The Blog

Keep on Smilin’

I started making children’s puzzles again. I’ve always enjoyed making them and have off and on for over twenty years.  Now I have grandkids that will be the right ages for the puzzles soon.

I’m also thinking about putting them up on Etsy. Still researching that one.

Smilin' Truck Puzzle

Smilin’ Truck Puzzle

This summer I found some puzzles I had made when working for a woodworking magazine. We never put the finishing sealer on them before taking photographs because of the glare it caused. Well I decided to finally finish them. One of my friends saw them and asked for a puzzle more suited to a three-year-boy. Since he is very into the Disney movie “Cars”, I drew my version of a happy truck.

When painting the puzzles for the magazine I always simplified it so whoever made the puzzles themselves could paint them easily. This time as I was painting I just started to add some highlights and shading to the pieces. I guess I was channeling my decorative painting days! Anyway, I really liked the way it turned out. Even though the plans on show just the color-book painting anyone can do.

I ended up making four of these truck puzzles for the holidays. It is a little more advanced for the little ones… but that’s a good thing.

What’s in a blog?

I didn’t really start out to write a blog…

But my friends keep asking me where they can see the cakes I’ve been making. The obvious answer to that would be a webpage. Lucky for me  my eldest son is a web designer for a graphics firm and offered to help me put together this website. It is a work in progress at this point, but I can now put up photos of my cakes, or anything I work on, that might be of interest to someone else.  And since I’ve been making notes on a lot of my projects anyway, I might as well back date some of the entries here as I transfer my notes to the blog.

I think a little background is needed here…

In my family any occasion is reason to celebrate. We are known to family and friends for our themed costume parties. Dating back to the first one, when I turned 30. My family thought it would be funny if they all dressed up as old folks, so I wouldn’t feel so alone in aging. It was a fun day all around, the clever costumes and personalities. My sister-in-law had balloons in her blouse and looked like Ma Kettle! Anybody out there remember Ma and Pa Kettle from the fifties? My younger brother managed to stay in character all day long… a grumpy old man. Reminded me of the old Laugh-In character. Too funny.

From that point on when somebody celebrated a decade birthday we threw an over-the-top theme party. When I say over-the-top, I don’t mean expensive. One of the best things to do is to go with my sister to my favorite party stores… some people call them thrift shops. I find that hitting the thrift stores for clothing, decorating items and anything that might help a theme along is just too much fun. Give me a theme or vague idea and the brainstorming kicks in.

From crafting, decorating, repurposing to knitting, baking and party planning, I hope to share my experiences with you… so welcome to my blog!



And Thee I Wed

Karen’s nephew and his bride were coming to town. They live on the east coast and this was their first trip out to the west coast since getting married. We were going to be making a cake and catering a small reception for the family and friends that couldn’t make it to the wedding.

The event was being held in the common room where my sister lives. Nice and close. I’ll get the cake finished and then deliver the cake and help with setup and any other last minute things that come up.

Small sheet cake as an open bible. Cross on one page and couples initial and wedding quote on the other.

I came up with a small somewhat simple cake design. A small sheet cake that was made to look like an open bible. All I would have to do is make two pages to set on the top.

To decorate the pages I used gum paste to make a cross and the newlywed’s initial. I added some embellishments to give the feel of the artwork found in very old bibles.

There was a quote that was used in their wedding that I put on below the initial. I used edible marking pens to write the quote and to paint the designs on the pages.

Scoring the sides of the cake and painting them gold added texture. A brown rope of fondant around the bottom of the whole cake looked like a book cover. A little dark brown dust aged the book. The last touch was the red ribbon of fondant marking the page.

The most refreshing melon salad ever!

While the family decorated the room my sister and I put the finishing touches on the food.

Karen made a family favorite… a pasta dish with chicken.

A new recipe  for a pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe, honeydew, lime and mint salad. I had seen it made on The Chew and passed it along. It looked worth a try. As it turned out, it was perfect. Even down to the colors; orange, yellow, and green. Delicious!

Five flavored butters with fresh rustic breads.

Beautiful strawberries were in season so we had a big platter of those for color.

The next thing we dished up were flavored butters for the Butter Bar. Five different butters; strawberry, orange honey, basil garlic, blue cheese and chive. Fresh rustic artisan breads were cut up to spread that yummy butter on. I could eat that all day long.

Along with the cake, I made two of my candy pizzas. One was all-chocolate pizza and the other a combination with broccoli. The kids who were coming to the reception would love them!



Baby Boy’s Nursery

Baby boy is almost here and it’s time to get the nursery done!

My son and his wife are expecting a baby boy soon. She wants a nautical nursery and he wants a pirate nursery. I know there’s a way to make both happen and still make it a room to grow in. I’m not a big fan of decorating with the commercial/licensed characters. It limits the future. Kids grow and change and I like a room that will do that too. Hopefully they agree.

We are starting with some old furniture. I made a changing table/cabinet for my first granddaughter about 9 years ago. Wow… time does fly! I worked for a woodworking magazine at the time and was lucky enough to be able to build anything, as long as it could be done in a weekend. I broke the nursery into several projects; cabinet, changing table, valances/shelves, lamp, knobs, clothes hooks. All great, but flowers and butterfly shapes won’t work for a boys room. Along the way the changing table was lost, but the cabinet was in good shape, it just needs sanding and painting. The crib is borrowed and has a dark stain finish. We’ll keep that in mind.

Climbing up in the attic I found the toy box that my father-in-law had made for my son thirty years ago. Made from fir with a plywood curved top it should make a perfect chest in a pirate room. There are two blocks carved into the front that have my son’s initials. No name for the baby yet, so I won’t highlight the letters. The box has a few problems, but some glue and clamps will take care of the repairs. Once a color is chosen, it will get a new coat of paint.

new changing table top

Newly built changing table top.

I’ll start with building another changing table and figure out colors later. My son is on the lookout for a dresser that will have the pirate vibe. I’m not sure what that is, but that’s on his list of to-do’s.

I spent one day building the changing table and repairing the toy box. The next day I would sand the white cabinet down to prepare for painting. If I’m starting with new wood like the changing table, I have found that it is best to seal the wood by staining it with a dark stain. I let that dry overnight and started again in the morning.

During this time a plain pine dresser was found and delivered. All it needed was a good sanding and it would be ready for painting too.

