Posts Tagged with 'life'

Blogging Anniversary

on January 5th, 2009 by

This is the One Year Anniversary of my first blog post.

It’s been nice to be able to share my views, thoughts, and information over the last year. The site has changed a lot in look and the name changed too. Also, I am not the only contributor on this blog site anymore. Part of my husband’s blog and most of my blog blended, so if you notice two different tones of writing, check the author’s name below the title and you may see a different name than you are expecting. We each have our specialties and we overlap too. So, I hope you enjoy the new content. I am looking forward to writing more this year, getting more visitors to my blog, and getting more of my friends to check out the blog.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Park and Flea

on October 8th, 2008 by

A couple weeks ago I heard about a local flea market called Park and Flea in downtown Salisbury, MD where all kinds of vendors and yard-salers alike can sell their items in a group setting. There are large and small spots to set up. We aren’t exactly sure on the details of the large spots other then they are $10 on Saturday and $5 on Sunday. We, however, used one of the small spots they had available. For $5 on Saturday or Sunday, a 3 car width space is available to pull up your vehicle and unload the items you want to sell in any matter you wish – blanket, tables, off a trailer, or right out of the back of your vehicle. It starts at 7am on Saturday and 9am on Sunday and goes until whenever you wish – you can stay a couple of hours or stay until everyone is gone.

For the last couple weekends, it has rained, so I was happy that we finally got a chance to check it out this weekend. We ventured out and were really excited to see so many people selling items. For the first hour, we sold some small items and worked on assembling the futon couch we wanted to sell. Along with some video games that brought in some money, we had the delight of finally selling our futon couch. It was sold for a little less than we would have liked but a man with money and a big truck showed up before we had to take it home, so it was a deal we couldn’t pass up since we REALLY didn’t want to take it back apart, load it up, and take it home.

FutonFutonFuton

Since we did well, I know we are going back again to sell the other futon, some bookcases, and more small items. With the space we get to sell at the Park and Flea, we are thinking of loading both vehicles with stuff and trying to sell as much as possible in one trip.

In preparation for the Flea Market, we bought a wonderful folding table by Lifetime from Sam’s Club that is 4′ long and the height varies for lots of uses. It even folds up so that it is 2′ x 2′ and only a couple inches high which is great for storage.

Folding Table

The table worked out great in conjunction with some crates we carried the items in to the flea market. If we do well, maybe we will get another table for more space to sell things or for events later. I am really looking forward to selling more items so that the kitchen can finally be freed up of all of the items we have wanted to sell for the last year. Yea! The stuff is finally moving!

Third and final cake for class

on October 2nd, 2008 by

Our last class – Sept 30th.

I am so happy with my final cake for the completion of Course 1 of The Wilton Method of Cake Decorating.

3rd CakeRoses Closeup
Roses CloseupSide Detail

I challenged myself to new levels for this one. I didn’t use the Crisco icing for any of the icing this week. All of the icing is by Cherrybrook Kitchen. It was the chocolate icing for the roses and the vanilla icing for the rest – again I substituted organic butter for the recommended margarine. When using butter instead of Crisco, the icing needs to be refridgerated to be stiff and then it warms up as you use it. So, whenever it gets to soft, back into the fridge it goes. Unless you are icing the cake however, then you do not want it refridgerated. For the cake this week, I chose the Namaste Foods Spice Cake and did the Carrot Cake Variation. For the directions, I followed their directions with one deviation – I replaced the 2/3 cup oil with 1/3 cup applesauce and 1 Tbsp +1 tsp of oil to reduce the fat and it came out beautifully. For the carrot cake variation, I added their recommended 1 cup of shredded carrot and for the nuts and fruit, I added 1/2 cup (56g) of chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup (40g) of organic raisins. I meant to add 1/2 cup of raisins, so I will see how this tastes and see if it needs more raisins or if it was a good omission.

Getting startedSpice Cake

I did the roses before class this week since I thought it would be a lot of pressure to do six roses in the time given and have them not melt (due to the butter in the icing) without having a fridge nearby.

Chocolate RosesChocolate Rose

I did take a cooler with me to class to keep the roses and icing cooled. It worked out great. Also, when I was working with the icing in class and it became too soft, I placed it in the cooler for a couple minutes and then I was great to work with again. I know it sounds like a lot of trouble to go through, but I would prefer to make something I like and will probably eat than to make something I won’t like.  We received a Certificate of Merit at the end of the class and a $5 off coupon to encourage us to take the next class.

