"The flow of creativity feels like an avalanche of joy and wonder. Being open to that possibility creates connections with everything." - Feline Dreamers

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What the Cats Do...

....when it's too hot to sleep inside.

Looks like the summer has arrived!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Smoothies Are Back!

Our broken blender was replaced today, hurrah! Smoothies are back! Smoothies are my favorite breakfast food. I've never been much for cereal and I only eat eggs occasionally, but my body says "yum!" to smoothie nearly every time. Many thanks to ElvenTiger and Quester for the gift of a new blender! It was my Mother's Day present from them, and today was the day I turned in the "100% off coupon" ElvenTiger made me.

In honor of the occasion, here's a family favorite combination:

1 peach, pit removed
1 clementine, peel removed
1 apple, quartered
1 cup or so of cold water
1 or 2 frozen bananas
1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Start with your fresh fruit and water. Blend. Then gradually add the frozen fruit until the smoothie is at desired thickness. Drink! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ah, Peaceful Saturday

Quester makes yummy veggie pizza. And it's even better when eaten while listening to A Prairie Home Companion. And even better than that when followed by his delicious chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps there will even be Skip-Bo, once ElvenTiger returns from her bike ride.

My day of relaxation has been great. Of course, as a Mom, it included cleaning the kitchen a couple of times, and doing some laundry. But there was also yoga, and reading, and a leisurely walk. We spent some time with some kitty friends whose human companion is away for the weekend. Quester and BlackLion mowed the lawn - yup, both riding around on Aunt Peg's mowers, cutting the time in half.

Quester and ElvenTiger helped my parents with some painting, earlier in the day. Dryst has been feeling sick, so he's taking it easy and healing. The kids get sick so rarely (knock on wood) that it's really strange when they do. But he's better today than yesterday. I knew he was really under the weather when he decided not to go to his lacrosse game last night.

Not much else is going on around here, and right now that's the way we like it. Purr purr purr...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nurturing Community

I've had a busier-than-normal week, and it's mostly involved socializing. Or another way of looking at it is nurturing the community. I'm blessed with a very diverse group of friends and acquaintances. Quite a few are unschoolers and Pagans (or, in some cases, both), some are friends I've had for a long time, others are fairly new, a few are former work colleagues, and some defy categorization. And I have a wonderful community of extended family, too!

On Wednesday we had our usual homeschool group gathering, but due to illness and one member's new baby (yay!) it was smaller than usual. We moved the party from the usual farmhouse to a different family's farm. We got to meet their new baby chicks, and see what's going on in the garden. We helped cheer up a Mom who was feeling low, too. We brought her chili, casserole, and belated birthday gifts.

After that, BlackLion and I went out for a night on the town (a fairly rare occurrence) with some former colleagues of mine. It was like our own personal pub crawl. I had a lot of fun! I'm not normally much of a drinker, but I enjoyed some spirits with a very spirited group of folks. There was much merriment and even hilarity.

Thursday found us hosting the monthly role-playing game that we're involved with, based on the TV series Supernatural. We made baked potatoes and set up a "potato bar" with lots of different toppings. The game session was a whole lot of fun. I have to say, I think it was one of the best sessions yet! That night, the kids had a couple of overnight guests. These cool kids, who are part of our homeschool group, are welcome anytime. The adults of our family also went out briefly, to hear Quester sing at the open mic night down the street. Rock on!

And tonight, we attended a birthday dinner for a dear magickal friend, with our entire Elements Study Group. I made a cake (photos to come, dear cake lovers) which was received with much adoration. The food was yummy, and the companionship even more delicious.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with a busy week like this, and less than my usual time for creativity and contemplation. But this time, I'm celebrating the diverse and delightful community around me. And I'm also thankful that I have this weekend to rest up and recharge. Blessings, friends!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nurturing and Practice

This week I got the same Tarot card two days in a row, which is usually a signal to pay extra attention. It was the 3 of discs, which in the Voyager deck I'm using currently is the 3 of worlds - nurturing. This deck often branches out from traditional Tarot definitions, and has its own delightful web of meanings and images.

The first day I got the card, I sort of went along with their theme, and took in the information and wisdom of nurturing. I took it to mean not only self-nurturing, but also the careful balanced nurturing of a project. Like a garden - there is a certain amount of nurturing necessary, and then you just need to step back and let it grow. Or the nurturing energies of motherhood, as with the Empress card, which this card is connected to in this deck.