Black and white striped baby afghan with anchor

Hand knitted black and white striped baby afghan with red anchor and trim.

pine dresser

Pine dresser is ready to refinish with just a little sanding.

Now to colors… red and black have been mentioned but I’m having a hard time picturing that for a nursery. For a shower gift I knit a black and white striped blanket, added a red anchor in the center and trimmed around the edge with red. I liked the look of that…maybe this would work!

I started getting a vision of the room after seeing that the kids bought some prints of nautical items sketched on old, yellowed pages. I thought that using ticking fabric in the room would be perfect with them. Red or black, didn’t know yet, so I went to the fabric store and got samples of red and navy blue ticking. I could not find black ticking anywhere. My first thought was to use the ticking for curtains and basket liners. Trying to explain what ticking was to my son was fun, he didn’t understand what I was describing. Finally  I sent him a photo of the samples. He called to say, “Mom, all you had to say was stripes!” I still can’t believe I didn’t lead with that, before trying to explain the difference between just normal stripes and the ticking pattern. Oh well.

So, keeping in mind that the look was to be nautical, but old and worn, I painted color samples on a scrap of wood. The bedroom is an off-white color and since the house is a rental we couldn’t do much with the walls.  So color on the furniture was the way to go. Black and red would put a spin on the nautical theme and make it  a little more pirate. I started with painting a red layer with black over it, then sanding it to give it that old and worn look. Then I did the reverse of that, black with red over it. I also gave them an option with navy blue. The navy wasn’t as vibrant as the red and black though.

Since I had a new project to work on it was time to hit the thrift stores. Not that I need an excuse, but it does save me money and gives me ideas too. The local Hospice shop is a mile away and my favorite place. Watch for the discount days and the bargains are even better! I went in looking for anything that might work for the nursery. Back in the corner is where they hang the drapes and other linens they have for sale. I couldn’t believe it, but I found two panels of a natural color floor length drapes with a valance piece. The tops folded over the rod and were held down with tan buttons across the front. It looked so perfect to me…and it was 60% off! I went ahead and bought them all for $14!

The drapes were pretty much the same color as the walls so I had to re-think my plan. The crib was dark stained, so I’d make a stained curtain rod to match the finials I found at the thrift shop. Buy woven baskets that are different colors of brown to put in the cabinet. I could line the baskets with the red and blue ticking and use cotton cording for the ties in the liners. Still had to figure out the window wall. I’ll think on that as I paint the furniture.

It was decided that we’d go with red and black furniture. The changing table and cabinet would be painted red first with a black final coat and then distressed. The dresser carcass would be the same as the cabinet, but the drawers would be the opposite, black with red on top, as would the toy box. They would all work together, but not be overwhelmingly one color.

I set about painting the pieces that are going to have red underneath. I use a HVLP paint sprayer. It usually takes more time to clean the gun between coats that to spray all the pieces. But it’s so much nicer than using a brush! I can get two coats done, let it dry overnight and be ready to paint black the next day.

Black sprayed cabinet

Photo of the final black coat of paint over red under layer.

cabinet painted red

First coat of red paint on cabinet.

Before spraying the black paint over the red I took an old, white Christmas candle and rubbed it along the edges and anywhere else I wanted to age. You have to put enough wax on to be able to see it later, after the final coat of paint. The paint will not stick to where the wax is and when sanded lightly over the waxed areas you get a weathered, distressed look by having the first coat show through.

After spraying black over my red undercoats, I sprayed the drawers and toy box black for their first coats of paint. It was starting to get a little confusing, which needed what coat and when?! I separated them into different sections of the garage when I closed it for the night.

Meanwhile, I have had an idea for the window wall! How about we put a large ticking pattern on the wall. It will give some color to the wall (check with the landlord) and if its large we don’t have to make a lot of stripes. I made a sample board by using masking tape to tape off the stripes and used a stencil brush to get the uneven look that ticking stripes have. My original sample was in navy blue, but after seeing the furniture I made a red striped sample too.

Close-up of distressed changing table top

Close-up of the distressed paint on the changing table top.

Last coats of paint went on and after they dried overnight I sanded the edges of the pieces where I had rubbed the wax. I discovered a tip… When not so sure of where the wax is, just set the piece in the sun for a little while and the wax will soften and be easier to see!

Sanding and cleaning up took most of the morning. I had to pick up the plastic drop cloths and sweep the garage. My next step was to spray a finish over everything and I needed it as dust-free as possible.

nursery furniture freshly painted

Photo of freshly painted nursery furniture.

All set up now and ready to spray. I plan on putting 3 coats of finish on this furniture. It is after all going in a little boy’s bedroom. Luckily it’s nice weather to spray in. I use a water-based finish and it dries fast. I can do at least 2 coats with what’s left of the day.

In two days time the furniture will get picked up and I will follow to stencil the wall. Still not sure what color but I’ll know once I see things together.

decoupaged anchor knob

Painted black knob with printed clipart anchor decoupaged on knob.

I have to figure out the knobs for the dresser now. It needs to be lighted up some. I pulled my gigantic book of clip art out and found an anchor. I worked on it in photoshop to make it look uneven and worn. I printed up a page of anchors. Always make extra! I only had the six wooden knobs that came with the dresser. Whoever owned this dresser before changed the two top knobs to something plastic. I threw those out. I decided to paint the knobs black and then decoupage the clipart anchor on the top.

Time to put this nursery together. After getting to the house and seeing the room that is to be the nursery I’m at first wondering where all the furniture is going to go! Besides the crib, it is full of bags and bags of shower gifts.

My son had spent a lot of time taping off the wall. THANK YOU! Looks great. All ready to go. Looking at  the window wall we decide we really need to see at least one piece of the furniture in the room. After clearing the room of the gift bags and since it has both colors on it, we bring in the dresser. Once the dresser was in the room it was a no brainer… the stripes had to be red. The unfortunate thing about that is, you need to use more paint or it will look pink. This is going to take longer than the blue would have.

Wall taped for stenciling stripes

Lots of blue tape to tape off the pattern for the red stripes.

Having stenciled before, I knew it was better for one person to do all the stenciling. Otherwise the stripes will look different. I got started and after getting into a rhythm it seemed to go pretty quickly. While I was stenciling my son hung the curtain rod and mom-to-be went through the gifts and sorted the items. She would have fun the next day getting the room ready.

