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Has anyone ever made a delicious meal, say, a beautiful piece of grilled salmon atop a lovely bed of *freshly* picked lettuce that you grew yourself, and then saw the box of Kraft Mac n Cheese in the cabinet and wished you had made that instead?

No?

I'm the only one?

Damn. 

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I was late to work today because I got stuck behind a bus with its lights on. It was stopped in front of a house, where I could clearly see two parents standing around a tree. I thought maybe there was a cat stuck in the tree?

Nope. It was a kid.

A kid who didn't want to go to school, and climbed a tree. And wouldn't come down.

Eventually the bus drove off, and so did I, but not before I decided that that kid hates Mondays as much as the rest of the world, and his coping mechanism seems pretty foolproof to me. So if you need me, I'll be in a tree, avoiding responsibility.

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Apparently, it's the centennial celebration of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which is just...crazy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrR7z3RBrGw

But the main reason you should watch this video and share it is because it's being performed by an amazeballs musician who just happens to be...

My best friend from first grade, and pretty much all through high school too.

I like to think that if our elementary school teachers could see us now, the two weird kids who huddled together in the corner with our legos, hid under tables, bit people, and got in quite a bit of trouble...they would be surprised. And hopefully pleased that the nerds who made up really weird games on the playground would turn out so well-adjusted and productive.

Obviously we're still nerds, but to record a 50 minute long piano solo in one take? That's just nuts. FreeGreatPicture.com-2186-photo-nutsAnd also quite nuts is that I am finishing my final round of edits before I send Starting from Scratch off to my beta readers and editors! My Israel trip sort of falls right in the middle of my planned publishing date, so I'm shooting for an August 1st release party! Who's super pumped? Meeeeeeee.

Okay, I'm going to bed.

 

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Last summer I started a little herb garden, and then created a teeny tiny vegetable garden that produced quite a few eggplant and zucchini. Pleased with how they both turned out, and eager to expand, this summer I dove headfirst into the dirty world of gardening and landscaping. I spent hours and hours each day, out in the sun, with dirt up to my elbows and a crick in my back from lugging bags of mulch and topsoil around my yard. And I won't even go into how much I spent at Home Depot...

Sarah, Westendorf, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, NY, garden, soil, clay, herbs, vegetables, ground, container, cage, beans, peas, arugula, caesar, romaine, red, tomatoes, peppers, squash, summer, trellis, zucchini, eggplant, leeks

But I love it! Isn't it darling?! I've doubled the size since last year, and just about tripled the variety of plants in it. In addition, I actually did a minimal amount of research this time, instead of just shoving plants into the dirt and hoping they grow.Sarah, Westendorf, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, NY, garden, soil, clay, herbs, vegetables, ground, container, cage, beans, peas, arugula, caesar, romaine, red, tomatoes, peppers, squash, summer, trellis, zucchini, eggplant, leeks

Sarah, Westendorf, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, NY, garden, soil, clay, herbs, vegetables, ground, container, cage, beans, peas, arugula, caesar, romaine, red, tomatoes, peppers, squash, summer, trellis, zucchini, eggplant, leeksI've got arugula, romaine, and a variety of red lettuce. The larger plants in the picture I started from seeds in my aerogarden with the seed starter kit, and the smaller ones were just seeds I dumped into the ground willy nilly, not really expecting them to grow. But they did! You can't see, but behind the lettuces I have a tomato cage. ...continue reading

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Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

So I thought I would show you my process of making six of the characters from Toy Story out of fondant and gumpaste.

*As a disclaimer, I am in no way a professional. Anything that comes out successfully took roughly 3x longer to make than if a professional did it. I make a lot of mistakes (you will see these in the process photos) and have to redo things over and over again until they are good enough to satisfy my OCD-ness.

So lets begin!

Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Day one: Monday. I decided to start with Mr. Potato head, thinking I could knock him out quickly. Turns out, potato brown is a hard color to achieve. I spent almost an hour mixing this stupid ball. Then I molded him into a potato shape and left him on the syrofoam to dry a bit.

Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.Made Mr. Potato head's shoes and facial features, set them to dry, and went to play video games with Beth. ...continue reading

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Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.That is what my mother said to me a few days ago when she checked on my Toy Story cake toppers I was making for Phillip. I think it pretty accurately sums me up, and I'm proud to be that annoyingly talented person. It's not like I'm not boastful of my varied talents and interests, but let me remind you:

I sacrifice a lot to dedicate this must attention (and money) to these little side projects. These characters took almost six entire days, and as I'll show you in another post, went through several reincarnations before I was finally finished with them. Granted, I would have loved more time to really perfect them, but for what they are...

They're pretty freaking adorable.

So without further ado: My Toy Story cake toppers!

Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

I think I really captured a lot of the details of the characters, and while they're not perfectly proportioned, I'm proud of the emotions they portray. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

They are cracking, however. Not sure how to prevent that in the future!Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

"There's a snake in my boot!"
Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Sheriff Woody closeupToy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Yes, I pressed the buttons and made Buzz Lightyear noises. Alone. In my house. Late at night.Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Slinky Dog's cute butt. I wasn't thrilled with how he turned out, but I have photos on my phone that I'll upload tomorrow of the step by step processes. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Rex! He was a nightmare logistically, and you can see he's cracking in a few places, but I'll be damned if he isn't structurally sound. Of all the characters, I'm least worried about him breaking apart before he can be presented to the little girl on her birthday.Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Closeup on how I did the teeth. Originally was going to put individual ones in, and then I reminded myself, "hey, it's 10:30 pm, and you haven't showered in two days. Finish this and go to bed."Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted. Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Oh Jessie. I'm so sad I couldn't get her the way I wanted. This is her 3rd head, and none of them captured her essence and vivacity. Oh well, At least her clothes are authentic.Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.And here they all are, ready to be carefully packed into a cardboard box and brought to the bakery. I hope they make a 2-year old's birthday cake spectacular, and hopefully Phillip will commission more work from me in the future!

