New Wheels!

The difference in how I’m doing right now is nothing short of a minor medical miracle.  Or maybe the miracle is my kid’s love, and all the good food and REAL rest that I’ve been getting at home!

Chemo Knitting

Yesterday my doctor was pretty much astounded at how much better my hemoglobin and platelets are doing.  HUZZAH!  Aside from just being happy that I’m doing so much better than I was, the main reason for wanting my numbers to be so great is that I’m starting chemo again.

The last time I started chemo I was in dire straits. My numbers were horrible, I couldn’t keep ANY solid food down, but it was imperative that I began chemo so the docs went ahead and put me on a 1 week regime.  It kicked my butt.  Because I started with such poor numbers, and because the numbers just weren’t getting that much better while I was at the hospital (especially after Andy wasn’t allowed to visit and slip me a roast beef sandwich ever now and then) my numbers did go up, but they seemed to just stay at a certain point.

For the last few weeks in the hospital I barely ate anything but crackers and Kirkland protein shakes (which are MUCH more delicious than Boost, and have great nutrition!)

Fast forward to my first day coming home.  It was a challenge to ride in the car without throwing up.  We got home and it took both kids to get me up the stairs and into the kitchen.  After a rest, Max practically carried me to my bed, where I stayed for days.  I had to use the commode in my room for a week because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom.

This week I am up fixing my breakfasts and lunches (I can’t do dinners because I’m pretty worn out by then…). I walked up and down the block this week, and I baked a cake for the kids on Sunday.  I pretty much did it all sitting down, but I baked it!!

It was in celebration of PAYING OFF THE MORTGAGE ON THIS HOUSE!!  Actually, we had paid off the mortgage on our LAST house, so this was simply the point at which the check from selling that house finally cleared the mortgage company on our new house, but it means that except for utilities and taxes, we’re set every month.  It makes the expenses of cancer much easier to bear.  The joys of downsizing!!

Baking Cabinet

We have a bit less storage space in the kitchen, so our solution is a baking cabinet.  Every thing that has to do with baking goes into our new Ikea cabinet, standing against a bare wall in the kitchen.  Max and I transferred pertinent items, freeing up more built in cabinet space.

This house is definitely smaller, but oddly, both kids have much larger living spaces.  The trade off is we don’t have a dining room, but the kids and I find ourselves gravitating to the kitchen table and sitting and talking quite a bit, so it’s a happy trade off!  We have SO MANY BOXES still to unpack, but that’s also the function of moving into a smaller house.  Figuring out where to put stuff is a bit of a nightmare.  I was in the hospital for the actual move, had I been home (and healthy) I could have directed that a bunch of stuff get tossed out.  But now that it’s here, it must be dealt with!


But the BIG NEWS that I’m so excited about today is that last night I participated in my first online auction (by a local auction house, not ebay…) and I got myself an adult tricycle!  It’s one of the brands I’d been looking at, and the price of the trike, put together and ready to ride (did I mention it’s brand new, never ridden?) is less than the price of buying the same bike ANYWHERE.  And once I purchased it, I’d have to pay $100 assembly, but that’s taken care of!

Kathleen pointed the auction out to me, and also reminded me that WE HAVE A TRAILER for our biz that we can use to bring the trike to my house.  I can’t pick it up until the full STAY AT HOME directive is lifted (which is set to be May 4) but it’s being stored locally, and it’s MINE!

Today I have my first in-home Physical Therapy session in an hour and ten minutes.  I’m psyched, but I wish it were NOT raining because I’d like to show off my walking-with-a-walker distance tricks!  Instead I’ll be showing the therapist that I can stand up, sit down, put dishes away and get around the house well.  Stairs are still an issue, but slowly we’ll overcome that, too!

Signing off, future posts may be less positive as this second round of chemo takes hold of me, but we’re hoping that since I’m going into it so much healthier than before, the nadir will not be as low as with my first round of chemo.

Pushing Myself To Exhaustion

I’m sorry I haven’t written for a while, my focus has been split, and I’ve been battling exhaustion.  As I slowly get better, recovery, I also regularly outpace myself.  I do more than I really should because I’m discovering every day what my new limits are.  This feels like two steps forward, one step back, which is not uncommon in a recovery.

I still have days of nausea, when I awake to the smell of chemicals on my skin and an overall sense of nausea.  Those tend to be hard days when just walking down stairs is enough to wear me out.  I make it to my chair and collapse, sweating and wiped out, fit only to read Facebook and play endless hands of solitaire to keep my mind from dwelling on my back, hip and knee pain.

Then there are other days when I wake up energized and ready to shower, days when I can get to the store and go grocery shopping (using one of their electronic carts!) and do other errands.  These are the days when I tend to over exert myself, and that inevitably leads to days that I’ve described above.

