Friday, October 05, 2012

Lowly the Worm Cake

Remember Richard Scarry's Lowly Worm Storybook? It was a book on our shelves growing up so when a friend asked me to create a birthday around the theme of her daughter's favorite character, I jumped at the opportunity. I am working on my confidence creating decorations using modeling chocolate. I am getting there....


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The birthday week reflection

My birthday week is coming to a close. The skies have been blue, vast and crisp. Saturday marks 29 years.

Turning 29 is no big deal, it is in the bag. So it goes.

I like the process, I enjoy getting older, falling into stride. I have kicked my twenties in the ass. I did everything that I wanted to do and found myself in a place beyond anything I could have imagined. I am blessed in so many ways. I am aware of my surrounds, positive and negative. My future is bright.

I have climbed mountains, had epics, slept on a climbing rope with my feet in a backpack to stay warm while lost and tired, traveled, survived, felt true love, made lifelong friends, got married to a wonderful partner, found the beauty in day to day life, stood on podiums claiming second and third place awards in distance races. I have made dark mistakes, lost good friends, let people down, lost good jobs. I have learned a lot. These days I eat whatever the hell that I want. I drink beer and eat pizza with potatoes on it and find comfort. My early 20 year old self would shiver at the thought of that many carbs even crossing her mind. Bring it on. Life is uncertain, I do eat dessert. It has been a journey. A voyage all my own.

These days I run because I find absolute joy in moving my body and not to burn calories, a bold statement coming from a once gaunt lost girl. I ride my mountain bike as much as I can to escape to a place that is sacred and discover an uninhibited demeanor that is unstoppable. I have fun these days, I do what I want and feel like a force to be recon with even if it is only in my mind. I am softer, curvier than I used to be and feel good about it.  I have only one person to impress and that is myself. I have myself to make happy, everyone else just falls into place.

It is easy to think that you are almost there with just a little more you will be there. That is place I  don't want to be. As the years add up I know that nothing on this world is mine. Anything I find can be gone. We all need something, that something can only be found within.

So far the best present was a few words from my husband earlier this week, go for a bike ride Michelle, you have a brand new bike. The next day I dropped all obligations and for a few hours and rode my bike. All was right in my world again after an afternoon in the forest. A smile from ear to ear, a buzz that is impossible to ignore. Everyday following I have got out for a pedal on the trails. Friday, my present to myself, a day trip to Whistler, to ride as many trails as I can. Boldly, I want to ride by myself, I don't want to stop, I don't want any accountability except to come home in one piece. The weekend is spotted in with friends, rides, precious time with my husband and family.

Here is to the changes that have happened in the last year and to even more changes in the coming year. I promise to to leave nothing but dust in my twenties.

Monday, September 03, 2012

A few good things

Hello September. As Summer comes to a close and Fall changes the trees to all shades of gold, I find comfort in slowing down and preparing for the slower pace that Winter casts on my life. Here is what I have been enjoying...

Making these crackers with my Mama B today.

I have made about a dozen almond cakes in the last couple of months. I can't get enough.

Inspired to run again, swamped by good memories of distance running and can't put this this book down.

A friend said that being sober is like being free. I couldn't agree more. Loved this book.

Dreaming of someday having a little one around. Preparing with this book.

I made these gluten free waffles for the family this morning and replaced the pumpkin with shredded zucchini. Work like a charm.

Came across Shovels and Rope and can't get them off my mind. This video makes me want to pack up and move to the south.

I am part of the 29 inch revolution with my newest mountain bike

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Going all in

I took an order for a cake today to celebrate a couples fifty year wedding anniversary. Fifty years. I sat down with this couple, tasted three different kinds of cake, talked them through planning cake for a party to celebrate such an accomplishment. Secretly I wanted to buy the cake for them, making it as special as possible, thanking them for being minority. For being strong in a society that is lazy and weak. There aren't many people out there who can make it, it is hard.

The week before we made a cake for a seventieth wedding celebration. Seventy years. Hallelujah.

