Thursday, December 10, 2015

Animal Quilt - Final Touches

After coloring and putting the animal tracks on the borders, I went ahead and quilted them first before attaching them to the quilt. I used Hobbs fusible batting to cover the entire thing, even though I had already had batting on each individual piece. This batting serves, what I hope is 2 purposes: First, I hope it evens things out a little and makes it all nice and smooth and secondly, I'm hoping that since its fusible on both sides I can simply iron the top, bat and backing together.

I used Hobbs Heirloom Fusible Queen sized batting that I ordered from Amazon. The description indicates it is double-sided and will gently fuse your quilt together so you don't need any pin or baste anything together. Its also re-positionable. So if you get a wrinkle in your backing just, peel, smooth and fuse again. And for $28 I'm hoping it really will be that easy.

I placed my backing, batting and quilt top on my dinning room table and did my best to smooth at any wrinkles in the backing and ironed it together starting from the center working out. And I'm happy to say the batting worked like a charm. I used my walking foot to stitch in the ditch around the sashing to hold everything in place.

The binding was cut and dyed in various shades of blue a while ago so that was ready to go on when I got the borders done. I was really tired of getting those inks out and putting them away so I did the binding when I colored the borders.

The binding always seems like it should be easy but for some reason it just isn't. In theory, I know exactly how to do it but I always have too much fabric in the corners or a bulge or it doesn't lay right, whatever you name it. No matter how careful I am or how much I measure something is always "off" and I can't or don't know how to fix it.

This time my binding worked out mostly well. I say mostly, because I even though I used the walking foot my sewing line got wonky in several places that I had to pick out and redo. I ironed the binding and turned it to the back. I did use fusible tape to help keep the binding in place on the back so again no pins or clips. It took a while to get the tape in the right place, iron it down and repeat that around the entire quilt but the binding held in place the entire time I hand stitched it down.

I admit it. I like to hand stitch the binding down. Not sure why really. I do think it looks nice though.

I laid the quilt out on my floor and took the picture from my loft to get a photo without looking up at the quilt or from a weird angle. There's plenty of sewing problems in the quilt but this turned out really well considering my skill level. I can paint but sewing is a challenge.

Now that the quilt is done, it needs a label. I went ahead and bought some white fabric to run through my printer just to make it easier on myself. They are really pricey though. Four thin white cotton fabric sheets that are 8.5x11 will cost about $7, which is pretty crazy considering I can get a yard of white fabric for $8 or $9.  Don't know if I'll buy them again.

You can put anything you want on your quilt label but they usually include quilt title, your name, date of completion, address and email information. They can be simple or elaborate, tell a story about the quilt, why you did it or have an inspirational photo. I went with the basics and then went on to give some statistics about the Black Rhino, which is my center animal, which I took from the World Wildlife Fund. I added a quote from Sir David Attenborough about conservation, which seemed appropriate, a list of the animals featured, a dog paw print and I signed it. It's official, my quilt is done and labeled.

Oddly, enough this quilt was much easier than the Secretariat quilt I made in 2014 and I had a great time painting all the animals. It was a lot of work hand painting all the fabric used in this quilt but I think it turned out really well and I think that hard work shows. I'm really pleased with how this quilt turned out and who knows, maybe I'll take the plunge and enter this one at the Ohio State Fair in 2016.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Animal Quilt - Center Panel Part 3

I posted about the quilt borders a few days ago by accident. I meant to post the center panel part 3 first but oh well. It's okay. Just pretend you didn't read about the borders first.

A few months ago, I decided to finish my center panel. I wasn't certain if I was going to thread paint it or not. It's a nice painting and I really didn't want to screw it up because its a really big panel to have to re-create.

But all the other animals are thread painted or at least the backgrounds are but I had some reservations about thread painting the rhino. When I used the white ink I had (like for the polar bear) it was a lot more opaque and dried harder than the other inks. So when I tried to thread paint over it it looked like giant holes where punched through the paint which looked really bad. So I avoided thread painting on white areas or ink mixed with white. And the rhino has some white on it and mixed with other colors so I was concerned it was going to look really bad.

But I took a deep breath and started thread painting. I didn't want to thread paint the entire thing because I knew I was going to have to do that to the background and I didn't want to ruin the painting. I just wanted to enhance it. I decided to started in the darkest areas first. I started with black embroidery thread and worked on the horns, ear, eye and mouth area. There's also a small spot of black on the legs/body which isn't shown.

I slowly worked my way out color wise from there. I went to dark gray, brown, gray/brown, silver and a gold/beige color and I focused just on the head area. I want the viewer to really look at the animal so I focused on the head/face area.

I added a little bit of thread painting to the body of the animal just to round it out but I didn't do much.

Since I'm added tall grasses in front of the rhino, I took a variegated thread and did some of the same grass shapes around the sides of the rhino so hopefully those "grasses" will look more like they're in the background. The rest of the background is just a meander stitch done in gold from the grasses up to the top of the panel.

