Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Winner of Giveaway #2 is....

Storybeader! Of course she's basically the only one who played. She wins the pair of earrings below. If you like them, I have an identical pair for sale in my Etsy Shop.

Stroll through her blog, and scroll through her shop! All the items below are hers, plus she has many more! Thanks for playing along, Story!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prehistoric Party

I bookmarked a pattern for 3-D dinosaur cake that I found online a while ago, wondering if I'd ever find an appropriate occasion to make it for. I came upon an inappropriate occasion and decided to go with it anyway.

A coworker friend had a landmark birthday this week, so instead of a lame over the hill birthday cake, I decided to rock the dinosaur cake sculpture instead. It sounds mean, but we frequently pick on each other about our ages. She teases me about not being familiar with musicians, actors, television shows, and movies from before my time, and likewise, I tease her for being around for all of those things.

My department threw her a dinosaur themed party with dollar store dinosaur decorations and party hats. She, of course, knew right away why the dinosaur theme - because she's "old like a dinosaur."

*Dodging items being thrown at me through cyberspace*

Anyway, this is how I did it:

The pattern calls for two 9" cakes. Since I was serving a crowd, and was concerned about the space in my cake caddy, I made a full cake in an 8" round pan, and split a second cake between two 9" rounds. I used the 8" cake as the body of the dinosaur, cutting it into two semicircles and sandwiching them together with filling. I cut a little piece from the front to make a flat spot to rest the head against, which also helped to shorten the length.

I traced a 9" round pan onto thick scrapbook paper, and used this as a template for the cake shape carving. I folded the circle paper in half, and cut it down the center to work on one half at a time. I folded the first semicircle into two symmetrical halves, and used the center line as a starting point. The pattern did not provide exact measurements for the cuts, so I decided to make the square pieces 3" on each side. By cutting out the two 3" squares, this left the four rounded triangle pieces slightly unmatched so I trimmed a little off the base of the longer triangles. The triangle from each side of the semicircle will eventually get paired with the triangle from the top of the semicircle from the same side to make the hind legs.

One of the 3" squares was cut in half, the other in quarters. The half square pieces are used as the foot of the front legs, and the quarters are used as the front legs, and as the toes of the hind legs.

The second semicircle was basically sketched free-hand, following the pattern. Without exact measurements, I decided to start by finding the center line of the semicircle, and began to draw the front of the neck there. I made the base of the neck and the base of the tail about the same width. The rounded triangle piece from this semicircle is used to bulk up the base of the tail. There is an extra piece left over that you can cut up and put under the head.

Before cutting up the second 9" round, make sure your paper cutouts will look right on the body of the dinosaur. If they work, place your papers on top of the second 9" round and make the cuts. I "glued" the rounded triangles for hind legs together with icing, and used icing to glue the rectangle and square pieces for front legs as well. I recommend cutting the cake in half, and making the cuts one side at a time.

Making two batches of cake, I still had an extra 9" round to play with since I made a double wide dinosaur body with an entire cake in an 8" round pan. I used some of the extra cake to trace an second head, making the head and neck double wide and more proportioned to the body. Remember, if you split one cake between two 9" rounds for the entire sculpture, there won't be extra cake other than the funny shaped piece that you can cut up and put under his head (which I forgot to do).

I frosted the cake using green colored icing. The pattern says to use a thin layer of icing, and then to use the star tip to make stars over the body. I just put a regular amount of frosting on the cake, scrapped the star tip, and used green sprinkles for a scaly effect instead.

The plates on the back and tail can be made using stiff gum paste frosting cut into diamond shapes, or even candy corn. I used red sour gummy dinosaurs as the back plates, and cut some gummies into tiny triangles for the tail plates. I cut orange gummies for finger and toe nails, and blue ones for the eyes.

Be sure to check out the original pattern from

Find this, and other cakes, on my Cakes Flickr set.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Red Hill

The second Catskills fire tower hike (the overall ninth fire tower mountain,) as well as the main reason that we dragged the husbands down to the Catskills for camping was Red Hill. At only 890 feet in elevation change and a round trip walk of 2.8 miles, it hardly seemed worth driving 3 hours to just do this mountain so we made a weekend out of it, camping at Mongaup Campground and hiking up Balsam Lake Mountain the day before.