Certificate

The next class, The Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 2: Flowers and Borders, is slated to start the beginning of November 2008. I think we are going to hold off on taking that class until late winter or spring since I just don’t know how much more cake we can eat – and November is just so busy getting ready for Christmas toward the end of the month. Wow! To think, Christmas is less than 3 months away.

Clown Cake

on September 25th, 2008 by

I tried something new this week – Sept 23rd – for the cake class. The cake consists of the same type of cake as last week, however, I made a chocolate icing rather than the white icing like last week. I wanted to decorate it more, but we ran out of time in class. At first I was thinking Zen clowns but Carla suggested that they looked like they were around a campfire – I can definitely see both!

Cake 2 DecoratedClowns
TrimFlower

We did what I expected with the cake last week, we scraped the icing off the cake and then ate the cake – the icing was made with vegetable shortening (Crisco) that Matt nor I really wanted to eat. So, I thought that I would make something I knew we would eat.  I looked at the canned icing and it too is made with vegetable shortening and has transfats in it – that wasn’t an option. So, I turned to the organic/natural aisle at Giant for a solution. I found an icing mix made by the same company as the cake was made by – Cherrybrook Kitchen – and they had chocolate and vanilla.  I bought the all natural Chocolate Frosting Mix that is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free. Instead of using the 2 1/2 sticks of margarine they suggested, I used 2 1/2 sticks of organic butter which no longer made it dairy-free, but made it taste awesome and I didn’t have to use anything artificial. With the icing made of butter it has to stay in the fridge otherwise, well, the icing gets soft and will go bad. And this week, we are actually eating the cake with the icing since it is chocolate and really good.

Getting StartedButter Blended
Chocolate icingCake 2

I still had to make the Crisco icing for the decorating portion of the cake and I chose purple and green for my colors this week. I think I might try the butter icing next week for the decorating portion – maybe I will make both and try them each out – just in case.

Crisco blendedIcing

For decorating, we had to use clown heads and learned to build their bodies with icing. I am not that crazy about clowns, but everyone’s clowns did turn out pretty cute and not scary. We also learned how to do roses, various flowers, and a trim style that looks like shells.

Clowns first tryRosesPractice

Next week will be our last week. It has been fun so far.

My 1st Decorated Cake

on September 20th, 2008 by

Our 2nd cake class day was September 16th.

So, here it is… the cake that I thought was going to be a disaster that actually worked out quite well…
Cake for Course 1 Class 1

Our objectives were: (1) to make any type of cake we wanted, then (2) make a batch of cake icing and ice the cake, then (3) make a batch of stiff icing that 1/3 would be used to practice techniques with and the other 2/3 would become medium icing and be decoration for the cake, and then (4) bring it all into class where we would work on the sunflower pattern along with other techniques.

I figured if I was going to learn all I could, I might as well do some experimenting with the cake too.  You can’t see it with it decorated, but in the pictures below it is visible that the cake is chocolate. I knew if I was going to make a cake and if there was any chance of it being eaten, it would have to be chocolate. The cake is an all natural, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, chocolate cake by Cherrybrook Kitchen. Instead of the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil they said to use in the baking of the cake, I did a little research and substituted 1/4 cup applesauce and 1 Tbsp of Canola oil in place of it. I also separated the batter into two 9″ round pans to make the cake last for 2 classes and when I did that, I reduced the time in the oven from 25 minutes to 15 minutes (the lowest recommended baking time for cupcakes) and it all worked out absolutely beautifully. It baked up nicely and tastes wonderful.

Below are some pictures I want to share some of the process of the making the icing to the icing of the cake.

Getting started bakingMaking icingStarting to ice cake

Halfway iced cakeAlmost iced cakeIced cake

And finally, it was put into its carrier for safe transport – the cake made it to and from class with no harm.

Cake Carrier

Below is just a little something extra from the class. One of our exercises was to learn to write with icing with various tips. Even though it was tracing, it was still really difficult, but once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t too bad.

Icing writing

Can’t wait until this tuesday, next is flowers. Not so sure about this part, but it will be fun to see everyone’s creations.

Cake Decorating Class

on September 20th, 2008 by

Last week Carla, Meghan, and I went to our first class of The Wilton Method of Cake Decorating: Course 1 at Michael’s Craft Store. I was hesitant at first, not knowing how much I would have to spend and how much I would get out of the class. I thought that I should check it out thought since I would get to spend some quality time with friends and get to learn something new. After a few questions were asked of the helpful Michael’s employees, I decided to join the class. Luckily, the cost of the class was 50% off for the month of September, so the class was only $17.50 and that is for all 4 lessons (1 class per week for 4 weeks) and that included the workbook for Course 1.

