Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grown Ups -A Unique Perspective on Homosexuality in America

I posted this on Facebook last year.   The childhood memory kept creeping into my mind until I felt like I was "supposed" to write it down and put it out there.  For the most part, it was well received.  I think a  few people were offended by it, but that's okay as well.  We all have our life experiences that imprint on us and embed thoughts and feelings that sometimes we don't really understand.   It was not my intention to judge, or incite defensiveness or anger.  Only to convey my own, personal point of view on the subject.

Anyhow, given what's happening in our courts right now, it seemed appropriate to post this now.  I re-read it and really, really, really  thought about editing it and making it "better".  But I wrote it in one sitting inspired by what I was thinking and feeling at the time, so it feels appropriate to leave it in it's original form.    So here it is, untouched, imperfect, but my view on the prejudice against homosexuality in our culture today.  


With everything in the news lately about "gay" rights and "same sex" marriage, I find myself going back to a childhood memory time and time again. 

I grew up in a small town in Alabama. When I was about 10 years old, or maybe even younger, I remember a lot of talk among the kids at the bus stop about a black family that had bought a house in our neighborhood. Apparently, a lot of the "grown ups" were really angry and upset about this. There were meetings and discussions about how they might stop this family from buying the house. They were mad at the homeowners for selling their home to a black family. My parents weren't among the group of adults rallying against this black family, but I heard the talk none-the-less. I remember at the time feeling very scared because the grown ups were so upset. Without really articulating the emotion, I realize now that I was really thinking "Wow... there must be something really bad about black people. If the grown ups are this upset (and grown ups know everything, right?), then there must be something really dangerous and bad about black people."

I went to a private "Christian" school when I was in first grade. The school was located in a predominantly black neighborhood. The school teachers would yell at any passersby if they were black, and I guess walking too slowly. They would yell things like "you just get on outa here! Go on now! Get outa here!" And they used the "n" word. These were my teachers. Teachers are grown ups and grown ups know everything, right? So there must be something really scary and bad about black people. This, again, was my "take away". I came home from school one day and used that "n" word... my parents lit into me like nobody's business.

I was fortunate to have been raised by parents who didn't spew this hate, and admonished me when I repeated what I had heard others say... other grown ups. I was a child. My parents sent the clear message to me that this was wrong. But what about the children of those parents who didn't want that black family in our neighborhood? Their "take away", without a doubt, was that there must be something really scary and bad about black people. This is how bigotry and hate begins. We don't question it when we are children if we hear it from the grown ups... and unless we are guided otherwise, we won't question it when we are adults.

So now it begins again... some gay people want to get married. They want to have children. They want to live in "our neighborhoods" and have the things and rights that "we" have. We talk about "gay" rights and the equal right to marriage. But they are human rights. The right to love who we choose... to live and love openly... without fear of being persecuted, beaten or even murdered. They are not out to hurt anyone or "recruit" anyone. They just want to live their lives... have the same choices we have... and be happy.

There are children today hearing the fear and hatred spewing from their parents' mouths about gay people. They are hearing this from the grown ups.

I am a grown up. I have children. I don't want my children learning fear, hatred and bigotry from other grown ups. If you are a grown up... think of the children and the message you are sending. Is it one of acceptance and love? Or is it one of fear and loathing? If it is the latter, I would ask you to question why you care so much about what other people do that in no way, whatsoever, affects any aspect of the choices you make in your life or how you live your life? Try to imagine being that hated and persecuted person. Try to imagine when your fear began... was it because of something a grown up said when you were a child?

We all have the right to choose the kind of people we want to be.... we can change our minds... we are grown ups. Let's act like grown ups.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hot Pink & Electric Green - Zebra Cookie Cake!

The cake to go with the zebra hershey HUGS cookies :)   All buttercream (no fondant) for this birthday girl.  How fun it was piping these zebra stripes.

Happy Birthday, Jade!

I wish we had parties like this when I was a little girl!

Zebra Striped Hershey Kiss Cookies

So it seems that all the "cool bakers" are doing these... so glad I finally got the chance to make these cuties!

Super easy to make too... Just use the Hershey's Kitchen Peanut Butter Blossom Recipe.  Modify it by adding some hot pink food coloring to tint the dough and roll the balls in some hot pink sugar.  Bake per the directions and top with the "Hugs" Hershey Kisses.  And... Voila!  Super cute party cookies:

Stay tuned for the coordinating cookie cake to go with the whole zebra stripe, hot pink birthday diva theme!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Who Are Your Real Life Super Heroes?

