Saturday, November 27, 2010

Batty Bday

My friend Jen's son Ryan just turned six, so I wanted to make his favorite cupcakes--yellow cake with chocolate frosting.
But I wanted to do some "boy" decoration, and got inspiration from the bat they recently found in their house.
It was my first sight of a bat, and I had no idea they were so small and so freakin' cute!
The little guy was captured in a bucket (per a bat rescue website) and released at dusk.

I cruised Google Images for inspiration, and found a simple design using a cookie and a Hershey's kiss.
But there were variations.
I like to compare and contrast before I embark on any project, artistic or cooking-related.
Yep, I'm one of those detailed types who analyze all the options.

Initially I saw designs with the kiss turned with the base forward, but I can't seem to find an example now.
Most examples place the point to the front.
Here's one from Purple Kitty

Sometimes the kiss is close to the wings, and other times there's a big gap, like this one by Mommy's World

Usually the wings are chocolate cookies (like Thin Mints) but Finger Food Recipes used Shortbread

A photo on All Recipes used two kisses

Sometimes the wings were flat
From Chocolate Candy Mall

Or the wings were arcing down, which looks good
These from Creative Cupcakes

I really like the design on Gummibunny, though the wings are arcing opposite the previous example.
The red gel eyes (or orange) look best.

The Baking Pan had some gorgeous ones

Okay, now that I'd gotten a design figured out, I needed to choose a cake and frosting recipe.
When in doubt, I always go with something from The America's Test Kitchen, because they've done all the hits and misses and their recipes are excellent.

They have several versions of yellow cake though, so again I had to sort between several options.

One recipe was posted on Throwing Spoons, along with a frosting recipe by Hershey's.

I decided instead to go with a the Foolproof Chocolate Frosting on the Test Kitchen's site (note: this recipe is free to view, you just have to submit your email address. Other recipes on the Test Kitchen's and Cook's Country's sites are only available to paid members. I wouldn't mind that so much except they have more than one level of paid memberships. I mean, if I'm already paying for the magazine and access to the first level of recipes, um, isn't that enough? It turned me off so much I canceled everything with them. Honestly, I'd rather see ads. That's my opinion anyway).
Unfortunately, I thought the frosting was horrendous, so I dumped the whole lot.
What a waste of perfectly good chocolate.
But 3/4 cup of corn syrup? Really?

The Cookbook Junkie has a recipe for "the best yellow cake I ever made" that is supposedly based on a Test Kitchen recipe.
That one looked really good, but I had buttermilk on hand, so I thought I may as well use it.

The Test Kitchen site has one recipe for Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake, that is different from examples I was finding on blogs, so I was getting confused.
The recipe incorporates buttermilk, but I didn't want to bother with separating eggs (even though the dogs would have appreciated the leftover yolks).

I decided to go with the Classic Yellow Cake recipe on Gastronomer (she posted some great tutorial photos too).
I also used her frosting recipe, which oozed on smoothly like ganache.
The cake part was okay.
Next time I'll try Cookbook Junkie's recipe.

I ended up taking the cupcakes over to Jen's house late, when her son was already in bed.
We left the cupcakes on the kitchen counter so he got this fun surprise when he woke up.
She said her kids had cupcakes for breakfast!
I hope it was a little bit magical.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
The best part of this day, for me, is watching the Macy's Parade.
It's Americana, tradition, joy, optimism, hope...all rolled up into one.
It is the best of family, gratitude, and sharing moments together.
Fun post about previous balloons in past parades.

More vintage photos here.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vintage goodness

I love the cherry pin I got at Donnaland today!

The sale continues through Sunday (until 6pm) at
Frock You Vintage on Park Boulevard in North Park.

Clothing from the 40's through the 80's, shoes, bags, sunglasses...
Pretty awesome.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ooh, pretty

I just have to say that I am completely coveting this dress.So simple yet timeless.
So flattering.

