Monday, January 29, 2024

Aunt Marcella's Chocolate Cake

 This past weekend we again celebrated Mike's and my birthdays.  We meet in a city half way between our son and us so we all do the drive.  It works great, the weather cooperated and by the time we left all of the grands were completely convinced I'm a crazy old lady.  But we had fun getting to that point.

The central point to a birthday is the cake.  You must have a cake on your birthday, I don't care how old you get.  We had two.  Mine is always a cake I love from a bakery here and it's a major splurge.  

Mike asked for Aunt Marcella's chocolate cake. And therein lies the problem.  

PH's Aunt Marcella lived to be 95 and has been gone a good long time. Such stories we have about her! Our son first tasted her cake when he was maybe 4 or 5 years old, so that's 40 years ago.  He flipped for it so I asked for the recipe.  

Step one was to mix cocoa, water and salt over a flame till it was "thick thin."  I knew I was in trouble.  But my son hit it on the head when he said we can ask someone for a recipe but it's the technique that we need.  And he is absolutley right.  If I give someone a recipe the page is overflowing with comments on how I do it.  "This is what it says, but this is what I DO."

Aunt Marcella's cake is great and has always turns out like a charm. It's the frosting that's possessed. In the 40 years I've been trying, I can't think of more than once, maybe twice that it turned out. It's a frosting you pour on, not spread.  And it is impossible!  

More times than not it congeals into a solid lump of fudge.  I dare you to sharpen your best knife and cut it.   

This year daughter was probably tired of listening to me going on in angst over having to make this frosting for this cake because Mike asked for it.  You ALWAYS do what the grands ask, don't you? I do.
So daughter said she would try the frosting and I make the cake.  Deal.
She made the frosting a week before and put it in the refrigerator.  Of course it fudged. I microwaved it to break it down again.  That worked but when I put it on that cake it immediately turned into asphalt patch. See above photo.

So, I was down to making the second cake of the day and doing the frosting myself and trying to meditate myself into being calm.

Over the years I've tried tricking everyone by making some other chocolate frosting.  A ganache, I even resorted to using a boxed frosting mix I don't think they even make anymore. I tried everything but my son has that food memory of HER frosting on THIS cake and he's passed that myth on to his kids.

Well, I tried a new technique.  After cooking it for the required seven minutes and then taking it off the heat and stirring for 15-20 minutes (yes, that's right) I decided maybe I'd use the hand mixer and beat it occasionally during that cooling time.  That seemed to work ok.  It thickened just enough, it didn't turn into fudge.  I poured it over the cake and it didn't run down the side of the counter and onto the floor.  It seemed to act like a slightly loose ganache that stayed in place.  

In the meantime, I put a bottle of sprinkles on the table and told PH he had to pick all of the blue balls out and put them on a plate.  It was a big football weekend for us and Detroit Lions' colors are blue and silver and if this frosting worked this time I would need a nap, not cake decorations.  

Well, you can see what happened when I lifted the cake on the plate after the frosting cooled.  Everything stayed intact but it wrinkled so it looks like my neck.   But it was delicious.  Does all of this deserve it's own blog post?  Probably not but sometimes you need to get something off your chest.

I also told the kids in no uncertain terms will I make their wedding cakes with Aunt Marcella's frosting. 
And when I die I will have her recipe in my hand and when I see her I will insist she tell me her techniques.  

I needed a bottle of this.  I haven't had red wine for two years but I needed this!  And it tasted so good and because everyone else was drinking beer I didn't have to share!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

I'm in trouble now...

One of the numbers on the Chookshed Challenge was to do something with my blue fabric.  I like blue.  I have lots of blues.   I've been drawn to the village quilts, you know, row upon row of houses, and thought the blues would be fun to use in the houses and it would take care of lots of larger pieces of scraps.  But it's piecing and not applique so I thought I should try making one to see if I might go forward with them.  Blue project is number four on the list but if number five isn't called up this month there is some rearranging to be done.  My number five needs to get done.  

Well. As I told the group on zoom the other night, now I'm in trouble.  One test house turned into 15...and counting.  I'm using my crank sewing machine and loving it.  
These are so easy and fun. I'm using bits and pieces for the doors and bigger pieces for the houses and roofs. The pile of pieces I've picked through and are on the spare bed isn't taking care of the main stash because I look at the big pieces in the stash and really hesitate to cut into something for small pieces so I'm back to digging through scraps and small bigger pieces.  Does that make sense?  Which means I may never use those nice cuts.
I don't understand when people say to use your uglies or pieces you don't like.  I wouldn't have bought the fabric if I didn't like it and the larger pieces are still in my stash - some of them for many years - because I LOVE them and don't want to cut into them.  There are no uglies in my stash.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Number 6 finish


This is Number Six finished. Bound and gagged.  It's not a big quilt but it was in the pile of UFOs so it worked to be able to finish hand quilting in a month.
I dug in and found a piece of floral for the border, sifted through Sally's 30's fabric bag and bound it in scrappy strips of red.  All of the colors in the border even that out.
These were squares I got from Sally who gave me a large grocery bag full of 30's fabrics and blocks that were abandoned after becoming blocks.  All I did was added scrappy sashings and quilted it.  It's been done for a week but my back is misbehaving and I'm kind of best friends with a heating pad lately so  projects have just languished.

