Friday, May 30, 2008

And Then There Was Cake

I guess now it’s time for me to play catch up with cakes. I realized this morning that there have been three cakes I have not posted pictures of. The first was for Sweetpea’s birthday in February. She chose Backyardigans for her parties this year, and her cake was Pablo. (Yes, I did say partIES. As in more than one. She’s probably the only 4-year-old I know that gets a minimum of two birthday parties every year. This year there were two big parties, and two mini parties. Spoiled brat.) Here’s a pic:

This one was the one I did for her party here, though the cake for the party in Wyoming was exactly the same except thicker (two cakes stacked to accommodate more people in attendance.) Being just a character cake, I didn’t really learn a whole lot from this one. Except maybe the re-learned fact that I hate blue icing. HATE blue icing. Although I did find it quite amusing to see a room full of adults with blue lips, teeth and tongues.

The next cake I have not previously posted was for my nephew’s party in March. The one I missed when I was deathly ill (See:
Doctor Obvious). His party was fire truck themed, and I truly was sorry I missed it, it sounded so cute! Here’s a pic of that one:

Huh. How about that. I don't remember putting an exclaimation point at the end. Ahem. As I stated earlier, this is not the first time I have decorated that particular cake, so I didn’t really learn much. I think the only info I took away was that “birthday” definitely has an “h” in the spelling, and that pearl dust works relatively well on whipped icing, but not as well as on fondant. Oh, and that cake sparkles have about the consistency of shredded cellophane, with twice the static cling.

The last cake will require some explanation. May 1st was my boss’s 10th anniversary as a Chapter 13 Trustee. This is especially significant because it seems there has never been a Chapter 13 Trustee in Utah that long. I’m thinking the previous record was like 7 years or something. So, since this was an extra special occasion, I decided a cake would be appropriate. The trouble was, I couldn’t think of any way to decorate it that fit. A plain anniversary cake did not seem appropriate, nor did an office-themed cake, or even a straight up law-themed cake. I was stuck. So I sent out emails to everyone in my address book that knew my boss, was involved with bankruptcy or the law, decorated cakes, or was just plain creative. I asked for any and all ideas anyone may have had for this sort of cake. I must admit, some of the ideas were pretty fantastic, though a few I could have not have used without getting fired. (I have some pretty interesting friends…) As it turned out, the cake ended up being a combination of ideas from at least three friends, plus the added cohorting of three co-workers. The result of a collaboration of minds. I will not mention any names, and will explain why in just moment. They know who they are, anyway. And to all of you who contributed, thank you so much for your suggestions and your help!

So the cake itself will require a little explanation. Here are a couple pics:

It is actually two separate cakes, meant to represent the number 10, for 10 years. It was then suggested that I turn the zero into a pie graph. Actually I kind of have that backwards. I elected to go with the pie graph first, and then someone suggested I add the one to make it a ten. The graph is meant to be my boss’s time at work “distributed on a pro rata basis”. Most who aren’t involved in bankruptcy won’t get that, so, without going too far into detail, a short explanation: a Trustee in a Chapter 13 distributes money to creditors, those people owed by the debtor filing bankruptcy. These days, most creditors get paid on a pro rata basis, meaning there is a pool of money and each creditor gets some of that money based on what portion of the overall debt is owed to them. (e.g. if the total owed is $20,000, and one creditor is owed $10,000, then that creditor will receive 50% of the available funds.) So, in our business, “distributed on a pro rata basis” is equivalent to a household term.

Of course I could not be serious with this cake, so the sections of the pie graph are meant to be humorous or facetious. I think the pictures came out pretty well, but if not, here’s a breakdown:

55.5% - Putting out…fires
10% - Running interference for the…
10% - Jumping through…hoops
8% - Potlucks and Ice Cream
6% - CLE – finding rotten Easter Eggs
6% - Judging Employees’ apparel and appearance
4% - Creating Powerpoints for debtors’ entertainment
.5% - Court appearances

You’ll notice that I have not filled in exactly what the tags say. The reason is because I don’t want a search for those names to pull up my blog. Not that I really think anyone would care, but still. Better safe than sorry. Anyway, I suspect that most people not involved in bankruptcy here in Utah will not get these jokes. But you at least have to laugh at the Ice Cream and the Court appearances. I did.

