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Since I never seem to get around to sending out Christmas cards or letters, I decided to blog a bit to keep my fans updated. :-)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Puppy Love

No, I did not get a new pet. However, I did make a puppy birthday cake this week. It was requested by a dear friend for her 9-year-old, animal-lovin' daughter. I did a little research after the initial phone call and found lots of possibilities while looking at images on Google. Before committing myself to a particular cake, I checked back in with my friend to find out what her daughter's expectations were and laughed when I found out that her daughter was expecting Rice Krispie treats in the shape of a 9. Whew! I felt pretty confident I could top that!

Here's what I ended up with.

The dog body was made with half of a Wilton 3D Egg cake pan. I cut the legs and ears out from a separate cake and attached them with frosting.

The collar and tongue are made from Star burst candies, slightly warmed in the microwave and rolled out. The nose is made from dried blueberries.

The chocolate frosting was my favorite part -- I tried chocolate swiss buttercream for the first time and it will definitely not be the last. Wow! The recipe I used is from Martha Stewart. This recipe worked beautifully. The texture, flavor, and consistency reminded me of chocolate whipped cream with the added benefit of working well for cake decorating.

I made the frosting ahead of time and brought it back to room temp, then whipped it again before using it. I refrigerated the cake when I was done, and took it out a few hours before it was to be served. The frosting was silky smooth when the cake was served without wilting or disintegrating like whipped cream would.

One caution -- the recipe is not for the caloric faint-of-heart. While there isn't as much sugar as a buttercream frosting made with powdered sugar, it does have an obscene amount of butter!

If you are looking for a frosting that is easy to smooth out on a layer cake, such as a wedding cake, give this one a try. The base recipe is for a vanilla frosting. I made a batch of the vanilla tonight to see if I liked it as much as I like the chocolate version and it turned out beautifully. I did not go so far as to bake a cake just to try it out from a decorating standpoint, but will stash it in my freezer for the next cake or cupcake adventure that needs frosting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garden 2011

Yup. I picked out my plants on Friday and put them into my brand new raised garden beds on Saturday. If everything thrives, I will have some funky heirloom variety tomatoes and some standard hybrids. Yum! I also plant Japanese eggplant for the first time, and a few carrots. also for the first time. Add a few viney plants (melon, cukes, spaghetti squash) and a few peppers, and that's my garden.

Awhile ago I planted spinach and lettuce, and some of the lettuce looks like it is ready to be harvested this week -- wahoo!

The only down side to all of this is that I flooded my laundry room when I turned on the faucet outside to water the new plants. No carpet got wet, but it means I can't start up the swamp cooler or run the hose to the garden until the leak is repaired. I suspect something froze this winter. Sigh. Happily, it rained today so I won't need to figure out how to get water to the garden for a few days.

Keeping my fingers crossed that we are done with hard freezes this Spring!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not a fun day

My company laid off lots of employees today following last week's acquisition by another company. I am feeling very lucky to still be employed, but am sad to see the departure of colleagues I admire and with whom I have enjoyed working. There will be many voids for the remaining staff to fill.

Days like this are always unsettling. Most people seem to be taking it in stride, though it has been challenging to get any real work done.

I wish the best of luck to those who are parting ways with the company. You will be missed.