What if we lived in a world where we all had alter egos... A world where we were all Clark Kents or Bruce Waynes, or Diana Prince's by day and some kind of super hero by night?  What would your alter ego/super hero character be?  I think my cape might be emblazoned with a giant, frosted cake or cupcake... I don't always have the right words, but I can certainly bake a delectable treat for just about any occasion.

I believe all of us have gifts that come from within the depths of our souls.  All of my friends have gifts... super powers, if you will.  No, they don't leap tall buildings in a single bound... or scale buildings with spider webs... or fly invisible airplanes defeating bad guys... But they have gifts that are truly remarkable, none-the-less.  My super heroes are my friends, my neighbors, my kids' teachers... they all bless me in so many different ways.

Some have the gift of lifting my spirit... often when no one else seems to know it even needs lifting...an innate knack for sending an email, text, or even a card in the mail, with just a few, very select words, that are exactly what you needed to hear in that moment.  Or maybe they show up, unannounced at your doorstep... holding a bottle of wine that comes with a complimentary smile, a hug, and hours of needed conversation, venting and support.

They make their home feel like a second home to yours... putting you at ease and feeling welcome to sit down, take your shoes off, relax and stay a while.  To hang out for hours and stay for dinner, when that was never part of the original plan.  They make you feel like part of their extended family... always welcome and never judged.

Some have the perfect sense of style and know just how to gift, advise, or accessorize... while that may not sound like a lot to you, it means the world to me.  How lovely it is to have a friend who can come by just before you are going out somewhere... and take your perfectly "okay" look and turn it into something special.  All without making you feel inadequate or like someone in need of transforming.  They have a gift, a knack, and they share it with you because they care... they want you to feel good about how you look.

I have friends with the gift of insightful parenting that I get to peer into and take invaluable nuggets from... these are usually the friends that offer me a new perspective on my own children... allowing me to appreciate and value them even more... to see something wonderful that perhaps I might have overlooked without their keen observation.

There are the friends you can call at any time with nothing more than "I really feel like I'm going to start crying and not be able to stop"... they understand this... they understand that nothing earth shattering or catastrophic has to have happened for this overwhelming sense of feeling, well... overwhelmed.  They listen, they care, they make you laugh, and they get you through these times with patience and without judgment.

My friends are all super heroes with super powers.  I surround myself with these super heroes who love, support, and encourage me.  We all need super heroes in our lives.  So go out now and find the super heroes in your life and surround yourself with them.  Before you know it, you'll be a super hero yourself.


My Kids... My Biggest SUPER HEROES!

Happy "Pi" Day!

I love Facebook.... if it weren't for FB, I would not have known that today is "Pi Day"... a day celebrated around the world to commemorate the mathematical constant "pi".  Observed on March 14th since 3, 1, & 4 are the first and most significant digits in "pi"... "3.14".

To use "pie" to recognize "pi" is not so much of a stretch.  The mathematical number for "pi" is the ratio of the circumference of any circle (i.e. an actual pie!)... to the diameter of that circle.  Instantly, this makes me think of a slice of pie :)   Regardless of the circle's size, the ratio will always equal pi... which is approximately 3.14.

So Happy Pi Day, Everyone!  Have a slice!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fuzzy Socks and Cherry Pie Cake - Yep

I am soooo terribly behind on posting about the random things from my dad.  No... the gifts haven't stopped coming, but I have been crazy busy and just plain remiss in keeping up with the posts... And I'm still not going to catch up today!  

He's gotten me flowers, THREE times... all of which I forgot to photograph.... some roses on Valentines Day... A really beautiful potted "pink thing" (I have no idea what it is, but I'm hoping to keep it alive!)... it's obviously some kind of bulb and very fragrant... and some other flowers that I also don't know the name of...

There was also a "near miss" when he pointed out a catalog the other day... it was a wig catalog... Yes... you read that correctly.. I said a "wig" catalog.  He seriously said... "pick something out if you want it."  Now, I have to admit that it was pretty tempting... to order a wig.  I always thought having a wig would be awesome.  You could be having a really bad hair day and just pop that thing on your head and be ready to go!  Plus... how nice would it be to go from short blond (okay... gray) hair to a long, luxurious dark head of hair.  Oh, I thought about it alright, but decided against it.  It would have made a most excellent blog entry, for sure, but let's be honest... I really don't need a wig.

