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I was fifty years old when I came to the realization that it was okay to plan my birthday celebration. Birthdays were not something that was well planned when I was growing up. Back then the highlight of the day was when my Godparents showed up after dinner for cake and ice cream and I would receive an extra special gift from them. One year my extra special gift was a Barbie type doll; the closest this poor girl was going to get to a real Barbie. The new puppy chewed up the same night. No replacement warranty had been purchased. I was given one birthday party when I turned six years old. We had cupcakes. Johnny Chicella showed up and he wasn’t invited.

Fast forward to present day.

After living and celebrating my birthday in Michigan for 30 years I found myself searching for a new tradition now that I am living in So Cal. In Michigan the middle of October could bring just about any kind of weather. It snowed three inches on my 30th birthday. I loved the years when Indian summer lingered and the Maple trees were so rich in color you would swear that they had to glow in the dark. A bright sun in the sky, and a warm breeze would beckon me to the Lake Michigan shore one more time before the chilling November winds returned. After our dog Isabelle joined the family it became tradition for Izzy and I to go to the beach together on my birthday.

izzy profile lake michigan
This Aussie loves the beach.

Last week my sister was able to get away from the craziness of moving into a new house and spent a few days with me.
I really liked my tradition of Birthday at the Beach. Only this time instead of Izzy…

Trish @ Palos Verdes
I had my sister.

We had a great time. Eating, shopping, exploring, repeat. She returned home Saturday.

Sunday morning (my official day)I turned off the cell phone and found my way back to the beach. I soooo love being at the shore in the morning.

 

selfie Manhattan Beach

I soon realized my hooded sweatshirt would not be necessary.

There were quite a few surfers and the waves were impressive. I watched for a little while and soon I was able to know when one of the surfers was going to take a wave.

surfer riding wave

You’ll have to zoom to see him he’s right at the curl.

 

As the morning continued I divided my attention between the surfers and the other people who were gathering near-by.  I love to people watch.

People photographing people
Seems everyone was photographing everyone else! There were families having what looked to be professional photos taken on the other side of the pier. I have never seen so much white, denim and khaki. The gentleman and his son to the left were snapping away at the surfers. The other guy spent more time looking down at his camera. Also please note the little boy in the red swimsuit clinging to his dad’s hand. You may have to zoom. The father tried several times to get a picture of his son (no doubt something to post on social media later) but the child was not cooperative.

 

Boy in red swim suit
Um dad I got the photo.

Manhattan Beach Pier
Did I mention the waves were big?

I hadn’t had breakfast so on my way home I bought a Birthday breakfast consisting of an Oreo Mc Flurry with whip cream, nuts and a cherry on top. In the afternoon I ate Hot Tamales while reading my birthday salutations and listening to the varying renditions of Happy Birthday that were left on my cell phone. Makes me smile just thinking about them.

I ended the weekend at Hollywood and Vine. My oldest and I took in closing night of The Jersey Boys at the Pantages Theatre.  Oh What a Night!

Josh Jersey Boys

I’m liking this new tradition.

Say goodnight Gracie.

 

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You Can Eat That?

A few weeks ago I made a cake for my boss. One of the surgeons she worked with was retiring and because I made this:

Isa's Minion

and this:

finished Creeper Brownie

She sent me this:

Failed Abdominal Surgery

Failed Abdominal Surgery

and said, “Hey, would you make me one of these to feed 50 people?”

I researched this cake and found an unbelievably talented artist, Annabel, from Conjurerskitchen. If you like the Macabre, or even if you don’t, she does some amazing sculpting with cake. I was hoping to glean from her website a few how to’s. I was fascinated by her work, curious about her clients and waaaay out of my league on this cake. I had to think about it. And I did, and here’s what happened:

You can eat that?

The oven in my apartment is vintage 60’s. Unfortunately my 11 x 17 pan will not fit so I baked four 9 x 13; Red Velvet Duncan Hines cakes of course.

You can eat that?

For the filling between the layer I made a whipped chocolate Gnache. While the crumb frosting was setting I practiced.

You can eat that?