Before any of you ask, yes, the pie graph is accurately divided. Each section does represent its assigned percentage. I’m apparently not capable of doing it any other way. I actually drew up the graph on Excel and printed it off and took it to Kinko’s. I had them enlarge it so that the graph was exactly the same size as the cake (12 inches in diameter), then had them make 8 copies. I cut out of each copy one piece of the pie. Then I used each copy to cover the cake, and used spray-on icing color to spray in the missing piece. I outlined the sections with decorator’s gel, and Sweetpea insisted that I add sprinkles to the pie graph cake, since I was using them already for the one cake. I typed up the flags with the section percentages and explanations on them using Word and printed that off. Took me one sheet of paper. I them “laminated” the flags with packing tape, and also taped them to bamboo skewers cut in half. I can’t tell you what a wonderful idea this was (thank you to my coworker for that!) as it saved me from having to pipe all of that information onto the cake, or to make flags out of fondant and hand-write it all with Food Writers. Thank you, thank you! All in all it was not really a difficult cake, just took a lot of planning. I broke up the work over a few days, so I only ended up staying awake until 1:00 a.m., instead of my traditional 3:00 a.m.

A few explanations for inside jokes: the largest pie section is based upon all the trouble one particular attorney gives our office. The next largest is due to my boss’s bosses. Their office goes all the way up to D.C., but I think we first answer to the local office. They keep him hopping. On even keel with that is the national organization he’s on officer for. They also keep him hopping. No wonder Court appearances are so low! The overall result is that he very much liked the cake, and laughed out loud at it all. He kept the little signs, and I sent him the pictures of it that I took. So, in keeping with tradition, here are the things I learned with this cake:

1. Kinko’s charges a lot more for enlargements if you have anything bigger than 8 ½ x 11.

2. Spray-on icing color runs on white chocolate buttercream frosting.

3. It is possible to get a bad can of spray-on icing color. It is helpful to test all cans purchased at a time when a visit to the store of purchase to return bad cans will actually still be possible prior to the time delivery of the cake is due. (i.e. test the cans while the store is still open, and not the night before)

4. Sometimes even inside jokes are not so inside.

5. Spray-on icing color will turn the inside of your nose blue. Or green. Or red. Or brown, if you’re using multiple colors.

6. Triple chocolate fudge cake, filled with milk chocolate ganache, and covered with white chocolate buttercream frosting can create a love-hate relationship between the cake maker and a large group of female co-workers. (Hey, it’s fat-free, right?)

7. Sweetpea is as OCD as her mother when it comes to making things match.

8. Ebay is a fantastic source for retired cake pans, especially when they’re needed in a BIG hurry.

9. It is better to experiment with expensive ideas/ingredients when someone else is paying for them.

10. Even men can be flattered and impressed with something special done solely for them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Just Business

Wait, wait. That can’t possibly be right. Last posted on May 1st? Twenty-six days ago? I don’t think so. I can’t imagine how 26 days could have gone by since my last post…

On second thought, yes I can. Of course, between family fights, meltdowns, emergencies, surgeries, hospitals, full Court calendars and ridiculously busy work weeks…yes, I guess I can see exactly how I haven’t posted in 26 days. So, for my loyal readers out there, I apologize for the delay, and thank you for sticking around. It appears life in general just got in the way of my life. How rude. I hate it when that happens.

So, a few housekeeping matters. Thanks to the linking of my blog with two more blogs, I seem to have acquired some new readers. Welcome, and thank you for helping me keep my average of 5 hits per day. It’s a little odd to know that there are people out there whom I have never met reading what happens in my life – and enjoying it! But I am flattered that I can entertain, even at my own expense. If you are not aware, and as a reminder for those returning visitors, I have posted to the right of the text an email notification system called If you enter your email address in there, you will receive an automatic email whenever it is that I get around to posting something new on my blog. Just as a warning to all, though, I have been informed that blogarithm is sometimes slow, and you may not get the email until the day after I post. I have also been informed by the blogarithm people that they have sold out to another company and are in the process of updating all of their systems. So far I’m not aware of any changes I’m required to make to my link to their subscription service on my blog due to these changes, but if for some reason you are subscribed and not receiving the reminder emails, please leave me a comment and let me know so that I can figure it all out. All in all I hope not to have to change services, but will certainly let you know if it comes down to that.