Decade after decade, that takes determination. Faith, patience and teamwork. It is not easy to be a good person, a loyal partner, a friend to someone day after day but when a bond is formed that is based on trust there is not much that can get in the way.

I am not perfect, not even close, I am bitch, moody and get heinous PMS that wrecks havoc upon our house every couple of weeks. Most of the time there are more good days than bad and I love my husband. He loves me, he always tries. He is my rock. John and I have fun activities that we enjoying doing together. We could have more things in common, I could have a better sense of humor but I am who I am, he is himself and we grow closer as the years add up. Our future is bright.

What advice do you have for maintaining a healthy relationship? How do you do it?

This article was originally published on Lydia Netzer's blog, "Shine Shine Shine," on April 19, 2012. I agree with most of what she has to say about marriage. What do you think?

1. Go to bed mad.

The old maxim that you shouldn’t go to bed mad is stupid. Sometimes you need to just go to freakin’ bed. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is prefaced in the Bible by the phrase “Be angry and sin not.” So, who’s to say it doesn’t mean “Stay angry, bitches. Don’t let the sun go down on that awesome fierce wrath of yours.” Seriously. Whoever interpreted this to mean that you should stay up after midnight, tear-stained and petulant, trying to iron out some kind of overtired and breathy accord -- was stupid. Shut up, go to bed, let your husband get some sleep. In the morning, eat some pancakes. Everything will seem better, I swear.

2. Laugh if you can.

In any fight, there is one person who is really mad, and one person who isn’t that mad. That person should deflect the fight. Make a joke, do something stupid or corny, make the other person laugh. If the fight is very serious for you and you feel like you really want to plant your flag and die on this hill, fine. Do it. But if you’re fighting for entertainment, or because you’re just reacting, then you be the one to deflect. Fights are bad. Deflecting a fight whenever possible is a good idea. When you’re the one who’s being pissy and raw, and the other person helps you get out of it and brings about peace, that feels fantastic. This was a hard lesson to learn, for me. Letting Dan deflect a fight is the best thing, now. He does it really well.

3. Don’t criticize. Ever.

Here is a fact: Whatever critical thing that you are about to say to your wife is already being loudly articulated in her head. And if it’s true, she already feels like crap about it. Assuming you married someone intelligent enough to like you and sane enough to let you put a ring on it, trust that they are self-aware enough to know when they screwed up. It may feel good to you in that moment to say the critical thing, let it go ringing through the air in all its sonorous correctness, but it will feel awful to hear it. The only, only way it’s beneficial to give your wife criticism of any kind is if you’re absolutely positive she is completely unaware. And you better find the nicest, kindest way possible to tell her. And even then, good luck convincing her. Their recognition of the thing you are helpfully trying to point out will be INHIBITED, not facilitated, by your criticism. And then you’re the asshole. So be careful.

4. Be the mirror.

Your husband is the mirror in which you see yourself. And the things you say to him give him an image of himself too, which he will believe. You want him to believe it, so make it good. Be a mirror that reflects something positive: you’re smart, you’re successful, you’re fantastic in the sack, you’re a great provider, you’re the best. Can you MAKE him any of these things just by telling him he is? I don’t know, but consider this: the alternative really sucks. The things my husband says to me are 1000 times more convincing than anyone else’s opinion on earth. Don’t think he won’t believe you because you’re married and you’re contractually obligated to say nice things. He’ll believe the shitty, insulting things you say, and the gloriously positive things. Listen to Nico, girls:

5. Be proud and brag.

Let your spouse hear you talking about them in glowing terms to other people. Be foolish. Be obvious. It will mean everything. You will stay married forever.

