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Peony's Seven Quick Takes

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Seven Quick Takes is being hosted at Betty Beguiles this week.

1. I love coffee. I love cake. I love coffee and cake. I love coffeecake. I love coffee and coffeecake even more when I'm enjoying it with friends. And doesn't coffee and cake taste even better when eaten off cute dishes?

2. I never used to give much thought to cocktails, but between my sister introducing me to Cosmopolitans and some radio show's putting daiquiris into my head, I've been having fun this summer exploring the world of the blender and the shaker.

3. Which puts me in mind of this treasure from the early days of St Blog's: Tom of Disputation's Assumption Swizzle. "...drink only for cheer, lest it lead you to sin, and drink only one, lest it lead you to dormition. "

4. Which makes me think of this fine piece of literature:

Seriously, this book is a scream. Maybe the Assumption Swizzle will make it into the next edition.

5. We have one of these living in the shrubs around our front door.

6. Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, has over 1 million residents. Did you know that? I didn't, until this week.

7. I have so many quotations posted at Happy Catholic starred in my Google Reader. Here's a couple:

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. -- Epicurious

The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. -- Pope Benedict XVI

After I posted my Seven Quick Takes at Jen's, I followed one of the links back to this post at "So Much to Say, So Little Time", in which the writer mentions that her Wilton instructor was recommending canned icing.

I personally think that the Wilton instructor deserves the stocks or the ducking stool for that idea, so in the comments section I did a little ranting and raving. (At this moment it's still in the moderation queue.) Here's what I posted:

Here via 7 quick takes, and your “Wilton instructor” is full of something inedible. And I say this as an alumnus of the course as taught at Michael’s! Canned icing is not only disgusting tasting, it’s not the right consistency for cake decorating! Ick!

There’s three kinds of cake icing used in the Wilton classes: buttercream (the “basic”), royal (dries hard, used for elaborate make-ahead flowers) and fondant (that dough-like stuff often purchased in packages). I don’t think they get to royal and fondant until Classes 2 and 3.

Buttercream: Sometimes in the class they recommend that you use buttercream icing made entirely from shortening because it’s cheap, stable, and reusable. I wouldn’t use an all-shortening icing on a real cake, though, unless you were planning to serve it in Iraq or someplace like that.

For an actual cake, here’s a good basic recipe:

Wilton Buttercream; I recommend the following adjustments:

– This recipe makes just enough to ice and lightly decorate a standard cake recipe. You won’t have much room for error (and won’t have enough to make roses or basketweave.) If you double it, you’ll have plenty and you can freeze the rest.

– Beat the butter and flavorings together first and just a dab of the milk. Don’t bother with the “colorless” vanilla unless you want a truer white icing.

Add the sugar. I have the best results with Domino’s. The longer you slowly beat your icing, the better it will taste. (Stand mixer helps.)

Slowly add your milk a tablespoon at a time, watching the consistency of the icing.

– I don’t like using the corn syrup unless I am making thin icing for writing.

– The higher the fat content of the milk, the better the recipe will turn out. Half and half (the real stuff, not soy) or even cream is great.

– Shortening makes the recipe stable, stiffer, and a purer white. Butter makes it tastier, a little softer, and a less pure white. You can adjust your ratio — so if you double, you could use 1/2 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups butter. Keep the heat of the day in mind, and the fact that butter has more water in it than shortening. I wouldn’t use all butter until you’ve had more practice.

– Consistency is important! As you beat your icing, watch its consistency. Stiff icing is about the consistency of Spackle. If you’re making roses, this is what you want, so when you attain STIFF consistency, take some out of the bowl and set it aside. Add a bit of milk until you get to MEDIUM, which is what you want for your shells, stars, etc, and is the consistency of regular peanut butter (Jif, not the organic peanut butter )

THIN is what you want to ice the cake and to do outlining, writing, teeny dots of yellow in the middle of flowers, Corelli lace, etc. It is the consistency of pudding. I only use corn syrup when I’m doing writing and lace. I’ve been known to use butter-only for thin icing and butter-shortening for the medium and thick consistencies.

Your icing will never look as smooth and perfect as it does in the Wilton books, so don’t stress. To do the photo shoots, they use royal icing on Styrofoam cake dummies and then sand the icing to make it perfectly smooth.

Hope this helps! This is a great recipe to get you going with cake decorating, and I’ve had nothing but compliments making it. For flowers, I’ve used it for drop flowers, roses, and mums (and made them ahead of time and frozen them and then put them on the cake.)

For chocolate icing, add cocoa powder and adjust the consistency with cream.

To make black icing, start with chocolate and then add the black color.

For red, don’t bother with any color but No-Taste Red.

“Rose Petal Pink” is a lovely subtle pink color. The other pinks are Barbie bright. You can also tone down colors using Ivory — nice effects.

Oh, you can also add meringue powder to stablize your icing. Use 1 Tbsp/ recipe.

