Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So I've got a couple of sewing projects coming up. I still have to finish my Ghawazee coat for Friday. I'll probably work on that today when I get home from school. I'm still working on the muslin mock up to get the pattern right before I cut into my nice fabric.

Kyra also wants me to make her a black and pink tutu for Bats Day so I have to remember to pick up tulle at Joanne's sometime this week. I also noticed that I have some leftover red stretchy velvet fabric from one of Skeeve's skirts. I was thinking of making some traditional arm warmers for God and Skeeve. I'm sure Skeeve could use them in Washington.

Oh, Denise just showed up. I think I'll talk to her now. Ok bye.

Update: *sigh* Making patterns is hard. I may want to start thinking about other options if I don't finish this coat in time for Friday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In which cupcakes are made and Australians are insulted

So Thursday night I made cupcakes for this going away party God was having for one of her coworkers. I was told that the lady in question was originally from Australia and was moving to Colorado. So I was requested to make something incorporating both those places. Um...ok, we'll deal with that one later. I decided I was going to make red velvet and pumpkin cupcakes since I'd been wanting to try out those two recipes.

Let me take this moment to explain just how much I hate my oven. Years ago, the original knob that controls the temperature fell off and was never seen again. For a time we had an oven thermometer in there so we could more or less gauge the temperature. Then that thing broke and we haven't been able to find another one. I tried to explain to God how she could use a remote thermometer a la Alton Brown but she was having none of it. So now whenever I want to bake something it's anyone's guess what the actual temperature is. Generally the knob has to be about 100 degrees higher than the temperature you want. So if you're trying to bake your cupcakes at 350 you want the knob to be somewhere around 450. Even so it's still anyone's guess.

So with that in mind I preheated the oven to somewhere around 350 and started baking. Red velvet cake is the most fattening cake in existence. I didn't truly realize this until I made it myself. It contains 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil, 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk, and three eggs. With this much fat going into the mix you can bet it's going to be a tasty cake. The whole thing smelled a bit odd at first because of the buttermilk and vinegar and such. But as soon as the sugar and cocoa powder went in it was all good. I ran out of red food coloring at this point and had to run up to the store in my PJs to grab some. Luckily I found a container of just red coloring, which was all I needed, and hurried back home.

It took two tablespoons plus two teaspoons of food coloring to give the batter that deep red color. Then it was time to taste the batter because....well, who doesn't? It was nummy. Sweet and delicious and slightly tangy. Into the paper lined cupcake pan and then into the oven. While the cupcakes were baking away it was time to get started on the cream cheese frosting.

I had no idea my frosting recipe would yield quite as much as it did. Two gianourmous bowls of the stuff. I guess I should have seen it coming. It was basically a pound of butter, a pound and a half of cream cheese, two pounds of sugar and some vanilla and it was gooooooood. Like omg party in your mouth good. So I covered the frosting and put it in the fridge so I could get started on the pumpkin cupcakes.

I have to say the pumpkin cupcake recipe I got from cooks.com was very badly written. In the process of making the cupcakes I forgot one of the ingredients because it didn't say in the recipe when to add it. It was in the ingredient list but never mentioned in the actual instructions. Weird. So those went into the oven and the red velvets came out. After cooling it was time to frost. I did almost half of them before I realized that if I frosted them all now with cream cheese frosting they'd all have to go in the fridge. Oops. I put the ones I did frost in the outside fridge and decided I'd do the rest in the morning right before I left. I gave God one of the red velvets to taste. She didn't like it. I thought they were fine. I wound up overcooking the pumpkin. They didn't actually burn per say, but they got a little too brown on top which made them chewier than they were supposed to be. I decided I would make a fresh batch in the morning as it was starting to get a bit late.

I still had to make this thing that would incorporate Australia and Colorado. Well...Australia has kangaroos and Colorado has...um...snow. So guess what she got. Yup. A skiing kangaroo. I pulled out the gum paste and food coloring and got started. It takes a while to get the color you really want because every time you add food coloring you have to tirelessly knead it in to the gum paste. Eventually I got the brown to a point where it resembled kangaroo fur. At least as close as I could bring myself to care cause I really didn't want to knead this sticky stuff anymore. So I got the body of the kangaroo more or less shaped, securing it with toothpicks where necessary. Then I got some pink coloring and kneaded it into a small ball of gumpaste and shaped a matching hat, scarf, and nose. For the skis, I just added black powder to the leftover brown until it was a darker color. For the ski poles I decided to use chocolate pocky. I thought this was a brilliant idea until I opened the package.

See that? That's what old pocky looks like. The chocolate was oxidized and the biscuits were two immovable bricks of fused biscuits. It was a sad sight indeed. This is why you never buy pocky or other asian treats at the mainstream supermarket it you can help it. Don't ask me how, but I managed to pry off a couple biscuits for ski poles. It wasn't easy, but it worked. More or less. And here is the fruit of my labors, a kangaroo which I have fondly named Hobo Joe.

