Monday, March 26, 2012

Countdown to relaxation

A coworker asked me the other day what my dream is. Well, I have a lot of dreams but one of my recurring daydreams lately is building a little cabin in the woods in the Texas Hill Country. I will get to pretend a little bit this weekend when I head that way with my parents and enjoy some relaxation, horseback riding, hiking and quiet time sans cell phones and facebook. I have soooo much to do before we head out, but it will all be worth it.

A little cabin in the woods
Source: dwell.com via Ashley on Pinterest

A million reasons to love the Texas Hill Country
Source: imgur.com via Ashley on Pinterest


Source: google.com via Ashley on Pinterest

Horse love.  I get to ride horses this weekend!


I'll be back next week with plenty to share.  For now I'm off to check off my to do list and work.
Have a great week!

Friday, March 23, 2012

My weekend is now

Today is my Sunday, and I sure am enjoying my weekend. I'm getting lots done too. I still have a lot to do before the end of next week. I'm going to camp with my family, get to spend the weekend with Karlie and attending a baby shower, which I am making a cake for and have to finish a gift for. In addition to all that I want to take a new knitting project for another friend's baby with me on the trip. And I have some jewelry to get in the mail this week. Anyways, it has been a busy couple of days off for me. The weather is perfect today and I'm hoping to get outside soon.

Kool Aid Yarn for my next knitting project. 
Look aid yarn
I never get tired of dyeing yarn with Kool Aid, I just love it so much.  I'm sure I would love using other dyes and may soon try iDye from Jacquard.  I do still want to invest in acid dyes, but like buying locally and skipping the shipping fees.
Looking at my hand dyed yarns and color palettes just makes me smile.

Roses on my practice cake from cake decorating class.  Not perfect, but pretty cool.
Cake decorating class

The whole cake.
Cake decorating class
My polka dots are smaller and better than on Alley's cake.
See what I was talking about with the writing?
Piping first in the same color as the cake and then tracing over that makes so much sense!

I forgot to mention something I learned when filling Alley's cake.  I saw mention of a "dam" of frosting around the filling but didn't do that.  On the next cake that I made (to try another recipe) I did it and it is so helpful. Totally prevented the filling from squishing out the sides of the cake when I frosted it. 
Dam around filling

And finally, just out of the oven, two small batches of two different vanilla cake recipes.  
Testing vanilla cake recipes
This time we will taste test side by side and pick a winner.  These are with cake flour, properly measured and sifted.  They rose funny, and browned unevenly.  The first batch (on the right) probably stayed in the oven about a minute too long.  I'll let you know about texture, taste and which recipe wins.  I've always had good results replacing cake flour with all purpose, but my teacher said not to go the other way.  If this is the rise result with cake flour I might stick with all purpose.  We shall see.

For the rest of the day I will be working on jewelry, hopefully enjoying this weather and then getting these desserts out of the house and away from me. 

I hope you enjoy your weekend as much as I have mine!
xoxo
Ashley

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adventures in Cake Baking

It has been a busy season of birthdays for our friends and family around here, and it is not over yet.  Dad is next, then my good friend Christi (who won't get a cake because she doesn't live nearby) and Frank.  Those are just the April birthdays.
Our awesome buddy Alley's birthday was last weekend and though she share's a birthday with Saint Patrick's day I decided against a green cake. Instead I opted for a springy, girlie cake.  I tested another Vanilla cake recipe, this time from Smitten Kitchen.  I made the cake ahead, froze it and thawed the night before, which worked beautifully.

Since I was feeling very ambitious I also made homemade Marshmallow Fondant flowers.
Alley's Birthday cake

As well as raspberry filling, lemon curd and cream cheese frosting in advance. 
lemon curd, raspberry filling and cream cheese icing

Here is the final result.  This is pre Cake Decorating class, which I took last night.
I think this one is cute but the "polka dots" that I was going for look more like hershey kisses.  
Alley's Birthday Cake

Mmmm, Vanilla layer cake with lemon curd and raspberry filling and cream cheese icing.
Alley's Birthday cake

I also practiced my flower arranging skills and made a pretty for Alley.
Alley's Birthday flowers

And a few bud vases for myself. 
bud vases on my table

All this baking has served as practice for a baby shower cake that I am to make next week.
I have learned quite a bit from these last two cakes and my class last night.
Some things I have learned:

*Marshmallow fondant is messy to make but much cheaper and tastier than store bought.

