Archive for June, 2010

Hat Cake! …A Tutorial?

This might be a tutorial.  I’m not sure.  You tell me.   And WARNING:  lots of pictures and looooong post ahead!

A few months ago Michael’s family started planning his grandmother’s (GG’s) 90th birthday celebration.  90!  I should be so lucky….  Anyway, we had just come off our birthday season with the kids and I felt like I had my cake-making chops back in order.  When I was in college and living in Dallas I really got into making fun, fancy cakes, and then one bad wedding experience turned me off of them for quite a looooong time.  But I kept all of my cake stuff knowing that someday I’d have kids and such.  Thank goodness for that- some cake stuff is not cheap!

I’ll throw in my tips that I’ve learned.  Much of what I have learned is through trial and error, and also the best Girl Scout Leader in the world, Mrs. Kelly.  She was awesome (no uniforms!) on many levels.  She got us all together with cake kits for a day of cake making and I was hooked.

I think the best thing to do when you want to make a cake that is anything other than 2 round layers and some frosting is to have a plan.  I was reminded of this when I started thinking about GG’s cake. I decided to make her a hat cake- she loves hats and has a bazillion of them.  I had a relative plan in my head, and I figured out the pan situation ahead of time, but that was where my plan ended, which came back to bite me in the rear later.

I went to Michael’s Craft Store to get a few things. I came back with this cake mix, which I wasn’t expecting to find:

If you aren’t aware, that’s Duff, the Ace of Cakes.  Apparently he has his own line of stuff- and boy is it expensive.  But the mix wasn’t too bad price-wise and I was too curious.   Let me just say:  YUM.  Delish.  So soft, so moist, and just like making a Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker cake (add eggs, oil & water and you’re good to go).  (Personally I don’t care for Pillsbury mixes- too light and crumbly when I make them.)  The cake was just dense enough to hold up to any kind of construction, and it was just plain yummy.   My philosophy with cakes is that the cake itself doesn’t *have* to be from scratch, but the frosting should.  I don’t have issues with using pre-mixed dry ingredients, but I do have issues with scooping frosting out of a can that’s been sitting on a shelf for Lord-knows-how-long.

Back to the tutorial…  I love parchment paper!  I use it as often as possible because it guarantees things will come out nice and clean.  For the base of the cake I used two 10-inch cake rounds.  I traced the pan on parchment and cut it out.  Then I spray the pan with baking spray, set the parchment paper on the bottom, and spray again.  One thing I like is that it comes out clean and there isn’t white gunk all over the bottom of the cake.

Top left:  this is the little dome I used to make the top of the hat.  It’s a Wilton pan used to make baseballs and such.  It comes with a ring to set it in so it bakes flat and doesn’t fall over.  Smart, eh?

*Trick!*  Top right:  After baking, I carefully invert the cakes onto the cooling rack after they’ve been out for 10 minutes or so.  Problem:  they are upside down.  To handle them now would be certain death to the cake, though- they’d fall apart.  So, I place another cooling rack on them upside down (bottom left), and gently flip them all over inside the rack .  Voila!  Cakes are uprighted and cooling their heels (bottom right).  I leave the parchment paper on the bottom- keeps the crumbs on the cake and my counter a bit less messy for the moment.

Another tip:  don’t try to do a cake all in one day.  Especially if you have a lot of decorating to do.  It’s not worth the stress.   To keep my cakes fresh I let them cool completely.  Then I lay out two long pieces of foil in a cross (left).  It’s hard to see in the photo, but then I do the same again with plastic wrap.  Then I place one layer on the cross.  Wrap it up in the plastic wrap, and then the foil, making sure you keep it totally air tight.  I like to fold the last piece over and make a little fold.  It makes me feel better (right).  Then you can make them a day or two ahead and they will not be stale by the time everyone bites into them.

Some of my favorite tools- a really long, serrated knife for leveling (it’s HUGE!) and a cute cake tester.  I never bake anything longer than 20 minutes before checking on it.  We don’t have a brand new oven, and it’s not reliable for temperature, so I check all things often.  Cake testers help when you’re not quite sure- chocolate cake is especially deceptive because it just smells good and is so dark.

