Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food, sticks and can you go wrong?

First off, I have something to say and I'm going to say it. Some people, are inherently morons. There. I've gone ahead and done it. I'm not naming names or anything, but really now. Some things are just a matter of common sense and if you have none, then basically, yeah, you're screwed.

So, for those of you not "in the know", I now hold down a part time job at a bakery. Now, I don't actually do any of the baking as we have big, strong men in the kitchen to handle all that heavy lifting (and I mean heavy - you should see the size of these bowls the guys whip up various batters and frostings in, I'm talking HUGE!). My job is to stand out front at the counter, smile prettily and ask if the customers would like that in a box or a bag. That's right. I'm a pastry peddler. And generally, I like it. It's exceptionally fun because I can call my MIL down at the main bakery when she's working and harass her whenever I feel like it because, hey, she's the cake decorator!

Anyway, this past Sunday I get to work at 6:30 a.m - as usual - and start putting out trays of glossy, powdery, flaky pastries and the day starts per the norm. Nobody comes in until about 8:30 a.m (usually the woman who lives across the street asking for her large coffee hold the sugar please). This particular Sunday, there seemed to be a LOT of birthday parties. At least thirteen that I personally had knowledge of as my little store was in possession of the stars of those shows - the cakes. Now my mother in law, she does beautiful work. I've never had a customer complain about the cakes they receive. In fact, they all say "Wow, that came out so much better than I expected!" and generally,they leave with shiny happy faces which, in turn, makes me put my shiny happy face on. I love seeing the people walk away happy, you know? I mean, there's so much misery in the world already, so if a little thing like a doughnut dripping with glaze or a ten pound marble cake loaded with buttercream icing, stuffed with strawberries and topped with about ten million beautiful frosting roses makes people cheery then I'm all for it!

Sounds like a pretty decent day, right? It was, until the BIG IDIOT walks in. Now, he's a young guy - obviously out of his depth. I mean, you can tell when a customer's comfy with being in a place and he was so NOT comfy. He walked quickly up to the counter, eyes darting nervously (most likely this was a ploy to emphasize the fact that yes, he'd almost forgotten to stop by and thusly was in more of a hurry than he usually would be - sneaky devil) about the place until he finally arrived right in front of me.

ME: "Hi there! How can I help you?" ::smiling pleasantly::

BIG IDIOT: "Uh...I'm here to pick up a cake?" ::looking at me quizzically, as if unsure that this is in fact a place where you could find cakes::

ME: "Okay...what's the name?" ::still smiling::

BIG IDIOT: "Uhm...*Smith*?" ::looking more confused by the minute::

ME: "Oh sure thing! Let me just box it up for you!"

At this point, I head into the back to do just that. Meanwhile I can hear him reciting his errand list out loud...and I'm trying not to giggle. After all, laughing at the customers is rude right? At least, it is while they're in earshot of it.

ME: "Here it is Sir! Isn't it nice?" ::grinning, ignoring the fact that BIG IDIOT has registered that I heard his little littany and is now actually blushing and trying to avoid looking me in the eye::

BIG IDIOT: "Oh yeah, it's great!" ::takes a peek inside and nods as if he knows what the damned thing is supposed to look like::

Now please, take note. This cake wasn't your average marble birthday cake. It was stuffed to the gills with our home made chocolate custard with loads of our real whipped cream piled and whorled on top of it. Not to mention the inch-thick colorful balloons on either side of this thing. Needless to say, I could not close the top of the box all the way for fear of smooshing my MIL's lovely work. So I closed it as much as I could and taped the sides down. Now...since we've already established this man's idiocy, I'm sure you can only guess what this guy did next.

BIG IDIOT: "Uh...why's it open?" ::untapes the sides and puts the box top completely down and then starts PUSHING the top down on top of the cake::

ME: "What are you DOING?!" ::no longer smiling, but rather looking on in horrified fascination...and yes, my voice did raise into a bit of an incredulous shriek on that last word::

BIG IDIOT: "Uhm...trying to close the box." ::this said slightly condescendingly, even as he pushes the box top down a bit further:: "But it ain't closing all the way..."