When the card showed up again the next day, I searched my memory for the more familiar meanings of the 3 of discs. I've experienced it in the past as skills, ones that are being put to regular use. In other words, practice. I looked to the things I do as a spiritual practice, like writing and meditation, and the things I might not think of as a practice but are skills I use a lot, like cooking and doing dishes.

Then it was time to connect the two. I got thinking about what nurturing and practice have in common. Hopefully, I am nurtured through my spiritual practices. Also, self-nurturing itself can be a wonderful spiritual practice. Sometimes, though, I can go through times when I'm doing my practices, but I'm still not being very kind to myself. I'm not feeling nurtured on a deep level. When this happens, one way to get back to feeling nurtured is to practice simply BEING. To slow down and notice the present moment. Over and over again. When that happens, my connection to my source grows stronger. And then my life, like a garden, receives the nurturing it needs to grow and thrive.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Feeding the Hordes

I just finished the dinner dishes, wiped the counters, and then got out the ingredients to make a couple of snacks. Nope, I'm not hungry...but you can bet my teen son and preteen daughter will be, given a couple of minutes! So I put together some guacamole and an herb dip to toss to the ravening hordes when they appear.

That's what it feels like sometimes with growing young adults around the house. Sure, toddlers and little kids can go into growth spurts where they eat quite a bit. But those times are interspersed with lulls when they hardly seem to eat at all. I'd been warned about the appetite of a teenage boy, but you really have to witness it to believe it.

Well, today was a good day for cooking, anyway. It was cool, damp, and drizzly once again. BlackLion and I made some spaghetti sauce for dinner, putting it on to simmer in the mid-afternoon. Then we finished processing the big bundle of chives we'd harvested from the garden. We cleaned them, chopped them up into little bits, froze them on a cookie sheet (so they don't clump together as they freeze), then transferred them to labeled freezer bags. We got quite a good crop, with much more to come. BlackLion also made two loaves of banana bread, some to share with his gamer friends and some to eat at home.

This morning we made our meal plan for the week, and did the requisite grocery shopping. Tonight we had the pasta and tomato sauce, tomorrow night we're having minestrone soup and homemade English muffins at my parents' house, we're bringing vegetarian chili to homeschool group this Wednesday, and Friday will be homemade pizza for Quester and the kids. On Thursday, we're hosting a role-playing game here, and we're going to have a baked potato bar. The toppings we'll have on hand for the baked russet potatoes: leftover chili, broccoli and cheddar cheese, chives (from the garden) and sour cream, and butter. We also have the makings for salads, sandwiches, and snacks on hand. Not to mention some leftover curry from last night. Hopefully that will satisfy the hordes of hungry adolescents we hang out with!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day in the Life of Starcat

Rather unoriginal, I know, but I haven't been all that inspired with other topics. I got up early (for me) and got ready for the day. That includes doing daily practice, which for today was journal writing, Tarot card draw, sit-ups, and dream sharing. Most days I also meditate, but there wasn't time this morning.

A friend picked me up and we went to the Interfaith Walk for Habitat for Humanity, stopping to get the cake and some paper plates along the way. I was volunteering today, not walking. I'd told my friend, who was one of the organizers, that I'd do whatever she needed. We helped set up for the event, which included tables for registration, lunch for the walkers, and a blessing ceremony. My main task for the morning was to inflate balloons! And then I cut up and served the cake. Very fae tasks, and right up my alley!

I also got to see another friend, and her baby daughter, who came with her to volunteer. Her sweet baby was the hit of the gathering! She's so adorable. My favorite part of the event is always the blessing, though. I just love to see a Pagan priestess up there with the rabbi and pastors and priests. Pagans have been involved with Habitat's interfaith building projects and fund-raising events in our area for years, and it has earned us a lot of respect from the religious community. That's awesome! We've also become known as the ones who stay until the end and pitch in to clean up. I'm thankful for all the hard work so many Pagan folks have put in over the years (this is only my second year of helping out). Next year, I think I'll do the walk as well as helping set up and clean up.

When I got home, I took some time to chill out, chat with the family, and read my book. BlackLion and ElvenTiger were mixing up the dough to make naan. Quester and Dryst were off working for the afternoon. We listened to Radio Paradise, and the DJ was totally on a roll - my favorite set being Pink Floyd's "Time" followed by Beethoven's Fifth Symphony followed by the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." It worked.