Top left:  if you’re going to have any sort of tiers you might want to get cardboard rounds.  They don’t show because you cover them up with frosting, and they make slicing and serving the cake a lot easier.  I had a bunch of 10-inch rounds, so I just cut one down for the little dome for the top of the hat.  Top right:  Frosting!  I love this recipe– the whipping cream really makes a huge difference.  Bottom left:  I used this cake stand, and to just give myself peace of mind I put a dollop of frosting on the platform to assure myself the cake would not fall off if tipped.  Bottom right:  first layer up!

I have seen many cakes topple over because they were not leveled.  Most cakes, unless baked in special pans with special stuff, naturally dome at the top.  You have to flatten them  to make sure everything stays nice and level- enter… THE KNIFE!  What I love about leveling:  you get to TASTE …the …CAKE.  Yum and HOORAY!  Bottom right:  You can see the construction of the actual hat.  Notice the little piece of cardboard under there.

So here’s where things got dicey and the pictures sort of fade to black.  I also bought this stencil that Wilton makes.  I had visions of making her cake say “Happy Bday” without having to pipe the words out myself.  Given the shape of the cake, though, I realized I’d have to cut the words from the stencil.  No problem.  Then I realized I’d have to cut the letters apart so they could follow the curve of the cake.  No problem.  Then I tried using the letters with a pearl dust.  I followed directions- spraying the letters with cooking spray to prevent them from sticking.   Yeah…..not so much.

This is where my plan sort of fell apart.  The original letters didn’t work, and I had rose pearl dust everywhere.  I had to smear the whole top of the hat to sort of blend in the dust, but it ended up looking pretty.  I tried to write the message with little pearls that I also bought, but hated the way it looked.

Fast forward a few hours, and below is what I ended up with.  I had to break out the piping tips and write it myself- but it turned out great.  It was still missing something, though.  Good thing I bought flowers!

I decided to use the white and pink flowers, given that I ended up not using yellow on the cake at all.  Left:  flowers in the vase (see my little Jack watching- so cute!)  Center & Right: Thankfully the flowers came with straws to hold them up, so I just cut them a smidge longer than the stems so that I could stick them in the cake and not have too much flower touch the cake itself.

The finished product!  I think it turned out wonderful!  I wasn’t sure about it until I put the flowers in.

GG herself, just before we sang “Happy Birthday.”  Notice Anna eyeing the cake, too.
And no, I did not plan the color coordination- that was pure luck!  For some reason, though, she did not wear a hat.  Bummer!
Happy Birthday, GG!  We love you!


Our House

Back in November on my other blog I posted a few pictures of our house (click here to see).  I just viewed that post and realized there really weren’t very many pictures of the entire house. All the more reason to post more here!  I’m excited to look back and see how far we get with this house year after year.  As the weeks pass I am realizing that I LOVE it more and more every day, and with the potential it has for gardening, space for kids to play, and more, there’s really no reason for us to leave.

If you told me before I met Michael, or even after we married, that he and I would be living in El Cajon I would have told you to…. do something inappropriate.  I used to view El Cajon and anything in “East County” as too far away from the ocean, too hot, and too many other things to list.  And while it is far from the ocean, this area offers so much.  It’s so much more normal out here than coastal living.  The people are down-to-earth, there are 3 Targets at my disposal- the little things I need as a mom are much more accessible.

Our “to do list” for this house is extremely long, and it’s not on paper because it would be too overwhelming to look at.  But we are getting so much done and I’m so proud of how it’s going.  One thing you’ll notice is that we have lots of color in our house- I’m not a white wall person.  Perhaps it’s a history of white rental walls that makes me want to splash color on everything, but I love painting rooms with colors.  That being said, if I never have to paint again, I’ll be happy because we did a LOT of painting on this here house.

Kitchen:  Not showing too much of the kitchen just yet- trying to learn to love the cabinets.  What I do love, though, is the view from the sink.  It overlooks our entire yard, as well as the plethora of nature we get just by living on a larger piece of land.  I love the yellow- I know yellow kitchens are probably not very “in” anymore, but I still love it.  It’s happy and bright.  Just behind the bananas you’ll see a snippet of our new table that we are also loving.  And bottom-right is my favorite appliance, our Tassimo.  If you are a coffee drinker, Tassimo is awesome!  We just replaced our old one with this new one and it’s even better than the original.

