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Geeky Cakes

I have a new hobby – as if I need any more, really.

I have been making fondant birthday cakes for my friends and family, and since we are all geeks, most of the cakes have been a reflection of that fact.

The first fondant cake I did was for my daughter’s 12th birthday. I made my own fondant out of the marshmallow-powdered sugar recipe. Quite frankly, it was a pain in the ass. In the end, it turned out alright. Not a total wreck for a first try.

The second fondant cake I did was for the Wrecking Crew’s alpha’s birthday. Pictures of that will be forthcoming, but it was a simple white background, with a wavy band of red at the base, blood drops, and the crew logo on top of it hand carved out piece by piece and layered. I also made marbled d-10’s to scatter on top of it out of the fondant. We were all amused by it.

The third fondant cake was for my daughter’s boyfriend’s birthday. He’s a NASCAR fan, so I did a simple race track and fondant racing cars.

The next two cakes were for my twin brothers. One of them really likes Tinkerbell, the other one is an old school gamer. (Note: I am still learning the ins and outs of WordPress.com. I cannot for the life of me get the slideshow or the gallery not to show the other pictures in the post. Grr!)

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One year later, my last attempt was for my daughter’s 13th birthday. This year it was Invader Zim.

I have learned quite a lot about cakes, frosting and fondant with just those six cakes. I have learned that:

  • It’s really fun, but I will never be a professional at this (and I really would not want to be).
  • Commercial fondant bought at Michael’s Arts and Crafts is much easier to work with than marshmallow fondant, and tastes better.
  • To spray the plastic molds with Pam before squishing fondant into them. Otherwise, just do white chocolate and colored white chocolate.
  • The type of cake you use matters greatly. Do not get the extra pudding in the mix cakes. If at all possible, just bake complete from scratch instead of using a box. The home-made cake stands up to having the heavy layers of fondant on top.
  • Simple ideas can come out more elegant than first envisioned.
  • The notes you find about the fondant reflecting every imperfection in the frosting – absolutely true.

Still, all that matters is that those I have made them for absolutely loved them despite my lack of skill.

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Stormy weather

What an interesting weekend and I do mean that in that old Chinese proverb sort of way.

Friday was a lazy, uneventful day, as most days are around here.

Saturday started off much the same way. However, every joint and bone and muscle in my body hurt that I could not even get the top off the Advil bottle. It soon became apparent why I was sweating and hurting, a big storm was brewing. The humidity rose making the day decidedly uncomfortable, and like many of the arthritis sufferers I know a rise in humidity also makes for a painful day.

Then the storm broke. It was awesome: rain, wind roaring, dust-storm blowing, thunder, and lightning, everything that a monsoon is supposed to be. Tree stayed up right too, we don’t dare remove its supports we had to put up when it fell over earlier in the year. We were making sure all the animals were inside and taken care of when I noticed I’m getting wet — inside the house.

“Oh fuck me, not again,” is what went through my head. I look up, sure enough; water was running down the side of the stairwell and landing on top of me as I was standing at the bottom just ready to go up.

Yep, another fucking leak.

Flash back to the leak earlier this year… it totally caved in the roof of our walk in closet.

This is what the side of our house looked liked the morning after that storm in February. This is what the park down the street looked like, and while it’s deceptive from the photo, that water is 3 feet deep (they build run-offs like this into every housing community for just this purpose). And these three pictures: 1, 2 and 3 is what the front of my house looked like when the tree fell over. Across the street, another tree down and down the street a-ways, yet another tree down (you can see it covering the sidewalk down there).

We were so focused on the tree that day, and the next… and we rarely go into our closet which is mainly storage; imagine our horror when we found this:

I quite think in retrospect, that “Oh fuck me, not again” was a rather mild way to put it. We do rent right now, but we very much empathize with our land-lord, he’s a great guy. Thankfully he has housing insurance.