I cleaned up the kitchen, and then BlackLion and I made vegetable curry, basmati rice, and raita (cucumber yogurt sauce), and baked up the garlic-chive naan. When Quester and Dryst got back, we all had a yummy Indian food dinner. We hung out for a while, and then played a couple of games of Skip-Bo. Quester has gone off to bed, and I'm soon to join him, book in hand. The kids are mock wrestling in the living room. Both cats have just come in. Star is eating her dinner. BlackLion is ready to use the laptop once I'm finished. And that, dear readers, is a day in the life of Starcat. I hope you found it worth reading. Meow!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feelin' Sorta Bleah

We're in the midst of a long, long stretch of rain, drizzly weather here in New England. A lot of folks are talking about feeling dreary, too. Well, this week I've really felt it. Of course, I think hormones are involved, too (yeah, I know, probably TMI!). But anyway, I've been feeling pretty low-energy and blah.

My sister-in-law is here for a visit now, though, and that's been fun. She's a sweetheart. She just cut my hair, which gives me a little boost. Wow, I can see now! Pictures would be forthcoming, but alas, no camera battery yet.

Also, a dear friend invited ElvenTiger and I to her kids' performance this weekend. Normally we all try to go to each others' recitals, plays, games, and other events, but I didn't have the funds to do it this time, so she offered to pay our way. That'll perk up our rainy weekend, too.

Otherwise, I've been taking refuge in meditation and yoga and playing games with the family. And, of course, reading! Quester is cooking tonight. We're doing "breakfast for dinner." Gotta go now, my parents are here and I've gotta help get the table set. Blessings!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Epic Fantasy for a Rainy Week

We've had a lot of rain this week, so I've had some extra reading time, which I just adore. I'm currently reading book three of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and I've added it to the list of my all-time favorite epic fantasy series. Which made me think, hey, have I ever shared my list? Well, then, here they are, for your reading pleasure. I've sorted them into categories, just for organization's sake.

Founding Authors

To me, there are three founding authors who jump-started the epic fantasy genre. The most obvious one is J.R.R. Tolkien, whose The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have inspired countless authors over the years. For those who love magic and wizardry, Ursula K. Leguin's The Earthsea Cycle is another set of books upon which so many fantasy series rest. And The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is the third series I would include in this category. He gets kudos for developing such amazing alternate worlds for his stories.

Current Classics

The books I'm reading now, in the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, are key to the epic fantasy genre, though I've only recently discovered them (thanks, Curt!). The classic hero's quest, intriguing characters of varying ethics, and the display of the true costs (and horrors) of war make the series fascinating. Perhaps my favorite epic fantasy author, though, is Tad Williams. I loved his saga Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and I'm still reading his latest series, Shadowmarch, which is just as good (on a side note, check out his series Otherland, too, which is more on the sci-fi side but is outstanding). He too has the hero's quest thing down, and his flavors of magic and dream versus reality are incredibly creative. And then there's Katharine Kerr, whose Deverry series is delicious, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking. Oooh, and then there's Robin Hobb. I started with the Farseer trilogy, but I love everything she's written (I think there might be a couple I haven't read yet, but she has a huge list, and I've devoured most of them). She's top-notch when it comes to complex characterization. Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles are on the list of favorites, too, though they cross over a bit into sci-fi (not a problem, for me). The implications of the world system of Amber is mind-boggling sometimes.

Definite Maybes

I recently read the first three books in Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth series, and while they were very entertaining, I hesitate to put them up there with what I'd call the classics. I didn't feel the writing was as of high a quality as the others. I feel the same way about The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks. Entertaining, but not ultimately fulfilling. I haven't read the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan (et al) yet, though I've heard good things. The only drawback I've heard is that the series is just too darn long. But I'm a fast reader, and sheer number of pages has never bothered me. I do plan to delve into them at some point. I've also never read the Anne McCaffrey series Dragonriders of Pern, but Quester tells me it belongs on this list, so I had to put it somewhere.

