Friday, February 27, 2009

Do Your Civic Duty!

We're going to have a little poll today on BeppyCat&Co. I decorated a practice cake yesterday to work out some ideas for the Baby Shower cake that I'm going to be making in a couple of weeks in MI for my sister in law. I divided the cake into quadrants and decorated each in a different way, and now you get to vote!!
Here is Choice A: Flowers in Swags with a Bottom Shell Border
The swags would most likely be longer and slightly deeper on the actual cakes, I was just sizing them to fit into my quadrant.

Choice B: Scattered Flowers with an "E-motion" bottom border

Choice C: Top and Bottom Borders of Flowers

And this one isn't in the running at all. I am really really terrible at string work, but I had another quadrant to fill, so I thought I'd try it. It is definately not going on the actual cakes.
So, there will be three cakes, displayed on this cake stand, and I was planning to decorate them all to match, unless you guys think having an odd one out would be really awesome.
Vote for your favorite style on the poll in the sidebar, or comment if you'd really like to argue for your favorite. I do reserve the right to override the vote if the mommy-to-be expresses an opinion, or if I suddenly decide one is easier than all the rest. :)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Check My New Banner!

My awesome little brother made it for me. Today's his birthday, and he gave ME a present.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why is it....

....that my practice cakes always turn out so much smoother than the real things?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It took all morning, but I finished a million little pastel drop flowers. This morning, I'm going to mix up another batch of royal icing, and do another section of yellow ones, because those yellow ones didn't really turn out very well. Then I need to add white center dots to each one of the flowers.

Other than cake decorations, I don't know what else I have to do today. I have some house cleaning to catch up on, like sweeping the floors, and I'm supposed to make soup for dinner, so I might also bake some rolls or foccacia to go along with the soup. Those things, plus cleaning up all the frosting messes and dishes should pretty much fill my day. I'm the messiest cake decorator!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Busy Season

Well, I realized this past weekend that the Winter is pretty much over for me starting now. No more lazy days of movies and knitting, I've got stuff to do.

Starting with the shower cake for my sil. I'll be working today on piping more decorations, since I got some piping bags, and I'm also rolling, cutting and baking cookies for the decorations, and coating and decorating those. I'm going to try freezing them and see how they hold up. If they won't freeze very well, I'll have to change my plan a bit, since I can't really keep them for three weeks.

Ben's birthday is at the end of this week. I bought him a present instead of making something this year, but I still might make him a little something and he wants a German Chocolate cake. With my big mixer broken, I think I'll make the cake part with a mix, instead of from scratch. But the frosting is the best part of German chocolate, and it'll be from scratch.

I'll be gone to visit family for a while for the shower, then I'll be back and it'll be my birthday, and then we'll be having company, and in April, I'm going to be sewing a First Communion Dress for my niece, and in May flying back to MI for the First Communion and to be her Confirmation sponsor (I'm very excited and flattered about that!). Also during that time, it'll be time to start seeds and prepare the garden and start mowing the lawn.

We're also thinking about starting to sell baked goods at the Farmers' Market, so that will add quite a bit of kitchen work this summer, if we do decide to try it out. Ben's got a very big garden planned this year too, so hopefully, there will be lots of work to do in preserving all our produce.

I haven't lived a seasonal life since I was in school, and that was usually the opposite sort of feeling, with winter being busy and summer being slow. It's a strange feeling to actually have a busy season, but I'm glad for it as well. As much as I really enjoyed my Jan/Feb reprieve of having lots of time for sitting and knitting and being slow, I really do like to get moving and get some more active work finished. I suppose my only regret is that I didn't actually get much knitting finished, though I'm still hoping to be able to squeeze some in here and there. I mean, no matter how busy we get, we still manage to watch a movie or two together most weeks. I'll have to be more like my knitting foremothers and take more to heart the line about not having idle hands.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Breakfast Pizza

This breakfast pizza is our regular pizza dough recipe (we use the dough in this recipe), which is pre baked, then topped, and put back in the oven to finish. Ben topped his side with leftover Sausage Gravy, peppers, onions, leftover baked potato, soft cooked scrambled eggs and a little cheddar cheese. Mine is spread with homemade cheese spread, peppers, onions, soft scrambled eggs, leftover bacon, and some cheddar cheese. I gotta say, this was super yummy, and we both really enjoyed the leftover, re-heated portions as well, so it was a good make-ahead. The cheese spread on my side did get way too brown in the little spots on the edges where it wasn't covered by other ingredients, so that's something to watch.

