Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Once Upon A Time: Ice Cream Colors

My dad and I built a Victorian dollhouse when I was young. It was a really memorable time for me. I want to say it was fun, but I took the whole project so seriously, like homework. It was overwhelming and challenging and I learned so much- not just about building miniatures, or about Victorian times, or measure-twice-cut-once, but about my dad and his creative process. He thought of every possible detail. What color the mortar should be for the faux brick trim, what type of furniture was historically relevant, what type of people would live in the house if it were real. He would get wistful and nostalgic for a time he never even knew... and I totally absorbed that trait from him. His precision and detailed care for every little roof tile and every individual tiny wooden floor panel meant so much to me. He went through all that trouble just so I could have a perfect dollhouse. (But mostly, OCD.) He wanted this house to be historically accurate, so we scoured dollhouse catalogs for the best photos to emulate. When we shopped for tiny wallpaper, we stood for several minutes, carefully considering light blue versus light pink moire. (We decided on the blue, so I could use pink accents in furniture and decor.)

*Sidebar- Seriously, guys... how did we not know my dad was gay?

Part of what made the experience so memorable was the fact that I was allowed into his office each night after dinner to help him work. Even though our home was enormous (roughly 3,000 square feet... epic for hide-and-seek), it was hard for my parents to ever find a place to have peace and quiet, given the four of us kids were constantly someplace/everyplace. My dad spend nights building models in his office downstairs, and my mom, upstairs, would sew.

Being Broadway obsessed, my dad would have an appropriate musical selection for whatever project he was consumed with. We listened to the cast recording of "Ragtime" and the soundtrack to "Meet Me in St. Louis."(While building a miniature covered wagon years later in the eighth grade, we listened to "Paint Your Wagon," obviously.) A concept that was re-visited often in our design process was that of "ice cream colors," in reference to dreamy pastels that would have been seen in house paint of days gone by. Think town homes in San Francisco's well-curated Castro district, or a bowl of melted pistachio or peppermint stick ice cream, or, hey! These lyrics from the Prologue of "Ragtime:"

"...The skies were blue and hazy,
Rarely a storm. Barely a chill...
The afternoons were lazy,
Everyone warm. Everything still.

And there was distant music,
Simple and somehow sublime,
Giving the nation
A new syncopation-
The people called it Ragtime!

The days were gently tinted
Lavender pink, lemon and lime.
...Ladies with parasols
Fellows with tennis balls
There were gazebos, and...
The were no negroes.

And everything was Ragtime..."

(Uh... just ignore that last bit... and P.S.- congrats to Mississippi for finally abolishing slavery.)

Anyhow... Pictures?

The color scheme ended up super similar to the color palette my mom chose for our kitchen, conveniently, as evidenced by the background of the second photo. Oh, 1990s Waverly prints.

More color inspiration photos will be added later... When I figure out how to do html on my tablet without yelling at it.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fancy Cake

It was just my 27th birthday. Equal parts yay-exciting and face-palm. So I made a cake. I've been borrowing (read: I've practically hi-jacked) a friend's "Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook." It's a great cookbook- each recipe is prefaced by a bit of contextual history... which I'm a total sucker for, ever since the American Girl Doll (and book) franchise began in the 90's. Several girlfriends and I have been getting together each week to watch Downton Abbey and eat whatever treats I decide to concoct for the occasion. Originally, I viewed them as a neutral audience to test new recipes on, but now I feel like I have to impress them! I should have started out simple with rice krispies treats instead of citrus genoise with almonds. Oops. At any rate, it was time to raise the bar. I've been waiting for an excuse to make the British Battenberg Cake recipe, and I figured my birthday was as good a reason as any.

The cake itself is an almond sponge cake with apricot jam sandwiching the layers. I know. Heavenly. But it gets better. The entire confection gets covered in marzipan. Whaaaaaat? Dream come true, right? Typically, this cake is baked in a square pan and then cut into long strips and ends up like a checkerboard. I plan on making one in the traditional style, which is more appropriate as a tea snack, but I thought for a birthday cake, I wanted a bit of drama.

So, occasionally I'll wake up in the night with a brilliant idea, and this was one of them: hand-painting marzipan with food dye. I'd been anxious (anxious-nervous AND anxious-excited) to try it. I saw the design in my head completely finished before I even started, and I seriously couldn't wait for it to get there. If Declan hadn't taken a picture of it in progress, I wouldn't even know how it got completed. I love that type of creative surge. Nerd alert: my heart was aflutter the whole time I worked on this- like I was getting ready for a first date or something. For a first attempt, I'm fairly pleased with the results. I need more dye colors and I should have used some smaller brushes, but in my defense, I was trying to get the thing decorated and get myself out the door in a timely manner.

I plan on making another one and taking photos all along the way, because I had a total blast working on it and it was way easier to create than it looks.

For reference, here's a link to a traditional style cake. 

Recipe after the break!