Sunday, August 26, 2012

Just Barely

Miracle of miracles, we have arrived in the midst of Isaac's fury.

I don't know how it is possible. Every single flight was cancelled into Miami except for ours. Every. Single. Flight. Do you need proof?

Exhibit A:

Do you see the Delta flight at the very top? That was ours. And our flight was relatively turbulence-free. Our captain was unbelievably talented. Before we left Atlanta, he gave us a play-by-play of the flight and assured us that he had flown in dozens of hurricanes and had obviously survived them all.

I still can't believe we made it. Thank you, Jesus.

Miami looks like it has been through a washing machine. There is water everywhere and it is still coming down. The good news is that Pizza Hut is still delivering and our delivery man from heaven should be here in ten minutes.

Nothing spells hurricane survival food like pizza. Am I right or am I right?

We are now settled into a very "rustic" hotel that could very well be from a horror movie. But we have a deadbolt and Tara is a Zumba instructor so I am not too worried.

Exhibit B:

The cruise has a delayed departure tomorrow but thankfully the bulk of the storm is now barreling toward the Gulf. Oh people, please take cover and grab a pizza as you go.

Thanks for praying us to Miami. I still think this whole thing is borderline insane, but it definitely makes for a very memorable adventure.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's Gonna Be Close

It is Saturday night. I have half of my closet on my bed and it is going to take a miracle to get it into a suitcase. 

The cruise line is still saying that everything is on track for a Monday departure. Part of me thinks they are completely crazy and the other part of me thinks the storm will be past us once Monday rolls around. I am thinking tomorrow is when things may get a little hairy. Thankfully, we have a layover in Atlanta (that may be the first time I have ever been thankful for a layover), which may mean we miss the brunt of the storm. 

Does anyone else think this is nuts?

Yeah, me too.

It's gonna be close, people.

I may need snorkel gear.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I Think We May Need Al Roker

As of this morning, Operation Umbrella Drink is still on!

I have no idea what the next 72 hours will look like, but Tara and I are committed to giving you up-to-date weather reports from the eye of the storm. I have a feeling we will look something like this:

I love when he says, "Hold on to me, Al!"

It's a good thing I am so sturdy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Tropical Storm of Crushed Vacation Dreams

It appears that Tropical Storm Isaac has it out for my vacation.

I refuse to be intimidated, especially from some junior varsity storm that isn't even strong enough to be a hurricane. Unless of course our cruise is cancelled because of gigantic rogue waves, which may be a very real possibility.

As of this morning, the cruise line had not changed our itinerary but the projections are not looking good.

I realize we are smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and planning a cruise for this time of year is a bit risky. It would be like buying a mobile home in Oklahoma in May. However, we did purchase insurance, which we hopefully won't have to use.

For now, I am holding out hope that Operation Umbrella Drink is still a go. Tara and I have worked too hard on our tans (well, maybe not me) for this to be cancelled. Heck, I even bought a new swim suit for this trip so the pain and torture of trying that sucker on better not go to waste.

I have even given up some desserts over the past few weeks. I know, right?

Stupid Isaac.

I will keep you all posted on this current weather crisis. Let's all hope that Isaac wimps out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Speed Bump

We have hit a speed bump of sorts.

The long-awaited paperwork needed for my dad's transfer finally arrived. However, it did not contain all the information they needed for the transfer to be approved. So, once again, we must petition the judge to clarify his remarks and pray that he gives the green light again for the transfer.

(Apparently there is a chance that he will decide not to give the green light. I didn't realize justice could change its mind.)

This clarification could happen tomorrow or it could happen in November.

So the waiting continues...

And the praying does not cease.

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly." (Psalm 5:3)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vacation Predictions

In one week, I will be on a big, big boat floating in the Caribbean. My friend Tara and I have wanted to take a trip for years and finally this is the year we are doing it!

(Here we are few years ago when I had bangs the first time):

We found a HUMDINGER of a deal on Caribbean cruises and I received a buy one/get one airline ticket offer so this very well could be the cheapest vacation in history. When frugality and palm trees collide, wonderful things happen.

I am not sure how much I will blog next week. I may be too tired from all the lounging and buffeting to write. However, here are some things that I can already predict from this trip:

1. I will not have my hair braided. First, braided bangs look ridiculous on anyone over the age of six. Secondly, in no way do I resemble Bo Derek. No need to put that visual in anyone's mind.

2. I will want to learn to play the steel drums and may bring home a set, just like Michael Scott from The Office.

3. Instead of tanning, I will freckle. I am okay with this.

4. I will over pack. Again, I am okay with this.

5. I plan on dancing as much as humanly possible. There is a salsa club on the boat and I have a feeling they have never seen an Irish girl dance like she is part Latina. I am pretty sure I will blow their minds.

6. I am going to eat a lot of pineapple.

7. I plan on napping regularly.

8. I will try to look as nautical as possible without overdoing it. My goal is to not be one horizontal stripe away from looking like the Cruise Director.

