also planning for these cake parties. I'll have the party supplies, but my guess is that it will also be nice to have some tricks up my sleeve (more tools) when helping kids too.

So, I found this. It's on a super sale at Home depot, but I have to think if this will TRULY save me room and be practical. Otherwise, I'm just throwing $40 away, which is never a smart thing to do!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm missing my son

I have two kids - a soon to be 11 year old and a 2 year old (27 months). My oldest is in Croatia with his grandmother and has been away for two weeks and will be gone for two more weeks. While I was busy with cakes and cleaning up the mess he seemed to create all by himself, I didn't miss him too much, but now??? I am already planning what I'll do to welcome him home.

I KNOW it's a great opportunity for him to be able to go overseas. It's great for his language development (he is bilingual), and it's great to experience the culture. I just like it better when the WHOLE family goes, but as expensive as airfare is, we just can't go very often... who has a spare 10 grand on a regular basis?

Anyway... I was looking at his latest picture today. It's a candid shot from a swim meet this summer. He looks so much like his dad - just a strawberry blonde version and it's weird seeing this "boy" starting to develop some "man" features... He's growing up and while I LOVE seeing him grow into the great person he is becoming... I still can't believe that it's MY son... How could I be old enough to have a soon to be 11 year old??? Hmm.. I'm "only" 37! LOL

Buttercream is dangerous and cake ingredient musings!

The last cake was made from chocolate buttercream. Since I use all butter and high quality chocolate, I found it WAY yummy. I kept grabbing a new plastic spoon to get another taste every time I went to the kitchen! I had to put it in the freezer to stay away from it! Way dangerous stuff! Nibbling on cake is a non-issue as it always gets sent away, but leftover buttercream? DANGER CITY!!!

I've been working on a system to store buttercream too. I really don't like making buttercream because it is messy and greasy. I already told you that I make triple or quadruple batches (I think I'll stick with triple batches - fits better in my mixer). I store those in 6 cup plastic containers and freeze them if I don't have plans for right away.

Well, I've also startes storing leftover colored icing. I seem to use a lot of red, black, green, red, and royal blue. I will use what I need and the rest I will store in a ziploc and store in the freezer - taking it out for the next cake. Since it's not good to freeze and refreeze items, I store them in small batches so I can just throw away what I don't use of the already frozen buttercream.

A gal on a forum I read said that she will store them for a time and if they don't get used, she'll combine them to make an unsavory colored batch and then turn it into chocolate buttercream. This could work in a pinch, but I'm already thinking, "I don't like food coloring in the first place, why would I now taint my chocolate buttercream with food coloring". But, I'll put it out there if other people want to try it. I won't, but that's because I'm trying to bill myself as a close to earth baker.

I just bought an organic and differently formulated baking soda. I'll have to try it on an experimental cake (for home) to see how it works.

I also need to make my own vanilla. I've been buying organic vanilla, but I'm switching over in the about 10 weeks to organic homemade vanilla. It will be cheaper for me. Vanilla is one of the most expensive parts of a cake! It's about 40 cents a teaspoon and a typical cake with buttercream uses 3-4 teaspoons of vanilla - that's about $1.50 a cake... It takes about 8 weeks to make homemade vanilla extract, but I think I can get my costs down to then about 25 cents a cake for vanilla - but would need to make an initial investment in small glass bottles too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Made a new picture for my website!

I altered the writing on my most recent cake. I LOVE trees and well, I think they are fitting for the type of cakes I make. Since it IS my cake and all the altering I did was just the writing, I don't feel I'm misleading anyone as to what I can do in cake making... I think I'm still getting better with each cake I make - progress is good and I guess practice does make perfect! The funny thing is, my handwriting is better when I used ICING than with the computer pencil! LOL

I STILL want to make a super special cake for my "logo" cake, but I need to get work done around the house first! LOL

No cakes lined up

I had a nice little run there for awhile, but now I don't have anything confirmed. The only cakes on the calendar are for my family. My oldest son is turning 11 on August 29th, but he'll still be on a trip to Europe with his grandma. He won't be back until the 30th. The kid will end up getting three cakes - one in Europe, one when he gets home, and then one for his birthday party with friends. LOTS of practice time for me!

I'm beginning to think about what I will make for the schools opening up. I think I'll send in some cake when the teachers are coming back for classroom set up before the school start day. I don't know what I want to bring though? Do I do a cupcake bouquet? Or a cupcake cake so they can just pull it apart? Or, a traditional cake? Tough call. I wanted to send something to school last year, but never had the chance to make a cake the way the toddler was sleeping. He consistently gets up at 5:30 am now, but at least he's sleeping through the night until then which is a recent development. This is a HUGE improvement.