Not Just for Kids

Despite all the commercialism, I'm a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling has written a fine and well thought-out epic series, and the use of magic is unique and fun. I think there are several authors in the "young adult fantasy" niche whose works are interesting to adults as well. Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series is a fabulous, fun, and well-designed one, especially if you're a fan of strong female protagonists - and I am. I've enjoyed what I've read so far of Christopher Paolini's The Inheritance Cycle, and his writing has improved over the series. Another favorite in this category is the Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke (and her other books are great reads, too). She's got a lot of fresh and creative ideas, and I love how she's combined storytelling with magic.

Rising Stars

There are a couple of writers who are either new or not quite as well known (yet) who I also wanted to mention. Lynn Flewelling, who I heard about because she was my neighbor when I lived in central Maine, is an excellent fantasy author who's not afraid to tackle controversial subjects. Her Nightrunner series is on par with my other favorites. And I just discovered Patrick Rothfuss about a year ago, and gave the first book in his Kingkiller Chronicles to all the fantasy-loving readers on my Christmas list based purely on his excellent writing. I haven't read the second book yet, which just came out this spring, but I look forward to it.

Well, that's the list as it stands now. I haven't included links to all of the authors, because I'm sure you can Google them for yourself. Please add your comments if I've forgotten any series or if you can recommend some I haven't heard of yet!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cake of the Month: May

We wanted to use my new stand mixer, so ElvenTiger and I offered to make dessert for Monday night. Every Monday (well, most every Monday) we go over to my parents' house for dinner and dessert, and then watch Dancing with the Stars together (or a movie, if the show's not on). It's a lot of fun, and we try to come up with delicious and interesting foods to share with each other - which can be a creative challenge because my immediate family is vegetarian, my parents are not, and Dad has to eat a special diet.

So anyway, ElvenTiger and I decided to come up with the May Cake of the Month, and we did! We started with the premise of using cinnamon. It developed into this, the Cinnamon Bundt Cake! It's not a very original name, I realize. Let me know if you have any better ideas.

I wrote down the cake recipe if you want it (on paper this time, so it won't be lost in the electronic wasteland). For the icing, we used the leftover ganache that we still had in the fridge from the giant cupcake, and topped that with a mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar. It came out good, and apparently it was yummy, because two days later, it's all gone! Here's ElvenTiger, my co-chef, with our creation.

Stormy Weather

Where was I yesterday? Why didn't I post a blog entry? What about the blog challenge? Here's a clue.

Today is feeling brighter. The blog challenge is still on. I wish you bright and sunny skies!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Ego is Whiny

I recently finished reading "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" by Eckhart Tolle. It's an excellent book, and comes highly recommended. The basic idea of the book is that we are not our egos. The ego is a collection of thoughts, feelings, preferences, and aversions that we've built up over our lifetimes. It is often unhappy, and seeks nourishment by either playing the victim or acting superior to others. We might see this appearing in ourselves and others in drastic ways, like the spoiled rebellious young celebrity, or the power-grabbing politician, but it can also be very subtle. The ego wants to be special.

Beyond the ego is our true self, which is our soul - pure energy and consciousness. Just by being aware of when our ego is up to its tricks, Tolle says, we are beginning to awaken and to dissipate the negativity that the ego holds on to. Sounds pretty simple, right? Just be aware. As with many valuable practices, it is both simple and amazingly challenging. Sort of like a Zen koan.

Over the past few days I've been noticing where my ego shows up and the reactions it has. It might feel annoyed or put out when someone else is upset, even when it has nothing to do with me ("man, I was having fun and now these guys' bickering is bringing me down"). It feels slighted when it thinks someone isn't paying attention to me ("she must not really like me, she hardly said a word to me last night"). It wants others to go out of their way to feed its wants and needs, even though they have no idea what those desires might be! I've come to the conclusion that my ego is whiny.

Luckily for me, it seems that being present (which is a practice Tolle recommends, and is akin to mindfuless meditation) does work. Just by having the mental observation that "wow, the ego is really caught up in that feeling, huh?" I can let it go, notice what's going on around me, and enjoy the moment, instead. I can see that what others are doing is about them, not me. At times it feels magickal, like a wand to wave which then dissipates grumpiness. Other times it's harder to get in that space, and I need to use other tools for getting back to my center. Overall, though, it's a good feeling to be able to connect with the eternal nature of consciousness, especially when I'm feeling slighted in some way. I can use presence to enjoy the reality of a rainy day, rather than being too busy wishing it was sunny.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Out of My Head

“Oh, man, you’re just way too cerebral!!!” my friend exclaimed as I offered the word “incline” as a clue during a board game (the word I wanted her to guess was “uphill”). The thing is, she’s right. Much of the time I can be up here in my mind, thoughts churning along, not noticing my surroundings. Sometimes this can be a useful thing, like when I’m coming up with ideas for a project or weaving together an article. But it can also bring up needless worries and stresses.