While we have been homebound because of big snowstorms and below 0  temperatures I've spent some time prepping for numbers 1-5 and 7-10.  I rarely ever sew during the day but sometimes it has to be done and we were home so there were no outside distractions.  So I'm cutting for number four, put together  number 5 as it waits to be quilted.  But that one must be done by end of April so if that number isn't chosen soon it may have to jump the line.  Number one will be an easy finish.  Number seven is layered and pinned and waiting to be called up. 
I think I have this under control.  You?

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Do You Remember What YOU Were doing?

 Do you remember Dec. 31, 1999, when the media picked up on some techie person's prediction that when the calendar changed to the year 2000 life as we knew it would come to an end?  

In anticipation of that we thought we should put together a time capsule with three friend couples.  

We had the can, we brought things to contribute, we had a big last supper, we filled the can and the next day, after we lived, I put in photos of the evening and sealed it.  We agreed to get together again in 20 years to open it.  Well, that was covid and then other things happened so we couldn't get to the grand opening till today.

I wasn't sure if I was unleashing a genie or King Tut's remains as I lifted the lid.  None of us could remember either doing this activity in the first place or what they contributed.  I remembered because it was in my care for 24 years. 
                                                                                 No genie. 

                                                                   Marge and Harry
                             Roger and Beth, who now live in Illinois so couldn't be with us today.
                                                                   Sue and Paul
                                                                                 PH and me
                            The first thing I pulled out was a newspaper from Dec. 31, 1999
The second thing was the newspaper from Jan. 1, 2000.  It was obvious the world didn't implode as predicted.
This packet of photos was taken that night for the most part, and the other were photos of our family PH and I put in the can.  We were so much younger, less gray, thinner. Remarkably so.  Our kids weren't married yet so no grandkids yet. 
Besides the newspapers  I pulled out an empty candy bag, some coins, a disintegrating hat with the Jeep logo, a poem about living the dash in your life, a review copy of a Harry Potter book, a pen from a former employ, a card from the game Risk, an unopened deck of cards, a corkscrew with wine cork attached, a cork from champagne which we drank that night, a little owl, a magazine, all of the Christmas cards PH and I received that year, and that was it.   And other than the hat, we can't remember who contributed what.  It was a bit anti-climactic. 

One of the photos I put in was this one of Sue, Marge and Me.  We went through grade school together so for over 60+ years we've been friends.

What started out as a day promising laughs, well, that was delivered.  As for the time capsule?  I was the one who said it aloud, If those trinkets were the best we could come up with, "boy were we boring!!"  But in the end, it really was and is the fact we are life long friends. 
We are the time capsule, not the trinkets we put in a can.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Number Six

 My number six turned out to be the quilting of one of two quilt tops on the list.  This is just in the process of pinning at the smoothing out stage.  

Awhile ago Friend Sally was cleaning out and gave me a substantial collection of blocks - an assortment, all completed as blocks but not composed into anything else. She knows I like the 1930s fabrics and this large stash was all 1930s. It isn't helping me use up my stash but these are completed blocks just looking for the next step. The hard work was done. I composed these into a top. Then folded and put away.  It isn't too large, but as I sit in my chair quilting it I think it's a good size for a little girl or an old lady's lap.  I AM using my stash to piece the backs.    There's another one that will pop up as we go along in this stitch along. 

Monday, January 1, 2024

We are now them

 I don't make New Year's Resolutions.  I've never kept a single one in my life so I don't bother with them. I do spend a lot of time thinking. Just thinking.  And noticing. And when you put those two together, noticing and thinking you tend to see things. 

Early in December PH's family had a Christmas gathering and it was wonderful to see all who could make it that day.  PH comes from a very large family with many cousins who are spread out around the country so when we can see some of them we consider it lucky. 

Babies in arms last year are toddlers now.  Toddlers last year are starting school this year. When you see some people just once a year you can see the growth in leaps and bounds. 

But something happened this year that I can't get out of my head. This year one of the nieces hired a professional photographer to wander around and take candid photos and what a treasure of moments they turned out to be.  We even had a group photo taken.

And that's when it happened.  On the way home while I was thinking I realized OMG. We are now them. 

We are now the seniors.  We are now the top of the pyramid.  We are now the old folks.  We are now the ones who no longer plan and organize and delegate and cook. We have passed the ladles and aprons on. And we have become 'them.'  We are the ones who chairs have been placed for.  

Now, don't get me totally wrong.  While this was a bit of a slap in the face of realization, it is also WONDERFFUL to be the guest.  Sometimes you just want to be the guest, don't you?  Not be the one in charge and cooking?  The second tier down has taken over the planning and delegating and it was wonderful to have nothing more to do than walk around with a drink in our hand and visit with everyone.  And be thankful we are still walking. 

I have not been able to shake this realization of who was sitting in those chairs for a month. I keep going back to it.  We didn't put the toddlers in those chairs, we put the gray haired ones in the chairs.

We have been relegated to the chairs.We are now them.