ME: "Well no kidding!" ::grabbing the cake from him and lifting the top, showing the now totally smooshed top of the cake. The balloons? Totally flat and smooshed into the cream and smeared all over the place. The pretty whorly trim? Pretty no more. It was a mush pile!:: "See why I didn't close it all the way? You probably would have been fine if you'd just left it closed but look! You squished it!" ::looking at him like he's the biggest moron on the planet::

BIG IDIOT: "Oh shit..." ::eyes bugging out of his head, disbelieving:: "Can you fix it?!?!" ::panic is definitely setting in. Oh yeah, he's gonna get a HUGE earful when he gets home with that mangled marble cake::

ME: "Uhm, no, I can't. I'm not a decorator. And we don't have one in the store right now. You're going to have to take it as is. Sorry." ::not smiling, shoving the cake receipt in his face:: "But I want you to sign this so we know that you did see it in EXCELLENT condition. Please."

Of course, he signed it and took the cake as it was. So what's the moral of the story here? Never let a man pick up a cake that you took the time to painstakingly choose colors, filling, and flavor for or you'll essentially end up with trifle. you can well guess, names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Speaking of pastries and doughnuts and things, I have been working in my own kitchen (as usual) - whipping up what I hoped would be a rather tasty concoction on my stove top only to find them to slightly fail at the finish line.

The culprit: Zeppole by Giada de Laurentiis

There mine are, frying up in their two inches of oil. I didn't use olive oil, like the recipe suggested, but rather canola. I did cut the recipe in half as it was just me that would be eating them (DW having been forced to work over time that morning, but well, they look the way they're supposed once they hit the hot oil. They puff up, and appear to promise a light, airy confection that will be crisp outside and soft and puffy in the middle and when sweetened with some vanilla sugar and cinnamon? They promise to be heaven, right? Well, while the dough did exactly what it was supposed to, I found they lacked any bit of true flavor (except for the eggs...I could definitely taste egginess in them and maybe that's why I found them to be a bit blech). Also they were far too dense. More like a deep fried pancake (despite them puffing up in the oil) in texture than a doughnut of any kind. The cinnamon sugar was a nice touch...but I think they're just not for me. Needless to say, next time I get the urge for piping hot, home made doughnuts, I think I'll go for the apple cider variety - rolled hot out of the oil in cinnamon sugar and then served with a cream cheese glaze for dipping. Yeah, now that's the stuff. Anyhow, here's the finished, yet disappointing, zeppole.
Notice the amount of sugar that I applied to make them palatable...

Aaaanywho, moving on to the world of knitting. I've finished my Swallowtail , and can safely say that I am absolutely addicted to lace. It took me a bit to feel "brave" enough to attempt it, but when I successfully completed my Ishbel, I realized it was time to step the lace up a notch and I really feel I did.


There she is boys and girls, and I have to say I'm pretty darn pleased with myself. Granted, I didn't bother with the nupps (being as no matter how loose I worked them they still seemed to need enough force to push the needle through all five stitches to cause pain in my shoulder after four or five of them), and opted to use beads instead. My only regret is that the beads were size 8 mm instead of 6...I think the larger size would have shown up better...but still, for a shawlette of this delicacy I still think it came out beautifully. I don't really understand how people who knit this pattern wound up with full sized shawls (maybe they used much bigger needles than I did?), but I'm happy with the size anyway as I prefer scarf-like shawlettes to big wraps anyway! :D


There's a closer view of the beads. Hopefully you can see them. It was tough trying to figure out what color beads to use, but I think I chose well.

Conveniently, the day I finished this shawl, the needles I'd ordered from Knit Picks came in, which allowed me to cast on the socks I promised I'd knit for my Aunt Sharon. She was so delighted by the wrap I gave her for Christmas, that when I mentioned I really liked to knit socks she promptly bought me enough skeins of Happy Feet to knit herself and my mother each a pair of socks. They're thrilled. Now I ordered two sets of needles from KP. Both size 2, each a set of 5 DPN's. One is nickel plated and the other is a true blue indulgence - Knit Picks' Harmony Wood. I haven't used them yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I've heard lots of good things about the Harmony Wood and I thought I'd give 'em a test. The nickel plated are mostly for practicality as one of my dogs has a fondness for stealing my wooden DPN's out of my knitting bag and chewing them up until they're nothing but splinters - thus the reason for my having to order new DPN's in the first place!