We were accompanied on this hike by our loving, willing, but less than enthusiastic husbands, who came because it meant a lot to us. Once again, it was a small miracle that we found the trailhead., validating my claim to my husband, that no, there are not huge signs directing you to mountain trails.

We drove over back roads and perhaps even a mountain to get to the trail head in Denning, a town in southern Ulster County. My brother-in-law had more faith in his car than I had in my Corolla to get us down the bumpy dirt road to the parking lot closest to the trailhead. We found some self guided tour pamphlets, like the ones at Mt. Goodnow and Blue Mountain which provided a little lesson in nature along the way. It described Along the way we saw Lycopodium, Nectria, Mountain Wood Fern (the fern that florists use in arrangements,) Yellow Birch, Hemlock, White Pine, Moss, pudden stone, bluestone slabs which were dropped at its location by a glacier, and of course the fire tower and cabin.

"Pudden Stone" stones inside rocks

Bluestone, left by the glaciers

Sister and I were excited to find yet another Catskills interpreter at the summit - an opportunity that is not as frequently provided in the Adirondacks. He was actually the one that made some hand mountain profile labeling maps inside the tower, so you could see based on the outline of each mountain which peaks you were looking at.

Me and Red in front of the Red Hill fire tower

From the top you can see 98 peaks and over 3000 acres of land. The land was only occasionally frequented by Native Americans, and later settled by Dutch, English, Irish, and Germans. Some of this history of the region includes logging, bluestone quarrying, leather tanning, winter green and blueberry harvesting, trapping, fishing, mountain house tourism, railroads, and World War II pilot training.

The cabin

Red Hill was selected to be a steel fire tower site in 1920, and was the last staffed tower in the Catskill Forest Preserve, which was last staffed in 1990.

Pictures inside the cabin

For all the pictures from this hike, see my Flickr set.

According to "Views from on High" by John Freeman, the summit Elevation is 2990 ft, with an elevation change of 890 feet. The difficulty is described as being a short hike, never very steep, though my husband begs to differ.

Thanks to the Red Hill Fire Tower Committee for providing a paper trail guide along the hike, from which this information was obtained!

For a list of those who served the Red Hill Fire Tower, visit:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Then and Now

One of the topics for the Etsy Blogger's Street Team blog carnival is something that your remember doing as a child. It's funny how many of the things I did were phases I grew out of or lost interest in, but have reverted back to enjoying - of course from an adult prospective.

Press play to hear "After All These Years" from Journey's new album Revelation

As an only child I had to find creative ways to entertain myself. One of my favorite toys was a microscope that I'd use to study leaves, blades of grass, and hair with. Now I work in a hospital lab and refer to the microscope frequently. Of course the stuff that I'm looking for is a lot smaller, the quality of the microscope is much better, and I now know what it is I'm looking at.

Before the internet existed, my mom and I would do craft projects together - I even made jewelry and Christmas ornaments with those cheap tacky plastic star shaped beads - who would have known that one day in the future I'd be selling jewelry online.

My mom and I did most of our crafting at the camper, a place that I didn't mind going to, but wished I didn't have to spend most of my summer vacation at. I thought my summer would've been better spent at home with my friends, a real shower, and a comfortable bed. Now I wish I had the time to camp and hike more, go figure.

I remember singing "Beat It" with my mom when she'd let me use the electric mixer and lick the beaters when done. She'd let me frost the cakes after she baked them, its no wonder I like decorating cake sculptures now!

The Bunny Cake

Even my musical tastes haven't changed that much. I grew up listening to music from the 70s and 80s playing in the house and the car, hence my excitement for seeing Journey and Heart in concert this summer. Of course I enjoy modern rock, alternative, and I even like to listen to really obnoxious pop music when working out at the gym.