By the time the stenciling was finished the wall was almost dry. I love that about stenciling! We brought in the rest of the furniture and after moving it around some, decided on the placement. The only thing we knew was that we wanted the decal of a pirate ship above the crib. So we started with that.

The changing table went below the window on the striped wall and the dresser was placed on the wall opposite the crib.

Cabinet and changing table

Cabinet with shelves under changing table.

pirate ship decal over crib

Crib with red bumper pads and striped blanket under a decal of a pirate ship.

Gathering all the previously collected room decor, we got busy. Up went the drapes. I love how they look against the wall, the color of sails. Although I had planned on changing out the buttons on the drapes, I think I like them better with the tan buttons.

I showed my son how to decoupage the knobs so he could finish them and they could dry as we ate dinner.

We started hanging pictures and a neat ships steering wheel above the dresser. We placed the toy box in the corner next to the dresser. Over that we hung a whale-shaped chalkboard that was a shower gift. Too cute!

toy box and whale chalkboard

Corner of nursery with the toy box and chalkboard whale my brother and sister-in-law made.

dresser with wall art

Dresser sans knobs and nautical wall art.

The borrowed crib turned out to have a drawer underneath. We weren’t sure what to do about that. It makes for a handy place to hold packages of diapers. We just don’t want them to show! What to do? We could go with something lighter since there was so much color in the room already. I got it! How about a skirt that was made to resemble sails? I could make it with two strips laced together with cotton rope. Lace it through brass grommets. Nice! That way it could be shortened when the mattress was moved down. That’s on my to-do list for next week.

dresser drawer with knob closeup

Close-up of the distressed drawer with anchor knob.

red ticking striped wall

Large ticking striped pattern stenciled on window wall.

At one of the baby showers there was a string of flags made from maps that had “Baby Hendry” spelled out. We thought that would look great hung over the curtain rod.

The six knobs are dried and installed. We’ll have to get two more to finish the dresser. I like the way it brightens the drawers.

We accomplished a lot in about six hours. I didn’t know we’d be putting the whole room together, but I couldn’t leave without seeing it all in place. Only things left for me to do are the basket liners and crib skirt.

I went to a fabric outlet and found a great cotton twill for the crib skirt. Even better … only $5 a yard! Lots of hems and many grommets later, I laced the panels together with 1/4″ cotton rope. I just hoped that this worked on the crib.

Changing table on cabinet with lined baskets

Finished changing table on top of cabinet with ticking-lined baskets underneath.

nautical laced crib skirt

Nautical-laced crib skirt that will adjust for when the mattress is lowered.

Finally I made the liners for the six baskets. Three with the blue ticking and three with the red. More grommets in the ends and rope threaded through to keep the liners tight.

Okay Baby Boy…we’re ready!



Pirates Chest Cake

I’ve been wanting to do a treasure chest cake for a while now. My opportunity came when my son and his wife decided to go nautical/pirate in the baby-to-be’s nursery.

pirate baby shower invitation

Take a look at the sail. No skull here… it’s a cute diaper pin holding a blanket with baby.

My sister-in-law was giving the Mom-to-be pirate themed baby shower. I volunteered to design the invitations and make the cake (and of course anything else she needed). We took the colors from the somewhat-planned nursery… red, white, blues and black. But, as much as I loved the theme, the skull on a pirate ship bothered me for a baby shower. So, I found a clipart of a diaper pin and baby in a blanket and thought that it would be perfect to change out the normal skull on the pirate ships sail. Cute.

I came across instructions on YouTube on how to tie a “monkey paw” knot. It’s a knot that is used in boating. Looks like a woven ball of rope. I thought it would make great napkin rings to go with red cloth napkins. After several tries I finally figured it out. For a knot that ends up being a little over an inch in diameter, it takes over two feet to make one. I went to the local hardware store to find cotton 1/4″ rope. Tip: After doing the math, I decided to go with a 100-foot-long cotton clothesline. Less expensive than buying cut-by-the-foot rope.

monkey paw knot napkin ring

Cotton clothesline was used to make this monkey paw knot for napkin rings.

On to the cake…

Part of the decor was to use red and blue ticking fabric. Thinking of stripes, I had the idea of making the cake red velvet and white striped. After mixing up each cake flavor, I then spooned alternating stripes into the cake pan. Then starting with the opposite color I made another layer on top of that. Repeating until the pan was 2/3 full. They were not perfectly straight rows, but when cut, each piece would have stripes! I made a total of three layers for the bottom part of the chest. Chocolate and white marble would be the top of the chest. I’d bake those too and freeze until needed.

Treasure Chest front view

Close-up of the front of the cake, lobster, map, lock and baby keys.

My plan was to make the “treasure” in the chest be baby toys and accessories. The days before the shower I made gum paste baby keys, red baby converse booties for baby boy, pacifier and treasure map. I would need cereal treats to make the rubber ducky, alphabet blocks, and bottle. As long as I was doing that I might as well make it a chocolate batch and make a teddy bear too. Even though I had the baby items, I still wanted the standard treasure. I made pearls from a mixture of gum paste and fondant and when dry, strung them together with dental floss. I decided to make some hard candy jewels after making molds from a product called Amazing Mold Putty. Red, green, purple and blue… very colorful. And it gives another texture to the cake. Crushed graham crackers would be the sand. Anything else I would have to think of later when I put it together.

I could layer and cover the cakes in fondant before driving the two hours to my parents house. The rest I would do there. After filling my car with anything I might possibly need for cake decorating and shower decor I left for the shower.

When putting the cake together that night decided I needed something fill the space where the top was opened. A diaper seemed like a good idea. It would take up space and help show the colored items off.

I almost forgot about a lobster! A lobster holds a special meaning for the kids and that could help fill in the space too. Okay one lobster coming up.

How about a red, white and blue bib with an anchor? I’ll make some rope too. Only other thing I can think of is some coins. But I think I’ll go with the chocolate gold covered coins from the party store. I bought them to use as a stamp, but with time running out and wanting to sleep, I’ll stick with those.

For some reason the fondant on the top of the lid kept thinning and sliding. By morning I was afraid to look at the cake. It was going to be a hot day. Not great weather for cakes. I packed everything up and headed to my brother and sister-in-law’s house. They live in the hills, so roads are winding and bumpy. So much fun for cake delivery!