Adipose tissue and muscle. Initially I thought I would use red string licorice. It didn’t look right. And with the adipose (fat) tissue I placed small pieces of fondant onto rolled fondant and applied pressure. While I was pleased with the effect I had a lot of area to cover and not enough time. I am not at all shameful about using Plan B- except in this case I didn’t have a Plan B. And since I can’t plan for everything (my cakes would cost too much) I went with the flow and found a fix quite quickly. I was crossing my fingers that when I added a little color it would all come together.

You can eat that?

I gave the abdomen some hips and a light frosting to make it smooth and keep it all together. The hardest part was rolling, smoothing and placing the fondant around the abdominal cavity.

You can eat that?

The intestines were wrapped in Duff’s butter cream fondant. The filling was Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate cake and my vanilla butter cream frosting to hold the shape.

imageYou can eat that?

I added the adipose tissue, skin and and edible blood. It was time to deliver this bad girl to my boss who would be transporting it to the party. I made some extra intestines and a container of blood to complete it once she got there. It was going to be her job to make it come to life so to speak.  Did I mention the temperature was near 90 that day?

You can eat that?

You can eat that?

I didn’t have a chance to tell her where to place the instruments. Then I remembered, she is a surgeon I think she can handle it. All the medical people thought it was great! And all the non-medical people thought it was gross. Success! The retiring surgeon did the honors and those who dared, ate cake.

Say goodnight Gracie.

I Need To Think About It

I’m getting ready to start my next cake and it’s a double-edged sword because I love the art and I love doing what I do but I’m also filled with the fear of failure. This is the cake I am trying to duplicate.

Failed Abdominal Surgery

Failed Abdominal Surgery

Aptly named Failed Abdominal Surgery.

I am not afraid to fail. I have failed in the past. I would say it’s more the fear of the unknown. Is it all going to work? For weeks the idea has been knocking around in my head. I have to get it out of my head into the oven and onto the cake board. And a lot of times when I get it out of my head it doesn’t always look like it did in my head. I’m not sure how to fix that but I would be happy if I could get it out sooner and then create it with fewer abbreviations to the original design.- which started in my head.

And if I’m going to be honest- and I am going to be honest. I sabotage myself. I think about it too long and don’t give myself enough time for the abbreviations. Which could mean anywhere from having to switch ingredients to not having enough or it just plain taking longer than it should.

When I make a cake I think about it. A lot. I think it out to the last degree. I think about how I am think about thinking about the cake too long. I need to start the process sooner. I know I need to.- but I don’t. I don’t think it has anything to do with time management. I hate charging for trial and error. And in my crazy way if I can think all the problems out first then there shouldn’t be any problems. But that’s all part of the process right? Maybe I should make a mini-cake first. I have only once in my life made the same cake twice. It was in my early years. They were almost exactly the same cake. Ariel on a rock in the sea. I had a hard time with Disney faces. But the two girls I made the cakes for noticed.

Ariel under the sea

I would definitely change this up if I made it again. But I have never had another order for one.

After I get a cake order I spend a lot of time doing this:

Sketch design/change/add, sketch/change/add. Repeat as needed.
Make a model
Search for cake
Upload all pictures you can find of the cake.
Sketch design/change/add

Shop for ingredients. Ooo that’s on sale should I buy more? Just in case someone wants the same cake. I neeed to go to Michaels. I have to go. I should go before work. The roads would be less congested.

I call and talk to my daughter:

Her: What’s the cake?
Me: Failed Abdominal Surgery
Her: Good luck with that.
Me: It’s for my boss.
Her: It’ll be great mom.

I talk to my sister.

Her: How’s the cake going?
Me: Good. I’m still thinking about it.
Her: Isn’t it for this weekend?
Me: Yes. I need to bake the cakes.
Her: You haven’t baked the cake?
Me: No. I’m still thinking how I am going to fit the cake in the refrigerator.
Her: It won’t fit?
Me: I think it will fit. I need to find my tape measure.
Her: Good luck.

I will make the trip to Michael’s after work. When I am sure to hit rush hour. Or I could go tomorrow before work. The traffic will be less. I’ll go tomorrow. Maybe I ‘should’ make the cakes today. I need to measure the fridge to be sure they will all fit.

