nlbarber: (Fish-Fred)
Happy birthday, [ profile] stoutfellow! Hope it was a good one.
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In the usual fashion, I don't have time to make this shorter. An unfocused and un-edited ramble follows...

Washington meetings, Moultrie furniture moving )

After that, it was a pretty relaxing day. The folks next door called from Cancun to wish me a happy birthday, and the kids bemoaned the weather Tropical Storm Alex was causing. I took a short nap, went to Home Depot for some garden stuff and to the grocery store, baked cake-of-the-week (not one I'd choose for my birthday cake), grilled a steak for dinner, and went to Brusters for a kids' hot fudge sundae for my real birthday treat.

Now, what I really need is a weekend. How come tomorrow's Monday?
nlbarber: (Default)
I could easily spend hours reading food blogs, and I find my old habit of clipping newspaper recipes has been supplanted by bookmarking and/or printing blog entries. Not that this stops me from continuing to acquire cookbooks.

Anyway, my recipe collections to tend to the dessert side, and I have quite a pile of untried treats. However, Deb of Smitten Kitchen recently referred to a cake she'd made a while back, and the timing was just right to catch my attention for my birthday cake. I make my own, you see, because that way I get just what I want. Most of the time. :)

So, the recipe is for Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze, and originally came from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman. I'm not that fond of peanut butter so I decided to try substituting almond butter. Worked great, even though the Trader Joe's almond butter was pretty runny and not, of course, homogenized. The recipe's caution about the oil separating out was unneeded...or maybe the cake just didn't stay around long enough for that to be a problem. I did add a little more powdered sugar to the frosting to stiffen it a little, and also kicked in a little almond extract because almond butter is a less assertive flavor than peanut butter.

More and pictures behind the cut )
nlbarber: (Agatha)
I almost forgot to mark the's Agatha-cat's birthday! (Well, it's the day we fixed on--as she was a rescue, the exact date is unknown.) There won't be many more years, I don't think, but she's doing pretty well for now. She is navigating the house quite securely now, and seems to see even more light/dark--she spotted an open cabinet door this morning and came over to investigate. I assume she saw the black opening instead of the light wood of the closed door that's normally there. She still is eating well, and over the last week or so she's gone back to being vocally demanding. She either sits by her feeding spot until I come by and then speaks to me to tell me to put her food bowl down, or if I'm slow to realize that she's waiting she will come find me and tell me about it. Oh, and the last few days we've had a cat-spat on the bed in the early morning before I get up, when she decides that Fish needs to leave the bed. Agatha wins. She's still getting 2 pills a day for the kidney disease and high blood pressure, and will probably start getting periodic sub-Q fluids when we go back for the next check...though I may postpone starting that until I get back from my DisneyWorld vacation in early December.

The one thing I wish I could figure out how to deal with is her litterbox habit. She doesn't step far enough into the box to pee, and thus pees over the edge. I keep puppy pads down under the box (and sticking 6-8 inches in front of it) to catch the pee, but it would sure be nicer if she'd walk all the way into the box before she lets go. Or just turn around, like she does to poop. All the solutions I've thought of seem impractical to implement with a blind, aged cat.
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A belated Happy Birthday to [ profile] joyeuse13!

(mutters "must do better about checking the birthday list...")
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Happy Birthday [ profile] coalboy! Hope you have a wonderful day.
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Happy Birthday to [ profile] rolanni! Hope it's a nice one.
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Happy Birthday, [ profile] kristine_smith! Best wishes for a year with less of that stress-inducing stuff.
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Chocolate Cloud Cake and the Forest Lizard Bowl

The birthday cake came out well--maybe not quite as dramatic as intended (I think I overbaked it slightly so the middle didn't fall as much as the recipe seems to indicate) but wonderful eating nonetheless. I used the optional Grand Marnier and grated orange rind, but if I do it again I think I'll try it without, or perhaps just with cognac as a flavoring. The orange is just a little too much there.

I also used only 2/3 of the whipped cream called for, in the interests of saving a few calories without a great sacrifice. Not that I can't eat gobs of whipped cream, you understand, but I can also cut back on it without feeling horribly deprived. And as you can see on a picture of a slice of cake, there was still quite a cloud of cream.

