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Monday, March 1, 2021

did we nail it?

remember when the bean and i did the nailed it at home challenge a few months ago?  well, they had a "to all the boys i've loved before" themed version, and this time the old lady joined me for the fun.  the now-familiar box arrived via fedex just a few days before:

and just like last time, there were a few tasks to complete before the live portion on zoom began.  first up - bake the cake.  i dig this part because it's like having a sous chef who pre-measures everything for you so all you have to do is dump it all out and get to work.  i mean, it's not really hard or super time-consuming to measure ingredients out, but still...this is extra easy.  

i got the cake in the oven and moved on to making the cookie dough.  i figured - well, sugar cookies, right?  easy.  i've done that a bazillion times.  except that the process as described in the recipe was different from how i do things.  still, i resisted the temptation to do things my way and followed the directions like a good girl.  the dough was a little dry and crumbly, but i wrapped it up and put it in the fridge as instructed.

making the frosting came next.  this was a very simple buttercream that mixed up like a bag of cement, and i ended up adding a little extra milk to make it a little more spreadable.

by then the cake had finished baking and cooling.  the last step required to be done before the virtual event was to cut it out into one 6" circle and four semi-circles, and i found that the piece from one of my small cake pans was perfectly sized.

my reward?  snacking on the leftover cake scraps, which both of the girls enjoyed along with me.

just before we joined the zoom call, we laid out all of the remaining items from the box.

we were admitted into the virtual room right at noon, and just a few minutes later we were joined by chef jacques torres and anna cathcart, one of the cast members from the movie.

the first step was to get the cookies baked.  the old lady took on that task, rolling the chilled dough out between two sheets of parchment paper.

we don't have pictures of it, but trying to cut out the rectangles out of that dough was...challenging.  i was doing it freehand per the instructions, but that dough was super sticky and really hard to work with.  the pieces looked pretty sad, but we only had an hour to get everything done and so we just put them in the oven as soon as they were ready and hoped for the best.

next, i cut out a hole in the middle of the cake circle and then we stacked the rest of the pieces to give them the first frosting crumb coat.

looks pretty sad, huh?  very worthy of the "nailed it" title.  i thinned the rest of the frosting out with a little more milk and busted out the offset spatula and it got a little better.  this is as good as it got.

after the old lady finished tinting the fondant with the turquoise food coloring, she rolled it out and cut out the pieces we needed for decorating the "hatbox."  

the rest of the hour went by in a blur.  the cookies, as predicted, were a hot mess when they came out of the oven.  the cookie icing was easy to mix up and tint, and while the finished product was definitely not up to my usual standards it was good enough.  we were joined by lana condor and jenny han, who also participated in the baking challenge and then "posed for selfies" when our time was up.

and then we closed it out with obviously pretaped segments from the show's hostess, nicole byer and a couple more "to all the boys" cast members.

so this is what the completed hatbox cake was supposed to look like - which was obviously done by a full team of pros, and likely not completed in one hour like we were given (do i sound bitter? heh):

and here's ours.

let me tell you...nothing humbles a confident baker like taking on a challenge like this.  i looked at that sample photo and was like, hell yeah i can do that!  that looks simple AF.  and if i were able to bust out my own personal arsenal of tools and recipes, i might be able to get it a lot closer.

then again, maybe not.  after all, it's been proven time and time again that cake decorating is NOT my forte.  ha!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

one and done

so remember bernie and his mittens from a few weeks ago (holy cow, it seems like forever ago)?  well, i'd bought the pattern for the crocheted version and gave it a try.  it started off pretty well, with the body and the butt stitching up easily.

from there, i added his head with eyes and nose.

it was a little difficult trying to make any progress on ol' bernie though, with these two doing their best to distract me (and succeeding).

eventually, he got ears and hair that started off as a piece crocheted separately and sewn on to the back of his head, and then i used a dog wire slicker brush to unravel the yarn and make it look like actual hair.

working with wire isn't the easiest thing to do, and his glasses came out pretty wonky.  but i'd fiddled with it for long enough and figured this was good enough.

