Friday, December 28, 2007

Present Cakes and Discoveries

Here they are! After I made the "Teacher's Desk" for Wonderful Hubby on the first day of school, my sister wanted me to make something special for Christmas. The plan I came up with was to make "Present Cakes" for everyone.
This was the final result. One for my brother and one for Mom. My sister and her husband couldn't make it this year.

Here is Mom "opening" her present.

And here is what she found inside. She has collected some interesting tea sets in the past and this seemed to fit.

David was a little hard to gift this way, he collects farm toys, but I couldn't find anything that I wanted to put in the cake.
He ended up with an Austin Mini Van.
British for where he first was involved in young people's church activities and the van because that is his mode of transport to all those places he takes the kids.

How I made these is covered in another blog. Picture limits made me split the post up.
By the way, that freezer behind Mom is not there anymore! WooHoo! We moved it out to the garage. No more moving things from the freezer to the table to get things out and from the table to the freezer to eat dinner!
Of all the things that were cleaned out of that deep freeze, there was one historical artifact discovered.
Wonderful Hubby and I brought a few bricks of Jacobs Coffee with us when we moved back from Germany, in 1992. It seems that one of those freeze dried, vacuum sealed bricks ended up in Mom's Kansas freezer.
Several years ago, when she moved from Kansas to Georgia, the freezer and it's contents came along with her, an extension cord running out the U-Haul door wherever possible.
This week, when she was emptying that freezer in preperation for it to be moved out to the garage, this brick came out of the freezer! It is a little torn around the edges, but the seal was still good. There was much laughter and happiness at that time and this morning when we made a fresh pot there was great flavor to be enjoyed at our house.
Speaking of that, it might be time for another pot.

Making Present Cakes

You have seen the results in another post so here I have the whole project laid out if you are interested.
Basically you bake a cake and then put a present inside it before frosting it with fondant. This is a picture diary of how I did it.

Originally I was planning on making a cake for each of my family members for Christmas. My sister and her husband couldn't make it to Mom's for the holiday so I only made two of them; one for Mom and one for my brother.

I split the first cake mix into a round and a square cake. Those were combined into one cake, the round cake would be the bottom and the square cake was the top, since I ended up trimming the square one to match the bottom, I realize now that I should have made two round cakes, but I was experimenting.

The second cake mix was made into one large cake that I cut in half to be the top and bottom. The basic process is the same for both so you will get the idea for both of them.

The round cake is Mom's, the miniature teapot set is the present for her. She has collected a few teapots, so I thought this was a cute present.
I cut a hole in the middle of the cake and then put it on the cardboard covered foil bottom, which turned out to be too small and flimsy. I fixed that before I went further. The teapot was put inside a sandwich bag and placed inside the round cake. The square cake was first leveled off and then set on top of the round one and trimmed to fit the round base.

You can see the beginnings of the trimmings in the container at the top of the picture. I used those as another dessert by breaking up the pieces and mixing them with cool whip and canned cherries mix.

The fondant frosting was made and colored with a lot of powdered sugar and elbow grease. The last time I did this I made marshmallow fondant, this time I had glycerin so I made it that way. It was a lot easier and pretty good too. The only problem I had was in the colors. I need to make them brighter. These seemed dull to me. I added more coloring, but the cornstarch that I used to keep the mix from sticking bleached it back out again.

So anyway, after I got the color mixed I rolled out the fondant and wrapped the present.
I forgot to put a nice layer of regular frosting on Mom's cake before I put the fondant on, which made the cake pretty dry when we had a piece. We didn't have any ice cream either, that might have helped, but a nice buttercream would have been great.

This final picture shows you both cakes. I wrapped the one to look like two seperate presents tied with a ribbon. I cut a ribbon of the fondant and ran it around the bottom of the cake and then tucked it in between the two layers. Then I rolled out the top covering and tucked it in too. The ribbons were just rolled out a little thick and layed out on edge to get some depth.

I think they turned out okay. Kind of folk artish, but that is my style.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Busy Weekend

We had a very busy weekend. Bill's actually started Thursday night when he tutored the kids in their Math Field Day lessons. Then Friday night he chaperoned a dance for the middle school. Saturday morning was Graduation Day at Concord.

