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!