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Passions of my cake “profession”…

Passions of my cake “profession”…

Well, thanks for coming back or joining me for the first time.

Last installment had me turning another year older… no big… I survived. ‘Twas a piece of cake! I also had the pleasure of making the cake for my son’s 2nd birthday. He’s a little character my little Logan. He, much like other kids his age, and older, loves dinosaurs. More importantly he LOVES Dinosaur vs. books by Bob Shea. I’d say without fail, just about every night since we’ve had the dinosaur books, he’s had at least one of them read to him. And after story time is over, the book is wedged, by request, between the side of the bed and his mattress.

So without further adieu I give you “DINOSAUR VS. BIRTHDAY”

Some of you reading may know how to execute a sculpted cake and some of you watch all the cake challenge and reality shows. I’ve never been on one of those shows (this is good and I’m greatful to enjoy my love of cake decorating in private… for now) but I imagine how incredibly challenging it might be to complete a creation in a set amount of time. Being a mom who also works full time, my cake decorating extravaganzas happen once the kids are in bed and I’m left to my own little world of sugar, spatulas and the occasional cup of regular coffee to keep me going into the wee hours of the night… morning… you get the picture.

Since this cake wasn’t going to serve a lot of people, I made a smaller cake and had a base (the dinosaurs tushy) carved out of floral foam. Very easy to cut and shave to get a nice and reasonably smooth surface.

I used half inch thick floral foam and hot glued all the layers together. Then I cut away at the foam to get this rounded shape. Topped it off with a half inch thick piece of foam core and voila, dinosaur butt ready to receive legs.

The base of the entire cake is two pieces of half inch thick foam core with two holes cut out for the legs to slide in to. There’s also a cake board on the bottom of those boards with no holes to keep the legs from falling through. Used the same thought on the foam parts. Holes cut all the way through the foam core that end with the piece of cake board on top. This gave the legs enough stability to minimize wobbling.

Here’s a rough “cut” of the actual dinosaur cake body. I actually carved the cake before splitting it to make sure that I wouldn’t cut too far in to the dam of the cake and allow the filling to ooze out. Damming is where you put a bead of buttercream or icing between the layers where the fillings are placed.

Here’s the body with a crumbcoat of buttercream. Some smoothing was done and the cake is ready for more work.

Here is the cake on top of the foam bottom. I used royal icing to help keep the styrofoam from coming in contact with the actual cake, should a spatula slip and ding the foam. I used a separate bowl of royal icing when doing this. As much as the floral foam looks like rice cakes, I doubt seriously they taste like them… well… that’s definitely debatable… I wouldn’t want to eat it either way.

The cake is smoothed. The head and tail are both made of rice krispy treats. I used another board cut into almost an egg shape to support the weight of the head. There are also dowels running in the cake to keep him from collapsing. To ensure the head didn’t tilt forward I used a bamboo skewer and ran it from almost the back of the head toward just right of center of the cake and into the boards of the bottom.

Here is the finished cake. The arms were also made from rice krispy treats. Needless to say, Logan loved his cake and the best compliment was him saying it was a “cute dinosaur”. What other reason than to make someone small could there be? This is my passion, next to my family of course. They come #1 always.

Which brings me to my second project within a week of the dinosaur cake.

I had the great pleasure of also making a cake for my future sister in law’s bridal shower this past weekend. I made a lot of gumpaste flowers. Roses, tulips, hydrangeas, stephanotis and gerber daisies. It’s definitely a nice and welcome change from the somewhat weird off the beaten path cakes I’ve made in the past. I love flowers. I love making them and putting them all together. It’s like making a mini garden.

I often get asked if I ever feel sad once the time comes to cut in to a cake I’ve made. Thankfully, I think most of them have had to be sliced in to by others, but after my first few I kind of got over it. You can’t and really shouldn’t save a cake forever. It gets funky. I take lots of pictures and when I happen to be cutting in to a cake I’m surrounded by support from family and friends.

Hope you’ve all enjoyed this installment of my recent cake adventures. Thank you for reading, share some love and have a delicious day!

On a very side note: Some readers may have been following me in my weightloss journey. I’m happy to share I’ve lost about 17 pounds and am gradually saying adios to the pounds. They didn’t all arrive at once and they’re certainly not going to leave all at once… although it’d be nice. =D I have also signed up to participate in this year’s 2 day 35 mile walk to fight breast cancer and will begin training in a week or two. Usually try to walk about 6 miles a day by the last month before the walk at least 3-4 times a week. If anyone is interested in donating please visit www.li2day.org my walker ID number is 10898. Thank you.