6. Do your own thing.

Dan races bicycles. I write books. I don’t race bicycles or have any desire to race bicycles. He doesn’t write books, nor does he even read the books that I write. Seriously. And I don’t care. My opinion is that he’s the fastest, coolest most awesome bike racer ever. His opinion is that I’m the bestest, coolest writer ever. We don’t have to know all about cycling or writing in order to form these opinions -- in fact knowledge of literature or actually reading my book might damage Dan’s opinion of me as “best writer since the dawn of time.” We can still support each other without being all up in the other person’s stuff. Doing your own thing, having your own friends, being completely insanely passionate about something that the other person has no idea, really, about, is awesome. It allows your spouse to be your cheerleader, uncomplicated by knowledge or personal investment. And it means you’ll always have stuff to talk about, because you’re not overlapping all the time. You don’t have to read the same books either. You don’t have to have the same friends.

7. Have kids.

Kids stop you from being as crazy as you want to be. Because when you have kids, you can’t be that crazy.

8. Get really good at sex.

You’ve got all the time in the world to get really really good, not just at sex in general, but at having sex with your one particular husband. You should make it your life’s mission to become the perfect sex machine exactly for him. And he for you. There is no reason to hold back, or be embarrassed, or not ask questions, and get everything working properly. There’s absolutely no excuse for letting years drag on without becoming fully skilled, gifted sex partners for each other. It makes everything so much better. Does talking about this make you uncomfortable? How uncomfortable would it make you to know that your spouse is secretly, silently “just okay” with your sexual performance? Yeah. You want to last fifteen years, remember? That’s a long time to be mildly happy.

9. Move.

Live in different houses. In different parts of the country. Travel. Make it so that you can look back and divide up your life into the years you spent in different cities, or different houses. If you’re feeling stuck geographically or physically, you can confuse yourself into thinking you’re stuck romantically. See your husband in different places, in different contexts, in different countries even. Try it. Take him to a mountaintop and give him another look. Pretty sexy. Take him to a new city and check out his profile. Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to change personally, or let your wife change as a person. Don’t worry about “growing apart.” Be brave and evolve. Become completely different. Don’t gather moss. Stagnation is unattractive.

10. Stop thinking temporarily.

Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given. It sounds obvious, but really making it a given is hard. You tend to think in “ifs” and “thens” even when you’ve publicly committed to forever. If he does this, I won’t tolerate it. If I do this, he’ll leave me. If I get fat. If I change jobs. If he says mean things. If he doesn’t pay more attention. It’s natural, especially in the beginning of your marriage, to keep those doubts in your head. But the sooner you can get go of the idea that marriage is temporary, and will end if certain awful conditions are met, the sooner you will let go of all kinds of conflict and stress. Yes, you may find yourself in a horrible situation where it’s absolutely necessary to get a divorce. But going into it with divorce in the back of your mind, even in the way way way back of your mind, is going to cause a lot of unnecessary angst. Accept that you’re going to stay with him. He’s going to stay with you. Inhabit that and figure out how to make THAT work, instead of living with the “what if”s and “in case of”s.

11. Do not put yourself in trouble’s way.

Leave your ex boyfriends and girlfriends alone. I’m sure you’re very trustworthy. Aren’t we all? The thing is, there’s absolutely no reason to test it. Your husband and your marriage are more valuable than any friendship. Any friendship that troubles the marriage should be over immediately. Protect it with knives and teeth, not because it’s fragile but because it’s precious. Don’t ass around with a “hall pass” or a “harmless flirtation.” Adultery isn’t an event, it’s a process with an event at the end. Don’t put your feet on a path that could lead someplace bad.

12. Make a husband pact with your friends.

The husband pact says this: I promise to listen to you complain about your husband even in the most dire terms, without it affecting my good opinion of him. I will agree with your harshest criticism, accept your gloomiest predictions. I will nod and furrow my brow and sigh when you describe him as a hideous ogre. Then when your fight is over and love shines again like a beautiful sunbeam in your life, I promise to forget everything you said and regard him as the most charming of princes once more. The husband pact is very useful because you want to be able to vent to your friend without having her actually start hating your husband. Because you don’t really mean all those things you say. And she, the swearer of the pact, knows this.

13. Bitch to his mother, not yours.

This is one I did read somewhere in a magazine, and it’s totally true. His mother will forgive him. Yours never will. If you’re a man, bitch to your friends. They expect it.

