Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garden Cake

My sweet niece turned 4 not too long ago, and I got to make her birthday cake for the third year in a row. This year it was finally something other than a Dora cake. Not that I didn't like Dora, but it was fun to do something different. She had a garden party, so naturally I made a garden cake.

I wish I had a real garden like this. I'd just love to walk down that charming little path and smell the flowers and pick all the veggies.

The kiddies helped me make all the veggies and leaves. They're naturals.

Eden especially loved helping me. She takes after her auntie in more than just her looks.

Aren't all those vegetables just adorable? I think this may be my favorite cake I've ever made.

See Ma, I did inherit your green thumb after all. Ok, so maybe it's just the food coloring.

My favorite part of the cake is the curly-cue pumpkin vine. I might make a whole pumpkin patch cake one day.

You may have noticed that this is a very different kind of cake post than usual. There is a serious lack of disasters and funny stories. That's because for the first time it went off without a hitch. Of course that's probably because I didn't have to actually make a cake. And moe importantly, there was no frosting to be heard of. Nothing but fondant. I can do fondant. Allow me to introduce you to the best food on the planet earth:

Grandma's Ice Cream Cake


2 packages Oreo cookies*, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
1 quart vanilla ice cream*, softened


1. Mix butter with half of the Oreo crumbs.

3. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

3. Spread ice cream over crust.

4. Sprinkle the rest of the Oreo crumbs on top.

5. Freeze. Move cake from freezer to refrigerator 20-30 minutes before serving so it will be soft enough to cut and serve.

I'm pretty sure my grandma actually only uses 1 package of oreos. But I prefer a thicker crust. And you need to make sure you have a few extra cookies to munch on.

*This could easily be done with all different kinds of Oreos and ice cream. I've done it with vanilla Oreos for non-chocolate lovers (how such a person exists is beyond me) and chocolate cream Oreos with chocolate ice cream for chocoholics (surprisingly not as good as I expected, but I think that was because of the quality of the ice cream). There's mint Oreos and berry Oreos and Uh Oh Oreos. If two packages of oreos still isn't enough for you, you can use cookies and cream ice cream. I'm dying to try peanut butter Oreos with Chocolate Moose Tracks ice cream. Overkill? I think not!

Monday, August 22, 2011

In A Nutshell

In case you've been wondering, here's what you missed:

July 15-24 — Larsen Family Reunion

10 days at Lake Tahoe with ALL of Brian's extended family. Probably the longest family reunion I've ever been to or even heard of. Yes, they are all insane, and I'm gonna fit right in. I've done a lot of camping, but only at church camps or my family reunions, both of which have every second of every day planned out for me. It was great to just relax at the beach, go on hikes, eat ice cream, and sit on our "porch" and read. Brian and I definitely won the cutest tents award. Mine was decked out inside with a closet, a table (with a yellow gingham tablecloth, of course), a lamp, and even a vase with a bright yellow daisy. Brian (jealous of my uber fabulous tent) made himself a rock garden, complete with pinwheels. Between the two was our porch, where we could sit and read (I started and finished 5 books a few days before the trip was even over) or watch the kiddos play, or just generally act like old people. Ok, it was just two camp chairs, but it served it's purpose.

July 25-31 — In Between

After the reunion and before Girls' Camp, I hung out in Lincoln for a couple of days. My mom was in Wisconsin visiting my brand new niece, so it was just me and my step dad. we're both quiet, keep to ourselves kind of people, so it wasn't too eventful. Have I mentioned that I don't like summer like the rest of the world seems to? Besides the awful heat, these kinds of days are why. My summers always seem to be filled with lots of traveling and visiting, which is great. But the days in between? Not so much. Unpack. Do laundry. Re pack. Not enough time to do anything, but too much time to do nothing. I've been mostly living out of a suitcase for over three years now, ever since I graduated high school really. I'm in between homes, in between stages of life, in between schools, in between age groups. In between isn't my favorite. But I digress, back to the fun stuff.

August 1-6 — Girls' Camp

At only 20 years old, this was my 10th year of camp, and I definitely went out with a bang! I went for 7 years as a youth and this was my third as a leader. I was semi-in-charge of 23 girls ages 12-17, and I just adore every one of my little cousindaughtersisterfriends. The highlight: we won the jingle award, for the first time EVER in all of my 10 years. We've won all the other awards lots of times, but never this coveted prize. I must admit, I'm very proud of our wonderful song, the entire camp even begged for an encore. That's right, if you need a popular Disney song re-written to be about mold, lice, and throwing hatchets, I'm your girl. I could tell about ten million more stories, but I'll spare you. I don't know when I'll be able to go to Girls' Camp again, but I definitely left on a good note. I actually almost teared up when the girls asked me to "stomp my feet and boogie to the beat" one last time as I was walking away. Even Brian got to "wiggle it, just a little bit" when he came to pick me up. He's a natural.

