Camping and Family

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cade 3

Whew! This last week was a busy one. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson came for a visit from South Dakota. I haven’t seen them in two years! Two years! How can a grandma let two years go by without seeing her only grandchild? Circumstances have prevented me from visiting, but I think things will be getting better now and am hoping I can visit them in December in time for his 4th birthday.

We had such a great time visiting with family but I think the highlight was camping. We took the ferry over to Ft. Flagler from Coupeville for my grandson’s first ferry ride. He absolutely loved it.

My first ferry ride grandma

My first ferry ride grandma

We had a fantastic campsite at the top of the bluff, nice and big and sunny. We brought too much with us of course, but this is Washington and you never know what the weather is going to be like. We looked like a little village.

the village

There is a beautiful view of the sunset just a bit down from the campsite. Nothing like a sunset over water.

sunset at ft flagler

Then there was the first trip down to the ocean. My little man just loved playing in the water and it was difficult to get him away. The weather was absolutely perfect the whole time we were there and I think everyone had a good time.

cade 6 another visit to the beach We picked up some pretty shells and rocks and even found a nice sand dollar.

sand dollar pretty purple shellThey just left this morning and I’m already missing them. December can’t get here fast enough.

Citrus Inspired Wedding Cake, Cupcakes and a Geeky Groom’s Cake

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Cake Table

Cake Table

I may have mentioned that I have been a busy little beaver working on some cakes for a friend’s wedding. I don’t think I was working hard enough. A lot of stuff I like saving for the day before and day of so it’s more fresh. But a few of the items definitely needed more time and thought put into it. Now after the fact I can see so many little things that I could have done to improve the cakes. Guess it’s just another one of those lessons learned moments and move on from here. The bride and groom loved them no matter what I thought and I guess that is the most important thing isn’t it?

The first and most odd thing I had to work on was the groom’s cake. This was going to be a surprise for him. He knew he was getting a groom’s cake but he didn’t know that my friend requested a specific scene from one of his favorite games. We had the hardest time finding pictures anywhere of this scene. There bits and pieces here and there and because I’m totally unfamiliar with the game I had no idea where to start.

So I started with the castle. The whole premise of the scene is set in an opera house, so I figured I’d go with a castle backdrop like you would see on stage at a play with a rice krispie treat turret for the “bride”. I used a 50/50 mixture of gum paste and fondant hoping it would hold up better. Pastillage probably would have been more sturdy but I’m not very experienced with it.

The beginning stages of the castle

The beginning stages of the castle

Next step was to paint the castle. I used paste food coloring and some vodka which helps the food coloring dry better without making everything sticky. It didn’t turn out quite how I envisioned it, but then I started thinking that the game graphics are very simplistic. Think early Mario brothers and the very pixelated characters and you’ll understand why wasn’t too concerned with the simplicity of the castle.

Painted castle

Painted castle

The groom had one request during this entire wedding and it was a last minute one. He wanted salted caramel filling for the wedding cake. The bride wasn’t too keen on that idea because she already said simple and white. I suggested a groom’s cake. This way it is what he wants and he can pick a specific theme. That is how I ended up making this cake. So I made my standard chocolate cake. For the first time ever I used parchment paper in the bottom of the pan. It’s supposed to be perfect right? Nope, one of the cakes kind of crumbled and broke apart around the edges. I’ve never, ever had a problem with just using shortening and flour in the pan. Why I decided I needed to try parchment paper I can’t tell you. But I thought I could still work with it.

Then there was the salted caramel. Can I tell you that I’ve never tried making it before, but figured it can’t be that hard. It’s not, but it is touchy and waiting until the night before to make it if you’ve never made it before is a really stupid idea! But it got made! I decided that a caramel frosting would go really well with the caramel filling and used one I’ve used before on my zucchini cupcakes. So check out this disaster in the making.

Disaster in the making. That caramel frosting is not going to hold the caramel filling.

Disaster in the making. That caramel frosting is not going to hold the caramel filling.