I did get lots of my goals finished yesterday, but some had to be put on pause as well. I made up a batch of royal icing and colored some, then I realized that I'm out of piping bags. I tried using a ziploc instead, but it burst open, and I made a mess. So all the icing went into the fridge till I can get some real piping bags. (Yeah, I know that real pastry chefs fold them out of parchment paper, but I so cannot do that.) I'm going to get a couple of the reusable ones. I've wanted those instead of the disposable ones for a while, but I was waiting to finish the pack I had. That one pack lasted for years! Anyway, I got a few flowers piped, but most of them are terrible blobs, because I had very little control with the ziploc bag.

I did a lot of knitting too. It's a little discouraging just how long it takes me to knit an inch on this vest for Ben. It's a long way around on each row, with thin yarn. I don't know that I'll every knit a big guy sweater on size four needles again. But I really want to get this project done before spring. I'll feel good if I can finish at least one big knitting project in the winter. I never really have time to knit and sew in the spring and summer, with all the lawn mowing and such.

Today, Ben's got his check up with the dr, so I might tag along and go to the library and head to Michael's to pick up supplies for the cake decorating. I'm also going to make some muffins to share with our friend Ken, since he's coming over tomorrow. I guess we're all going to check out a farm store in the area. Sometimes I wonder about our sense of fun.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Broiled Coconut Topping Cake

My mom used to make this with a Bisquick recipe, but here's a from-scratch recipe for pretty much the same cake from my Betty Crocker cookbook.

For the cake:
Beat together for 3 minutes on high speed
1 1/4 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Butter, softened
3/4 Cup Milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Large Egg
and pour into a greased and floured 8X8 Square pan or one 9inch Round pan. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

Mix up the frosting:
1 Cup Flaked Coconut
1/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Milk
And spread it on the still warm cake. Place under broiler for about two minutes until the frosting begins to brown.
Serve warm or cooled.

I made this for Ben's Valentine's present on Friday. It's a yummy buttery type cake, and if you like coconut, you'll absolutely love it.

In non-cake news, I've just been doing a little of this and a little of that. Yesterday I visited with the neighbor, and did a lot of knitting. I'm really wanting to get Ben's sweater vest finished before it gets too hot out for him to wear it.

Today I cleaned the fridge out and am planning to do some kitchen prep things, like replenish the veggie tray and make some muffins and crackers for snacks this weekend. I'm looking forward to catching up on Lost this afternoon (though, seriously, enough with the time jumping).

I also have to practice some cake decorating sometime very soon. I'm in charge of the cake for my SIL's baby shower in March, and since I'll have to make it in my mom's kitchen and take it to my MIL's house, I'm hoping to get a lot of the decorations made with royal icing and finished ahead of time. I would like to get to practice it at least once before hand as well, but that's a lot of cake to have around. Then again, Ben's never ever complained about too much cake before. And I could always get him to take it to work so we wouldn't eat it all. I'm thinking I might make up a batch of royal icing and start piping flowers today, so that'll be out of the way.

So I guess I'm busier than I'd thought when I got up this morning and the most ambitious thing I was planning on was to wash the dishes. Oh well, that's what to do lists are for... so I don't fool myself into thinking I've got nothing to do!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Presidents' Day Adventures

Yesterday Ben and I took a little day trip to Springfield, IL. It was a pretty sunny day, though pretty chilly, and a great way to spend a day off.

One of the site we saw while we were there was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. This is the house that Lincoln lived in with Mary and their boys while he was practicing law in Springfield. They lived here for seventeen years (until they moved to Washington), and it's the only house he ever owned.

This is Mary Lincoln's actualy cookstove. It was never moved out and replaced. I was soooo itching to touch it. I wonder if they ever have reenactors that get to use it? I forgot to ask the ranger who gave us the tour. I sort of doubt they would ever light a fire in it though... seems like that would be some sort of insurance liability or something, to light a fire in such an historical house.

And here is my hand touching the banister that Abraham Lincoln touched. The banister is also dates back to when the Lincolns lived in the house, so I got to touch something they all touched. It was cool. Ben laughed at me when I took this picture, but I told him it would be the highlight of my "We went to Abraham Lincoln's House Where He Used To Live in Springfield" scrapbook.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

I cleaned the heck out of my room.