I suppose I remember doing a lot of things from my childhood because they are things I enjoy doing now as an adult. Of course now I have my husband, finally someone around the house that's my age to play with; and I finally got the Nintendo (Wii) I always wanted as a kid. Okay, so I bought the Wii for 'him.'

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tour of Balsam Lake Mountain

My favorite fire towers are always the ones that are not only climbable, but with access to the cab as well. My first Catskill fire tower hike was an amazing experience - not only was it staffed with interpreters,but one of the interpreters had a special connection to the mountain.

Our hike started off on the Dry Brook Ridge Trail beginning at the southern approach to Balsam Lake Mountain in Beaverkill, NY. The sign to the "fire tower" almost got lost in the glare of the sun, but fortunately Sister's eyes are better than mine, as I would have led us down the path marked "trail," go figure. I'm not sure where that would have brought us to, but I think it may be part of the southern "loop."

Almost overlooked the sign to the tower

From the Dry Brook Ridge Trail, we met the Balsam Lake Mountain trail which was steeper but not horrible. Along the way we found things that we had not encountered on any hikes in the Adirondacks this year, such as rock walls across the trail (perhaps for run-off,) rocks containing rocks and possibly quartz, and Indian Pipes. Sister pointed out the Indian Pipes, which are "albino" plants lacking chlorophyll, but resembling a mushroom but they are not actually a fungus. Without chlorophyll, they do not require the sun that other plants do, allowing them to grow in the dark forest.

"Chlorophyll... More like bore-aphyll!"~Adam Sandler in Billy Madison

We made a wrong turn in Albuquerque at a very deceptive sign. We followed the sign leading us to the new lean-to and privy, however, the trail seemed to disappear into nothing in both directions from the lean-to site. Bushwhacking got us nowhere so we retraced our steps back to the sign we followed at the most recent intersection. We realized that Balsam Lake Mt was also the name of the lean-to. We continued up the trail where we initially took a left, this led us to the spring which was in the guide book, so we knew we were back on track!

The sign clearly makes Balsam Lake Mt and Lean To to be two separate things in the same direction. You wouldn't have gone straight either!

Balsam Lake Mt Lean-To dedicated to Elinore Leavitt - past President and Chair of the Catskills 3500 Club

We continued to the summit where the tower became visible through the trees. Posing for pictures with the tower behind, we got distracted by these beautiful wild flowers which we were told was fireweed. At the tower we were greeted by Tom and Laurie, the volunteer interpretive guides. Suppressing the urge jump, clap, and shriek "INTERPRETIVE GUIDES!" we kept our cool and followed Tom to the top of the tower. He gave us a tour of the Catskills, and even parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He let us use his binoculars to see the towers on Red Hill and Hunter Mountain, and to see the large stone structure on a mountain in New Jersey. He showed us the valley where Laurie, the other guide grew up, and the cabin that her father built!

The Tower


He explained the triangulation that the observers used to do, moving the alidade on the topographical map in line with where the smoke was. Observers staffing other towers would do the same, calling in their data via telephone. With the multiple location points observed, fire fighters had a better idea of where the exact location of the fire was.

Laurie gave us a tour of the cabin that her father, Larry Baker, build. We toured the kitchen, equipped with a stove and telephone, where the original topographical map is located. Signs and gear adorned the wall. We saw the water packs that the fire fighters would wear into the woods to use to try to extinguish the fire. My father-in-law actually wore these several years ago when he was a volunteer fire fighter in Pottersville, NY. We saw a picture of Laurie with her father taken several years ago. She showed us one of the Catskills books where she is pictured with her father as well.

The cabin that Larry Baker built - note Smokey the Bear on the door!

Father and daughter

After our tour, we were given signed and dated cards, just like the observers used to pass out, saying that we made it to the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain. Between the two, Laurie and Tom are members of prestigious groups such as the 46ers, winter 46ers, Catskill 3500 club, Views and Brews, and probably a few that I'm forgetting.

Balsam Lake Mountain was the home of New York State's first fire tower, built in 1887 with wood by the Balsam Lake Mountain Club. It survived until 1901 when a lightning strike took it down. It was replaced with another wooden tower in 1905. Telephone lines, an access road, and a cabin were added in 1919.