The cake is being guarded by my forest dragon bowl, made by my cousin Hat and given to me when we visited last month. I haven't decided if the bowl will live in the kitchen permanently, but for the moment it's providing a wonderful decorative touch to the back counter.

nlbarber: (Default)
I had a very nice birthday on the day (Wednesday)--worked a somewhat shortened day, which would have been shorter had not the computer calendar popped up to remind me of the 3-5 conference call. But the call only lasted 45 minutes instead of 2 hours, and I left when it was over. Went home and joined up with my sister-in-law and the younger 2 kids for an excursion to the zoo, a members-only reception and viewing of the new meerkats and warthogs. Then we headed home by way of Whole Foods, where we picked up a mini chocolate cream pie (my choice) and mini fruit tarts (kids'), and shared those.

Sister-in-law and I, with the 2 younger kids, are about to head to the north Georgia mountains this morning. We're going to wander around "alpine Helen", maybe walk the trail at Anna Ruby Falls, then will go to a dinner theatre tonight for a production of Annie Get Your Gun. (SIL made this her birthday present to me, which she admits is a little down from last year's of a ticket to Avenue Q on Broadway... <g>) Tomorrow morning we'll pick up eldest child at camp, then head home.

Then tomorrow afternoon I'll bake my birthday cake. (I like baking my own cake!) I'm planning a Chocolate Cloud Cake from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts. It's a flourless chocolate cake designed to sink in the middle as it cools, leaving a depression to be filled with whipped cream. I was thinking of something more elaborate, like an orange bavarian/ganache/ladyfinger combination in Beranbaum's The Cake Bible, but with limited time to bake the Cloud Cake looks like a better choice. Tomorrow evening will be the official "birthday cake" event, and that should end the year's celebrations.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!
nlbarber: (bujold-skb)
We had a nice MiniLoisCon last night at Crescent Moon at Northlake (easier access and parking than the Decatur one, site of many other MiniLoisCons). The occasion was the visit of [ profile] toraks with Tom and the oh-so-adorable Sean all in town for a neuroscience conference (Tom gave his poster session yesterday with Sean on his arm--I think it must have added a nice touch <g>), [ profile] toraks's cousin Vani, [ profile] filkferengi and Marty (Happy birthday, [ profile] filkferengi! I didn't know it was coming up, or we would have gotten you a candle in your dessert last night...), and Dawn B. and her mother. We took over a couple of tables and camped there for the evening--luckily the restaurant wasn't that busy, so I don't think we hurt our waiter's business too much.

We talked Bujold list, made faces and played games with Sean, gave our general non-spoilered feelings on TSK:B (not everyone had read it yet), I gave the kitchen remodeling update and [ profile] toraks compared notes with her pre-baby bathroom remodel, and on and on. [ profile] filkferengi successfully pushed books on Dawn, but had less success with me--Dawn got a few I might have taken, and most of what was left I already have or don't read. She did talk me into one, though--[ profile] filkferengi is a world-class book pusher, after all!
nlbarber: (Default)
First baking in the new oven: the nephew's birthday cake (he's now 7). As I haven't moved anything in yet while waiting on the punch list work and the contractor's cleaner, the cake process included such things as checking the kitchen inventory made while packing to see what could be obtained (cake pan yes, by turning one box upside down and opening the bottom--the pan was packed early; cooling rack no, so borrowed from next door), moving the KitchenAid mixer from the floor of the guest bedroom to the kitchen counter, and finding various odd-sized containers in the pantry to use for mixing frosting colors. The cake decorating tools live in the pantry (untouched by the remodeling) so those were easy to find, but the spatulas were in a box and had to be dug out.

More on the cake and the party, and a picture ) A good time was had by all including the adults, as a lot of the outdoor supervision of the 7 year olds was done by the nieces and a few of their friends.
nlbarber: (Default)
Happy Birthday, [ profile] kd5mdk! Have a good one!
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Happy birthday, [ profile] p_o_u_n_c_e_r! Hope you have a good one!
nlbarber: (Default)
Happy Birthday, [ profile] fairestcat! Glad you are having a good one.
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The cake was a big hit, both for the decorating (from everyone) and the cake itself (from the kids). I and my s-i-l thought the cake was a little dry and definitely too sweet, but the other moms who tried some more marveled that a low-sugar cake tasted OK at all.

