Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ethical Medical Research - ALS Challenge

The ice bucket challenge has been going around social media like wildfire. I've seen people refusing to do it for one reason or another, which is fine. It's a fad, it's ridiculous, it's narcissistic etc. all of that is true, and I get that. But it's also fun, and perhaps sparked life into something that people, on the whole, may have forgotten. It can be fun to do something for someone else. Even when it's pointless, I guess.

Anyway, I've notice a lot of people refusing to take part because ALS research is done using embryonic stem cells. And many people don't want to support that kind of research. What I think would be nice, is if those people were a little more knowledgeable, and a little more vocal about the options out there. Take the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, for example. A donation there goes a long way to helping find cures - without the questionable ethics that usually accompanies typical medical research.

Our donation will be going to, but not specifically earmarked for ALS, so that they can use the donation where ever they see the greatest need (and as ALS is a rare disease, and thanks to buckets of ice everywhere, now extremely well funded, it is probably not the greatest need in the research world).

Anyways, regardless on where you stand on the issue, and whether or not you choose to take part, it would be nice if places like were more well-known. It might also be nice to try doing something for someone, in secret, instead of on video, and seeing how much more rewarding that is. Then you can post about how great it felt. Haha. Welcome to the new world people.
So here is Brian''s been more than 24hrs, but hey - I'll get around to it. There hasn't been a convenient time in the past few days to re-do my hair. How utterly selfish sounding, but true. I'll do mine soon, promise:-)

The King's Own

Brian invented this name, and wanted a crest/logo, and a friend of his who is good at digital art designed this for him:
He did this a few years ago, and for something else entirely, but it's a good name, and cool crest. Enter, Spartans. The group of men (from church) who are training to run the Spartan races. They call themselves The King's Own.

The King's Own spartan racers did the Virginia Super last Saturday. It is 10miles and 20 (I think) obstacles. It takes place at Wintergreen Ski Resort in the mountains of Virginia. It is the most difficult Super of all of them held in the USA. People travel across country to conquer it, because it is the most difficult. It just happens to be the closest Super to us, at only 3.5 hrs away.

Let me just say, there is very good reason people ski down hills and take lifts up them. The King's Own struggled in the race conditions, and finished in 6hrs and 5mins. For 10miles and 20 obstacles that is pretty slow, but taking into account the conditions of the race, and the size of their group (11 people - all sticking together), and the overall standings, they...made it. Not in any record time, but they DID IT!! Thousands of people dropped out due to difficulty, and all 11 of them did it. They finished 286 out of about 400 teams (individuals count differently). Their team was also much much larger (about twice the size) than most other teams.
Here are a few pictures of the event, taken on Nate's waterproof camera. Obviously you don't get some cooler shots of them doing the obstacles, since you can't really be taking pictures as you are climbing through barbed wire (this year was reportedly the hardest barbed wire obstacle they've ever had)
The King's Own - buddies, and suckers for punishment. This is before the race, because they are very clean:-)

Due to mud, elevation and other factors, this was more of a "hike" than a "run"

They workout together Wed nights after church, and early Sat mornings to get in shape, with the end goal of being in good enough shape to conquer these races. The half marathon (Spartan Beast) is in October.

In January, Brian could barely run a mile, and now he can run 10 no problem. On flat ground, that is. Mountain running at Wintergreen was a little more than they had trained for. Hey, we're at the ocean - there are no hills here at all!

Brian was bib #585

Awww, it's Brian and one of his best buddies - and they're holding hands. Now THAT is brotherly love:-) Really, Brian just needed a hand up as his shoes were not "grippy" enough for this type of terrain.

I think this was the "all done" after pic.
Log "toss" -  was probably more like Log flip-drag-carry?

They had to fill the buckets with little rocks, and the carry them

It was a very very foggy day, and the fog rarely lifted all day long. The blessing in that is that it wasn't too hot

Brian and Nate. They literally conquered a mountain together!

That is the finish line! All you have to do is run through fire and over hot coals and you're done. While maybe very Spartanly, this sounds pretty cray cray to me!

A brief rest on the mountain

Log carry
Because the race took so long, they were ravenously hungry when they finally got done (at 7:20ish pm - water stations during race, but no food), and they about ate Five Guys right out of business I'm sure, on their way home.

The guys, though they will tell you that it was one of the hardest things they've ever done, are encouraged for the Spartan Beast, (half marathon), because it will be easier than what they just did (by all accounts and reports from others) - though the race is longer, it is not more difficult, so they feel glad to have the worst behind them. No one was injured (perhaps by some miracle), and they all actually reported minimal soreness etc, which was a huuuuge improvement over the Spartan Sprint last March. So this means that their training has been effective.