9. I may use a pseudonym and a fake accent if the situation warrants it. I always knew my theater days would come in handy.

10. I really want to try my hand at Bingo.

I will keep you posted on other predictions as the week progresses. Until then, happiest of Mondays to you!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Recipe Round-Up: Chocolate Fudge Raspberry Cake

When one of my co-workers celebrated a birthday this week, I was asked (or maybe I volunteered) to bake a birthday cake.  The Frustrated Baker is nothing if not eager and willing. The birthday boy asked if I could somehow combine chocolate with raspberries and cream cheese frosting.

Um, yes. Yes I can.

As a result, this cake was born. It is a perfectly decadent chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and fresh raspberry filling wrapped in chocolate fudge cream cheese frosting.

I know. Ridiculous.

Before we begin, however, I have a confession: I sometimes use a box mix as the base for chocolate cakes. SHOCKER! But I am all about making life easier and if you can do it with a box mix, go for it!

I discovered this shortcut while reading She has unbelievable recipes and her doctored-up box mix is one of them! I love this recipe because it works beautifully in high altitude. And the extra ingredients you add to the mix make this taste better than homemade. Trust me on this, you will love it!

So, let's start!

 Buy a box of Devil's Food cake mix.

Add it to your mixing bowl along with a box of instant chocolate pudding.

Now comes the good stuff: Add sour cream, oil, eggs, warm espresso (or coffee) and vanilla. All of these ingredients combined make for one amazingly moist cake!

Mix it for 2 minutes and divide between two 9" baking pans.

Pop those suckers in the oven and WA LA! Two fabulous cakes just ready to be adorned!

While those are cooling, let's make the cream cheese frosting, shall we? This is one of my most favorite frosting recipes ever. EVER.

Start with cream cheese, butter and whole milk/cream. Mix those together until smooth.

 Next up, add powdered sugar and cocoa (pretend I have a picture of me adding cocoa). Be sure to mix slowly at first and then whip it up for 1 minute.

Finally, add salt and vanilla to take this fudgy goodness over the top! Mix again and your frosting is complete. 

Once your cakes are cooled, grab some fresh raspberries. Make sure they are dried thoroughly so they don't make the cake soggy. Soggy cake is a baking no-no.

Also, grab your ganache. Ganache is just a fancy word for chocolate and cream. To make ganache, simply heat cream over the stove until it simmers. Remove from heat and add your chocolate. Stir until it becomes shiny and all the chocolate is melted.

I could literally stick my head in this bowl.

To assemble, place the bottom cake on a platter or cardboard base. Add a drop of frosting to the base so the cake will not slide around. A flying cake is another baking no-no.

Next, add 2/3 of the ganache and all of the raspberries on the bottom cake until the base is completely covered. (Again, pretend I have a picture of a completely covered cake.)

On the under side of the top cake, spread the remaining ganache. Press the top cake firmly on the raspberries and refrigerate for 10 minutes. This will help set the ganache and raspberries, preventing the top cake from flying off and landing on the floor, causing you to weep.

SIDE NOTE: In the meantime, do 100 squats, 40 lunges and 25 jumping jacks. You may not be able to walk afterward but you will help counterbalance the fact that you licked the beater and have plans for the frosting bowl once you are finished.

Once the ganache is set, pile on the fudgy cream cheese frosting!

Start with a big dollop on top and work your way to the sides.

Keep adding frosting to the top and moving it to the sides until the entire cake is covered. Be generous with your frosting, your co-workers will thank you.

And there you have it! A perfectly decadent chocolate cake with a dark chocolate and raspberry surprise inside!  Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. It is totally up to you if want to share it.

You complete me.

This cake is perfect for birthdays or celebrations. But it is also perfect for as a midnight snack or breakfast. There are few things I love more than cold cake for breakfast! Here are the handy-dandy instructions.

Chocolate Fudge Raspberry Cake

Chocolate Cake:
Recipe adapted from
1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix (see note below)
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water or 1/2 cup warm coffee

Chocolate Fudge Cream Cheese Frosting:
Recipe adapted from Country Living
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 tablespoons hole milk or cream
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4oz. heavy whipping cream
6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

2 pints of fresh raspberries, washed and dried

Cake Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9" baking pans. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and espresso water mixture. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined. Divide batter between two 9" baking pans. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cakes to cool before adding the frosting.

Frosting Directions: In a medium bowl, using a mixer set at medium speed, beat the cream cheese, butter, and milk together until smooth. Add the sugar, cocoa, and salt and continue to beat until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the vanilla, and beat until smooth. Cover and chill until needed.

Ganache Directions: Pour cream into small saucepan and set on low heat. Once the cream simmers, turn off heat and add chocolate. Stir mixture until chocolate is melted and it becomes smooth and shiny. Chill until slightly thicker.