I also started tucking the edges of the fabric around the tree and limbs to make them into an applique that I've started stitching down to the panel. I simply took some fusible tape, stuck it to the fabric edge, rolled the edge under and iron it. The edges are now nice and smooth. Fusible tape is now my new best friend.

As I was stitching the tree branches down, I decided the leaves I had made were not going to make it. They were just too small to have to try to sew down without a bunch of raw edges and that's not the look I'm going for. So I decided to paint more fabric and using my embroidery machine, I embroidered some leaf shapes and I'll applique them down. They're much bigger than what I had and look nice with a finished satin stitch and some leaf veins and stems. I think these leaves will work out nicely for my tree.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Animal Quilt - Borders

I've gotten a lot of my Animal Quilt done and I'm ready to begin the borders. I had this grand idea to make the borders 10" wide and make one with an arctic, savannah and jungle theme with additional paintings of animals but this seemed really daunting to me for some reason. Maybe because they're quite large? I didn't want to screw them up and have to start over? I dunno, but for whatever reason I was dreading doing them. I am really struggling to get excited about them. They're big, complicated animal/nature scenes and I'm worried about them. Period. Just worried about them.

I also keep going back to the footprint theme. I thought before I would have footprints that would fade away as the animal progressed showing that the animal is disappearing. Then I thought I would simply put the footprints of the animals on the back of the quilt. At least they would be somewhere, right?

After sleeping on the problem, I thought I should figure out something else for the borders. And I don't why I hadn't thought of this before but it would've saved me a great deal of worrying. Footprints. I can put the fading footprints around the border.

So I decided to paint more fabric and quilt the footprints on the border and paint them black, gray and light gray and see how that works out. And I think my border will be 6" wide instead of 10". That should give me enough room for footprints and keeps the attention on the animals and it sends the message that these animals are endangered. So win, win all around! I'm really pleased with this idea and my excitement is back!

I've cut my fabric and I've decided to go with "ground" colors. Mostly, browns, greens, yellows and once they dry, I need to work on the footprints.

I've been thinking about the footprints or animal tracks. I'd like to show them fading or disappearing. So how do I do that? How to get the best results without ruining the fabric I painted? I think that's the most challenging part of making something that's not a pattern out of a book. You have to visualize the end result of if you do something one way vs. another and that's not easy. For example, I could draw the animal tracks on my painted fabric, quilt them and then add black ink to the print to make it stand out or I could draw, ink then quilt it. Which would give me better results? Would the ink bleed too much into the surrounding color? Would it look bad - black bleeding into green or yellow? Could I control the bleeding? Experience tells me - not really. I could use a less liquid like product like Inktense pencils. They go one like a color pencil but you lightly get it wet to make it more inky but you have more control. But the color isn't as intense as inks and probably wouldn't cover another color well and just look muddy. So how else to get the tracks on the fabric? I could dye more fabric black, gray, light gray and cut out the prints, fuse them down then quilt them. That would eliminate bleeding and I would have control. This is a lot more work but probably the best.

So I tried it. I had my Cameo cut out a wolf (or dog) paw prints just to see how it would look. I dyed some fabric, cut it and laid the paw prints out on my borders and I hated it. It just looked like gray blobs that didn't really work against the colors I had. I could dye more fabric in brownish colors and that may have worked better but I wanted to make some progress so I went back to the idea of drawing them on myself.

This time I used the oil paint sticks. I roughly sketched out the paw print with my frixon pen and then used a stiff bristled stencil bush and worked the color into the outline I drew. I used wolf, cat, rhino, bear and giraffe prints. After the ink set overnight, I tossed them into the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat. That took off the frixon pen markings and my paw prints look more like they are a part of the border. Like an animal just walked across the ink colored border when it was wet. Some prints are darker and some are really light and hard to see, which is what I was going for.

I quilted around the foot prints and did a simple meader stitch down the rest of the border working around the foot prints. My painting and drawing skills are much more advanced than my sewing/quilting skills that's for sure.

I still need to re-touch some areas but as you can see from the pic below at least one border has been sewn on. I'm in the home stretch of getting this quilt done!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Barn Hunt Ribbon Board

Since River likes scent work, I decided we should try barn hunting. There's a bit more of a "hunt" feel to it, since she really has to search little hidey holes, dig through loose straw and of course climb over bales of straw.

We've completed 2 trials now and she seems to enjoy it. We've gotten a few qualifying ribbons, a third and first place ribbon, a High in Class and of course a title ribbon. And just like with the ribbons she's gotten for scent work, I decided to put together a Barn Hunt ribbon board.

My ribbon boards are simple foam core and this one happens be a gold color. And since I still have some paw print scrapbooking paper and paw print stickers from decorating the scent work board, I went ahead and used them. I found some beige colored ribbon with chocolate paw prints on it and of course I founds some little cat nip mice.