I don't know about all the wives (though I am pretty sure we are all on the same page), but I think it is so nice to have such a good group of guys - not all of whom were friends when they started this adventure. It's been nice to see friendships form, amidst plenty of crazy male bonding I'll never understand. Lots of crazy weird stuff that girls can't understand but is important for men:-) Gooooo Spartans!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Poured fondant - Recipe

I tried something new! I've heard about it, and now was the perfect time to give it a try. See, making a fondant cake is time consuming, and completely destroys your kitchen...I've not been able to figure out a neat and tidy solution. It's just messy. For my cookies and cupcakes business, I don't do cakes - because they are much much much too time intensive, and would take so much time out of my family that I couldn't charge enough to be worth it. I do like making cakes, and trying things, but I'll keep that to personal occasions, not for hire.

Well, a friend placed an order, she is also a caterer, and has given/will give me business, so it is within my best interests to keep her happy. And she wanted themed cookies and a cake. The theme was whales, and so I knew I could maybe try this new technique (saving me time!), and it WORKED. Yay!

This type of fondant will not work in all cakes or situations (comparing poured fondant to rolled fondant), but if you're into cakes, you'll see that this can have it's place.
I poured the fondant over the nicely crumb coated cake (be as even and smooth as you can about it)

It's up on a cooling rack, so the excess can drip away.
I've only done this ONCE, so I am by no means an expert, but I'll share what I've learned this first time around. Any other significant discoveries in the future, and I will update the post.


9 C icing sugar, sifted*
1/2 C corn syrup, warmed (the clear kind is preferred, if you want whiter fondant)
4oz white chocolate, melted
2 t vanilla OR almond extract
1/2 - 1 C warm water

*(that is 1 2lb bag plus 1C) - icing sugar is also called confectioners sugar. THIS MUST BE SIFTED. I did not sift it, as I usually don't sift things (quite often it is an unnecessary step), but this time, it's important. I didn't sift it, and I had tiny "balls" of icing sugar that did not get mixed smooth. 

Mix all ingredients with only 1/2 C of water on low in mixer until well blended. Up the speed a little, and add more water, just a little at a time, until you reach a thick, yet very pourable consistency. Too much water will give you a sheer-er application. Too sticky and it won't run down the sides of the cake.

Pour this right away on a cake that has been crumb coated, (be even and smooth about it, imperfections will show through - So use the paper towel method to rub out any ridges etc) - after cake is crumb coated, place in freezer for about 20 mins or fridge for maybe 40 - you want it cold when you pour the fondant.

I covered a 12" round, two layers high. It could have covered a third layer too,by the amount of excess, I'd say.

Pour the fondant over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides. There is almost no need for touching it at all, it will pour and smooth itself out, if you do need to touch it with an off set spatula to help it "move" over the edge, do it quickly before it begins to set.

Make sure your cake is on a cake board BEFORE you pour the fondant. Have the cake on a cooling rack, to allow excess to fall away.

After about 30 mins, the excess will have all dripped off. You can take a knife, scrape it from the table (super easy), and wipe the table as normal. Anyone who has rolled fondant knows there is nothing normal about the way you need to wash your table after the fact. So the clean up here is AWESOME. If you laid wax paper down prior to pouring, it would be even easier to clean up!

 The cake gets dry to the touch within an hour, it never gets totally hard though. So for decorations, I would suggest buttercream (flowers, words, etc). I used a fondant whale I made, and he is heavy, so he sunk in a bit

 I am not sure if it was me, or if I wiggled the cake too much getting it onto the display platter, but I got "cracks" - they aren't actually cracked, but they look kinda like that, even though the surface is smooth and unbroken. Because this is a "water" looking cake, I thought it kinda went with the theme, so I decided not to worry about it. Next time I will either move it sooner to display platter, or later. Not sure which yet:-) (while still more "wet" or while completely "dry", I'll need to research it)
These are the "cracks" - even though the surface is perfectly smooth. The whale is heavy, so you can see how he settled in.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Well, I haven't even caught up posting all the pics from our trip to Ontario, and here we are on another "vacation"!

