Cake!

I used to dislike baking. Too much science. You have to get the proportions right or things go really wrong. Not like ‘not my favorite dish’ wrong, like ‘that wasn’t supposed to be a pancake’ wrong. But sometime in the last couple of years I decided that if my sister could bake, so could I. We both have about the same genetic material. I should be able to do it. So my cakes have been getting progressively more elaborate.

I’ve planned my husband’s birthday cake this year doing a couple of things I haven’t done before and I’m afraid I may have overdone it. Since he does most of the shopping I decided it would be easier to tell him what I was doing instead of trying to surprise him. I’m making chocolate coffee cake with chocolate ganache and mochoa creme frosting. The best part is that he seems to like the idea of a chocolate-coffee flavored cake. But I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve never made ganache before and I’ve heard it can be tricky. I also never tried to modify the flavor of a cake before. I’m planning on using Starbucks Via and I can’t find much on using it baking. From what I’ve found, you use it more like a spice, mixing it with your dry ingredients, but there’s no info on how much of it to use. Oh boy! Improvisational baking. ‘Cause that’s worked out so well in the past. I’ll err on the low side and add more to the batter if necessary. I’ll bake the cake tonight and frost it tomorrow. And find someplace to hide it from my cat in the meantime. One time I made a cake, set it on the table and started to walk away. Before I had gone two steps she had jumped up on the table and taken a bite. Finding someplace cat-proof is a necessity.

Sugar

A co-worker and I have agreed to give up sugar for thirty days. My co-worker is going whole hog and trying to cut out ALL sugar. No fruit, nothing. I’m just trying to cut out candy, ice cream and processed food high in sugar.

I’ve been having some odd what I think are side effects. My mood fell down a well. Everything seemed like a tragedy. Now I have moods like everyone else, sometimes up, sometimes down, but I don’t usually have wide swings. Sleep was disrupted, too. As of today, that seems to have subsided. My mood is back to normal, been sleeping OK. On the plus side, my appetite seems to have decreased and while sweets are tempting, they are resistible. It really helps my will power that I’ve said that I won’t.

This is how I managed to start bringing my lunch. I said I wasn’t going to have fast food for thirty days, so I had to. Now I bring a simple, easily packed lunch almost every day. And I almost always eat it.

Rainy weekend

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We did our annual family vacation this weekend. Usually we do a beach thing, but this year we rented a house on a vineyard, miles from anywhere. Getting there was a nightmare, with the main way to get there closed by mudslides and being caught in traffic for hours only to have to turn around and go back the way we came.

We did finally get there and the house made up for a lot. We’ve rented a lot of houses over the years, this one was the best equipped so far. Rental houses go from having everything to having darn near nothing, and you don’t find out until you get there which it’s going to be. Mom, sister and I each make one dinner with breakfasts and lunches being a group effort. It’s actually kind of fun cooking in a group. Much easier to get dinner on the table for a large group when you have enough people to handle each aspect.

Of necessity we spent most of our time indoors, but we did have a half day of sunshine. I went walking around the property, enjoying being outside with no other people within view. I spent half an hour sitting at the edge of a dirt road, watching and listening.

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That half day made the weekend for me.

The rest of the time we sat around the house, watching the rain come down outside. We put together a couple of jigsaw puzzles, played charades and Heads Up. We’re a very exciting group. But it was actually nice not to have a big agenda. Getting everyone organized to go shopping or out to eat can end up being quite a production, especially since Mom’s in a wheelchair.

First weekend of the new year

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Made what Mom called 24 hour salad this weekend. I think most people would call it Ambrosia Salad, which I can’t think of without thinking of Edward Scissorhands. It consists of whipped cream and canned fruit and would never be something I would choose to make.

I also did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I downloaded a recording app to my phone and asked Mom questions about family history and recorded the ensuing conversation. Her answer to my questions weren’t what I was expecting. Which is the point, when you think of it. We’re getting together for my nephew’s birthday on Saturday. I’m going to go a little early and see if I can get another question answered. She’s been looking so frail and feeling so poorly lately, this is not something I want to put off. I wish I’d started a long time ago. I was really happy with the way the recorder worked on my phone. It’s really easy to use. I just pushed the record button and placed the phone face down on the table between us and started talking. I was worried that it wouldn’t pick up her voice because she speaks pretty softly, but the recording was clear and easy to understand.

Peeved

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This little bastard (or bastardette) entirely stripped my macadamia nut tree. To be honest, I haven’t done anything with the nuts in the last couple of years. They are a major pain in the behind to crack. My husband doesn’t understand why I take my anger out on the squirrel, who’s just using what I haven’t. But my husband didn’t take the nuts from his grandmother’s house after she died, plant them and watch them grow for ten years until they actually started bearing nuts. I think I’m a little more invested in them than he is.

Too much cake

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We have way too many birthdays in August in my family. Currently we have five. It was more when my grandparents were alive. We used to have individual parties, but that made for a really busy August, so we went to one party for all. But Mom still wants everyone to have their own cake. I think that may stem from a childhood where there was one cake per birthday month. There wasn’t much money for things like cake when she was little.

We end up with a lot of cake.

IT’S HOT!!

Forecast for my neighborhood today is 112, (44 C). Not my favorite time of year. Everything in the garden goes on hold and we barricade ourselves in the house, windows closed and blinds drawn. It’s a struggle to keep anything in pots alive. I’m going to move some into the planters, just so that they won’t get the reflected heat from the patio surface. Things in smaller containers just dry out so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.

Weather this hot is always disappointing to me. It makes it much more unpleasant to be outside and I really can’t plant anything, even stuff that I’ve had waiting for a while. The plants have enough stress with all the heat. Most wouldn’t survive the stress of transplanting right now. So rather than the high possibility of killing my plants, I’ll wait. But since today is the first day of summer and hot weather often lasts through the end of October here, I may be waiting a while. Impatiently.

Cooking with Mom this weekend was pizza rolls. Not really much of a cooking challenge, but tasty nonetheless.

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Crescent rolls filled with a mixture of cheeses, rolled up, sliced and baked, eaten dipped in pizza sauce. We seem to be be doing a lot of pizza sorts of things. We’re going to try the tomato tart again next week with a slightly different recipe. I’ll try to remember to bring the balsamic glaze this time.