Cake Course 1 BookCake Course 1 Student KitCake Course 1 Student Kit

The way our class worked was we didn’t need any tools for the first class, we just watched the teacher, asked questions, and took notes for this class and what we needed for the next class. The last part of the class the first night involved the teacher taking us to the section of Michael’s where the cake decorating items are located. She showed us various tools needed and what was optional and then let us paruse at our leisure. There was no obligation to buy at Michael’s, however, after some consideration, I chose to buy my items there and save some time knowing that I would be buying nice items that would last me a while.

If you don’t have any cake decorating tools to begin with, like I did, there is a bit of a start-up cost along with the cost of the class. As for the necessary tools, they have a Course 1 Student Kit that includes the “essential tools” for this class like decorator bags and tips, couplers, a spatula, a practice board, and a few other items for about $25. In addition, I chose to buy a cake carrier (since we would have to bring a cake to class each night and I didn’t have any safe way of getting a cake to class) for $15 and a cake turntable (to help with not having to turn the cake constantly and allowing for more even icing) for $10.

There are other essentials needed for the class like what you will need to bake a cake and ice it each week along with the practice icing that needs to be made which is different for each class session. Some the items for this include: meringue powder, shortening, confectioners’ sugar, flavor, icing color, and cake ingredients that you prefer. Also, there are other things for the class you will need which are small derby clown heads, waxed paper, and piping gel (but we didn’t need piping gel in our class, yet). A few of the non-essential items that could be helpful depending on what you want to accomplish are a cake leveler, extra couplers, extra decorator bags and other tips for creativity along with so many more things. The cost can really add up quick but to get the necessary extras, it can be between $20-40 depending on what you buy and where you buy it.

So far, I have attended 2 classes and have really enjoyed them. It is still a little girlee for me at times, but it really is a lot of fun and I have learned to really appreciate the art of cake decorating and why professionally decorated cakes cost so much – it really takes skill and patience to get it just right. The class is perfect for anyone wanting to learn about decorating cakes – to be a professional or for fun. I think this class is perfect for those who want to have fun and be able to make and decorate cakes for family and friends’ birthdays and the like.

Where Did I Go Wrong? Or Did I?

on July 19th, 2008 by

In high school, I focused on science and art and was heavily involved in a group called Students Against Violating the Environment (SAVE). We collected cardboard boxes, painted them to stand out, and put one in every room for students to recycle their paper. We worked to get large blue tubs in the cafeteria for bottle and can recycling. We took field trips where we planted trees and enjoyed nature without destroying it. We attended meetings to prevent wetlands and parks from being converted into amusement parks and concrete lots. We did many, many things to conserve and help the environment.

Then college came. I chose Physics for my major since I liked designing, planning, problem solving, building, and computers. “Where did the environmental aspect go?” you ask. I ask myself the same thing now. I soon was succumbed by classes, homework, art projects, deadlines, and surviving on my own in a new environment with reasonable help from my parents, but just the right amount of help though. I met new friends and most had no outward concern for the environment since they were just trying to survive college (and most of them partied too much).

Then came an internship choice. On the eastern shore of MD, there is not much in the way of jobs for people with Physics degrees or any strongly science based degree for that matter. There are a few lucky positions out there and the other jobs that might be close are bottom level starters since no one wants to pay a decent amount of money. Luckily at the time, one of my teachers had a connection to a local microwave filter company and got me an interview. Soon after, I started my internship and again, a whole different world opened up.

My internship was with a designer and producer of transmitter and receiver filters for base stations for cell phones. The internship went well given the circumstances. My college classes had no direct application or preparation for the technology that I worked with, but I learned. My problem solving skills and building skills came in handy. While at my internship, I needed to buy a car. I wanted to get something new that held enough for moving time but was reasonable in gas mileage since I took trips home and to see friends. Through my own wants and much coworker influence, I ended up buying an SUV. Not the most earth-friendly choice, but at that point in my life I was somehow loosing my way from my conservationist ideals. At least I can say that I bought a Toyota and with about 21mpg, it was a whole lot more than most SUVs out at that time and still surpasses many today.

