Monday, June 18, 2012

Amy's White Russian Cupcakes

My friend Amy really wanted these cupcakes so I thought I'd give the recipe a try. She found the post on Pinterest and the recipe came from the blog, Baked Perfection. The recipe was simple and straight forward. I doubled the recipe and brought them to a party that Amy also attended, and they all disappeared in no time. Yum!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ice Cream Cones on a Stick

Ethan and I had a lot of fun making these ice cream cone cake pops for his last day of school. His teacher loves cake pops and would always tell me stories about her attempts at making them. I had promised her that I would make some for her and finally got around to it. It took me until the very last day of school to hold up to my promise but at least I managed to get them done.

I used this great tutorial from Mighty Delighty blog. The cake pops were a little time consuming, especially cutting the ice cream cones down to a smaller size, but well worth the effort. And if you're looking for something to do with the leftover sugar cone tops, try making this oatmeal cookie recipe from Quaker Oats. It calls for crushed sugar cones, and is a big hit with my family.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Atom cookies

I made these atom cookies for Mac's Science Olympiad team when they went to the national competition in Florida last month. I thought it would be fun to make a cookie that matched their logo on the back of their t-shirts, and this is what I came up with. I used royal icing on the cookie and made the screw drivers out of fondant. I individually wrapped each cookie so that they would travel well, and they were all intact after the 16 hour bus ride to Orlando.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Birthday Cupcakes

These were made for a sweet sixteen birthday celebration. Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing, and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate icing, both decorated with fondant flowers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Pole Cake

This cake was made for a May Day celebration. The cake is a white sponge cake covered in buttercream and filled with strawberries, raspberries and whipped cream. I decorated the cake with fondant flowers and a wooden dowel and ribbons for the May pole. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

This cake was made for a 40th birthday celebration. It was a replica of the birthday boy's groom's cake. The thoughtful and lovely wife who ordered this for her husband's birthday, gave me a wedding photo of the cake so that I wouldn't miss any details. This is a dark chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, covered in chocolate buttercream and drizzled with dark chocolate. On the top are dark chocolate dipped strawberries and chocolate curls.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mystery Cake

There's really nothing mysterious about this cake except that the sophisticated flavors of dark chocolate cake and chocolate mousse are hidden underneath the pretty green and pink plaid buttercream. I made the cake for a seven year old's Nancy Drew themed birthday party. Nancy Drew wears lots of plaid so, after getting the birthday girl's approval, I decided to decorate the cake in plaid. The fondant magnifying glass adds a element of fun and goes well the birthday scavenger hunt and sleuths kit party favors.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quilted Pedal Bag

I finally got around to making this quilted bag that I've been wanting to make forever. I think I've had the pattern for almost a year. The pattern is from Indygo Junction and you can order it online.  I love this bag! I made this one for a birthday gift but I'm looking forward to eventually making one for myself.

 The thing I love about this bag is that is uses up my fabric scraps. I have so many and I was really able to utilize almost all of them, not having to repeat the same fabric twice. I'll admit it was very tedious cutting out 32 pedals, then cutting out 32 petals of from the Heat N Bond paper, and then ironing them to the Heat N Bond without getting the sticky film on the iron.

My favorite part was quilting the bag, although that did not come easy either. I broke four needles in the process. I was even using my walking foot which helped some. But I think it's really neat to see it all come together and the quilting really makes the design stand out.

I also had a difficult time transferring the pattern to the fabric. I was using the light method.  To do this I placed the pattern under the fabric and then tapped both pieces to my window and traced it with water soluble pencil. The pattern came through the fabric well enough to trace it but the pencil didn't show up very well and it was hard to see what I had traced and what I hadn't. Next time I think I'll try transfer paper, and I've decided that I would only trace the petal design from the pattern because I ended up free-handing the rest anyway.

The bag is really meant to be quilted with a drop-feed machine, or a machine that allows you to do free-hand quilting. I do not have the luxury of owning one so I did the best with what I had. Nevertheless, I think it turned out pretty well.

Friday, March 23, 2012

NYC Day Three

Our third day in New York we decided to split up. Keith and Ethan wanted to go to the American Museum of Natural History and I wanted to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The plan was to meet up in the late afternoon and walk through Central Park and then do some shopping on 5th Avenue. However, Keith and Ethan were having such a great time at the museum that by the time I walked the 30 blocks to the Upper West Side to meet them, they didn't not want to leave.

At first I was a little upset because I had just walked all the way from 54th street on the east side to 81st on the west side. I didn't mind the walk as most of it was through Central Park, but I would have preferred to stay in midtown to do more sightseeing there. Not all was lost though, because I remembered that my beloved Zabar's was on the Upper West Side, and after doing a quick search using the GPS on my phone, I realized it was only a few blocks away. I was happy.
 Some pictures from the Natural History Museum.

I really loved MoMA. My favorite floor the was the 5th floor. The 5th floor has many Impressionist art collections, including the famous Monet Water Lilies, and Van Gogh's Starry Night.