It was actually much messier than I thought it was. But I dusted and polished and swept and mopped, sorted and cleaned and decluttered and put away. It really did take all morning, but I finished around 1, and I'm so happy with the results. I think Ben was pretty glad to see everything so clean and organized as well.
It's easy to forget to clean the bedroom, since company doesn't usually see it, and we ourselves don't actually spend much time in there, compared to the more common rooms of the house. But it's an important room to keep organized. The bedroom is where we start and end our days, and where couples spend time alone together. It's where we relax and rest and actually where I do a lot of my planning, since I like to think through projects as I'm falling asleep or waking up. I think those things are all worthy of taking place in a lovely organized space, with lots of pretty things to look at.
I think that I will spend the morning today embroidering, and finishing the audiobook I'm listening to. This afternoon, I'm going to get things ready for pizza night (grate the cheese, chop veggies, make the dough) and maybe bake a surprise for Valentine's Day. I didn't get Ben a gift, because he says Valentine's is for girls... as in, it's a time for boys to get girls presents and girls to be spoiled. But I did do the huge spring cleaning job on our room as a sort of a gift to him, and I'll bake a special treat as well. I'm thinking chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing. That's one of his favorite treats.
In addition to Valentine's Day tomorrow, this is also a three day weekend, thanks to Presidents' Day on Monday. Yay, three day weekend! Ben said maybe we'd take a drive and go on a day trip sometime, so I think I'll also get some snacks together for that. Like cut veggies, bread for pb&j and sliced cheese. I'm eagerly looking forward to getting this weekend started!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Best Homemade Tarp Ever!

No more escaping chickens! Here is my tarp made of Duraweave bags to cover the opening in the top of the chickens yard.

I can't get over how perfectly it came out to use three feed bags and the one smaller Tidy Cats bag. But I guess I'm a dork like that.

I just love these grommets. They're the kind with two pieces and I reinforced the back of the canvas with felt to help the grommet have thickness to grasp. I think they're very secure.

The whole tarp is about 4 feet by 10 feet. I opened the empty bags flat, washed and wiped them clean and then just sewed them end to end. I mentioned the other day that they were too unwieldly and slippery to go through the machine, so I ended up stitching them by hand. It took longer than I had planned to get finished that way, but I've been putting off making it since August, so getting done at all was an accomplishment, lol.
I've got some ambitious plans for myself today. I'm going to clean my bedroom! I know, that doesn't sound ambitious, but our bedroom, though it's not terribly messy, has lots of random things that really belong somewhere else. So, I'm going to actually find places for all those things and hang the pictures and clean the knick knacks. Plus, there's my jewelry box and makeup and hair things to sort, so though not difficult, those can be time consuming. I'm just telling you all to hold myself accountable to actually finishing!
I think it'll be a good day to take care of this chore because it's supposed to be pretty warm, so I can open the windows and air the place out a bit as well. I'd love to come up with some great idea for hiding the litter boxes as well. Maybe I could make privacy curtains or something. Anyway, I'm just procrastinating now, so I'd better get to work. The sooner I finish, the sooner I get to work on something more fun, like embroidery!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are you ready?

I scheduled applesauce muffins for breakfast the rest of the week, and I decided to start getting prepared for Valentine's Day. I also was really glad to take advantage of the chance to use the lovely heart shaped muffin pan that my east coast in-laws gave me for Christmas.
Today was the monthly homemaker's meeting. It was a very nice time, and the lady hosting had her house decorated so nicely for Valentine's. There were red hearts all over, it was nice to see. I love to decorate for the little holidays too.
There were thunderstorms and high winds and heavy rains all last night and today, so things outside are completely soggy. The chickens are fairly well sheltered, so we don't have any mad wet hens. They seem to hate the snow much more.
I think there's something living in the attic, and I'm tempted to let the cats up to get it, but I'm sure that would just compound things when I end up with a cat stuck in the attic and living up there. Live traps, it is, I guess.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Finished Sock

I got my toe-up sock finished!

The top looks ruffly, but that's because the cast-off has to be pretty loose in order to stretch enough for my leg.

Here is a close-up of the increasing on the back of the leg. I hesitated a while trying to figure out how to increase in the rib patter, and once I tried it, it proved to be pretty easy. I should put theory to test more often.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Warm Spell

The weather has been very nice the last couple of days, and everything outside is thawed and soggy now. I'm concerned the chicken coop might sink into the mud so much that'll it'll be really difficult to move later, but I suppose if that happens, we can just dig it out. I don't know what I could do to prevent it, though next year, I might have to plan ahead when we park it and put it on some planks to keep the wheels free.

This morning, Big Mama chicken was out of the coop again, having slept under the deck. She gets her self out through the opening in the chicken wire at the top of their extension yard and then can't get back in for bedtime. So, I spent the day making a tarp to cover the top of the yard. I used the duraweave bags that the feed comes in, cut them open flat and sewed them end to end. They were too slippery and the whole thing was too unwieldly to go through the machine, so I ended up sewing them with really strong button thread by hand with a backstitch. Three chicken feed bags and a Tidy Cat's bag made a tarp just the right size. I sew felt to each corner to reinforce and grip the grommets, and when Ben comes home, we'll pound grommets in on each corner. I'll post some pictures later this week after we get it in place. It'll be good to have to keep them in, but it's going to be really nice for some extra shade this summer.

