Cake, Cupcakes, Cake Pops

July 26, 2015

I was busy earlier this week with cake stuff for two customers. Well, I should say “we,” because Rachel has been helping me a lot. It is much easier with two people and I’m sharing the income with her.

One customer wanted 12 chocolate cupcakes and 12 white cupcakes decorated with white icing and topped with a monogram B.

She also wanted 24 gluten-free chocolate cake pops, 12 dipped in green (decorated as 4 drizzled with white, 4 plain, 4 dipped in silver sprinkles) and 12 dipped in chocolate (6 decorated with white drizzles and 6 plain). Got that?

It was my first time making cake pops, and the “traditional” recipe for them is YUCKY! Normally they are made by crumbling a baked cake into shreds, stirring in gobs of icing to make clay, then form them into balls which are dipped into candy coating then decorated. Way too sweet!

With Rachel’s help, I found another way to make them.  We bought a rather inexpensive waffle-iron-like gadget that just baked little cakes the size and shape of golf balls.  Much less sweet and easier to work with.  The prepared cake batter, in this case gluten-free, goes into a plastic bag.


Then snip off the corner and squeeze about 1 tablespoon into each cavity.


Close the lid and let them bake for 4 minutes, then tip them out onto a clean dishcloth and let them cool.


Next step is to add sticks, which Rachel did by dipping in the candy coating first, push them in, then freeze for 15 minutes.


Then the tricky part–dipping them in the candy coating.  It took me a practice round the week previous to figure out how to do this consistently and easily, but it helped to add a tiny bit of paraffin to the melted candy. Possible hazards: balls falling off sticks, coating too hot, coating too cool, coating to lumpy, coating too thin, etc. Having Rachel’s tiny crockpot really helped.  Sprinkles can be added immediately, or let them harden to add drizzles later.


Of course, I sent the good looking ones to the customer.  These rejects went to the office.


The cupcakes turned out not to be that easy either, though I’ve made this recipe a hundred times:


Do over.  Second batch were fine.




And the day before all of this, a half-sheet cake (that is, two 9X13) layered with fresh strawberry cream cheese filling, decorated to say farewell to a colleague who is leaving our organization to go teach ESL in Everett, WA.


Then Gary left for Chicago and I spent the next full day cleaning the kitchen.  The end.

Bella’s Birthday, a Little Late

July 21, 2015

Andrew and Laura took photos of Isabella’s 7th birthday party and I’m reposting a couple of them here. The theme was Harry Potter, and it seems they had a mysterious professor making all kinds of concoctions with the guests.




Isabella’s abuela Miguelina was there for the occasion and a stayed a few more days.


Bella and abuela Miguelina July 2015


In other, completely unrelated news, I got this bad photo of what I think is a Great-crested Flycatcher in the wires in the front yard.  It is supposedly common here in the summer, but I’m not very familiar with this species, and I think I’ve sometimes mixed it up with Western Kingbirds.





July 18, 2015

OK, I know I’ve blogged about our trees, or lack of them, too much already. But I just have to say that now that we are in the hottest part of the Texas summer, our air conditioner cannot keep our house cool. Without some help from the shade trees, it runs without stopping from about 4pm until 11pm. I hate to think what the electric bill is going to be! Yikes!

This reminds me of what someone told me this week:  the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago.

And just to make us all feel better, here is a photo from last winter.  Our young neighbor built a snow-self-sculpture.  Not bad!


The Purge Continues

July 17, 2015

I know it wasn’t fun or easy, but Gary agreed that 35 years’ worth of paper journals stacked away in a closet wasn’t doing anyone any good. At this stage of life, an empty closet is a better option. We took them to the recycle bin and have begun to fill the closet with Rachel’s stuff.



DSC07939In other news, our in-house workshop to test some new software that will be used for editing the Ethnologue went well and we took a photo of our group.

OSCAR workshop July 2015 Fennig Lewis LSimons Evans GSimons White Johnson

We also did a panoramic shot which produces an odd perspective (click for a better view).



In other news, I have a couple cake orders to fill this coming week, so I’ve been doing a little experimenting.  One person wants green, white, and silver cake pops–gluten free!  Here’s my second try–the first try was so bad I didn’t even take photos!



Gary is working very hard these days to be ready for the workshop in Brisbane, Australia where the new Ethnologue editing software will get its first workout.  Lots to do to be ready and we’ve got vacation to enjoy between now and then too!  We are looking forward to spending some grandma and grandpa time with Isabella–and auntie time too, since Rachel is going to go with us as well.  We’ve contacted the church in Ithaca which has supported us all these years and we will be spending a bit of time with the new pastor and a couple week-day prayer groups.



July 11, 2015

Clean up around this place continues. Finally, all remnants of the tree slaughter have been cleaned away. We found holes in the roots which made good places to dump piles of sawdust.  Early this morning I repaired the wheelbarrow (again) so we could haul off the last bits.  Now our front yard looks like a smooth and barren wasteland with no trees, no grass, just HOT sun.  Sad.  At least we have the Emma tree planted, and it is doing well.



After that, Rachel and I rounded up the two cats and took them to a low-cost vaccination place over on Main street.  They don’t get along that well with each other, and they weren’t happy with the trip to the vet, but at least they are legal for the next 3 years.  (Today we learned that the every-year vaccine is now a 3-year one.)