Baby shower mast and sail

The mast holds a crows nest with parrot and the sail was taken from the invitation graphic.

postcards treasure chest to personalize

This treasure chest holds postcards. So the guests can write a note to the new baby.

The house looked sooo good. Pirate-like touches everywhere you looked. Jewels, lace, candles, even cannonballs. The cannonballs were the bookends for the books requested of the guests to start the baby’s library.

On the deck a tall mast with personalized sail, crows nest and a parrot overlooked the tables covered in red or blue tablecloths with contrasting runners of red or blue ticking. Centerpieces of flowers, jewels and nautical touches finished the look.

Another cool thing I loved was the place to have the guests put their gifts. A wooden trunk that is normally used for a coffee table was opened. A blue and white striped quilt was spread inside with a large tassel, candle and binoculars decorating the lid. The gifts overflowed the chest. Perfect!

flavored butters in boats

Banana split dish is used for flavored butters. Flags on map paper with flavor on a mast and a butter knife for an oar.

pirate baby shower gift chest

A wonderful idea for a gift chest! Open a trunk, add decorative items and fill with shower gifts!

My sister came up with the pirate feast for the shower. Consisting of a delicious choice of quiches, strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon pieces (no scurvy here), spinach salad and a fabulous butter bar with rustic breads. The flavored butters were served in banana split boats with butter knives as oars and a flag made from a map that labeled each butter flavor.

Now it was time to put the cake together for the last time… I spread the graham cracker crumbs around the chest and then set the diaper and lobster on the chest. Carefully setting the lid on dowels, I had set in the chest, I filled in with the assorted accessories.
Treasure chest cake

Cake for a pirate themed baby shower… all edible!

teddy-bear close up

Teddy made from cocoa cereal treats

I decided to set the teddy bear up on top. Turned out it wasn’t the best thing. Within a few minutes the fondant thinned even further creating a hole! Now what to do? This is when the adrenaline kicks in and you have to deal with the unexpected. Standing back and looking at the cake I thought maybe by making another short length of rope that is tied to the life preserver I could hide the flaw. Whew!

After laying the rest of the cake pieces around the treasure chest, it was time to greet the guests and enjoy the beautiful day with family and friends!

Triple Chocolate Cake

I got a phone call from my best friend’s son to ask if I would make a birthday cake for her for next weekend. Even though I had not planned on being home that weekend, I said yes. Of course I’m going to make a cake for her! Then, I found out that it was to be a dual birthday celebration. Her birthday is a couple of days before her grandson’s. Now what was I going to do?!

I’ve been working on an elaborate cake for a baby shower on that Sunday and planned to take it up on Saturday morning. Looks like a change of plans is in order. I’ll go up after the birthday party Saturday evening.

So, this would have to be simple. It was to be a small gathering, so a small 6″ round, but tall, cake would work. Triple chocolate sounded good to me! I’ll bake it tonight (tuesday) and freeze it until friday.

Triple chocolate white rose cake side

Grandma’s side… lovely white roses on smooth fondant

Okay, cake flavor is decided, now how to decorate for two people? I had a vision of an all white cake. White fondant with white gum paste roses on top for Grandma and if I turned it around…wait for it…. paintball splats for her paintball loving grandson!

I could make the gum paste roses and leaves a couple days ahead and not have too much to do on Saturday morning.

Not sure how I was going to do paint splats. So I had to experiment some. I wanted something easy to add to the cake and sturdy enough to travel. I settled on Candy Melts, brightened with candy coloring.

I laid out some wax paper and after melting the candy and coloring it to my desired color, I put the candy into a disposable piping bag. I started by squirting a small pool of candy onto the wax paper I then took a new, baby’s aspirator and squeezed air into the middle of the pool of candy. It has to be a quick spurt to create a splat. I tried  a few different techniques and found that you can’t let the splat get too thin or it will not transfer to the cake without breaking. Before finishing with each color, I made different sizes of drops on the wax paper too. I would add that to the splat and to hang off the flowers, I hoped.

Saturday morning… defrost the cakes, layer and frost. The plain white, but vanilla flavored, fondant worked out fine and I wanted a more rounded look to the cake, so far so good. I found a doily and decided to place the cake on that. Add the flowers and leaves and glue in place with white frosting. Very feminine, looks nice at this point.

paintball side of double birthday cake

Cake for two… Grandma and paintball loving grandson!

Now comes the fun… I get to add the splats!

I used the melted vanilla Candy Melts to glue the paint splats in place and tried to keep them to one side of the cake only. Luckily, I remembered to make plenty of splats, in case of breakage. I was able to pick and choose as I decorated the cake.

Taking photos of the cake was fun because I could actually see that looking at one side showed me a cake with a different feel from the other. Perfect for Grandma and grandson!




Nautical Baby Belly Cake

My family is about to get bigger… My son and his wife are expecting a little baby boy in about six weeks!

My daughter-in-law’s sisters are giving her a shower and have asked me to make the cake. They sent me a photo of a cake they saw on Etsy. It had a wild zebra print dress over a pregnant belly, with a baby footprint under the dress.

Well this baby shower was to be a nautical one and I thought immediately of a sailor collar dress. White dress, red and white striped insert and blue tie. I see it in my head, now to make it a reality.

Baby Footprint on Nautical Belly Cake

Tiny “embossed” footprint is just too cute!

Since I already had the dome cake mold I would use that for the belly. But what to use for the boobs? I looked through all my assorted pans and oven-safe bowls but found nothing that would work. After a trip to the local Michael’s store where I found the perfect pan, called the Wilton Mini Wonder Mold, I was ready to bake the cakes for this shower.

Lemon was the requested cake flavor. The belly cake portion of the cake was a lemon cake. But, because the guest list was going to be more than just the belly cake would serve, I made a larger rectangle cake for the base of this cake. For this I made a white cake with lemon curd filling. Both were frosted with lemon buttercream frosting. Sounds light and refreshing for what the weatherman is promising to be a hot day. I try to do any baking early in the day and early in the week. That way I can freeze the baked cake ahead. It helps with the leveling and layering the day before the event.

My sister has perfected the recipe for marshmallow fondant. Since she is one of those people that doesn’t measure anything, I’m finding that she needs to be the one to make the fondant. This can be done a week ahead of time. Marshmallow fondant needs to rest at least overnight, so planning the timing is crucial. She’ll come back to help put the cake together.