I think I will practice with the cake projector though. I'll just make some dummy cakes or something. For once it would be nice to practice on something it's OK to mess up on instead of trying new things on customer cakes!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I think I broke my toe!

And it was from being stupid of course. I was trying to figure out how to put together the cake projector I have had for eons. Well, I set the HEAVY platform on a soft pillow on top of a shelf. It fell off and landed square on my big toe... GREAT... But, it didn't keep me from finishing the cake this morning. Again, writing sucks, but I think the tree is GREAT! I hope they like it. (After snapping this photo, I realized I forgot the S on their last name and remade the little tree plaque, also added a few more magnolia blossoms too).

I don't know how using the cake projector will be for other things, but it was GREAT for a tree trunk. Except for my toe of course... DUH!!!

I've also been practicing my shell and reverse shell borders. They still aren't perfect, but they are getting a LOT better. Doing a Rope border on everything would start to get noticed I think as lack of variety in something.

I LOVE that this image is on chocolate. Everything is always white frosting, but chocolate makes a nice backdrop too.

I'm ITCHING to make a fondant cake, so if someone really wants to try one, let me know! Maybe I'll make a fondant cake for older DS's eleventh birthday party coming up... or One for the school once it opens. My wheels are churning as to how to get my name out there!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kitchy cake fabric

We live in a three level townhouse. You enter into an 8 foot by 6 foot foyer with a coat closet and half bath off to the side. This foyer leads into the dining and living area and has an entrance to the side to the kitchen. The kitchen, therefore, is at the front of the house with a window in the center looking out to the sidewalk and parking.

Now, we have lived here for THREE YEARS and I still don't have anything up on these windows. Painting and installing new windows was a SLOW thing during my difficult pregnancy and the first two sleepless years. This means, of course, that anyone walking by can see how long it's been since I've done dishes, how many recycling boxes I have building up (no garage equals nowhere to go with "stuff" so our "outgoing" stuff tends to get stashed behind our kitchen island.

About a year ago I found some really cute 40s and 50s kitchy wall plates, rolling pins, etc with sayings on them. Here are a few: "Apology: Come in, sit down, relax, converse. Our house doesn't always look like this, sometimes it's even worse". Or, "In this kitchen there is only one
finger in the pot - mine". And "This kitchen is closed due to illness - I'm sick of cooking". And the one I love the most (that started it all) - "No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best. and so on. I have like 10 of these things and hope to make cute arrangement on the big, plain wall.

Well, I had bee trying to find some fabric to go with these things. I found a couple old Pennsylvania tablecloths that would work, but aren't quite right. Well, I finally found this fabric, thanks to our local cake supply store that has made them into, what else, curtains! I think they are rather fitting for my kitchen! Now to decide, do I want to make just a valance with wood blinds? Or Curtains with a valance? DH will probably hate them, but ummm... how much time does HE spend in the kitchen? Yep, thought so... I think he has no say! LOL

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cake Frustrations

Last night really taught me how much I still need to learn. First, I've never carved a cake before and guess what, it produces LOTS of crumbs and chocolate crumbs and white frosting is not a happy mix!

Second, I had a devil of a time icing this. I've learned that things with edges are HARD to do. Also, I hadn't made roses in 18 months, so I made a ton to be sure I got a few that turned out. Third, and most important - I was reminded ONCE AGAIN how horrible my writing is. Why can't I WRITE??? It's so frustrating to do a cake and then feel I ruin it with my 5th grader handwriting. I bought a cake projector so I could project the words and then I could trace them (tried doing them in reverse and transferring them to a cake, and nope... my hand just gets confused knowing I'm making an "a" but mirrored... it revolts!). Yep, spent $130 (which was a STEAL of a price) JUST so I could improve my handwriting, but... I haven't tried it yet.

I "think" the cake tured out OK, but it's not perfect. It's not completely smooth and that $#%& writing!!! Sigh... Maybe I need to take handwriting lessons again. (DH is from Croatia and he couldn't BELIEVE that I had several years of handwriting lessons in school... wish I could show more for it! Yikes!)

