Tag Archives: cake

Surviving Five

Alvie Bean turned five on Saturday. Because I have clearly lost my mind, I agreed that he could have a birthday party. And invite a bunch of friends. And they could come to our house.

Due to a frosting fuck-up, Alvie and I had to make a run to the store for *gasp!* store-bought frosting. I know–I am deeply ashamed. (I should’ve made the frosting the day before and thrown it in the fridge, but nooooo….)

Even with the inferior frosting, the cake turned out pretty okay, I think.

There were approximately 100 (or roughly a dozen) kids between the ages of 2-7 at our place for two hours. They shrieked and yelled and ran and ate and played and fought and had a delightful time.

There was a piñata!

And a “pin the pokeball on the charizard” game (I got zero pictures of that). And, of course, cake.

And presents. And rooms full of feral monkeys. (One parent, after peeking into L’s room, said “It’s like Lord of the Flies in the there.”)

Overall, I think a good time was had by all. Even me, once I finally got to drink that glass of wine I poured.

After the excitement wound down and the birthday boy was released from his room for a post-party cat-kicking attempt, the Beer Guy and I took Alvie out to dinner. (The Bean is enamored of the Beer Guy. “I’ll have water to drink, because that’s what C is having.” or “I used to like Ninjago, but now C & I prefer Pokemon.” or “We’re going to build the Burj Khalifa together and we will not need your help, Mommy.”)

It was a lovely weekend (the Burj Khalifa did, indeed, get built by my two favorite guys with zero assistance from me). Alvie got so many lego sets and drawing kits and spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning working on his first still life.

Still Life with Beer Bottle

“Mommy – please put this picture on the internet so I can be a famous still life artist.”

My boy has grown up so very much, but, as he told me this morning on the way to preschool, “Mommy, you can still call me ‘baby’ sometimes. Just not in front of my friends.”

Okay, baby…I’ll try to remember.

Freshly hatched (April 2012)

First Birthday – just getting into that whole “walking” thing

2nd birthday – he’s always liked drawing…

My Alvie-saurus in the Dinosaur Train birthday shirt for his 3rd birthday

4th Birthday boy prepping for his train party…

And now, so very big. He’s grown up so much in the last year.

This kid…my heart.

Shenanigan Report-40th Birthday Edition

Saturday night was my birthday party. As per usual, I took almost zero photos. However, I did get pics of the important things: the pre-party shower wine, the Parmesan cheese I made, and the most epic cake in the history of cakes.

Bendy straw wine! Perfect for showering.

Seriously the best cheese I’ve ever made. It was perfect for snacking and now will be utilized as a grating cheese…I am super proud of myself.

Look at this magnificent cake that my friend Melissa made for me? How could it get any better than this?

I’ll show you how it can get better…

Seven-layer rainbow cake. Melissa is a goddess.


I had such a wonderful party and it was so good to have most of my favorite local people come out to celebrate turning forty.

We ended up not doing the piñata, because doing something like that inside sounded dangerous and outside it was pretty soggy and dark. Current plan is to destroy Trappist (the unicorn piñata did get a name at the party, and you can decide for yourself whether or not it refers to a star or a monastic order) sometime this summer. Although I might just keep him forever. (The beer guy might have something to say about that, I suppose.)

Trappist is hard at work earning his keep.


Now that I am 40 years and 3 days old, I’m feeling infused with wisdom. The main focus of that wisdom is that I need to make self-care a priority. I started my day with a fruit and spinach smoothie. I will go out for a walk/run in about an hour. I will eat lunch today and every day. I will get to bed at a reasonable time so I can get up and be productive at a reasonable time.


Last, but certainly not least – guess what tomorrow is??????????


That’s right – tomorrow you can get your grubby little hands on a copy of The Cardinal Gate. (You can also pre-order today, and the ebook will just appear in your Kindle app tomorrow like magic! The paperback is also now available for pre-order, but that doesn’t probably appear like magic in your home tomorrow. Probably.)

The Cardinal Gate is also available on Nook, iBook and Kobo.

Buy it, rate it highly, tell your friends, and – if you must – read it.


Cake or Death – Cake 3

Check out the first couple cakes to see my first attempts and check out the improvements!

Cake 1: Key Lime Cake

Cake 2: Fourth of July Cake

And now, here we are – Cake 3; Chocolate Cake with Grand Marnier Buttercream Frosting

This was a birthday cake request, and I’d made the cake before, so I felt pretty good about the cake part turning out alright. I wanted to do a slightly different, more fun frosting.

All the best cakes I’ve ever made have come from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible, and this was no exception.

I used her “Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake” and Mousseline Buttercream with Grand Marnier. I’d also purchased a rotating cake stand, to make it easier to frost the cakes and keep them pretty.


This was definitely the most attractive cake I’ve made so far, and the cake itself was delicious. The chocolate cake was rich and moist, and the frosting was fantastic.

I didn’t quite get the cake layers level, but it was still one of the more attractive cakes I’d ever made. I didn’t do anything fancy for this one, but am starting to get the hang of the basics.

For the next cake, I get Ambitious!


Cake or Death – Cake 1

Since starting my cake challenge in June, after making a delicious but freaking ugly cake for my friend’s baby shower, I have made 6 cakes.

