Saturday, June 26, 2010

It Takes the Cake!

On August 20, 1973 I spent the morning baking a chocolate cake, decorating the dining room with orange and white crepe paper streamers (Go Westlawn Bobcats!) because that was all I had. It was my parents anniversary and I was going to show them how grown up I was. I could pull off my very own surprise dessert.

I was 12 and it was their 13th anniversary. My dad was asleep (he worked nights) and my mom was at work. I scrounged for everything I could in the house, pantry and closet. I decided to use my own previous Cinderella and Prince Charming birthday figurines to top the cake. Perfect.

Now it is 2010 and my parents will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary this August. I decided to upgrade my baking skills and take cake decorating classes. I certainly didn't guess that this would open up a whole new world for me. I have found a calling that I am having a blast and my creativity is exploding. I absolutely love the creative flow and it is important for the cakes to taste good too.  No "just pretty" cakes here! Gotta have substance. Gotta go below the surface and dig deep. Looking good is important because that is what draws our eye to the cake in the first place! But once you get there, there's gotta be more.

Same thing in life. I have always believed in depth. More than just looking good. I can appreciate a good outfit, complimentary make up and the hair cut and color that rocks. Jewelry can be an especially critical accent (especially earrings). And don't forget the shoes. I have the perfect shoe for each out fit/mood that I'm in. They are all singularly exsquisite, but together, they can make the difference between cool, wow or fun!

After the first glimpse, though, there's gotta be more. Interesting facts, witty quips or long, deep conversations that pull hearts together for a moment or a lifetime. Ah-ha, that's it. Relationships. Connections. That's what I'm designed for.

Cakes have been a great celebration outlet for just that. Writing was one thing, but cakes, have an expiration. After I've written something, I will re-visit it time and time again. Tweaking, making it "more better!" Always something to correct. With cakes, when it's finished, I can tweak for a while, but at some point, we've got to eat it! And eating it is the point. I don't want something "too pretty to eat." I want it to be pretty, but come on, eat the thing. It tastes good too!

I've worked on flavors and fillings and icing to the point that I dream about them sometimes. "Does hazelnut chocolate really go with dutch chocolate buttercream?" I wonder in my twilight stages of sleep? Every detail matters to me. I wish it didn't sometimes, but it does. That is what makes me, me.

Details matter. Not all details, mind you, but the ones that do -- really do matter! Car parts for instance. Not that I can't appreciate torquing an engine head (because I have done it and know how important it is to buy the right torque wrench and torque each bolt just right, in order and then again -- IN ORDER), but I don't obsess over car stuff. Okay, so maybe I do find car part details important -- but I digress!

Digression is part of the details. As I expound any one detail, it will take me off into another arena of details that I hadn't considered or planned to go. How else can you start out discussing marriage, cakes and car engines and it all makes perfect sense?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sweet Satisfaction

I certainly have been caught off guard by this new found love for baking and decorating cakes. Who'd have thought this sweet line of sugar art would frost me with such sublime satisfaction? Not me. But it has.

I just wanted to make my cakes look pretty, and more importantly I wanted to surprise my parents this coming August by making their 50th Anniversary cake. Well, after seeing my first few cakes, my mom calls me up and asks, "So are you gonna make our cake for our anniversary?" That was her way of saying that what she had seen meant I was qualified!

My love of baking cakes started when I was 12. In 1973 my parents were celebrating their 13th Anniversary and I was trying to figure out how to make it special. I found a box of chocolate cake mix in the pantry and read the directions. My mom was at work that day and  voila, it began.

It turned out pretty good, but it just looked like a chocolate cake with some icing on it (that's all I knew how to do!). I found some plastic "Cinderella and Prince" cake figures that had topped some of my own cakes in the past and put the pair on top of the cake. I then scrounged through drawers and found orange and white crepe paper rolls left over from some Westlawn Junior High School project, and began streaming them from the dining room light. The scene was set for romance I'm sure! Well it was in my 12-year-old mind anyway.

I loved making that cake and when my mom came home, she was certainly surprised!

I made their anniversary cakes for years, but as I got older, I got interested in other things. But I always come back to making cakes and forget how much I really like it.

So this year, as their 50th Anniversary began rolling around, I wondered how I could make their cake special and make it look pretty. I found Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael's in Rockwall and tomorrow, I start course 2 of 4 one-month-long courses.

As I learn each step, I fall more and more in love with this sugar art, and I think that is what attracts me to it. I can get my creative juices flowing. There is an end, a completion to the cake. Unlike writing, where I continue to tweak and edit and re-write, cake decorating has a finality to it. I like that.

My goal is to not only make it look pretty, but to taste good too. I'm on a quest.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Creating Cakes and Cooking up Some Creative Concoctions

I have always loved making cakes. Ever since I was a kid and decided to make a cake for my parents anniversary. I didn't know how to pipe icing, but I could frost it with a butter knife like nobody's business. I've played with the icing tips and decorated cookies over the years,  but never really tried to do anything on a cake -- until now.

