Sunday, May 29, 2011

Good Luck to You (In Chinese)

I know the cake posts are getting a bit out of hand, but here's the latest:

Our good friends have had a lovely foreign exchange student this year from China. Her name is Mo and today she left for her home in Beijing. Yesterday her host family threw her a fun farewell party. As a gift to her, I made the cake for the party.

This is a strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream frosting. I did the very popular ruffle cake design, and added the message on fondant on the top.
I used google translate to find the correct characters, then I practiced a few times before I painted them on the fondant with decorating gel, thinned out to a paint-like consistency. I was worried I might make one stroke incorrect and totally change the message, but luckily, that didn't happen. It was so much fun to learn these characters and I think I would really enjoy the art of learning to write them.

Best of luck to you, Mo! You will be missed!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Mantel

For me, summer decorating has a lot to do with patriotism and Americana. There is something about decking the house in red, white, and blue and stars and stripes that just feels warm, fun, and nostalgic to me. I've just started the process in preparation for Memorial Day. Hopefully I'll get the rest of it out soon. Today I thought I would focus on my piano "mantel" in honor of the summer mantel linky party going on right now. So, without further ado, here it is:

I've kept a lot of the elements from previous mantelscapes, changing out a few items here and there to freshen the look and keep it in season. For spring I changed out the red berry garland for this one in creamy white. I added a dried hydrangea blossom because even though it's dried, I think it adds a light and summery feel to the area.

And lastly, some patriotic Americana- a painted flag with the Pledge of Allegiance printed on it. I love this simple piece.

So that's it. Nothing fancy, but I think it fits the bill!

Here a couple other spots:

The top of my hutch:

The front door:

This is a work in progress. Hopefully I'll add to it soon!
Linking to:
The Lettered Cottage

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Here's how my garden grows:

When we first moved here there was no garden spot. I very much wanted to have a garden, so the following summer we broke sod and put in our first decent sized garden. It was so exciting! I LOVED learning to can the produce I had raised in my own back yard. I canned salsa that first year, and a few green beans. I ate delicious tomato sandwiches and Lincoln made a few quarts of pickles.

The next year, I planted more beans, and brother, did I get more beans! It was fantastic! I canned between 40 and 50 quarts of beans. I was also the happy recipient of extra tomatoes and cucumbers from friends. I pickled and canned and preserved like a mad woman. I was in heaven! In fact, I took inventory at the end of the season.

The following year, which was last year, I expanded my garden by a few feet. I tried planting a few potatoes and was excited for another banner year. But then my garden died. I went on vacation and by the time I got home, it was beyond saving. I froze a few quarts of green beans, made a stew with the potatoes and carrots and that was it. It was so disappointing.

Well, this year, I'm hoping to get back in the game. I have doubled my garden size by renting a plot at the Lands End garden. In that plot I have planted:

One pumpkin plant. This is my first attempt at growing pumpkins. This is an experiment to see how it goes.

One yellow squash

Two zucchinis

6 cucumbers

A row of onions

6 rows of potatoes

Here in the backyard garden I have planted:

A row of lettuce

A row of mixed greens

A row of carrots

green onions



20 pepper plants

3 rows of green beans

32 tomato plants

And this year, I am finally trying to grow a pea teepee. (And one row of peas in the garden.)

I am still very much a beginner, but hopefully the addition of some nice, aged horse manure this year will help provide the boost my garden needs. I am determined to get some mulch in there as well. I need all the help I can get keeping the weeds down!

A great pair of Wellies make rainy days fun!

So, fingers crossed! It's time to build up my green bean supply again! Last year my tomatoes did nothing...I really need those to produce well. Any tomato growing tips for me?

More Cakes

I completed a cake order today for one of the teachers at the high school. She called me last week with an order for two sheet cakes. She requested a lemon cake with a bridal shower theme and a chocolate cake with a farewell theme for the other. Today the teachers were having a combined farewell and bridal shower party for two fellow teachers.

I sometimes find it hard to be creative with a basic sheet cake. Sheet cakes were ordered for ease of cutting and serving, however, so that's what I worked with. I also would have preferred covering the cakes in fondant for a clean, smooth finish. But Buttercream frosting was ordered as well. I think the chocolate cake would have been better with chocolate frosting, but the color didn't work with my theme. If I could have covered it in fondant, we could have had the best of both worlds. But that's OK. I'm here to make what the customer wants!

The farewell cake was for the music teacher at the middle and high schools.

My design changed from more complex to rather simple when I faced a bit of a time crunch. I really love the tuxedo ruffles around the cake, however.

They turned out just how I envisioned.

I really love how the bridal shower cake turned out.

This was a fun one to play with. My favorite part is the beaded bodice on the dress and the border around the cake that looks like a string of pearls.

