Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our Wedding Invitations -- To DIY or Not to DIY

And so... After many hours of searching, designing, cutting, printing, folding, gluing, stickering, and addressing -- TADA!!!

Was it fun? yes. Was it tedious? yes. Would I do it again? Hmmm... if you'd asked me at the tail end of this project, I think I would have said, "No way in H would I ever do this again!" But, like the pain of giving birth, soon the memories of pain and push, push, push fade away, to be left with the happiness of the result.

I drastically under estimated how many hours I would spend on this craft. But I must say -- I really likee how they turned out! Hurray!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Brownie Cake" Tea Party for Jenna's Half Birthday!

Jenna's splendiferous, half-bday "Brownie Cake" Tea Party!

Notice the words on top? Pretty cool, right?

I made them by using a stencil, pressed into the cake, and then dusting with powdered sugar.

(These photos, I took, btw. :) )

Piece o' (Half Bday) Cake!

photo by


So I've been planning a wedding. Which may be an extremely DIY wedding-on-a-budget kind of affair, and one of the things I've been looking at is how to (gasp!) make a wedding cake -- I know, right? Crazee. I think so too, actually. But still. I've been reading up on it. And luckily, I do believe that my friend's friend, who used to work in a cake bakery, is going to make our cake for us! Woot!

However, all that cake research has not been in vain! Oh, no. For both my daughters have just had their half birthdays, and these very blessed events are marked by very special, Mom-made cakes! Often these have been very interesting looking creations, although I do believe they've tasted good. (In fact, when quizzed, my youngest once said that the best thing her Mom makes is her frosting!) (Ahem, the world's easiest -- the buttercream recipe on the back of the powdered sugar box.)

So, with visions of fancy cakes dancing in my head, I was inspired!

First, Jenna wanted a "Brownie Cake." This is something my kids invented, and it is simply brownie batter baked in a cake pan, and frosted with the famous buttercream frosting, cocoa added. So this time, I fancied it up a bit with beads, flowers, and lace, and set the cake up on a pedestal created by inverting a bowl. We had a half-bday tea party, and it was ever so lovely!

Then, 3 days later, was Isy's half-bday. You see above the half-eaten, fully glorious remains of Isy's cake. And, because I used super special WEDDING CAKE TECHNOLOGY, it was actually THE BEST CAKE I'VE EVER TASTED! And it looked pretty, too, before we ate it! My fiancee wasn't in the mood for cake, having none of the sweet teeth that my girls and I have in demanding abundance, and so I said (just a little peevishly), "Fine, then, if you won't eat any, then take a picture of it!" And so he did. :) And I kinda love it, actually. ---See more of his "real" (and quite splendid) work at by the way.

So what is the secret to tremendously yummy, wedding-cake-level, bday cake deliciousness?! Why, it is simple syrup, my dearest dear. (Sort of similar to why iced "sweet tea" in the south is so delightful, much better than sugared iced tea.) Specifically, put a quarter cup of sugar in a quarter cup of water, heat it up and stir until the sugar disolves. Then paint or spoon the syrup to cover the top and bottom of each sliced layer on the cake. It is like wow.

For this cake, Isy wanted strawberry whipped cream, and no texture (no lumpy strawberry bits or seeds -- yucky, Mom!). And by the way, I cheated and used a store-bought angel food cake. And I sliced it into 4 even layers with a long, serated bread knife.

I added 2/3rds of a small jar of seedless strawberry jam to 1 and a half cups of cream, whipped (along with "Whip It" - a powder that keeps whipped cream holding its shape). This went in the top layers and on top of the cake. I filled the bottom layer with the rest of the jam, heated in the jar for a few seconds to make it spread easily.

I decorated around the bottom with halved strawberries, and the top with mandarin oranges. And by the way, another "sweet tea" kinda thing from my southern mama: the strawberries were prepared by washing, trimming, placing in a bowl,and sugaring them up generously. This way they taste great and sweet, and they also make a great strawberry simple syrup that goes great over pound cake. Since I used the strawberries for the cake, the strawberry syrup went into my caiparinha (Brazilian cocktail) later. :) "Saude!"

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why Eclectic-Collected? or let me introduce myselves!

Me and my girls, monkeying around!
Tree photo by Mona Lisa Styles

Team Wildoney, my sweet dogs!
Lead: Fire & Windy,
Point: Ashley & Gabriel,
Wheel: Taffy & Lakota
photo by unknown newspaper photographer

Hermosa Beach, from the pier, photo by me
Everyone I have ever gotten to know -- and as a very social person and a marriage & family therapist I have had the privilege of knowing many people quite well -- is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind mix of many things that seem consistent, along with some special things that surprise. I suppose I'm no different, and yet... Somehow, I feel that I have taken the suprising-mix-thing to an extreme, and it can be troubling. Or at least befuddling.