I do have a couple of recent photos of some fabulous items I've received from my dad, but those are still going to have to wait for another day.  Today's post is really about my mom...

For as long as I can remember, my mom was always making/building/sewing/creating something!  With the exception of shoes, I don't think there is a single article of clothing she hasn't made for me.  Shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, formal wear, underwear even!  Leotards, bathing suits, slips and even a bra...  My mom has sewn just about every article of clothing you can imagine.

She has also done upholstery, padded/covered headboards, draperies, bed spreads... and the list goes on and on.  She even had a run with turning wood into bowls... and they were beautiful.  My mom is the single person responsible for the fact that I never thought there was something I couldn't do... she was the one who used the power tools, built things and repaired items at our house... Those things weren't reserved for "men" as demonstrated by my mom.  A visit to the Craftsman section of Sears could take an eternity with her!  There is a hilarious story of a ban saw she purchased in Denver that my sister and I drove to Arkansas to deliver to her... but that's for another time.

Right now, my mom's latest phase/craft is knitting.  She has made hats and scarves, and even knitted dish towels (sounds crazy, right?  But they are some of my favorite dish towels)...  right now her knitting obsession is socks... brightly colored, thick, warm and cozy socks.  

My kids spent quite a bit of time at my parents today, because I was crazy busy...  In addition to my home baking business, I'm also a licensed realtor (because those are related, right?)... Here in Austin the real estate market has taken off rather dramatically, so I've been fairly busy.  

I needed to preview a house, take my daughter to an appointment at 2:00, go to a 4:00 appointment to write a contract with a client on a new construction home, and decorate a cake to look like a cherry pie...  I was really excited about that cherry pie cake, but not so excited about how busy my day was.  One by one, I got my "stuff" done, including the cherry pie cake.  Now almost 10:00, I went to my parents' house to pick up my kids.  I was exhausted, but it was a good day.

My mom was finishing up a pair of socks... They looked so soft and comfy... I tried them on... they felt soooooo good on my poor tired feet... she put the finishing touches on the last sock and them gave them to me.

They are socks... and I LOVE these socks... I put them on and I can't help smiling... they are so soft and fuzzy and they just perfectly soothe my aching feet.  I'm wearing them right now and am just a little bit sad that I will have to take them off soon when I go to bed (nope... I just can't sleep with socks on... not even these fabulous socks)....

So... a long and stressful, yet productive and satisfying day is behind me... I'm wearing my socks and I'm thinking about my mom and the many gifts she has... there's nothing she can't do if she puts her mind to it....

So... here are the socks... they represent absolutely everything that is wonderful about my mom.... Oh... and the cherry pie cake... because it really is just oh so cool....

The super soft and fuzzy socks my mom made... and our dog Coco in the background...
She sets them off nicely don't you think?

And the Cherry Pie!
I mean the cake that looks like cherry pie!

Well now I want cherry pie... :/

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Story Behind The Photo

As I'm sure all parents do, every now and again I go back and look at photos of my kids when they were younger.  It's astounding how quickly time goes by... day by day, year by year, they grow and evolve into their own person.  They develop their own sense of humor, quirky and unique personalities... Sometimes you can see yourself in them so clearly, and sometimes you wonder "where in the heck did THAT come from?"

So many photos tell a story... all you have to do is look at a photo of a child and an immediate scenario comes to mind.  Chocolate covered smiles, tears of utter devastation, twirling and dancing around like only a child can.  Then sometimes, there's a photo that makes you think "what on earth....?  How in the heck?...."  This is one of those photos.

This is a photo of my son when he was about three years old.  I never cease to marvel at it in amazement... not only that it actually happened, but that I was able to capture it in a photo.

We were playing in the back yard.  He was obsessed with the storage building that houses all of the lawn equipment, fertilizer, yard tools, etc.  He kept trying to open it to go inside.  I continued to tell him "no" and to "stay away" from the storage building, to no avail.  I saw a bird, a young Blue Jay, on the ladder of our swing set.  I said "Milam, look there's a bird!"  He said "where?"  I said "On the swing set."  He still didn't see it, so I pointed and told him it was on the ladder.  He said "can I pet it?"  I said "sure!"... thinking, of course, that the bird would fly away.