I used my Cameo Silhouette to cut out the letters for each level and decorated the corners with the paw prints ribbon. I scattered some of the paper paw prints around and glued 2 mice down as well. I just have the qualifying ribbons on the board. I've got some longer and bigger place ribbons (1st and 3rd) and a High in Class as well as the title ribbons. I plan on just putting the title ribbons along the bottom and another board for Place and High in Class ribbons. Otherwise this little board would be overwhelmed.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Barn Hunt Trial - Columbus All Breed October 31 & November 1

River and I participated in our second barn hunt trial on October 31 and November 1 at Columbus All Breed. She seemed to really enjoy the barn hunt in Marysville at Anything Goes for Dogs and this one was no different.

We entered at the Novice level and after 1 successful rat hunt, we moved up to Open. We had a time of 1:27 for our 3rd leg of the Novice title. Not bad at all.

The second trial we moved up to Open and it's basically the same as Novice but you find 2 rats instead of 1. River searched the area really well but unfortunately, she only found 1 rat at the 2:30 mark which means we were out of time. So no ribbon for that run but that's okay. She was doing well searching everything but she just didn't hit on the right area.

On Sunday, November 1, we entered into 2 trials. Both were at the Open level. River is used to alerting to a scent when she's on the ground level. Here she has to try to alert to the rat when she's balancing on a wiggly straw bale up against a wall and there's a rat tube on there with her. She's not used to it, so she would sniff the tub and then jump down. Well, I wasn't getting that there was a rat there so I had her check it again but she wouldn't jump up all the way. She tilted her nose upward and that was about it. This happened to us twice. But I called the rat tube even though I wasn't exactly sure but it was right. Out of 2:30 seconds River had a search of 2:27 and 2:29 so we squeaked by literally by a few seconds but we qualified. I think the Judge was more nervous than I was. I asked the Judge when she was awarding ribbons, you know after she pointed out our fantastically close time to everyone in the room, "So the goal isn't to get as close to 2:30 as possible?" and we all had a good laugh.

All in all a fun rat filled weekend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Adult Coloring Pages

Every day our lives are packed with stress. We are constantly bombarded with news and its usually horrific or shocking from around the world. It's some kind of disaster (natural or otherwise), people being murdered, sold, abused, neglected or tortured. It seems the human race can and does on a regular basis sink further and further to new levels of violence on a daily basis and between TV, computers, radio and smartphones we are constantly hearing all about it.

So we need to find a way to focus our minds on something simple and block out all the garbage and let our minds find some peace. Even tasks such as crochet, knitting or video games takes a certain amount of concentration. If these tasks are fairly routine for your brain and is soothing or calming to you, by all means have a go. But there's another way to "zone out" and turn off your brain. Coloring.

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. Amazon will frequently indicate a coloring book for adults is out of stock. I've even heard that publishers can't keep up with demand for coloring books. There's a nice selection of books out there for adults now. Flowers, animals, mandalas and more are just some examples of the kinds of books out there. Some even have treasure hunts in them. Like there are 42 bugs, 120 hearts in the book that you can find while coloring. I used to take a really large coloring poster into work with me and my set of colored pencils. Right after eating my sandwich, I would tape the corners down and get to work for the rest of the lunch hour. Eventually, other's joined in and it became a lunch time ritual, that everyone seemed to enjoy and found relaxing.

The whole point is to just color. Don't think about it too hard. Don't stress about the colors. Don't worry about staying in the lines. Once you get your brain to focus on coloring in the spot you're working on, you'll kinda zone out and then next thing you know you've lost an hour or 3.

I got the BIC Mark-it, ultra fine point markers in 36 colors and I really like them. They're on Amazon for $24.49. They mark quite smoothly and I like the colors. Some are very, very dark which kinda look more black but oh well. I've had these about a month and none have run dry yet and they got good reviews on Amazon. But you can use anything you like from colored pencils to crayons. It doesn't matter. There's a lot of different gel pens on Amazon too, just make sure you read the reviews of all the different packs. Some pens may last longer than others. The good thing is buying some markers and a coloring book, won't break the bank.

The first coloring book I got was Creative Coloring Inspirations which you can find here on Amazon as well for $7.00 or so. The pages are perforated and I would recommend you remove the page you want to work on because these markers will bleed to the back. They don't bleed much but they will mess up the next page in the book if you don't take it out or at least put some kind of blank paper behind it.

Here's a few pictures of the pages I've done from this book. I mostly rotate through all the colors. I like the designs to have a lot of complimentary and contrasting colors and I think it makes for a more interesting picture. But that's just me. I'm sure that whatever you choose it will turn out great. But remember, the point is to relax.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Animal Quilt - Frog

I have completely forgotten the name of this little frog. Golden Mantra is sticking in my head but I guess it doesn't matter.

I worked on the background first and then the frog.  I had some slight bleeding into the background but I'm not sure I care. This little frog was pretty easy to do and its a decent painting but I just don't think this one is doing anything for me.

