Friday, September 23, 2011

I was on a such a roll...

In my attempts to try and be a better blogger, I decided, starting today I would write every day - even if it's just a mere paragraph... as I go to write a new one, I see I didn't finish this one!!! (bad Aries, excellent at starting stuff, suck at finish them....)

So, here is the incomplete blog that I have decided to post anyway! (To think I started writing it July 5th and here we are September 23rd, first day of Spring!  Should I even be posting it?)

I was really on a roll - ok, three weeks in a row does not normally a roll make, however, in my case, I was pretty impressed with myself!

Next thing I know, four weeks have passed and - nothing, well, not really nothing.  Was extremely busy with all kinds of stuff and just couldn't squeeze in (read chose not to) any writing time!

By now my gardens and flowers have all but exploded!  As have, unfortunately, the weeds.  Sigh....  I seriously don't know why we pay the gardeners so much.  All they do is mow the itty bitty patch of grass I have!  They have not touched a weed since the summer started!  I've been pretty busy at work trying to clean them out, however.

Hubby and I have started but have stalled - for now.  Another beautiful week-end awaits us so we should be able to do another section!

In the meantime, check out these lovelies!

The tulips have come and gone... by whilst here were quite lovely

Except for this one!  What up with that?  It refuses to flower year after year, yet I allow it to remain...

The white bleeding hearts were really nice too

Friday, May 13, 2011

Full bloom ahead!

Last week-end I took my pictures then wasted unknown amount of time looking for a good picture of my original flower garden... Finally gave up knowing I had some in my office computer (!) and figured I'd wasted enough time.  So, what I had in mind to write just didn't work any more.  Thought I'd do it on Monday but next thing I know here we are the following Friday and still not updated.  Sigh...

So, dear readers (should any of you exist as of yet) pretend that this was posted last week-end!

Things are really starting to go nuts, garden-wise!

I blinked at the ferns went from 6 to 14 inches!  The rhododendrons are in full bloom (pity it'll only last a week, maybe two if I'm lucky).


That red maple is starting to sprout leaves, though they are not yet fully formed...


It's been an eye-opening experience for me to really pay attention to how things are coming into their own, so to speak.  I used to take it for granted.  Oh look... the buds are appearing.. oh look, now there are leaves... and so on.  Now, I'm really seeing it all come to life and it's been a great experience!

During this week-end (remember, we're really talking about last week-end!)  I wanted to focus on planning my veggie garden.  I wanted to show you how it looked when I moved into this house with no backyard to speak of, and now I can:


Now some people might think this is wonderful.  I, on the other hand, feel absolutely suffocated by all this stuff!  It has taken me almost four years but now I'm ready to yank it out!  Not all of it, just some. (In truth, my hubby will be doing the hard labour so I can't ask him to do it all in one shot!  Last year, I had him remove about four tufts of grasses and it was quite the job.  This year, he'll be removing the left side, but keeping the lovely white roses - gone will be the Black-Eyed Susans, the grasses and the Russian sage that, in my most humble opinion, is just a poor excuse of a plant with its faded lilac "blooms" sticking up from pale boring leaves.... you can see just the tip of them in the top left picture.  Kinda sad, really!  So buh-bye!  In their stead will be lovely tee-pees of cukes, string beans and anything else that will love to climb!  As well, there will be some root veg, I'm thinking.  Still not sure what exactly as I can't see how much space I will inherit!

This is what it looks like now, before the "purge"!

Looking forward to getting in there and ripping out!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Growth in one week

Considering the amount of rain and the lack of sunshine we received in one week, I'm amazed at just how much everything has grown...

The rhododendrons are truly starting to bloom:

My red maple is really making progress:

Even the ferns are unfurling slowly:

After spending Easter weekend at Mom's and seeing her rhubarb has begun to sprout, I found myself wondering about mine!  Surely if hers has begun to make itself known, mine must be even bigger (we are, after all, a little more south than she is!)  How could I not have even seen it!  Granted, I got carried away with the front garden I forgot to check the backyard... still, my kitchen window does face it.  I just didn't notice it!  I now have all sorts of recipes floating around my head just waiting for said rhubarb to be big enough!  Hurry up, already!

