Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ho-ho-hopping Back into the Blog

Yep, about once a month--I was right. So, here I am again, squeezing in a blog entry between running errands in advance of the ever-approaching Christmas countdown. Since I last wrote, I've hosted a cookie-decorating party for 13 squealing kindergarten girls--which was enormous fun! I organized the party because I had about 2 pounds of Swiss Meringue Buttercream left from Thanksgiving baking. The SWB frosting recipe came courtesy of my awesome cake decorating class. We learned that, chocolate ganache, cream cheese, and royal icings. Plus basic simple syrup and foundation mousse recipes so that we can dress those up as desired. I also learned how to make chocolate plastic. The first complete cake I made (chocolate cake with coffee syrup, chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache icing and white chocolate magnolias) cracked in half on the drive home. But, it still make great eating! We ate half and my office ate the other half . . . literally in minutes. Here are some of the other cakes I've made:

Two Christmas party/gift cakes: chocolate with coffee syrup, raspberry mousse filling, chocolate ganache icing and chocolate cream cheese piping. One's an 8 inch; the other a 9 inch.

This was our final class cake: white with simple syrup, italian cream filling, swiss buttercream frosting and piping, gold-dusted royal icing snowflakes, and a fondant poinsettia. I had so much fun in the class and now feel super-confident in making cakes that look great and taste delicious. The baker who taught the class has a mantra that the cake comes first, the decorations second--so she uses fondant sparingly and focuses on yummy frostings.

And, of course, the first thing I did after finishing the class was sign up for Weight Watchers . . . seriously. Not because of the class, really, but because I need to shed some "makes me tired" weight. I have pear-shaped genetics, so I'm not kidding myself, these hips aren't going anywhere. But, I can be more mid-sized and energetic.

I've also managed to complete one new quilt top. This one's based on the "baby cakes" quilt in one of the newer jelly roll quilt books (can't remember the title and it's upstairs). I increased the number of blocks and used some extra strips for the border rather than go with the big, single fabric one in the pattern. I simply paired strips and then cut each into 2-4 pieces at random to get a staggered set of seams and some border movement. I used 2 jelly rolls for the quilt--one Shangri-La and one Allspice Tapestry--and have enough strips left for binding and another small project. I really like how the two different fabric lines play off each other; the contrast between the more romantic one and the more stylized one gives the interplay a good energy.

I listened to Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up" while I sewed this quilt. I really recommend it; he reads the book and his voice gives life to the memoir wonderfully.

I have one other quilt to finish this break--a baby quilt. Then, back to my own projects.

Now, off to watch the stunning conclusion of "Clash of the Choirs"--otherwise known as, "What Won't I Watch During the Writers' Strike?" or "Just Give it to Patti LaBelle."