You can make and color your icing in advance; just store it in the fridge and then pull it out the morning you’re going to decorate. Keep in mind that your icing colors will get a big deeper over time.

Crisco will give you better results than generic shortening.

Experiment with extracts — I love, love, love 1/8 tsp almond extract in my icing! Coconut is delish as well. When I said “don’t bother with colorless vanilla” I meant to use regular vanilla if that’s what you prefer

Hope this helps,

Peony Moss


For advanced, Rose Levy Berenbaum is a pro baker who has a recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream that is supposed to be good for piping. I’ve never tried it myself, but the one time I used a similar recipe just to frost a cake, the icing was so tasty I nearly put my head in the bowl to get every last molecule.

Peony's Seven Quick Takes

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We did it! The Virginia Mosses moved last week and are now unpacking. Now I need a nickname for the new place. I do plan to do a garden, but not until next month...


'cause at the end of this month we're off on a road trip to visit my parents.


Helpful hint: If you live in Virginia, DO NOT forget to renew your driver's license. If you do, when you go to the DMV, make sure you bring your driver's license (and your marriage license, if you changed your name when you got married) because your previous driver's license is no longer good enough proof of your identity.


And don't forget your cell phone, so that when your child gets sick at school you'll find out about it right away and not when you return home to get your driver's license and your marriage license and find the parent you listed as your emergency contact using a Band-Aid and a used envelope to leave a note on your front door.


Now that we're back in a house with a yard, the rhubarb chronicles will begin again! Remember those four plants I was growing back in the PGMP? They came with us when we moved. One went to my pal Iris and two lived on my back deck in whiskey-barrel planters, where one died and the other two hung on but failed to thrive.

But now I've got a nice spot of ground for them, and they're going in this weekend! Pie for sure next year!


I made a strawberry rhubarb pie last week.

Oh. My.

Rhubarb pie really is an amazing restorative. "Maybe things aren't as bad as you thought."


First Zappos purchase!


Malindi by Crocs at Malindi by Crocs - Powered by Service




We are hoping to move locally -- looking for a garage and a neighborhood with more kids. So this week I've been trying to do some packing; we're going to put some of our books and furniture in storage so the house shows better.


The storage guys are coming tomorrow. Am I ready? Not quite.


I am feeling like I'm about ready to snap, though.


Hambet is on Spring Break. He wants SO MUCH to help. He wants to help by packing.


So why won't he pack his toys? Cheez Louise! "Put your K'nex into that box." "Make a display with your Legos." How does that translate into "tilt your parents' bookshelf forward to empty it into a Medium packing box and then tape the box up mummy-style"?


And now my husband is balking at the packing and the storage because he doesn't want the house to "look stagey."


It will all work out. It will all work out. It will all work out....

Bibliomania Bonus: Book crate count = around 16 or 17. I'm estimating another four or five will be needed for downstairs.

Peony's seven quick takes

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Yes, I went to the grocery store yesterday -- I'd lose my DC-Metro cred if I didn't -- and yes, it was a madhouse. It took twenty minutes just to find a parking spot, and inside the carts were almost gridlocked. One of the staff mentioned that it was "worse than Christmas" and that it had been like that since 7:00 AM.

There was plenty of milk, bread, and T.P. -- the holy trinity of pre-snow panic -- but there were some other items that were completely cleaned out:

  • bulk garlic

  • bulk red potatoes

  • packaged white mushrooms

  • packaged cremini mushrooms

  • any andouille sausage costing less than $16.99/ lb

Seriously, what is up with the garlic?!


What a mean Mommy I am! I made Hambet study all his spelling words as if he would have his spelling test on Friday before I told him that school would be out.


We've been having wet fluffy snow for around six hours now. The real monster snow is supposed to be starting shortly....


Hambet and I started The Horse and His Boy this afternoon. Although I'd read the Narnia books when I was a child, for some reason only a couple of them "stuck" in my mind, so now I'm getting to enjoy with Hambet the one-more-chapter-pleeease! thrill of reading them for the first time.


Is anybody else watching the new version of Emma that's been on Masterpiece Theater? The conclusion is this Sunday. This version's Emma is growing on me -- I like her liveliness -- and Harriet is very good, but I am sorry to say that I am disappointed by Miss Bates.


I've been invited to be part of a new group blog! Feminine Geniuses launches this weekend. So far, I've only contributed some coding and a little collection of feminine-genius readings, but I hope to have a real post up soon.

Peony's seven quick takes

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Pansy's computer is broken and that's why we haven't been hearing from her. She is taking things day by day, and greatly appreciates your prayers.


This weekend, we'll be celebrating the seventh anniversary of the blog! Any nominations for favorite posts from the past to reprint?

Look what I am having for a snack this afternoon:>


That's Royal Rum coffee from the Mystic Monks and cookies from my oven, using a recipe I learned from my mom. Jealous yet?


