6/23/12

Many facets of being a Well-Armed Housewife

This post is simply to illustrate that there is more to being a Well-Armed Housewife than just packing a sidearm. Being truly "well-armed" means knowing how to respond in a crisis, whatever form that crisis may come in.

Case in point: Little Sister's 4th birthday. This year I decided to make her birthday cake and cupcakes from scratch. Usually, I scurry down to the local grocery store, flip through the book of theme cakes, wait for the kid to arrive on a selection and place my order. But this year, in a tiny effort to free ourselves from grocery store dependence, and with the belief that I may possibly be able to produce something more food worthy than high fructose corn syrup laden confections, I elected to take on the challenge.

Years ago, I made carrot cake cupcakes from scratch, without correctly adapting the recipe for high-altitude baking. The resulting hole in the center of each cupcake required me to apply the frosting like Spackle to conceal the crater. Determined not to make the same error, I spent several weeks researching recipes and the related adaptations for high-altitude preparation. It's important to note that Joy of Cooking alone has 4 pages of warnings and recommendations related to baking cakes and cupcakes. I swallowed hard and persevered.

Once I decided on two cupcake recipes, one for chocolate and one for vanilla, I started researching how to decorate them. Little Sister wanted roses, you see. I searched out recipes for homemade butter cream frosting and I checked out books at the library and craft stores, purchased the decorating tips, parchment icing bags, and the other doodads for the job.  For a week, I attempted the technique using cheap store-bought frosting and failed desperately. Roses are something that people must spend years perfecting because mine just looked like piles of goo. Back to the drawing board.

Next stop, YouTube (which, incidentally, is going to make how-to books entirely obsolete, as you can learn so much more about anything by watching someone do it, rather than by following some cheesy hand-drawn illustrations in a how-to book) I came across a hilarious series of videos on decorating that re-inspired me. With new resolve, I set out to ice the cupcakes with zinnias. Practicing on the back of a bowl with dollar store frosting for a full week, I triumphantly mastered the zinnia. Hooray.

Now we arrive on the actual birthday, and the day before the big party. I wake up early to start baking.  I baked 48 chocolate and vanilla cupcakes (for the party) and had just enough chocolate batter left over to make a special, coordinating 8" round cake to put the candles on for little sister to blow out at the party. Everything went as planned. Cupcakes were baked, cake was cooling on the counter.

Enter Fern, the chocolate Labrador  


I only share all of the aforementioned background on the intensive planning and execution of the cupcake process so you can fully appreciate what happens next. Here's how it goes down.

I hear crying in the kids' rooms and scurry out of the kitchen to assess the situation. I'm in Boy's room for maybe 90 seconds, and when I return to the kitchen, I see the cake on the counter with a huge bite missing, and Fern below it, swiftly attempting to wolf down the evidence. Little Sister comes around the corner behind me, and, seeing the half-eaten cake and the dog eating it, bursts into tears and runs to her room shrieking, "my birthday is ruined".

Admittedly, at this point, if I had been armed, I might have simply shot the dog. In fact, I had quite a lovely 2-second fantasy about doing just that, but then, I couldn't help imagining the looks on my children's faces as they witness me executing the family pet. I also couldn't figure out how I would explain the blood stain and bullet hole in the floor to perspective home buyers...so I regained composure (sort of) and dragged the dog outside by her skin (or it may have been some other body part, I was really too angry to care) and came back in to assess the damage and console the birthday girl.

Here's where the well-armed bit comes in. As I survey the damage to the cake, I recognize that while I couldn't, in good conscience, serve a salvaged dog-eaten cake to my guests, I could surely cut off the contaminated portion, and we could eat what was rest as a family. When I sliced off the chunk, I noticed the cake's new shape lent itself to that of a slice of watermelon. Lightbulbs went on.

I ran into sobbing Little Sister's room and suggested that not only could I save her birthday cake, but SHE and her brother could help me decorate it. She brightened and I set about icing the odd-shaped cake. I then turned the decorating over to Boy and Little Sister, as they dumped half a jar of red and green sprinkles over it. We strategically placed a few chocolate chips to emulate watermelon seeds, and by golly, the watermelon birthday cake was a resurrected success.

When we all sat down to birthday cake that night, each one of us agreed it was perfectly decorated and delicious, and all in all, no worse for the wear.  So the moral of this story is: when the dog eats the birthday cake, it takes a well-armed housewife to make watermelon. Adapt and overcome, my friends.

PS. The cupcakes and party were a total success too.



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