*Wear latex gloves when kneading colors into fondant!

*Cake flour (like any other flour) should be measured using the scoop and sweep method, not packed in with the side of the cake box.  I knew better when I did it, and both cakes had a courser and drier texture than they should have.  Now I need to retest both recipes with correct measuring techniques and get a canister for my cake flour.

*Putting your cake in the freezer after crumb coating for about 15 minutes will make frosting the cake much easier.

*Pipe your lettering in the same color as your cake first, then trace over with another color.  This helps tremendously!

*Cake decoration, like any other craft, requires practice to master.

*Cream Cheese Icing pipes beautifully.  So glad, since it is so much tastier, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!

We had a lovely day and beautiful sunset after a night and morning of heavy rain and wind.
First day of spring

The ground was so wet from the rain that I was able to pull my nemesis, the dandelions, from the front beds. I still need to do lots of work out there but at least those guys are gone.

There are signs of Spring.
The Mexican Bird of Paradise is budding.
First day of spring

My Euphorbias blooms are past their peak.  They are always the first thing to bloom in my garden.
First day of spring

Perennials are growing and greening.
First day of spring

I wish I could say that these ranunculus are from my garden, but they are from work.  The pink and green leaves are from one of my house plants though.
Flowers

There is lots of work yet to do in the yard. Tomato seedlings to plant, perennials and shrubs to trim, weeds to pull, leaves to pick up and volunteers to transplant. I better get to it before the heat gets the best of us all. This is the time to be in the garden.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Granny and Pawpaw

I mentioned last week that my Granny and Pawpaw's birthdays had inspired me to finally scan old family photos.  There are tons more, but they are packed away with my parent's stuff in storage.  My mom is definitely the family photo keeper and I always enjoy going through old photos.

I wish I had access to pictures from the big family celebrations that we would have each year for Granny and Pawpaw's birthdays.  I miss those gatherings.  After Granny passed away in 2000 we continued to celebrate and gather for Pawpaw, who lived to be 93.  I miss both of my maternal grandparents a lot.  I was not as close with my paternal grandparents, though I did become close with my Amma in adulthood.  Pawpaw lived the longest of all of my grandparents, so I felt the closest to him and have the most recent memories of him.

Pawpaw was ten years older than Granny and they bickered so much that it became a family joke.  You can see from these photos that they had fun times too though.

Granny age 13
Granny

Granny in Little Rock 1946
Recognize that lawn chair?  We have a set like that one.
Granny

Granny and Pawpaw traveled around the Western US in the late 70's and early 80's.
I love these pictures! They went to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and all through New Mexico, Arizona and California.  They camped, explored and Pawpaw collected rocks, many of which I have and hope to someday make jewelry from.  In their backyard in Houston they had set of cement steps covered with an amazing rock collection that I so wish I had.
Granny and Pawpaw on the road

Pawpaw and aspen trees

Pawpaw and I in their backyard.
Me and PawPaw

Granny and I at my College Graduation party, May 1999.
Granny and I at my College graduation party

Pawpaw in his garage in Houston.  It was truly packed to the gills and this picture really doesn't do it justice.  There was just so much stuff.  Amazing.  They lived in that house for almost fifty years.
pawpaw in his garage

Pawpaw, Elliott and I in my parent's backyard. 
Pawpaw, Elliott and I

My grandparents qualities are living on through their children and grandchildren, and I'm sure now, great grandchildren who they never met.  I know my Granny's love of cooking and baking for family, her crafting and generosity have been carried down from mother to daughter to grandaughter and now to Karlie who also loves to be in the kitchen. They both loved gardening and being outside and obviously had a sense of adventure and love of travel.  These too have carried on in us.  Pawpaw whittled and Granny sewed, crocheted and did all kinds of handwork.  I'm confidently carrying on that tradition as is my mother.  Though our grandparents don't live forever they do live on in our hearts. Happy Birthday Granny and Pawpaw, love you always.