I now find myself on this beautiful Sunday afternoon wanting to plan my official garden.  Hubby is adding new earth to all our various planters and gardens and, once the rains that we are expected to receive all next week have passed, out come the grasses that suffocate me to make even more room for edible plants.

For the first time in my life, I actually want to plan, prepare, organise my garden and actually get things like onions and peas and other cold hardy plant in the garden BEFORE all the other stuff that usually goes in come Victoria Day week-end.  And THIS time, we ARE going to Marché Jean-Talon as well as our local garden centres to find the best plants to plant.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring really is here... I swear it is!

So, we have little belief that Spring really is can we not?  Snow, cold, warm, not so warm, need boots and mitts and hats, don't need them any more...put on layers, take off layers... sounds like Spring to me!

That said, we want spring to bring buds and flowers and birds... here ya go!

Some lovely tiny crocus

My red maple tree is showing promise

The rhododendrons will be showing their blooms in no time

Why this very afternoon, I actually sat outside on my front porch, beer in one hand, book in the other wearing shorts!  'Course, that was before the sun decided to hide itself...  Still, I did feel spring has sprung!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Making of a Wedding Cake

There is one thing I love about my job... Golden Fridays! 17 times per year we get the Friday off... I try to use this day to do absolutely nothing important or necessary... unless of course I have a cake to bake or I'm having people over for dinner the next day and I have the chance to get ahead.

Today is one of those days! I have a wedding cake to do for tomorrow. It'll be simple but elegant. Three tiers of white cake covered in vanilla buttercream icing and draped with white fondant. As decoration, white and turquoise ribbons and fresh flowers.

So... this is the story of how a wedding cake gets made!

First bake the layers and layers of cakes!

Once they've cooled... time to make the buttercream icing... and I'm gonna needs lots of it! The important thing is to really whip the butter - whip it until it is as white as possible - a good 10 minutes aught to take care of it! Here's where a stand mixer would come in handy.

My basic buttercream recipe, which I have been making for the past 16 years or so (picked out of an old "Australian Woman's Weekly - Children's Birthday Cake Book" is:

Buttercream Icing

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups icing (powder) sugar
4 tbsp milk at room temperature (could vary depending on the weather - I go 1 tbsp at a time)
1 tsp pure vanilla (none of that fake crap)

Cream butter with stand mixer for a good 10 minutes until it is as white as can be.
Sift in 1 cup of icing sugar and add 1 tbsp milk at a time.
Mix in completely before adding more.
Add in extra milk if consistency is too thick.
Blend in vanilla

See how white the butter it became?

Now, it's very important - especially when making a wedding cake, to ensure the layers are even. The tops must be cut off to give a perfectly flat surface... I have this nifty little saw that can be adjusted - the perfect way to ensure each layer is the same height!

The second important thing to do is to smooth on a crumb layer on the cake. This seals in the crumbs and after refrigeration, the second layer of icing goes on "smooth like buttah"!

Now the fondant layer... requires some dexterity but frankly, I may not win any competitions on "Challenge" on The Food Network, but I think I do pretty OK!

Here are the three layers just waiting for assmbly!

Now... time to put the whole thing together!

OK, but kinda drab
Much better!

Lots of time and effort but I am pretty pleased with the final result... Hopefully the bride is as well!

Delivered and added some greenery.  This is the final result!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Graduation time again

Holy mackerel! Am I glad that is over!

Graduation time is finally over and I think I'm starting to be a tad less exhausted.... cookies, cakes, cookies, cakes, icing, candies, put it together, hope it's decent, truly hope the kids/parents/teachers love it all....