Bill's sister has completed her Masters in Education. That is her walking across the stage to get hooded during the ceremony. She worked really hard for this degree. 10 years ago when she graduated with her Bachelors she said she was not interested in ever becoming a Principal, but now she is headed that way. Dean of Students to start with anyway. Of course Bill says the same thing now.

I have been baking and decorating again. Back before Thanksgiving, the teachers were having a lunch and Bill volunteered to bring cookies. Knowing that he doesn't bake at all it turned into me being volunteered to make him some cookies. I had fun with it when I found a Pillsbury recipe in the Sunday coupon section of the paper.

This is their website picture since I forgot to take one, but my cookies looked a lot like these. I used the refrigerated dough to make sugar cookies and then used frosting to "glue" the candy corn as feathers and mini M&Ms for eyes. I also got some frosting in a squeeze tube to do the feet and beak. I actually got Bill to help some. I put all the frosting on and he followed behind putting on the candy. I thought they turned out pretty cute.

Now that it is Christmas time I volunteered to make some Santa Cookies.

Look at all the Ho Hos!

This time I got my picture. I made the cookies Saturday after graduation and then Sunday I decorated them.

I bought two cans of fluffy white frosting and added color to one to make it red.

I "buttered" on the white beard and hat trim and then the red hat, added a mini marshmallow for the ball on the hat, and "glued" on the mini M&Ms for the eyes and nose.

In between the rounds with the cookies we went to my company Christmas party. It was held at Glade Springs Resort by Beckley. We had a great time. There was good food and company along with an open bar and bad weather expected over night, so rather than one of us being the driver when it might be icy out, we decided to stay overnight.

That was almost worth the money. The room was nice, but way overpriced, not like there is actually any walk in business, it is a gated community. The breakfast brunch was horrible and even more overpriced. I have had better food on continental bars at express hotels! We should have known when none of the resort residents bother to come for the food. It seems like the resort is missing a HUGE opportunity there they are wasting a lot of bad food when they could be selling a lot of good food. I might have to tell them about it.

When we got home from Beckley it was cold, but the ground was clear. By 430 this afternoon it looked like this outside. Bill went out to feed the cows under several layers of clothing. Jake goes with him, but if you notice he is nowhere in this picture. That is because as soon as Bill opened the truck door Jake zoomed over to the basement door to get let back into the house.
Then finally tonight we went to dinner with the in-laws. That is always an experience.
It has been a long weekend. I didn't even get my six mile run in, again.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Still Here

In case anyone is wondering we are still here. Haven't had a lot going on lately. Mom came up for Thanksgiving. We deep fried a turkey and had a quiet weekend. Projects have been slow too. I have to get a picture of Bill's new rails for his hay trailer. He said he needed a metal chop saw to build the rails with, so he caught me at a weak moment while we were in Georgia and got his Christmas present early. He thought he was building the rails for the truck bed, but they weren't tall enough so he used them as practice and put them on the trailer. The next project was to be the actual truck rails, but since the saw throws so many sparks Billy finally decided to make a project table that he can roll into the garage doorway so that the sparks go out into the gravel instead of inside the garage. It will be used for a lot of his projects.
Anyway, I will get some pictures posted one of these days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back to Georgia

We went to visit Mom for the weekend. It was a very calm trip. Billy wanted to go to a hardware store in Madison to get some chainsaw oil that he can't get up here. Then we went to an antique mall and looked at things we couldn't bring home. Well, I did get one thing can't tell you though it is going to be a present - funny though - looking at antiques and buy a $3 thing made in China.
On the way back to Mom's we saw lots of people heading toward Athens for the UGA - Auburn football game. I tried to get a picture of a funny fan bus that we saw, but missed it. Instead we stopped at this metal art store. Turns out a lot of the stuff was made in other countries.

The mixture of art on a wall was pretty cool though...

and this fish tree was fun.