Either way, I'm really liking this sock pattern so far, and I absolutely love this yarn. Yes, I know it's not Wollemeise, STR or any of the other "BIG NAMES" that I'm in sock yarn lust with, but this yarn is still awesome. It's soft, it's squishy and while the other yarns I suspect might be lust for me, this yarn seems to be true love. I chose a semi-solid...more like a dark grayish blackish blue with hints of a lighter color that add subtle highlights to my stitching. Sooo pretty. Here's what I have done so far:
Pattern: "Embossed Leaves" by Mona Schmidt as presented to me in "Favorite Socks"
Yarn: Plymouth Happy Feet - Color #18 - 2 skeins
Needles: Size 2 - 2.75 mm DPN's
Adjustments: Rather than knit the full 18 rounds or whatever she suggests for the cuff, I knit a mere 10 and with all the repeats of the chart for the leg I still got the 6 3'4" length that she suggests!

And do you see what I mean about prettiness? Check out that subtle glossy sheen! Those lovely little highlights from the lighter parts! I mean, you can't beat it for what it cost - a mere 5.99 per hank! And it's really, truly delightful as it runs through your fingers while you're working with it.

On the home front, DW's been sick lately, but I think she's starting to come around to being better. She's sitting on the couch right now, playing a hack 'n slash game and delicately sipping some coffee. She's also managed to find time to thumb through Favorite Socks and pick out a pair of socks that I absolutely "MUST" knit for her.Of course, I'm a little nervous about them because she's picked out a pair of socks that require colorwork (luckily only two colors I think but still)and I've never successfully knit with more than one color in the round before. Well, I guess there's a first time for everything, right? And of course, DW's still thrilled with her job. She's going out for SRT soon (the jail's version of SWAT) and is looking into taking the Hostage Negotiation class their offering, as well as the gun safety course so she can legally carry. DW with a gun - I almost shudder to think of it! Just kidding - I know she'll be very serious about safety with that thing, and even though I'm not sure how to feel about the Hostage Negotiation thing..I know she'll be great at it and will think before putting herself in any dangerous situations. I'm just a worry wart and I can't help it. :P I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I'm off to head back into the living room, knit a few more rows and listen to the rain drop all pitter-pattery on my roof! Keep knitting, baking, and reading! :D I love having makes it so worth it to me to keep this blog up, so thank you so much!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Where's Waldo?

Here I am! Well, okay so I'm not a tall, geeky looking male with glasses and a penchant for wearing candy cane print clothes...but here I am nonetheless. You may be wondering exactly why I've been gone so long...and well, frankly I have no excuse other than sheer laziness. So this post is gonna be a bit of a doozy - because there's a LOT to catch up on.

First off, let's go all the way back to Rhinebeck, 2009. Once again, I didn't make it. This year however, I have a very, very good excuse. The night before we were going to leave, I had a gallbladder attack that lead to a very stressful 8 days in the hospital and a gallbladder removal surgery. It was quite upsetting because I was completely prepared to go too! And, being the sweetheart that I am, I gave the people I was going with my share of the hotel room anyway because I didn't want to screw them. And what did they do? They repayed that kindness by being triply kind and using the money on yarn for me instead!!!!


There it is, three squishy, gorgeous, PINK skeins of Brooks Farms Solo Silk. The only yarn I was really interested in purchasing and they bought it for me. They even picked out the perfect color! Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with it! I've been told to "make it something good" because, well, they spent a looooong time picking out just the "right" color for me. Apparently, I'm hard to shop for when it comes to yarn because my taste in colors is considered unusual by them. While they for the most part blatantly favor earth tones or fire-y type colors, my taste tends to run all over the spectrum (but skipping a few shades in the color wheel just because they bore me). But I think that they did a superb job!

And, on top of all that, they got me this nifty little goodie bag from the Rav party and had people sign it for me and stuffed all kinds of fun little goodies in it!


I was, and still am, blown away by their thoughtfulness. It was something I wasn't remotely expecting, and it really made my hospital stay that much less stressful.The months after that stay - well that's another story. There was a bit of a leukemia scare due to high white blood cell counts, but after umpteen million viles of blood taken out of my poor, bruised arms, they were quite happy to tell me that I was cancer free...but still, it was a bit harrowing. Thankfully, things have settled down where my health has concerned.

On the knitting front...I've been doing quite a bit of it, and even managed to successfully complete my first actual lace stole - the previously mentioned Bubbles wrap! I, however, do not have a FO picture as of yet because it was gifted to my fantastic Auntie Sharon (who got all teary eyed when I gave it to her because it was the "best Christmas present" she'd ever received). However, I told her that I needed to nab her for a picture with the stole...and she has agreed! So one should be coming soon! In the meantime, here are some of the things I've cranked out!