I’ve learned several techniques over the years that I use to counteract this tendency. One is mindfulness meditation, and another is my yoga practice. Recently I read Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book The New Earth, and have incorporated his teachings into my practice. Just by becoming aware that we are listening to the voice of the ego, he says, we begin to dispel it immediately. Simply being fully present in the moment, as in mindfulness meditation, allows us to further our awakening.

Today, as I sat down to do my yoga asanas, I began observing my mental chatter in action. I’d been thinking about how I wanted to lose weight and was wondering what I’d done differently when I had done so before. I don’t mean the practical things like exercise and lower caloric intake, I mean the energies behind my behavior. What did I do for comfort instead of turning to food? Why does it seem so challenging to be aware of my patterns at all times? How can I avoid getting caught up in snacking while watching a movie with the kids? What healthier habits can I develop in order to cope when I feel stressed? As part of this quick series of thoughts, I decided I’d look to my old journals for clues. Then I realized that living in the past was part of the ego and instead decided to focus on simply being present as much as possible.

In an instant of intention, I found myself sitting on my yoga mat, enjoying some delicious stretches. I let go of my chattering monkey mind and dove into the moment, feeling the delight of the practice, my expansive breathing, and the sensations in my body. And you know what? Just then, getting out of my head was easy.

Busy Weekend

I haven't done one of those "glimpse into the life of an unschool family" posts for a while, so I thought I'd share what we did on our busy weekend. Unfortunately I don't have any photos to go with the post, since I still haven't picked up a new battery for my camera. But hopefully you'll read it anyway...

Friday night Dryst took Quester and BlackLion to the movies (well, he made them drive, but he bought the tickets). He'd wanted to see the new racing movie, Fast Five. While they were out, ElvenTiger and I had some relaxed girl time. We played Skip-Bo, our favorite card game of late, and then watched a couple of episodes of Cake Boss on Netflix. Then we just hung out and read for a while.

On Saturday, after running some errands in the morning, we dropped ElvenTiger off with my Mom, who is the most wonderful Grammy ever. Then we went to Dryst's first lacrosse game. We brought along a friend of ours, since we (the adults) were all going out that evening. Dryst had a game, then an hour off, then another game, and we'd planned for my Mom to come and be there for the second game (we didn't want to just have her pick him up at the end, because, as Quester pointed out, of the risk of injury that lacrosse brings). Little did we know that during the break, while he was hanging out with the other kids on his team, he'd get hit with a lacrosse ball while practicing, and get a bloody nose! Murphy's Law, I guess, that it happened while none of his family was there! But the coach was helpful, and Dryst is 14, so he handled it just fine. He's got some bruising and his nose is sore, but not broken or anything. That's why they have helmets during official practices and games! But he was just passing the ball around with some teammates, and didn't expect to get bonked right in the face. Mom was shocked to see blood on his face when she arrived at the field! She stayed for the game and then both kids had dinner with she and Dad, and hung out with them for the evening.

So the adults of our tribe went out on Saturday night to a fun concert! We had given one our our friends a ticket for her birthday back in February, to go and see Dark Star Orchestra at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. It was an awesome show! DSO is a Grateful Dead tribute band who replicates (most splendidly!) particular Grateful Dead concerts from their many years of touring. I think it's a really creative way to be a cover band, because the 'Dead were known for their musical improvisation and a huge repertoire of songs. For those of you who are Deadheads or are curious, here's a link to the show we saw. There were seven of us who went together, and we had a fabulous time dancing to two long sets of music. Fun fun fun! Ocean Mouse had us all over for cocktails and pizza before the show. She has such a wonderfully adorable house and gardens! We got home at 3am.

Today we went to the monthly family potluck, which was to be a cookout. It was raining, so we ate inside, but the host still ventured out to cook on the grill. We had veggie burgers (or meat for those who eat it), potato salad, and bean salad (that was what I made), plus appetizers and yummy desserts. ElvenTiger brought an umbrella and played outside in the rain, enjoying the gardens and the resident poultry: chickens and a peacock. It was fun to see the chickens just wandering through the yard, despite the downpour.