After a year and upon graduation, my internship turned into a full-time job. I started designing filters and then I started seeing the waste that was generated. While I did make some great friends and see some amazingly good things happen, over the years, I saw many awful things that ranged from toxic personalities that just fueled dysfunctional relationships to the overproduction of filters that weren’t sufficiently tested by my coworkers. The wasting of metal with this over production was astounding – at least they did start to recycle it eventually. The poor breathing conditions of the machine shop with no safety measures (that I knew of) that prevented people from inhaling small metal fragments was appalling. The constant backstabbing was sometimes too much to handle. And the workload… don’t get me started.  As a wise coworker once said “At your next job, you will never have to work as hard as you did here.” and boy was he right on so many levels. I was so stressed out from my working conditions that I was taking at least 6 Advil a day. Then, I got laid off. While I know it was not their intention, it was the best thing they ever did for me.  I was so upset and heartbroken at the time, but I don’t know what would have become of me had I been there much longer. Three things helped me at the time – my boyfriend who was completely devoted, my closest coworker who drove my truck around to the front of the building so I didn’t have to walk across the production floor after being laid off who was only the third person ever to drive my truck, and my only supervisor that I respected told me “remember, you did nothing wrong and did a great job here”.

With the looming repercussions of the layoff such as not having any faith in any company, I set out for a new job. I was doomed from the beginning with my poor outlook and lack of trust in anything any possible employer said. My only hope was to find a way to work for NASA, the only place I still had faith in – Why? I am not so sure other than it was always a dream of mine to work for NASA but not as an astronaut just as some supporting person. I had a head hunter calling me from MRI that just annoyed me to no end by calling me at 8am almost everyday with “New! Exciting! Opportunities!”.  The chipperness in his voice soon dulled when I wouldn’t take a job that was more than $10K less than I was making and proceeded to try to make me feel guilty which was unsuccessful and resulted in my not answering his phone calls from then on.

I took getting into NASA into my own hands and did manage to get in through the help of my boyfriend’s dad’s bandmate’s coworker who knew someone with an opening and a very successful, challenging interview. The job was nice even though it was a desk job, my coworkers were great, and the working conditions were wonderful. Now, I have to add that this job at NASA was 50 minutes from my home and that is a lot of gas money and pollution, so again, I was abandoning my environmental principals but at least at the time it was for good reasons – a steady paycheck and I was working for the company of my dreams. Unfortunately, the desk job though got the best of me and the working conditions deteriorated. This time the working conditions deteriorated due to building upkeep – breathing in fumes from the hot tar on the roof, mold in the ceiling tiles, a poor ventilation system, and out-gassing of new carpet that was installed. I started to have allergies and was on 3 types of allergy medicines.  I was having panic attacks on my way to work in the car. It wasn’t good and I eventually resigned.

While all of this was going on with the allergies and NASA, my boyfriend and I got married, which was awesome.  A positive point in my life filled with awful work stuff. I think planning our wedding was the only thing that kept me at NASA for as long as I stayed. NASA really is a wonderful place with so many great people, it just took me driving a total of 85 miles a day to and from work and location specific health problems to realize that a theoretical dream job just isn’t what it is made out to be sometimes. I was now on the hunt for a new job or something. My husband and I brainstormed to try to figure out what I would want to do – sales, secret shopping, administrative assistant, organizing… at no time did I mention anything environmentally related.. what was I thinking?… guess that part had been suppressed for so long it forgot to come out. So, I attempted to get a sales job at Xerox, but the owner was overwhelmingly unprofessional and would withhold information from me until the last minute and thus, I turned down that job. I thought being a Secret Shopper would be cool and practical, but at $5 for a visit to a store and a write up of the experience to their detailed specifications, it felt like a complete rip off. I tried for some administrative assistant jobs, but it always came back with the wording that meant “overqualified” and/or “we don’t want to train you and then you leave when you get bored”. Once many things were ruled out, we decided to start a business for me for Professional Organizing. My goals when helping to get people organized – reduce the items you have, recycle as much as we can, and reuse items through donations and giving away. My Green Reawakening had happened! And with purpose! I had a couple of wonderful clients and one not so good client, but they all were great learning experiences. However, lets just say that the business is closed now due to living in a location where Professional Organization is a luxury that is not pursued and there was growing concern for my safety when entering peoples’ homes to help them get organized.

This brings us to January 2008 when my blog started. Now my thoughts and ideas go on here for all to see – environment, organizing, interior design, stuff to sell… It is again, a whole different world.  Now, I just have to figure out how possibly make a little money at it but not loose the fun of it.

I wish I would have been active in enviromentally friendly practices in all that I went through, but that would not make me the person I am today. It is amazing where we start out, how far we get away from the things we love, and how… somehow… we eventually get back to them.

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