Open Water

Open-water-swimmingI have several things coming up that my mind is ruminating upon. I’ve decided to venture back into the world of cake decorating again. I actually have a commissioned cake coming up – and a couple of weeks ago, even made a wedding cake for someone – which was the first one in several, several years. Somehow life, my job (carpal tunnel?) got in the way. I had lost the joy. But it is back (to a degree), and I look forward once again, to creating something of beauty.

I’m also considering a foray back into the world of competition. I swam competitively as a kid, and made a half-hearted effort at master’s swimming, but again, life, my job (financing my kids college educations?) seemed to get in the way. I have continued to swim – or practice as I call it, three to four times a week, but getting excited to compete has eluded me. I’ve entered swim meets – left early, disgusted with myself, and finally I stopped entering all together. I blamed my lack of interest on many things, but the truth is that I don’t want to work that hard – get that out of breath, any more. I’ve noticed however, that there is this trend towards distance events that many of my friends compete in. Most of them are triathletes of some renown, (kudos for me, being able to keep up with them in the pool!) but some of them seem to just be doing it to see if they can do it. In fact, I have sort of laughed under my breath at them, as I know they are not actually very good at any of the three sports, only good at going the distance. My sister is in the same group. I don’t really know how good she is at running, but she competes in all the Disney events – from the Disney Princess runs to the Disney “Goofy” weekend. This last year, she even went to the trouble of going across the country to run at a Disney event in California, as well as the one in Florida. Why? I guess because she can. She is competing against herself, and finding joy in the journey. She loves to collect the Disney medals & hangs them with pride in her trophy room. I’ve been quite bemused, wondering if she was just fooling herself, because she never wins, in fact I’m not even sure she is aware of where she places. But she finishes. She goes the distance. Something I’ve not been too interested in doing.

Until now.

I was looking at my Biorhythms a couple of months ago, looking for what my husband jokingly calls a trifecta – meaning that all three major categories – intellect, emotions and physical – were at the top of the chart. And I found a date in late October. Interestingly enough, this coincides with an open-water event that I noticed last year but opted out of (I blamed it on my father being ill, and not knowing if I would have to rush to his bedside or not – but in truth, I was just a wus.). In a moment of impulsive recklessness, I entered the event – paid my $200 before I came to my senses & now I am entered in the swim. Around Fort DeSoto. A near 7-mile swim. In open water. In the ocean.

What was I thinking? What have I gotten myself into?

It has been a rough couple of weeks (to say the least) of me questioning my sanity, and simultaneously trying to talk myself back into the event.

I went to a water park a couple of days ago & tried to swim “across” the wave swells in the wave pool. I nearly drowned. (Well, not really, but I felt wholly inadequate.) That was theoretically a “test swim” for this weekend. This weekend I am going to Jacksonville, FL to swim in the Hammerhead “Ocean Marathon”. Two and a half miles in the Atlantic. I should be fine. I swim 2-1/2 miles at practice frequently – in fact most days I go at least two miles. But there are walls in my swimming pool. And chlorine. And no fish or jellyfish.

But I entered, and I will be swimming.

Lets face it, I’m terrified. Wish me luck.

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No More Cake-Pops!

Once again, I let myself get lured into making cake-pops.  They are so cute!  I was looking (yes, on pinterest) just browsing, really, when I came upon some cake pops that looked like roses.  Roses!  I can make some fairly good roses out of gumpaste, and it seemed like a no-brainer. I had conveniently forgotten the joy of trying to swirl the cake pop into melted chocolate without having the cake ball fall off the stick. Or how difficult it is to have the correct consistency of melted chocolate so they aren’t too stiff.  Too late.  I was committed, and planned on taking 30 rose shaped cake-pops to church on Sunday. (Why? to “show off” how sweet I was?) By the time I was done, I really needed to get to church ‘cuz I’d said several bad words that day. I had some repentin’ to do.