We came home and have been just relaxing this evening. BlackLion went off to hang out with Sash for some "Taco Time." The rest of us had Mexican food for dinner. The kids are both playing a car racing game with Quester in the living room, and I'm catching up on my online reading and writing, since I hadn't had much time for computer-ing for a couple of days. This looks like it'll be a busy spring and summer! But filled with fun stuff. Life is good!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Home Sweet Home

My Dad has a saying, "When you can't pee in your front yard anymore, it's time to move." He and Mom have lived in the woods on a dirt road for years. Well, this morning I came up with the female equivalent of his saying - because I (and the women I know) have no desire to pee outside.

However, when I got dressed this morning, I realized that the pants I wanted to wear were still out on the clothesline. So I put on my underwear and bra and t-shirt, and walked out the back door to retrieve the rest of my wardrobe.

When I came back in, I told Quester that I loved living where a woman can go out to the clothesline in her underwear. After he pointed out that I *could* do that anywhere, I added the caveat, "safely and unobserved." So, thus the addition to Dad's axiom: "When you can't go to the clothesline in your underwear, it's time to move."

I love it here in the country.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A New Blog Challenge!

BlackLion and I have created a new blog challenge for ourselves! Why? Well, because we're like that, I guess. The last time we did one was back in late 2009, and it was fun. So why not?

Our goal is to each blog at least five times per week on our personal blogs (here's a link to his), and to write three blog posts per week on our Feline Dreamers blog (we've been doing two per week for the last few months). So that means a combined total of 13 blog entries per week! A lucky number for a couple of witchy types, eh? Well, plus I've always liked the number 13 because I was born on the 13th (of September).

This is in addition to our daily journal writing, and other writing that we do for our business. I think it'll be a challenge, but in a good way. The more writing I do, the better I feel about the quality of my articles. And as I pointed out at the end of the last blog challenge, we seem to have no shortage of ideas on what to write about! I'll try to include more pictures, too, because they're fun - though I have to go pick up a new battery for my camera, first.

Please feel free to leave comments, questions, feedback, and ideas. And sign up as a follower if you like this blog! If you have a blog and I don't follow it yet, link to it and I'll check it out. I love to read even more than I love to write!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Cake of the Month: April, Part 2

Yes, I know it's May now. But the April cake got delayed by a week. The Giant Cupcake was a huge hit! Ocean Mouse loved it, as did all the other folks who tried it. The cake itself was a yellow cake, which I'm calling Starcat's Yellow Cream Cake. I made four layers, two 8-inch rounds, a 9-inch round, and an 8-inch square, shaping and carving the square cake to form the top of the cupcake. Mom told me a wonderful hint, which is to freeze the cake for 30 minutes after you carve it, to prevent the crumbs from getting in the frosting when you decorate it. It worked wonderfully!

The vanilla frosting was from a basic recipe, with food coloring added to some of it for decorating purposes. ElvenTiger and BlackLion also helped me make a variation on a chocolate ganache from the Cake Boss himself. Our variation was that we used whipping cream, which was what we had on hand, so in order to get the texture the way we wanted it, we whipped the ganache. We used it between the cake's bottom two layers, but Quester thought we could use even more next time, carving out the cake and filling it with the ganache. We had extra ganache on hand, so we served it up alongside the cake, for those who love chocolate.

BlackLion had the last-minute inspiration to put one candle on top, larger than a regular birthday candle. So cute! I think the only issue with the Giant Cupcake is that it's a bit too giant. The party was Friday night, and we still have some cake left on Monday, after sharing pieces with Mom and Aunt Peg and a friend who came for dinner on Saturday night. I think Ocean Mouse forgot to take some home with her. Anyway, here's the final product. Stop drooling!

In other cake-related news, one of my Mother's Day gifts was a Hamilton Beach Power Deluxe 6-speed stand mixer! Given that the hand mixer I'm using is almost as old as I am (as seen in the above picture), it's a wonderful upgrade. I haven't tried it yet, but I will soon, no doubt. I'm still pondering what my first use should be. The mixer has a dough hook, as well, so it might be bread of some sort. Yum!