It’s true I have a thing for small, shiny pieces of Japanese paper. I love them. They’re balanced, neat, delicate and brightly colored. M has been known to take a whole stack and write a word or draw an image and staple them into a little story. Often they just sit in small stacks in drawers or on my desk, but sometimes I like to try to fold. I’ll sit with a thin, delicate, shiny square in my hands and crease, un-crease, fold and smooth, trying to follow the instructions as they skip down their little white path. The more I read this particular story, the more I realized how much was going on, with the little lines and arrows punctuating the drama. It was very exciting. Of course, I couldn’t figure out how to turn my paper into a swan but I started to love the narrative. I think my favorite part is the climax just before the bird unfolds (see below). There’s a little white cloud of excitement and then the swan emerges.
This is more of a feeling, not yet developed into a theory, but I wanted to put it out there. It’s simple really. Text talk (tt), or whatever it’s called isn’t a bastardization of proper English and correct grammar, it’s a new language; and it’s a particularly good language at expressing love or romance or lust or infatuation or … well you get the point. And here’s why. It’s not just words, it’s an audio/text/dopamine trifecta. And that’s not counting how close we are to our little mobile devices. How most of us carry those little guys on our person most days. A little warm buzz in the pocket or against the side tucked into a purse, or strapped across the chest in a messenger bag. The cell phone. Close to the head, close to the heart.
It starts with the chime, or the ding that lets you know something’s just come in. That’s exciting to begin with, then there’s the message itself, short, compact, urgent, in some stunted form. Long sentences, pauses and proper grammar would only slow things down and distort the meaning. Because pace is important; timing is everything.
Uh, this commercial made me tear up. Twice. I’m not sure whether it was the voice over, or agony. However, an impressive piece of commerce, this is. I’ll explain why I was watching it at all, later.
I like to use birthdays as an excuse to make a new cake. Or make an tried and true cake that challenges my decorating abilities. Thus, the Tiara Cake came to be. It’s in honor of M’s 5th birthday, which is today.
Having a child turn 5 is one of those milestones, where you say to yourself, “Five years have already passed! I can’t believe it’s already been 5 years.” And 5 is big, because your child is playing iphone games, has decided to be an astronaut, and uses the word awesome. You may have even seen a glimpse of the teenage years to come and the accompanying fashion and attitude, and yet, you still have a little girl who likes her princesses.
And so, in honor of the occasion (and for the party), we decided that the cake would not be shaped like a tiara itself but have a tiara (image) on it. (I wasn’t about to start drawing Ariel herself, in frosting). A tiara, which M will likely be wearing today, seems a solid symbol of both princesshood and birthdayness, and it’s not too complicated to represent in sugar products. It had to pink, of course, although I started out thinking it would be silver, only to find that frosting doesn’t come in silver, not at any local store anyway. M had also requested that I write, I love you and put some hearts on the cake.
For her party, we are also having a pinata, which has all six princesses (I guess Repunzel hasn’t made it into the hallowed center six for good yet) hanging out at their castle. I am expecting that by next year the princess interest will have waned, and we’ll be onto something else. I think we’ll be ready.
The cake is devil’s food cake with white chocolate chunks (again, for surprise) and a cream cheese lemon frosting.
The frosting is easy and reliable and delicious:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
8 ounces cream cheese cut into 4 pieces, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
I mix up the first two in the kitchen aid, add the second two, sift in the sugar. Mix but not too much. And it keeps in the fridge for week.
I’ll post the cake recipe if it turns out to be very delicious. Now, I’m just hoping my fairy godmother prevents it from raining…
I like surprises. I’m not gaga crazy for them, but I do seem to have a thing for a little something something in my cake batter. Today we weren’t making the big birthday cake (more on that later) but just some cupcake bites for the kids at school. M wanted vanilla so we went simple, except for a little chocolate surprise in the center. We added Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips (these are currently my favorite chocolate chips) in the middle of each.
Actually, I wanted it to be more like a chocolately pudding bite, so I probably needed a hunk of chocolate for that (or pudding). Chips weren’t really right, but they’ll still be a little surprise for the kids, and that is always fun.
Into cold storage they went until Thursday when they’ll receive their Meyer lemon icing. M seems to be fixated on that flavor … also rainbows. We’re going to add a little candy rainbow. I talked her out of the blue sky, white clouds (that we saw on Martha Stewart’s website–too big for our “bites,” but we’ll approximate. I’ve been looking up candy stores (I may have to go south for this…) and baking stores in SF.
Apparently, Sugar and Spice in Daly City is good, but I haven’t been there yet. I’ve been looking for silver frosting (Sur la Table didn’t have it) for the big cake, but I may just give up and go with pink(s). And, yes, that cake will have a little surprise as well…
Here’s the cupcake recipe–it’s Amy Sedaris’s recipe:
- 24 cupcakes
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 Preheat oven to 375°F.
- 2 In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in the eggs, two teaspoons vanilla, salt and baking powder. Add flour and milk in batches, starting and ending with flour. Stir until batter is smooth and satiny.
- 3 Fill paper-lined muffin tins with batter. Bake at 375° for 18- 20 minutes.
Um … the best part!
For a long time my daughter, M, has been drawing and creating little visual worlds. She recently made this “stage” and then photographed it herself.
And this isn’t only thing she’s photographed, once I showed her how to use my digital camera, and she’s been using it! It meant that when I downloaded the photos, there were many surprises. Like these…
M also started drawing on my iphone and she figured out how to save her drawings. So, when I down loaded my iphone pictures, I came across these:
I love seeing the world from her perspective.
And I have the pleasure of curation.
San Francisco, January 2011
This is the best and easiest cranberry sauce ever. I’ve been waiting a year to eat it again. It comes from the now defunct Cookie Magazine (which I really kind of liked).
Here’s what it is:
4 ripe pears (any variety)
2 12-ounce bags cranberries (fresh or thawed frozen)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (but I’ve used no sugar, it’s still great)
1. put pears and cranberries on sheet pan.
2. dot the fruit with butter and sprinkle it with sugar
3. roast in the oven for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, stirring once about halfway through.
Just do it.