The fabric is navy silk jersey, designed by London-based fashion label Issa.

I want a knock off!

In case you've been living under a rock, these photos were taken at the engagement announcement of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
The color of the dress matches the 18-carat sapphire engagement ring (the same ring Charles once gave to Diana).

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gift ideas!

Well, 'tis the season.
Time to start getting ideas for Christmas presents.
Too soon, you say?
No way!
I mean, put some thought into it!
No running around at the last minute getting useless crap--think of the recipient, and what they love, and who they are...and pick out something special.

Need ideas?

Well, first get your surroundings all fa-la-la.
Nothing says festive like twinkly lights.
Decorate inside your home with lighted winter branches from Gardener's Supply (they also have lighted pussy willows.

Absolutely adorable Barbie stiletto shoe necklace from the Etsy shop House of Magenta Tarantula.
There are so many great gift items on Etsy

Note cards featuring vintage photos that include pitbulls, these cards the support the amazing Animal Farm Foundation.
They also have tee shirts, or this cute necklace with a silver pitbull-shaped charm.Or just send them a donation because they're helping to rehabilitate dogs that have been in abused situations (like Michael Vick's fighting ring)--this organization deserves your support.

I'm a big fan of themed gift baskets.
For the baker on your list, a bowl with ingredients for cookies, and accessories to make the recipe is a fun gift.
Pier One Imports has an assortment of unique measuring cups (I like the cherries one), like these elephantsPier One has other fun kitchen gadgets, like these Ladybug measuring spoons

I'm not normally a fan of packaged food, but The Waffle Lady is an exception.You can buy from the website (lots of yummy flavors), or some stores carry this product also.
Honestly, the price is worth it.
Besides, the box makes a lot of pancakes--I freeze in individual portions and take them to work for breakfast.
If you live in San Diego, Keils market carries this brand.
And for gift basket goodies, the Costco Delivery in Kearny Mesa (off Convoy, where the old Home Depot Expo used to be) has a fun selection of baking gadgets.

For the women in your life who wear high-heels and may want to take a load off at the end of the day, how about Flexi-Flats--a "compact go anywhere flat".These easily fold up into a little pouch that you can carry in your purse.
(I have to note that Metro Magazine called this idea out as a fashion accessory that shouldn't exist, but I think they'd make a great stocking stuffer. The writer of Metro Magazine obviously doesn't have any foot problems if she thinks women walking home barefoot after a night on the town are wimpy).
Lots of brands of these out all at once, but I also like Spare Pear.

My new (well, new to me) favorite product is coconut oil from Tropical Traditions.
It's a much more healthy alternative to vegetable oil for cooking, but it also makes an amazing treatment for your hair.
The site also sells wonderful soap, lotion, and other items.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Speaking of roses...

I was cutting up veggies tonight for homemade minestrone soup, and when I sliced off the root-end of a bok choy, oh my gosh, look at how gorgeous it is!

Remember as a kid, doing stamping with shapes cut from a potato?
So I was thinking it would be fun to stamp wrapping paper with this, or even fabric paint on a shirt--like a border of roses!

Who knew a cabbage could be so pretty!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

A rose by any other name...

I know I introduced you to the kitten as "Trey", but I'm not totally sold on that name yet.
I never could figure out a name for my last cat, so now he's stuck with "That Baby", since that's how I always referred to him.
I'd better figure out what I want as the new kitten's name, or this kitty is going to be stuck with "Little Boy", or "Little Guy".
And that's just not right.

Hmmm...maybe a combination of Li-something. Liam?
That's cute.

Other contenders are inspired by that cute little circle on his chin.
It kind-of reminds me of a halo.

That's nice.
I tend to like two-syllable names.
And he most certainly has had an angel watching over him (as well as being an angel himself).

You know what else that circle looks like?
An eclipse.
Well, it does.