Two days before the shower and I check my list…

1. I need to color the fondant. A little red for the striped section and dark blue for the sash. Both these colors will intensify as they rest and the fact that I will be working with mostly white fondant, I wanted to do this coloring early. I would need flesh color too.

2. Defrost the cakes, remember to level before they are completely defrosted

3. Tort the base cake

4. Fill and layer the base cake

5. Crumb frost all the cakes and put in refrigerator overnight

I’m still not sure of all the details. But, that is sometimes part of the fun doing cakes. I get an overall idea in my head and I have learned that up until the last finishing touch, ideas can change. Stay loose and open to the possibilities.

Day before the shower…

I covered the sheet cake with white fondant first. No problems.

My sister is here. Thinking out loud helps at all times in the creative process, but when you’re under a time crunch it’s nice to bounce ideas off someone.

Next step was to figure out the placement of the belly. I wanted the dress to drape over the bottom end of the sheet cake. So I went with just off-centering the belly portion towards the bottom. Time to drape the dress. But wait! I forgot the little footprint underneath!!! Okay,  I’ll wing it… I rolled out a little white fondant and cut a baby foot shape. Next, I rolled tiny graduating sized balls of fondant. Making sure the foot is on the correct side of the belly I set the pieces of the foot on the frosted belly and pressed slightly to even it out. Whew!

Time to drape the belly with the white skirt of the dress. I was going for a little more ruffle but then nothing really ruffles over a belly at that stage. At this point it just looks like a large sea of white. I’ll think on that as I work.

Covering the boobs with flesh colored fondant was easy. I placed the two boobs with bottom edges touching the belly and each other in the center. Now, onto the the striped portion. Red background and thin white horizontal stripes. That had to be sized so that the tie and collar would later cover the edge of the insert. I rolled out the white fondant, then cut very thin strips with a pizza cutter, and glued the white stripes on the red triangle of fondant with a tiny bit of water. I set that aside for a few minutes while I figured out what I was going to do with the rest of the cake.

Take time to think ahead! The order of decorating does take some time to think of, so you save time in the long run. There’s no sense in re-doing something if you can visualize the steps ahead of time. Famous last words…

First to make the red neck tie. I rolled out long red strips that I could lay over the dress bodice and gather at the center tie. I had to have these ready so I could put the bodice on and lay the tie before the collar dries too much to drape nicely.

Red tie, white collar and blue sash on Nautical Baby Belly Cake

Close up of the tie and sash detail on belly cake.

To make the bodice I rolled out two squares of white fondant and laid it over the outside edge of each cone. I could trim that later. The trick was to get the collar to fold over the tie. Before I could do the tie though… I had to cut the dark blue sash and put it in place. This sash covered the joining of the cake pieces and created the shape of the dress.

Now to add the red tie. I laid both the ties on either side if the bodice and folded the collar over them. Then I gathered the ties together and place a square of red fondant over to look like it was tied. Drape the ties so it looks like it has some natural movement.

Now that the cake is all put together… there is too much white. That is when I remembered I was going to make the base cake blue!!! Next best thing. Make it look like water. I used some blue dusting powder mixed with lemon extract to make a paint and brushed it on in a wave pattern. Really would have been easier before the rest of the cake was put together! Lesson learned.

After seeing the base painted with waves I think it needs a trim around the bottom. How about a rope? Glad I thought of it! Quick and easy too. This is where the staying open to new possibilities comes in! My sister helps with rolling out the rope pieces as I finish painting.

Fondant anchor detail on baby shower cake

Red fondant anchor with rope makes a nice detail on white nautical dress.

I absolutely love the tiny footprint showing through the dress! But still a lot of white. Thinking of the theme, and knowing that anchors were on the decorating list… I looked and saw that I still had some red fondant. I’ll make a red anchor and rope detail to add color to the bottom of the dress.

It’s done! Now, I can just get up in the morning and worry about what I’m wearing to the shower.

Day of the shower…

My other daughter-in-law along with my little granddaughters, picked me up and we headed to the shower. It was held at a small local winery in Livermore, CA. I walk i and see the table decor and breathe easier. I love when something I work on goes so well with all the decor that someone else does!

Time for the cake and as I cut pieces, for the guests, I look down and see that my two-year-old granddaughter is practically inhaling the anchor detail as I cut. I guess she liked it!



Keeping a Tradition Alive

Somehow without planning it I have made a tradition of knitting or crocheting an afghan for family wedding gifts. It started a long time ago. I remember receiving an aran-patterned knitted afghan from my new husband’s aunt. We used it for years… until it fell apart. I really loved that blanket!

The first one I crocheted was for my brother and his new wife. I think I could still find the pattern I used. It was a black, brown and white large circular motif. My sister-in-law told me recently that they still have it, but it is fragile now and packed in her trunk. I was glad to hear that. Well, this last spring my brother’s daughter was getting married near Phoenix, AZ. My parents, sister and I were taking a few days before the wedding to see Sedona and the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t wait. But first, I needed to get started on the wedding gift…

This is the original afghan photo using Lion’s “Amazing” yarn.

I get weekly patterns via email from In one of these emails I found a knitted afghan pattern that I really liked.

A mitered squares afghan that used a yarn called Amazing. Only problem with that was … it’s a wool yarn and I can’t use wool. While looking for yarn to substitute for the “Amazing” yarn I found yarn whose color was named Painted Desert. I loved the colors in it and decided it was meant to be!

Now finding enough skeins of yarn was another thing. I didn’t care about the dye lots. I actually preferred to use different dye lots to give this afghan some variation like the original. It took me several trips to different stores to gather enough skeins for the project, but since it was made in squares that was fine. I could still start the afghan.

I’d never made a mitered square before, but once I understood the pattern and saw how the colors were going to work… I loved it! Instead of making separate squares and then sewing them together, this pattern has you pick up stitches along the edges of previously made squares and then continue working the square. You end up with four triangle shaped pieces. I didn’t quite finish before the trip to Arizona and since it was turning into quite a large afghan, I didn’t take it with me. I would finish it as soon as I got home and send it to the newlyweds. Time out for a long needed vacation!

View from our hotel in Sedona.

After landing in Phoenix and picking up a rental car our first stop was Sedona. After a long day of flying and driving we were ready to eat and settle in for the night. The next morning we watched the sun come up, a very peaceful feeling, and gorgeous. The sky was so blue and clear and those red hills are just beautiful! Another thing I noticed since landing in Arizona…. no allergies! I definitely could have spent a week there, but we were scheduled to hit the road to visit the Grand Canyon.