Now, everyone cross your fingers that this cake survives the 5 hour car ride in a cooler. If I wasn't so tired last night, I probably would have had a fitful sleep thinking about it!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Interesting cake weekend

I have two cakes for this weekend. One is for a traditional baby christening and the cake will be a traditional cross decorated with roses. Traditional yes, but still very pretty. Then, I have a baby naming ceremony where they will be planting a tree in honor of the new baby and the cake will have a tree with the family tree on it. Since I LOVE trees, this will be totally fun!

The interesting part is that BOTH of these cakes are for the same thing just done in very different ways - the world is welcoming these two new little beings into the world. It makes me happy that I'm taking part in their welcoming ceremonies. While I'm glad that my baby days are behind me, I will always love babies.

I'll post pictures as I get them done. One is for Friday and one is for Sunday.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My big dilemma - do I purchase in advance or wait for an order?

So, I've decided to offer these decorating parties. I think they would be a BLAST and really, for the money, a parent actually saves on gift bags and has less to worry about with entertainment. Plus, THIS kind of entertainment also enhances all sorts of great skills.

But while "I" think this is great, I don't know if this will fly or not. It would probably go over better if it were in a store where there wasn't any mess to contend with - just drop in, do your thing, and go, but... I'm not in a store yet (and probably never will be) so this is all I can offer.

I just don't know if I should get the supplies in advance - the turntables, aprons, hats, spatulas, tips and containers, so that I don't have to pay higher prices to get things FAST. OR, if I should just anticipate that I'll get orders, and get the stuff now or little by little when I find good prices. Since I'm excited about it, I want to buy NOW, but I need to think business smart, right? LOL Boy, it's so easy to be BAD!

I'm probably talking to myself here, but if someone would like to offer that voice of reason, I would surely appreciate it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I got to play today!

When my best friend asked me to do her wedding cake, I decided to take the Wilton 1 course. I figured I would take the other two, but STILL haven't gotten to it. Anyway, instead of buying the supplies little by little, I used the 40% off coupon to by the mother of all kits and then, on top that, bought MORE tips in a supplemental set. Um... that was like 18 months ago or LONGER and besides a few tips, I've never used any others. I never even played around! But, last night I pre-made all that buttercream, so it was there for the waiting. Then, Henry seemed quite content playing with himself for awhile today, so I took out my tips and the buttercream and started experimenting! What fun!

Today I FINALLY learned how to do the shell border and reverse shell border and I learned how to make a rosebud and half rose. I did all sorts of drop flowers, used the cute ruffler tips and even figured out that a tip I was CLUELESS how to use is a type of long leaf tip. Some of those tips are QUITE clever! We were supposed to learn a lot of that in Course 1, but our instructor didn't show up the last class, nice huh? LOL

Of course, that meant I now had to clean the 11 tips I played around with, but how FUN to finally be able to do that. I've never made a practice cake or anything because who has time and well, my waistline doesn't need any thickening, thank you! I manage to do that on my own JUST fine.

I was like a kid playing with her new playdough toys today!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Yep, Sleep deprivation makes you make mistakes!

I probably shouldn't admit to such a mistake, but, we are all human, right? So, here it goes, I admit, I can be pretty stupid when I'm too sleepy.

OK, the last two times I've made buttercream, I've made HUGE batches- enough for four cakes. I have a great mixer and since I HATE making frosting, I just do a big batch and then freeze what I won't use soon and refrigerate the rest. But both the last times I made buttercream the texture was a bit off. The first quadruple batch was a little too wet. I was able to fix it with adding more powdered sugar, but still, WHY? The next time, it was stiff and when I went to smooth the cake, it was crusting too fast. Now, both times I had to add a LOT of water to get it to spreading consistency, but since I make quadruple batches and you are supposed to add liquid to thin it, I didn't think much of it.

The only reason I ever figured out that I was making a mistake was that last time my quadruple batch only made three cakes instead of four. I didn't put TONS of frosting on the cake because I don't like tons of frosting on cakes, but WHY was I like 5 cups short???

Well, I got my answer, I was using HALF, yes HALF the butter you are supposed to use in a recipe!!! I just made a quadruple batch now and when I was getting the butter out earlier I realized, "Whoa... I've never used this much for this size of batch, but yep... it needed that much! Good grief!!

The amazing thing is that I was able to USE the buttercream that was "low fat"! LOL The bad part is that I had just priced out my cakes to see if I was charging appropriately, and I under counted the butter by 50%, so now the price of JUST buttercream on the cake is $6. Can you believe that??? SIX DOLLARS just for frosting a standard size cake with rBST free buttercream... Wow!

