Frosting: the ultimate accessory

I made a couple dozen cupcakes for Ryan’s birthday.  I had guessed that he would want creamcheese frosting (because he loves creamcheese frosting) so I assumed that he would want red velvet cake.  I automatically think of red velvet cake when I think of creamcheese frosting.  But, no, he wanted a basic yellow cake.  And he wanted chocolate creamcheese frosting not regular creamcheese frosting.  That’s when the thought hit me.  Frosting really is the ultimate accessory.  Without frosting, cake in a cupcake liner is really just a sweet muffin.  It’s the frosting that sets cake apart from other baked goods.  And yes, I know that there are plenty of cakes out there that aren’t typically frosted.  But even these generally have some sort of accessory to decorate the top like powdered sugar in delicate lace patterns.  (But come on, frosting is far superior to a sprinkling of powdered sugar.)

Thinking of frosting as the ultimate accessory also made me ponder how frosting can change the taste of an entire cake.  A plain yellow cake is going to taste very different if it has been covered with a rich dark chocolate frosting than if it has been covered with a light vanilla buttercream.

I feel that there is a cupcake marathon in my near future.  Mixing-and-matching cupcakes and frosting flavors?  That sounds like a perfect way to spend a Saturday.

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Cats make horrible sous chefs

Buddy has decided that whenever I bake anything, she must be the sous chef.  I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t even know what a sous chef does.  I’m almost fairly certain that all that she wants to do is to jump in the bowl of sugar and cinnamon and take a nap.

She was especially upset when I was making an apple pie to bring to Thanksgiving dinner.  I feared that she wanted to sit in the pie crust that I had just finished placing in the baking dish.  Thankfully, she just wanted to be my bookmark.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to read a recipe when a cat is lounging across the whole page.

Fluffy pink scarf – Update #1

This project is really flying by.  It’s not long enough to be a scarf but it’s long enough that if someone looked at the work-in-progress they would probably guess that I was making a scarf.

As I’ve been working on this scarf, I’ve noticed how quickly this yarn is being used.  I have come to the conclusion that I probably should’ve bought more of the yarn.  The next time I stop at the craft store, I’ll stock on a couple more skeins of this yarn.  Hopefully, it’s still there because I’m not sure what I’ll do with only half of a scarf.

Fluffy pink scarf

This is my first knitting project. This scarf is the first thing that I’ve knitted that is not just for practice. I’ve done a couple little squares for practice but this is for real. I picked up a yarn that I like – bright pink, fuzzy. And my knitting needles arrived in the mail. That really means only one thing. It’s time to stop practicing and time to start something.

Day One:

The big needles and the fluffy yarn ensured that this project would move along fairly quickly. However, it was pretty difficult to get my hands to acclimated to using the larger needles as all of my practice had been done on number 8 needles. A number 11 feels entirely different. I also noticed that I messed up at the beginning some. The corner on the bottom looks kind of crazy. But this yarn is fairly forgiving and it might be possible that no one would notice unless they were looking for it.

Fixing those ugly bar stools

When we moved into our apartment, we first had to deal with a lot of stuff that had been abandoned by the previous renters. The ugly couch and loveseat? Out to the curb. The microwave oven with stand? Out to the curb. The medicine cabinet still full of toothbrushes, toothpaste, other medicine cabinet things? Everything dumped into a bag, then sprayed down with Lysol several times. The elephant and giraffe shaped plant holders? They functioned as parking space markers until they were thrown away. The old tv? To my sister. The horribly ugly lamps? To my brother. The side table? To my brother. The strange giant beer stein? To my brother. (He’s a college student. He needs ugly stuff to fill out his apartment)

The ugly bar stools? I’ve got a plan to make them not-so-ugly.

I got the idea when I saw this person’s etsy page. I bet I could do that. It probably wouldn’t look nearly as good. But why not?

I found an outdated transit system map and proceeded to search for other maps. I tried to stay Chicago and/or Illinois related. Using one of the greatest crafting materials ever invented, I was able to cover these two ugly bar stools. They may not look great, but they look a lot better.