Remember the pig on the roof from July?
This is a covered wagon next to the BBQ place under that roof. I forgot what it is called, the BBQ is pretty good though.
Other than that Billy installed an AC/Heater unit in the sunroom and then found out there was no outlet. He will be moving it to the other window at Christmas. He also changed a couple of lightbulbs and got lots of papers graded.
I managed to be there when the remote quit working on TV2. Now she has to go into the bedroom TV to turn the channel. Yeah Me!
We also went to Lowes and spent waaayyy to much money. That was our trip to GA. Later!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fixing the "New" Truck

Wow, that was odd.

I got my blogs backwards and posted this information to the other one. Might be a sign of something, not sure what, but probably something.

Anyway, Bill has been working on his truck and finally got it to a point I could take pictures. Unfortunatly, I decided to do this when it started raining, but that is a good thing. We have needed rain for about 2 months now. That explains the streaks in the picture anyway.

The flat bed went on pretty well. He cleaned up the frame of the truck and the new bed and then sprayed them with rubberized underbody paint.
He also removed the front bumper and straightened it out.
The roof of the cab had some rust and was actually leaking in a spot so he sanded that off and fixed it. Then he sanded a bunch of other rough spots and painted the whole thing a nice Wal-Mart blue. It could use another $4 coat of paint, but it looks better than it did with the blue camoflage mess he had.
This is just the beginning of the rain. We got about an inch the first day and it looks like we will get at least another inch today. It is supposed to rain tomorrow too I think.
The ponds were all just about empty. Our spring was the only reliable source of open water left on the property.
The wells have all been fine so that was good, but it is great to be getting some rain.
Have a great Weekend.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Calendar Says it is Fall

You couldn't tell it is Fall by the weather we have had lately. Warmest temperatures in recorded history according to the weather man. Kind of goes along with the lack of rain we have had. Barely able to remember when it rained last, can count about 4 times of measurable rain since June.

Billy and I haven't been doing much lately. He bought a new bed for his truck, nice metal flat bed. I will put some pictures of it on here when he gets it installed, should be this weekend. In the meantime here are some views of why the bed needs replaced.

The tail light was removed on purpose, but it was held in with a wire contraption. You might notice the excessive bondo around the wheel well.

This is the inside of that wheel well and more bondo on the other side.

I have been walk/running quite a bit. There has been visible success, my clothes fit better and I am feeling a lot better. I think the first step to my change has been returning to an office of healthier people, that other office was crowded with less healthy people.

We went out on Bluestone Lake this weekend. Keith wanted to winterize his pontoon boat and it seemed like a good time to go out, sunny and 85 degrees. Since it is October and shouldn't be warm enough to be out on the water the lake wasn't real busy.

We went out with Keith and Carmen and some kids of a friend. First we headed up to Bull Falls, the water got pretty shallow there so we turned back and went back to the dam.

Every one had a good time, and yes it really was warm enough to swim.

I hope you have been having as much fun!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pennsylvania Wedding

We attended the wedding of Bill's nephew Christopher and his bride Jocelyn this weekend. They are a really nice and happy couple. The wedding was beautiful, small, and short, which made it really great for the audience.

After the ceremony they stood on the steps for a few pictures and then we headed to the reception and they did the official pictures.

This picture was taken of the wedding couple's first dance. I was on the other side of the room zoomed in and hurried it too much.

BUT I think it turned out really cool - even through the abstract fuzziness their emotion shows through. The flowers are a complete accident. I like it anyway.

This picture on the other hand shows a bit of craziness.
In the past Billy was able to collect a large amount of cash from the groom's uncles in a dare to dance with that groom. Well, they weren't around to make the payment, but it happened again anyway.

There they are doing the dance.

Luckily there was a chance for him to also dance with the bride. She thought it was funny, and he is such a ham.
Odd picture of the trip.

What can I say about this? A big fake horse standing in the back of a Chevy... maybe the horse has wheels so the driver can have a ride if the truck breaks down.

So that is the short story of our trip. We had a good time. There was lots of good wine.
Hopefully the lemon picture will never make it to digits. Yes, I know you don't know what that is referring to, I hope it stays that way. lol

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Shoes Made to Run In

I did a little shopping for myself today. If you haven't checked out my other blog - Progress, (there is a link on the right side) you might not know I have started a jogging plan that will set me up to run (not walk too much) a 5K in November.
I was talking to a friend about buying some shoes to train in and he told me about a chain store in Roanoke, VA called Fleet Feet where they make sure you get the right fit.

