Monday, September 22, 2008

Disaster Averted

Have I mentioned that when it comes to cakes I'm kind of a psycho? I've never taken a class. I'm certainly no professional baker. But I really like cakes and I like them to taste fantastic and look great. All in all, I'd call it a weakness of mine. Daddy suggested that I had enough going on and that I really didn't need to make a cake for his birthday. A store-bought cake would suffice. I even did that last year, but I just couldn't do it again...and with that Space Mountain Cake coming up next week, I need to start getting my cake-making skills honed again.

So, I scoured Epicurious for a recipe that sounded yummy, but didn't require a ridiculous number of ingredients I didn't have. I came up with a Lemon Lattice White Chocolate Cake. It's white chocolate cake with white chocolate/whipped cream frosting and a lemon curd filling. Based on another recipe I'd seen, I decided to add fresh raspberries to the filling too. It was a great idea, but I think I tried too hard to do things in phases. Certain bits didn't hold up all that well over time.

I baked the cake on Thursday, made lemon curd and started the frosting on Friday. Frosted the cake on Friday...discovering 1) I didn't have enough raspberries and 2) the recipe didn't make enough frosting for my towering cake. I used some raspberries from the freezer and put together some more frosting, which had to sit overnight before I could use it. I tried to pipe a lemon curd lattice on the top, but the lemon peel kept getting stuck in the frosting tip. In the end, I decided a nice layer of lemon on the top would look better.

But after a night in the fridge, I learned some things about this particular cake. It sorta settles. And frozen raspberries are kinda juicy...even though I froze them myself a week earlier, so they weren't at all mushy. When I got my cake out on Sunday to put the finishing touches on it, it was sitting in a pool of blood...or at least raspberry juice. I didn't think to take a picture earlier, but this is what it looked like with the juice sopped up from the sides.Not quite what I had in mind. And not so pretty.

I whipped up the last portion of frosting and set about fixing this monstrosity. And it didn't turn out too poorly, if I do say so myself.It even tasted great. And Daddy had a nice birthday - playing soccer with the kids at the school, playing four square in the driveway, going on the little rhyming treasure hunt I put together for him to find his new hanging chair for the porch, having a quiet dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and even getting a few straggler presents today.

His dad got him a new camera for his birthday. What do you think that means? New camera for the blog!

Well, hellooooo....I think

I think I finally figured out who was devouring my string beans all summer long. I don't know why it took me so long to catch him. But what is one supposed to do with one of these?I certainly couldn't squish this lovely shiny specimen. Besides, he's about the size of a quarter...and that's a lot of ewwy guts. Not gonna happen. I figured the damage was done. The beans are pretty much history. Live and let live. I left him for Smunch to see when he got home from school. He thought this beetle was pretty cool and he looked really awesome as he flew off over the rooftops too!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A rite of passage...aka Chop! Take 2

As a working (occasionally) from home mom, especially as one who is also a lousy housekeeper, I have few things to truly take pride in other than my kids. That means I try to have them look presentable...even when I know their teeth aren't brushed. Their clothes match and Mam's hair is generally out of her face most of the time when we're out in public.

Yesterday, she and Smunch were out front at Gram's house, deadheading the dahlias. This is a job Gram pays them for. A penny a dead flower. It's good work if you can get it. The kids took off with their kiddie scissors.

It's only been a couple of posts since I had Mam's hair chopped. Apparently, it wasn't a good enough hairdo for Mam. When I looked out the window a few minutes later, there stood Mam, hair in hand and scissors held at the ready...or more than ready, really. I loved her new haircut, so you know I jetted out the front door and stopped the chop from happening. But that wasn't the first chop. I missed the others. And now Mam was missing a big hunk of hair out of the side of her head and her bangs had been expanded an unacceptable distance around the side of her head.

You might not think this looks too bad, know, if you didn't know that her hair is all supposed to be the same length and that she's got enough hair that her ears never show through it. And then there's this little issue...See a problem here? Yeah. She only cut one side too. Today, I have her in pigtails again, so it doesn't show too badly, unless you're in a position to see both tails at once. Then it's very obvious that one has a heck of a lot more hair than the other.

When I was a little girl, probably not a lot older than Mam, I played hair stylist on one of my friends. Her mother was reportedly less than happy. I guess I should be happy that she did her own hair styling. I'm definitely glad she didn't take the sheers to her brother, who has school photos next week...although it would have been funny a long time from now, I'm sure. For now, I'm having a hard time refraining from telling my "sweet" little Mam just how ugly her hair looks. I'm that nice.

School's in!

It's mid-September already and it certainly doesn't feel like two weeks since I've blogged anything, but obviously it has been. It's been a whirlwind of paperwork, back-to-school nights, drop offs, pick ups, homework and art work. It's nothing particularly stunning, just the start of two new school years. And I've only got two kids, so I'm feeling rather relaxed about it all, considering. It was so overwhelming to start elementary school last year. This year, first grade overwhelmed Smunch for a while, but I'm kind of "in the zone", so to speak.

Mam cheerfully started back to school the Tuesday after Labor Day. She loves her Tuesday/Thursday class, which includes a lot of her friends from last year.And she's doing well at tolerating her very boy-heavy MWF class, which includes just six girls (out of 20) including Mam. Fortunately, she likes some of them. They'll be seeing a lot of each other. She's also decided that she's O.K. with one of the boys in there, who she already knew. In the past, they'd mostly ignored each other, so it's nice to see them acting friendly. Possibly the best thing about Tuesdays and Thursdays is that Mam gets dropped off at the "far yard" because her class has playtime first thing. The far yard has always been a rare treat for most of the kids because it includes a rope swing and the "circle cycle". There's nothing better than dropping her off at the yard and seeing her run off without looking back. It's a far cry from the other days when I have to peel her off me, usually laughing rather than crying, and hand her to a teacher to haul her away.

And finally, I have a tiny bit of time to myself during the week. I spend some of it walking Mam to school and then walking myself home. It's about half an hour each way. I spend some of it reading the paper, doing laundry, trying to keep some semblance of order in the house. I like it. It's a far cry from the days when I felt like I had no time to do anything. I even turned down a potential contract job in the last week or so, just because I like life just like it is...and because the process of getting hired was starting to get annoying. I like the bits of work I get here and there, but I'd rather be volunteering at school

Oh, and I've been "commissioned" to make a birthday cake (for the price of a donation to the elementary school) in the shape of Space Mountain at Disneyland...uh...yeah. Let's see how that one turns out!