I was going for some diversity in my quilt but I may have to find another animal to paint.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Barn Hunt Trial - Anything Goes for Dogs in Marysville October 17 & 18

River and I took a barn hunting class last August and did well. She's participates in scent work trials already and barn hunt is similar. She has to find a rat in a tube vs. scent. Barn hunting is an off shoot of Earth dog. Earth dog classes are where small dogs, usually terriers, go "underground" or go under a faux ground and hunt rats hidden in PVC piping. Big dogs can't go through little tunnels so barn hunting was developed for bigger dogs. Terriers can still participate but now your bigger dogs such as Dobermans and mixes like River who is a Shepard/Husky mix can join in the fun too.

In barn hunting, a search area is roped off and a course is built with bales of straw. PVC pipping is hidden on the course which can contain a rat, litter or nothing. The pipping can be on the floor or up on bales and are covered with loose straw. The dog must go through the tunnel, climb on bales (all 4 feet off the ground) and of course locate the rat. And of course, you are timed. If you get all the elements within the time frame you qualify or "Q".  Qualifying ribbons are given to everyone who qualifies and additional ribbons are given to 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. If you get 3 Q's on any level that's considered a title for that level and a title ribbon is awarded.

We participated in our first Barn Hunt trial in Marysville, Ohio at Anything Goes for Dogs. Although River does scent work, you could tell she was really a lot more interested barn hunting. She really liked that "hunt" feel to it. She had to dig in straw piles of straw and climb up on bales to get to possible rat hidey holes.

Our first trial consisted of 2 runs. I got too anxious and when she started digging at some loose straw I called the alert and it was a litter tube. I called it way too quickly, although River is usually pawing at the tube she thinks the rat is in. So it can be tricky. The next trial we qualified. River's alert was to try to shove herself under a small ramp to get to the pipping so it was obvious. We qualified and got 3rd Place.

The next day, we had 2 runs at the Novice level. The first run was beautiful but once again I screwed it all up. I told myself not to be too quick to call the alert but I apparently wasn't listening to myself. River ran through the tunnel, did a climb and found the rat immediately. She sniffed then went on and continued searching around the room. She found a little cubby of loose straw and starting digging, I called the alert without even seeing if there was even a tube! How dumb was that? And of course, the rat was in the first tube she found and checked out. We would've had a time of 15 seconds but no. So the second run was better. She found the rat tube but didn't show much interest and continued searching. I got her to tunnel and climb and she went back to the tube she found first, but I was more on board. She started pawing and I called the alert for a 55 second run.

I thought we had a good time but some other dogs we're getting around 20 seconds so I wasn't sure where our time would fall but out of 5 dogs, River had the fastest timeout of those who qualified. We got a qualifying ribbon, a 1st place blue ribbon and a High in Class Novice ribbon. Not a bad weekend and certainly not bad for our first Barn Hunt trial although I could've done better. River did great!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ribbon Board for my Dog

My dog River, participates in C-WAGS scent trials and has won or qualified (Q'd) in several levels. You need 4 Q's to get a title in each level 1-4. She has her title in Level 1 and 3 and 3 Q's at level 2 so we have quite a few ribbons.

I thought I'd organize them on a piece of black foam core that I had laying around. So I got out my Cameo Silhouette and got cutting. I had some paper left over from my in-laws 50th anniversary party and then I found some paw print paper and stickers in the scrapbooking section at Joanns.

The board isn't really all that big so I started with the Level 1 ribbons at the top left of the board then I dropped down a little and went to the right side of the board for Level 2 and so forth. I was trying to maximize the board space and I think this way worked out well. The Title rosettes are large and colorful and I didn't think it would work hanging at the end of each level. They are a lot longer then the purple ribbons, so I figured I would just hang them across the bottom of the board.

River still needs one leg at level 2 for a Title and she only recently got her Level 3 Title so now she can play at Level 4. Any additional Q's at the lower levels will go to her ACE Titles, which will mean another ribbon board. I think you need 10 additional ribbons for an ACE level but I'm not sure. Anyway, I think my little board turned out well and organized the ribbons. Its better than them laying in a pile on my coffee table.

I'll have to make one for Barn Hunt trials since we have 2 in October and one for K9SD trials that should start next year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

50th Wedding Anniversary Party

I was doing a lot of planning for a 50th wedding anniversary party that was held on September 12.

I started planning this in June since my in-law's 50WA is September 11, which as you all know is now a perfectly depressing day here the U.S. Location? Done. Caterer? Done. Save the Date postcards? Done and done. 