I enrolled in the Wilton Method Cake Decorating Class in Rockwall and I'm loving it. I have learned so much already and I really like my instructor -- as well as the other women in the class. They are from Farmersville, Crandall and Dallas. I'm from Greenville. So we are kinda scattered about. Just goes to show you that even us women in the small towns around Dallas want to know how to bake a good tastin' cake and make it look pretty too.

I cannot believe I am so pumped about putting colored icing onto a cake! But I am. I literally cannot wait until the next class! The next cake will be a clown cake. I think it will be quite cute. Of course, I never do anything exactly like the pictures.

For the flower cake above, I added the color flowers around the bottom edge and little leaves. I also jumped ahead and went ahead and "tied" a bow on the stems! After I got home and finished it (we learn the techniques in class, so we have to finish at home!), Alex's Easter candy that was still available looked so perfect with it.

I added one of the last 3 Peeps left and opened my chocolate bunny and added it to the top of the cake.They looked right at home and made the presentation so much better.

I cannot believe I have never purchased a turntable before, but it is the most prized cake implement I have purchased to date. It will come in handy for so much more I'm sure.

My instructor is Mary Shirley and she is awesome. I have found a niche that I love. I've even tossed around a cake business in my head. There's a ton of donut shops here in Greenville, but there's not really a bakery. Hmmmmmmmmmmm? Cartier Cakes? Kimmie Cakes? KimmiePie Creations? (I'm not a pie maker though, but I really like the KimmiePie thing!). Sugar Shock? Maybe not a full fledged bakery, perhaps just cakes, cup cakes and cookies? An just include whatever I enjoy making? Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Yummmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm?

I've already envisioned combining my love of collecting vintage Fiesta pottery with cakes. I eventually want to make a Fiesta cakescape? Watching "Ace of Cakes" and "Cake Boss" keeps me intrigues and inspires me to no end. I'm facinated with making mechanical cakes too. I've got to crawl first though. But I'm planning to run soon. Clear a path!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On a Mission: Columbia vs Colombia, Garage vs Tag

Saturday's Garage Sale is over and I'm halfway to Columbia! It is purposeful that I have garage sales only half a day. I used to start them on Friday and finish on Saturday, but in my experience, now I just have them half a day on Saturday. This one paid off!

I'm tempted to haul it all off to a donation or cause and forego the accumulation, pricing and all the work that goes into having a garage sale. However, because I was raising money for the Columbia mission trip, that helped me stay focused and I followed through with it. I raised $711.25 while I was at it.

Think about that, though. I really only had one big item -- a Broyhill queen bed, but most everything after that was $5, $1 or a quarter! Especially around 11 a.m., everything became $1 or a quarter! It was not going back into the house! That's a lot of . . . well, let's just call it stuff that is blessing someone else's home!  Actually, that was a good thing too! De-cluttering the house, raising money for missions. I'm multi-tasking my tennis shoes off! And for two very good causes -- people in Columbia and my home in Texas!

I knew I needed signs to direct people to the sale and had the posters all ready to go, but had not acquired the wooden stakes to "plant" them in the ground yet, when I got an idea from all the political campaign signs. Why not use wire instead of the wooden stake? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. I could fashion a clothes hanger, just like Martha Stewart if I planned it right. I planned how I would bend and tape it to the poster (clear strapping tape, at that). I'd use staples if the tape didn't work, but that was Plan B. On a trip to the hardware store I wondered how hog wire would work? Well, I found out that I had to buy enough to build several hog pens, so that wasn't a solution. Then the helpful cowboy in the store asked what I needed it for -- he quickly figured out I look like an "indoor girl" and thought it was pretty weird I was asking about hog wire in the first place. What he didn't know is that I was tomboy growing up and both my grandparents had farms (one even raised hogs) so I was well versed in what hog wire was used for and knew full well how to use it! But I digress.

He asked if the discarded wires from the rounds of hog wire would work and I said sure, if they are long enough. "How much are they," I asked.

"Nothing," he said. "Just go pick them up off the ground by the barn!"

I liked the price even better!

So I made little wire stands/stakes for my posters and they worked beautifully. I think they were a huge part of the success of the sale. The signs read: "Tag Sale" in huge, bold black block letters and my address appeared below it and an arrow pointing whichever direction was needed. The wire easily inserted into the ground and the ends stood straight so readers didn't have to read around the bend if the wind was blowing!

Now for those of you who think I was raised up north where they actually hold tag sales, let it be known that I am a southerner through and through. Here in Texas, we call them Garage Sales or Yard Sales. I had several people ask me what a Tag Sale was. Here's my explanation.

Martha Stewart refers to Tag Sales up north. "TAG" is easier and shorter to write on a sign than "GARAGE" or "YARD." So I went for brevity and easy. I figured everyone would figure it out. Seems like they did and I was spared the "So how much do you want for your garage?" and "This yard won't fit my house," comments! I think calling it a Tag Sale made everyone curious and added to the success of the sale. Meaning -- more $$$$.

I'm stoked about the sale and it exceeded my goal by $200 to boot! But in my excitement, I was posting to Facebook about how I'm halfway to Columbia. My good friend Alley asks me at church what I am going to do in DC. Alley is from Puerto Rico and has this amazing accent, so imagine her comments in PR English with Spanish cadence. I'm trying to figure out if I said something that didn't make sense to her or what. Why is she thinking I am going to DC?