 The Sculpture Garden at MoMA
Andy Warhol's Golden Marilyn Monroe
 Van Gogh's Starry Night

After spending a few hours at MoMA I walked through Central Park on the way to the Upper West Side to meet Keith and Ethan. We had wonderful weather all week but the weather on this day was a little cooler and partly cloudy. I didn't bring a jacket and when sun went behind the clouds, I wished I had brought one. Nonetheless, it was a nice walk through the park. I enjoyed the peacefulness of it, a stark difference from walking on the streets of New York City. I also enjoyed being able to walk at my own pace, not hurried, or stopping at every corner to wait for a traffic light. I was glad to have that time to myself that day, enjoying the beauty of the park.
Spring was evident everywhere you looked in the park.

When I was walking through the Strawberry Fields, a living memorial to John Lennon, in Central Park there was a tour guide explaining to a group about the Strawberry Fields. I was lucky enough to listen in.

The Strawberry Fields is a tranquil section of the park and designed to be a quiet zone. There is a plaque nearby that lists 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.
The entrance to the memorial is located directly across from the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon lived during the later part of his life, and where he was also killed. Above is a mosaic memorial in the Strawberry Fields. Sometimes the mosaic is covered with flowers candles, and other belongings left behind by John Lennon fans. Oftentimes people gather at the mosaic to sing songs and play tribute to to John Lennon on his birthday and at the anniversary of his death.
The Dakota Apartments

After my walk through the park I arrived at The American Museum of Natural History. Only to find out when I got there that Keith and Ethan were no where near ready to leave. They wanted to stay until closing at 6pm, which meant that we needed to alter our plans. The were planning to meet back at the hotel so that left me with 3 hours to kill. I was too tired to walk all the way back to midtown so I decided to spend some time at Zabar's which was only a few blocks away 
Zabar's is a specialty food store and one of the largest groceries in Manhattan. It is probably my most favorite store in NYC. I have been there several times but it has been a good 17 years or so since I last stepped foot in the store. Nothing much has changed, it was as I had remembered from many years ago, and I fell in love with it all over again.
This is one of the most impressive parts of the store, the cheese selection. They have any thing and everything that you could possibly want in this store. It is stocked floor to ceiling in every corner, every isle, and every space of the store with many,  hard to find,  international, and everyday grocery items.
There is a cheese counter, a deli counter, a fish counter, a bakery counter, a bread and bagel counter, a coffee counter, and more.
The coffee and tea section
 The strudel and knish counter

And it even gets better. The entire upstairs of Zabar's is devoted to housewares. Again you can find any type of cooking or baking supplies that you could possibly need. There is everything from small appliances, to cutlery. It really is amazing. 

After spending a good 1 1/2 hours in Zabar's I decided to take the subway back to the hotel to wait for Keith and Ethan. We were suppose to meet some other HYP parents for drinks but I canceled with them because I knew there was no way for us to make it all the way down to the Lwer East Side in time. 

I met up with Keith and Ethan at the hotel in time for dinner. After dinner we had planned to go to the Empire State Building for a view of the city at nighttime. However, our plans got changed once again as we got a call from one of Mac's chaperones telling us he was sick and running a fever. He had to miss out on the second scheduled Broadway show, Memphis (they saw Wicked earlier in the week) and go straight to bed. I felt so bad for him knowing that he didn't want to miss this or anything on his trip. I spent some time on the phone with his chaperone tying to figure out if he would be able to continue with his group. Thankfully though he was feeling better by morning and was able to finish out his tour with the orchestra.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NYC Day Two - Carnegie Hall

We ended day two with the long awaited Carnegie Hall performance. Wow! I don't know if it was being in the hall or all rehearsals and practices that took place before hand, but the kids sounded terrific! It was such an incredible experience for kids and the families that were able to share it.

Photography or video tapping was not allowed in the the Hall. We were told that if we photographed or video tapped during the performance, it would be stopped. No one wanted to take a chance of that happening especially after all the effort that it took to get there in the first place. However, another parent was able to snap this photo at the end of the performance. No harm done since it was over and there wasn't a risk of them stopping the concert.
We had walked from our hotel to Carnegie Hall and as we rounded the corner we were disappointed to see the entire building surrounded by red scaffolding. I was hoping to get Mac's picture outside of the building but the red scaffolding didn't provide for a nice backdrop. We did the best we could with what we had to work with. One consolation was that there was a professional photographer taking pictures during the performance and I was able to order nice 8 x 10 of the orchestra and a closeup of Mac. I'm looking forward to receiving those.

Mac standing outside of the door. Unfortunately these pictures are not in focus. Keith had to stand in the middle of the street to get a good shot, and he was trying not to get hit by a passing car.
Mac and his friend, Roger standing in front of the National Youth Concert marquee. Notice the red scaffolding that I wasn't able to crop out of the picture.

The concert was definitely the highlight of our trip. It was amazing being in Carnegie Hall. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the orchestra sounded incredible. I will never forget the experience and neither will Mac. 
The following was the playbill for the Hoosier Youth Philharmonic concert at Carnegie Hall:

Slava! by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff/Dackow

This piece is a setting of an old national hymn of Russia The theme is also used during the Coronation Scene in his “Boris Godunov” and is quoted by Beethoven in his String Quartet in E Minor. The original setting is for chorus and full orchestra, but this arrangement is no less stirring with its energy and rich divisi passages.