I don't work so I've got a lot of time on my hands to kill, so I decided I would do some things myself. Honestly, after the caterer/location rental the budget has dwindled anyway so it's a good thing I'm crafty. I decided to stay away from the large bakeries for the cake so, I went to Giant Eagle Market District in Upper Arlington, since the caterer recommended them for the cake. I spoke to one of the cake decorators and found out a small 3-tiered wedding cake that will feed roughly 60 people will cost just over $300. Normally, I would say "great!" but after thinking about it, I can't image paying $300 for cake and buttercream is simple. I can bake and now with all the cake decorating stuff out there surely, I can do something simple and it won't cost $300. I can make a giant 4 tiered cake that will feed 200 people for $100. Trust me I can. I just know it. I'm creative. I'm artistic. I'm determined. 

I bought a test cake mix from Global Sugar Art, which was great, so I'm going to go with that. I've got two blog posts dedicated to the cake and the cake lace. 

So the cake is project #1 for this party but I'm not done.

I asked my mother in law about gifts. They certainly don't need any and she agreed. So I suggested that instead of gifts, to consider giving a donation to Nationwide Children's Hospital here in Columbus. My MIL and her friends have all worked for decades raising money for NCH, so it seemed logical. A lot of people still brought them gift cards and I don't know how much if any, people donated to the hospital but that's okay.

Project #2 is to work on my quilling, which I think, I've pretty much got down. I decided to get them a keepsake item so I've ordered a custom photo mat and frame. It's  a double mat (cream/metallic gold) and has 2 5x7" insets, an engraved gold plate at the top with their names and 50WA on it and one plate for the year they were married and one for 2015. It turned out much smaller than I originally planned but that's okay. I was originally going to use it as a sign in book type thing with people writing their names and saying something nice. But then I thought that most people's handwriting is ugly and if they write teeny tiny then there will be giant open spaces and well, you get the picture. So I made it smaller and decorated it with some pearl bead sticker type things, my quilled flowers/vines/leaves and some pretty paper. You can see how it turned out below.

Project 3 is to work on decorations. I made a few rosette paper banners that we used to decorate the head table and the cake table with. I attached them to a burlap and lace ribbon which we also put around the vases for the centerpieces. Since I still had a lot of paper left, I made little 4" rosettes and put a pin on the back and we used these for name tags. I had a bit of help on the paper rosettes. I went ahead and bought a Cameo Silhouette to help with all the cutting.

Another decoration I had printed is a menu for each table. That way people have an idea what's on the buffet table instead of trying to figure it out when they get there. It has a chalkboard look to it and little pink victorian roses.

This menu design is straight from where I bought stamps, invitations, stickers and of course this menu design. I was really impressed with all the hundreds of different styles of invitations they had and how super easy it was to customize everything. I also love that its actually affordable. The only thing I didn't like was that the text came out super small. So overall, not a good idea when most of the guest are 65+ with vision problems. I'm no where near 65 and could barely read it.

I ordered peach roses to drown in a vase with a floating candle for centerpieces and then 3 smaller peach/white and gold arrangements for the head table. I wanted some fresh flowers but didn't go overboard.

I'd thought I'd get some gold/white balloons and weigh them down with something like a bag of candy, coffee or a box of lifesavers or whatever I find, and put a riddle or brain teaser on them or trivia from 1960's. I'll let people know that if they want the prize attached to the balloons they need to provide the answer. Well, turns out the location wouldn't let me have balloons due to the high ceilings. So that idea got nixed.

I also thought that having zoo animals come in for an hour would be awesome. The Columbus Zoo will bring in some really cool animals that you just don't see everyday let alone up close. I called in July and they were already booked for September. It would've been awesome but no...

I also thought that since both family and friends were going to attend, they may not know how my in-law's met. So I wrote a poem about how they met, when they got married, when they had kids and how life wasn't always a bed a roses. I wanted to let them know they are an inspiration to others and of course, to congratulate them on their 50 years of marriage. So here's the last few lines:

The last 50 years, your marriage has seen joys and endured difficult times
yet it remains a shining example of courage and love 
you’re an inspiration to friends, family, your children and grandchildren 
You’ve set the bar high for future generations

There’s a long road behind you and your story’s not over
In hard times look to the threads you have woven and remember this day
your story, your life
take comfort in knowing your threads are strong, still bound, still twisted and still tied
May they give you strength, joy and a great sense of pride. 

So here we sit before you all family and friends on this day
to celebrate the joys of today, the memories of yesterday
and the hopes of tomorrow and if we may say

Congratulations to you both on your marriage and astounding success

We wish you love, joy and may your future be blessed.

I had 3 victims (I mean volunteers) read the poem. I was going to have them pass threads along to each other then at the end, I was going to take the threads and attach them to the picture frame but my husband thought that was too sappy so I didn't do it. I think I had pushed him to his limit with the poem idea. And after giving me grief for a week, he finally said at the party, "Okay. The poem thing was good." Seriously, I about fell out of my chair!

We also used a prop from their wedding 50 years ago. They still had in the their closet an unopened bottle of pink champagne in its original box! You can see it in the picture below. We thought they could drink it but after some research, we didn't open it but instead got a new bottle of champagne so they could drink that for a toast. The contents are more likely to be champagne vinegar by now.