The current 47' steel tower was build in 1930, closed in 1988, and was restored and officially reopened in 2000.

Information from:

For more pictures, see my Flickr Set

The Storque Feature!

Look what The Storque dragged in! A better-late-than-never feature in today's Etsy Teams section of The Storque of the Etsy Bloggers Street Team! We hosted our five day sale celebrating our one year anniversary last week, and gained recognition from Etsy! A special thanks to Joey and Aleethea for making this happen. It is because of her hard work, dedication, and leadership that such a strong team was formed!

Click the image below to see the full article!

Monday, August 18, 2008

August Projects

Peridot is the theme of August in my Project a Month calendar, which gives a pattern for a double stranded peridot necklace. I like the color green, but for some reason, peridot doesn't do it for me, so I made a few things this month that were more my style.

I love fresh water pearls, and picked up a couple strands at the local bead shop - one gold colored, and the other a pearly olive green. I had enough pearls to make two necklaces.

This necklace below was crocheted with gold colored copper wire. It is a single crochet stitch threading on alternating green and gold fresh water pearls. A hook and eye clasp were made with matching wire. I worked the wire to give it a vine-like appearance, hence the name "Pearly Euonymus Vine." Euonymus fortunei, also known as 'Emerald 'n Gold' is a plant with yellow edged green leaves, and can grow as a shrub or a vine. Click the image or title for more information.

With the left over pearls I made a second necklace incorporating a gold wire wrapped green glass pendant. If it were for sale, I'd name it "Sour Apple", but I decided that the little one bead-drop in the pattern was a sign that I was supposed to be the owner of this necklace. I have funky and casual jewelry to wear with green, but nothing that nice. I'm sure nobody will notice the tiny mistake, and I like it too much to take it apart and start over.

Sour Apple

The third thing I've made this month is this double stranded necklace, called "The Blues." I wrapped a heart shaped glass pendant with silver colored copper wire. The two strands are made with shades of blue, periwinkle, and aqua; the inner strand has some silver liquid twist beads. I think the pendant is sea glass, but I got it from a miscellaneous bin of beads, pendants, and stones at a bead store on my trip to Lake Placid earlier this summer, so I can't say for sure. Click the image or title for more information.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Etsy Bloggers Team 1st Anniversary Sale

To celebrate the team's anniversary, we are hosting a five day team-wide sale!

On Wednesday 8/13, all the participating Etsy Bloggers Team member shops will listed on our team shop, which can be reached by clicking on our sale banner here. Be sure to check them all out, but please realize that the sales are different for each shop.

The team website and message board officially launched on August 13, 2007. I joined the team in January this year, and have really enjoyed it. We work together to promote each other, and it really helps gain exposure that you wouldn't be able get on your own.

The sale that I will be having in my shop is a progressive one:
  • Save 10% on purchases of $10 - $19.99
  • Save 20% on purchases of $20 - $29.99
  • Save 30% on purchases of $30 or more
  • FREE domestic shipping (US) if you spend $50 or more
Help us celebrate a year's worth of teamwork!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Talking Tulips

Tulips does enough talking, time to talk about Tulips!

I have passed my Featured Etsy Blogger of the Month crown on to my fellow teammate Tulip's Treasure Box. Currently, I am enjoying her "Magical Music" on her blog trying to rival her wonderful post on me last month.

Tulips is known in the Etsy Blogger community for her beautiful, and often ocean inspired jewelry which she sells on Etsy in her shop Tulips Treasure Box. She is equally known for her love of talking, as she has at the moment 645 posts on our private forum, and and probably just as many comments on my blog alone! She's a hard gal to keep up with, for sure! It's no surprise her blog's title is Tulips Talking.

She doesn't keep her blogging posts on the subject of herself, more often than not she is paying it forward to other Etsians, or is busy making treasuries featuring her team members.

Congrats my bead weaving buddy!

Check out her other shop, Octahedron Jewelry too!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Winner of Giveaway#1, and Details for Giveaway #2

Shell Mitchell of Shell Mitchell Accessories and Designs has won my Sharing the Spotlight Giveaway #1!

