All About Cake Baking

This December I have been baking my way through Christina Tosi’s All About Cake cookbook. I first discovered Christina Tosi’s cake magic on Netflix in the dessert season (Vol. 4) of The Chef’s Table. Then when I was in Washington, DC my buddy Carole went with me to try her new Milk Bar (see earlier post). Carole gifted me the cookbook for my birthday. I sat down immediately upon opening the package and saw about a dozen recipes I wanted to try. Starting with the pistachio bundt cake above. Yes it really is Shrek green. It’s also uses about $20 worth of pistachios!

Next was the apple cider donut crock pot pudding. It required a slight substitution of delicious cinnamon sugar donuts from Marie’s Do-Nuts (Sacramento, CA). They have to be “day-old” so buy extra as you there will be some attrition. I shared the finished donut pudding around and everyone found it comforting and delicious. My neighbors and friends are definitely the early beneficiaries of this baking program. I couldn’t possibly eat all of this cake myself.

IMG_6563Any family gathering also provided an opportunity to try another recipe. This is the cherry cola bundt cake that I took to the Pieper Christmas at Auntie J’s. My version came out darker because the cola extract I ordered on Amazon gave everything a dark cola tint. The molasses and half dozen eggs made it rich and dark and yummy.

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Jesus’ birthday cake is a Christmas Eve tradition. This one is a Lemon Poppyseed Bundt.

I nearly wore myself out with the 3 cake sprint over Christmas. I baked 2 cakes on the day before Christmas Eve. Then I made one more cake on Christmas morning to take to a family dinner. Having no elves to clean up or even a dishwasher, I found myself really tired of  bundt pan scrubbing.

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Pallet cleanser: my adorable grandson modeling his latest Gramma knit sweater.

I also had to run to the grocery store twice–once to buy more butter, and once to buy more eggs. These recipes require a lot of both. Other than a few more exotic ingredients such as lemon extract.  I now know how relatively simple it is to make an interesting and delicious cake, and I don’t know why I’d ever use a cake mix again.

My aunt gave me this sort of loaf shaped bundt cake pan that she doesn’t use. It was perfect for the Mint Julep bundt cake. I forgot to dress with mint leaves (still in my crisper drawer). My mom really enjoyed this cake for Jesus’ birthday.

My final cake was the raspberry bundt with grapefruit glaze. I also made homemade whip cream. This cake was a big hit also. The grapefruit glaze offers a little zing. Always the texture of the cakes is dense and delicious.

IMG_6589I’m taking a break now (until 2019) and having fruit for dessert for awhile! There are more recipes I want to try.  In the winter when the weather makes it challenging to get outdoors as much for adventure or travel, it can be fun to watch a baking challenge from Britain on television and then try our own hand at a new recipe.

Black Penguin: Antarctic Travel Memoir Inspires

Evans bookIf you read my blog you know I have a fascination with penguins. I was looking for books on the Satellite Sisters summer reading list whilst in a Washington DC bookshop and The Black Penguin by Andrew Evans caught my eye. On his first assignment with National Geographic, he fulfills many of his geeky childhood dreams on this grand adventure.

It is a hybrid book–part personal memoir, part travelogue. Evans is an accomplished writer so every chapter kept my attention. I was particularly empathetic to the chapters about his experience growing up Mormon and gay. I have a few friends in my life from a similar background, but anyone who has felt like an outsider–and if you travel then you know this feeling–can relate to his pain of feeling completely misunderstood and alone.

He also decides to travel by bus from Washington, DC to Ushuaia, Argentina to board the National Geographic vessel to Antarctica. I enjoyed living vicariously through him and decided that I’d rather never travel by bus anywhere if I can avoid it. Lesson learned.

Use this link to watch the now famous black penguin video: https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/b2a_blackpenguin

The first 258 pages are all building to the last couple of chapters of penguins! and stories from his month on National Geographic Explorer. Sheer bliss. I wanted to go to Antarctica before and now I want to go even more!

Netflix Inspired Travel: Milk Bar in DC

img_4788.jpegI freely admit that my travel choices are influenced by Netflix shows, especially Chef’s Table. Season 4 the episodes focus on dessert. I somehow missed the hoopla about Christina Tosi’s Milk in New York City. This June she opened a flagship store with lab in Washington, DC.

Carole and I headed there on a hot and muggy day. We didn’t get the cereal milk softserve. Instead we bought a slice of chocolate malt cake, a slice of birthday cake, and some crack pie to share. Sugar shock in the best way!

IMG_4785This store at 1525 15th Street NW near Logan Circle doesn’t have a lot of indoor seating (as in, air conditioned), and there is limited outdoor seating. There are parking spaces though! And they are offering baking classes here.

IMG_4789We browsed her cookbooks and are seriously exploring taking the chocolate malt cake in the near future. Meanwhile I crumbled my remaining crack pie in my oatmeal this morning and it was very, very good.

Happy Independence Day!

IMG_4764Thousands of people spend the day on the Capitol Mall on July 4th enjoying a concert and waiting for sunset for the fireworks to begin. I celebrated July 4 with my young children about 20 years ago–we ate hot dogs and watched the fireworks from the rooftop of the Department of Interior building.

IMG_4761This year I planned my vacation so I could be in Washington DC when my friend Nyasha from Auckland was going to be in Alexandria at the Virginia Theological Seminary. We enjoyed barbecue with Carole, Gary, Guy, Karly and Holly at Stephanie and Ron’s house on Capitol Hill. Then we walked to the Library of Congress steps to watch the fireworks. It was a very traditional Independence Day celebration except the fireworks were beyond amazing.