Assembly: Place small drop of frosting on cake server or cardboard plate. Place bottom cake on top. Add 2/3 of the ganache and spread to cover the cake. Add all of the fresh raspberries and cover the cake. Add the remaining ganache to the underside of the top cake layer. Press top cake firmly onto raspberries, smooth out any ganache that seeps out between the layers, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Once the ganache is set, scoop a large dollop of frosting on top of the cake. Work the frosting to the sides and smooth. Cover the cake completely, adding more frosting to the top and working towards the sides. Place cake in cake carrier or covered cake plate and refrigerate until serving.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

2nd Grade and Beyond

So, this kid started 2nd grade yesterday.


I know, I am so confused.

How can this squishy baby be in 2nd grade? How can this little tub-o-goodness be walking around with a big kid backpack, saying things like "Actually, Sarah, Pluto is no longer a planet."

What in the world is going on, both with this kid and our solar system??

Oh that's right, apparently the hands of time have not stopped and some brilliant scientist decided to demote Pluto. And that cuddly nugget-o-sweetness looks like this:

He has grown approximately 4.3 feet this summer and he has big, gangly grown-up teeth. And he likes to have me smell his feet.

Boys. So very weird.

And when I asked him to take a picture with me on his very first day of 2nd grade, he looked like this:

It appears the teenage angst has bitten him early. Or maybe he is finally starting to realize just how loony his aunt really is.

Either way, he better get used to me. Looniness is just part of my charm and I plan on showing up to every birthday, milestone and event for the rest of his life. Every single one.

It's a good thing aunts can't be demoted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Plum Tree That Wasn't

Once upon a time, there was a plum tree. It grew in the backyard of a weird and wacky family.

It grew tall and wide with big, green leaves. It provided shade in the summer and nothing in the winter.

Yet, year after year, this plum tree never produced one, single plum.

Until one day, it produced 10,000 nectarines.

Apparently the plum tree wasn't a plum tree after all.

(I am sure there is a moral to this story somewhere.)

The End.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Frustrated Baker

So, I have an announcement.

Not a big one, more of a medium-sized announcement. It's no big deal, really. It actually makes a lot of sense. It is a natural progression of things, at least in my world, anyway.

Are you ready for this?

Here it is: I am officially catering baked goods for parties and events!

As in real baked goods for real events where real people pay me real money.

For. Reals.

You see, I bake anyway and why not share that love with people who will help share the burden of buying things like butter, sugar, eggs and chocolate? There is a certain harmony to it, don't you think?

Harmony made with butter, baked to perfection and dipped in dark chocolate ganache.

I love that kind of harmony.

And I really love baking. It is my creative outlet, my de-stresser, my go-to activity when I need to feel productive and energized.

(And it is the reason I live on the treadmill.)

(But let's not talk about that right now.)

In the last few weeks, I have had the privilege of catering three parties and I have one more next week. I am not going to lie, it has been a little chaotic, flour has ended up in the strangest of places. But I love making something both delicious and beautiful, helping to enhance celebrations or milestones, while also relieving the host from the stress of baking it themselves.

It's totally a win/win situation.

I am still working on my list of available baked goods, but thus far, it includes:


Pies and Tarts: 

Cakes and Cupcakes:

Bars and Brownies:

Truffles and Treats:

Quick breads, candy and caramel corn are also in the works but the recipes are still being fine-tuned.

So, let me know if you have an event coming up and you need something delectable to share! I'll be happy to discuss menu options and pricing. The Frustrated Baker is nothing if not flexible and delightful.

And I promise I won't stick my finger in your frosting.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Foggy Monday Brain

It is Monday.

My brain is foggy.

I do not have nearly enough coffee.

I vacuumed before I left for work.

My oatmeal exploded in the microwave.

I forgot to pack a lunch.

So, a list is in order. Big time.

1. My sister spent three days in her own private room of the hospital this weekend. She suffers from chronic migraines so her neurologist recommended a wonderful cocktail of medicine to help "reset her brain chemistry." She has had 72 hours to just relax, chat, and rest her little noggin. I am thinking a three-day hospital vacation sounds pretty darn good.

She is such a trooper.

2. I am really, really relieved that the Olympics are over. Now I can actually go to bed like a normal person. Although I will miss my evening dinner dates with Bob Costas.

3. I walked into work this morning and my colleague, Nadine, gave me this:

Who knew that all I needed to do was add water? Brilliant!

4. Thank you for all the love about my bangs. I love how you get me...and my hair.

5. Is it too soon for Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies? I didn't think so.

Thank you and good night.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Inaugural Ascent

As I was navigating the aisles of Walmart on Sunday, Noah was navigating his first 14er.

As in his first 14,065 foot mountain.

As in a ginormous piece of rock that LITERALLY divides the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Or at least it's water flow, anyway.

What the heck.

Apparently, he loved every minute of it. He even asked me when I was going to climb a 14er.

I said, "never."

He looked at me like I was ridiculous.

Here he is navigating the boulder field.  You know, a typical thing to do on a Sunday.

And here he is with the ladies. He is such a charmer. Apparently he was a big hit on the trail.

He said he was ready to go again. In fact, he wants to climb all fifty-something 14ers that this glorious state has to offer.

I blame his dad.