There is no way that frosting dam is going to hold in that caramel. I originally put a light layer of frosting on the cake and then added the caramel sauce, but obviously I was a bit too liberal in my use. Add in the crumbly cake that I plopped on top of this and let me just tell you it wasn’t a pretty sight. I ended up tossing the whole thing I was so upset. So it’s 9 am the morning of the wedding and I am starting to bake all new chocolate cakes and have to make new caramel frosting because I didn’t have enough. Talk about stressful. I’m telling you this because no matter how pretty cakes look there is always something going wrong. When I started this blog I wanted to make sure that the good, the bad and the ugly were posted, not just the good stuff. What fun is there in that?

This time I just put the frosting dam in place and then spread a light layer of the caramel filling directly on the cake and it worked perfectly, no seepage. I was concerned that the filling would soak into the cake and they wouldn’t be able to taste it. After sitting for many hours it was perfect. The groom loved it and was happy he got his one wish of salted caramel.

But, this put me at least two hours behind and this is where I should have spent time a few days ago making the figures for the cake. I spent one hour prior to leaving the house trying to get the figures done. I thought they looked awful. Even trying to keep in mind that the characters are very simplistic didn’t help. But I had no choice and at least it was obvious to those in the know who the characters were.

The end result was all the bride was hoping for, because everyone who ever played the game knew immediately what the scene was and that’s all she wanted. The groom thought it was hilarious and loved it too.

Do you know what this is from?

Do you know what this is from?

The cupcakes were easy thank goodness. Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with a buttercream frosting. Another thing I should have done a few days ago were the chocolate flowers, well actually it’s precolored candy melts which really helped, but hey I think it all starts out like white chocolate right? Here I am about two hours before I want to have the cakes at the wedding and I’m just starting to make the flowers. Thank goodness they were easy and dried quickly!

cupcakes

The wedding cake was so much easier than the groom’s cake. I did make the ribbon roses a few days early. Thank goodness I didn’t wait until the last minute for those. I used this tutorial for the roses. I need more practice because I would have like to have more irregular looking roses instead of simple spirals.

Ribbon roses

Ribbon roses

ribbon roses and leaves

The cake was a basic vanilla cake with buttercream frosting and my own strawberry rhubarb jam for filling. The bride wanted a simple, plain white cake but I convinced her she needed a bit of color so I told her about the flowers and she liked that idea. It really did make a simple but pretty cake.

wedding cake

 

In the end it was a very successful bunch of cakes. Everyone loved them and that’s all that matters.

FO Friday – Finally finished something!

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I have finally finished a crochet project! I don’t know if I can even tell you how long it’s been since I last finished a project.

gryffindor picture perfect baby blanket3

This one is one of the WIPs I posted last week. The Gryffindor house color baby blanket. The pattern is from Darleen Hopkins and is called Picture Perfect Baby Blanket. This is the same pattern I used for my Seahawks Inspired baby blanket. This was given to a friend of my daughter for their first baby. They are due in September and want to be surprised by the sex of the baby. They are huge Harry Potter geeks and decided to decorate the nursery in Gryffindor colors. They loved the blanket and told my daughter it’s perfect in the nursery.

This is how it originally started to look.

The pattern calls for one row of a contrasting color, one row of another contrasting color and then one row of the first contrasting color.

The pattern calls for one row of a contrasting color, one row of another contrasting color and then one row of the first contrasting color.

I really wanted the gold to show up more so I ripped this back to the first row of gold and started again. This time I did two rounds of gold, one round of white, and then two more rounds of gold.

I also increased the main color section between the striped rounds to 12 rounds instead of the 8 the pattern calls for. I think it really makes the gold stripes really stand out now.

gryffindor picture perfect baby blanket

I used Bernat Satin in bordeaux, white and golden rod with an I (5 mm) hook. I really love this pattern. It’s easy and yet makes an impressive looking blanket. You can modify it to suit any color combination. If you use the right sized hook it makes a nice loose weave that makes a soft, flexible blanket for baby.

Well that’s one down and about 20 left to go right?

