Saturday, August 27, 2011

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Just Mutant Cake?

For the last two years, my son has asked me to make him a cake. Seems like no big deal, except that he's allergic to dairy products. He didn't want just any cake. He requested a chocolate, Ninja Turtle Cake decorated with either Raphael or Casey Jones. After two years of thinking about it from time to time, I have made a decision. It's his birthday. He will finally have his cake.

I couldn't promise a professional job. In fact, I couldn't promise much of anything except my best effort. Last night, I watched a t.v. programme. Pastry chefs were building cakes. One collapsed. Even they experience failure.

I have researched decorating techniques and I've even had a mini fondant lesson from one of the employees at Bulk Barn. It was then that I decided to avoid fondant. Besides, the accessories alone would have cost me more than the price of a professional tiered wedding cake. I also decided not to use the Ninja Turtle pan which was available for rent. I couldn't see myself dotting an entire cake with little squeezes of icing in a variety of colours. My idea was this. I would make a round cake, make the top look like a pizza and make a Raphael figurine to sit on top...or maybe at the side.

The chocolate cake was the easy part...or so I thought. Real cocoa contains no dairy. Vegetable shortening is a substitute for butter. The 35 minute baking time suggested in the recipe was inaccurate. I used up a box of toothpicks testing the cake which baked for over an hour. I was tired.

As I looked at the cakes, I wished my son had asked for a lunar landing or perhaps a volcano cake. I had created two uneven cratered slabs of carbs, sugar and fat. They smelled good, but they looked like this.

After they cooled, I cut the top off one to even it and used it as the bottom layer. I sliced the other in half and filled both layers with some icing tinted with cocoa. The cake was still crooked.

I created white frosting and covered the whole cake. Then I made a pizza on top....a Ninja Turtle staple....pepperoni, cheese, black olives, green peppers...passable.

Finally, I built Raphael out of marzipan and painted him. He will hopefully remain upright although the toothpick has become my new best friend. I might have to use one to attach him to the cake. I also reinforced his head with a toothpick but noticed his shell appeared to be shrinking and that his body was developing a bit of an incline as the food colouring "paint" dried.

This is what the cake looked like finished. I even transported it to my son's and it remained intact. Despite the fact that hubby said my turtle looks like the Koodo telephone guy, I think my effort is respectable.

The cake was a success and tasted excellent. I have decided I'd like to take a cake decorating course.  Perhaps I can even unlock the mystery of fondant.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Then Out

Yesterday, I had occasion to go to the hospital for an activity involving hoses, cameras and my gastrointestinal system...a minor procedure. Hubby deposited me at the front door and promised to meet me back at the gazebo outside in a few hours.

After being questioned in admissions and completing some routine forms, I made my way to the requisite third floor. While I sat in a hallway awaiting my "turn", I noticed that at some point, I had received a wrist band with my name and personal details printed on it. Odd...I had no memory of that. Several other folks were waiting and sharing horror stories so I decided to read my book...impossible to do when people are speaking loudly and animatedly about their lobbed off limbs and their friend who fell into a cement mixer. I finally gave up staring at the same page and looked eagerly toward an arriving orderly. turn.

I was escorted by the very friendly orderly to my superior government guest room. As he pulled the curtain around my bed so that my 3x5 living space would be separated from the half dozen others, he announced. "Take off your outer clothing and put on this gown and booties. If you want to leave your pants on it's ok. Put everything you remove into this plastic bag."  Hmmm...I've seen larger produce bags in the grocery store.

I followed instructions and was no sooner ready than a scowling nurse with a computer on wheels flew through my curtain.

Her:  "Have you had intravenous before?"
Me:  "Yehhh....owwww" as a needle and hoses were rammed into my hand and a clip was attached to my finger before my answer was complete.
Her: "How many surgeries have you had?"
Me: "One Ingrid, one Warren, and two knees.
Her: "Do you have any false teeth, crowns, bridges, use a cane, wheelchair, walker, hearing aids, do you have missing or artificial parts, implants, piercings, tattoos, scars?"
Me: "I have thinning hair."
Her: "Have you had any of the following diseases....MRSA, VRE or ESBL?
Me: "I don't know what those are."
Her: "Then you haven't had them. When was the last time you ate or drank?"
Me: " Last night at 7 p.m. except for a sip of water when I was choking during the night."
Her:  (looking horrified) "You drank water?"
Me:   "Just a sip. I was choking."
Her:  " You drank water? I hope you took off your pants and put them in the bag."