Now I have a new batch to work with. I'm interested to see now how much easier it is. The last SIX or SEVEN cakes were with the low fat buttercream! LOL I won't know what to do with easier to work with frosting.

So, where's my dunce cap? Anyone?

Sleep is a good thing

I managed to get a nap yesterday afternoon for a couple hours and then went to bed at 8pm and slept until 5:30 am this morning. It's amazing how much better a person can feel if they get SLEEP! I just need to learn to go to bed before 10 pm on non-cake days and then I won't get so sleep deprived.

I don't have any more cakes until this weekend and then I have two - one for Friday and one for Saturday (so far). I can always hope for more orders during the week. I have some leftover icing from the cake this weekend, so I can practice some techniques. For some reason I can't seem to be able to do the most easy border of them all - how is that possible? And I suppose I should get some housework done too. Weekends are always messy for us for some reason.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

And now at the following 2:15 am

I am about to go to bed... and I've been up since 4:20 am yesterday and the cake is still not done. I got myself into this one. I sent several pics and of course I should have only picked EASY images.. lesson learned. I have the image done, the filling done and the cake done. I just need to assemble it in the morning. It should be pretty cute! It just took me too long. It's already 5 hours and I still have a good hour to go on it... that's double the time I should spend on a cake. I guess I still am a green horn! Oh, and I didn't get that nap today and didn't get to the cake store. All around today was an icky day!

Well, it's now 8:20 am and I just need to wait for the transfer to defrost so I can smooth it and outline it and then I'm done. It came out pretty cute and I have to say that despite being REALLY tired (got up at 6 am), I'm enjoying decorating the cake... I guess I do love this if I can still enjoy it after getting only 7 hours of sleep for two nights total.

Well, here's the finished product. I bet you can't tell how difficult this was. It took 17 colors to do the image... again.. no one's fault but my own!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

These are my least favorite cake days

Well, off of the high comes the low of cake decorating. When you are doing something for someone else, you have to do it. It is 5:30 am and my "darling" toddler has been awake since 4:20 am. We tried to go back to bed for an hour, but here I am - on the computer... So, I'll be dead tired today and will need a nap and still have a cake to bake and decorate. I was looking forward to cake time tomorrow evening, and now I'm not. Well, I'll feel better once I have a nap. The kicker though is that my "dear" husband didn't come to bed until 4:30 am too (and he knows I HATE when he does that), so he'll want to sleep in this morning... Grrr... Well... that's life. I didn't have to stay up until 12:30 am either, I suppose, but after being alone ALL day with a toddler, I was craving some company!!! I need to learn to go to bed when the Little One goes down because this sleepless cycle is WAY too common for us. It's a big reason why this cake business was off to a slow start. When I first thought of starting all this DS was still waking 5 to7 times a night. I was WAY to chronically sleep deprived to do it.

The highlight of my day will be going to the cake store today though. That is just an eye candy store for me! Keep your fingers crossed that I get a NICE, LOOOOOOONG nap in later today!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Well, Got the Cake Business Formally Started!

All my life I have been interested in one thing for a little while and the another for a little while. I've dabbled in sewing, in kid crafts, in crochet, etc. What would be a temporary passion would get dropped after a bit and never resumed again - or only for need, not passion. All of these crafts/hobbies have had one thing in common though - it's creating something. I like to MAKE things. DH could never really understand the things I liked because they aren't intellectual in nature like all of his interests. Plus, all of my interests seem to gobble up money, which also makes it a non-favorite thing for DH. (Hmmm... maybe that's why my oldest DS likes to make things too - he got the bug from his Mama!)

Anyway, a hobby that started quite by accident I find I am liking more and more - the more I do it and I think there are two things that make it different - well, maybe three. First, it changes all the time. I work with different images, different shapes and it never feels repetitive. Second, it also allows me to work with PEOPLE, not me just sitting alone with no one to really appreciate what I do. A project takes a few hours, not days or weeks and more importantly, it doesn't clutter the house, because it gets eaten or sent away. Of course, the third best thing about this not so new passion is that I can make money on it and not lose money; therefore, DH doesn't mind the hobby as much. Well, he does hate the mess it makes in the kitchen, but he seems to forget that when he sees a pile of green bills.

I'm quite excited about this adventure. It probably will never be a big money maker, but if it makes me happy, others are happy and I make more than I spend, well, it's all good in my book!

If you haven't checked out my site yet, please take a peak. I have been updating it nearly every few hours over the last couple days.