Pictures behind some cuts:

The front view... )

The drawbridge "planks" are gum, the green things are jellybeans, the larger yellow and pink are hard candies, and the little dots on the crenellations are candy dots. The tall flags are also candles--I only set one of them on fire while lighting the candles... :(

Looking down from the top... )

Pink squares inside are a different kind of gum. The Playmobile figure scaling the walls is there because the party was at a rock-climbing facility, so a climber was needed. The rope is a Twizzler. For those with long memories, last year's party was at the same place, with a rock-climbing themed cake.

close-up with climber )

Niece made most of the decisions on candy placement, raiding her sugar-free collection for the candies and gum. I spotted the dots at a store this morning and added those at the last minute. Flags were printed on the computer, glued to the tall candles, and curled around pens overnight to get the waving effect. A little powdered sugar added the "snow", plus helped to show up the details of the castle.

The best part of the party was watching niece deal with the cake. She asked if she could cut it, and after offering advice on how to go about it, I let her take over. And it almost ran like an auction: "who wants half a tower?" "I want the gum!" "Can I have the front?" The gum seemed to be in great demand, to my surprise, but the hottest ticket (so to speak) were the 3 surviving flags. Those were finally handed out by niece doing 3 rounds of eenie-meenie-minie-moe among the 12 (I think) guests. Anyway, she had a great time running the whole show, and the adults all stood back with a smile.
nlbarber: (Default)
Happy Birthday, [ profile] sraun! And to [ profile] celticdragonfly's Jamie, too! Hope the celebrations were fun.
nlbarber: (Default)
I have this list of things I need to get done, several of which need to get done on a workday. Somehow, I never seem to get far on the list on my Fridays. Haven't called the roofer about when he's coming back to fix the furnace pipe and the attic vent, haven't called the tree guy, or a gutter company, or my yard lady. Need to email my architect to prod her about finishing my plans--I'll do that tonight, maybe. Then there's the big list of household chores that aren't getting done, either. Let's not even go into details, there.

But I did get to Weight Watchers (we're a test center for a new program, so things are pretty interesting of late), and went to a bookstore to buy books for my elder niece's birthday today, and made her a brownie ice-cream pie as a birthday cake, and went to the grocery store and the liquor store. Started on the re-arranging for the bathroom work that will happen while I'm gone.

We had a nice family birthday celebration at dinner. Niece has had a wonderful week, topped off by the birthday at school today. Her new private school does birthdays in a big way--she had a pile of notes and mini-banners (some with candy attached) from classmates, plus a plate of cookies that didn't make it home, a plate of brownies, and a plate of something else I didn't see unwrapped. And she was bubbling about it all--maybe it was a sugar high. (OK, she has been bubbling all week.) And that was before the brownie ice-cream pie.

She's not done with birthday celebrations, either--tomorrow night we'll go out to dinner with one friend and the friend's family to Kobe Steakhouse, a teppan-yaki restaurant. And I think there's a movie party in there somewhere, too.
nlbarber: (Default)
Happy birthday, [ profile] norabombay! Hope it was a good one.
nlbarber: (Default)
Once again, LJ has been the low man on the totem pole of online activities, and got bumped for a couple of weeks. Oh, well...

So, Atlanta's had an ice storm this weekend. Freezing rain and sleet started Friday night and continued most of Saturday. I woke up Saturday morning to a partly white yard--the grass didn't get covered, but the patio and pinestraw-covered areas of the yard were covered in what looked like snow. On closer examination (Fish and I went out--he bounded vigorously across the yard with only the occasional foot-shake to note the new groundcover), it was more an accumulation of sleet--big granules. But the kids next door found that it would pack sufficiently like snow to make a 12-inch high snowman. OK, maybe 14 inches. But that was about it.

afternoon with Bujold  )

evening birthday celebration by flashlight )

This morning things were already starting to melt when I went out for the paper, and the streets were mostly clear. It'll be mid-forties this afternoon, so the drive to work tomorrow will be fine. I keep staring at the tree limb on the back fence, but as there's a steady rain of icy clumps falling from the pine trees in the back yard, I think it will wait until later in the week.


nlbarber: (Default)

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