My bed was then driven into a hallway where I was given a warm blanket prior to being wheeled further into a surgical facility. An elderly anaesthesist with a strange hat, an English accent and a scary smirk then sprayed cherry juice into my throat, rendering my tongue, mouth and lips numb. I caught a glimpse of my doctor. A mouth guard was inserted between my teeth...then....

I woke up with a cup of cranberry juice in my hand and a request that I get dressed.

"Who's coming to get you?" I was asked.

"I'm meeting my husband at the gazebo." I responded.

"No, you can't leave. Someone has to come get you."

The orderly came to the rescue once again. He deposited me into a wheelchair, gave me what appeared to be a tour of the hospital and eventually drove me to the front door. "What does your husband's car look like?"

"Toyota...gray...I managed with my still numb mouth."

Fortunately he was able to pick out the right one from the fleet of silver vehicles and thus flagged down the correct husband.

Another eventful day in my life.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm A Great Big Orange and I Won't Apologize For It!

I once had a wonderful instructor who taught university classes designed to update and upgrade our teaching skills. He gave us a number of personality tests and during one of these sessions he spoke about the general population, specific characterisitics, career groups and "norms".

With each new test, he would chuckle, look at me and shake his head. I became concerned. It didn't appear to be a malicious look. He would then go on to discuss the results with the group. What he said sounded much like this, "Many people are balanced with an equal number of characteristics in each of the four categories of the graph. Some have the bulk of their traits in 3 of 4 categories. Then there's the odd one, who has most of HER characteristics almost exclusively in one quadrant, with only a sprinkling in the other three areas." Again, I got "the look" out of the corner of his eye. My worst fear was soon realized. I was "HER". In my perception, this labelled me as some kind of weirdo global thinker, with an uneven, distorted graph and no potential as a successful human. I was embarassed. I wanted to sink into my chair and disappear. I viewed this result as a major personal flaw.

One test that springs to mind is the colour personality test where we found ourselves classified as green, blue, gold or orange. My classmates generally fell into the first three categories. A large percentage were "gold" as are many teachers we were told. Gold personalities are organized, sequencial and task oriented.

I was "orange". After explaining the fairly normal traits of the first three colours, along with their optimal career choices, the instructor came to "orange". "Only about one in one hundred people is classified as orange. In fact, we have only one in this class", he said, once again smiling my way.

I soon learned that "oranges" are presumed different. A few characteristics of these people include: thinking outside the box, creativity; being adventurous, being light hearted, agreeable and flamboyant; thriving on human social contact, socializing and planning events; tolerant and accepting of others just the way they are; a free spirit who doesn't like to be tied down; living life based on instinct; always looking toward the next challenge or next great adventure; determined, competitive, restless and impatient with others who do not have this need; preferring to explore the outer world rather than inner world.

So far, it doesn't sound too bad does it? Well, here are the rest of the qualities, or lack thereof.

Housekeeping may not be that important (See June 13, 2010 blog, "Dust Bunnies Are Perfect for Making Whimsical Table Centrepieces ); loves having fun and doesn't like the mundane, monotonous, repetitious; impatient; indecisive (my preferred expressions are "it doesn't matter" and "I don't care" because generally, it doesn't and I don't); inconsistent and unpredictable; practical joker; self centred (can't help it I'm an only child); undisciplined; ignoring rules and deadlines (too busy being creative and living life); lacking structure, and finally, impulsive. There seem to be a lot of  "in", "im" and "un" prefixes there. 

Over the years, I have learned to celebrate my unique orangeness and have tried to compensate for many of my orange shortcomings. I make lists and calendars, much as a gold personality type would automatically do. I leave cues for myself around the house as a visual reminder of an action that needs to be taken or work that isn't complete. I do not enjoy these strategies, but realize that in order for me to be a functional human, they need to be taken. I do the best I can.

I've changed as much as I plan to in these 60 years and I find it stressful to remember to do what many people do automatically. In fact, I was pleased to be able to "loosen up" and revert to my natural self after retirement.