She wins a custom bracelet with her name (or whatever she wants) on it! Shell Mitchell makes beautiful cashmere fingerless gloves. Visit her Etsy Shop and her blog!

Details for Giveaway #2

Visit the blog of any of the Etsy Blogger participants of Giveaway #1 by clicking on their link in the list below. Come back here to comment on this post or my original Sharing the Spotlight Giveaway Post and say something nice about the Etsy Blogger's blog that you visited. Each Etsy Blogger team member's blog you visit and comment on here will get you another entry into Giveaway #2. The prize for Giveaway #2 is a pair of Periwinkle Rose Dangle Earrings, shown below. The winner of Giveaway #2 will be drawn on August 31st and announced here and on my original post. I will also contact you if your blogger profile/blog provides me with a way to contact you.

Charles Lathrop Pack Demonstration Forest

Press Play to hear "Bicycle Race" by Queen

I got a bike rack at Walmart a few weeks ago, and the weather has been laughing at me ever since. Fed up with "chance of showers" but excited that for once there was no chance of thunder storms, Sister and I challenged the skies to a bike ride. I've never hooked up a bike rack before and was a little leery of the half hour drive to our destination with bikes held by 4 straps on my trunk.

The bikes made it safely to the Charles Lathrop Pack Demonstration Forest, near Warrensburg, NY. The forest was named after wealthy lumber man Charles Lathrop Pack, who donated the land to SUNY-ESF for student studies.

A memorial to Charles Lathrop Pack and his wife

At the registration station, there is a little mailbox labeled brochures... All that was left for us was a couple candy wrappers. With no map or informational guide; it was up to us to do some exploration on our own.

A handicap accessible nature trail takes you through a loop around the forest where you see The Grandmother Tree, a white pine over 315 years old and over 175 feet tall! This tree has been protected in a 50 acre area by the college, in tradition with Margaret Woodward's wishes. Margaret and John Woodward used to own the land. John wanted to cut down the tree for lumber to sell so that he'd have enough money to buy his wife a set of dishes for their anniversary. His wife would not allow it, saying she'd rather go without the dishes than lose the tree.

The Grandmother Tree

There are over 10 miles of trail throughout the land, and we covered a decent amount. We came across the Pack Forest Camp, where we saw a dinner hall serving food to the campers. We laughed at the cabin called Spruce because Sister and I joke that everything is named Spruce in the Adirondacks. I actually have a map of a particular region of the Adirondacks where you can see three Spruce Mountains. The forest is over 2500 acres, and the trails are good for walking, biking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. There are fishing and canoe access sites as well.

A little stream

See the rest of my pictures from the Pack Forest here.

Information from:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Horsing Around

In an attempt to making work on the weekend fun, we had a horse themed party this weekend celebrating the beginning of Track Season at the nearby Saratoga Gaming & Raceway. I made a cake shaped like a horse, of course. If you ever want to make a cake for a horse lover or a theme party, here's the basic step by step of what I did.

I used a yellow cake mix (shhhhh) and a 13x9 pan. After the cake is cooled completely, remove it from the pan and put it onto a cutting board.

I cut the neck/chin outline first. It's a little triangular shaped piece, and I cut it left of center at the bottom of the cake. The top left corner I cut at an angle, starting at about the center of the left hand side and rounded a little to the right, ending about two inches from the top left corner. The back of the horses neck is cut from about the center of the top at a downward slope to about a third of the way down the top right side. Excuse the bad blurry pictures - good natural light was unavailable.

Bad blurry picture

After carving the cake, remove the triangular neck piece and move it to the top for an ear. I used chocolate frosting for a brown horse, but any flavor or color will work.

After having your base horse color frosting down, it's time to add the facial features, bridle, and the reins. Black licorice can be used, however I used Twizzler's Pull and Peal licorice because they are longer and more flexible, but mostly because they don't taste like black licorice. I used Rolos for part of the bridle as well, but Life Savers could also be used. I made the eye with a blob of fluffy white whipped frosting and a green Dots candy left over from our snacks at the drive-ins.