Then after that, Gary and I went to the Center to celebrate Dick and Nancy Bergman’s 50th anniversary.  Nancy is an alto with me in choir.  Their kids and grandkids put on a lovely party.  I held my breath as the 4-tier cake was listing to starboard, but it didn’t fall.  They also had lots of good food and this cute fruit arrangement.


My birthday is long over, but I took this photo of all the nice cards I got.  I got some cash, too, so I think I spend it on our upcoming vacation.


Summer brings blueberries from Canada and Michigan and they were so cheap last week I bought 4 pints and made this yummy cobbler.  I took it to the office it it vanished like magic during coffee break.


Rachel Sells Her Phone at the Grocery Store

July 9, 2015

Rachel has been divesting herself of some of her junk, some for money and some to the boutique. She has sold bookshelves, antique dressers, a heavy-duty air filter, paper shredder, dishes, computer speakers, kitchen gadgets, etc.  She made a little money and made a little space.

We saw a machine at the mall that buys old tablets and cell phones–who would have thought?! Then we discovered one of these machines at our local grocery store, right next to the ATM.  She had a not-so-old-but-very-cranky cell phone she wasn’t using, so why not try to get a few dollars out of it?  She didn’t get that much $ for the phone, but it was good to be rid of it (this particular phone was associated with lots of bad memories AND it didn’t work very well!).

Watch this video (less than 2 minutes) that I took of Rachel interacting with this picky machine. Turn up the sound to hear it calling her a movie star. :-)

Weekend of Work and Fun

July 5, 2015

We had a fun time eating dinner with our Arlington friends last night to celebrate July 4th.  Grilled burgers, yummy side salads, and cake and homemade ice cream.  Sharla made an applesauce cake for her David’s and my birthday, and I brought along some Independence cupcakes with tricolored batter and tricolored icing, using the gadget Rachel got me for my birthday.





We all had a turn holding the newest addition:  Rachel with 2-month old Lazarus


We spent a lot of time on Friday and Saturday cleaning and doing stuff around the house.  Having Rachel move in with us has started a slow domino effect as we have found more and more corners of this house to clean out. It was kinda sad to go through that old cardboard barrel that we’ve had since Grandpa Simons worked at the McHenry Library (we found it had been mailed to him at that location at one time). I had been storing old costumes the kids had played with in hopes of doing the same with my grandkids. Alas, the grandkids don’t live anywhere close, and more to the point, the costumes were chewed and covered with rat droppings from our infestation over a year ago. Ugh!!

I threw most of it away, and washed the rest, including all the Awana uniforms that proved how hard our kids worked at Bible memory. One of the casualties of this purge was the snake. The rats had gutted the snake to use its innards for nesting material.



You saw on yesterday’s blog the new brick stepping area where one of our giant trees used to be.  It was a lot of work for Gary to make it, but it was even harder to dig up the bricks from the other end of the path so they could be reused!  This was a lesson in how ancient civilizations become hidden so far underground, something I’ve never really understood!  The former owners built a brick walkway between our house and the neighbors because 30+years ago these two buildings were the Printing Arts Department and folks had to run back and forth between them.  Lots more bricks there if we ever need them.


The Planets Align and Its My Birthday

July 4, 2015

The weather improved and I used my spotting scope and camera to get a couple dozen terrible shots and about one or two that turned out as passable.





I had a nice birthday this year. Carol made me a cake to share at coffee break and it was a yummy concoction of yellow cake, whipped cream, baked meringue and strawberries.



I didn’t cook on my birthday either–Taco Bueno for lunch and Panera for dinner, paid for by a couple gifts from friends and family.


My best presents this year were from Gary:  1.  He cleaned his desk  (still more to go, but a great start).  2.  He built me a little porch, really a continuation of the brick walk.  This porch is located where one of our giant trees used to be.



Not Quite the Age of Aquarius

June 30, 2015

I tried to find Jupiter aligning with Venus tonight, and that’s when it started. The words of that 60’s song started going through my hair:

When the moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

But it was all wrong, because it isn’t Mars, it is Venus!  That must be why there is no peace and love, huh?  Anyway, too many clouds to see it tonight, so we’ll try again tomorrow night.

In other more earthly news, today Rachel and I cleaned the vertical blinds that cover our sliding glass door.  I expect that is the first time that has happened since they were installed.  We took down each fin, vacuumed and spot cleaned all the bugs off them.  They really don’t look any cleaner, but in my head I know they must be.  Do this reminded me of Betty, RIP.  Whenever she came to visit us she would take it upon herself to improve our house in one way or another, and these blinds were a gift from her.


And for today’s nature photos, here is some shelf fungus from the nature center and a red-eyed toad from the front yard.




Forty Years

June 28, 2015

(Remember to click on the photos for a better look.)


It has been 40 years since we joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International. We were not married yet when we joined, but were soon after, so we got a joint certificate. So as to avoid the temptation of getting a big head, there was no fanfare–this certificate and set of gold pins just arrived in the mail one day.  Hmm, I wonder if there is enough gold in those pins so we could sell them and take a vacation to Ithaca or Portland? ;-) (just kidding)


20150527_120311Some folks say that in the Bible, the number 40 represents a period of testing (as in the 40 days of rain, wandering in the desert 40 years, and Jesus fasting for 40 days prior to his temptation). For us, these 40 years have included a test or two, but I’d say we’d join all over again if we had the chance.

That also means that our 40th wedding anniversary is coming up.


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