I think they have been getting progressively better – both in flavor and in attractiveness.

My first cake – the June cake – was a Father’s Day cake I made for the architect and his dad. Since I know the architect’s dad has a bit of a sweet tooth, I was sure I could come up with something he enjoyed. The architect requested key lime flavor.

I did some googling, and found a recipe for a pretty key lime cake on a blog called Alaska From Scratch.

I always like to follow a recipe exactly the first time I try it when baking, so I made it just as listed.

I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but I took quite a few of the results.


This cake was terribly dry. (The architect and his family disagreed with that assessment, but it is very difficult to find a moist white cake if you’re not using a box mix – and this was drier than cakes I’m used to making.)

It also was a great lesson in what tools are essential for my cake making adventures.

Essential tool #1 – a spinning cake stand for the icing. Check out my uneven swirly patterns…

Also, the green sides were not an ombre like in my inspiration, but rather a leafy green mess.

You can see that the two layers are decidedly different sizes here…that was somewhat of a problem! I didn’t realize until then that my cake pans were not the same depth!

Another view of the different layer sizes.

Other than the slight dryness, though, the flavor was good. I wouldn’t bother with key limes next time, though, and would just go for the much, much bigger limes. All those tiny limes were a pain in the ass.

The frosting was amazing – but when is cream cheese frosting not good?

So – overall ratings:

Cake flavor: B- (too dry!)

Frosting flavor: A

Cake structure/appearance: C

Cake aesthetic qualities: C

Final Grade: B-


Attitude of Gratitude

October 5: I am grateful for generous people in my life who will watch the Bean for a couple of hours for me!



Shoesday, Interrupted!

No shoesday today…sorry. I have to tell you about my awesome 4-day weekend, instead!

My four-day weekend started Thursday evening when I had to determine what kind of gin drink I was going to have (such hard decisions!).

I went with a martini….


Friday was a busy, busy day. The night before I’d dreamed that the piano delivery guys backed the truck up to my front door, knocking over my trellis and running over all my plants. So I trimmed back our wisteria to try to make it easier for them to get to the front door.

First blooms EVER on this wisteria; it was the first plant I planted when we bought our house

I also interviewed a housecleaner. Yes, I am now that kind of person who is going to pay someone else to wash my floors. I feel simultaneously guilty and extremely happy about that.

Just after she left, the piano! arrived. Yay! It looks so pretty in my house.

I dug up some embarrassing old sheet music.

Not pictured: Bryan Adams & the Complete Chart Hits of 1991

Jasmin loves the piano. She likes to sit on the top while I play, and gets upset when I stop.


Eventually, I had to stop, though, so I could make a cake. Chocolate butter cake with orange buttercream frosting. It was pretty good (although I think a bit dry), but was fairly popular at the Fiddler on the Roof movie viewing Friday night.

Chocolate Butter Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting

Saturday was another good/long day. I started the birthday cake. I yoga’ed at the newish People’s Yoga in my ‘hood. Such a great class; I can’t wait to make that studio part of my regular practice. After yoga-ing, I headed to Livingscape Nursery. Such a cute place! And they were so friendly. I picked up a couple seed packets and a bunch of starts (every year I say I’m going to do my own tomato/pepper starts from seeds, and every year, I remember that I have cats who would dig them up in a heartbeat, so until I have my greenhouse, it’s starts for me!). I watched the rain from the front porch…



I spent all Saturday afternoon working on homework, and then took the architect out for dinner for his birthday. The place we’d picked originally was a bit busy, so we walked down street to County Cork and had a laid back meal.

I wore stilettoes! For the first time in over a year! So pretty.

Sunday morning, I worked more on the birthday cake (it was a 36 hour process for this cake) and did a LOT of yard work.


About 4 pm, people started descending on the house for the architect”s birthday party. I thought afternoon party, because then people would eventually get hungry and go home, but we had so much fun that it was well after dark (i.e. after 10!) before everyone was gone.

There was cake (of course!)

Praline Brioche Rum cake

And a fire.


And, naturally, some sing-a-longs. I played the piano for a bit, trying to remind people that I’d only had my piano for 48 hours and wasn’t up to par yet.

After exhausting my repertoire, we switched to a Disney song dance party. So crazy. And so much fun.


Monday morning, I took the architect out for brunch, and then spent the rest of the day gardening and site planning. Darwin helped out outside for awhile (he’s such a helper!) and then we curled up inside with an architectural scale and some triangulation measurements.

Welcome Wagon!


Keeping an eye on things...

I have the overall site plan drafted out; now I just need to cut down the ugly hedge, put in a nice fence, build a deck and do all the plantings….so that should be done in about 100 years.


Today came much too soon. Somehow, however, my schedule has worked out so that I will not actually work 5 days in a row again until the last week of June. This week, I work Friday, but since yesterday was a holiday, it’s a 4-day week!  Next week, I have Friday off. The following week, I took Monday & Tuesday as vacation days, so even though I work that Friday, 3-day week! And the next week I have Friday off. Although the last week of June is a 5-day week, the following week I have Monday (7/4!) off AND Friday….yay me!

Happy short week, everyone!