Living/Play Area:  We have two couches right now, and they do not match.  Someday we’ll get a flat screen to hang on the wall and a wrap around couch.  Someday.  I recently sewed up a bunch of pillows (post forthcoming) and they have really added to the couches.  Before we only had 4 pillows and they were kind of blah.  It’s hard to tell in these photos, but they really give us lots of options.  Eventually the kids can build pillow forts, too- very important.  🙂  The play area is where a traditional dining table would go.  The possibility of us having a formal dinner are slim, so I decided to just give the kids a place to play.   I don’t know what I’d do without that IKEA shelf.  It’s awesome!  You can also see the wall hangings I made up close here.

Everyone who comes over for the first time looks down our hallway and says, “Wow!  This is a really long/wide/huge hallway!”  It is!  It will make for lots of fun car racing when Jack is a bit older.  So far I only have the one frame set up (I got it here).  My friend Amber took the photos- the kids look so little in them!

Are blue bathrooms too 70s?  I don’t think so, but I’ve heard some say as much.  It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I’m hoping to develop a sort of tropical theme in the hallway bathroom.  Fun for the kids, fun for guests?  Someday.  And below that is the laundry room.  All hail the laundry room!

Yes, that’s right, it’s a purple office.  I love it.  It’s sort of a dusty lavender, and I sit in it at least once a day and love the color every time I walk in.  This room needs curtains for the windows as well as the closet, but it’s so great to have this space right now.

This is Jack’s room.  Very neutral since we used the same bedding Anna used and we are not pink or blue people.  Baby #3 will use this room someday and Jack will get the current guest room, which is not worth photos right now.

Anna’s room has been the most fun so far.  She got a table & chair set for her birthday that caused us to push the bed against the wall.  That makes the room feel so much bigger.  I still love her bed the most.  The three pictures hanging between her windows were in my room growing up.  She’s told us a couple of times that she wants a pink room, but that isn’t going to happen.  At least she’s not asking for a Disney Princess room- that would definitely not happen.  🙂

Our room needs the most work, I think.  We need a ceiling fan/light fixture, curtains to go over the black-out shades, matching bedside tables, etc.  We did recently get a full-length mirror.  Not sure about how I feel about seeing myself full-length, but it’s nice to know I can determine if I’m put together or not.  The color of the walls has grown on me.  Once we get new bedding and a king size bed this room will really come together.  Right now we have bedding that is really going to be the guest room bedding- I was too tired of our 4-year-old bedding, so we got rid of it and put this on our bed for now.  I didn’t take pictures of our bathroom- it’s too small and not too dazzling quite yet.

Can’t wait to see what lies in the future for this place!

Anna’s Doll Bedding: First Project

My first project with my new sewing machine needed to be something that wasn’t going to “matter” in terms of looking like something expected or patterned.  I didn’t want that pressure when I really haven’t had much sewing experience since middle school.  My mom sent out my old doll bed from when I was growing up- isn’t it cute?  It’s brass and very sturdy.  However, the bedding was looking a little… well… a bit like bedding from the early 80s should.  It had lots of cats on it- and since my childhood days I have become extremely, horrendously, completely allergic to cats.  (I think I’d probably sneeze while sitting next to a hairless cat, truth be told.  But I wouldn’t sit next to a hairless cat because they freak me out.) So, the cats and the color combo just weren’t doing it for me.  On a date day, Michael and I happened upon a little fabric store in North Park- wish I could remember the name.  They had this adorable ladybug flannel.  I found some trim, pulled out leftover muslin from Anna’s room, and I was ready to sew.

*note*  These are horrible pictures.  My apologies!

First I made the fitted sheet and the bed skirt (left).  Then I simply cut a piece of muslin to size and made a “sheet” (center).   Then I made a “quilt” and I guess what one might call a bolster pillow (?) that runs along the back of the bed, since it’s sort of a day bed (right).

Finally I whipped up some pillows.  These were fun!  I think the only one I don’t really care for is the round one because I was short on trim and ended up hacking it (reference my header- clearly don’t know what I’m doing yet) to pieces.  Oh well.  Anna loves it.  She didn’t love the whole thing at first- in fact she immediately asked for the cat bedding back.  Ah, to be 3 again. Thanks, sweetie.