A Few of My Favorite Things…

Happy Almost Valentine’s Day Everyone!!! I hope everyone is having a great year so far since last I wrote. We’ve gotten lucky so far with the weather, but tonight into tomorrow we’re in for a bit of a doozy. I’m hoping that, should we need to do regular grocery shopping tomorrow, we won’t be surrounded by those folks who think the world will be ending with a little bit of snow and picking up their “French Toast Emergency Kit” (Eggs, Milk, Bread).

So here we are… mid February. It’s a good month. Lots of things happening this month. Waiting for the arrival of a new cousin. Can’t wait to meet him or her. Lily came with me to the proud mamma’s baby shower and was surprised it wasn’t raining actual babies. The way she thinks, it makes me smile. Imagination this kid has is amazing! Which brings me to my first favorite thing of the year. They’re not in any particular order by any means.

Lily’s art… She’s a great artist even if she’s only 4 (going on 5 this year!!!)

Susan Strong and Peppermint Butler

Jake the Dog and Finn the Human

The Ice King and Princess Bubblegum

She LOVES watching Adventure Time. She’s been drawing the characters from the show a lot. Not too shabby if you ask me. It’s a great show, although I’m thinking it might be a tad old for her to really comprehend, but it’s all good.

Next, might as well get the naughty favorite out of the way. And yes this is still a safe for work, if anyone reads this at work, blog. I really like Speculoos! A lot… probably more than anyone should really like such an evil and delicious treat. Think a bunch of cookies mashed up in your mouth like gingerbread, gingersnaps, butter and sugar cookies to make a consistency not unlike peanut butter. That’s what it is. A cookie party in your mouth. No need to make a sandwich with this stuff, you can just take it by a spoonful and enjoy. Trust me… if you like cookies, you will LOVE this stuff. We have not a speck of speculoos in the house so I’m really craving it’s deliciousness right about now.

And to counteract the naughty goodness that is speculoos, we move on to my next favorite thing of 2012 so far… that is… drumroll please… weightloss. Yes. So far so good. My husband and I are doing pretty well on WeightWatchers right now. I’m hoping with weigh in tomorrow morning I will have lost a full 10 pounds since starting this in the beginning of the year. Slow and steady is my preferrable method. The weight didn’t get here in one night, so I definitely don’t expect it to leave in one night either, but it would be nice… Hey… a gal can dream can’t she?

I’m really liking making crocheted items. I recently made a cute little octopus toy for my hubby (Steve). The little guy came out really cute. I shall call him Grape-topus due to his really nice purple color. Steve requested button eyes. I complied mostly because I hadn’t had the opportunity to obtain a bag of safety eyes I had been searching for. Thanks to a podcast I listen to (which is yet another favorite thing to be discussed shortly) I now have a new place to order them instead of a store.

So, podcasts. They’re fantastic! I admit, I listen to them at work just about every day, all day long sometimes. It helps me focus better. You might think they’d do the opposite, but really, it helps move the day along and provides entertainment.

My podcast listening consists of a wide array of topics. I’m geeky, nerdy, crafty you name it, I might fall into the category, even with just one pinky toe. SassypantsKnitter is currently a video podcast by a lovely woman who’s as crafty as she is sassy. I watch her podcast during my lunch break if I happen to be working on a crochet project. She shares her life and projects and makes me really really really want to give socks a chance. Socks make me nervous. I tried to crochet some, it didn’t work out. The circle got twisted and I ended up with an infinity loop. That is a “to hold for later” project.

I also listen to a vegetable gardening podcast from a guy in New Jersey. Every week I get so buzzed about starting my seeds and plantings. I’m very anxious for gardening this year. Can’t wait to put up my new greenhouse and get started (Spring, please hurry!!!). Mike gives lots of really good tips and also has a seeds of the month club. I can’t decide what to pick up personally. I have a stash of seeds from last year that need to be used. Need to test and see if they’re still good and all that jazz. Looking forward to dirt under my fingernails and the smell of fresh soil and veggies!

Lastly, not the last podcast, but definitely worth mentioning. Nobody’s Listening… one word: FUNNY! James and John, plus hopefully the regularly occuring Ethan are hysterical. It’s almost dangerous for me to listen to this at work. Let’s just say, have tissues at the ready. This is a clean podcast, language-wise anyways. The humor and stories… they can get a bit disgusting, gross, crude, but honestly, so hilarious, this chick was nearly hyperventilating during the podcast about “Fresh Hot Pizza”. I had tears streaming down my face listening to this one. Had to break it up between two days as I was trying to fight uncontrollable laughter in my cubicle. Thankfully, no one came by my little corner of the office or I’d have had to explain myself.