I thought I was going to fall apart there. Lisa (my sister) tells me her school will order 2 cakes for the kindergarten graduation and, if I thought I could, she would order the cookies "sur mesure" (i.e. hair and eyes match the kids they are named for!!!) from her to each kid. I figure, "why not?"

Next thing I know, there are four more cakes for grade 6 graduation PLUS a special cake just for the grads themselves. This includes candies of mortar boards and diplomas... 37 grads. For Wednesday night. I figure, I'll start early and have plenty of time. Right. I have one mould and in said mould, there are two (2) mortar boards and two (2) diplomas.... Hmmm...
should be do-able, I'll start on the Monday for the Wednesday evening delivery....

Make-believe scenario: melt the candy melts, tint them the appropriate colour and let's go. Right. True scenario: Melt the candy, paint the tassel white, paint the ribbon red, pour in the white to fill in the the diplomas, pour in the blue to fill in the mortar boards. Place in fridge to set. Wait. Re-melt candies that have hardened and proceed as before... Three hours into it and a mere 20 pairs are done... Meanwhile, I'm baking. I'm baking two layers at a time for each of the cakes. Thank goodness I've got two ovens. The base is 12" X 18" and the top is two 9" X 13" cakes that, once put on top of the base, will look like an open book. Piece of cake! No pun intended, of course. I've got 3 of the 4 basic cakes done and a mere 20 pairs of candies. Gotta get to bed - got lots of time tomorrow...

Tuesday, start working right away when I get home from work at 4:00 p.m. I have one more "big cake" to bake plus the grad cake. In between the baking, I'll start icing the oth
er cakes. I figure these will be easy as I'm not going too crazy on the decorating.... Two are chocolate cakes with chocolate icing and two are vanilla with vanilla icing. A few flowers here and there, a "Congrats Class of 2010" and we're done.

Not so fast.

I only have a standard Kitchenaid Stand Mixer and can only do the equivalent of one pound of butter with six cups of icing sugar at a time. Enough to spread between the layers of one cake and apply a thin crumb coat to the rest of the cake! Damn! I manage to ice all four cakes and bake the grad cake and finish the candies but must quit because it is now 1:30 a.m. and I can't do any more.


Back home at 4:00 p.m. and it's crunch time! Two hours to finish the grad cake! Yikes! Create a red mortar board by coveri
ng a smaller cake plate with red fondant. Ice cake, place mortar board on cake and place all 37 candy diplomas and mortar boards around the cake. Crap! Have to write the names of each grad as well!

Finish with time to take pics before pick-up!
Lisa shows up at 6:15 p.m. Phew....

After going to my karate class (Prepare the dough because not only do I have the Boucherville Elementary School order, I have promised Iain (my son) 53 cookies for his graduation on Thursday evening!

So, now I can concentrate on the cookies for Iain's class as well as start work on the cakes for the kindergarten graduation due for Friday morning at 8:00... balderdash.

I bake all 53 cookies and one of the two cakes and decide to prepare the royal icing for tomorrow - smart move. Finish working at 12:30 a.m. Need to sleep. Have to be at work for 7:30 a.m.

Thursday. Get home from work at 4:00 p.m. Ice all 53 cookies including writing all the names. Get to the graduation for 6:00. Are told it will last 1/2 hour. Lasts 1.5 hours. Leave Iain to party, go say "hi" to fellow high school grads (don't things always get booked on the same night?), have a glass and a half of wine, am picked up at 8:55 p.m. to go pick up graduate son as party is over. Go back to baking and icing and whatnot.

Have a Golden Friday so I don't have to go to work.... instead, work on kindergarten stuff until
3:30 a.m.! I must admit I am pleased. The two cakes look lovely, I have created fondant butterflies (their theme for the year) and each and every cookie represents the child it has been
named for: blond hair, blue eyes; brown hair, green eyes, etc.

All is ready for pick-up at 8:00 by Lisa.... phew!

My sister Tracy takes pity on me and invites me for breakfast. Can I say no? Hell no! I'll fall down later!