I worked all day on these cakes yesterday. I finally had them done and was just finishing up cleaning the kitchen, when I turned around to see the dog sticking her nose up to the table to chomp my bridal cake! I yelled, Lincoln yelled, and we both chased her down. I was initially so mad I couldn't see straight! I was so angry that she had ruined the pretty dress! Lincoln tried to be helpful and make some suggestions for how I could fix it, but I just needed to walk away from it for a while. I took an American Idol break (lamest finale since Jordin Sparks), then with fresh eyes and less spitting anger, I looked the cake over again. As you look at the cake, the dress hangs off the bottom left corner. She had bit that, but hadn't gotten in as far as the cake. I was able to cut off the fondant she had touched and scrape off the frosting she had breathed on, then I replaced and redesigned. I actually like the dress better with the added band detail on the hem.

Unfortunately, when you get down low and look from this angle, you can see that I should have trim more fondant away, or made the ruffle a little longer.

You don't notice this when you're just looking down at the cake, but I wish I would have noticed before. This could have been so much worse. If she had actually bit into the cake I think I might have had to send her packing!

I'm linking up to:
Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

Friday, May 20, 2011

Horsin' Around

A couple weeks ago I went to my friend Eileen's house to get some horse manure for my garden. Jesse and Carson always enjoy going there. Eileen has a buffalo ranch, a couple horses, and 2 dogs that the boys have lovingly nicknamed Mario and Luigi. The boys always talk about riding the horses when we are there, but Carson has yet to get up the courage to actually do it. Jesse, however, shows no reluctance whatsoever. He is completely fearless and totally thrilled to hop up there!

In the corner of the frame on this one, you can see the nose of Maverick, the other horse. He was very curious about my camera, but the noise it made when the shutter closed startled him.

I confess, I love going to the ranch as well. I'm looking forward to my chance to ride the horses! Thanks so much, Eileen, for sharing your piece of paradise and your horse poop with us!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sweet Sixteen Cakes

They're done! This has been a great learning experience for me. The number one thing I've learned is that I need to charge a lot more for my cakes! I haven't even stopped to figure up how much time and ingredients I put into these, but I know it's more than what I charged. Which is OK, because right now I'm happy to have people giving me the chance to do this and practice and actually get some money for it. But going forward, I think it's time to reevaluate what I'm charging.

Remember the inspiration picture?

Cake #1

Vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream frosting. This is a ruffle cake, just like the pink cake in the inspiration picture.

Cake #2

Fresh strawberry cake, strawberry buttercream between the four layers, marshmallow fondant ruffle tiered covering, gum paste flowers. The cake gets all its flavoring from fresh strawberries in the batter, no artificial color or flavor.

Cake #3

Chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream between two layers, marshmallow fondant covering, gum paste daisies. I love these daisies. I want to do a cake with daisies and brown eyed susans. They are my favorite flowers!

I think these are so summery and fun, while still being beautiful. I hope the clients like them! They will be here shortly to pick them up.

I'm linking up to Funky Junk Interiors' Saturday Night Special:
Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trying to catch up

This has been a busy week, but it seems they all are lately. I wouldn't say it has been crazy, just busy. I guess I'm starting to adjust to life with a fuller schedule. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm doing a cake order for a sweet sixteen party this weekend. We decided on three cakes and I'm really excited about them. I can hardly wait for Saturday when I will actually decorate them. In preparation, I have been experimenting with gum paste. Gum paste is similar to fondant, in that it is a powdered sugar-based edible clay. But unlike fondant, gum paste dries very hard, to the point that, although it is technically edible, you probably wouldn't want to eat it. Because of this, it really holds its shape well. For my birthday, Lincoln got me a set of gum paste flower cutters. These are great for cutting out the basic shape of the leaves and petals, then you can assemble and sculpt and mold them into the final product.

The design for the cakes I am doing is very simple and elegant. The client sent me this inspiration picture.

The colors requested are purple and white. I will do one tier ruffle cake, like the pink one in the picture, one larger layer cake in white with a ring of daisies around it, and one smaller cake with very simple, understated ruffles around it and violets either in a border around the base, or cascading from the top to the base. I'll have to play with that a little to decide what I like best with the ruffles. I don't want it to be too busy, since clean, elegant lines are what we are looking for, with the variance in size, shape, and texture taking center stage.

I have worked a little bit the last couple of days creating these:

I added a little glitter to the violets which you can see a little better in this photo (you might have to click it to enlarge):

Cake decorating has really proven to be a great creative outlet for me. Every cake I do I try to learn something, create something I haven't before. This weekend I need to print off some pictures of my cakes for an auction at the elementary school. I am donating a cake to be auctioned and I need people to be able to see some of the cakes I've done so they know what their options are. I'm hoping this might be some good publicity/advertising that will land me a few more cake orders.

I'm looking forward to sharing my final product with you this weekend!