So there you have it folks. My small list of things which are my favorites for the beginning of 2012. This year, I think, is a year of change and productivity. Looking forward to a lot of things. My cousin’s baby should be arriving any day now, I’m turning 35 (OMG!), my son turns 2 next month, my brother gets married in April, daughter turns 5 in June, it’s going to be a good year… or else!

Side side note: I’ve got a goal for myself that needs to be at least close to accomplishment by my birthday this year. I’ve got a couple weeks to make it happen. Wish me luck. You don’t need to know exactly what it is right now. If I told you there’d be trouble with a capital T.

I leave you with this. Eat crispy kale folks. You won’t regret it. Instead of popping a bag of potato chips, grab a bag of kale, rinse, toss with olive oil, garlic powder, dash of salt, ground pepper, chili powder and bake at 350° until crispy… it’s flipping delicious!

Resolve to Dissolve … and other stuff

Hello readers!

Happy New Year!!! Hope everyone had a festive holiday season and that your year is off to a great start.

Let’s see. A quick Christmas recap from my life. Christmas Eve and Day were great! Lots of love and excitement in the house. The baking fun didn’t end with the cookies as I had planned. I decided to make some loaves of sour dough bread. Let me tell you all, so delicious. Letting a sour dough starter “grow” for about a week makes really fabulous bread.

Also made a croquembouche for both Christmas Eve and Day. Used a Martha Stewart recipe for every bit of this delicious treat. You can go here for the recipe. I used extra cruschikis to “spruce” it up a bit too. If you attempt this at all, be aware of the extreme high temperatures of the sugar for the decorating. I’m not talking, ouch, it burns… it’s more like sticking your hand into a fire and having a hot coal stuck to your hand until you can gather your senses long enough to put your hand in ice cold water to prevent further pain. It hurts, but it’s almost a good hurt. (no, no it’s not)

Kids got lots of great stuff and so did the parents (hubby and myself, yay!). One of my favorite gifts this year happens to be from said hubby. He found a really neat lens to attach to my phone to use with macro photography. It is SUPER cool!!! Click here to check it out! Here is also one of the many photos I’ve taken with the lens.

This is an “EXTREME CLOSE UP” of a thin mint cookie from my baking holiday extravaganza 2011. Very cool pic. I could totally see myself running around the little candy sprinkles and jumping over lines of chocolate, were I to be shrunk to the appropriate size, of course.

In the middle of all the holiday festivities and baking and working and chasing after a 4 and 1 year old, I started a couple projects. The easy one is a baby blanket for a new cousin about to be born in a few weeks. I think it came out rather well. (pats self on back)

The other crochet project was a Minion from Despicable Me. My husband’s boss loves these little guys. They are surprisingly fun to make too… well… until you get to the details. And if it was super easy, everyone would do it too. So I’ve heard. Here’s the progression in pictures.

Now (drumroll please) the main topic of this post. If you’ve made it this far, I’m grateful for your readership. Yes, I tend to ramble, but hope that my going on and on makes you smile or makes you feel good.

My husband and I have decided to go back on WeightWatchers (online). I say back because we’ve tried it with much success before and have fallen off the wagon a few times over the course of many years. I feel like this time is it… really. It has to be. I’m putting myself out here on the internet. I don’t consider myself to be… well… overdramatically unhealthy, if I can call it that. I feel quite active in my advancing years (not ready for AARP just yet) but I’m tired of not being happy with myself. I can make myself happy with food and tv just as much as anyone else can, but am I genuinely happy. Not in the least. Do I hope that eventually I become a success story for myself? Absolutely.

I didn’t gain wait overnight… well… I did, but it was little increments which when added up is a lot. Yes, I had two kids, and I don’t want that to be an excuse to be this way. I’m not sharing pics of myself other than the ones from one of the earlier posts from my hair donation. I will say that I’d like to be fitter, healthier and happier. I have EA Sports Active for PS3 and Wii. I will say I find the PS3 version to be a little better as I don’t need to hold any controllers in my hands with each exercise. I also have Zumba for Wii, which is pretty fun and probably funnier to watch me do as I have zero coordination or balance. Plus, it’s also wonderful to have access to the decent handful of streaming Netflix workout videos.

So here I am… I’m doing it. So there! =P

More importantly I’m doing it to chase these little munchkins around.

Mets, Giants and Poker… Oh MY!!!

Hi all!

Hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season thusfar. So far, we’re hanging in there. We haven’t had a lot of shopping excursions happen yet, but we know most of what we’re getting for family, and that’s a good start. Most of our recipients are being blessed with homemade cookies. I love making and decorating them and I know they love eating them.