This is what’s going on in my head. All the time. It’s on a loop. And not just about cake. I do this with all my projects. Which is why there are no handles on the night stands I spray painted months ago. I am still thinking how to paint the design on the drawers. On the up side, I did finally settle on the design.

I compare this problem to jumping rope with friends. You know how to do it. You’re just waiting to pick the right time to jump in.

So I am in bake and make it mode. I’m hungry. I need to go food shopping. I need to make edible blood. I have to got to Michael’s. I will eat salsa and chips for lunch while I surf the web for edible blood. Hopefully I will have everything in my cupboards to make it. If I don’t when I go to Michael’s I can hit the grocery store next door. Save time, save gas.

I should whip up the frosting. Both frostings? Is there room in fridge for gnache and butter cream? Gnache first, it has to cool before whipping. Buttercream goes on last before fondant. I should make the frosting before, and then go to Michael’s.

I do have some of the supplies I need because earlier in the week I stopped at the grocery store. After paying almost $4.00 a pound for butter I asked the checkout guy- cause the check out people know ‘everything’ about food and animals since they work in a grocery store. I asked the check-out guy as he was scanning my golden butter:

You know I’m a vegan (because this is California and of course he knows vegans don’t eat dairy) and I was wondering. Is there a shortage of cows? I have never paid this much for butter. He was kind enough to school me about the drought and it’s impact on the cows. They drink water. Their food is grown with water. Ditto for the eggs. duh. Color me red.

And the total for butter, vanilla, eggs, heavy cream, nestle chocolate chips (on sale) five cake mixes, assorted other added fats to make the powder sugar taste good and the cake to stay together plus fondant and a board to put it all on….$60.00

hmm I need to think about this. Maybe I’m not charging enough for this cake.

Say goodnight Gracie

Can We Talk About Shit?

crap sign

Shit was my first swear word. I’ll bet it was a lot peoples first swear word. And it also happens to be the first word in George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television. Shit is a word that makes sense. I mean when you look at fecal matter we say shit. As a matter of fact I’ll bet Adam was the first person to say shit- and Noah! I am certain Noah looked in the bottom of that ark and said shit!

Now I have a large and admittedly sometimes colorful vocabulary. Shit is not the only word I have an opinion on but for the sake of time I’ll just stick to shit.

I understand that everyone has an opinion when it comes to what they believe is offensive language, specifically ‘swear’ words.

But come on, it’s shit! In fact shit is a universal word. Shit is shit everywhere in the world. If you’re in a situation that is not shall we say plan ‘A’. You may have reason to use the word shit. There’s no need to explain with a whole bunch of other words. Anyone around you will know it’s bad. Except the French. They call it sheet and think theirs doesn’t stink. And you can’t smile when you say shit. Go ahead try it you can’t- well the French can.

When I am socializing where small children are present I am flawless at not dropping an f-bomb. But no matter how hard I try every now and then I say shit. And I’m tired of apologizing for it. And I am not using another word that means the same thing but doesn’t convey the emotion. Shit is capable of conveying a LOT or a little emotion.

Guy just misses the bus that would take him to his girlfriend, who is deciding between him and his arch nemesis. And now must run the whole way to her house before she chooses the other guy.

SHIT!

crap sign
If I say shit I mean shit. Not crap. Nobody wants to buy your shit but they will take a look at some of your crap.

Crap is different from shit because crap is a little bit of shit.

Oh crap I forgot the salsa.’

See, it’s not a real big deal because you can still eat the chips with the fake cheese sauce. Vegans will suffer but that’s a rabbit trail I’m not ready to go down.

claire christmas yuck!

Poop is poop. It’s not shit. When I say poop you immediately think of babies. Or toddlers, who’s parents dream of the day when there is less poop in their lives.

The word shit is purposeful and with meaning. I am not saying I do not use other forms of the word shit I do. But when I say shit I really do mean shit- and all its various adjectives.

Deep shit (going to take some creative thinking)
Holy shit (only God can get you out of that one)
Shit canned (not the same as drunk off your ass)
Three Sheeets to wind (dam french)
Your shit (anything belonging to you that is stored in my house)
Shit load (a lot. going to need more than one person)
Shit bricks (extremely angry)
Shittin’ me (questioning a person’s motive)
No shit (utter disbelief. can be laced with heavy sarcasm)
Real shit (absolute truth)
Shit, shit, shit, shit (realizing you shouldn’t have done what you just did)
Taking shit (usually from your boss)
Horse shit (a little prettier than bullshit)
bullshit (questioning the truth or the amount)
Chicken shit (without substance)

My father in law used to say, Swearing is for people who don’t know to use their words.

