Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Halloween Wedding Revisited

So, you remember the Halloween wedding I photographed?  I wrote all about the amazing and epic experience here. Well my friend Heather reminded me that I hadn't posted more pictures of that most epic of days and I decided it's high time I do that.  I hope you're ready for a little tons of Halloween wedding action, because I made a 5 minute slideshow of the whole day!
(It's much better watching if you choose the higher viewing option. Just start watching it and then manually change the 360 to the 480p)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Up For Auction

Tonight Mr. John and I had the opportunity to go to Ponypalooza. It was a benefit for our local Pony baseball league (and a perfect and much-needed date night for Mr. John and I).  There were a bunch of local restaurants there with incredible food, a great local band, and a silent auction. It was a blast!

Mr. John donated some fun stuff and I donated a baker's dozen custom cookies. I wanted to do 12 different cookies for the display to try to show what I can do, but I also wanted it to look coordinated. I went for a classic black and white theme with blue accents. I'm so happy with how the display turned out and I'm even more happy that the auction went so well.

I can't wait to hear what the winner will choose to put on their custom cookies!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Holy Balls of Yarn Batman!

The kids were invited to a great hero-themed birthday party last weekend for cousin Brennen.  
All the kids were supposed to come as a super-hero.  
Since we had one tiny Superman costume, we had to improvise.
What is Sage thinking here?!
  With a pair of dollar store wings, a tye-dyed shirt and colorful hairbands, Bailey transformed into "RAINBOW PIXIE"!  Sage pulled out her black T-shirt and leggings and we grabbed a pair of cat ears and tail from the Halloween box and she became "CATGIRL"!
  Denver... well, he just wore the too-small Superman costume and became
During the party Batman came flying in (literally jumping off the roof!) to visit all the pint-sized super heroes.  Since Batman showed up we had to get an action shot of Batman and Catgirl fighting 
and I couldn't resist turning it into this:

Hope you have a SUPER weekend!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cookie Art

I had a couple of extra cookies from a project I'd just finished and I've been dying to try painting on cookies with food coloring.  I sent the kids to bed and tried my hand at it.  It is soooo fun!  I made these just minutes ago and the lighting is horrible, but I really wanted to document this new project!  Now off to catch up on DVR shows with Mr. John! 

Mr. John thought the subject matter was very strange and asked if he could choose what I paint on the next cookies!  

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Experiment with Rolled Buttercream

Rolled Buttercream Frosting test subjects I made yesterday.
I'm gonna say it:  I like my sugar cookies a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  There is a certain tactile experience I look for in eating a sugar cookie.  When I pick up a cookie, it should have some heft and a good thickness to it.  When I break it in half the frosting should lightly crack to reveal a softer layer underneath.  The cookie should have a little crunch on the egde and an almost creaminess to the center.  This is my preference.

The other day a friend of mine who shall remain nameless... named JESSICA informed me that she wants her cookies falling apart soft.  Ewww!  Like the kind you get at the grocery store that coat your mouth with that greasy shortening layer?  Yep, those are the ones she likes. 

I decided to experiment with this Rolled Buttercream recipe to see how it affected the overall taste/texture experience.
This is an official experiment so I am going to take all the steps using an unbiased scientific process...
This is totally scientific and legit:
  1. Question:  Will Rolled Buttercream be gross?  (Note the use of technical terms)
  2. Hypothesis: This frosting will leave a coat of disgustingness on my tongue.
  3. Procedure:  I will make rolled buttercream (hereinafter referred to as RBC) and compare the user-friendliness, the taste, and texture to the traditional Royal Icing (hereinafter reffered to as RI).
  4. Results:  The RBC had a very different texture than RI in that it was very thick and quite greasy, but relatively easy to work with once you got past the layer of shortening on your hands that wouldn't wash off after kneading (consider it extra moisture).  After rolling the RBC I was looking forward to cutting it out with cookie cutters and placing it right on top of the cookie.  Easy peasy!  Alas, I found it was very difficult to lift the RBC shape off the wax paper without jacking up the shape.  I kneaded in more powdered sugar and it helped.  I kneaded in some color and achieved a deep color very easily.  When I piped on the details the cookie "resisted" the RI.  It was a little tricky to get the frosting to stick to the surface of the RBC.  Visually, it looked pretty and smooth.  Time for a second opinion and some tasters!  Mr. John didn't like the shine of the RBC.  He took one bite and thought the texture was marshmallowy and gross, and it was too sweet.  His exact quote, "NO.  This is gross."  The kids all loved the look and the taste.  While it was a very different texture, I could see and taste the allure to this super softness.  I did find it to a bit too sweet for my preference.
  5. Conclusion:  While it didn't "winter coat" my mouth with greasiness it did maybe "light sweater" my tongue with it.  In some ways the RBC was very convenient.  It seemed to limit my piping a little as it was harder to get the RI to stick to it.  I would do this again, but only if requested.  I prefer the texture and taste of Royal Icing.  
So that's the official word on the street.  I think I might need some more tasters that are outside these walls.  I'm curious to find out Jessica's take on these cookies!  Hmmm...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where I Come From