CSA Box – August 14, 2014

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Didn’t get a chance to post my lovely box yesterday. At least I took some pictures before putting it all away. I’m busy, busy, busy trying to get a wedding cake, groom’s cake and cupcakes done before tomorrow. Wait till you see the cake! Something new and different for me. Hope they like it.

Anyway here’s the box of goodies, check out all of the veggies!

celery, green onions, spicy greens, carrots, corn, ground beef patties, eggs, fresh rolls,  overnight waffle mix (which was a bonus this week), campanelle pasta, gouda cheese, lentils, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, basil

celery, green onions, spicy greens, carrots, corn, ground beef patties, eggs, fresh rolls, overnight waffle mix (which was a bonus this week), campanelle pasta, gouda cheese, lentils, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, basil

How about a closer look at everything?

veggies

overnight waffle mix etc

Suggested recipes this week:

Cheeseburgers with Tomato Cucumber Salad
Campanelle with Corn, Scallions and Spicy Greens
Sauteed Lentil Pilaf with Fried Eggs

Can’t wait to give everything a try!

CSA Box – August 7, 2014

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This week’s box was chock full of goodies! Check out all the fresh produce.

green onions, basil cabbage, beets, carrots, bok choy, fresh penne pasta, eggs, ground pork, pie crust dough, yukon gold potatoes, cherry tomatoes, walla walla onions, garlic, green beans, and a special addition of a chocolate bar

green onions, basil, cabbage, beets, carrots, bok choy, fresh penne pasta, eggs, ground pork, pie crust dough, yukon gold potatoes, cherry tomatoes, walla walla onions, garlic, green beans, and a special addition of a chocolate bar

Recipes this week include:

Penne with Quick Garlicky Tomato Sauce
Deconstructed Pot Sticker Stir Fry
Sweet Onion Galette with Summer Crunch Salad
Green Bean and Pesto Potato Salad with Hardboiled Eggs

 

WIP Wednesday – The rest of my UFOs

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So last week I wrote about my embarrassing little secret stash of unfinished objects (UFOs) and different works in progress (WIPs). So when is something considered an UFO and no longer a WIP? I’ve always wondered. Anyway….here are the other things that I dug up. Seriously, this girl has a problem committing doesn’t she?

My current WIP. Another Picture Perfect baby blanket in Gryffindor school colors. Well it's supposed to be at least. I do need to finish this one by the end of the week.

My current WIP. Another Picture Perfect baby blanket in Gryffindor school colors. Well it’s supposed to be at least. I do need to finish this one by the end of the week.

More play food. This is for my niece who's birthday is this month. I think I need to get moving if I want to give it to her for her birthday.

More play food. This is for my niece who’s birthday is this month. I think I need to get moving if I want to give it to her for her birthday.

A very old baby blanket called a Peek-a-Boo Blanket I believe. I'm pretty sure I got the pattern off of the yarn label of some Lion brand baby yarn. I just need to finish two sides of the edging but I ran out of yarn. Now the search through my stash to see if I can find something comparable.

A very old baby blanket called a Peek-a-Boo Blanket I believe. I’m pretty sure I got the pattern off of the yarn label of some Lion brand baby yarn. I just need to finish two sides of the edging but I ran out of yarn. Now the search through my stash to see if I can find something comparable.

Peek-a-Boo baby blanket

Peek-a-Boo baby blanket

This one is at least a little more recent. I think last fall I started this CAL for an autumn wreath. I just need to fill it and sew it closed and then crochet and add little accessories.

This one is at least a little more recent. I think last fall I started this CAL for an autumn wreath. I just need to fill it and sew it closed and then crochet and add little accessories.

Apple placemats to match the curtains in my kitchen. These are very old as well. I have six done and all they need are ends sewn in...seeing a pattern here? I hate sewing in ends.

Apple placemats to match the curtains in my kitchen. These are very old as well. I have six done and all they need are ends sewn in…seeing a pattern here? I hate sewing in ends.

This one isn't too old either. I've been fascinated by quilt look crochet afghans and thought I'd start out with this smaller one. Yeah, one inch grannies are no fun.

This one isn’t too old either. I’ve been fascinated by quilt look crochet afghans and thought I’d start out with this smaller one. Yeah, one inch grannies are no fun.