Directly under the blogarithm link, I also have a guestbook that can be signed to let me know you have visited. This is kind of nice as well, because I know I have regular readers out there who I have either never met, or have had no idea that they are reading. It’s wonderful to see who has stopped by to check it out. So, if you’re so inclined, please sign my guestbook!

Also, you may have noticed that I have changed the look of my blog. I realized after spending a considerable amount of time re-reading some of my posts that the previous color scheme and backgrounds were a little difficult on the eyes. And not very creative. It just so happened that friend of mine who also blogs had just changed her format as well, and provided this link for free backdrops: The woman who owns the blog, Holly, is absolutely FABULOUS, and was willing to actually sit and talk poor, computer illiterate me through installing a new backdrop when I got stuck. Pretty good for a complete stranger, huh? If you choose to use any of the backdrops on her blog, I would ask that you follow her requirements for doing so, let her know you found her site through my blog, and that I raved about her and all the help she gave me. She really was very wonderful. Anyway, I found several backdrops that I really liked, but Sweetpea helped me make the final decision. What do you think of her choice? Leave me a comment and let me know, so I can pass on to her the success of her good taste. :-)

You few regular readers may have noticed that my last post (the Mother’s Day post) was not really in sync with the rest of my posts. I wanted to explain that I did that post as an entry into a Mother’s Day contest on I blogged with a friend, and gained three entries (I believe) into each of the drawings available in the contest. The bad part was that the hostess of the contest gave the subject for the post. I found it a hundred times more difficult to write on a subject mandated to me, than on any subject that just came into my head. And really, the post took me twice as long as any other I’ve done, not to mention it came at a time that was probably the WORST week I’ve had in I can’t tell you how long. I’m also not pleased with the quality of the work, but the good news was that the contest was not based upon the content, only the post actually having been done. The rest of the good news is that I won two of the drawings: a gift certificate for an online store called Starlooks Boutique (for kids and babies), and some Daily Home Planner software. I’ve received the gift certificate, but have yet to have enough time to browse and see what I might like to get for Sweetpea (might let her pick her own). I am anxiously awaiting the software, it sounds pretty cool. These wins are especially awesome because I am particularly unlucky when it comes to drawings. I never win any drawing I enter. Ever. Content based contests, maybe, but I think I’ve only won four drawings in my entire life. These count for two, and a third someone entered my name for me, which is probably why I won. Never would have won had I filled out that little slip myself. So all in all a pretty neat deal.

And the last item of business, I am informed that the picture on my Weird Sightings post of the moron driving the car with the mattresses on top is not, in fact, a Toyota. My mistake. Apparently it is a Mazda. Ahem. Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to offend the people of Toyota by saying their car is perfect for morons.

So on Wednesday of last week I informed my boss I would not be in the office on Friday. By the time Thursday was over, I had worked enough to have my 40 hours for the week, and was horribly, terribly exhausted. He politely reminded me that I am an exempt (i.e. salary) employee, and can therefore work more than 40 hours if the work calls for it. I politely reminded him that I had worked two 12 hour days in the last week, and that I am exempt, not indentured. He laughed and told me to enjoy my day off. So, after four days off from work, I go traipsing back into the office this morning, completely unaware that I was not in the least prepared to work.

First, I sat for two hours reading, just reading, all the crap I’d missed while I was gone, both work and personal (though more on the work side.) Somehow, don’t know what it was or why, but I felt as if I’d been away from the place for a year. I was having a really hard time getting back into the swing of things. It took me three times as long to review and endorse the Orders this morning, and twenty minutes to answer one short, two-line email. Anytime anyone would ask me a question, I found myself standing there staring at them for a minimum of 30 seconds. Not staring at them like they were an idiot, but like I’m an idiot and I didn’t have a clue what language they were speaking, let alone what it is they just said to me. In the first three hours of work I had had to ask people four times to repeat the question, and I ran out of lifelines at about 11:30. I'm still not sure what my final answers should be. So goes another truth: it always takes a minimum of a day back at work to recover from your vacation.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What I Know Now

When I was about 8 months pregnant a friend of mind decided to enlighten me about how my life would be once the baby was born. Why he waited until I was that far along in my pregnancy to share this invaluable wisdom, I will never know. But one day, there he was sitting in a chair in my office, with this oh-so-serious look on his face. He started the conversation with a single statement: “Having a child will change every facet of your life”.

