Month: December 2010

Holiday Recap – Holiday House

My mother hasn’t always been a Christmas fanatic.  But, as I looked at her house this holiday I noticed that she is truely insane.  I wanted to share a few photos of the house and the beautiful decorations. 

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How Fragile….

Sadly, my niece lost her cat, Shadow this week. Nothing earth shattering happened when she passed, she just quickly became sick and passed away. I lost a cat to kidney failure around this time 4 years ago and then his wife  a year later. No one prepares you for how hard it is to lose a pet. Even my son, who was never much of an animal lover in the first place, had a surprisingly hard time with our cat dying. He would cry in bed telling me how much he missed  Madison. I told him that Madison would always be with us. I told him to close his eyes and imagine Madison in his mind. He would get excited and say, “I SEE him mommy, I SEE him.” Facebook reminds that I know people–friends, acquaintances and colleagues who are in the midst of losing family, friends and pets every day. Within a 4 block radius I can think of a mom, friend, sister, dog, cat, hamster, aunt, and grandparent that is dying or has recently died.  I hope that when you call upon your loved one, they remain vibrant in your mind’s eye.   I am thinking of you, especially during this time of year, when feeling sad doesn’t necessarily fit the season. Nothing prepares you for these feelings. Wail and embrace the feelings, grief is a special gift of its own in a way.  If you’d like to share a photo or words, I am happy to post.

I specifically thought of you while writing this:

Lisa C., Libby T., Sarah D., Dee B., Kathy O., Linda O, Cindy H., Janice H., Jessica M., Amy A., Cynthia C., Gwyn A., Lynette F., Steve M., Kamal R., Kathy and Jimmy, Lisa S., Holly W., Sabrina B., Mark K., Laurie A., Orla P., Mark P., Khadija B., Ellen G., Amy C., Anna H.

The power of connections

My mother in law gave my husband and me a plate from china. 5 years ago when she came to the US she brought it to us from Morocco. It seemed to be a strange thing to bring from Morocco, but it became ours. About a year ago my mother in law realized the plate was missing. She couldn’t find it anywhere in the house. Now, our house isn’t big, but we looked all over for this plate. As time passed, I saw how much it bothered her that the plate was gone. I also started wondering what on earth could have happened to it. When we went to France this summer, I saw that two of her sisters have matching plates. That increased my disappointment that I had lost the plate somehow. Last week I was walking to school to drop off mittens for the girl. I remembered the first holiday concert that the boy had participated in years ago. It was cold outside but too hot inside. The girl was restless and cried a good deal of the concert so I was in and out. After the concert there was a little holiday party in the Kindergarten Pod. We couldn’t stay though because A was just too restless, we just left. It was then that I realized I had brought brownies on the Asian plate. I must have left it at school. So, when I reached the office, I asked the nice ladies who work there where one might find a lost plate from a school function. “How long ago?”, they asked. “Four years ago” I replied. (insert belly laughing.) No seriously, they directed me to the PTO closet and to the teacher’s lounge. To no avail. But, I thought it was a valiant effort. When I got home, I decided to try one more thing. I used a local connection service called “mom mail” and sent a message to all current and past Irving parents. I then went into detail about the plate again. Two days later I got a message from a teacher at the school. She had the plate. I’ll be wrapping it up to give back to my mother in law for Christmas.

Why I don’t like the Girl Scouts

Despite what you may believe, I am NOT a crafter.  I enjoy and appreciate crafts that others make, but when I attempt to do something creative, it ends up in a mess.  I remember years ago, I bought a make your own stool kit at Frank’s Nursery and Crafts, I stenciled scrolls, flowers and  vines all over it, sprayed it with some crap to make it smooth and attempted to put it together, but failed miserably.  I ended up putting the unassembled stool partially sealed in a box for my grandparents for Christmas.  They in turn, varnished it, put it together and to this day, it is in their living room.  Yesterday was the kids’ school’s holiday bake sale and craft fair.   This reminded me that a  few years ago I was on a bottle cap necklace making spree.  I got the original idea from Weener Ware.   The process was tedious.  I would pull the rubber seals from the caps, cut circles, mod podge them into the bottoms to seal them, let them dry, then fill em up with resin.  But let me tell you, resin is a tricky thing, the measurements have to be exact, the temperature perfect, the material level, the bubbles removed.  This whole process killed me.  But, I was bound and determined to make them as gifts for my friends.  As I completed them, my husband mentioned he thought i could sell them, they were so cute.  So I, signed up  for a table at the Irving craft fair.  As the day of the fair drew nearer, I toiled and toiled to make necklaces, but with limited success.  My resin wasn’t curing properly and the surfaces were tacky.  In fact if you wore one for a few hours, the fibers on a sweater would make the resin scratched.  I worked hours to re-coat the surface with better made resin.  In all, I ended up with 50 or so necklaces.  I went online and priced them out and decided to charge $15 each.  That seemed fair to me.  In fact, I would have charged $100 each given how much heartache they caused me.  The day of the craft fair arrived and I carried my necklaces and a couple of towels to lie on the table.  When I got there I found a group of holiday sweater wearing crafters and  kids who make unbelievable things.  I timidly put my necklaces on the table.  The lady next to me was selling golf ball and tee poodle figurines.  About 10 minutes after set up, a girl scout comes over and admires my supply of AMAZING necklaces.  She carefully inspects a couple of them and asks how much they are.  I proudly say $15.  She smiles and walks away.   A few minutes later she returns with some friends.  They continue to admire the fruits of my labor.  Our conversation went something like this. 