Oh contra er Pierre. Just who decides what’s a swear word? Is there a committee? If there’s a committee there can’t possibly be a list. Shit has gotten a bad rap.

Tomorrow we will explore the next word on George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can Not Say On Television. No it is not fuck. Which I might add, is one of my personal favorites.

Say goodnight Gracie

Just Shy of Fifty-Five

When I was in my teens and 20’s I was always mistaken for being older than I was. It really bothered me. If I look five years older now what am I going to look like when I’m 30? What is going to happen when the real catches up with the imaginary?

And so I sit before you now just shy of fifty-five years of age. Reflecting on a wonderful afternoon.  I have always loved to play softball. As a teen in Southern California I played in a fast pitch league, I was pretty good. I had been on a few winning teams. And just when I was getting really good I met a baseball bat up close and personal. The result was a concussion. I was 15.  I wouldn’t play again until I moved to Michigan. That is where I learned how the slow came to be in slow-pitch softball.

I played one night a week on the Women’s Church League and the church ladies held my babies because their dad was working/going to school and not available to care for his children one night a week while I did something for myself. -sorry. Where was I?

I played on the Zion Lutheran Church Woman’s team. Third base. I tried to coach one year but I really sucked at playing and coaching. Sometimes I would have to bring the kids with me on game night and those wonderful church ladies would scoop them up and love on them so I could play. For one season I was able to have a baby-sitter come to the house after that they were old enough watch the game or play on the playground.

During one particular Michigan summer we arrived at the park and I gave them their choices and set down the rules. Please do not produce any bumps, bruises, or blood on one another and we may go for ice cream on the way home. It was my only night of the week that was semi-to myself. Damn skippy I dangled a bribe out there. It was a high scoring game on both sides and the inning was intense and then someone yelled:

“TIME! TIME OUT! Kid on the field”

And there was my daughter walking from the first base side and making a beeline to me. She is mad at her brother and is telling me about it the entire walk across the field. I am scanning the bleachers to see where my oldest is and I don’t see either of them. The sun is going down and we need to get the inning finished to win. Without missing a beat one of the church ladies came off the bleacher and scooped her up. Church ladies rock!

After I became single I found a co-ed league.  Co-ed was a lot more intense and fun. Pretty sure playing third in that league did not help the subsequent arthritis in my right thumb.

*sigh* But that was then and this is now.

Now I watch my oldest play on a league with the guys and gals he works with at AwesomnessTV.

josh softball running

Softball does not come naturally to my son but that hasn’t stopped him from working at it and improving with every game. It should be noted that I am his biggest fan and, well… the only fan in the stands. I do such a good job cheering that last week the other team wanted to know how much I would charge to come to their game.

Not gonna lie wondered to myself if I could play again. The mind is willing…my glove however is with my youngest son in Oregon. I am safe without a glove it’s better to stay a Super-Fan. -that is until today.  Perhaps I should have been more careful about what I wished for.

It seems more than half of my son’s team was not going to be at today’s game and rather than not play the game the coach decides to put together a Bad News Bear team and appoints my oldest to Manager. And that is how I went from being a Super-Fan to playing Right Field.  I borrowed glove that was too big, a pair of Sketchers with no tread and a prayer that I would make it to the end. I face planted in the first inning going after one that had a bad hop.

 


Thankful I didn’t break my prescription sunglasses. See the red part?

Face plant2 look closer
Look closer. Dam I need to color again.

I hit out to the infield and struck out. After picking up my pride and dusting myself off the next inning I was playing first base. The best play of the game came when the ball was hit to my oldest playing shortstop and he threw it to me to get the out.

 

ibuprofin and water
I would be lieing if I said I wasn’t hurting. The ice pack has melted but I can’t move to refill it at the moment.

Tennis ball therapy
I would like to thank my niece for suggesting the use of  a tennis ball to give oneself a back massage.