You see, I am a passionately eclectic person! I love and crave diversity, color, adventure, abundance, and texture in my life: past, present, and imagined future. I have no desire to fit in any single mold -- and yet, I desperately want to "fit in," to find a place to belong, to be understood and welcomed -- where friends warmly shout, "Norm!" (does that mean "normal?") when I walk into my real or virtual watering hole. I adore wearing every one of my many hats (and yet I sometimes feel a little identity-crisised). If forced to be constrained within a single, predictible channel, I imagine that I would feel angry-panicky and excrutiatingly bored! And yet I yearn with an intense angst for the many pieces of my life to feel cohesive, connected, coherent, or at least -- collected!

I do believe that having moved so much as a kid and in my 30's and early 40's explains a good deal of the discontinuity that disorients and dismays me. Certainly the divorce contributes. I believe that everyone needs and wants witnessing of their life -- to make it feel real and meaningful, and to help it all relate -- and so I struggle, because there are no witnesses to all of mine. We know ourselves at least partially through other's knowing of us. Moving as much as I have, dear friends have only been near for a few years at a time. Sometimes now I have a sensation of having begun to exist at the beginning of the most current chapter of my life, the one in which I moved back to California almost 6 years ago. Strange feeling.

Hence I am drawn to write this blog, so hopefully titled "Eclectic-Connected." I hope I can keep some of what I've been, even as I emphatically embrace all I am and all I hope to be. This is my attempt to write stories about...something that is me, that is my life, unique amongst the multitude of precious lives in this created universe!

I am a list maker, a taker of stock, a put-it-down on paper gal. So let me begin with who I am today:

  • a full-time, work-from-home Mom of two wonderful girls ages 12 and 14
  • a full-time PhD student in Marriage & Family Therapy (all-but-dissertation)
  • a really good cook
  • a half-time research scientist & author
  • a music lover who loves to sing
  • a therapist for victims of crime in the LA area
  • a sometime room-Mom, coach, PTO volunteer, party planner, and whatever else the kids need...
  • a wanna-be author of articles for popular journals (and books)
  • an on-again/off-again ebay seller and frequent ebay and thrift store shopper
  • an occasional university instructor of research methodologies and statistics
  • a very spiritual person
  • a demon for speed
  • a fiancee, in love with the most amazing and good man, planning a wedding in August

Here are some of the things I have been and done:
  • a young kid whose parents were in graduate school, in Louisiana, Florida, and Texas
  • a 10-year-old, tall and skinny kid who moved to California and grew up spending most of her time on the beach and in the ocean in Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, California
  • an avid tree climber and book worm
  • an athlete in cross country and track (I could run 10 miles in 80 minutes), and a high jumper (I could jump my own height: 5'9")
  • an almost concert pianist (but I quit), a violin player
  • a super devout Christian
  • a librarian's assistant at UCLA
  • a nanny in Beverly Hills, one summer
  • an electrical engineer who helped to design super-secret communications systems
  • an expert pitt crew for my bf's track, bicycle (road and velodrome), and triathlon racing
  • an award-winning sled-dog racer, who showed and bred champion Siberian Huskies for 16 years, all over the USA and Canada
  • a college math teacher of algebra and statistics
  • an editor for the International Siberian Husky Club magazine
  • a 200-mile-a-day commuter (Cincinnati, Ohio to Lexington, Kentucky) for 4 years, putting my ex thru medical school, working an engineering job that made me miserable
  • an over-achieving pregnant woman/Mom in the rural outskirts of Cleveland for 4 years, solo parenting while dad did his 100-hour/week residency -- this was a really tough period of isolation and hard times
  • a small-town "Doctor's Wife" in Hoquiam/Aberdeen, Washington (whose husband kept a mistress), solo parenting while going through that dark 5-year period of divorce, heartbreak, & rebirth
  • a graduate student in Marriage & Family Therapy my last 2 years in Washington
  • after a move to California, a clinician and doctoral student in Marriage & Family Therapy while living with my parents in Murrieta, CA for 4 years
  • a budding party girl, when I had the time for it, with my awesome friends
  • a month-long vacationer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming while my daughters learned to ski, and I fell in love with the most amazing man
  • a renter, just my kids and me, and then adding my bf, in Winchester, California
  • a happy returner to my hometown in Hermosa Beach, California a year ago!

OH, you know, there's always more, but that's about all she wrote this evening. :) See ya later, oh blog o' mine!