If you want to try this out, I have some suggestions. Don’t be afraid to get messy. This works best if you really get your hands in it. I tried just using a foam brush, but it just doesn’t work as well as getting your hands into the project. If you are doing a bar stool or a chair, do the underside first. Then be sure to cover the very top of the legs and the very bottom of the legs. Once those are done, you can stand the chair or bar stool up and work quickly. Try to pick a material that holds some significance for you. Perhaps newspapers from an important date? Maps from a family vacation? Or maybe you are looking for magazine clippings that are of the same color? That might look pretty cool, too. When complete, be sure to cover the entire thing with more adhesive to form a protective coating.

Have fun!

Learning to knit

My mom tried to teach me to crochet when I was younger.  I think that that lesson probably lasted twenty minutes.  It definitely didn’t take. Just because I didn’t catch on to one textile art, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t catch on to another, right?

After reading this book I got the idea in my head that perhaps I could learn how to knit.  I sent out a question via the social networking site asking if any of my friends knew how to knit and if any of them would be so kind as to try to teach me.  I wasn’t thinking that this would actually become anything.  I had no idea just how popular this idea was going to be.  Two of my friends volunteered to teach me the basics.  Erin was going to be my first teacher of the art of knitting.

After lesson number one, I was actually pleasantly surprised.  Not only was knitting fun, I felt like I was maybe…just maybe….actually good at it!  Who would’ve guessed?  Hours later, I had knitted a potholder!  A small potholder.  Or maybe it was more like a bathmat for the bathroom in Barbie’s townhouse.  But still, I had knitted something.  In one night I had completed a knitting project!

As can be expected, I soon became caught up with knitting fever.  I have begun to develop a nice callous on my finger.  I have put books on hold at the library.  I have made a shopping trip to pick up more yarn and a crochet hook to help pick up dropped stitches – And I know what a dropped stitch is!

This is the beginning of something, folks.  This is only the beginning.

Yarn

First attempt at knitting? Complete

The joys of a well stocked pantry

We went apple picking at Apple Holler in Wisconsin.  Other than Ryan’s bee sting on his neck at the end of the trip, it was great.  And we left with so many apples!  What does one do when you have a ton of apples?  You make a pie, obviously.

Baking apple pies is something that I feel I do have a knack for.  I have penciled in notes in my two editions of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  My mom has told me some of her tricks to make the perfect pie crust.  A great pie crust is really what makes a pie.  Without a great pie crust, you just have baked apples.  Nothing against baked apples.  I love baked apples.

So – on to the pie.  I have two editions of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  One from 1968 and one from 2005.  I have found that a combination of the apple pie recipes from both of these editions is my favorite pie.  I was all set to make the pie, when I realized that I was out or was running low on some of the bare necessities of baking.  I was actually running low on flour!  Since I was going to the grocery store anyways, I decided to do a small experiment.

If you have a well stocked pantry, the only cost that you will endure of baking a pie is the cost of apples and the time that it takes to prep.  A small apple pie from the bakery at the grocery store I went to cost $4.99.  And that was for an 8″ pie.  I could eat an 8″ pie in one sitting.  A frozen apple pie cost $8.00! You could make several pies for that same amount.  I was a bit surprised by the difference.

Now, on this particular occasion, I did not have a well stocked pantry.  I was out of almost everything.  In fact, the only things that I didn’t have to buy were apples and salt.  I had to pick up shortening, flour, sugar and butter.  When you add all of that expense together, it comes to about $12.00.  But I have yet to find a recipe that uses an entire pound of flour and that sack of flour is an investment in dozens of pies.   All that you would need to purchase for an apple pie would be the apples – approximately $4.00.  And for that cost, you get a homemade pie full of only ingredients that you recognize because you are the one that put them in the dessert.

I am not trying to say that the only good baked goods are the ones that you make from scratch from beginning to end.  I love buying baked goods!  Until I have mastered making meringue, the only lemon meringue pies that I will eat will come from the store.  However, if you have the time and the patience, why not give baking a try?  If the whole thing goes up in smoke, then you can always run to the store and pick up something from the bakery.

Oh – and if you have the time to pick up some caramel ice cream, that would be a good idea….