Which brings us to this post. Not that it is cookie related but it is baking related. As you may have read in a previous post, or is it in my profile? I bake and decorate cakes for family and friends and have fun doing it. I enjoy it so much, especially when I bake for people who really appreciate my art and love my delicious cakes. Their words, not mine. They’re good, but there’s only so much cake anyone can eat before, well… you know… I can’t even imagine hating cake, so in small doses, for me, I’m good.

My latest creation happened to be for a groom for his and his future bride’s engagement party which happened over the weekend. I had the pleasure of making his cake. It was a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and all covered in fondant. I pronounce that last gem as FOND-ANT not Fohnd-daunt, in case anyone wanted to know. Tomato, to-mah-toe, whatever right? Food is food! Let’s eat!!!

So here’s the cake before adding any elements to it.

The groom is a fan of the NY Mets, NY Giants and loves poker. So here we have the poker table. I used green vanilla flavored fondant, for the green parts, and Dark Chocolate for the darker parts. Obviously right? Smells delicious! Yes, people do eat it. I happen to be fond of the chocolate fondant. It tastes like a tootsie roll. YUM!

Here is the cake with the decorations added.

Decorations were made of a 50/50 fondant and gumpaste mix. Poker chips were easy enough to make, but those team logos were hand cut. Tedious? Yep. Worth the effort to make? Oh heck yeah! My favorite part of this cake are the playing cards. I made a little “Mets” player as the King of Clubs (get it?), and the “Giants” player the King of Spades.

Hope you enjoyed my third installment. This weekend promises to bring lots of cookie baking and prep work for Christmas Goody Presents. Can’t wait to get started. I’ve hopefully got at least one helper in the kitchen, just about the size of a Keebler elf. That would be Miss Lily.

Be safe everyone, until next time. =D

Season of Giving

Welcome to my blog. I hope upon reading you are all in good health. What better way to launch a blog than a blog about the holidays. So sit back and enjoy my ramblings. I plan to share with you various aspects of my life. I consider myself to be a dabbler in crafty things. The most enjoyable things for me are things I can do with my hands. A few things I enjoy doing with my hands are baking, cake decorating, crocheting, sewing, drawing and photography. So here goes, hope you enjoy. =D

I can remember being probably 8 or 9 years old when that huge Toys “R” Us catalog would arrive. I remember flipping through the colorful pages upon pages of wishes, wants, desires. From My Little Pony playsets to 100+ count crayon sets, to a real pony (what little girl hasn’t wanted one of those?).

Looking back on that memory, I realize how petty all the “stuff” really was, I didn’t know it back then, what kid does? The importance of things has greatly shifted over the years. As an adult, sure, I’d love ot have the latest gadget, gizmo, or even retail bakery space complete with the most shiny, glistening stainless steel appliances and countertops… drool… ahem, where was I? Right… it’s all stuff. I still have wishes, wants, desires… they’re evolving. I want my kids to have a good life, be healthy and happy as much as possible and more importantly for them to know they are loved.

I try hard, with many bumps along the way, who doesn’t have those? I try to be a better person for them in the hopes I’m not a parent who has to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” I want to be a role model for them and love them with all my heart and soul. So far, my heart and soul is theirs.

On to why I’ve started this particular post… I have never in my life imagined how good it would feel to give until I participated in a 35 mile/2 day walk to fight breast cancer. My grandmother lost her battle with breast cancer when I was 3, my mother-in-law has won her battle. I walked the furthest I’ve ever walked in my life in the shortest amount of time. A small “price to pay” considering the battles that have been fought and won or lost. The money raised when to research in finding a cure, to the people going through treatments, to childcare while a parent might be in treatments, wigs, prosthetics, lots of really really good things. It felt great, no matter the throbbing feet and sweaty brow experienced but the large swarm of people participating.

That, for those of you who have gotten this far, and I thank you if you’re still reading, is what is gradually propelling me to give. Give more. It feels good to help. This time of year shouldn’t be the only time to give. Most recently I made a choice to donate my hair to Locks of Love. My hair was admittedly out of control. It was too long and I needed a change. I had 11″ of hair bundled up and sent off. I hope they get as much use out of my hair as they can. I took my 4 year old daughter with me the day I got my hair cut. She asked me if it hurt to get my hair cut… I told her, “Sweety, quite the opposite.”

Before

After

So, with that I say, think about others this holiday season, and really, think about others all year. Sometimes all anyone really needs is an ear to talk to or arms for a hug. It doesn’t have to cost money or be a grand gesture, a simple thing like a smile could be all it takes to turn a life around. Not to get all preachy, but love each other more. It’s so much easier to love.

P.S.-Please bear with me as I explore blogging. It’ll be rough around the edges at first, but I’ll get there and am certain you’ll all enjoy it.