“Do you have a table here today?”  I ask the girls. 
They say, “yes, we do.” 
“What did you make?” I ask. 
“Bottle cap necklaces.” they reply. 
“How much are yours?” I ask face turning red. 
“$5 each!” says the girl with the wicked smile.  They giggle and walk away. 

I panic and immediately B line to the bathroom and intentionally pass their table.  They have the Holy Grail of necklaces.  Theirs are smooth, colorful, and some even have little toys embedded in them.  I can’t believe how cool they are and I can’t believe how embarrassed I am.  I quickly call my husband and ask him to come and get me.  He has to make up a story about being on call so that I can leave and get the heck out of that crafting gym.  I tell the organizer that my husband got paged and I need to leave.  He walks into the gym and starts to wail from laughter at seeing my pitiful towel covered table with pitiful necklaces.  I didn’t sell one necklace that day, in fact I had to give one to the organizers and I had to pay $10 for the table.  But, I learned a lesson about how hard it is to commit to an idea and to finish and make a good product.  I am on to new things now, ones that aren’t that hard like…making wedding cakes.

What I learned today

The cake frosting experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I learned a lot in a very short time.  This recipe for buttercream frosting is maybe the best tasting thing I have ever eaten.  The cake itself really tastes good too.  Here are some things I learned and didn’t learn.

  • I need to pay attention to the sides of the cake.  I used two nearly-the-same size cake pans, bu the small difference in their sizes made for quite uneven sides to contend with.  I finally gave up trying to make them perfect, but I can now see that with enough patience and practice, I’ll be able to pull this off (I hope)
  • I need someone else’s math skills to half, double or quarter my recipes.  I struggled to convert 17.5 oz of sugar into cups assuming 4 lbs. of sugar is 9 1/2 cups and then I need it multiplied by .4 .  Seriously, I had to call my mom.  Still not sure we got the right amount of sugar, but it tastes amazing.
  • I thought my cake leveler would be awesome and it really just seems to be a pain in the butt.
  • Factor in the crumb coat.  I was an idiot and didn’t do a crumb coat because it didn’t look like I had enough frosting.  So, I went straight into application. I think the entire cake would have looked better with a solid base layer.
  • Too little frosting is a BIG error.  I think next time, I’ll make extra just to be sure.
  • Mix mix mix mix.  My overall colors didn’t turn out as solid nor as bright as I wanted.  One factor was clear, I didn’t mix thoroughly enough.  I also might need to get a different kind of gel coloring.  The Wilton blue just doesn’t seem bright enough for me.  Maybe what I am looking for isn’t possible in a buttercream.  The color I want for the wedding case is much more subtle though.
  • Amazon boxes make for great cake boards, at least for these practice cakes.  I’ll go with Rachel’s suggestion for the real deal and buy wooden cake boards.

That’s a lot for my brain to take in in one day.  Hope you like it.

BAD Santa

I suffer from a syndrome in which I am certain I purchase the books, games and toys that my children will LOVE.  I will be able to create an Christmas experience for my children that is magical like when I was young.  But, the fact of the matter is, every year, one of my children or both are disappointed in what I have brought.  I even went to lengths years ago to have Santa stop by a few days after Christmas to try to make up for the things that Santa forgot.  Last year, we packed up the car to my parents in Indiana, only to realize after the  hour drive we had forgotten MOST of the presents.  (our neighbor was able to confirm that we forgot a lot.)  So, I am a bit worried about what I’ve gotten.  It shouldn’t be this big of a deal.

Error, error

I am obsessing a bit.  I can’t stop thinking of cake. I have to make sure that this thing doesn’t fail.   This evening as I have been online I rediscovered the Cake Wrecks website.  In there I found these sad, but hilarous examples of cakes that have failed.  I swear to you, when I imagine my cake, it is of these clean, fresh images.  I KNOW that when these people started, they were SURE they could pull it off.  I am sharing some cake failure photos with you here.  Worries me, worries me.