14. Be loyal.

All the crap you read in magazines about honesty, sense of humor, communication, sensitivity, date nights, couples weekends, blah blah blah can be trumped by one word: loyalty. You and your spouse are a team of two. It is you against the world. No one else is allowed on the team, and no one else will ever understand the team’s rules. This is okay. The team is not adversarial, the team does not tear its members down, the team does not sabotage the team’s success. Teammates work constantly to help and better their teammates. Loyalty means you put the other person in your marriage first all the time, and you let them put you first. Loyalty means subverting your whims or desires of the moment to better meet your spouse’s whims or desires, with the full understanding and expectation that they will be doing the same. This is the heart of everything, and it is a tricky balance. Sometimes it sways one way and some the other. Sometimes he gets to be crazy, sometimes it’s your turn. Sometimes she’s in the spotlight, sometimes you. Ups and downs, ultimately, don’t matter because the team endures.

15. Trust the person you married.

For two people who are trying to help each other, it can almost be harder to let the other person help you than it is to be the one who’s helping. It can be harder to let the other person deflect the fight than to be the one deflecting. It can be harder to believe that your husband is fully committed to a lifetime of marriage than to commit yourself. Harder to change yourself than to let the other person change. Harder to be loved than to love. Weird, but true. I’m saying this to everyone who’s newly married, and to myself: trust that person. Love them completely and let them love you. If it all goes to seed, it’s going to hurt either way. Better to have gone into it full throttle. Full throttle marriage is a thrilling ride.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Rolling through

Just an update from the home front. The summer hours, as precious as every single one is here, are numbered and squeaking by.  

Never winter. Please. Thank you. Endless summer.

Nearly midnight tonight and the cake in the oven has nearly 45 more minutes to bake. At least it is almond cake and smells of heaven. I learned early on and fight the urge to pull the cake too soon. Sleep will come, under baked cake has no mend.

The kitchen is a tornado of dishes. Dinner party dishes. There are three people I know that will do dishes after dinner, I am not one of them and they obviously didn't have dinner here. They are welcome anytime. So are you. I prefer it here at home these days, it is a good place.

I have more cake orders than I have time for and have to tell people no, not a strong suit of mine. Midnight the day before a cake needs to be done is not the style I like to adhere to. So it goes. It is summer and hours are not to be taken foregranted.

I have new friends to make, trails to ride, flowers to tend and sun to soak up.

John bought me a new mountain bike a few weeks ago and I can't seem to get enough of it or enough time to try. I am trying to make me a priority these days but I am incredibly enamored by so many things it is hard to get a single thing done.

Summer hours are long but never long enough to make up for the nine months of hibernation that occurs every year.

Which brings me to...

If John was any less of the super man that he is, he wouldn't be walking right now. Two three weeks ago we were in Squamish, British Columbia with some of our best friends, riding bikes, camping, swimming, drinking beer, watching BMX races, and just being friends. It was a great weekend and was shaping up to be an epic summer. John had an accident on his bike the afternoon we were leaving. He went head first into the bushes a stump, his head and neck soaked up what impact the helmet didn't absorb. He broke a vertebra in his neck, concussion, broken ribs, mangled left hand. Prognosis, six week choker hold. He is one blessed soul that walked away from an accident that he didn't necessarily need to, he is sporting a neck collar, immobilizing his neck for six weeks.

He is a tough cracker and keeps his head up like a true sportsman, rolling with the punches. Punches they are, hurt they do. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pokemon Cakes

A former co worker who I consider to be a timeless friend has twin boys who celebrated their birthdays this weekend. All of seven years under these boys' belts. I first met the boys years ago when they were shy and clung to mom's ankles, now these boys are as confident and friendly as their mom, eager to tell stories and expend limitless energy. It has been a pleasure to see these kids develop and grow through the years.