The Sinaquas, an ancient Indian Tribe, built the cliff dwellings called Montezuma Castle about 700 years ago.

Not far off the road to the canyon we made a stop to see a place called Montezuma Castle. Montezuma Castle is a five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling that sits in a recessed area into the cliffs. It was a short hike to the caves, but again very peaceful. A river ran close by and the sound was very soothing. I’m still amazed at how a primitive culture was able to build the caves we saw and that they are still standing to this day. It is sad to think that for some reason the ancient Indian Tribe, the Sinaquas, disappeared and that the archeologists don’t know why.

Onward to the Grand Canyon… It was such a beautiful day that we were pleasantly surprised; we had expected colder weather. As I drove the long straight road to the canyon I kept expecting to see something that would tell me I was close. I guess I never really thought about what the terrain around the canyon would be like. For some reason I expected hills. But as I drove and we left the hills behind us I was surprised at how flat and sparse the vegetation was. Because all I’d ever seen was photos looking down into the canyon I had a vision that everything would look mountainous.

View into the Grand Canyon. Some snow still in the shade.

So it was truly awe inspiring when we got to the Grand Canyon National Park, parked the car and walked to the area that gave us our first look at the Grand Canyon. Absolutely amazing! Snow was still on the ground in the shaded places of the canyon, but we didn’t even need our jackets. We hopped on a tour bus and off we went. The views were wonderful and the educational information that explained how this all came to be was mind-blowing. Very hard to wrap your mind around the length of time it took to make this formation. Wow!

Chapel built into the red rocks of Sedona.

Before leaving Sedona we went to see  The Chapel of the Holy Cross. There are lots of visitors to this chapel that was finished in 1956. It sits in a beautiful spot close to red rock hills. On a bright blue day like we had, the colors of the rock, sky and what greenery there is, was absolutely fantastic!

Okay time to switch to wedding mode…We had reservations for three casitas on a golf course. The three casitas were to be all in the same area, shared by a nice courtyard, but only two were. So one of us would have to go clear across to the far corner. My sister went for that. I think we were all ready for some alone time, which was probably a good thing. Dad was itching to play some golf!

The plan was to catch a shuttle to the venue from the hotel I had moved to that morning. I volunteered to be close by in case a babysitter was needed for my grand daughters. Not much of a hardship for me!

Stonebridge Manor at dusk… and my independent granddaughter, who didn’t want to sit with her family for this photo. I gave up after this one!

The wedding venue was a place called Stonebridge Manor. Well, after getting all beautiful and ready to go, there was a glitch. Unfortunately there was only one bus and the manor was 20 minutes away. Needless to say, many frantic phone calls later we finally got on the bus, but were already more than 40 minutes late. My sister who was already there called to say not to worry they were delaying the wedding until the last bus got there. That was a good thing because the bus was full of friends who came from California to see this wedding! The party just started early. The bus ride was very entertaining!

I wasn’t quite sure where this Stonebridge Manor was, but as the bus turned into an industrial park I got worried. He ended up turning around, but still stayed in the industrial park. Next question was, if we are his last load, why doesn’t he know where he’s going?! Oh well. We finally came to a parking lot. Believe it or not… the place was fantastic. You would never know you weren’t surrounded by countryside.

My finished afghan using the Homespun yarn called Painted Desert.

The huge Manor stood surrounded by beautiful gardens, pool, lawn and large tent set down where the reception would be held. The amazing thing was that there was another wedding going on the other side of the manor. We couldn’t hear a thing! Fantastic weather, food, music and people made for a wonderful time.

It was a beautiful wedding ceremony and the reception was full of great food and dancing. Especially entertaining was watching my two-year-old granddaughter as she danced circles around everyone! Oh, to have that much energy!

All-in-all a great time in Arizona…great weather, awesome sites, and a loving family to celebrate with!

Back home to finish knitting the wedding gift. Didn’t take me to finish the knitting. A little work to sew the four triangles together and it was ready to pack and send to the newlyweds!

Lock & Key

This last-minute cake was fun to do! This cake was for a friend who’s a locksmith. His family came up to surprise him for his birthday and a cake was in order.


Close up of the lock details on this German chocolate cake.

I made one of my favorite cakes, an 8″ round German chocolate layer cake filled with coconut, pecan frosting. Yum.

After drawing a pattern for a lock with the inside top pattern, I decided to make the “handle” from cereal treats figuring it would hold up better than cake. Also had a guest at the party allergic to eggs, so the cereal treats would be hers to enjoy. I placed the pattern on the cake and cut along the lock shape then dirty iced the cake with milk chocolate frosting. Yum, again.

My idea was to make this cake light brown color and then paint it with an edible gold “paint”. What could I use to pretty-up the top of the lock? When going through my cake stuff, three boxes of supplies and growing, I found a mold that my sister had picked up. It had different components that would make up a baroque design. Highlighted with gold, they would be perfect!

That solved… on to a key. I thought I would make a key that stands up from the lock with a 60 on it for the birthday boy’s age. Seemed obvious to use a dowel with treat topper. Should be easy enough. Cut the treats to a “key-like” shape and cover it and the dowel with fondant. Then I cut out three holes, trimmed with fondant and set aside.


Perfect cake for a locksmith turning 60 this year.

Now that I know what I’m doing, I started by putting the fondant on the cake and handle. I cut a cardboard pattern to press into the fondant for the inside top pattern. Then painted the area dark brown with petal dust. Now time I started to mold the parts for the design. Rights and lefts, and a few extra, in case of a creative spurt. Designing as I go, I attach the decorations with a little paste, made from fondant and water. I’m liking what I see… good thing as time is getting short!

I finished the details of the lock and then cut a straw to the height of the cake. I stuck the straw into the lock “opening” and had a place to put the key. I had to paint that area dark brown to recede. Now to roll out the fondant to make the numbers for the key and paste them on. With a little added touch to the key it was ready to be gilded.

I use lemon extract to add to the petal dust. Dries quickly and it really smells good. I painted the gold on the lock and key, then went back with dry, brown dust to antique the design and the key mostly.

When assembling the cake I had to use a small dowel to hold up the handle. If I ever make another one, I’ll have to think about something else to incorporate into the cake to hold that up. The key was too big and bothered me, but no time to change it now… gotta go!