I was supposed to make a roast chicken for dinner today, but it hasn't thawed yet. I never seem to take enough thawing days into account when I get things out for dinner. I did a little switching with my menu, and we'll have beans and rice instead, and by tomorrow my chicken should be thawed just fine.

Other than sewing feed bags together by hand (I'm insane, aren't I? You can tell me.), I'm just doing laundry and finishing up my toe up sock. I'm really pleased with the increasing, and hopefully, I'll be industrious enough to finish it this afternoon, and get to post pictures of it tomorrow. I don't know why I put it off so long, it's finished up pretty quickly, and I can't wait to get started on the matching one.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

A Present!! And news from the coop.

Today I'm showing off a project that I didn't make!

My mom made this great blanket for us. I really love it, because I'm kind of a St. Patrick's Day freak. It's super warm, because it's two layers of fleece, and it induces naps.
I just love it when people make me things. It's funny because I've heard a few times that people don't make me things because they think I'm so good at making things that I wouldn't like what they would make. But that's so far from the truth! I make people things because I LIKE handmade gifts, so that's what I would like to get too. I guess most people give the things they'd really like to get.
In other news, this morning when I went to let the chickens out of their coop, I heard weird noises from under the deck. I waited to see if it was the neighbor's cat or a bunny, and out walks one of my hens! I guess she got herself out of the pen yesterday and couldn't get back in at bed time. I'm pretty glad she found a fairly safe place to sleep and nothing got her. And that it wasn't as cold as it has been, or she might have frozen out on her own! She's safe in the pen again with her sisters. I'm definately going to have to finish making that tarp for the top of the pen to stop these excaping chickens!
We don't have a problem with too many eggs anymore. I posted on Craigslist and found a good steady customer. Now we sell every egg, and we haven't been eating too many. I think it might be time to think about replacing the lost hen and maybe adding another for seven or eight chickens total. Anyone have any advice about introducing some new chickens to our tiny flock? I know they should at least be full grown, and I've heard that if we put them in at night, things will go better. Is it worth trying, or not worth the risk?

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Better Day and A Toe Up Sock

Well, no frozen pipes today, and Ben's going to be back in town tonight. My neck is feeling a ton better, and the sun is shining. Things are definately looking up.

Yesterday wasn't all that bad a day actually, after the water came back on and I was sure there weren't any burst pipes. I got an America's Test Kitchen dvd from Netflix, and it was really great! The same people who make Cook's Illustrated Magazine and Cooks' Country Magazine make the show for PBS, and it is a really good cooking show. You can watch some samples of it free at their website. I seriously want to try the chicken and dumplings.

I knit quite a bit on Ben's vest yesterday, but since it's about a million millions of tan stockinette, I can't really tell. So today I've got the urge to work on something that I'll really be able to see some progress with. I pulled this toe-up sock out of my stash, and I'm hoping to finish it this afternoon. I started it quite a long time ago, but it had to get packed when we moved here from AZ, so it was sort of shuffled to the back and forgotten. I'm planning to do the cuff in a simple two by two ribbing, but I'm going to keep a single rib centered in the back and increase on either side of it for my calf. I'll just make it as long as I have yarn left in the skein. Then the only trick will be finding the magazine with the pattern in it, so I can make the matching one!

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I just wanted to make a quick check-in, so you all won't think I've dropped off the planet, but it's been a crazy few days. I'll have to make a complete update later, but for now, here's today's crazy:

Ben was away last night and this morning when I got up, there was no water coming out of any of the taps in any part of the house! I called plumbers and they suggested calling the water company first to make sure it wasn't the meter. I called, but they still haven't gotten out here yet. I had all the taps open to relieve the pressure, in case it was the pipes, and there was not even a drip for an hour or two. Then, all of a sudden, there was a big rumbling/grinding/vibrating noise, and the water was back on in all the taps again. This frozen pipe thing is enough to drive me crazy! The water company is still going to come out and check that it wasn't a problem on their end. I've checked the crawlspace, and it's pretty warm down there, and I don't hear any dripping, so I'm pretty sure there's no burst pipes down there. Plus, our meter isn't running, so I doubt there's a leak.

Anyway, other than crazy water problems, I've got a pinched nerve or pulled muscle in my neck, so I'm planning a movie day with my heating pad. Don't feel too bad for me, it's the perfect excuse not to clean anything and to catch up on my favorite tv shows and netflix movies! I might even knit, if I can work out the kink in my shoulder.

Hopefully, I'll be back to business as usually here on my blog by tomorrow.

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