You can see by the picture that they don't let you leave without at least considering a purchase of more than just the shoes. I was in the store for an hour and bought four different items.
Those are Asics GT-2120s, with Superfeet liners, and Balega socks. The fourth item isn't for everyone to see.
Everything is Very comfortable and I think will do me well in the long run (haha).

I even learned how to tie my shoes so that my heels don't slip!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Farm Stuff

There hasn't been too much going on lately. No rain, just heat and work.

So why not buy more toys! Billy and his brother found a deal on another Massey Ferguson.

The first one Billy bought is a MF150 that he got several years ago from a neighbor who wanted to upgrade.

The second one is a MF240 Billy and his brother bought last year when they decided they needed a tractor with a bucket.

This one is a MF165. The previous owner hadn't been using it very much and hated to see it wasting away by the barn, so he gave them a good deal. It needs front tires, but other than that is in pretty good shape.

You might remember a few posts ago I showed you a picture of Billy's latest 'creation' the Hay Wagon, well here it is in all its oddball glory. Don't tell anybody, but they took it on the road today. It was built to shuttle 8 - 10 round bales at a time from the field so that we wouldn't have to make so many runs with the tractor. It was not built to be on the road.

BUT. It has been dry here this summer - no rain since about the 4th of July - because of that the guys not only sold 18 head early this year, they actually started feeding hay to the cows two weeks ago. That puts the spring hay supply in jeopardy, especially if it is a cold winter.

One of the other brothers has a bunch of hay that he isn't going to need, so they bought 30 bales from him today.
To get the hay they had to go down to the farm and that would be crazy to make 15 trips with the truck.

So they set the trailer up and ran a second truck with two more bales on it behind it to provide rear lights. Not the best way to operate, but farm needs supercede the need for tags sometimes.
Anyway, here it is fully loaded.

And getting unloaded.

Speaking of hay -
Shadow aka Cujo REALLY wanted to say hey to anybody that might know him. He wouldn't leave me alone, and then walked away after I took the picture.
What a mutt.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Math Class

Just in case you were wondering what Billy's classsroom looks like. Here it is from the back. The really old desks with the wooden seats had to be brought in from county storage because of the extra high number of students that he has this year.

There used to be chalk boards all the way around the room. The chalk was starting to aggravate his throat by the end of the day, so he used his classroom improvement money to put a wall of white board up. The second white board wall was added this summer when he decided to turn his room sideways. If nothing else it is much brighter in there with the white walls instead of black. There is a lot less dust too.

There are actually a couple more desks in here since this picture was taken. It is a nice big room, but the seams are being pushed this year.

That ends this tour of Mr. Curry's math room.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Cake

I was looking at a Taste of Home magazine a few weeks ago and learned about Fondant. I thought they had created some really beautiful cakes and true to my nature - I said "I can do that". What I needed was a subject and people to eat the cake. I wanted to make it, but I did NOT want it sitting in my house waiting to get eaten, because we know it would have been and nobody here needs all that sugar.
The perfect solution worked it's way into my imagination - Billy was heading back to school. He would be starting his very first full year of teaching and I figured some sugar would start it off nicely, plus there would be a whole group of people up there to eat up the product.
So begins the tale of The Cake. A little inspiration, a few ideas, and people to try it on. The project actually started the weekend before when I made the Butter Cream Frosting. I had never made that either and wanted to make sure it turned out okay and since it stores in the fridge so well, I made it early and even practiced frosting by using up a cake mix that was kind of old. That turned out fine so I waited for the real test.
In the beginning there was a chocolate cake and some yellow cupcakes for the people who don't care for chocolate. They were baked with the purpose of becoming a teacher's desk top and some apples. I baked them all on Wednesday, it was soooooo hot in that kitchen. Temps have been over 90 and the late afternoon sun heats up the kitchen side of the house, add in the oven at 350 degrees for dinner and then two loads of cupcakes and then a cake! WOW not often do I want an air conditioner, but this cake project just about pushed me over the edge.