The mane is done last, because it overlaps the bridle and reins. I used white whipped frosting and tip #21 (the star tip). Start at the top of the head squeezing the icing bag lifting upwards. I released pressure and pulled the bag away to get the tapered look. It's relatively easy to do, but I recommend a few practice strokes on a cutting board. I colored the chocolate frosting with brown icing dye to make it a little darker for his nose.

With enough ambition, the spare corner pieces can be frosted with orange frosting for carrots, used to turn the horse into a unicorn, or they can be eaten to make sure the cake is suitable for serving to others.

Here are a few other cakes I've made before.

Friday, August 1, 2008

An Outdoorsy Carnival, August 1, 2008

The Second Editon

Welcome to the August 1, 2008 edition of an outdoorsy carnival. Thanks to all the following participants!

Advice Column

Tip Diva presents Top Ten Tips - Treating And Preventing Mosquito Bites posted at Tip Diva, saying, "Ahh, summer. The sun is warm, the water is cool, the flowers are blooming, and unfortunately, the bugs are biting. The worst offender of them all is the mosquito, carrier of pain, itching and possible diseases like West Nile. Here’s how to treat and further prevent bites"

Aquatic Life

Green Thumb

valereee presents Garlic Mustard Dill Pickle Relish posted at Cincinnati Locavore, saying, "All those small early cukes are perfect for pickle relish!"

Laura Williams presents Around the Homestead Today... posted at Laura Williams' Musings, saying, "Gardening and Canning"

Fiona Lohrenz presents Going Organic…Why We Should! posted at Child Care Only.

Yancey Grantham presents “I think in a little while from now…” by Helmuth - Top Green Gallery posted at Top Green Blog.

In the Woods

Nick presents All Wrong? posted at Nemesis.

PalleikoDesigns presents Back from our travels! posted at H. Palleiko Designs.

A Keeper's Jackpot presents Blue Skies at Blue Mountain posted at A Keeper's Jackpot.

:: Suzanne :: presents 100 Acre Wood posted at :: adventures in daily living ::.

Wicksell Metellus presents One Way to Beat High Gas Prices (Guaranteed!) posted at The Official Blog of the Open Road.

Louise Manning presents Woodland birds under threat posted at The Human Imprint.

Outdoor Olympians

jonathan senior presents The 3 Peaks of Yorkshire - Salomon XT Wings Challenge posted at, saying, "3 peaks of yorkshire"

Open Air

Sean presents THE GIANTS CAUSEWAY - HISTORY AND HERITAGE - NORTHERN IRELAND posted at MY SECRET IRELAND, saying, "Ireland's only World Heritage site. This Blog Posts includes an embedded video for your viewing."

Tony Clifton presents Are You Brave Enough To Fly A Paraglider? posted at Aviation For All.

GP presents Horses Montana's Glamour Animal posted at Innstyle Montana- Come on Inn, saying, "Horses may be considered montana's "glamour animal".. but nothing beats 'em for heart, soul and being in the great outdoors" presents Trip to Ooty: Day 2: Part 1: Ooty Lake - Boat House and Thread garden, Ooty posted at

GrrlScientist presents Black-Bellied Plover posted at Living the Scientific Life, saying, "Black-Bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, at Bolivar Flats, Texas. This bird is in breeding plumage, more correctly known as "alternate plumage.""

A Keeper's Jackpot presents Sharing the Road posted at A Keeper's Jackpot.

GP presents Innside Equestrian posted at Innstyle Montana- Come on Inn, saying, "Horses are more than a hobby.. they're a lifestyle!"

Barbara Schreiber presents Mesa Verde: A Storied Island in the Sky | Britannica Blog posted at Britannica Blog, saying, "Great blog post on the ancestral pueblo ancient ruins of Mesa Verde."

Nick D presents Hayabusa Powerplant posted at Skaba Dune Buggies.

James Hills presents Taos Ski Valley Summer Mancation posted at Man Tripping - Guys Getways and Mancations.

That concludes this edition! Sad that you missed out? Join us next time, the first of the month, every month!

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