* I am baking another cake for a friend with a Saint Patrick's Day Birthday.  Vanilla Layer Cake with Lemon Curd and Raspberry filling and Cream Cheese frosting.  I also made fondant flowers for the first time.  This cake will be small and definitely a labor of love.  I may have to do a repeat for Easter so that my family can taste.  Oh, and I signed up for my cake decorating class at work.  I got the last spot!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birthday Shout Outs

Today is my sister in law's birthday.
Yesterday would have been my Pawpaw's 97th and this coming Sunday would have been Granny's 87th. We always had a big family celebration for my grandparents.
I would have probably made them a tall layered Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, or whichever cake they preferred.
My cousin's daughter was born yesterday on her great grandfather's birthday. How cool is that?!
I miss my grandparents everyday, more now that I reminisce on family gatherings.

While I couldn't make that carrot cake for Granny and Pawpaw I could and did make a cake for my sweet sister in law.  We decided on Vanilla Cake with Chocolate icing.
Happy Birthday Natalie!

I used Glorious Treat's Vanilla Cupcake recipe as well as her American Buttercream (with the addition of 4 oz of cream cheese and 1/2 cup cocoa powder). I have been extremely pleased with every recipe I have used from Glorious treats and these are no exception. I can't wait to enjoy a slice of this cake tonight!

I have also been asked to make cake or cupcakes for an upcoming baby shower being given for a friend.  I don't know what flavor yet, but I really want it to be cute.  The theme is Owls.  I did spy a cake decorating class in a couple of weeks at work.  Perfect timing!

Happy Birthday Natalie, Granny, Pawpaw and new cousin Emily!
Happy Weekend to you all.
xoxo

ps, I finally got around to scanning a bunch of old pictures of my grandparents and will share them soon.  I've been meaning to do that forever.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dreaming and Working

In typical Spring fashion I'm obsessed with my yard at the moment and have been putting in some serious effort to whip it into shape. I do realize it isn't truly Spring yet, but we didn't really have a Winter and it has felt like Spring for some time. Sunday and Monday were perfect, but of course I was at work. It turned windy and gray the last couple of days but I haven't let that keep me inside.

The plum tree is blooming
Working on the back yard

Working on the back yard

Working on the back yard

Working on the back yard

Working on the back yard

Larkspur and poppies are shooting up like weeds.
Working on the back yard

And I'm daydreaming of sprucing up my cute furniture with fresh paint and cushions.
Working on the back yard

I don't even know if I can find out door fabric like this, but I'm picturing cushions in yellow and white chevron stripe.  Doesn't that look cheery and fresh?!


Those aren't weeds  by the way, they are larkspur and mexican feather grass that I can't bear to pull out of the patio.  I'm thinking Navy or Teal for my sad metal chair.  It is in desperate need of paint!
Working on the back yard

Working on the back yard

My poor hands and arms are looking worse for wear from both this work and my work in floral.  I'll survive and I'm sure I will keep on working in the yard sans gloves until opressive heat drives me inside.

*How cool is this?!  My Polymer Bead Pendants are featured on Daily Art Muse today

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snapshots from my days off

I had the last couple of days off. I worked in the yard, enjoying this warm weather and whipping my yard into shape little by little. We helped a dear friend celebrate a birthday. I met mom and Karlie for some play time yesterday afternoon. We shopped for groceries at the HEB in Burleson (my stores' parent company) and really wished they would open one here. I almost finished a dress and a skirt.  I'm so close on both but each need some finishing touches.

I made Robin a Succulent planter for her birthday.
I love shopping for plants, and want so many for our yard and home.
Too bad our budget doesn't allow me to go on a plant shopping spree.
Succulents

Check out my Cowgirl Ballerina niece and her confident walk.
I love the pig tails in the shadow!!
Succulents

I'm almost done with this quick and easy skirt, just have to add a hook to the waistband.
It is very simple with a twist that I love, the curved hemline. 
I'm pretty proud of my zipper success on this one after a mess up the day before.
It fits loose, but I will wear it.  I will make another more fitted one soon as I love the style.
More details soon.
New skirt

I'm back to work in a bit.
Have a great day!