My sewing machine

One of the things that generated the idea for me to start a crafting blog was the fact that I was able to start sewing.  I borrowed my friend Jane’s sewing machine to make some things for Anna’s room (pictures to come in a following post), and found myself craving my own machine.  I requested one for my birthday earlier this year, my family all chipped in and presto!  Here we are.

I am lucky that I have a sweet, sweet MIL who was willing to take me shopping for a machine.  Interestingly enough, it was the same weekend that this happened.   Not the best mindset for focusing on buying a major purchase, but it was what it was.  If you are new to my world, you will learn that I am extremely accident-prone.

We went to a few stores that sold a variety of machines.  I can’t tell you why I picked the one I did, other than when I sat down and sewed a few scraps, I really, really liked the way it “felt” (as much as one can “feel” while sewing).   I ended up buying a Juki, and you can see the full info on it here.

One of the things I like is pictured below- on the left side of the machine is a thread cutter.  It’s awesome!  No picking up scissors or thread trimmers to cut the thread- just pull it away and *snip* on the cutter and you’re good to go.

My absolute favorite thing is the automatic needle threader.  I’m still not exactly sure how this thing works, but I love it.  On left you see the machine in its normal state, ready to sew.  On the right you see my finger pressing down the white threading mechanism (that’s my official name for it).  I’m not savvy enough with my camera to photograph the whole process, but it’s so helpful.  At first I thought, “I can see perfectly fine, I don’t need the threader- it’s just a bonus.”  But then, as I got more comfortable with the machine, I decided to try it and now I’m hooked.  It takes seconds to change thread now- love it!

Some other things I like about the machine- I can see my bobbin so I know when I’m going to run out of thread down below.  With my friend Jane’s machine (and other machines I’ve used that were older) you can’t see the bobbin so you’re always guessing as to when you’re going to run out.  Another interesting feature is the push button sewing.  In the photo on the right you can see the arrow that points up.  If the foot is not hooked up to the machine then you can just push that button and away you go.  The top slider (between the turtle and the rabbit) is what controls your speed.  I’ve had lots of friends ponder about push-button sewing.  I’ve been trying both and I have to say I like the push-button in a few scenarios.  I used it to make some pillows and it worked great.  In other scenarios, though, I would stick to the foot pedal.  Interestingly enough, when you have the foot pedal hooked up to this one, you can limit the speed as well.  So if I don’t want to accidentally send my machine into a sewing frenzy I can push the slider down a bit and it won’t let me go past a certain speed.  Very smart, very smart indeed.  🙂

If you have any questions about my machine, please ask away!

The Obligatory First Post

Welcome to Crafting Crazy!  I am so excited to start this blog and all the new energy it is giving my brain.

So here’s where I have to talk (I think) about why I’m starting Crafting Crazy.  I have lots of reasons, and many will probably seem irrelevant in a few years, but what the hey… here goes!

#1:  I want to separate my family blog from all of the stuff I’ll post here.  Mainly because when my kids are older and will (hopefully) take an interest in what they were like as wee ones, I don’t want them to have to sift through posts about crafts and baking stuff.

#2:  I have great hopes for the next 12 months.  I want to find a way to turn my crafts into something more.  A year from now I will (hopefully) have a new baby on my hands (no, I’m not pregnant yet), and I will be done teaching until I deem myself ready to return to the professional world in any capacity.  However, I need and want to find some way to contribute to my family’s income.  It may be that I teach early childhood music, but I don’t want to limit myself to one track.  I am my father’s child in this regard- I like having more than one iron in the fire. So I hope that by tracking what I do and make I can land on a few good tricks that may turn into something big.  We’ll see.

#3:  Perhaps it’s because I just started summer, but I am crazy right now in the creating department.  I am overjoyed at this new-found freedom to focus on my family, my house and my cooking.  It’s such a joy to me.  Why not keep track of it so that I can look back and remember?

#4:  I am a lifelong learner.  I think it’s more fun to learn with others in a community, and the internet provides that community in such an immediate, amazing way.  So in a sense, I’m hopping on the bandwagon a bit.

Some things you should know about me are listed here.  I hope you enjoy this blog.  I really like blogging and all that comes with it.  I hope that when summer turns to fall I can keep up with creating and posting.  Thanks for reading!

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