And no, that's not a good name, but it sends me on a Twilight tangent, and I wonder if Edward might be a cute name.
Just sayin'.
Yeah yeah yeah....I admit I read all the books in that series.

But Trey is still nice too.
I don't know.
Sadly, on his vet papers they think his name is "Feral".

I guess I could go "Ferrell" but "Ferry" just doesn't sound right.
Why is this so hard for me?

I watched an old episode (well, from the newer series in the 80's) of the Twilight Zone recently, and all of sudden all the words were different, and everyone was dialed in except this one guy.
Like all of sudden "dinosaur" was the word for "lunch".
He had to learn all over again.
An interesting concept.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Wreath tute

See the book wreath on my reading blog.
Link here.

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Friday, November 05, 2010


For those of you who know me on Facebook, this is an update.
For the rest of you, this is an introduction.

There's a new member in my household.

My mom was leaving food out for a feral calico and her two three-month-old kittens.
One kitten was yellow, the other a tuxedo black and white.
While I was pet-sitting, my mom said the cute little black one disappeared.
She figured a coyote got him--it's a hard life for strays, with coyotes, other animals, traffic...
I had a weird feeling he was trapped somewhere, but I brushed off the thought as silly.
I should know by now, however, to listen to my intuition--it's usually right on target.

I went over to my mom's to sort through some boxes.
I have a lot of stuff stored out back (placed there when I first started renovating my bedroom, but kept there now because I knew the mama cat was hiding beneath the tarps. I figured it was keeping her safe).
I heard some clawing on the fence, and I just assumed it was the mama sharpening her claws.
It wasn't, but I didn't investigate.

Almost a full week after my mom noticed the black kitten was missing, I spent the night at her house, and couldn't sleep for all the mewing outside.
I got up three times to find out where the crying was coming from, but didn't see anything.
Was the yellow kitten caught in between some boxes? Did the mama have another kitten?
Finally, at almost 6 a.m., it was still dark outside, so I took a flashlight out to see if I could find the kitten.
I saw the yellow one outside my door playing, so I knew he was okay.
The light from my flashlight caught the reflection of eyes, and wow, it was the black kitten.
How was he possibly able to survive for a week without food or water?

There's a gate near my mom's pool made of old skinny pickets.
The kitten must have tried to climb over the top, but his back left leg slipped between two of the boards and he was caught, hanging there.
The boards are wide at the top, but get closer at the base, so as he struggled to get free, his foot got wedged in there.
He had a compound fracture in two places.
He had not been visible because of the fence line, and my mom couldn't hear him from inside the house.
Thank God I came home when I did!

I was beside myself, trying to figure out how to free him.
Remember he's feral, so even the sight of me sent him into hissing, spitting, and spinning.
God, it was so sad and scary.
I got online to try to find someone to help me.
Alone, I couldn't figure out how to get the boards apart.
The county animal control said I live in the city (uh, my mom pays county taxes),
and the city said there was nothing they could really do. Huh?
Thankfully, they did have the name of a volunteer rescue organization.
A lady came over, and together we were able to break the fence, free the kitten, and get the kitten into a carrier.

Another woman from the rescue organization suggested I take the kitten to a vet that is familiar with feral cats.
We walked in, and the vibe was so off for me that I got up and left.
I took the kitten to emergency, and they were wonderful.

They couldn't save his leg, but they did save his life.
The surprising part is he is totally mellow and sweet!

Right now he is isolated from my other cats so he can heal.
He gets two kinds of medicine for a week.
The surgeon said "cats are strong" and that he'll adapt to having three legs just fine.

Look how cute the circle is on his chin

The vet said he weighs 1.88 pounds, so he's tiny.
Judging by his appetite, I have a feeling he won't be small for long :)

The name Trey initially came about because "tre" in Italian means three (you know, three-legged kitty).
But Trey is also a cute boy name, and his sweetness so reminds me of my beloved Terry, and so many of the letters are the same that it just feels right.