Who knows when I started this one. Probably one time when I had no projects in mind and had some stash yarn to use up. This is old Lion brand baby yarn with the little silver thread running through it.

Who knows when I started this one. Probably one time when I had no projects in mind and had some stash yarn to use up. This is old Lion brand baby yarn with the little silver thread running through it. Oh and look there’s one of my hooks.

Another more recent project. I was looking to make some sort of chair cushion and liked this pattern.

Another more recent project. I was looking to make some sort of chair cushion and liked this 12 inch afghan square by Julie Yeager.

So there we have the rest of my UFOs and WIPs. Wonder if I can get any of them done for Finished Object Friday.

Pasta Salad with Pickled Beets and Asparagus

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This was basically a throw together salad to use some of our pickled beets and pickled asparagus. My daughter picked up the pickled asparagus at Thorp Fruit and Antique Mall in Ellensburg, WA. It’s a huge, wonderful place with fresh seasonal fruit on the first floor as well as locally made products like jams, BBQ sauce, vinegars, etc.

On the second and third floor there is an antique mall of all things. Tons of little cubicles with all sorts of wonderful old junk to sift through. It is always so fascinating to me to go through these little stalls and get a glimpse of times gone by. Yeah, you’re going to come across some junk and maybe some stuff that wouldn’t or shouldn’t be considered antique. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So even if I thought something was junk doesn’t mean the person coming in behind me might feel the same. I usually gravitate towards the old books and kitchen stuff. I’m usually on the look out for interesting cookbooks and I just like looking at all of the old gadgets. I didn’t pick anything up this time though other than fresh Rainier cherries and some local salad dressings made from Walla Walla onions.

My daughter picked up some pickled asparagus and wanted to try it in a salad. We also had some pickled beets from MM Local left one of my CSA boxes several weeks ago and thought a combination of the pickled veggies would be interesting if nothing else. At first I thought about throwing them in a green leaf salad with a few fresh veggies. But then the question was, what type of dressing should we use that would go good with the pickled veggies. So I did what I always do, I “Googled it” to find some different recipe ideas. Nothing really stood out, but one common theme was to use a mayonnaise based dressing. At first I was going to use a vinaigrette, but after thinking about it I thought that was a rather silly move. Vinegar on top of more vinegar? Yeah, not so much. The mayonnaise based dressing would at least smooth out the strong vinegar taste of the asparagus and beets. I could have eaten the whole jar of beets just as they were. There wasn’t too much vinegar and the flavor of the beets really came through. The asparagus, well it was ok for one bite, but after that be prepared to pucker up baby because they used a lot of vinegar. Whew!

I also decided to use pasta for the salad because I thought it would stand up better with the veggies than any sort of lettuce. Then I looked through the fridge to see what other veggies I had that I could add. I ended up using cucumber, red onion and grape tomatoes. The dressing was a simple one that I use as a base for my potato and macaroni salads. My daughter loved it and has requested that I make it again. I might just rinse off the asparagus the next time and not use quite so much. It was really good, but the vinegar from the asparagus really over powered everything else. For this recipe I honestly didn’t take any measurements, I just tossed in what looked good so please keep in mind these amounts are all approximations and you can add or leave out what you want.

pasta salad with pickled beets and asparagus

 

Pasta Salad with Pickled Beets and Asparagus

2 cups shell macaroni, uncooked
1 cucumber, cut into 1/2 quarters
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup pickled beets, cut into bite sized chunks
8-10 spears pickled asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces

For the Dressing:
1 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise or salad dressing (depends on how much dressing you like)
1 Tbls prepared horseradish sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (depending on how thick you like your dressing, I like it a bit thin)
1 tsp vinegar
1 Tbls sugar
1 – 2 tsp dried dillweed
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Once pasta is cooked immediately drain and run under cold water to cool down.

Toss pasta and cut vegetables in large bowl. In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Add more mayonnaise and milk as necessary. Taste to adjust for vinegar, sugar and other seasonings as well. Remember this is just a basic guide, you can add more or less of any of these ingredients depending on the tastes of you and your family.