This is a FIRST, in our 11 year marriage...a stay-cation! Brian was not able to come with us to Canada, due to the end of a big project he was on. But he finished, and took a week off work to vacation with us...only we aren't going anywhere:-) Well, no where far anyway! Amazingly, perhaps, in our entire marriage, outside of our honeymoon, we have never taken a "true" vacation for more than a night (Great Wolf Lodge one night stays and overnight camping are what we call vacations...but they really don't count). Usually, time off is spent visiting family, which again, is what we call a vacation, but isn't really. Unless that family lives in Jamaica, or Hawaii, maybe. Haha. Not complaining about how we spend our time off, but just establishing the fact that we've been nowhere, ever. Haha. Buuuuuut then, we DO live on the ocean. Who needs a vacation, right?! Stay tuned for plenty of beach bumming on our stay-cay:-)

We've also never taken time off and not gone to visit family. So a first all around! We decided to start off the stay-cation with a bang - or rather, a cannon boom - Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg is the largest "living museum" in the country, and is normally quuuuuuite pricey per person. So we've never been, for a variety of factors - cost, combined with the ages of the kids, really. They are *just now* old enough (the older two), to understand it, and like it, and not mind all the walking (of which there is a LOT). This week Williamsburg was offering free one day passes to all who live in neighbouring cities, all you needed was valid ID with your address on it! This is the first time in the 10 years we've lived here that such an offer has been made! I decided it was the perfect time to go check it out, see if the kids would like it, and if it would be something worth paying to go see again, or get a yearly pass or whatever. The perfect kick off to our vacation!

Well - it exceeded our expectations! I would definitely be interested in a yearly pass, maybe in a year or two (Grey is still a tad young, we needed the stroller, and he got quite bored on some of the guided tours). Our area of Virginia is SO full of rich history, from the settling of the pilgrims to the civil war and beyond. We had a BLAST learning more about the forming of "these United States"! Enjoy some of our pictures of the day!

Colonial Williamburg represents a time in history (the late 1700s) when America was settled but not yet its own nation. Every one of historical note was here. Washington, Jefferson, etc. The thing I found so interesting was the combination of English and American history here (Most things "American" tend not to focus on anything British). This town represents a period of history spanning from before the Declaration of Independence was signed (1776), until after the war ends in 1781. So there is quite the blend of both sides of the story, and depending on which house or shop you visit, you hear a different side (loyalist or patriot view).
The Governors Mansion - this was a building built by the British for the English Governor in Williamsburg, who at this time, was Lord Dunmore. The house, after Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown (a few miles away), it became an American house, and Thomas Jefferson lived here, as did future President James Monroe, and others. Williamsburg was the Capitol of the Virginia colony, until they decided to move it more in-land to Richmond. It was eventually used as a hospital during the civil war, and was burned to the ground. Years later one of the Rockefellers bought up Williamsburg in an effort of preservation, and had the mansion rebuilt to exact standard of it's glory days in the 18th century. More pics of the inside later...

I think this was a private dwelling (not all homes in Williamsburg are for "tour"), but Brian and I both adore this Colonial style of home.

Going to Williamsburg is like stepping back in time - you participate in the Revolutionary City life, as a towns person. There was a local gathering of the citizens, on this day, July 25th, 1776. There, a member of the congress of the newly formed United States read the newly signed Declaration of Independence to all the people.

After the reading, there was rally call - Will you fight with us? Boys and men! Join us in the fight to independence! There was morale-inspiring flute and drum musical processional by some foot soldiers while other generals urged those in the crowd to enlist. Brooks was more than a little confused about our time-travel, and was more than convinced that a new war was breaking out as we speak. He was terrified at the suggestion of enlisting with the men.

A visit to a Jewelry shop - the Silversmith. She showed us how to make a bowl, and hammer it smooth, and gave an idea of the wages that one could make learning this skill.

The back of the silversmiths shop

Kenna loved the Millinery (sewing/tailor). They make beautiful dresses and bonnets there. I missed getting a picture of the Barbers/Wigmakers shop. But they showed us how they shave men and women bald, and then fit them with custom made wigs (the white curly hair etc for men, and fancy brown hair for women). It was very fashionable in those days, and they paid a high price for the fashion! 2pounds and 6pence would buy you one mans "middle of the line" wig - or a 1/2 acre of land. This wigmaker has a contract with Thomas Jefferson. They clean, curl and sew/supply all his custom wigs. Wigs that are handed down and willed to others!

British flags are everywhere - although Independence has just been declared, the war will rage on for many more years, and so the British flag flies high, all over

So pretty

The river runs under this house!

A coopers shop. A cooper makes pails and barrels. It is a skilled trade, and one in very high demand in this new world. They get paid more than any other labourer/skilled trade, starting out at about 35pounds per year, but a very skilled cooper could make 100 pounds per year.