Now I am not saying I won’t ever play again but I can say I understand why an athletes years are numbered. Wearing eye glasses to play the game is one thing wearing bifocals makes it a whole lot more interesting. By the time I gained my footing to run to first I watched the ball being caught and  thrown back to the pitcher. I think I will stick to roller blading.

Me and josh softball
I wish I could write that this rag-tag team of awesomeness won the game in pure cinematic form, we did not. But wOw what a great adventure to play softball with my son. The church ladies would love it.

Say goodnight Gracie.

I do not love cats. I like cats. I like their take no bullshit attitudes. And how every single cat has a different personality. And I am not the least bit offended when they provide for themselves by catching their own dinner. Not too thrilled about the whole bury your shit in the flowerbeds. I like cats. I do not love them. Cats are too squishy to cuddle with. You can’t wrap your arms around them. It’s like trying to hug slime. They just slide right through. If I have a bad day the cat is not at the door thrilled that I am home. If it even came home the night before. I need more commitment from my domesticated animal. And before you all tell me:

But if you had a cat you wouldn’t feel that way.

I have had a cat. Two cats actually. See first sentence.

I have had dogs too. Two to be exact.

The dog we got when we were newlyweds. New house, in-love, and wouldn’t it be great to get a dog! It will prepare us for kids! My husband never had a dog (college dog shared with a fraternity doesn’t count). He liked cats. That should have been my first warning sign. You can’t do practice parenting with a cat. They are genetically programmed to be independent. They depend on no one for their survival. They can jump up to or down from anything anywhere. Cats are fast- most of the time. But that’s why they have nine lives. Their squishy bodies allow them to sleep ‘anywhere’ they want. They are capable of bringing down their own meals. They kick ass in a fight. And when the fight is over they lick their own wounds! You can’t practice parent on a cat(s). They will not suffer from your neglect. You need a dog.

My first dog, Shelbee, was from a pet store. They told us beagle/shepard. I really had no idea how to raise a dog- or a child. All I had was what I had seen in my own family. And that should have been his first warning. Well thank God the dog lived long enough that I was able to make it up to her. She was 16.5 years old when she died. It shall be noted that, she outlasted the marriage. And still after 16.5 years I would say I was a dog ‘liker.

Until Isabelle came into my life.

Izzy at the golden hourShe is my Awesome Aussie.

izzy ate the xmas cookies

She turned me from a dog liker to a dog lover. One of the few photos of her not smiling.  She ate an entire batch of Christmas cookies. As punishment I made her wear the hat.

 50th Birthday

Mostly, I am a lover of my dog.

Beach Happy Izzy

Her loyalty, unconditional love and smile captured my heart.

squirrel 2
And her focus on task is humbling. We should all be so focused. -SQUIRREL!
Izzy gathers  her balls

She is all about the ball.

Izzy catching ball
Aussies are known for being very good at catching frisbees. Izzy doesn’t like frisbees. She was taught  to play fetch by a labrador named Chica.

Izzy jumping head shot with ball

If she has a choice. She wants the ball. She is so fun to play with, she makes you glad she  dragged your butt  to the park.

It wasn’t until she moved to Oregon that we started shaving her hair.

Izzy shaved

 

Gabe Hil Izzy tongue

When I say we I mean these two people. Yes you have met them before.

This once non-stop poster dog for Adderal is an aging Aussie. She doesn’t need myself and four neighborhood kids to wear her out anymore. Isabelle stops playing ball after 5 throws and she is not as flexible as she once was and she can’t take care of all of her umm… areas. And you must remember not to turn the light off before she leaves the room with you because her cataracts cause her to run into the wall. Izzy’s allergies have caused her to have an OCD type licking behavior with her paws. I miss her a lot. But I know that taking care of her is good for them. It’s practicing ‘old-parent parenting’.
Wax lips at peanut store
Just in case they draw the short straw in about 30 years and find me on their doorstep.

 

image
In the mean time the task of keeping her well groomed has fallen on them.

 

Izzy bathroom haircut
It’s not always fun.

pile of Izzy hair
It’s a lot of work.

Shaved izzy

But the recipient is always grateful.