The cake was hit and I’m so glad I got a piece of this one. Like I said…Yum!


A Garden Wedding

Matt asked Alaina to marry him on Christmas day 2010. After being together for seven years and making a family of four with Matt’s daughter and Alaina’s daughter everyone was so excited… there’s going to be a wedding in the family!

A bird bath along the front path in garden.

The only thing we know is that they want to hold the wedding at my parents. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place with gardens all around the house, all that surrounded by natural growth and oak trees.

They were hoping for sometime in May. What?! Seems like such a short time. First let’s check with Grandma & Grandpa and see what they think. I knew they were thrilled to be asked, but then worried about getting things done around the yard. A lot had already been done in the garden for the 2010 Placer County Garden Tour on Mother’s Day. But knowing my mom and dad, they had a list of things to do for the coming spring and summer.

The bride and groom told me that they trusted me to plan the wedding setup and reception. Something many a mother of sons likes to hear! I’ll tell you it was a dream come true for me.

In our family we all pitch in and do what we can for events… My sister, Karen, is a fantastic cook and immediately offered to cater the wedding. I like to leave the food decisions to her and help her later with preparing. My older son Mike was going to design the wedding invitations and I was going to make the wedding cake. As time went on, everyone in the families got involved one way or another.

Well, thankfully it wasn’t too long before the date changed from May to July 23. Whew! Lots to do, but we just gained a few more months. It was going to be a quick and busy seven months!

Alaina bought her two sisters a peacock-feather hair accessory and the colors for the wedding came from them… peacock colors it would be. Turned out to be a great choice; it seemed that everything I looked at this spring and summer was available in peacock colors. I liked that because blue is not a color found in gardens much and these colors would show nicely among the greenery in the gardens.

Peacock feather and coordinating fabrics

Peacock feather inspiration with coordinating fabrics.

I was invited to go along to the bridal salon with the wedding party. The bride actually found the dress very quickly and looked fantastic in it. And it was on sale! She ordered the dress and set up a date for the first fitting. The bridesmaids weren’t so lucky; they are very petite girls and everything looked wrong. They would have to keep looking. I had been gathering stuff for awhile, so I took along fabric samples of the color choices and a sample of a wedding favor I had made (more about that later). The colors and favor were approved, so now the fun began.

All four of the girls’ finished dresses for the wedding.

The girls, aged seven and nine respectively, would need a dress. When we couldn’t find any appropriate dresses, I offered to make dresses for the girls. Two more dresses were needed for cousins that would be in the wedding too. As it happened the fabric was on sale and I could make all the dresses for the price of one! I made sure I stopped on my way home and picked up the fabric that day. The patterns would wait until a $.99 sale. The girls were growing so fast so I wouldn’t make the dresses until closer to the wedding.

I purchased enough extra fabric so that I could make table squares for all the different tables. White tablecloths would go underneath with peacock colors on top for pops of color. I would decide which color went where later.

Bird’s nests baskets for the junior bridesmaid and flower girl.

I found a great place online for some items I couldn’t find around here… I ordered three birds nests and some grapevines to make into bird’s nest baskets for the little girls to carry. We put flowers in 2 of them for the junior bridesmaids and petals in the basket for the flower girl. It took me some time to find a bird’s nest that the ring bearer would use to carry the rings in. But finally I did in a store called…wait for it… The Bird’s Nest!

Small bird’s nest for ring bearer.

I started my accessory shopping in my and my folk’s sheds. Lots of mason jars (my son thought that would be a good thing to serve the beer in), bottles, platters, anything that would work for a casual garden wedding. I wanted to create little vignettes with antiques all around the garden. For example, two old wooden ironing boards set up, end to end, for a salsa bar. An old iron used as a napkin weight with the tortilla chips served in a small galvanized washtub, set on top of a vintage printed tablecloth.

Thrift shops were my favorite wedding supply stores. I actually found 28 yards of fabric for $14 to use as table drapes! Michael’s craft store was where I found ideas for flowers. The spring silk hydrangeas were just the right colors so I bought a lot of them and used them in different ways. I took some apart and created flower balls to hang on a manzanita branch that came out of my parents yard. I would use some silk flowers for the buffet and on the arbor. The heat and sun would wilt real flowers too quickly.

It’s all in who you know… Between family members, friends and neighbors we came up with tables, shade awnings, wine barrels, wicker furniture sets and even a bar! We would have to rent round tables; both regular and high-top tables, white tablecloths for all tables, chairs, wine glasses, dinner plates and dessert plates.

Throughout spring I tried to picture the areas from the front yard around to the back yard we would be using and make a plan for each. This is what we ended up doing:

Chair, petals and the wedding program fan.

The ceremony took place on the front lawn. One hundred white folding chairs with an aisle down the middle and flower petals along each side of the aisle. The petals came from cutting up some of the silk hydrangeas. As the heat seemed to be a very real concern, the idea of the program fan became a necessity. That and some bottled water at the end of the aisle worked for the length of the ceremony. It was great that the sun was mostly behind the trees for the late afternoon ceremony. We needed an arbor of some sort and as time went on I was convinced that I could use the dead branches from the trees around the property to make something. We walked the property and the vacant one next door to see what was available and found plenty of possibilities.

The wedding arbor made from dried branches and decorated for the ceremony.

A month before the wedding I went up and tackled the arbor.  With branches, wire, and cutters I set to work creating an arbor for the ceremony. I had something in my head, but as I started collecting branches and laying it out I quickly decided to just let it do what it was going to do. I called it an arbor, but my mother called it an amphitheater. She’s probably more correct since it ended up being a shell shaped structure. I do have to say it fit the space well and blended with the background. That was the one thing I wanted it to be… open and airy, so as not to block the view.

Nine foot redwood bar.

The bar was around the side of the house from the front yard. My parent’s have neighbors who loaned us a nine-foot long bar, made of redwood and galvanized panels. I loved the rustic look! We set it up so the open part with the shelf was facing front. That worked best for a self-serve bar. We could keep the shelf stocked with the glasses and mason jars we were using for the drinks. Pony kegs set up on either end of the bar in galvanized tubs. The bottled water was kept in turquoise plastic tubs filled with ice. I wanted to soften up the wooden structure over the bar so I made the Martha Stewart tissue flower balls. For those of you out there that like to do these things… save those JoAnn’s coupons! They come in handy. I got the kits for the tissue flowers for 50% off. We hung the tissue balls and some paper lanterns, I found at the Dollar Store, varying their height for interest. Gave the area a nice festive look.