August 6-7 — Brian's Birthday

Well, okay, his birthday was only the 7th, but we celebrated both days. After a week long sleepover in the dirt, I wanted nothing more than a long shower and an even longer nap. But Brian's friends were in town for his birthday, so instead I rinsed of the dirt, put on some new clothes, and headed out again. We went to Virginia City and spent the rest of the time hanging out and swimming at casinos. I got kicked out of not one, but two places within 24 hours. First a soda shop in Virginia City for "running" (I was just dancing to the great 50s music that was playing in the store, but I guess they didn't appreciate it with the store filled with hundreds of glass bottles). Then I got kicked off the carpet at the casino for not being 21 (I was only 10 days too young, and I didn't want to gamble or drink anyway). Overall, a very exciting weekend.

August 8-13 — Hot August Nights

I must say, Reno is a strange little place, but I love how the entire city comes together for events like this. Even the DMV was all decked out in 50s memorabilia. Brian worked the whole week taking pictures of the Hot Rods. I got to work with him on the last two nights, telling the cars where to park. I'm pretty obsessed with the 50s, so I was in heaven. Especially when the soda jerk and greasers would stop b, or when a Buddy Holly song came on.

August 14-20 — Birthdays Galore

On the 14th, Brian and I had a joint party with his family. I practiced our wedding cakes, only in pink and blue instead of black and white. Sorry no picture, but they turned out pretty stinkin' cute. On my actual birthday (the 17th, if you want to know) I spent the morning cleaning (better than it sounds, I LOVE to clean) and the evening on a great double date. Two of our bestest friends, who just got married, came to Brian's house, and we all ate cereal and watched old-timey cartoons in our PJs. Best. Date. Ever. On the 19th was Eden's birthday party, and of course I made the cake. Finally something besides Dora. More about that later. On the 20th, Brian gave me the best birthday present I've ever gotten. CLOTHES! Lots of clothes. But that's another story that will have to wait for it's own post.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Too Good to Be True

Yesterday i went to Beverley's to see if they had any Russian netting for a birdcage veil (which reminds me, I need to order some) and I stumbled on this:

Thousands of pearls in every size and color! I almost fainted on the spot.

I guess they were clearing out the entire inventory of this particular item, so they had them all out on a table near the front. There was no packaging, and not much of a display. Just hundreds and hundreds of strands of wire with maybe 25 pearls on each. The strands were rubber banded together in bunches of 20 or so strands. A sign in the middle of the display said $2.99 each. Three dollars for 500 pearls? That is insane! After I pulled myself out of shock, I had to convince myself not to spend over $100 buying every color available. Finally, I settled on 10 bunches of pearls, and spent more time than I should have carefully selecting the best of the best. I was ecstatic, only $30 for a few thousand pearls in all different colors. I could finally start an Etsy shop, and make a nice little (or not so much) profit.

Then, everything came crashing down. I got to the register, and the nice cashier (after giving me a funny look) started counting each strand of pearls. I had at least 200, that would have been $600. Not okay. I'm convinced that I wasn't the first to make this mistake, the advertising was not clear at all. I stopped her right away, and sadly returned my pile of pearls to the table behind me. It's funny how something like this always makes me feel like I lost something, like I missed out on some great deal. If I had never seen those pearls, or if I knew from the start how much they were, I would have kept on living my happy life. But after thinking for a few brief moments of all of the things I could do, then having that taken away, I'm full of regret. Oh well, I'll find pearls again someday.

P.S. I really hate to do this, but vacations mixed with mile long to-do lists are making this next month a little crazy, so I'm going to take a quick break from blogging. I thought I'd be able to squeeze in a post here and there, but I really just need to focus on other things right now. But don't fear, I've come to love this way too much not to come back! See you in August!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Last Thursday Night

I've been going back and forth between Lincoln and Reno a LOT this summer, so things have been kind of crazy. Last Thursday and Friday were the only two days in a three week period that I got to see Brian, so I really just felt like spending every second with him, not blogging. I was just getting good at being consistent too. But here's the short version of what I was planning on blogging about.

My Momma had a birthday and was nice enough to let me practice Brian's groom's cake as her birthday. The ganache and chocolate pieces had a few troubles, but I think the topsy-turvy-ness worked well.

Brian's art was in a big fancy art show as part of Reno's Art Town. It's that pretty sunset in the background. There's also a picture of me, but I'm not going to show you that, it's bad enough that all of Reno can already see it. (I don't love pictures of me, remember?) But it was fun to go to the artist's reception. I felt so fancy eating appetizers in the lounge of the Sienna Casino with all the fancy people. Also, see the show girls's leg up in the top right corner? The guy who took that picture is a world famous photographer who Brian just so happens to know personally, so he's gonna do our trash the dress pictures for us after the wedding!

I guess there are perks to marrying a photographer, even if I have to be a model every once in a while.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Super Cute Super Easy Skirt

I was originally going to title this post "Cutest Easiest Skirt Ever." Then I made it and didn't love it as much as I thought I would, so I changed it to "Cute, Easy Skirt." Then I actually wore it one day, and I did love it after all.

At church on Sunday, I saw my friend wearing the cutest skirt I'd ever seen. I thought about stealing it, but it seemed pretty simple, so I decided to try to make my own.