I had so much fun making these, especially Woody and Buzz! It was so challenging, and a great lesson on gumpaste, sculpting, figures, and Pixar movies (I watched all 3 Toy Story's back to back...you know, as research), and I want more practice working on sculpting faces. I got pressed for time and had to rush Jessie and Slinky dog, which sucks. But hey, that's what working with a deadline does, I guess.

 So tell me: What do you think!? Could you see these on a professional cake? Do you think I captured their likenesses? Any suggestions, critiques, comments, requests? 

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strawberry, rhubarb, lemonade, lemons, lime, sugar, home made, squeezed, fresh, pitcher, summer, hot, night, day, porch, garden, delicious, kids,My friends, I have spent the past week and a half in my garden, up to my knees in dirt, worms, and plants. And I'm so freaking excited about gardening (who knew I would be that girl?) that I expanded my vegetable garden AND made a brand stinking new vertical herb garden.

Now that everything is in the ground (or, in the case of most of my herbs, in adorable pots), there's nothing to do but wait. Patiently.

Which I suck at. So that's why you'll find me, multiple times a day, squatting in my garden as I poke and prod my plants, urging them to grow strong and sturdy, helping the little peas by guiding their tendrils towards the trellis, that sort of stuff.

And after a long day of garden, mowing the lawn, any other summery outside task, it's awesome to relax with a tall glass of fresh lemonade.

This was another recipe I wrote for the most recent issue of the South Wedge Quarterly, to go with the strawberry-rhubarb pie. ...continue reading

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strawberry, rhubarb, pie, crust, flaky, spring, berry, crumb, delicious, easy, sugarcrafter, I assume we're all sick of these damn April showers, and are just killing time until May flowers start popping up, bringing heat, sun, grills, and fresh produce. Until then, yuck.

strawberry, rhubarb, pie, crust, flaky, spring, berry, crumb, delicious, easy, sugarcrafter,

If you’ve never made your own pie, you’re missing out. And if you’ve made your own pie but used store-bought crust, shame on you! Making pie crust is actually fairly simple, and for this pie I’m using a recipe from the Pioneer Woman, who is basically Jesus wearing an apron, and quite possibly a cowboy hat. ...continue reading

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fish, tacos, grilled, summer, citrus, lime, cilantro, hake, mahi mahi, bobby, flay, food, network, easy, guacamole, cheese, salsaYAY! It was finally warm enough to roll out the grill this weekend! And sure, it's cold and rainy now, but it was amazing just to sit on my front stoop while I waited for my fish to cook. Fun to plan an entire meal around the fish, to make several side dishes that will (eventually) get posted.

fish, tacos, grilled, summer, citrus, lime, cilantro, hake, mahi mahi, bobby, flay, food, network, easy, guacamole, cheese, salsa

And if you're wondering where I've been these past few weeks, well, work has been hectic. We've started (yet another!) clinical study that I am more or less in charge of, and this time, we have four part-time employees. Trying to organize everyone is a logistical nightmare.

And then I get home, exhausted, and plop down in front of my absurdly large television that I am babysitting for Kevin while he is out of town, and play video games on Kevin's Playstation, That's right, I get to play video games again BECAUSE I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY BOOK!!!

I hauled ass for two and a half months to get it done, writing at least 2,000 words a day, and now I get to reward myself with some much-deserved couch potatoing.

But we were talking about fish tacos: ...continue reading

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So the reason I've been MIA the past  few weeks is because, not only have I been frantically tryin g to finishing my book by April 15th (when Kevin leaves for a few weeks, bequeething his mammoth tv, his playstation, Xbox and stack of video games I've been drooling over for months...

I had to ready my entry for the 2014 Edible Books Competition. After last years tie for first place, I knew I had to step up my game if I wanted to take home that goofy chef's hat all by myself. So, like a good little warrior, I studied my enemies and how people reacted to the cakes. I discovered three things:

  1. They like cute animalsedible, books, competition, winner, fondant, cake, corduroy, button, bear, bed, animals
  2. The are impressed by size, craftmanship, and attention to detailedible, books, competition, winner, fondant, cake, corduroy, button, bear, bed, animals, 2014, Rochester, Library
  3. and they liked cakes that told a storyedible, books, competition, winner, fondant, cake, corduroy, button, bear, bed, animals, 2014, Rochester, Library

So with that in mind, I created a giant Corduroy cake that showed his journey to find a button and ultimately, a home.

edible, books, competition, winner, fondant, cake, corduroy, button, bear, bed, animals, 2014, Rochester, LibraryAnd I won :D

And even better than that, the library asked me if they could display my cake in the children's section! So I got to leave it there, instead of lugging it home!!!

Here's the newspaper article about the event, which includes a video of me talking all awkwardly because I'm awesomely awkward like that. 

edible, books, competition, winner, fondant, cake, corduroy, button, bear, bed, animals, 2014, Rochester, Library

 

Here he is, sitting next to his stuffed counterpart. I'm so thrilled that I won, and thankful for Beth and Kevin's help and support (literally, they supported the cake while it dried). Now that it's finished, I can vacuum up the sugar, pick the fondant out of my slippers, and get back to my book. Sigh.

Just 10,000 or so more words, Sarah, and you can play all the video games you want. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...