It's ok, you can say it. He looks like a hunched over old hobo trying to find his way back to his nice warm box in the middle of a snowstorm. I didn't beat myself up over this or anything, this was after all my first time working with gum paste. It's just that I couldn't stop laughing at myself. Just look at him. Any minute now he's going to ask me for spare change.

Here's a couple more shots from different angles so you can get the full impression:

Chaaaaaange! Chaaaaange! Spare some change?! Aw c'mon help a marsupial out, will ya? Chaaange!

Ahem. Seriously though. I considered writing a note to this poor lady saying something along the lines of "Please forgive me for insulting your country." Now that that's out of my system I'll get on with the story. The next morning I tossed out the dead pumpkin cupcakes and tried again. This time I added the missing ingredient. I also took out about half the cream cheese frosting to modify it for the pumpkin cupcakes. Basically all I did was add some pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste. It came out really good. Better than the Starbucks stuff. Luckily the cupcakes came out beautifully! I must have had the oven at a good temperature or something. I didn't actually get to taste them but they were more like muffins than cupcakes. That's ok, pumpkin is like that. Once those cooled I frosted all the cupcakes and wrapped them up in cookie sheets and left for Pt. Fermin.

Only one or two cupcakes got their frosting smeared which is pretty good considering I didn't have Skeeve to help me transport this time. I even managed to get them into the teacher's lounge without dropping anything. Here's the finished product. Taken with my cell phone, sorries.

Here we have pumpkin.


And the amazing Joe, the cupcake skiing kangaroo hobo!

Wow, let's get an aerial shot of that, Bob. Just look at that form!

God told me the cupcakes were a big hit. The nice lady they were having this party for actually cried (in a good way!). She wanted to know if there was some way she could preserve the kangaroo. Well damn, if she wanted something she could keep I would have been more than happy to make her one out of modeling clay. It would have been a whole hell of a lot easier. I told God it should be fine if she just lets the gum paste dry out. She can probably paint a clear glaze over it if she wants to try and keep it from cracking. God tells me I have four more requests for business cards from her coworkers. So I guess I'll throw together some business cards until Skeeve gets some artwork to me. Then I will have awesome business cards ^.^

I think I'm gonna make more pumpkin muffins. I have leftover cream cheese frosting that needs to be used up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hey look, no TB!

Got my TB test read today and the good news is I still don't have tuberculosis. Yaaaay! Now they'll let me volunteer to work with children again. I also got my flu shot taken care of while I was in the nurse's office. Now there went $10 well spent. Check out my rockin' 90s band-aid! I know you can't see it very well, but it's got the classic 90s palate of neon yellow, pink, green, and blue. It has pink flamingoes and yellow airplanes on it. Ah, childhood.

According to the paperwork I filled out volunteers from grades k-12 in LAUSD are exempt from taking a TB test, which explains why I never had to have one before in all my years of volunteering at Pt. Fermin. Of course it took them a few years to realize I was over 18 and had to go through the adult volunteer process. But to be fair, I wasn't volunteering during college quite as often as I was in high school. So I can sort of see why it took them a while to go, "Heeeey, hang on a minute..."

In other news, God, Richard, and I are all going down to the AT&T store in a short while to get new phones. Finally!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

C is for Cookies!

I told you I'd get to use my new cookie cutter. I made a batch of Alton Brown's sugar cookies for the faculty at Pt. Fermin. Usually I make sugar and pumpkin cookies for Skeeve, Eden, and their husbands during Halloween and Christmas. But it's a bit difficult to ship homemade cookies in the mail. Then again, the sugar cookies would probably last a few days in the mail. I'll probably attempt to ship some for Christmas.

Here's a picture of the cookies side by side. They're frosted with royal icing, which is the worst tasting icing in the history of baking but it's good for making sprinkles stick. It's made from egg whites and powdered sugar and is basically the glue of the baking world. This is the stuff they use to put gingerbread houses and other such sculptures together. The good news is you can't really taste it once it's on the cookie. Just don't try to eat it by itself cause--ewww. I had some leftover melting chocolate so I decided to use that for the jack o' lantern faces and the detail on the hats in lieu of frosting. I'm pretty happy with the way they came out. But I have got to find some other kind of stiff drying frosting to use instead of royal icing.

I'm currently working on a ghawazee coat so I can wear my tribal belly dance garb for Halloween. I'm working with my own pattern which can be seen in progress to the left. Once I get the pattern down with muslin I'll move on to the pretty fabric. Traditionally the ghawazee coat is attributed to parts of Egypt, where they quite liked stripes. The Turks had a similar garment called an entari and they were open to more paisley patterns. The pattern I'm using is probably more victorian than anything else but I rather like it. Ghawazee coats are made from pretty much anything these days (unless you're in the SCA). It'll look neat when I'm done with it. The nice thing about American Tribal Style belly dance is that the idea is to recreate the look and feel of tribal aesthetics, not necessarily being 100% accurate.

Here's a picture of the fabric along with one of the clasps I'll be using. I don't know that I'll try making this garment again because my version is going to be rather simple. I'd love to have a fully lined coat some day made of some kind of brocade. But those cost something in the realm of $80. Maybe one day. We'll see.