Right before the discovery of the leak, we were all counting our blessings. We are barely making it. We have cut out a lot of extras, even WoW. The only entertainment we can afford right now is Netflix and the cable internet package (minus the TV aspect – which is okay, Netflix and Hulu cover all our needs – on our weird ass schedule). So, when a co-worker offered to give us what he was cleaning out of his pantry, it was a blessing. We have been getting a few food boxes the past couple of months to help make ends meet. I hope that sooner rather than later, we’ll be able to pay that forward to someone else.

So, all said and done, the bills are paid, there is food in the pantry, the last few dollars are going into the gas tank to get the husband to and from work. We can deal with a small leak in the roof.

Then the phone rings.

Now, at this point I should mention my husband’s profession. Friends and family already know what he does, so it will not come as a surprise, but for the one or two of you that might stumble upon this blog that do not know, he’s a Correctional Officer for the State of Arizona. He has been there for eight years, going on nine now.

It was another co-worker. This is what I hear my husband say on our end:

“No dude, I’m okay. Why?”

“Oh, no, I’m fine. Really?”

“Six officers taken by ambulance to the hospital?”

“Oh, no, I’m not on DART. It didn’t happen on days, must have been swing.”

That is when this little switch I installed in my brain got turned to off. That switch is the kill switch to the panic and worry I feel on those days that I am reminded of the conditions my husband works in. It’s not like I don’t forget. It’s not like I automatically know when he’s supposed to be home every single day. It’s not like I have a mental time-table worked out on how long he can be kept at work for things like a transport, the turnaround time to get back to the unit and get a ride home. There is a magic time that happens during the day that I allow myself the panic and worry that I have not heard from him and when I will call his unit. I have never had to do so, and I hope that I never will. I simply choose not to worry about things that are ultimately out of my control.

So today, he comes home from work and I get the full version. It’s not a pretty picture. The officers are alive; one severely injured enough to require surgery. I wish I could relate his stories in more detail, but that’s against the rules. Let’s just leave it at another day at work in a place where even police officers refuse to go most of the time.

I did tweak out a bit the day he told me someone tried to shank him but missed.

I held him while he cried the day he came home early after being the principle officer that saved another officer’s life.

I have waited as patiently as I could for blood-tests to come back after he’s been thrown on, so many times now that I have lost track.

And my husband is one of the good ones. An officer that has made it eight years without compromising his ideals of right and wrong; an officer that does his job as listed without being a dick or an ass or a cunt to the inmates; an officer that is frequently being called in to help put out fires without starting any… and this is still a reality for him, and for our family.

So today, I just played Diablo II; took some time off from the computer until now; spent time with my family; spent time with my husband after dinner. It was subtle, but it is how I express my worry and concern.

Later tonight I will be making sure the house doesn’t embarrass me to have strangers in it- which is pretty much just getting the dishes done, sweeping downstairs, making sure the counters are cleaned off, and the cat-boxes are not stinky. Then Diablo II again for awhile.

Something soothing about defeating evil right now…

PS: We managed to save the tree much to the amusement of our neighbors who came out to see the crazy people attempting it. At the end of the day, the tree stood upright again, minus a good portion of its branches. Today, it needs a good trimming, and it’s only been six months.

Chili recipe (gluten-free)

Homemade chili recipe (gluten-free)

Beans
Small yellow onion
Minced garlic
Diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
Chili powder (optional)
Onion powder (optional)
Garlic powder or garlic salt (if garlic salt, decrease the amount of salt used) (also optional)
Black pepper
White pepper
Salt
Nutmeg
Coriander
Meat of choice
Olive oil

Notice that there are no measurements. I let my tasting, and my sense of smell be the judge of when something is spiced right.

This time around, I started with two packages of dried beans and soaked them for two days straight. I had to rinse them and re-soak them during those times, because the heat herein AZ makes anything left like that ferment fairly fast. I have used canned beans before as well. Honestly, I’ve found that choice of beans really doesn’t matter. This batch is pinto beans and white beans, and it tastes absolutely wonderful. (Please note that two bags of beans actually made two pots of chili, and I had to use two of our three slow-cookers for the chili this time.)