The next day started the frosting. First I trimmed off the top of the chocolate cake to level it into a desk top. Then I sliced the tops of the cupcakes off and used the butter cream to 'glue' them together into roundish apple shapes. I used a couple of the bottoms stacked one on top of the other to make a pencil holder. Then I frosted the desk top. You can see the extra cake pieces in the plastic container, way to many of them!
The next step was by far the messiest and most amazing mess I ever made that actually turned out looking like it was no problem. Billy was there to witness what happens when you melt a package of mini marshmallows in the microwave and then pour in 2 pounds of powdered sugar... and then pour the whole mess onto the tabletop.

It was a HUGE mess. See you are supposed to Crisco up your hands and the table top before getting started. I forgot about the table top. Powder was everywhere! I didn't know where the whole thing was going, but I just kept kneading and kneading until it all somehow turned into a soggy ball of marshmallow and sugar. Luckily dinner was ready about that time so I left the soggy ball sitting in the middle of the mat and put the mixing bowl on top to keep anything from floating into it while I was gone. About a half hour later I came back up and was absolutely amazed to find that the soggy had disappeared. I don't know, but can only assume it was needed deeper in the ball and just soaked in because what I was left with was a perfect mound of fondant. You can see in the picture that it looks like bread dough. Perfect for what I needed. So I split it into pieces and started adding color.

Color is the biggest thing I need to work on if I do this again. I have 8 colors, but how do you make brown for a wooden desktop? I didn't think to look at a color chart before hand and didn't want to fool with it once I got started so I added color and kneaded. Added another color and kneaded. Added another color and kneaded. It finally worked out okay so I rolled it out and cut the size I wanted, it had a beautiful wood grain look, I picked it up and it stretched. Balled it back up, rolled it back out and lost some wood grain, messed that one up too. Balled it back up, rolled it out and most of the wood grain was gone, but I managed to do it right this time. I laid it out on the cake and then started the other pieces.

I added some color to the desktop leavings and wrapped that around the pencil holder. Added a different color to another lump and made a grade book. Got some unused fondant and made a half of a blue ink pen, with cap. Some more and made half of a pencil, with eraser. Then I put toothpicks in the bottom of the halves and stuck them in the top of the pencil holder. Then I rolled out a full pencil, added the eraser, and a bit of lead. Then I added the candy numbers and did some writing on the different pieces.
I ended the day with this. One desktop and a plate full of sorry looking apples. It was an idea that needs some refining. I frosted them with butter cream and used canned frosting with a leaf tip to add leaves and then put some green food coloring on the leaves. Next time, I think I will just let the cupcakes stand on their own. Frost the tops and go on.
The next morning while Billy was in the shower I added some graffiti to the student's side of the desktop. The Athens mascot name is Trojans and I thought a little SC + BC in a heart would embarrass him a little and make the ladies laugh. He thought it was funny too when he saw it.
I dropped the cake and cupcakes off at the school on my way to work Friday. Billy said it was delicious, everyone was surprised, and there was very little left at the end of the day.
Will I do another cake? Yes. Will I take requests? Not too quick. It was a lot of work and really takes some creative motivation. It was also expensive, because it took a lot of time to learn different things and I made too much fondant. Next time I know better how much I really need and with more knowledge I can make a better construction and color plan too.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Ridge News

Several years ago, like back around 1995 or so Billy got some American Chestnut seedlings from someone who told him about the blight that took out whole forests of Chestnut trees back in the 1940s. So he planted the seedings along the little valley that our creek runs along and sort of forgot about them. Well earlier this year he and his brother Rob noticed that there were some Chestnut hulls laying around under a tree and yesterday we looked for it again. What we found is a really tall American Chestnut tree that is in fruit - has lots of these spiney balls on it that hold the nuts.
Unfortunately, when I went back to take pictures I found out that the tree seems to be in distress by the blight too. I really don't know what the Chestnut blight looks like, I looked on line, but all I found so far was pictures of healthy trees. This is the base of the tree and those cracks go up the trunk pretty much as far as I could see. Doesn't look good for the tree.

