Thursday, December 22, 2011


So in the mail a few months ago we got a report. It was on our natural gas usage. Now, they have started sending them to my email! So this is what I got today:

James F Kane

We are pleased to provide you with this personalized report for Nov 10 - Dec 08. Additional information is also available online.
You used more natural gas than your neighbors.

Efficient Neighbors 73 CCF*

All Neighbors 95

You 109

* CCF: Standard unit of measuring natural gas volume, also called one hundred cubic feet.

Sign in to see how your usage changes over time.


The actual email contains big horizontal bars to illustrate the hugeness of "109" as opposed to those saintly souls who used *only* "73".

These reports piss me off.

I guess they're from our gas provider, although I thought that was Arkansas Western Gas. The reports come from SourceGas.

I wonder how true they are. Are they REALLY our neighbors' usage rates or are they just trying to get us to click on their website and read stuff about how to be efficient?

And who is my neighbor, dare you ask?

Our neighbors are empty nesters. Some are retired, some aren't. Others are young, married couples without children. We really don't have that many families with young children around here although there are a few.

We have 3 kids. And a dog. I do 15+ loads of laundry EVERY. WEEK. With a gas dryer, I might add.


So at the end of the email, I read the fine print and saw a wonderful word:


Yes! I clicked it and now I will no longer be burdened with the guilt of ruining the planet because my family wanted clean clothes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cake Pops Success!

I did it! I made ROUND cake pops! Pristine spheres of fluid candy sweetness. Mmmmm!

True to their word, they really were pretty easy. But the devil's in the details.

LOTS of details.

Regular reader(s) of my blog will remember my first attempt back in the summer. They turned out ok. They tasted ok. But they were gloppy and not very pretty.

At Thanksgiving, my cousin, Kayla, made some cake balls. YUM! I ate TOO many. (But I counted them on WW points!) We discussed how difficult they were to get right. We had both had the same problems with the stick not staying stuck and the coating not, well, coat-ing.

So last Monday I went Googling. I found a video by the master herself, Bakerella. When Bakerella dips hers, she goes straight down into the coating and then straight back up. She doesn't swish the ball around or use the spoon to pour the coating over it. She also sticks them into a styrofoam block instead of laying them on wax paper. Those two things totally changed the way my cake pops looked this time.

I also found a blog post by Pioneer Woman. Her Halloween cake balls were cute, but not as smooth as Bakerella's. However, I did find two secrets on her website....

1. She didn't use all the icing!

She said she only used about 3/4 of the can of icing. Aha! That's the mistake I made last time. I had so much icing in there that the sticks kept sliding out.

2. She suggested thinning the coating with shortening.

Eureka! THAT is how Bakerella gets hers to look so smooth and round. Her coating goes on seamlessly. With thinner coating, it really is possible to dip the ball into the coating and pull it straight up and have it be completely covered. Then you tap off the excess and put it in the styrofoam block.

So I took some pictures. You'll be amazed! LOL!

Ok, so this is a can of frosting. Not so amazing. But the secret is to start with a little frosting and only add more if you need it. You want to make the cake/frosting mash up to be about the consistency of playdough. I didn't measure my frosting exactly. But for 1/2 of a 9x13 cake (I didn't feel like rolling and dipping 70+ balls again), I used maybe 1/3 of this can of icing.

Here are my finished cake balls. With less icing, they rolled into perfectly shaped balls. I popped (heh heh) these in the freezer for about 15 mins per Bakerella's video instructions. From 1/2 of a 9x13 cake, I got 36 balls.

While they were in the freezer, I melted the candy coating. I tried two kinds.

Wal-Mart was out of Wilton white candy melts in bags, but they had this nifty dipping cup of them. So I bought it. I also bought some green ones which you can see in the background. Those are for later.

I also used up the rest of the almond bark from the ones I made in the summer.

Boy, was there a difference! I began with the Wilton melts. Wilton has been in the cake decorating business for DECADES! So I figured they would be better. But no. They weren't. The dip was so thick that when I held up my spoon, it glopped off. It didn't stream off or roll off. It took forever for part of it to plop off. I even tried heating it longer in the microwave thinking it wasn't melted enough. That didn't help either.

So I switched to the almond bark. Perfection! Oh my goodness! You should've seen it. It rolled off my spoon with the consistency of cake batter. It fell in perfect ribbons and was reabsorbed into the remaining candy seamlessly.

Another tip I picked up from Bakerella was to dip the ends of the sticks into the candy coating before sticking them into the balls. This was a big help. It helped the sticks to stay in while being dipped.

After the sticks had a minute to set, I started dipping. Like Bakerella's video, I went straight down and then straight up. Tapped off the excess and placed it in my foam.
Yes, I used floral foam. I didn't have time to go to Hobby Lobby and Walmart didn't have any white. I figured this was as good as anything. (And I love how it's labeled "desert foam". I thought it just needed another "s" to make it "dessert foam". LOL!)

When I ran out of almond bark, I turned back to the Wilton melts. I got some shortening and melted it in the microwave. I stirred it in to the Wilton melts and voila! Perfection! Here is what it looked like after the addition of the shortening. The almond bark looked like this, too.

And now, here are my finished, beautiful, perfectly round, cake pops!

To make the white ones, I sprinkled white sanding sugar over them. I called them "snowballs."
Aren't they pretty?
Beta and I decided they were almost too pretty to eat! Almost.......