My immediate reaction was to respond with “I know”.

This was evidently a mistake, since he acted as if I had said the most uneducated, ignorant statement he had ever heard, and said “NO, you DON’T know.” He followed this up with a repeat of the previous epic statement, painfully drawn out with each word emphasized to the point that he was almost spelling them “Having…a…child…WILLCHANGEEVERYFACETOFYOURLIFE.” As I sat there staring at him, wondering what brought on this urge to enlighten me, (not to mention wondering briefly if he had completely lost his mind, since he’s been on the verge for a long time), it occurred to me that he was right. Of course, I had thought about this before, hence my spontaneous ‘I know’ response. How could having a baby not change everything? After all, I’d already had to stock my house with at least a year’s worth of diapers in every size available, a whole new teeny wardrobe complete with sizes all the way from Preemie to 3T, a crib, rocking chair, changing table, dresser, baby monitors and even a miniature bathtub, not to mention toys, books, blankets of every kind, strollers, car seats, diaper bags, burp clothes, and a whole myriad of baby bath products. I’m sure the list can go on and on. I’d already visited daycare after daycare (since I am a working mom) and interrogated every teacher and employee I could get my claws into, asking them intimate, personal questions that no one should have to answer unless they are in confession or being tortured. I’d already read ahead in my parenting books (extra credit, you know) and was prepared for many of those childhood maladies you hope your kids will never get but know someday they will All for one tiny little bundle, the arrival of which was already scaring me to death. Of COURSE things will change.

But until he said something that day, and followed it up with an example, I never really thought of the practical applications of an addition to our family. His example was perfectly suited to bring that side of parenthood to light. I just didn’t really realize how accurate it was until I experienced it myself. He told of him and his wife, prior to the birth of their son. Before the little tyke was born, any night of the week he and his wife may have wanted to go out to eat for the evening meal. As he explained it, life was simple. They wanted something to eat from a restaurant, so they got their coats, their keys, got in the car and off they went. Once their son came along, dinner out required a minimum of a week’s worth of planning, which may or may not have resulted in an actual dinner in a restaurant. They could not just decide to go and then go. Instead, they would decide to go, then change the baby’s diaper and probably his clothes, get the diaper bag ready making sure there were plenty of diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment, toys, 2 sets of spare clothing, bibs, bottles/baby food/snacks (as the baby progressed in age, of course), thermometer, Tylenol and an extra blanket. Then one would go out and start the car (in wintertime) so it could get warm for the baby, while the other proceeded to bundle the baby up until he vaguely resembled a caterpillar’s cocoon with a nose and two little eyes peeping out, then strap him in his car seat, by which time he had soiled his diaper again, requiring an undoing of everything that had been done, and the whole process would start over. Many a night they ended up eating ramen noodles before bed, because they just never made it out to eat.

At the time I just laughed at his story, and although I comprehended somewhere in my psyche that he was 100% correct and that I should pay attention to what he was telling me, I went about life as usual waiting for my own baby to arrive. I realize now, after 4 years of being a mom, I should have taken his words of wisdom a little more seriously. I also realize that he was the only person that attempted to give me a down-to-earth viewpoint of what parenthood is really like. I now wish that someone had told me a lot more about the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of raising a child. Not to mention what it would do to me emotionally. So, in honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday, here are some things I know now that I wish I knew then.

I wish I had known that every report I hear of every death, injury or disappearance of a child I don’t know would be cause for hours of tears, days of reflection, months of fear and years of worry.

I wish I had known that plastic food really does need to be refrigerated.

I wish I had known that my capacity for love went light years beyond what I ever could have imagined.

I wish I had known that grease stains appear in places that no grease has ever been.

I wish I had known that the gentle touch of a child’s hand on my skin could afford more calm, peace, relief and inner peace than any spa or therapy could ever provide.

I wish I had known that sandbox sand is actually a portable toy.

I wish I had known that adjustable waistbands are really the best invention anyone ever conjured.

I wish I had known that “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” by Dr. Demento is actually a children’s song.

I wish I had known that even in my most pathetic or livid states of mind, a look into my child’s eyes could make it all disappear.

I wish I had known that every day is an adventure, if I will only choose to view the world through my child’s eyes.

I’m sure I can go on and on.