I also asked my mother in law's sister to make a card box of some kind and she found a wrought iron bird cage to decorate. We also put a slide show of old pictures on a computer and let people watch it if they wanted to.

The other thing we decorated was the cake board. This was a very heavy cake and we put a masonite board under it. Well, the only covers I've seen is pretty much foil. Well, foil is boring. So I asked another sister to make something to cover the board. Its a large white square with a black dresden plate on it with pearl beads sewn on it. I was going to put some gold cake lace in the corners but I barely got the cake together let alone worry about the corners. Its slightly tilted but it didn't seem to matter much. It held up and it was delicious. Each tier has 2 different filings and most people ate more than once piece, the guests took cake home, the catering staff complimented me on the cake and they had plenty to take home as well. I also had several 6" rounds of cake in my freezer and I used the remaining fillings I had left and made more cake that I gave away. Believe me, we had plenty of cake. In just the cake (mixes, fillings, buttercream icing), it cost me around $175. It was a lot of work and it took my entire refrigerator to handle. I had to make sure we ate everything we could and not buy more stuff for the refrigerator for several weeks before hand. But it got done!

Everything was very pretty and coordinated well. I got a lot of compliments on the cake, our caterer was awesome and easy to work with and the building was nice too. It turned out to be a very nice party for a very nice couple.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cake Lace

For my in-law's, 50th Wedding Anniversary is over. I decided to bake the cake myself and I'll probably get in over my head but no matter! I can bake cake but decorate? Not so well. But since I didn't want to pay several hundred dollars for a cake, I've decided to make it myself. I have another post on just the cake if your interested.

I found a product called "Cake Lace" by Claire Bowman. You can find it on Amazon, Global Sugar Art or even Etsy. I bought the pre-mixed Gold color off of Etsy because it came from AZ. Global Sugar Art was sold out and I think Amazon ships from the UK. This is a product from UK so you might want to allow several MONTHS to get it. I was going to order the Soft Gold color for the cake but when I went to order it, it wouldn't have gotten here in time and yes this was Mid July for a party Sept 12. I could've paid the $50 to expedite it but I already have quite a lot in the materials I have and I guess I just didn't care that much. So if you want a particular color make sure you get it months in advance. I think the soft gold may only be sold in the UK but I'm not sure. I also discovered you can buy the lace pre-made off of Etsy as well if you want to skip the entire process.

This is a simple product that's pretty much idiot proof to decorate a cake. You can use any silicon mat product you like. I bought one called Serenity from GSA. I thought it was really pretty and elegant looking for a 50th anniversary party. Some of the mats will run you about $54 so they're not cheap, especially if you're just trying to decorate a cake for one occasion but it if you're into decorating a lot of cakes and the mats will be used a lot its a good value. The mat is really thin and floppy but transferring the mat to a cookie sheet after I've applied the cake lace has been fine. Just don't stick a finger in your design and your okay.

A little bit goes a long way, fortunately. I get a large scoop out, spread it over the mat, swiping from different angles to get the lace into the intricate designs. When your design looks filled, look at from different angles and levels and you will see places that are thin or not filled in well. Correct those and scrape the excess lace back into the bucket. Make sure to keep the lid on your bucket so the lace doesn't dry out.

The instructions indicate you can let it air dry for 4-6 hours or dry it in the oven at 70-80 C (or around 150-160 F for us in the States) for 10-15 min. Let cool and apply a second coat. It is difficult to get the cake lace in every, single, tiny little crevice that's in these designs. Trust me. I know. The second coat also helps it be a bit more pliable and that's good for wrapping around a cake. But if your really good at application, you may not need a second coat.

I tried the oven dry method and it seemed to work fine, but I mostly just let it air dry instead. It may depend on what kind of weather you're currently having. Its in the high 80's right now with some really high humidity temps so needless to say my A/C is on. If you're in a rush though go with the oven method.

You will need a good applicator for this stuff. Claire Bowman sells a spreading knife. Its cheap only about $12 or so but probably worth it. I didn't use this knife. I used a plaster spreader that kinda rubbery but it has a flat edge. It worked like a charm. I did try to use my off set spatula and it was horrible. Do not even try, trust me.

If you think your lace is done, you can test it by peeling back a corner of the mat. The lace should just pop right out. If you begin peeling it out and it tears easy let it dry some more.

Also a good tip, is to take a toothpick and gently remove so of the excess lace that may not of gotten scraped off. If you don't you might be able to see the lace through/around the design, which will need to be removed before putting it around your cake. Also, stretch the mat in different directions and the lace will pop free a little bit. You can also take a toothpick and gently free the lace from the tiniest areas before peeling the matt off.

The best way to get the lace out is to flip the mat over so the design is face down on your counter. Gently, fleck a corner of the lace out and begin peeling the mat back while gently holding down the lace. Only reveal about 2 inches of lace then scoot your hand forward and continuing peeling.