Currently, I am sitting in the midst of what some would consider chaos. I emptied and vacuumed the kitchen drawers. While doing that, I remembered that I needed to water the plants. I attended to the plants, and then realized I had forgotten to put water into my CPAP machine. I headed for the basement to get distilled water and wandered into my office to check on some documents. The garbage pail was overflowing so I picked it up to take to the trash. On my way, I opened the garage door, then took the water to the bedroom. I looked in the closet for something to wear. I rejected a few items and tossed them on the bed. As I went to brush my teeth, I realized that the bathroom needed some attention and I cleaned the sink. Remembering the garbage, I left the cleaning materials and headed for the open garage with the trash. When I returned, I checked my email and decided to write a blog.  And so it goes...not one room is completely tidy at the moment. It will all be done later today. What's my hurry? I'm retired.

Oh, and lest I forget, what happened with all the courses I was taking? I got high marks, upgraded my standing and the instructor hired me to work for him. It turned out that I was not flawed at all. I was in fact, unforgettable and fabulous!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wedding Weekend

Recently we had occasion to attend a wedding in the "Big Apple"...not at the roadside attraction on the highway near here, but the real Big Apple, New York City. The wedding was lovely. We had a great time partying with family and friends.

Although the wedding was the main part of our weekend adventure and reason for our trip, there were other things I found amusing if not entertaining. For example, as we went through the Holland Tunnel, I noticed that the GPS showed us driving down the river. Seemed like a photo op to me. What can I say? I find odd things funny, although I doubt that those who are stuck in the tunnel traffic each day find it very humorous.

At the rehearsal dinner, the subject of the "Ghostbusters" firehall came up. This firehall was part of a movie from the 80's. People with sons born during that decade will definitely remember the nightmare of trying to locate the highly sought after themed toys associated with the movie. We found out that the original firehall was located right across the street. I rushed out to get some photos before dark. "Who you gonna call?".........

Of course, when one is in New York City, it's always good to become familiar with some of the upcoming styles and newest trends in fashion. I like to call these photos "Is Less More?" and "Where's Waldo?"

We enjoyed a trip to Staten Island and found a lovely park. Then we rode the ferry to Manhattan and back, and Adam was overjoyed when we located pizza and Italian ice for lunch.

As we left the city, I looked up "attractions" on the GPS along our route and came across "The Headless Horseman Bridge". Could it be? Then we saw the following road sign. "Yayyyyyy....let's go there." I love spontaneity. The best adventures are often the result.

The photos which follow are pictures of the town of Sleepy Hollow, NY. It is historic, scenic and has a lot to see and do. It was a great afternoon adventure. I even saw a deer and two fawns at the famed cemetery. I was so startled I forgot to take a picture.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lutherans and Other Earthly Deposits

***My Day - Dedicated to hubby and our northern friends

My day began like any other. I got out of bed, made sure I was adequately dressed, walked and fed the dog, emptied the dishwasher and made breakfast. Wait, let me correct that. I should say, my day began the way hubby's normally does. He was currently away.

This was followed by more routine, making the bed, emptying the dryer, creating a list of 500 things which I hope to accomplish this week, checking email to find out the latest facebook frenzy. After commenting on the all important Brett Lawrie grand slam along with other Jays fans, I typed a blog heading.

I was planning to see the movie version of a best selling novel entitled, "The Help". I decided in advance that this book would be ruined in movie form. This seems to be the case with many adapted screenplays. Since I had already made up my mind, I was able to begin my review. First few sentences written, off I went to the movie theatre.

On my way home, I collected my "Teacher Appreciation" freebies at Staples, checked the mail, walked the dog and went outside where I picked up tomatoes off ground, removed branches that had been snapped by yesterday's wind, watered plants and pulled out a few weeds.

I sat down to relax and view the end of the Blue Jays game. Sadly, I realized that it had ended much earlier...around the third inning from what I could gather. When the dog leapt onto my lap, she left a brown slimey deposit on my legs and clothing. Although I agreed with her assessment of the game, I decided it was time for both of us to have a shower. How is it that little clean feet can leave such large muddy footprints on a cream coloured bath mat?

I thought I might want to have a short nap prior to Zumba class, so I brought the dog's bed in next to mine and we both fell asleep...for about 5 minutes. That's when the doorbell rang and the barking began.

