Sunday, November 30, 2008

Homemade 50th Anniversary / Wedding Cake

For Granny and Cordy's 50th Wedding Anniversary, I wanted to have a nice cake to celebrate. I decided that it would be cool to try to go it myself instead of buying one.

The celebration was to be Thanksgiving day, so the weekend before, I made the cakes.

I wanted the cake to look similar to their original wedding cake - stacked layers. (I think they had three layers originally - but there would only be 16 people for the anniversary party - three big layers seemed too much.)

I used one 10" and one 8" springform pan - greased and floured.

I knew I needed a cake topper, so I went to the local hobby store. In the wedding section I found your basic plastic 50th emblem and a pretty centerpiece with lovebirds (it wasn't made for a cake - really too heavy - but Granny likes birds so I thought it was appropriate.)

I've made lots of cakes over the years from "scratch". Lately, I've determined that your basic cake mix is just as good - sometimes better. So, I opted for with two basic yellow cake mixes.

The cakes turned out good - baked them 60 minutes since the cakes were so big. After cooling, I put them in the freezer for a few hours. I wanted the cakes to be absolutely flat, so I just turned the frozen cake on end and sliced off the "domed" top with a long serrated knife.

Nice and flat, upside down. Did this to both layers, wrapped both up in plastic wrap and back to the freezer for a few days until ready to decorate at the last minute.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving day - I had transported the frozen cakes to Mom's house. I coerced my former chef brother Eddie (once a chef, always a chef?) to help me with the decorating. I have done a few kids cakes over the years, but I figured (correctly) that he'd do a better job!!

He has a neat turntable cake stand..makes decorating easier. We made a buttercream frosting -

Easy Buttercream Recipe -

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup REAL Butter
2 tsp. Clear Vanilla (regular vanilla would work - but the icing would have more color)
2 Tbls. Milk - (I ended up using more than this)

Mix on med/high speed for several minutes - this is critical to make the right smooth texture

(I will now apologize for using the word "we" - it's mostly "Eddie")

We didn't get a lot of photos of this process, but Eddie used a cake saw to split each layer in two. Just cut right thru each layer at a constant level. I'm sure you could do this with a long knife to adequate result. He did this to be able to put another layer of icing in the middle. I guess I could have made two of each layer - but I only had one of each pan....

The 8" layer was too big - I should have used a 6" pan for the proper stacked "wedding cake look". So Eddie just used a 6" bowl and cut the cake. Ugh - now we had "raw" edges. After a little discussion with Mom and experimenting, we just thinned down the icing a little and slathered it on. It was not particularly pretty at this point, but the basic shape is there.

After you've got the ugly "crumb coat" in place, you need it to re-solidify the butter. You could put it in the freezer, but we had an outdoor freezer!! So we just sat the cake outside for 20 minutes and the icing was nice an firm.

The rest went really fast -

Since the "crumb coat" is nice and solid, the nice, clean icing can be applied next without getting anymore crumbs in it.

Eddie used this straight spatula and the turntable to put on a thick coat of icing. Nice how it makes the sides so straight and even.

I had bought some "Wilton's" brand disposable bags and some basic nozzles. Eddie, of course, has hundreds of these - but he was winging it at Mom's with the basic stuff I had brought. He just did these little sculpted "blobs" along the base of the cake, then little stars along the edges of each layer.

Then he made little evenly spaced "dots" on the sides. Took him maybe 5 minutes to do this.

Thanks, Eddie - it turned out great!!

Set up at Granny's house, ready for the toast!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

McCraw Thanksgiving

Thursday was pretty and quite warm. When we arrived at Granny's, we immediately noticed that they had built a nice, new deck at the front door.

Obie, the stray kitty we had brought them back in the summer is growing and just a sweetie.

Cordy was repairing a wobbly kitchen table whe we walked in. Glad to see he's doing some real work in his "retirement"!

Much napping was accomplished...

Obligatory family photos. All the grandkids...

The entire clan - we don't have many shots with everyone!

Kevin's family...

Carolyn and Tommy......

Sharon and Buddy....


The "Original" McCraw family....

And finally, Robert went out and chopped some wood (to work off some of that dinner, I suppose!!)

50th Anniversary

50 years ago, two nice young people were married!

On Thanksgiving, all their kids and grandkids gathered to celebrate. We watched a video compilation of 50+ years of photographs set to music. Many of the photos brought smiles and good memories.