Shell Adagio for Strings, Opus 17 by Nimrod Borenstein

The Shell Adagio was given its world premiere by the Oxford Philomusica conducted by Marious Papadopoulos on Feb. 28, 2004. The new work received exceptionally enthusiastic review from the press. The Oxford Times described the piece as “Beautifully melodic and extremely approachable ... it could easily become one of the staples of the modern orchestral string repertoire like the Barber Adagio.”
The Shell Adagio is a lyrical and melancholic piece. From its sunrise like introduction to its quiet sunset departure, it is like a chronicle of a past life, sometimes light and optimistic or dark and inescapable.

Iditarod by Soon Hee Newbold
Known as the Last Great Race on Earth, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race stretches over 1,150 miles of Alaska’s wild terrain from Anchorage to Nome. Mushers and their dogs endure harsh conditions, frozen lakes, extreme temperatures and rugged landscapes to run the race that can take anywhere from 10 to 17 days. The Iditarod commemorates an event where dog sleds rushed to deliver the diphtheria serum to Nome during an epidemic in 1925. Currently, more than 50 teams participate in this grueling race every year. The music captures the excitement of the race and the beauty of Alaska.

West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, arranged by John Moss
Arranger John Moss highlights various works of Bernstein’s opera “West Side Story” in this thoughtful and harmonically rich selection. The medley includes: “Maria”; “One Hand, One Heart”; and “Somewhere.”

Frolicsome Finale from Simply Symphony by Benjamin Britten

In the composer’s own words, this Simple Symphony is entirely based on material from works which the composer wrote between the ages of 9 and 12. The actual sources are given in footnotes to each movement. Although the development of these themes is in many places quite new, there are large stretches of the work that are taken bodily from the early pieces, except for the re-scoring for strings. Themes in Froclicsome Finale were taken from the piano Sonata No. 9 and from a Song, 1925. The Simple Symphony is widely performed and regarded for string orchestras.

As an aside, The composer Nimrod Borenstein heard about the orchestra performing his piece and wrote to the orchestra, from London, to thank them for choosing to play his piece at Carnegie Hall. How cool is that!

I also wanted to share this nice picture of the orchestra in Times Square.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NYC Day Two

Day two started with a subway ride from midtown to downtown. We had reservations for 10am at the 9/11 Memorial. Luckily they admitted us even though we were 30 minutes late, and fortunately the line to get in was very short.
It was interesting to see so much construction going on around the World Trade Center. There were several roads blocked and fenced off so that buildings could be rebuilt, even 10 years later.
I felt that the memorial was a very fitting one, and the impact of seeing the depth and the footprint of the Twin Towers was very powerful and moving.
After leaving the memorial we walked through the financial district to Battery Park and found our way to the Staten Island Ferry. Along the way we passed by Zuccotti Park which was void of any Wall Street protesters.
In Battery Park we came across a community garden plot that had a very interesting way of keeping critters out of its gardens.

 We arrived at the ferry terminal just in time for 12:00pm ferry. We opted to take the Staten Island Ferry, which is free, to avoid the lines at the Statute of Liberty. Since you're not allowed to go inside the Statute we felt it was just as good getting a close up view from the ferry as it would be on the island.
If you enlarge this picture you'll get a good idea of how long the lines are as they wrap around the building.
This picture was taken on the ferry as everyone flocked to the deck to get a good view of Lady Liberty.
After our ferry ride to and from Staten Island we walked through lower Manhattan and the financial district. We passed the New York Stock Exchange building and Wall Street. It was lunch time so the streets were hopping. The street food vendors in NYC are kept very busy and almost at any corner you looked there was a line forming for food.
Wall Street
After our stroll through the financial district we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was about a mile each direction and as you can tell walking across the bridge was very popular that day. The pedestrian part of the bridge is above the vehicle section of the bridge. There are two lanes, one for bikes and one for pedestrians.
This is a view of midtown from the bridge.
And this is a view of lower Manhattan from the bridge.

After our walk across the bridge we continued walking through China Town and Little Italy, on our way to the lower east side and vegan bakery, Babycakes that I wanted to try.

Not only is Babycakes a vegan bakery, it's also gluten free, soy free, casein free, refined sugar free, egg free, and Kosher. It was amazing how good my carrot cupcake tasted considering there wasn't anything sinfully bad in it. Ethan had a maple doughnut that he thought was delicious. Keith had coffee and a bite of my cupcake and proclaimed that my homemade cupcakes tasted better.

We had planned to make a stop in Greenwich Village at the Strand bookstore but our feet were hurting and tired so we opted for a subway ride back to midtown, just in time for dinner.

 I had to share this interesting parking lot that was near our hotel. The cars are stored in lifts. I'm not really sure how this works when you need to get your car back down. We never really saw it in action but it was always busy. And the rates were pretty cheap for Manhattan standards.
 After dinner we got dressed and ready to make our way to Carnegie Hall!! The most exciting night of the week! To be continued.............