He walked toward the Blue Jay.  As he got closer and closer, I kept waiting for the bird to fly away.  He continued, even closer, and the bird remained perched on the ladder.  He was now right next to the perfectly still bird... it remained on the ladder, unimpressed by how close my son now was.  Milam reached his hand out to touch the bird... I thought surely this was the moment  the bird would fly away.  To my shock, and amazement, it didn't.  Milam began petting the bird and the bird remained still, allowing him to gently touch him and stroke his back.

In awe of the moment, I rushed inside to get my camera.... Fairly certain the bird would have flown away by the time I got back, I still had to try to capture this moment.  I returned with my camera and there sat Milam, still gently stroking the bird.  I got more than one photo of this absolutely precious moment, but my favorite is of his hand actually touching the bird and the look of innocence and joy on his face.

If ever I need lifting up from a particularly stressful day, these pictures do it for me every time.  And each time I look at my son, petting the Blue Jay, my heart is full.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Have You Thanked a Teacher Today?

First, I would just like to say that I love, love, love my kids' school!  They have both been going to the same school since pre-school and I can't imagine it any other way.  They are now in 5th and 2nd grade and are absolutely flourishing in every way.

The teachers at our school, along with all of the staff (plus some really special volunteers), have been an absolutely blessing for my kids... especially this past year as my kids have adjusted to my divorce from their father.  That being said, I wanted to do something special for the teachers this year.... as so often happens, time almost got the best of me, but somehow I managed to get it done.

Here are the fruits of my labor... to thank the teachers for the fruits of their labor...

Love, Blessings, and THANK YOU to the teachers!

The cupcake - red velvet with cream cheese frosting... coated in red sugar and embellished with an apple stem and leaves... isn't the cupcake paper just too cute!  Couldn't believe my luck when I happened upon them in the store.... today!
The cup... simple, plastic cocktail cup.  I found the image via free clip-art
and printed it on the circle labels... so cute :)

Put the cupcakes in the cups! (saw this idea on pinterest....
so many fun ideas there, but you know that already)

Bag it!  Wrapped in a treat bag and tied with a ribbon,
now it's a cupcake to go!
Aren't they just so adorable...
 So I've made it clear that I love our school and all the teachers and staff.  I would also like offer my sincerest admiration and gratitude to all teachers out there... Having had some teachers that have been pretty spectacular for my kids in so many ways, I appreciate the sacrifices you all make and what you do for our kids....


Baby Boy - Sweet Baby Shower Cookies

Typically, I do most of my sugar cookie decorating with fondant and sometimes accent with some piping.  Because it's quick and easy, but mostly because it's a medium I am very comfortable with (maybe that's why it's quick & easy?).  From time to time, an opportunity comes along for me to "break out of my comfort zone" and try something a little different.

My son's teacher recently had a baby and the class threw her a surprise baby shower.  I offered to bring some decorated cookies.... I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make some royal icing decorated cookies, something I don't have a lot of experience at.... AND I tried my hand and some different piping techniques (including writing the baby's name in teeny, tiny lettering!)... Writing/piping with icing is not my "best" thing so I was a little intimidated.

I am so pleased with how they turned out.  Aren't they cute?  They feel kind of like a vintage "throw back" design for a traditional baby shower to me...

Baby Bottles, Umbrellas & Rattles, Oh My!

Umbrellas!   I just love the rain drops & polka dots
on these guys

These were fun because I got to try several different patterns and designs... 

They were so much fun to make and the class enjoyed them as well.  His teacher gave birth to a beautiful baby boy (and I do mean beautiful... man is that baby ever cute!).

Congratulations Ms. Kirkwood!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Cake That Started it All

So how did I get into cake decorating?  I didn't start decorating cakes until after my son was born.  Never even thought it was something I wanted to do, or would be good at.  So for me, there was definitely a defining moment for when I "started" decorating cakes.

While I've always enjoyed baking and been pretty good at it, cake decorating was nowhere on my radar.  Not until I offered to make my mother-in-law's birthday cake for her 60th birthday.  We were having a surprise party for her... I really wanted to make the cake special, but wasn't sure exactly how.  I had ordered cakes from the grocery store with edible images before for my kids' birthdays.  That gave me the idea to put a "family tree" on top of the cake to high light her life and the people in it who loved her.  I thought it would be cool to have photos of the family on the family tree and one larger photo of Sue on the cake.

But how on earth was I going to execute this idea?   I had no skills whatsoever at icing a cake smooth.  So then I had this brilliant (albeit somewhat naive) idea of making fondant.  I really didn't know that much about it and wasn't even sure if I had the name right.   But I thought, if I had a perfectly smooth cake to decorate, that would be a great foundation for the family tree.