Lights strung over the rose garden surrounding the patio area.

Family members knew people who had strings of the larger outdoor light bulbs and we were able to use those to light up the patio area. That would be a dual purpose area. First set up for the buffet and then quickly emptied of the buffet tables and turned into the dance floor. The DJ would set up in a corner of this patio. The week before the wedding we had a work party to get things started and lighting was a big to do on that weekend. I couldn’t wait until dark to see what we accomplished. It was magical. I love lights and what they can do to any area!

flower pom-pom tree

Flower pom-pom manzanita tree on the gift table.

The gift table was set up along one of the paths that winds along the lawn area. A week before I had potted two manzanita branches that had broken off a bush the previous winter. I decorated one with the flowered pom-poms and placed it on the gift table, along with a white birdcage (I just happened to have!). The guests could place any gift cards in the birdcage.

Flower bombs wrapped in tissue.

I can’t remember where I learned of something called flower bombs. But it sounded perfect for inexpensive favors that suited a garden wedding. Just mix flower seeds, clay, compost and water and mix well. The mixture is then rolled into balls and placed in a paper egg carton, so they can dry thoroughly. When dry, we had a work party and wrapped the balls in tissue paper, tied with paper roses and a tag with directions that read “Toss, Water and Watch the Flowers Grow!” on one side and the bride’s and groom’s names and wedding date on the other. These went in a flat basket on a small table along the walk to the left of the chairs.

Lemonade, iced tea and cold water off the pathway in the front yard.

We had borrowed three wine barrels to use as drink stations around the yard. They were set up with glass beverage dispensers for lemonade, iced tea, cups, and napkins. Iced bottled waters in tubs also. An umbrella blocked the view of the neighbors driveway and created a cozy place for drinks.

Family photo tree of new family.

Another table was set up along a pathway to set a framed engagement photo with a canvas matting that people signed and left their good wishes on. I took another piece of the manzanita branch that had broken off the previous winter, placed it in a pot and hung photos of the newly joined family. The small frames were purchased from Michael’s for $1 each. I sprayed them dark brown and then antiqued them with a peacock blue wash. I then tied a peacock blue ribbon on the frame to hang it by. The photos I printed in black and white on parchment paper.

Potted creeper with peacock feather.

Lounge area with seating areas and high-top tables. The shade moved quickly into the area.

The Lounge area was on the lower side lawn, just below the bar. We set up a few high-top tables and wicker seating arrangements. We wanted people to stay in the front yard or along the side area prior to the ceremony. Earlier in the month we planted pots with a bright green creeping plant. We added peacock feathers for height and scattered glass beads around them. The huge borrowed awning fit perfectly on the back lawn. We were able to fit the six rented tables underneath. Those tables, along with some umbrella tables set up around the yard, gave us enough seating space for the guests.

Centerpieces were made up of jars, vases, candles and flowers.

The tables were each decorated with a brown fabric square topped with a leaf placemat, then an assortment of vases and jars with real flowers arranged in them. A couple of battery-powered pillar candles added for light later. Scattered around the vases and candles were glass beads in the peacock colors. The leaf placemat was fun to make. I found woven placemats at the Hospice thrift shop and thinking I had all those hydrangea leaves left on the otherwise empty stems to use, I decided to hot glue the leaves on the placemats and use them under the vases on the centerpiece. When I ran out of those leaves I went to the dollar store and bought greenery stems of larger leaves. I ended up with nine different placemats. We used them on each round table and the buffet table.

Huge awning with table and chairs on back lawn.

My sister-in-law and niece, who know a great floral designer, helped with all the florals by shopping at the flower mart and then arranging all the flowers. Including making the bouquets and boutonnieres. What an enormous help that was!

Once it was dark, the click-it-yourself photo booth would light up for lots of fun photos!

A photo booth was set up by a dear friend, who happens to be a photographer. We brought out an old area rug, set an antique chair on it with a sign saying “Photo Booth”. Lights were set up and props were placed nearby. A remote control made it possible for guests to sit in the chair and take the photo of themselves. It worked great and was a lot of fun for all! Up, around the other side of the house was where the port-a-potties were set up. A cute, old-fashioned, small white dresser with mirror was set up with nice glass pump bottles of hand sanitizer and lotion. Solar lights and a string of dragonfly lights were placed along the path so it was lit in the dark.

Buffet and appetizer tasting months before the wddding.

The menu for the wedding buffet was decided by a tasting my sister set up in January. Both families were invited to taste and give there opinion. Finger foods had been requested as the wedding was after lunch but before dinner. Not that the guests wouldn’t be able to eat enough for the evening. That is never a problem at our events. We passed out cards so we could keep any suggestions for later. We originally thought we’d have a couple tastings, as the kids decided what they wanted. But it turned out that, with very little changes, everyone loved the first menu my sister came up with. Gotta like that.

Wedding cake on flower pot stand.

The last thing to finish was the wedding cake. To go with the garden theme I made a cake stand from a large terracotta flowerpot turned upside down up and glued a terracotta tray to that. I glued some silk leaves to the top and was ready for the cake.

To make things easier on myself I made the gum paste hydrangeas and leaves weeks before the wedding. My first plan was just to just make a bouquet of hydrangeas as the cake topper. But I had a request from the bride to please make lobsters for the cake topper. Lobsters hold a special meaning for the two of them. I guess it’s a reference from a Friends episode.

I wasn’t sure how to make red lobsters fit in with the colors I was working with! So, I did some research. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I saw a photograph of a rare blue lobster! Now I knew what to do. In my research I had come across a clipart photo of two lobsters with their antennae joined in a heart shape…perfect.

blue lobster wedding cake topper

Rare blue lobsters fit the colors for this wedding and was a special request for a cake topper.

Since the weather was so hot I did not put the wedding cake outside until we were ready to cut the cake.

Right before bringing the cake out I stuck the heart-shaped antennae to the lobster cake topper. It worked!

As exhausting as this wedding was I loved doing it. The kids looked so happy and the guests had a great time.

The next day the kids came and joined in with the cleanup before leaving for Tahoe.

I could not have done this without lots of help from family and friends.

Thank you all!