Sort of like plucking your mom’s chin hairs.
Say goodnight Gracie.

I Survived The 405

minion kite

 

I have lived in Southern California for almost two years. I can count on my hands (with fingers left over) the number of times I drove in my first year. I wish I could say it was because I didn’t own a car but in all honesty I was dealing with a past trauma. Let me back up a bit. Well I need to back up a lot. When I was sixteen I was living in Southern California. Driver Training was part of the high school curriculum. Half the class was book (rules and laws) and half the class was on the road. What they never covered was navigation. Did I mention I was living in Southern California?

After securing my license and for the next 3 years I attempted to navigate my surroundings. I was okay in my city and neighboring cities; I could find my way to the beach and back. But the minute I got on the freeway something happened to my brain. The spacial something or other was not aligned with my centrifugal thingy and in spite of having directions written down on good old-fashioned paper I was always getting lost.

Now some 30 years later, with exponentially larger freeways, I had secured a job 88 miles from where I lived. And the trauma from driving in The Land Of the Lost has reared its ugly head.

For the first three months I drove the 14 and the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass, past LAX to Manhattan Beach.

My new mantra: What’s the worse that could happen? And if the answer isn’t death- jump!, was not passing the test on this one. Death was on the table.

It’s not the driving that I am fearful of rather it is the fear of being lost and not in control of my surroundings. And I did not know the area I was driving through. I had bought my car on a Thursday. I was to start work Monday February 3 2014. I had a cell phone and a GPS. I have the technology. I can be found.

I had returned to The Land of the Lost

I survived 405 map

 

 

I was in the belly of the beast. And there were new rules.

I survived the 405 freeway

1 No matter if you are driving the freeway, the middle of nowhere or in the city there is a universal speed limit: go with the flow.
2 Stops signs are merely a suggestion.
3 Lane closures happen. Accidents happen.
4 Accidents with injury close the freeway and are called Sig Alerts on traffic radio.  It took me months before I knew what a Sig Alert was all about.
5 The far left lane used for break downs are now Carpool lanes. Then there is the Fast Track. Fast track is a fancy way to say toll road. I’m not sure how one pays for those. So far, I have been able to avoid them.
6 I have heard many a traffic update about a Sweeper Train accident. I am told they clean the freeway. And are frequently involved in accidents. I have yet to see one.

The Car Pool Lane

In order to qualify to use the Car Pool Lane you must:

1 Have more than one human-being in the car.

2 I don’t think the person has to be alive because on one occasion I saw a hearse.

3 The state of California does not care that you consider them a member of the family, animals do not count as human.

4 Babies and children qualify.

Sissy Doll

5 I found this cute doll and considered putting her in the car seat to qualify. Everyone I shared this idea with agreed it was not a good idea.

6 The most important thing to remember: not everyone follows the rules.

Once you are in the carpool lane you may not exit until you reach the Carpool lane exit. Which is marked by a broken line on your right and a big sign above. These usually occur about a mile or so before an exit or interchange. To use this lane requires that you know where you are going. Now add a gazillion tourists who don’t have a fucking idea about the rules or where they are going. Drop them all together during Rush Hour which spans oh I don’t know anywhere from 5:00am – 9:00pm. Too many people not enough road. You just gotta learn to go with the flow. If only it were that easy.

And then there are the motorcyclist. They navigate the freeways in the most absurd combined reality game of  ‘Pac Man and Frogger’.

You are about to travel one of the busiest stretches of California highway in the history of highways on a mode of transportation that leaves you fully exposed and without an air bag and only a helmet. What you have to ask yourself is… Do I feel lucky?’

Motorcycles can drive in any lane but they prefer to drive between the lanes. Seriously. So you may be driving in bumper to bumper (3.2 mph) and the motorcyclist going 25 or 35 mph makes their own lane between you and the rental car full of tourist in the Carpool Lane; who don’t understand the rules of the carpool lane and decide to exit their lane crossing in front of the motor cycle. And that there, is almost always a Sig Alert.

My crowning achievement. I delivered this cake fully assembled via the 405.

Isa's Minion

176 miles each day. Approximately 9,152 miles total. No runs. No hits. No errors.

I survived The 405.

Say goodnight Gracie.