I did a google search and found a recipe for marshmallow fondant.  I figured if it didn't work out, I wasn't out that much money or time so I thought I'd give it a shot.  So I followed the recipe (which called for incorporating the sugar into the melted marshmallows by hand).  I had the biggest mess on my counters and swear I was up to my elbows in confectioners sugar and melted marshmallow. I'm sure the amount I washed off my hands was nearly equivalent to the amount of fondant I ended up working with.

All the stars must have aligned just right because somehow.... somehow!.... that fondant rolled out so perfectly.... it went onto the cake perfectly!  It felt like a miracle, and I was sooooo pleased.  I had this beautifully covered, perfectly smooth, white sheet cake upon which to decorate.

I was scared to death to decorate this cake... I mean... it was beautifully flawless (in my mind anyhow)... I was so afraid I would muck it up when I started adding decorations.  So I made my decorations out of fondant... hand rolled and cut chocolate fondant for tree trunk and limbs... green fondant cutout leaves... red fondant cut out flowers.... I was mesmerized by this lovely concoction that was so wonderfully pliable... I became addicted and obsessed with the product and the limitless possibilities it represented.

The flowers and leaves were all looking pretty spectacular in my mind, but I was so afraid to actually put them on the cake.  Finally, I mustered up the courage to start adding the decorations to the cake... little by little, step by step, my confidence grew.  I made green buttercream and piped some additional leaves.  I made red buttercream for additional piping to frame the family photos.  I was on fire!  Or at least that is how I felt.

As is plainly evident, piping/writing was my downfall.  I was sorely disappointed in the "Your Family Is Proud" script that certainly looked like a four year old wrote it.

But overall, I was thrilled... I was proud of my creation.. I wanted to do it again... and again... and again....

It started there and never stopped.  That was December of 2006 and I never looked back.  I went to culinary school in 2008 and completed a Pastry Arts program.  This single cake was a catalyst to a hobby, which has blossomed into a successful cake business that keeps me pretty busy... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Cake That Started My Obsession

I am proud to say that my piping skills have improved tremendously over the years and no longer look like the work of a pre-schooler!

Fast Forward to October of 2008.... This was my next "Family Tree" cake.... Makes me think of that Virginia Slims (?) ad... "You've Come a Long Way Baby!"

It was nice to recreate the same "idea" for a cake and see just how far I had come... Absolutely LOVE both cakes, but for completely different reasons.

I love what I do and grow more confident and comfortable every day in my role as a cake artist.  Thank you to everyone who supports what I do and lifts me up when I need it.  I am thankful that I get to do what I love.... 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

If You Give an ADHD Cake Decorator an Order for a Barbie Cake

This is a true story inspired by the "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" series of books.... I am quite certain that Laura Numeroff has used me as her muse....

If you give an ADHD cake decorator an order for a barbie cake,

she will search the kitchen for the necessary ingredients.

When looking in the freezer, she sees some multi-colored cake balls.

She decides adding these to the cake will make it even more exciting.

She'll go to the store to get the items she doesn't already have at home.

When she's at the store, she sees some really fancy cupcake papers.

She remembers that the birthday girl wanted both chocolate and vanilla cake.

She decides some vanilla cupcakes in these fancy papers will look really nice around the barbie cake, which is chocolate (except for the multi-colored cake balls, which are vanilla).

The barbie going into the cake has wings... she decides butterflies on top of the vanilla cupcakes will be perfect with the winged barbie cake.

She gets a call from the birthday girl's mother and learns that there may be a lot of guests.

Worried the cake and cupcakes won't be enough, she decides to make some cookies.

Since the cupcakes will have butterflies on them, she decides to make cut out sugar cookies in the shape of a butterfly.

She decides to try a new technique on the butterfly cookies that she's been wanting to try.  After decorating the cookies with the new technique, she decides adding some hand painting to the cookies will be a nice touch.

She spends so much time on the butterfly cookies that she doesn't have enough time to make the butterflies for the top of the cupcakes.

After completing the cake, she realizes that Barbie's "skirt"  is protruding too much and Barbie's wings cannot be worn with the cake.

After she's finished with the cake, cupcakes and cookies... she delivers her cake to the party where someone asks if they can order a Barbie Cake...

And you know.... if you order a Barbie cake from an ADHD cake decorator.... you might just get a whole lot of other stuff to go with it.