50 years ago, they cut a cake to celebrate.

So we all shared a nice toast given by Kevin.

An we shared cake!

Congratulations to Pat and Cordy, for 50 years and so much more!!

Mills River Thanksgiving

We flew up to Asheville Airport on Wednesday morning . Miranda, Richard's girlfriend rode with us. She goes to UNC Chapel Hill and had never ridden in a small plane before. She seemed to enjoy the ride.

Just a photo of the approach to the Asheville Airport - it was a pretty day, but we had a big headwind...yuk. The song "Slow Ride, take it easy" kept playing in my head as I watched the airspeed drop the further west we got...still just about 1 1/2 hours from Raleigh to Asheville, so not too bad!

Everyone was going to have a "traditional" Thanksgiving meal on Thursday somewhere else, so Mom made a really great salmon dish instead. It was just salmon wrapped in puff pastry dough, and stuffed with spinach and cheese. Easy, very pretty and really good!

Here are the "young ones" at the "juvenille" table...

In-depth discussion going on here...

Eddie and Trudi - this was about the 4th take - Trudi's eyes close too quick when you try to get a shot. Nice one.

Denise had to work (night shift), so Bridget and I went over to take her a "to-go" plate and say hello. She took me on a little walking tour of the retirement center. Very nice place, kindof like a resort, not a "rest home" at all.

All my boys together!

This is the following morning - I smoked a ham and turkey for the McCraw gathering on Thanksgiving Day. I started the smoker at about midnight - and here is the pretty result early in the morning. It was yummy - more on that later - gotta go for now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Back from Thanksgiving Visit

We're back from a couple of days visit home. I've got lots of photos to organize of both the Mills River gang and the McCraw 50th Anniversary. I'll try to do that tomorrow....just a few of the great veggies I brought back - yum! Radishes
Butternut squash??
Turnips - my fav!
And, of course, sweet pototos.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cheap Gas!!

OK, I know I seem obsessed...but this is the cheapest I've seen it in a very long time!! Kindof scary, actually!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Frugal Christmas Party Invitations

My sweet employee/friend Bobbi donated some old card stock that was dated 2004 for me to use to make invitations to our company Christmas party.

I just printed the information onto the blank paper. It's really quite pretty - you can't really see it here, but there is gold foil in places to make it glittery.

Of course, it would be tacky to send it out with the "2004" in the corner, now wouldn't it? So I just trimmed off the edges in a random "torn" kindof pattern (trying to mimic the strand of Christmas lights, I suppose....)

Folded it up and mailed it off to each couple. Always a good time (as company parties go, that is!!)

Need to save money for the goodies at the party!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Robert's home for Thanksgiving

Robert came home tonight for the Thanksgiving break from NC State. WOW, he's all FUZZY!! He said it was a "no-shave-No-vember"....also said he was tired of it and is going to shave it off now!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dolphins Playing with Silver "Air" Rings

This is a cool little video someone sent me - the first time I looked at it, I thought the dolphins were playing with actual rings under water. But the dolphins are actually creating the rings themselves - making a vortex with their nose.

Watch it twice - pretty amazing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stir Fry and Beer Tower

Not much going on here on a blustery, cold Friday! Got my flu shot at my doctors office because Duane keeps bugging me to do it. They come to IBM and give them en mass, so it's easy for him to get his. OW, my arm is sore!!

After that bit of unpleasantness, I went grocery shopping. On the "out of date" rack in the produce section, they had a couple of trays of green pea pods. Not snow peas, but nice and flat and, strangely enough, quite fresh looking. For the huge price of 94 cents! I was in the mood for some stir-fry - so that was a welcome sight.

Here's the result - just started with some seasame oil, sliced onions, frozen broccoli, a can of bean sprouts, a can of sliced water chestnuts, a bit of sugar and a bunch of soy sauce. Yum. No wonder the doctor told me my cholesterol was 166 (the "good" one is 70, so I think I'm OK there also!)

Speaking of less healthy habits - I ran across this on a sailing website I follow. The couple is sailing around the world - currently they're in Malaysia, I think. This was a shot from their website (it didn't say "copyright" so I guess it's OK). Apparently, this is how they were served beer- no waitress to flag down - just pour yourself another cold one - I want one of them!!! (Or better yet, maybe I can convince Duane to sail me to Malaysia, hehehe!!!)