In our eternal quest to Get It Together, Pansy and I are buddying up and using some of the suggestions in this book:

These ladies are Flylady's mentors. The premise is to set up a sort of tickler file to keep track of cleaning routines and keep from getting sidetracked (something I'm very prone to.) In this book, they also have suggestions for getting kids involved in keeping up the house (one suggestion involves blaze-orange stickers and the possibility of docking points from siblings.)

So far, I've set up a little system of index cards to help me with meal planning. Pansy went straight to first principles and used her first batch of index cards to plan out daily prayers and devotions.


Oh, all right: Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe


Plug time! Check out Faith on the High Wire (and not just because Kathy links back to here.) I see she has a post up that mentions Pansy's bishop....


Boy, did I feel smug reading the Washington Post after the March for Life: In the Metro section, Robert McCartney's column began....

Iwent [sic] to the March for Life rally Friday on the Mall expecting to write about its irrelevance. Isn't it quaint, I thought, that these abortion protesters show up each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, even though the decision still stands after 37 years.

Quaint? Quaint? You saw it first here in 2005:

(snarkily imitating a Washington Post writer) Imagine! After 32 years, there are still benighted souls out there who think abortion is... wrong! Doesn't it remind you of those Japanese soldiers who fought in the jungles for 50 years after the peace treaty? It would be so... quaint, if it didn't hit so close to home and if they weren't messing up Monday's traffic so. Good thing this was on the first page of the Metro section, even though this is an issue of national interest drawing protesters from around the country. And that praying thing, it's just so creepy.

Peony's seven quick takes

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1. Got to talk to Pansy today. She's holding up.

2. Note to self:

3. Baking adventure this week: a Weight Watchers recipe for biscotti. Not a success.

4. Highlight of the day (besides going to Adoration and talking to Pansy): getting a new trash can for the kitchen.

5. Rosie O'Donnell is pretty controversial, what with her keen insight into metallurgy and all. If she wanted to buy into an NFL team, would she be allowed?

6. Dan Snyder reminds me of a kid who plants a bean and then digs it up every day to see if it's growing, plants it again in a different place, fertilizes it, and gives it a gallon of water.

7. Started a novena today for Pansy that I found at Adoro Te Devote: a novena to Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots.


Peony's seven quick takes

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Is it bad to be fond of shopping when it's for someone else's benefit? Our parish is a little lacking in attractive platters and bowls for receptions and other social events. So I've started trolling thrift stores and online auctions, and have gotten a little carried away in the cheap silverplate department. But I really, really love china and silver and all those pretty things, and since I don't need anything for myself, it's so gratifying to be able to take advantage of these bargains for a good cause.


Why yes, I do subscribe to Victoria magazine, why do you ask?


His Serene Overlordship has a post that somehow wandered off into coarse language and when and whether it's sinful. My own thought on this (and of course you want to hear it) is that letting loose with the Anglo-Saxon four-letter words can be a sin against charity. I made a very conscious effort to break the habit of four-letter words of any kind when I was doing bedside nursing. An orderly happened to come in the med room when I had my back to the door, concentrating on something; I was startled and burst out, "Oh my --" and managed to shut my mouth. The orderly just shook his head and said, "I know what you were going to say."

Well, I was embarrassed, and I started working hard to root "Oh my God" and the four-letter words out of my personal promptorium, just as a matter of professionalism; having an "oh s#!t" slide out when you drop something or see something inconvenient on the telemetry screen doesn't do much for the nurse-patient relationship. Losing the habit has served me well. And if I sound like a prude when I come out with Dagnabbit! or That stinks, well, so be it; it's easier than constantly watching my mouth and worrying about exactly when four-letter words and saying "Oh my God!" when surprised becomes sinful.


Clone Wars! I like Bane's hat and that long duster thing he wears. My husband likes Asoka about as much as he likes Hermione in the Harry Potter movies -- not much -- and predicts that the Admiral is going to turn.


Jen notes that Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition 4th Edition">Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition is out in the 4th edition! I see Amazon is cross-promoting it with Optivite. I was doing Optivite for a while but I had real trouble gagging down those horse pills; maybe I should try it again. Virginians might be able to order Optivite and all those other super-vitamins from the DMC Pharmacy.


Can I do only six quick takes and still have it count?


If you can spare a couple of prayers tonight, please send one up for Pansy's intentions (because I'm thinking of her) and for the soul of my paternal grandmother, God rest her querulous but well-meaning soul. October 2 is my grandmother's birthday. The first holy card I ever owned was a gift from my grandmother; I was attracted to the pretty flowers on the card and Grandma was extra happy to give it to me because St Therese was her patron saint.

Di Fattura Caslinga: Pansy's Etsy Shop
The Sleepy Mommy Shoppe: Stuff we Like
(Disclaimer: We aren't being compensated to like this stuff.
Any loose change in referral fees goes to the Feed Pansy's Ravenous Teens Fund.)

Pansy and Peony: The Two Sleepy Mommies