She asked me to do the boys' birthday cakes and of course I eagerly said that I would love two. They wanted Pokemon themed cakes and both drew me detailed pictures and descriptions of what they wanted. One wanted a round cake and the other wanted a square cake, they may be twins but they are very independent. It was my first time making and using modeling chocolate, I love the idea of using it rather than fondant for taste reasons and once I dial down the proper technique for making modeling chocolate I know that it cuts much nicer lines than fondant it capable of producing. I made a Swiss buttercream, which I can not get over how much I enjoy the texture and the taste is a bit lighter than a powdered sugar based icing. Note that weird things happen to Swiss buttercream when you try and use gel coloring to tint it after the butter has been incorporated. I am going to try and avoid tinting this frosting again until I figure out why this happens. Learning. Technocolor.

What really made my day was reading this email this morning...

"The cakes were a huge hit! We just enjoyed them again this evening. Absolutely stunning, delicious, and beautiful - the kids could not keep their eyes off them...loads of comments and 'wows'! And this is the first kid party I've been to that had totally empty plates after eating cake! Thank you so much for making them. As Tom said to the boys when we were looking at them at home before the party - "This is probably the nicest birthday cake you'll ever have in your life!" And Bryce responded, "Yeah, I guess you couldn't have had anything like this before or when you were a kid because there was no Michelle around then!". One of a kind."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revisiting Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries

Last year, I toted home grocery bags of rhubarb from my Dad's garden. Pounds and pounds. This year I harvested stalks in late Spring from my own little patch. Last year I decided to roast some rhubarb with strawberries in a unique little sauce, it was a hit.

Over at my favorite community cooking site, Food52, the recipe was unearthed from the abyss of archives, tested and won a wildcard contest. Humbled. Published!

 Visit the original post or see what Food52 thinks of the recipe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
– Michael Jordan

My house may smell sweetly of freshly baked cakes and pies but that as far as the sweetness goes sometimes. A few bad days of mine turned into weeks and now months have passed. I just scrapped cake batter off the oven floor and my head pounds from sugar. It happens. I am not sure where my mood started to go haywire or when it will end but that is the truth and the truth hurts. Deep daggers.

When life isn't as easy as we imagine, it is easy to let the burdens pile up. The negativity feeds upon its self, creating a need for more and more. A simple task can be tedious and bothersome without a positive attitude. My new job has been a healthy step in challenging my inner creativity, resolve and accountability. I enjoy most aspects of the bakery and the idea that I am helping preserve a craft. Like with anything I question what I am doing, thoughts career paths, monetary burdens and perception cloud the fact that I enjoy what I am doing. At the end of the day, I am the one that has to fall asleep with the choices I have made. It is my battle.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

But is piles up. It is just not as easy as it seems it should be. Insecurity. It just piles up. This notion of doubt is poisonous. I doubt one thing and then I start to question my ability to love and be loved, to maintain loyal friendships and my ability in general. This has to stop.

Letting go, freeing my mind of the heavy clouds that linger in the dark corners is the light at the end of the tunnel. I am striving to do good work, in my career, in my marriage, in my friendships. I want to hold up my end, as hard as it is sometimes and however bad at it I sometimes am guilty of.

In the mean time, I will be busy baking cakes, making pies and carrying on doing the things I enjoy and finding satisfaction in the things that I must do.  These are a few photos of some pies I made for a friend, eight total, something I am very proud of executing with confidence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hello Kitty Cake

My aunt, my dad's sister, spoiled me as a little girl, I was even the flower girl in her wedding. I am the oldest grand child on my dad's side of the family, my aunt had kids (twins) when I was nine or so, I remember that blondie twosome fondly. Before she had kids she would have me sleep over when her husband was gone. We would watch movies, eat dessert and just hang out. I thought she was pretty cool. When she had kids I spent even more time with them, I was the perfect age to keep the kids occupied while my aunt did what she needed to do and my mom worked. Family, it is nice to have around.

My aunt knew how to decorate cakes, I think she even did her own wedding cake, maybe even my parents. She made me a birthday cake, I am sure I can dig up a photo, one of those infamous 1980's dolls cakes. A doll cake complete with Barbie from the torso up coming out of a cake that resembles  her dress. I still remember the cake. Now that I think of it, I remember a few more cakes of hers. She was good to me.