"I'm going to Columbia," I said, "not DC."

"You mean, like South America?" She said.


"Then why do you spell it C-o-l-u-m-b-i-a?" she asked. "I saw on your Facebook post where you spelled it C-o-l-u-m . . ."

"That's how you spell Columbia," I said. Seriously thinking something is not connecting in her pretty little head.

"If you mean the District of Columbia," she said. "Colombia, South America is spelled . . ." and she began to write it out for me.

I just nodded, but secretly was wondering if there was an Internet connection somewhere so I could look it up. I had to wait until I got home, but did you know that by golly, she is correct? I had no idea there were two very different Columbia/Colombia locations. So, I am actually going to Colombia now, not Columbia!

I love discovering stuff like that!

So whether you call it a Garage Sale, a Yard Sale or a Tag Sale, it is still a sale to clear clutter from my home in Texas and raise money for missions to go to Colombia. Conversely, if you are going to Colombia, you are not going to Columbia!

Now, what can I do to get the remaining $700 for Colombia? Hmmmmmmmmm. I'm on a mission.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

It's only Tuesday, but I've already figured out that I am going to need more than a week to get this garage sale together!

Adjusting my schedule, accounting for Alex's robotics competitions, and his driving schedules, let's see. Hmmmmmmm.

I can squeeze it in on Saturday, March 27. It's a plan anyway.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mission: Cashing in on Garage Sale for Good Cause

Not sure if I've lost my ever-loving mind as some of my friends have concluded (and actually commented), but I feel called to go with several others from my church to Columbia this year. We'll be sleeping in tents, riding up and down the Amazon in little, tiny boats (unlike the cruise ships) and going from village to village.

Creature comforts that I am accustomed to will be nil. Nix the the hairdryer, curling iron and all the accrutiments that go with cute clothes and shoes! I'm kinda looking forward to no makeup and safari gear!

In order to help pay my way there, though, I am going to have a garage sale to get rid of stuff that is filling up my home. I'm having a garage sale/yard sale. Martha Stewart calls them tag sales and makes it sound a little higher class, but regardless of what you call it, I'm multi-tasking. While raising money to do something good for others, I am also trying to get rid of the "stuff" in my home that is cluttering it up and do something good for me! I love that.

Let me know if you have any words of wisdom for holding a yard sale. Any suggestions to make it more successful are most welcome. It's been a while since I've held one because they are so much hard work (and I swore I'd never have another one after each an every one I've had!). But this one is different.

I want to enjoy the process. Please pray for those whose lives will be affected by the trip. Pray for those who will be traveling with me and will have to put up with me (Jon will not be there to run interference for me!).  And pray for the sale to be successful and profitable.

Oh, in order to make it happen, I've scheduled the yard sale for next Saturday! It will keep me focused for the next 5 days!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Motivational Destiny

It was getting dark and the street signs were becoming more difficult to see. We no longer had any idea if we were closer or driving further away from our destination. Randoll Mill Rd. was supposed to be right there. But it wasn't. Where did it go?

We were not where we were supposed to be.

The workshop started 30 minutes ago, but Cindy McKinney and I finally arrived at our motivational destination. Missing street sign. Go figure.  "Finding the Creative Writing Genius Inside You" was turning out to be more than a motivational workshop! I have to confess, I was still a little giddy. It's been a while since I was a student, much less a writing student. Cindy and I were pumped on adrenaline and caffeine. Find that creative writer and unleash her. Let's go!

We arrived just in time for the good stuff. Yay!

It was good to be reminded of all those writing lessons long ago. Word clusters, web writing and word associations. Get the creative juices going and just put pen to paper. Don't worry about editing. Just let it flow.

I realized. Somewhere along the road to being a grown up, I had forgotten how to play along the way. I opted, instead, for safety. Safer to walk on the sidewalk than to risk driving into a ditch. Safety.

The instructor pops child development author Joseph Chilton Pearce's quote onto the wall: "To live the creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."

The fear of being wrong? That hurt.

I know that fear all too well. That fear has kept me safe, but uneffective. Safe, but unused. Safe, yet withering.

That's it. It's time to be a little reckless. It's time to use the good dishes. Time to make the difficult meals for my family, rather than just for company. Time to step up. It's time to risk denting the convertible and go somewhere. Take it out of the driveway.  Drive it to the store. Drive it on a curvy road with the top down just to enjoy the thrill of the wind on my face and the smell of freshly cut hay.

But aren't you supposed to be writing? Oh yeah.

We were late to the workshop because we had taken a wrong turn. Not the driver's fault. One missing sign meant we couldn't find the right road. We would have never arrived there if we hadn't stopped to get directions. We were wrong a lot that night!

In spite of wrong turns, it was still fun having someone to talk to while we were lost. Cindy and I chatted like junior high school girls at a slumber party.

That's it. I discovered the secret to being wrong. Be sure to have a friend. It makes the ride more enjoyable, even when you are lost and late.