These went into the slow-cookers. I added about 6 tablespoons of chili powder, a couple teaspoons of black pepper, a couple teaspoons of salt, and some onion powder and garlic powder to each and turned on the crock pot. I filled the pots up with water to cover the beans and have 1/4 inch left on top.

Over the next four to six hours, I stirred the pots occasionally and added water when needed so the beans didn’t burn.

When the beans were mostly soft, I added half a large onion, diced, between the two pots, some fresh minced garlic (about two teaspoons each pot), several more tablespoons of chili powder, a teaspoon of nutmeg, two teaspoons of coriander, and two teaspoons of white pepper. I also added the tomato sauce at this point.

Then it was slow cooked for another 8 hours.

In the morning, the husband diced some chicken, sautéed it in olive oil, added a little bit more chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, then added it into the chili. We’ve used both beef and turkey before too, but I think I like the chicken the best.

After about another hour, the chili was finished.

The only thing I would have done differently this time perhaps is add the meat earlier. The beans are just a little too soft.

In the past, instead of just plain water, I’ve used both black tea and red-wine to add more fluid to it. Over the years, I’ve learned that iced tea actually adds to the flavors of the spices I tend to use regularly, rather than just dilute it down with plain water. The red-wine was nice Chianti mixed equal parts with water. They both turned out well. The tea was good for the turkey, the red-wine for the beef.

I like the garlic powder and onion powder for the dry beans, because it allows them to take on the flavor during the initial soak without having mushy onion or garlic in the finished product.

With the onion, you can also sauté them separately in a little bit of olive oil so they sweeten, and then add them to the meat so they cook in the pan with the meat before the meat is added to the chili.

Why nutmeg and coriander? I have this recipe for fondue that uses nutmeg and coriander. I thought them unusual ingredients at the time (well over a decade ago) but have since learned to love them for chili, and just the coriander for stews.

All the spices I have are gluten-free, and using dried beans instead of canned ensures no-cross contamination or questionable additives. It does make it a longer process over all, but the actual hands on time was less than an hour.

Enjoy!

Scorpion stings and masquerades

The last entry was a bit terse towards the end, and for that I apologize. Towards the end of writing it, my daughter was stung by a scorpion and I had to step away to take care of her. The post became good enough at that point.

She’s doing alright, but if the muscle spasms continue or get worse past this hour, that means a trip to the ER to make sure she’s not having a severe reaction.

While I wait and watch her, I’ve pulled out the components for my Grand Masquerade outfit that I am putting together for the black tie formal event at the Succubus Club.

In all candor, I’m very overweight at this point in my life. The fact that my lovely daughter wears my first corset is at times, emotionally painful to me. However, the subject of my weight ties in with health issues, and will be addressed in future posts.

I have some lovely dresses and costumes despite my weight, but the problem does not actually rest in the waist, but in the chest. I have always been well endowed, and it has always been a problem when choosing clothing. Over the years, I have gotten quite good at obfuscating them unless I am in an environment where people will still be able to tell me the color of my eyes the next day.

So the debate on how to put together my costume basically boils down to: flaunt them or not.

A part of me wants to say, fuck it, and flaunt them, full sails set with a bodice. Their sheer size however, makes that the vulgar option.

Most of me wants to be classy and refined for a number of reasons, including the fact that I am going as a representative of White Wolf and should be professional in all that I do. Not to mention, I would give our team alpha a heart-attack if I did otherwise.

Some of the issues that I am pondering include the mask that I’m making. I was dead set on a gargoyle mask. I have the horns ready to attach and the plans all drawn up. A gargoyle mask however, does not quite fit with any of the outfits that I have on hand – at least not without a lot of modification.

What it is basically boiling down to is embracing my Nosferatu – Cleopatra side, or the Toreador in me.

Decisions, decisions.

Sunshine and storms

Today I felt the wonderful storm deep in my bones and joints. My hip aches making it difficult to walk, let alone attempt the stairs more than necessary.