A friend ordered this cake from me for a seven year old's birthday party. I was so excited to make this cake knowing that it is going to be part of a very special day for a very special little girl, a day that she might remember when she is nearly 30. She might remember one very pink Hello Kitty cake that someone who adored her picked out just for her. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Graduation Cake

I made it through the first few weeks at the bakery without too many mistakes and humbled by the learning curve. For the first two weeks I came home barely able to keep my eyes open and my legs under me. I was exhausted to say the least. Mistakes and blunders scattered the week as did a burnt cake reminding me to always remember to set the timers. The first cake I had to decorate was for the owner's daughter. No pressure ;) I was only able to work with butter cream and a piping bag. As with most of the cakes that I have shown you here on the site, I lean to using fondant, modeling chocolate and gum paste for most of my projects. My strong suit is not buttercream.... yet.

I dig the location, there is a great view of the San Juan Islands with day light flooding the open work area. The bakery is a recycled pizza shop and nestled in the tourist town of Fairhaven. The standards are high, the owner has created a lasting business in a rough small town economy and the community has come to expect greatness from the scratch bakery.

In the free time that I once had an excess of a few weeks ago I have been busy making cakes for some friends and family. Here is a graduation cake that I made from scratch last weekend.

Monday, June 04, 2012

More cookies in the future

I am on the eve of something new, something exciting, something challenging. I talked the talk, now I must walk the walk. I got the interview then the job. It is a challenge I know I will succeed, for life is all about setting ourselves up for success. Setting up for successes takes preparation, work and a good dose of faith then follow through. Follow through. For the love of all things beautiful, make a habit of following through. People notice. Follow through is sexier than a mini skirt or that half buttoned blouse, people notice if you are late and lazy disguised in tight clothing. I digress. Back to the job that I just might have.

A wise friend turned my husband once told me never to settle. I strive never to settle, I can always push harder, further and higher. I have been hunting hunting and hunting for a job for months upon months with rarely a spark to follow. Recently, what seemed to be the golden ticket, the saving grace fell into my lap and just as fast past through my grip. Disappointment. I reeled, waxed, waned and like a good girl shed my fair share of tears. I wondered and questioned. Within the same week of hearing the humbling, I am offering my condolences speech and the glaring fact that there are always more qualified, I was offered an interview in very different career path. A job in which my heart lies firmly in the path. I smiled with confidence as I entered the restaurant, as I gazed at the walls and peered at the employees. I can do this, I will do this, I want to do this. As of now, this is it.

As I take a dream, passion, energy and turn it into reality, I know that I am headed in the right direction. This direction may not be the paycheck of my dreams or provide income to support a family but there are other benefits (no not the health ones) and they just might be of an equal importance. I am ever grateful for my supportive husband and the encouragement that he offers me almost every step of the way.

Here is to following a passion, new challenges, new people, lots more sugar and flour and a new beginning. And cookies, always more cookies.

Orange Ricotta Cookies
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

2-½ cups ap flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons orange Juice
Large orange, zested
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter and the sugar, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until each one is incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, juice, and zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients. Do not over mix.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Once pulled from the oven, let the cool for a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack.
These are best the day they are made.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A special day

Happy birthday John!

Wishing you only the best on your birthday and each day that passes.

May you always have a joyful song near your heart and an adventure up your sleeve.

your birthday comes to tell me this
--each luckiest of lucky days
i've loved, shall love, do love you, was
and will be and my birthday is

e.e. cummings

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bright Flowered Cake

I told a friend that I started to dabble in cake decoration, by that afternoon she had called me and asked if I would make a cake for class that she thought. She dubbed it "cake day" for her class.

The theme and flavor was completely my decision. I chose a Neapolitan cake, a layer of chocolate, strawberry and white with a butter cream icing. The small cake was just two layers of chocolate.

I made the flowers out of fondant and will never do that again, they were incredibly fragile and I was not able to get them as thin and smooth as I like to see. I am learning, each cake is better than the one previously.