Toss dressing with pasta and veggies. The salad can be eaten immediately or chilled at least an hour before serving.

pasta salad with pickled beets and pickled asparagus

 

Food Network Star – Week 10

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This is it! The last chance to impress and now we get to decide who the next Food Network Star is going to be.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I didn’t watch last week’s show (week 9). One, I wasn’t in the mood for some reason. Two, I really don’t like Rachel Ray and didn’t want to watch anything with her in it. I ended up watching the rerun this weekend though and it wasn’t too bad. Loreal went home. I totally agreed with the judges decision. She simply could not and can not speak about her POV. She was supposed to be the “Butcher Babe” but she couldn’t even explain why a hunk of pork butt was her favorite type to use and how she would use it. If you can’t do that then you’re not the expert you are trying to portray yourself to be. So bye-bye Loreal, leaving us with Luca, Lenny, Nicole and Sarah.

This week it was pilot time but first they had to conduct a live 30 second promo from one of the local shops in Gothem West Market (what I wouldn’t give to go visit that place). I will admit that I missed a few of the 30 second promos while off doing something or other for my daughter. So the only one I really caught was Lenny. He got a yogurt shop and got lost in translation somewhere. You could tell he was totally out of his element and didn’t even know where to begin with asking questions, etc. He was really befuddled by the ingredient sumac. I can understand his confusion because I grew up being told sumac was poisonous, not knowing that it was only a certain type of sumac that is poisonous, the other makes an excellent spice. This alone would make me not vote for Lenny. He’s never done well talking about something he’s not familiar with and I think it’s an important thing for a FN star. You have to be able to connect with your subject and your audience and he did neither.

One of the four had to be sent home because there are only three pilot slots available. Sarah finally went home. I’m sorry, I have never warmed to her and have never thought she could be the Texas cuisine expert. Not once did she ever demonstrate any expertise in Texas cooking and her food was mediocre at best and unimpressive most of the time. I’ve seen in the forums and such that she was getting a bad rap, that she’s really nice and warm and has some serious cooking chops. Well, this was it babe, you needed to prove it to America and you didn’t.

I won’t go into detail regarding the pilots. Each of the contestants had their issues getting started. Their pilot mentor was none other than Robert Irvine. I love Robert, but he would intimidate the hell out of me. In the end I thought all three pilots were pretty good. My favorite honestly was Lenny. He just seemed more natural going through everything. Yeah, he was a little showy, but I think there needs to be a little of that to keep people interested. It seems everyone has a severe case of ADD or ADHD and if you don’t keep them visually entertained they are going to move on. He’s getting a lot of heat as well lately but frankly I’m going with what I see. I would think FN would have done a bit of a background check (you know Google it) on their hopefuls before proclaiming their finalists. Is it all a gimmick? Yep, at this point I’ll agree it definitely is, but heck, what’s wrong with that? As long as he is teaching and cooking good food. Besides, if he does win I’m pretty sure the Food Network will tell him exactly what he can and can not do.

I thought Luca and Nicole did a great job as well. It just seemed they were a little more forced in their presentations and not quite as smooth and natural. I know this will come with more time and practice. I remember seeing Rachel, Bobby, Giada and even Paula in their early days. They weren’t comfortable nor very engaging either. If either of them win I would be happy to watch their show.

I’ve read forums and posts that think Nicole is boring, but she’s not any more boring than Giada or Ina. Both of them stand at a counter and simply cook, talking about the food a bit and giving tips. They don’t really entertain. So those who think Nicole is boring probably think the same thing about Ina and Giada.

Luca made a dish that I wouldn’t be interested in, but that’s no reason to dislike his pilot. I didn’t like the look of the “house special” of the Italian restaurant he was in either. I’m sorry but that burnt wheat pasta just looked gross and off putting. Doesn’t mean that Luca can’t provide some interesting recipes in his show.

So guess this is it until we find out next week who the winner will be. I’m honestly having a hard time deciding because each of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Guess it all depends on what and who I would enjoy watching and think would be able to teach me the most.

 

 

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