and after that it got a lot more difficult.  for his legs, the pattern had me start with his shoes and work my way up.  i had some difficulty making them the same size, but again - i was over it and didn't want to start over.  the arms were even trickier, with the tiny stitches to make the mittens really hard to see with these aging eyes.  and i still didn't get them as nice as i'd have liked, but it was good enough.  luckily, the coat and face mask were much easier to complete and finally i had a completed bernie doll:

and of course, i have the most perfect tee to commemorate this silly moment in time.

i ended up having to tell people that i wasn't going to be able to fulfill orders for the doll after all.  once was quite enough - it had taken a soul-crushing two weeks to finish him as it was.  as much as i'd have loved to spread the bernie joy, i wasn't really up for the frustration again.  oh well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

spending quality time at citywalk

the girls and i had less than zero interest in sportsball sunday last week - not even for the commercials or halftime, which we knew we could catch online or on youtube or something later on.  and with dining outdoor in l.a. county having just reopened, we decided to head out to universal city and browse through citywalk.  it had been a long time since we'd been there, and we figured it'd make a nice change from our usual downtown disney.

with pretty much no traffic on the way, we got there just before 2pm.

one of the things that's kept us from hitting citywalk on a regular basis is the cost of parking, but during these covid times it's free.  i tried to find a spot in the section that's typically the pricier VIP lot, where we spotted one of the trams for the backlot tour:

but we were deterred by the "reserved" signs and headed on into the regular parking structure.  we found a pretty good spot in no time, and followed the many signs that pointed us to the temperature check station.

and magically we found ourselves smack dab in the center of citywalk - and in front of bubba gump, where we'd decided to grab a table and have a late lunch.

knowing that we were going to be there for at least a couple of hours, the old lady and i decided that it was safe to order at least one cocktail.  she went with the georgia peach iced tea, made with sweet tea infused vodka, gin, peach schnapps and cranberry juice while i ordered a tried-and-true lava flow.

it was really nice to sit and enjoy a meal together, something the three of us hadn't done in a really long time.  there weren't a lot of other diners, and they were all seated at least a table or two away from us.  the servers were all wearing face masks and/or shields and only came over whenever absolutely necessary.  once we were done we perused the retail store since everything was 25% off, and while we found some fun t-shirts and these silly socks, we emerged emptyhanded.

the bean loves this candy store, and with just a few people waiting to get in we hopped into the line.

as we waited, the bean said "hey, isn't that the place you took dad for his first sushi when you were dating?" it sure was.

once inside the store, we browsed every inch of the place and giggled at all the novelty items.  like, who wouldn't want to dress up as a sexy piece of laffy taffy?

we hadn't realized that the hard rock cafe was gone, although with the one that had opened several years ago near hollywood & highland i guess we should've known.  still, it was kind of sad to see the giant guitar gone from its familiar spot.

we forgot all about it once we found the bright pink storefront for voodoo doughnuts.  there's normally a good-sized line to get in here, but between covid and super bowl sunday it was pretty deserted and we walked right in.

have you ever known me to walk away from a photo op?  even the bean, who's been doing the sullen teenager thing and tends to eschew such opportunities, stopped for a quick shot.  the old lady was happy to take the pictures but didn't partake.

but as we passed bubba gump again on our way to the other half of citywalk, the forrest gump photo op was one she couldn't pass up.

as we passed the water fountain play area, the bean reminisced about days gone by spent with friends here, laughing and splashing in the water on hot summer days.

we stopped at sparky's for some hot, fresh mini donuts covered in cinnamon sugar.  it's always fun to watch the machine dispense perfect little donuts into the hot oil.

at the other end of citywalk is the entrance to the universal studios theme park.  like disneyland, of course, it's currently closed.

after we browsed through the universal studios store, we headed over to the harry potter sweets & treats shop and grabbed a couple of butterbeers to enjoy on our way home.

back at home, we opened that pink box and dug right into those donuts we'd picked out.  top left: the oh captain, my captain - vanilla frosting and captain crunch cereal.  top right: the ODB - chocolate frosting, oreo crumbles and peanut butter drizzle.  bottom left:  grape ape - vanilla frosting with grape dust and purple sprinkles.  and last but not least, the voodoo bubble - vanilla frosting, pink bubble gum dust and a piece of dubble bubble in the middle.

man, i love a good novelty donut.  or four.  yum.

did we nail it?

remember when the bean and i did the nailed it at home challenge a few months ago?  well, they had a "to all the boys i've loved b...