The kids loved all the carriages and buggys!

Making bricks! You must mush the clay and water together with your feet. It's sticky, mushy, and pretty cool feeling, really. But kind of hard to wash off.

After this the bricks are formed, dried, and kiln-fired

uh oh! A loyalist and a patriot, in stocks together. Interesting...

In the magazine

Inside the home of Peyton Randolph. Peyton Randolph was a planter and public official from the Colony of Virginia. He served as speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, chairman of the Virginia Conventions, and the first President of the Continental Congress. He was a "patriot" and after his passing (before the end of the Revolutionary War) his wife took up the task of "fighting" Cornwallis through politics.

A proclamation is sent by Lord Dunmore, (British Governor in the Colony of Virginia). Any slaves wishing to be free may join the British military and obtain freedom. The Randolphs were very wealthy and owned many slaves and a few plantations. Cornwallis set up camp literally in the Randolph's front yard. He took their meat, and other things, to the point where the Randolph's were given to eating "slaves portions" which was basically only a porridge mixture of hominy and molasses. Many of the Randolph's slaves left to go fight for the British. It was very tough going for Mrs. Randolph for many years due to British oppression and all her "money" (aka slaves) leaving, (though, she doesn't sound like a very nice person). When the war ended in 1781, slaves were no longer free, and were returned to their original owners. If they chose to run, they were hunted, caught, and in many cases killed for their "insurgence". The Randolph's (prior to the Revolutionary war), had had slaves drawn and quartered, and other such atrocities, in order to keep the slaves from running or rising against their owners. Mrs Randolph's maid Eve, left to join the British, and tried to run after the war ended. She was caught, and then sold for her mis-behaviour (presumably running). Slave owners would sell slaves away from their families as the separation (never seeing each other again) was the punishment. It is unknown if the Randolph's were kind slave owners or not, there is only record of who was bought and sold etc. (Although it was established that slaves had been killed for insurgence in the past, but I guess that didn't make you automatically "bad", just protecting your "investments" ?) Many of their slaves left them to join Cornwallis, but we don't know the reasons why (due to cruelty? or they just desired better?). Many of their slaves never left, also for unknown reasons (were they happy? Or were they being threatened with death, separation, etc). Slaves in Virginia tend to the growing and harvesting of Tobacco. Something that makes the Virginia land owners very very wealthy. Wealthiest in all of the colonies, all thanks to fertile ground and long growing season for tobacco (and the high demand for the exportation of this product). Mrs Randolph attempted to grow cotton, but that venture failed, as it didn't do well in that area (compared to places further south)

The entrance to the Governors Mansion (British built) - it is decorated in a very typical English and Scottish manner - with weaponry. Always intending for a very intimidating welcome.

Lavish finishes, including maple chairs, carved to look like bamboo, and spanish tiles

The only house in the colonies to sport the latest of decor fashions (copying the trend in London-town) - silk damask covers the walls, with gold papier mache (and amazingly gorgeous) trim.

On the ceiling above the staircase

Queen Charlotte and King George III have a place of prominence in the ball room

a harpsichord

A Dutch warming oven, in the dining room

This flag they are holding (c1775) was apparently hung on the Williamsburg "Liberty Pole" just prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. It is black with white writing "Virginia for Constitutional Liberty"
We, the people (haha!) as "citizens" of Williamsburg gathered on September 28, 1781, to hear Washington, and (French) General Lafayette address the crowds. On to Yorktown, and on to victory!! The Allied Army has been gathering, and troops will engage the British tomorrow! Local militia with fife and drum fanfares, and cannon salutes march in review while the General addresses the citizens in preparation for the siege at Yorktown. Cornwallis will surrender in Yorktown, after this siege, and the war will be over. The United States of America will defeat the British. Brooks was again, quite confused, and under the impression that we are all going off to war, tomorrow!:-)


My favourite kind of fence.
Highlights  - I didn't get pictures of everything, unfortunately, but there was just so much to take in! We visited so many shoppes, saw how so much was made, and even enlisted in the militia for 3 years, or the duration of the war. All you had to do was sign your name, or if you can't write, leave your mark. Brooks, again confused by our "time travel" refused to sign, until I assured him we were not really going to go leave in a shoddy tent for the next 3 years:-)
Selfies! Afterwards we hit up Bellisimo's pizza in Williamsburg for dinner. YUMMY!

The faces this kid makes are unreal.