This really is just about the easiest skirt you'll ever make. It took me less than 30 minutes to make. (40 if you count ripping and redoing one of the seams, but that was just because I was figuring out how to do it, even I couldn't mess this up once I knew how.)

I'm not sure if this is quite a tutorial, but I'll tell you what I did anyway.

What you'll need:

Two pieces of fabric long enough to go around your waist or hips or wherever you want to wear your skirt, without stretching

A piece of fabric as wide as the elastic when it's completely stretched out, and long enough to go from your waist/hips/wherever to your knees or thighs or wherever you want it to reach. Plus a couple of inches for the hems.

(Do you see yet why this isn't a tutorial? It sounds so much more complicated than it is, but I don't measure when I'm sewing any more than I do when I'm cooking.)

1. Hem the top and bottom of the skirt—the two long sides.

2. While keeping it stretched as far as it will go, sew one piece of elastic about 3 inches below one of the hems. This will be the top, so keep that in mind if your fabric is directional.

3. Sew the other piece of elastic right below the hem, again keeping it stretched as far as it will go.

This is the one I had to rip out. I originally sewed on the top elastic first, but it's much easier to do it in this order. I thought I took a picture of it the second time I sewed this piece on, but I couldn't find it.

4. Sew the two short sides together, and you're done! Have fun in your cute skirt.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I wanted to show you something super cute, but...

...for some reason projects take a lot longer when you have to rip out 20 seams and start over.

Side note: My nails are gross, I need to remember to get nail polish remover.

In other news, I'm pretty proud of myself for blogging five days a week for over a month now. (Okay, so sometimes I cheat and backdate a post, let's just keep that between us.) But sadly, that's going to change soon. I'm going to a 10 day family reunion later this month and a week long church camp at the beginning of next month. Then, you know, I'll be getting married in October, so that's kind of a big deal.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White, and Blue

I've recently become obsessed with I Am Baker. She is definitely my new hero. Who knew you could decorate the inside of cakes as well as the outside? When I saw her flag cake, I knew I just had to make one for the 4th of July.

She didn't have a tutorial, just a picture. So I had to figure it out myself.

I'm not quite ambitious enough to make a 25 layer cake, but 13 layers was still pretty insane considering I'm WAY less experienced and talented than her. But I think it turned out pretty dang cute anyway.

Happy Birthday America! Sorry you couldn't eat your cake, but we all enjoyed it!

I decided to make it at the last minute, and the kitchen was already pretty full...

Our table is rarely used for eating. The current project: my wedding dress!

Our plum tree exploded and every inch of the kitchen is covered with the shrapnel.

...but I made due with what I could get.

I had about a square foot to work in. And more plums.

I recently ordered A Piece of Cake by Susan Gold Purdy, and a few of her other books as well. It's supposed to be second only to The Cake Bible, and I got it for way less (yay Amazon!). You know a cookbook is fancy when you're supposed to read the entire 70 page introduction before trying any of the recipes. I didn't, of course, but I thought I'd at least try being a good baker for once and actually be careful and precise in following the recipe.

All of my ingredients out and ready to go.




Softening. (Ok, so outside in the sun is cheating a little, but it's better than the microwave.)

I still didn't measure the vanilla. I don't think I'll ever measure vanilla.

As you can probably tell, as I went on I got less and less like a real baker and more and more like my shortcut-taking self. It only got worse.

I realized we didn't have any milk, but thanks to my mom's handy dandy milk conversion chart for powdered milk, we figured out about how much canned milk + water would make the equivalent of normal milk.

I beat my egg whites way too long and too quickly, they turned into rubber, it was the strangest thing. I tried again for the cake, and saved the others for chile rellanos.

I thought I'd be extra cool and have stars in my cake. You'll see later that melty chips DO NOT work for baking. Oops.

I have a long standing feud with red food coloring, but somehow everything I make needs to be red. I think pink, white, and blue are prettier colors anyway. Celebrating back on the first Independence Day when America was still a baby. Ok, I tried, but I give up.

And after all that hard work of being a careful baker (or trying at least), it was so much fun to see the cake grow...

...and grow...

...and grow!

In another mishap of the day, my mini red cake broke in half. But I still managed to get 3 layers out of it, and for the last layer I just used the old crumb-frosting-cake-ball-esque trick that I'm so fond of.

Remember those melty chips? And how I said they were a bad idea?

They were delicious, but kind of made the whole thing fall apart.

And finally, after hours of slaving away, isn't it beautiful?

No? Well, maybe after the crumb coat...

Still don't see it, huh? Don't worry, it'll be beautiful after I frost it...

Ok, so I REALLY need to learn how to make frosting.

Maybe if you step back, and squint a little.

It's what's on the inside that counts anyway, right?

What the other bloggers don't show you: after the whole thing falls apart about 30 seconds after the (almost) perfect picture was taken.

It didn't go completely according to plan, but I still learned a lot. Don't use melting chips for baking. LOTS of vanilla makes a delicious cake. Susan Gold Purdy is amazing. I might actually learn to be a decent baker if only I can get the frosting right. And I had so much fun, that I already started making plans for another cake with a super cool inside.

Are there any holidays between now and October? Because I couldn't think of any.