Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Shift And New Problems

So I work the night shift, right? Ten to six a.m. and I've been on that shift for two years straight. Starting tonight however, I work four shifts of midnight to ten a.m....I'm not very happy. Sure I get the days off I want, plus an extra day for working ten hour shifts, but is it going to be worth it? I'll most likely spend the first day off simply sleeping.

Enough whining.
This weekend has been another backbreaker. I have worked on so many projects I'm seeing fuzzy.
I am sending a friend who has just moved for grad school a care package, so I whipped up my favorite cookies, Chocolate Espresso Cookies.
They are officially my favorites 
I whipped up some bread.

I canned a dozen teeny jars of Concord Grape Jelly. Would've gone over the process, but I blanked on taking pictures! Next time time.

Worked on the quilt for my guest bed.
Would've finished the top but...
It's not wide enough...ARG!
Which means another forty bucks for more fabric...sigh. But it looks cool, huh?

I've also sewn up the curtains for the art room, and some decorative pillow cases but I didn't bother with the pictures until I have them put up.
I have also prepped my kitchen/dining room for a tea party I am having on Tuesday. I will be serving a strawberry tart with mascarpone cream, ganache and an oatmeal shortbread crust. Should be delicious.

This week I really have no idea what to do...I guess I could finish up the napkins (which I also worked on this week), and maybe work on building a skirt...but due to my new working arrangement, it's all going to be hit and miss.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The week's exploits

I'm running wild this week. So many projects I want to start and so many plans I want to make. This is the time known as the upswing. I. Go. Crazy.
I started out by planning a few things to work on this week, napkins and art room curtains. Good, reasonable goal, yes? Cut out the curtains, gotta wait to sew them up as I can no longer do loud projects at work (Boo). Bought the white linen for the eight napkins (White linen napkins! How snotty am I?) and cut them out,

sewed a few by hand, next week I'll finish them and add embroidery. Plenty to do, that's been a lot more than I have accomplished in quite some time.
Mid week however, I find a Craiglist jackpot. A full size mattress, bed springs, headboard/footboard frame all for 25 bucks! WHAT?! Yes please. The deal also optioned a nightstand for another 10 bucks and I picked that up for my cousin. Felt like Hewoman for hauling it all myself.

Today I just couldn't let it sit any longer and I got to work on the head board. Picked up 2 inch high density foam and used the velvet upholstery fabric I had left over from the chair I redid. Attacked it all with a staple gun and voila! A lovely headboard that's a little lumpy, yes, but it'll grow into it's shape.

Finished hanging things in the guest room, tidied it up as best I could with my vacuum being broken and all, and there we have it! My cats haven't left it alone since I put sheets and such on the bed. Of course.
So...I have no idea what to do with myself for the rest of the weekend...stay tuned...we'll find out together.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weddings and cake

This past week I built a wedding cake. Yup. A whole wedding cake.
Ok, so technically it was not my first wedding cake, but...hell, she won't read this, it was the first cake I really cared about. Ok, I cared about the last wedding cake, but when all you're given to work with is cake doesn't make much of an emotional impact. Plus, this cake had to be perfect as it was for one of the most important people in my life. There. Did that make any sense? Most likely not.

 I started the day before the wedding, which might have been my first mistake. An extra afternoon might have taken a little of the pressure off, but it also might have messed up the rhythm I had going, not to mention left two days worth of mess for the Bride's dad and step-mom to deal with. So...maybe a problem? Maybe not.
I arrived just before eight in the morning armed with all my gear, including the pans my mom shipped up and the flour I specially ordered.  I had ordered cake flour from along with almond extract, because I hate the one brand of cake flour I know all the grocery stores carry.

I used Emeril Lagasse's recipe, found here: for the sponge cake, replacing the vanilla with almond extract. The recipe calls for making it twice for a three tiered cake, however, I found that the layers were far too thin and was forced to make three batches just for the stacked cakes. Here's where the extra time would've helped, I needed to use those ingredients and that time to make a second layer to the sheet cake. The recipe itself was a fair pain in the tuchus, as every ingredient had to be weighed not measured as usual. It made for a more accurate and regulated batter, but took a great length of time.

The batter was then divided into six bowls and Wilton gel coloring was used, splitting the pots of gel between the four batches I made. I then spooned one color of batter into the pan, then another spoonful of another directly on top of it and so on until all the colors were used. Shake the pan if the batter hasn't spread out to the edges, being careful not to stir the batter up.

The pans I used were a 6 inch, a 8 inch, and a 10 inch. I think a set of 6, 9 and 12 would have looked more dramatic, but hindsight being what it is and all...

Follow instructions on the recipe as to baking and let cool completely on wire racks.

The frosting I found here: and it was fantastic. I have never cooked a frosting before and it was far more interesting than the frosting I normally make. And far more buttery. Wow was it buttery. It spread really well and looked very nice.

I then inserted four straws into the bottom two layers and cut them off a scant 1/8th inch above the cake so the next layer had a stable way to sit.
I managed to deliver the cake to the reception hall without any accidents and the next day I assembled the cakes without fuss. I only wish I had a small pot of frosting to touch up the edges.
For decoration I had made little paper poppies but they would've soaked up the butter from the frosting and looked horrible. The bows I bought only worked for the sheet cake. I replaced the paper poppies with some that I had purchased.

I think I'm just rambling now...

Anyway, it fed everyone despite it's diminutive appearance, there was even a great deal left over!
I think it turned out very well, people seemed to like it.
So there we have it! Nine and a half hours to complete and my second foray into wedding cakes seems to be a success.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's been a long long, long time

I feel it would be boring if I told you all I have been up to while not blogging, so I'll just apologize and get on with the post.
I have not taken advantage of the strawberries like I had hoped. True, I have a week or two left hopefully to get my act together and jam some more, but nothing like I had planned.
I did, however, make some very tasty strawberry and kumquat jam a month ago which I'll share today. I used a three pint cartons of strawberries and a cup and a half of sliced kumquats

I mixed the kumquats and sliced strawberries with 7 cups of sugar and cooked it down for a bit then added a box of pectin (which I normally won't do but I wanted a bright strawberry taste). Next time I will cook it longer as the juice from the kumquats upset the balance between juice and pectin and it's a little too soft and as you can see above, it's a little foamy.

Last night I made a batch of Blackberry and Brown Sugar jam on the fly, due to the fact that a soon to be groom likes to eat it with a spoon and I wanted to get him something special.
The jam is a little harder to quantify, I had a heaping bowl full, maybe...10 cups of berries? 4 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup turbinado sugar and a lemon. I just cooked the berries and sugar down till it sheeted off a spoon and added the lemon juice. It made 3 pints of spectacular jam. My lovely cousin had given me a homemade loaf of bread that day and it has swiftly disappeared along with a half pint of the jam.

Speaking of grooms (see my poor transition there?) I am leaving this Saturday for Minot to go to a wedding! A fantastic wedding too, it's my darling friend's hitchin' to her man and I'm in charge of the cake!
So I will blog about the making of said cake as soon as I get back!
And expect a few blogs on corn canning and tomatoes and hopefully some white peaches in brown sugar!
Love, Me