Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baking Tip

Baking Tip #4 - Smoothing Things Over

After you've iced the first layer of buttercream frosting on a cake (a la baking tip #3), you will need to apply the essential second layer. This should be thicker and will need to look flawlessly smooth. You have two options: 

  1. Spend 30 minutes trying to hide every little wave/line left behind by the icing spatula, only to give up on that last little mark
  2. Ensure that your frosting is level and equal on all sides of the cake. Then dip the icing spatula in a tall glass of water and smooth over all the imperfections. As soon as your spatula gets dry wipe off any icing and re-dip in the water. This technique removes the "stickyness" of the spatula and allows you to smooth the icing without leaving behind any final lift-off marks
This tip is one of my favorites because it really allows you to take your cake baking professionalism up a notch!

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

I've lived in Cleveland for just over three years now and have been to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo three times. Once, a year ago, for Twilight at the Zoo and then twice in the last three months for private tours of their new Elephant Crossing Exhibit. Why I don't work there as an animal caretaker, I do not know.

Driving by on I-71 you would never know the CMZ is there, aside from some minimal highway signage. Hidden away in a valley the CMZ is nothing humongous, but it's certainly an animal's paradise. The zoo makes me long to have children of my own that I can take on fun outings to educational destinations.

After our private tour, we made it to the back of the zoo where you'll find the polar bear and sea lions. At about the same time that I took the above video of a sassy sea lion, we looked up and noticed that a storm was about to open up on the city. Minutes later it began pouring. The hubby and I ran back to the car, drenched upon arrival. After placing my purse in the safety of the car I requested that he kiss me in the rain. He tried to convince me that kissing - in the car - in the rain is virtually the same thing, but I won. After all, we were already drenched.

And that's the beauty of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. An unexpected downpour not only doesn't ruin your visit, it enhances the atmosphere!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Green Tip

Letting your delicate clothes air dry not only keeps them looking better for longer, but saves the energy you would have used to dry them in the dryer. Plus, the sun is a natural yet delicate bleacher helping remove stains.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Baking Tip

Tip #3 - When icing a cake, first apply a thin layer of frosting to the entire cake and refrigerate until it sets. Then re-frost with a thicker layer. This will help avoid spreading those nearly unavoidable crumbs throughout the frosting on the more visible second layer.

Don't worry about making that first layer look professional. It's sole purpose is to serve as a base for the second.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today would have been my dad's 68th birthday. Personally, I'm not having too hard of a time with this day. I know the anniversary of his death will be much harder. Birthdays were always a celebration with him and always should be. 

On his birthday last year I called to wish him a HBD, play a crazy birthday song from YouTube over the phone (as I always do), and to discuss his present. We had all decided to splurge and get him an iPod. Typically we get him his favorite snacks, a book, clothes, whatever smaller presents we can think of. For some reason, now we know why, we wanted to go big. But we didn't know if he would want it or not. So I said, "we want to get you an iPod, but want to make sure that's something you would want." He asked to think about it for a bit. I expected him to be overly rational and thank me for the nice thought, but turn it down so we wouldn't have to spend the money. Quite contrarily he called back an hour later and said, "An iPod sounds fun". Just like that. Brief. No over-explanation. Very a-typical of him. Just, "An iPod sounds fun".

Plans begun for this iPod (he did nothing without planning), from the color to the size to what music he wanted on it. The plan was to give it to him while he visited with us in Cleveland over Labor Day Weekend. We would buy it in advance, my husband would register it and get it set it up, and then we would all sit on the back porch drinking beer and discussing what music he needs. I'm sure listening to the beginning of everything so he could revel in spending time with us.

I will always look at the iPod as the last present I never got to get my dad. Didn't even get to buy it. They make me sad now. Especially the green ones. My father in-law's birthday was right after my dad's and we got him a Kindle. I hated that Kindle. I hated that he got his present and my dad never got his. Even now, when he asks my husband questions on how to use it I want to break it. Rational, I know. 

I thought, what if we had just surprised him with an iPod on his birthday at his doorstep. What if he'd already had it and took it running with him that day in August. What if he hadn't heard the other runner say, "How are you doing?" Then he wouldn't have responded with, "It's all downhill from here." Maybe that was the statement that overexerted him just enough to cause his heart attack. What if what if what if. But also, what if he hadn't made that connection with the other runner and that runner didn't check on him when he heard him fall. Then there would be so many more what ifs. 

So although iPods and music in general make me sad now, I know that he's up there rocking out to the Rolling Stones on repeat and I can't help but smile and be happy.

Me, miss queen of the professional-looking b-day cakes, kept to what he would like. German Chocolate Cake, from a box, with a messily iced frosting, from a can.. This is purposefully not my best work, so don't judge.  He cared about taste, not appearance.