Once its out you can clean up any lace that didn't come off. In the picture below, you can see the gold in between the little petal design and a sheet of thin lace down at the bottom edge. I had a lot of clean up on that one.

You can can now store it. Simply take some wax or parchment paper and make a long envelope for the lace and fold the edges so it doesn't slip out and your done. This stuff doesn't require refrigeration so you can leave out on your counter until you need it for your cake.

The lace is a little fussy. Sometimes I thought I did everything right and the lace still tore coming out of the mat so there's little I can do about it except keep trying. I did get it to come out perfect several times but most times it tore or a design was ripped off and still stuck in the mat. I doubt it will matter once I get the lace on the cake though.

Also, don't get it wet. It will melt. I just put the lace on fresh buttercream and it stuck nicely. However, I did notice the gold color bled into the white icing after it was removed. The lace was on there about 3 days. I did worry about it but there wasn't anything I could do about if it was going to bleed. Below is a picture of the 6" top tier of the cake.

Another hard part was lining up the pattern. If you need 2.4 lengths of lace to go around your 8" cake then you have to use scissors to cut out a section or you may need to cut another section off another bit of lace to make the pattern line up. You can see in the picture above the red handle of my sword pick. That marks the back of the cake where my lace may not look the best. Remember, there is always a back to a cake.

List of Tips

1) Spread the lace in several different directions over the mat to fill in all the little designs
2) Apply 2 coats
3) After it dries for several hours, gently tug the mat to stretch it a little. This will help pop the lace out of the mat.
4) Use a toothpick to try to loosen the lace from those really tight tiny areas
5) Use a toothpick to clean the raised areas around the mat to prevent a thin cover of lace in areas you want to see through
6) Flip the mat face down and gently pull the lace down, peel the mat back, hold the lace down and repeat until the lace is out of the mat.

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Secretariat Festival

We went to the Secretariat festival last year hoping to get my quilt signed by Ron Turcotte and Penny Chenery. Unfortunately, the day we were leaving, the festival posted the Ms. Chenery was sick and wouldn't be there. We went anyway and got the quilt signed by Mr. Turcotte. This year was just the opposite. Ron Turcotte was injured earlier this year in a car accident and was unable to attend.

I went online and pre-purchased an autograph token for Ms. Chenery. You pay a little more but everything goes to support various charity organizations, so I don't mind. This also puts you in line first. You don't have to wait in line with the masses.

We got to the event at 9:00 a.m., and we saw the Superman Secretariat statue they had out front, which was new from last year. It was too cute and silly for words and I had to have a picture of it. I went into the building where all the signed merchandise and memorabilia is and got my token. I was amazed to find out that was #1. Ms. Chenery didn't start signing autographs until 11:45 a.m. so I went outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather and watched some of the horse demonstrations. I have to admit those miniature horses are just too cute for words!

I enjoyed the demonstrations until 11:30 a.m. or so then I headed back inside the hall. The hall was packed with people and line was already to the door. I got up to the front and a lady was announcing that the line for the pre-sale autograph token holders would line up in front of her and I slowly moved my way through all the people who now had to back up for me. I admit I felt a bit smug while my evil twin inside yelled, "Get out of the way! I'm first!"

There was a nice couple behind me, who I asked if they would take pictures of Ms. Chenery signing my quilt. You have to have proof right? Anyone could write her name on it and say she really signed it. Besides, now that I have good pictures of Ron Turcotte and Penny Chenery signing my quilt, I may print them on fabric and iron them onto the back of the quilt. I held up my quilt to the people in line and I got a lot of nice compliments. One lady said that she now felt totally inadequate just getting photos of Secretariat signed and another gentleman asked me if I designed the entire thing. Yes. Yes, I did.

Ms. Chenery finally came in and when she got comfortable, I got to kick off the autograph signing. I held the quilt up so she could see it and I explained that it took me about a year and a half to get it done. She said it was beautiful and she seemed happy to sign it. Thank you Ms. Chenery!

The Secretariat Festival is now in its 8th year and seems to get bigger each year. There's a lot of retired jockeys now that do autographs and you wish you could sit with all of them and hear their stories. Charlie Davis, was Secretariat's exercise rider, who is on Ms. Chenery's right in the above pictures, is a very kind man that you could listen to for hours. There's a lot of memorabilia there too if you want something unique from Secretariat, Seattle Slew and other famous race horses. There's also tours to some of the breeding farms in the area such as Claiborne farms and Adena Springs Farms. And of course, there's the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Kentucky Horse Park nearby which always have things going on there. All in all, it was a really beautiful day to spend in Kentucky and to meet a very kind lady. Ms. Chenery, I hope you have many more years to share your wonderful story of the Big Red horse.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How to Make a 4-Tiered Cake

Since I've apparently lost my mind, I decided to make a 4 tiered 50th anniversary cake for my in-laws. Seriously, I don't think anyone sane (who doesn't already make cakes for a living) would try this. Why 4 tiers, you ask? Well, because 1) I couldn't decided on what flavors to make so I'm making them all and 2) because the design I have in mind needed to be even. See perfectly good reasons, right?