Pattern: Baktus
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn - Happy Feet - Color #04 - 2 skeins
Needles: US size 6 / 4.0 mm
Difficulty: Easy - a mindless knit.
Alterations: Instead of leaving the ends plain, I added some fun tassles.
Made for: My Mom!

Pattern: Ishbel - the smaller version
Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug - Color "Fire" - 1 skein
Needles: US 6 / 4.0mm
Difficulty: Intermediate.
Alterations: None
Made for: Myself!

This was my second "real" lace project and my first lace shawl. It was such a fun knit, that I really want to make another one, but this time I think I'll add some beads. I just need to find the right yarn. Might have to get some more Jitterbug because I really, really like the feel of it and it was awesome to work with. No splitting or anything! My only regret is that I didn't block the points out more aggressively. Maybe if I get unlazy, I'll re-block it and do so. We'll see.

Pattern: Brigid
Yarn: BMFA STR Mediumweight - Color "Alina" - like maybe 1/2 the skein if that?
Needles: US 4 / 3.5mm
Difficulty: I considered these easy. They took me like two days to knit!
Made for: My friend Lee-Ann!

These were a thank you gift for feeding DW while I was in the hospital and feeding us the day I got out of the hospital. My only problem with these, were the way the colors pooled...and also, belatedly, I discovered that I'm not actually fond of this colorway at all. Next time I make these I will do two things: Go down a needle size and knit them in a solid, semi-solid, or heathered yarn.


Pattern: Swallowtail Lace Shawl
Yarn: Merino Lace - Color "Warm Spirit" - a little over half a skein
Difficulty: Intermediate for me...but so far so good!
Made for: Dunno yet, but it's the first of my 10 shawls for 2010!

I started this originally back in the beginning of January, but I dropped a stitch so far down while working the nuppps that I had to frog it...and while I was frogging it the yarn decided it was going to pull the entire shawl up into one, big unmanageable knot. So I had to scrap it and start again. Took me a bit to re-cast on...but I decided I'm not letting this beat me down!

Also, as you can see from the photo, I've been doing some baking! In that photo is a chocolate cupcake with toasted 7-minute frosting! I used this recipe for the cupcakes, and the following recipe for the frosting. I then put them in the oven to bake and at about 7 minutes till baking time was over I took them out and piped the frosting on then put them back in the oven for the frosting to toast up a bit.

7 Minute Frosting - courtesy of

1 ½ c White Sugar
1/8 tsp Salt
1/3 c Water
¼ tsp Cream of Tartar or 1 tbsp. of White Corn Syrup
2 Egg Whites
1 ½ tsp Vanilla

Place sugar, cream of tartar (or syrup), salt, water and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a hand mixer for a total of 1 minute. Place pan over the boiling water (but make sure it doesn’t actually touch the water as this may cause crystallization of the sugar) and beat constantly on high for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in vanilla.

Some things I would have done differently: First, I would have only filled the cupcake cups up halfway rather than 3/4 as my cupcakes kind of overflowed their little holders. I had to cut away some of the edge so they would be perfect icing size. Also, I would have cut back some of the milk in the recipe even more than I did. I cut it back from 1 cup to a little over 3/4 of a cup of milk...but still they almost disintegrate when I pull the paper off. So maybe next time I'll do a 1/2 cup plus a tablespoon or two. Secondly, I would have left them in the oven to toast some more to get more of that crisp, cooked sugar flavor! However, these are still yummy, and with only a scant 3 tbsp of butter in the cupcake, even someone on a diet can afford to splurge with these! Here's a closer picture of the cupcake (and yes there's a bite missing)!
Here are some other things I've baked up in my kitchen on the pond...
Apple Pie!
Chewy,crispy, chocolate chip cookies (courtesy of
Miniature Soft Pretzels (also courtesy of
And the only pancakes I'm allowed to make ever...Aunt Edna Rae's Sour Cream pancakes (recipe found via

As you guys can plainly see, GMN is back in business! Knitting and domesticity is ensuing! And yes, there will be more blogging in the future! I promise! But for now, it's back to knitting...and maybe consumption of another cupcake or two! ;) Be safe, happy and make sure if you're being bad that you're at least good at it! >:)~