The storm was quite interesting. Looking out into the backyard, I had to twist my neck a bit to see the storm cloud that was over my house because otherwise, it was nothing but blue skies and sunshine. The grey brick walls were only slightly sprinkled with rain which they soaked up almost immediately leaving almost no trace of the moisture. Above, the thunder was strong enough to rattle the windowpanes.

Hum, I thought, and moved to the front of the house and opened up the front door then immediately shut it. It was raining buckets and in the space of a few seconds, the front of the yard and the street were literally flooded. Ah, I thought to myself, I need to go rescue the tortoise from out back because of how bad it is, and his type does not do well with a lot of moisture. When I get back there, I see only sunshine and blue skies and the tortoise looking at me expectantly for his lunch.

It only takes a few seconds from the back door to the front door. I go back to the front door, open it, and shut it again. Yep, still raining buckets. I pause in the kitchen, midway between the two points, grab some vegetables for the tortoise and feed him when I step out back. Yep again, still fairly dry.

I amused myself for the next ten minutes or so standing in the middle of the house looking out the front window then the back patio door.

Rain, wind, thunder, lightning and dark, ominous clouds on one side… blue skies and sunshine the other side.

I can be easily amused at times, I admit.

Although I also admit, it was absolutely perfect weather for me. I had a raging storm and bright sunshine, all at once. It just depended on if I went out the front door or the back. The only downside to this is that I feel the damp in my joints and bones. The only consolation to that is that this is a temporary situation (or should be) and that once a few things happen, most of my health issues will resolve itself.

Meanwhile, I still have a smile on my face as I think: front, back, front, back. I foresee this little weather phenomena working its way into a game session at some point.

Speaking of games, I wrote up and send in my second proposal today for an SAS for White Wolf. I did so while I am still on a high and glowing from GenCon – meaning that I had the courage to do so.

With GenCon behind us, the Grand Masquerade draws neigh and one that the few of us that get to go to are looking forward to. However, that is not the only convention in our future, as we are also doing RinCon which is only a few weeks after the Grand Masquerade.

Another one of the Wrecking Crew mentioned the word podcast today. I had already been thinking about it, and to be honest, doing this blog is just a precursor to other projects I had in mind – like a podcast. It is good to know that I’m not the only member of the Crew thinking along similar lines.

The potential and possibilities ahead of me make me smile. Not the same smile that the front-back  weather though, that one is more along the lines of someone in need of serious mental help.

Gamer-girl-geek

Hi, my name is Dawn and I am a gamer-girl-geek and proud of it. I have been gaming for over 20 years now: RPGs, board, card, PC and console games.

I am currently a member of The Wrecking Crew, senior White Wolf demo team and fell into the position of being the Crew’s net mistress. Mostly I update our Face Book page and Tweet during gaming conventions from both the Crew’s Twitter account and my personal account. My current claim to geek fame is that my name is listed as a play tester (along with most of the rest of the Crew) in Geist the Sin-Eaters and I had my first request for an autograph because of it.

After long thought, I have decided to create a blog. All the cool people are doing it, so I am going to give it a try as well. I have a whole list of topics that I’d like to write and share with whoever stumbles across my blog, most of them gaming related, but some that will be personal.

More about me…

I just celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary. Granted, I was at GenCon on that particular day, while my husband took care of the house and kids. He’s a gamer too, and very supportive of me and my dream to have a career in the gaming industry. We are raising two of the next generation of gamers. In fact, you can find them over on RinCon 10’s website – my husband and son are the first photo in the flickr stream. My daughter can be found later on in the stream, getting ready to play Rock Band with Wil Wheaton (my son and one of his friends also got to play).

My hobbies and interests are myriad and eclectic. I have been a Middle Eastern dancer for over 20 years, and involved in various martial arts for even longer. I have been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for over 20 years as well and enjoy both heavy suit fighting and rapier. I am a voracious reader, so much so, that my husband does not like to buy me books anymore because I devour them in a single evening. I am also an artist in various mediums including, but not limited to, watercolor, photography, jewelry making, silk painting and graphic art. In fact, the background image for this blog is one of my own creations – I’m just a Toreador at heart.