I ordered some cake mixes from Global Sugar Art and they were really good. One cake mix only called for oil and water since the eggs were already in the mix but the second one called for eggs. Apparently, they are changing their formula so you may or may not need to add eggs. Just follow the instructions on their packaging. You can check out all their products here.

While, looking for websites, videos and whatnot as to how to do this, I came across something call Cake Lace. This stuff is really cool. You basically smear this paste like substance into a mold, let dry and peel it out. It remains pliable and you just wrap it around a cake. It seems its mostly used on fondant cakes but I simply cannot stand fondant. It just tastes too gummy to me. Maybe there's a way to make it taste good that I haven't discovered yet but its just not for me. If I'm going to eat cake, I'm not wasting calories on something I don't like. Guess I'm a buttercream girl.

Anyway, with the Cake Lace stuff, which you can also find on Global Sugar Art website, as well as the silicone mat with all kinds of lacy designs, anyone can decorate a cake. I picked the design called Serenity for this project. You can use any kind of silicone mat that you like but I liked this design. I figured that since I can't decorate with icing, I needed something fairly simple yet pretty. The Cake Lace comes pre-colored and I picked Gold since its for a 50th Anniversary. They make a "Soft Gold" color which I would've preferred but apparently its only sold from the UK. I went to Amazon the last week of July, thinking I could order it and it would get here in plenty of time for me to use, but no. Estimated date of arrival was September 2. So I went with the Gold color and it is a bit more brassy but that's life. I've got a separate post on how to handle the cake lace.

The bottom layer is a 12" yellow cake with orange curd and whipped cream. The pans I have are 2" high so I made two and cut them in 1/2 but I only used 3 layers of 1" cake. The 10" layer is chocolate with chocolate ganache and raspberry filling. The 8" layer is strawberry and cream cheese frosting and finally the 6" is chocolate cake with mocha ganache and caramel. I made the orange curd, chocolate ganache, mocha ganache, whipped cream and cream cheese frosting myself as well the buttercream. I used about 18 lbs. of powdered sugar, 2 lbs. of butter, 20 lbs. of cake mix and around 3 dozen eggs. I wished I had had some kind of idea as to how much stuff I would need. That would've cut out a trip to the store.

It took me over 8 hours to slice, fill and crumb coat all the cake tiers with buttercream. I didn't have enough butter cream made to coat all the cake so I had to stop and make more.

I also used Satin Ice fondant product. I'm not a fan of fondant. Its just gummy and weird to me but I did find a good use for it. If you need to fill a cake with a jam or curd you need to have a barrier between the cake layers. If you don't 1) the filling will just disappear into the cake and/or 2) squish out the sides of the cake and make a mess of your icing. So you need a thick ganache to go down first or a thin layer of buttercream. This picture shows a layer of ganache down with a rope of fondant around it. The thiner filling can now go on top but not as high as the fondant. Then you can place another cake layer on top.

After the layers, I let the cake chill in the refrigerator for a while and then I crumb coated them. This thin layer of buttercream will hold any cake crumbs down and really helps prepare for the final layer of buttercream. The thing I really wish I had down was place a larger cardboard round under this cake. It just makes transporting a lot easier.

After the crumb coat had set, I applied a thick layer of buttercream to the outside of the cake. Then I used my dough scraper and placed it near the bottom at a 90 degree angle and slowly spun the cake gently taking off the buttercream and smoothing it at the same time. This takes a lot of practice and I admit my buttercream wasn't all that smooth looking but since I was using cake lace I didn't stress about it. Next, take the pan of the next layer up. For example, my bottom tier was 12" so I took my 10" pan and gently placed it in the center and used a toothpick to score the outline of the pan into the icing. We took cake dowels and inserted them into the cake staying with the 10" circle and cut them off just under the buttercream frosting. We used at least 8 per layer.

I put the cake together on site of the event and yes its a wee bit tilted. I may not look the best but it tasted great. One of my mother in-law's sisters, made the cover for the cake board. Foil is just blah so why not use something pretty like fabric. This was a simple white square of fabric and a large black dresden plate sewn on the middle with little pearl like beads sewn at the points.

The cake mixes, fillings and cake lace for this cake probably ran me around $175. I was quoted a small 3 tiered 10, 8 and 6" 2 layer each, buttercream cake that would feed 60 people for $350 and I didn't go to a specialty bakery store either. Most of the guest tried 2 flavors and took home cake and there was still plenty of cake for the serving staff to take home as well. It was definitely a lot of work. There's no doubt about it and it was a pain to move and it was super heavy. But if you plan ahead, bake all the cakes more than a week before and keep them frozen until you need to fill them, its not that bad. At least, I know more now, then I did before.