El Paso de Robles... home
I wanted take this post to introduce you to the place I call home through some paintings I've done. I live inland from the central coast of California by about 40 minutes on the northend of San Luis Obispo County.  Our town is full of rolling hills studded with vineyards and oak trees.  We are often graced with the presence of fox, deer, and the occasional tarantula in our backyard.  Cows are a more common sight, grazing at the fenceline daily. 
beach babe
A quick 40 minute drive takes you to our favorite beaches and Morro Bay.  It is a very common occurence for my dad to hook up his trailer and take the kids kayaking in the bay.  He loves to take them under the pier where they search for starfish and crabs.  Then, they all paddle over to the sand dunes and ride down on snowboards.  The finale of these trips is almost always a bucket of fish and chips at Giovanni's and harbor seal sightings. 
Morro Bay, viewed from the rock
Morro Rock
the boats in the bay.  I painted each of my kid's names on some of these boats.  :D
I grew up here, but didn't appreciate it when I was younger.  Shortly after Mr. John and I married, we moved away.  When we came back to visit, I smelled the ocean!  I smelled the lilacs outside my childhood bedroom window!  I don't remember smelling those things when I lived here.  After 10 years of living away we made it back here and have been HOME for 3 years now.

I loved the other places we lived.  We had amazing experiences and made wonderful friends.  I learned to appreciate the beauty of the desert, the energy and convenience of a big city that never sleeps, ... but there really is no place like home.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Too soon

There are simply some people in this world who stand out.  They have a wonderful spirit, energy, whatever you want to call it, and you feel it the first time you meet them.  That was how Ron Hogeland was and it seemed like every time I heard him speak, I was learning something new or gaining a refreshing perspective.  He passed away last week after a very courageous battle with cancer a couple of weeks after his 67th birthday, (that's just 2 years younger than my dad) and I can't imagine how much his family must miss him!

I'll never forget the Christmas before last as our family was raising money for the Salvation Army, who came to take over the bell duty?  Ron, fresh from his chemotherapy appointment earlier that day, was there to stand in the cold, to ring the bell and make someone's Christmas better.  That year he beat cancer and he and his beautiful wife got to enjoy their family and take advantage of having the good health that we take for granted.

The cancer came back in a different form this past November and it was fast and aggressive.  I didn't know Ron very well.  I was more of an admirer from afar, but I wanted to make something special for the family meal following the funeral on Saturday.  I knew he loved vintage sports cars and that he happened to own a few.  I decided to honor Ron the best way I knew how and that was through Shelby Cobra cookies.

Time was of the essence and I fashioned a cookie cutter out of an aluminum lasagna pan and it worked great.  After decorating the cookies and seeing all those bright red cars lined up, I briefly questioned the appropriateness.  Mr. John reassured me that it was a great way to celebrate his life.  I know the family felt that way too, because parked at the church at the funeral and later driven to the gravesite was that little red Mustang.

He was a beacon in our ward and he will be greatly missed.     

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

This past Christmas I decided to give my father-in-law a gift that his sweet tooth would benefit from all through the year.  I presented him with a dessert of the month menu detailing the decadence he had to look forward to every couple of weeks.  I included seasonal favorites, lots of chocolate (his favorite), desserts that I've made a million times, and a couple that I've never tried or even heard of.  I like to keep things exciting!  January was baklava and lots of it.  February was 2 Raspberry Chocolate Tortes (heart shaped, though you can't tell from the picture).

We're only two months in, but it has been so much fun to bake these confections.  It's not just him that it treats every month, but it's also a treat for me to make these especially for him.  I think about him as I mix and measure and I imagine how much he will enjoy my creation.  I always make enough for him to share (which he always does with his wife, Mr. John's mom.) Stay tuned for this month's St. Patrick's Day inspired goodness!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sugar Overload

I just finished a cookie marathon.  I didn't realize what 200 cookies meant until this past weekend.  From scratch, start to finish, piping to flooding, to drawing each and every major league baseball logo on those cookie faces, and then lacing them all up with some red stitching.  Oh, I forgot to mention bagging them all up... and then selling my precious babies one by one.  I loved just about every minute of it.  (Okay, so I did hit a wall and get a little cookie cramp at one point, and maybe had a brief cookie coma, but overall it was pure bliss!)

I made these cookies to sell at our local youth baseball league's picture day on Saturday.  Denver is on the Angels and I can't wait to see his cute little baseball trading cards!  

I learned a lot from this baseball cookie baking marathon: 
  • red frosting is very hard to make!
  • I think it's possible to get cookie lung from inhaling too much powdered sugar
  • food color markers are super cool
  • I now dream about cookies!
So it's officially unofficial.  I am in the cookie making business.  Cookie McGoo has been born and Mr. John and I couldn't be happier.  He has done quite a bit of research into the business end and what we need to do.  We are going to start by making cookies for family and friends or anyone who happens to want some incredibly yummy and fun cookies.  Like I said, I dream about cookies and I have so many ideas and shapes that I want to try!

Taking orders now!  
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