First of all, I apparently made the mistake of using too much frosting.  Then, since I had never made “chocolate clay” before, while the cake pops were in the ‘fridge, I proceeded to work the chocolate.  Boy, that stuff is greasy!  After I finally managed to get it to a somewhat thinned consistency, I find that you can’t really make it as thin as you normally would for gumpaste, and that it easily cracks.  And doesn’t hold its shape too well until it cools again. So you have to hold each petal for about 3-5 minutes. Each. Petal. Things were coming along swimmingly, and I was on the second petal of the second row when. . .well, see for yourself:

The pretty little thing fell off its stick. Of course it did.  I’ve done some more research.  I went to Wilton, and went to Craftsy and Pinterest, and now I know that I made my cake balls too big. And I used too much frosting. And I probably left them in the ‘fridge too long.  And I’m starting to wonder if the people in the videos I saw, who were making the cake-pop roses were actually using real cake, because, seriously, I don’t think there is any way this could work.  The cake is just too heavy.  But you all can try for yourselves.  I’ve already done the research for you, perhaps you’ll have better luck.

A Poor Comparison

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I have a pretty bad habit of comparing myself to others.  Wish I didn’t, but I do, so there it is. So at work there is a young lady who found herself unexpectedly pregnant – family members were pressuring her to hurry up and get married, “before the baby comes”!  Finances being tight, she was concerned about spending money on a wedding when she had a new life to plan and provide for. So I offered to make her wedding cake.  I have made several wedding cakes in the past, but I am rusty, to say the least.

Off to Pinterest again for inspiration!!  We found the cake she liked (after browsing through many, many cakes), and I got to preparing.  So, finally the day drew near, and I got to work.  I had made several chocolate seashells, starfish and seahorses, and even gotten the plumeria done.  Now to the “easy part”, right? Cook and cover, I used to say.  But I have a full time job during the day. . .what have I gotten myself in to?

Baking went ok. Filling went ok ( I thought). And Saturday morning came and it was time to “cover” the cakes in frosting.  Truly, I think the cake would have fared better if they had just gotten married at my house, but, no, I had to transport it, in my car, an hour away.  Did you know that icing can shift on a warm day? And a cake with refrigerated filling is guaranteed to shift.  Especially if you stack the cakes.  But I was prepared!  I had been on craftsy.com! I had watched Nicholas Lodge and done due diligence! Are the laws of physics actually all that important, today?

Apparently so. We survived the trip. Somewhat askew, but we survived, and thank the heavens, it wasn’t raining when we arrived.  I managed to fake it by strategically placing the white chocolate seashells, and the flowers over the leaking strawberry filling, but you could tell. I am a rank amateur! What was I thinking, volunteering to do a wedding cake? Poor unsuspecting bride.  It is a good thing she was looking at her new husband and not too closely at the botched attempt.  I am afraid that for today, I don’t actually measure up too well.  See for yourself. The first picture (taken outside) is obviously the one I attempted to copy. (To be fair, the original one is obviously covered with fondant, and the one I did was simply buttercream.)  The second one (with the forks on the table) alas! is mine.

           

So what have we learned here? I can do a fairly good job at copying a professionals cake.  The flowers and chocolate seashells and starfish turned out quite nice. But, do not put too much filling in between the layers, and make sure you have a good border of frosting around the edge to keep it in, and don’t transport stacked cakes stacked. Stack them at the reception site. Oh yeah. And now I remember why I prefer working with fondant over buttercream.  The smooth surface just can’t be beat.  I’ll try and remember all this next time, because there will be a next time.  I’m getting back in the game.  Next up, maybe cake pops?
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A Renaissance Woman?

I got a lovely compliment the other day, when I was told that I was a Renaissance Woman.  She said, you bake and decorate, you are an artist, a mother, even a scientist!  I laughed it off, but after thinking about it for a minute, I realized that there are a lot of things I can do fairly well.  I’m not sure if being a nurse, even a nurse practitioner qualifies me as a scientist, but I think for today, we’ll role with it.

It’s actually not very funny when you realize that society and family demands require us to be “Renaissance Women”.  Think about it, how many different incarnations of you are there?  As for myself, my very minor list of accomplishments includes making my own wedding dress (ok, so it didn’t have seed pearls, but it did have embroidery and lace) all the way up to making my daughters wedding cakes.  I’ve been a life guard, taught swim lessons, acted as swim coach, played secretary for a few years, full time chief cook & bottle washer, La Leche League Leader, Booster Club president, Cake Decorator supreme, a labor & delivery nurse and now I work as a nurse practitioner. In this day and age, it’s almost a requirement that we do it all. I certainly can’t afford to hire someone to do everything that needs to be done, so I have to do it myself, whether that’s painting the front room, planting strawberries, nursing the baby, or helping dress and bathe my elderly, forgetful older relatives.

Time to pat myself on the back and realize all the things I can do well, and try to focus less on my imperfections.