Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chocolate Insanity

Today is Steve's birthday.  In honor of his special day, I got it in my head to make him a 14-layer cake.  I read this post on Bakerella a while back and made a mental note of it.  Mind you, Bakerella has more patience, a cleaner kitchen, and fewer child-like helpers around the house, but I think my creation is acceptable.  I had to tweak my version because Steve's birthday request was for a chocolate cake with white icing.  What he ended up with was a chocolate sour cream cake with a white chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate buttercream icing.  

Using fat-free sour cream and Eggbeaters was the only way I could make this recipe even remotely healthy, though I'm not sure it qualifies as healthy.  If anything, the sour cream and Eggbeaters make it only slightly less heart-attack inducing.

I think the pans look pretty cool, though in hindsight I could have spent less time photographing them and more time spreading the batter evenly.

 Action shot of a cake baking!  (I'm pretty sure this is cutting-edge blogging now.)  Thanks to our double oven, I was able to bake 6 cakes at a time.  I'm a little disappointed that I haven't had the chance to bake the 100+ nuggets that my oven allegedly has room for, but at least I can say that I used it to make 14 cakes in under an hour.

My fleet of cakes are cooling.  They remind me of big pancakes.

Chopping the white chocolate for the ganache.  I was so tempted to sneak a few bites, but I held off.  Really.  I did.

It's not quite done yet.  The cakes are stacked and the filling is in place.  Next time I do this, I will be sure to double the amount of filling I use.  Also, next time I will be sure not to drop two of the layers on the ground.  The astute reader will note that we're down to a 12-layer cake now.

This is the frosting step.  Right now there's only butter and powdered sugar in the bowl.  I almost stopped at this step, but with melted white chocolate and heavy cream waiting in the wings, I figured this concoction could only get better.

I brought in my assistants for the fun part.

Quality control was a little lax on this project.

This isn't exactly the final product.  My "helpers" insisted on a very healthy dose of sprinkles on top of the cake.  I don't mind sprinkles, if they're used in moderation, but I'm afraid we've violated some sort of acceptable sprinkle-to-cake ratio.

So this picture isn't a terribly flattering shot of my cake, which has some uneven frosting going on on top.  I blame my frosting assistants.  Or perhaps the weight of the sprinkles.  When I try this cake again, I think I'll opt for a more noticeable filling.  I was hoping the ganache would stand out a bit more.  In any case, it was delicious.  I cut myself a teensy slice after my Tuesday night workout, so hopefully the calories consumed and the calories burned will even out.  Oh and check out the birthday boy in the background!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Glittery Goodness

Since my previous post was a bit heavy, what with the looming threat of mold and collapsed ceilings, I decided to do a fun one today.  What could be more fun than glitter and glue?  (Actually, glitter, glue, and UNICORNS would be more fun.)  In any case, M has been asking to play with glitter and glue for a while now, and given that things have been a little out of whack around here, I decided to cave and let them have a go at the glitter and glue craft.

Not pictured: -The Jewels.

The kids had a fun time using the glue - experimenting with how hard or soft to squeeze the bottle to get the desired shape.  As much as I wanted to micromanage their artistic expression, I held off and let them make whatever shapes or designs they wanted.

M started strong with an 'M' and a ladybug.

L is more abstract.

Once we had gotten used to the glue, I unleashed the glitter.  I had to step in several times to make sure the kids didn't just open the entire container of glitter.  I must have said, "sprinkle, not dump" at least two dozen times...to no avail.  I also brought out some jewels for the kids to glue to their papers as well.  They got a kick out of the jewels too.  L took a break from dumping mounds of glitter to sort the jewels by shape.  M, of course, had to get involved by sorting those jewels by color, which essentially undid all of L's sorting work.  It was tense for a moment, but the allure of gluing jewels and sprinkling glitter won out.

The ladybug turned into a glue puddle once M realized that puddles were way more fun, and messy, to create.

She was very meticulous when it came to the jewel application.
M, with glue and glitter on his hands.

The kids had a blast, but they were pretty quick to beat it out of the kitchen when it was time to clean up the glitter.  There's still glitter in the kitchen and even in other parts of the house, for some reason.  I suppose it could be worse (see pictures in "Oh What a Week It's Been").  Perhaps if I wish hard enough, when the recovery company comes to cut out Matthew's ceiling, they'll find piles of glitter, jewels, and perhaps even unicorns in the attic, rather than icky clumps of wet insulation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh What a Week it's Been

It's been just a bit over a week since my last post and I'd like to say things have been pretty carefree and easygoing around here, but alas, things have been quite the opposite.  Shortly after I posted "Preschool Pro," I went upstairs to gather the items that the kids need for swim class.  When I went into M's closet to retrieve a swim suit I noticed that the closet was humid and wet, which wasn't good since Colleyville, and a large swath of Texas, had just been subjected to Tropical Storm Hermine.  Apparently Hermine wasn't content with just hitting our roof, rolling into our gutters, and watering our lawn for free.  She wanted in, in a big way.  Pretty much every item of clothing in M's closet was, in one way or another, wet - some were dripping, some were damp, and some were just too close to clothes that had been contaminated with roof-attic insulation-sheetrock rainwater.  I grabbed pretty much everything out of the closet (we got the rest later), threw down some old towels, and then wrangled the kids out of the house to swim class.  Later that evening, after the kids were asleep (M's camping in the guest room for time being), Steve and I assessed the situation.  As if the saggy ceiling, dripping water, and mysterious growth isn't enough, it turns out that we had placed a stack of M's baby pictures and my baby book (from the 70's!) on the top shelf of the closet - pretty much directly under that ominous looking ceiling.  Uncool Hermine.  Uncool.

The ceiling in M's closet - 9/8.

Here's Steve doing his best to dry out Matthew's pictures and my baby book.
We took this the very next night.  It appears to have gotten bigger and I think I heard it laugh at us, too.
Flash forward a week and a day.  We're pretty much where we were a week ago.  Sigh.  Apparently we aren't the only ones in Texas dealing with water issues.  We have confirmed appointments for a number of people to come out tomorrow to look at our, shall we say, situation.  Hopefully we'll be able to get the ball rolling on getting this fixed.  In the interim, we've made M's room off limits and have taped a tarp over the offending area of the ceiling.  I just braved exposure to whatever it is that may be growing in there to snap this picture.  

Lovely, right?  It's definitely laughing at us.   I'll keep you posted, I have to go sanitize my lungs now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Preschool Pro

It's officially the school year now, as both kids are back to school!  L started her second year of preschool yesterday and she was a total pro at it.  Not that she was utterly ecstatic to be there, mind you.  When it was her turn to go in, she locked her knees and put on her brakes, which ultimately resulted in Ms. Angela (the bouncer at the door) having to pick L up and carry her to her spot.  I'm pretty sure L wasn't nervous or anxious as much as she was looking for a free ride.

It's hard to believe that L is the same age as M was when he first started preschool.   For some reason I'm remembering M, at three, being older and more mature than L is now.  Maybe it's because M has more of an intense, broody side and L is a little cheeseball.  It's hard to say, but if ten years from now they're half-way like anything they are now, then we're in big trouble.

Three-year-old M on his very first day of preschool.  (2008)

Three-year-old L getting ready to go back to preschool.  Best of luck to the Little Lambs staff.  (2010)

Two-year-old L on her very first day of preschool.  Well, at least we have photographic evidence that she's always had a flair for the dramatic.  (2009)

Speaking of cheeseball dramatics, here are a few more pictures from this year.

She's really not as innocent as she looks.