If you are in the USA, I wish you a safe and fun Independence Day.

Marching and Penguins

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Today was the Women’s March. Around the world men, women and children gathered to march for women’s rights. Oh and dogs came too. I found the excitement of being with people who all held out hope for better days energizing. Last year I was in Washington, DC and this year I marched in my hometown Sacramento. Sacramento has the advantage of not having so many people that you cannot move like last year on the Capitol Mall.

As always the signs were creative and sometimes outrageous. We walked to the state Capitol where there was a rally. I had loaded my bike Gidget with flowers to take to the Women’s Empowerment booth. The best part of marching in my hometown was seeing so many people I know: Al, Patricia, Chantay and others.

Today is also Penguin Awareness Day. They don’t usually overlap like this. Along with my Auntie J’s birthday! Now I am going to go on YouTube and look for penguin videos.

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Penguins at the Boston aquarium

Pussyhats and Women’s March

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I love the way women create together. The Women’s March was a spontaneous reaction to the US election results. Loads of women (and men) thought they’d be celebrating the first woman President. Cue glass ceilings shattering. Instead we shared a state of shock and dismay. What does it mean when a man who grabs kittycats and whose Vice President is hostile to women’s health issues is going to form the 45th Administration?  So after a viral bump and then some rumbles about the organization and sustained enthusiasm from around the USA and then the world (over 35 countries having Women’s Marches too), the Women’s March in Washington and over 270 cities in North America will take place on January 21, 2017.

Sometime in early January friends sent me links to the Pussyhat Project. I knit and I’m going to the March in Washington, DC so it’s like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I scooted over to my local wool shop Rumplestiltskin to buy pink wool yarn and some circular needles and downloaded a couple of patterns for Pussyhats on Ravelry.com.  My knitting is not as fast as it used to be and I have enough yarn for six hats. My goal is to knit four before I leave on Wednesday morning for Boston, then two on planes, and automobiles. It is fun and women are sharing photos on Instagram and women who cannot go to DC are knitting in support. This so reminds me of other women organized events–we ace the details and embellish and enhance until it is something truly special.

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Why am I flying to Boston? Don’t I know that Boston is an 8 hour drive from DC? My son and granddog Dozer moved to Boston in August and I have not visited them yet. I am going to spend some time in Boston before and after we drive to DC for the March. Not sure my son will want a Pussyhat, but he’ll have the option. He is an excellent driver so I will be able to knit, a lot.

#WhyIMarch is to speak out as a woman who has experienced adversity because of my gender that women’s rights are human rights. I am motivated by this election to #staynoisy and to not take the progress women have won for granted.

Making New Friends on MARC

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When I fly to Washington, DC, I often fly with Southwest Airlines to BWI (Baltimore). Then I take the MARC train to Union Station and my college chum Carole picks me up. It is easy and costs just $7 one way. Last night I arrived at 6:45 and caught the shuttle to the train station. Walking outside was like walking into a hot sauna. I moved slowly across the to the southbound platform and sat down.

cicadasSoon I was joined by my new friend Simone from Santa Cruz, California. We could hear the cicadas loudly in the trees behind us. She asked me if I knew what that noise was. I have heard them in New Zealand so I had a pretty good idea. I found a photo on Google images and I asked her where she is from. We had a lovely chat. Later she came back to show me her camera and I asked if I could take her picture.

Then we boarded the train and she came and found me on the lower deck. She told me she was going to tour the White House and I asked her if she knew about Dolley Madison. I encouraged her to look for information on one of my favorite first ladies. Then her brother came looking for her.

This is why I love public transit. You have the opportunity for really fun encounters.

I am in Washington, DC for a girls weekend with Carole. We are going to take the AMTRAK train to Wilmington, Delaware. I will blog along the way.

Quick Knits in Washington, DC Area

I look forward to visiting Washington DC at least one time during the year. College chum Carole lives in Alexandria and it is always good to catch up. My work does not take me to the nation’s capitol as often as it once did. The last time I was in DC was with junior highers from Humboldt County to attend the Presidential Inauguration in January 2013. I was overdue.

I took Amtrak from Greensboro to Union Station in business class. Terrific experience! Sure it takes longer than flying (8 hours) and yet I was able to get work done, nap and saved money.

Love the Washington DC hat on the fireplace mantel (available on Ravelry).
Love the Washington DC hat on the fireplace mantel (available on Ravelry).

Looped Yarn Works is one of the places I like to shop when in Washington DC. In DuPont Circle, this upstairs shop is welcoming and offers great yarns, patterns and accessories for the avid knitter.

I bought yarn for a couple of Debbie Bliss projects for babies and wrote down the names of several patterns available on Ravelry to purchase from home. Plus I bought a couple of charming patterns–one named Harriet Dress (from Blue Sky Alpaca).

Oh joy! The service is great and while we were there small children were learning to knit from a very patient and wise knitting instructor.

Great yarn shop in Alexandria, VA old town.
Great yarn shop in Alexandria, VA old town.

Later the same day we were shopping in Old Town Alexandria, VA before going to Serenity Spa for a massage or facial. We bopped into Fibre Space at 1219 King Street. The vibe is different–more hipster. They make an effort to welcome men who knit. Cool. Worth a visit.