I sent an email to the WVU contact of the American Chestnut Foundation telling him what we found and we will see if he has anything to say about it. We wouldn't mind being part of the test for a blight free seedling to try. Since the trees like our soil we could try some more, long as they don't fall down and hurt the cows anyway.

In other Ridge news, Billy's nephew and neice built a house a few years ago and now they have just finished building the garage. The next project is cleaning up in front of the garage so they can use it. Eric rented an excavator to dig out some stumps that didn't come out when they cleared the space earlier. In this picture Billy is running the excavator and Eric is moving dirt with the tractor. That hole to the left was a big stump.

Emily spent some time rearranging dirt too. Jake spent time laying in the cool dirt hoping he didn't get buried or jumped on.
Lauren and her mom Jessica sat on the swing and watched. You can see brother Rob's house on the left side of Lauren's head and our roofline on the right side behind Jessica's head. That is just the right distance, far enough for privacy, but close enough for these group projects.

That is all for now. Later!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Odd Visitor

We had a visitor show up this past weekend that we really never expected to see. She was rumored to have been traveling with the family of some friends, but she had disappeared a few years ago and no one knew to where she had disappeared.

Who is this mysterious visitor? Mrs. Buttersworth of course! Completly decked out in her vintage glass bottle and yellow metal cap.

This Sunday morning she showed up on the farm looking for the Anderson's at their last known address, which is the mobile home that we set up for Grandma and they borrowed while in between homes for a bit.

Now, there are several problems with how she managed to show up here. First of all, this is not their last permanent address, that was in another county. Second, how she got this particular address I have no idea since it is not a registered location with anyone except the electric company, 911 doesn't even know about it and there is no phone! Third, they only lived there for ... ok, it was more than a few days, but it wasn't permanent! The fourth and most obvious reason for why she showed up was because they are currently in the process of finishing (YEAH!) their move to Germany.

That fourth reason for why she came looking for them actually makes perfect sense. What right minded syrup bottle wouldn't want to move to Germany and be the travel icon for a fun family? How else would she manage to get there but by being packed in their luggage? If she did manage to get to the ocean and find a current that would allow her to travel to Europe, her glass bottle design would survive the float, but the metal cap would surely rust through causing her to sink to unknown depths! And then even if y some miracle she did make it, she would have to rely on the kindness of strangers in a strange land who may not appreciate her American icon status to actually deliver her to a place where she could find the Anderson's. How likely is that?

Well, she was completely disappointed that she missed them and is currently standing on a shelf considering ways of catching up with them, but since they fly tomorrow it doesn't look good. I have an idea that she will travel with us to the various places that we go for a while hoping to find the right connection. If she doesn't find a way to hitchhike over there before we go to visit Germany next summer we will make sure she comes along.

Until then - Mrs B. says Stay Sticky Sweet!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Well, it has happened the dream, the impossible dream has come true. It took about 3 years of threats (he said... "I am going to do it") and promises (I said... "If you do I will") and finally we have had a result.

"I am going to do it" finally resulted in a cleaned out garage.

This is my parking spot... look at the organization!
This is Bill's parking spot... that is space and a clear work bench.

There is a pretty good reason for why it took so long. First it was just not time yet and then Grandma decided it was time to leave the mountain and she moved in next to us so a lot of her stuff moved into the garage. We put up a building to hold it, but there were some heavy pieces, cookstove and coal stoves, along with some odds and ends that just never got moved. That finally got taken care of in the last few weeks and now there is already a project in the work shop end of the garage so that is good.
Which leads us to my obligation and the "If you do I will" promises of that first comment. The other thing that is in the work shop end of the garage is this monster that I promised to buy him if he would get the garage cleaned out and organized.

Notice it is so big that Billy can hide behind it! What did I do?
He is a happy camper now. The Big air compressor is his. Now of course comes the fun part. It has to be bolted in and metal discharge lines need to be run to different points in the garage - for example - I want a connection on my end so I can air up my tires without unrolling 40 feet of hose. I know that is a really minor reason to buy this big of a tank, but it is important to me. I am looking forward to some of the projects we have discussed, it should be fun.

Speaking of fun, I found this piece of foam packing in the office one day a while back. It struck me as pretty funny, maybe you find it funny too.

That is all for now. Later!