Two young men in dark suits, ties and very cleanly scrubbed, pink faces stood at the door attempting to talk as the dog barked in my left ear. I determined that they were not meter readers or salesmen of the usual ilk.

"We have come to talk to you about "family". Is family important in your life?" asked one young man as he stared into the lower corner of our porch.

Thinking about my abbreviated snooze and the yapping dog, I decided to mess with their heads. "Hmmm....let me think on that one for a minute."

They looked startled and panicked by my hesitation.

"Pardon my sluggishness, I was just having a nap," I responded. "Yes, family is important."

Looking relieved, the same young man still peering into the concrete corner, continued. "Well, we want to bring you a message. Are you interested?"

I craned my neck to see what he was looking at...crib notes? a spider? our stepstool bench?

"Thanks, we have our own faith and church that we attend," I answered, hoping that my psychic ability which suggested that the young men were Mormons was indeed accurate. The rest of the conversation went something like this.

Boy A - "We're not here to knock any other religion or anything, but do you mind if we ask what church you belong to? "

Me - "We are Lutheran." (Insert two round, pink, clean shaven boy faces, staring with mouthes agape here)

Boy A - "Wow, that's really something."

Boy B - Nodding in agreement and staring at my obvious green skin and horns. "I've never met a Lutheran before".

Boy A - "I have, my mother knew one once and they were actually friends."

They thanked me and left although I noted that they kept looking over their shoulders on their way down our path.

I decided I didn't want to go to Zumba tonight. I am writing blogs, and looking up Martin Luther quotes. First, I saw one about a dog and a little golden tail. Then I found this one. "Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dreams, Dream Scenes and Dream Themes

It's strange isn't it?  You wake up in the middle of the night with a story in your head. Sometimes, it makes sense, but usually it's just odd. You're certain that you'll remember. "There's no way I'll forget that one," you think. The next morning comes. You know you had an unusual dream. You wrack your brain, but nothing comes back. Once in awhile, you're lucky, or unlucky, whichever the case may be and there it is, front and centre. You repeat it to someone, your spouse or children, for example. It sounds ridiculous as you vocalize it, when in fact, it seemed to make sense in the silence and darkness, several hours earlier.

Last night, I had a vivid dream. I woke up. My body ached and was so sore that I felt as though I had run a marathon. I was momentarily alert, then drowsy again. "Perhaps I should write it down," I thought."Naw, I'll remember," I said to myself as I nodded back off to dreamland, unwilling to make the effort.

There was a stretch of time in my life when I didn't sleep well. I was a single parent to two young children. Just as I began to get a bit more rest, they reached their teen years. When I was able to nod off, I found that I had many  stress or work related dreams. I finally kept a note pad by the bed to jot down thoughts and ideas during the night. I also wrote down my dreams. On some occasions, what I had written made sense, other times, my scribblings were illegible. Once, I dreamt up an entire school musical complete with a singing watering can and dancing carrots. The seemingly absurd came to fruition and was fabulous!

Last night's dream was one that actually stayed with me. I was in a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" type of elevator going this way and that way until it finally flipped over, spilling the occupants onto the rooftop of a skyscraper. The wind howled and we grabbed hold of things grasping as best we could, while trying to crawl along the roof and away from the strong squall. Odd. After that, I was running around with a comedic looking large animal that resembled a green rubber version of Bulbasaur from Pokemon. I realized that I wasn't afraid of it but rather, that it wanted to play with me. Ok, so my dreams are a bit immature.

I tried to figure out why I was so sore. Hanging on for dear life, crawling around on a roof or chasing a large cartoon animal could do it, if these things had happened in real life. But in a dream? I wondered whether our muscles react and simulate movement in our dreams even though we might be motionless, thus creating the aches and pains which I experienced. This required further research.

I learned that in fact the opposite of my theory was true. I am not describing any type of sleep disorder here, just normal REM sleep. Apparently while people are in this state, they experience a muscle paralysis. This prevents bodily movement that could be dangerous while sleeping and dreaming. In fact, all voluntary muscle activity stops. That too explains the aches. Laying still or in any one position for a length of time can definitely result in pain.

I don't think I needed to interpret my dream beyond the obvious...last night's rustling wind, a future trip to New York City and running around playing with Amber the dog. What I do need to do, however, is some stretching, walking and bending to try to alleviate my residual REM soreness. Now if only my dream had been about something worth the pain!