In addition to the continuing exhaustion, Oct 21 was the one year anniversary of Gerry’s passing.  We didn’t have a great deal of time to dwell on it, we were all traveling back from New Jersey after attending a family wedding, but it was heavy on all of our hearts.

Currently I’m shopping for a new home; a place where I can do all my living on one level, which also has room for both kids.  I love our current home, but crawling up the stairs every time I need to use the toilet is rough, and when my knees are hurting, I travel up to the second floor so slowly that, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I bought poise pads in bulk.

We thought we’d found our home, but upon inspection it became clear that there were issues that needed to be addressed, expensive issues, and the seller wasn’t inclined to reduce the price.  So, regretfully, we walked away and we’re not looking at a few other homes.  If all goes well we hope to close in December and slowly move into the new home in Dec/Jan.  We’ll take our time getting our current home ready to go on the market, and by Spring we’ll be open for business.

This means carrying two houses for a time, but I feel it’s worth it for two reasons: I’m easily exhausted and I need the time for a slow move, and our agent feels the house will sell better, and at a higher price, in the Spring.  Both these reason mean that for a time I’ll be paying taxes and insurance on two houses, but – as I said – it’s an investment I’m willing to make.

I think for a time I thought I could just remain in this house until both kids were settled in their futures, and I was ready to move into senior apartment housing.  But a recent issue with my knee (both knees have advanced arthritis, one of the ‘seized up’ on a cold morning in the bathroom) convinced me that I need to make this move while I’m able to be in control of the decisions and can do it on my own schedule.

In the mean time, we’re planning a nice family Thanksgiving with Andy’s boyfriend’s parents, and I think it will be amazing!  We’re having our weekend at a rented cabin in Wisconsin, dividing up the dinner between folks.  I’ve put Evan in charge of cranberry sauce (which is pretty hard to screw up!) and I’m making the turkey and two pies.  Andy’s making stuffing, gravy will be made from the turkey drippings, and all of the other side dishes are courtesy of Evan’s mom.  It should be an amazing weekend!!

The Sunday after Thanksgiving we’re having a small get-together for the employees of ModeKnit Yarn here at my house, which should be lovely!  I was telling Kathleen the other day that, outside of the kids and her, I rarely see other folks these days.  This will be a wonderful chance to catch up with the hardworking people who have kept ModeKnit Yarn going this past 18 months while I’ve been so sick and dealing with other painful life stuff.

Last Thanksgiving I was entirely out of commission; at the height of my chemo, and brewing the infection that would turn into severe sepsis a few weeks later.  This year I feel much more like myself, not least because I’ve had my hair cut and colored and I feel more like ME, so it will be a wonderful thing to share this holiday with friends.

I’m also thrilled to be able to do the work (pies, stuffing) a few days in advance and prep the Turkey before we drive to the cabin and put it in the oven there.  I can do a bit, rest a bit, then return a do a bit more.  That’s been my strategy that’s allowed me to hit several milestones so far, so I’m looking forward to implementing it for the holiday.

As seldom as I seem to be blogging these days, you may not hear from me again until after Thanksgiving, so I hope you all have an exceptional holiday with loving friends and/or family and snugly animals to pet and love!  And thank you all for sticking with me during this really rough year.  It’s been hard, and I’ve had a good amount of loss, but I have SO MUCH to be thankful for – and I am!

A Return To Baking

I bake for fun, I really love making things (and I love decorating them even more!)

In fact, in 2016 I auditioned for the American version of the Great British Bake Off.  The Great American Baking Show (they can’t use the term, “Bake Off” because Pillsbury owns the rights to it in the US) most likely won’t be produced again after the last season, which was due to air on ABC at Christmas 2017.  Unfortunately one of the judges had been involved in an unsavory episode when he was a chef in NYC 10 years earlier, and in the midsts of #MeToo ABC felt that the most prudent thing would be to just cancel the entire program and air some show on Christmas lights instead.

So even if I’d made it onto the show (I was in the final group of 12, they only chose 8 for the show, I wasn’t even an alternate…) the show wouldn’t have aired.

Yet I cling to the hope that someday I will be able to bake IN THE TENT in England (where they also shot the US show, oddly enough…). It’s a dream.  I know I’ll never be on the Amazing Race, but there’s always a slight hope that I can bake!

Until this past month baking was a bit of a pipe dream, too.  Not only was it very difficult to get downstairs, once there I was so wiped out that all I could really do was sit.  Standing was (and continues to be) a very painful activity, and so much of baking is standing.

First Post Chemo Bake

This week I made my first cake in a year, my chocolate bundt cake (based on Joy The Baker’s recipe) and it was delicious.  I had to pace myself, doing about 20 minutes of work for every 20 minutes of working, but I did it (and I even cleaned up after myself!!)

Today I’m going to make some cookies.  I’ve entered myself into the Minnesota State Fair under the Decorated Cookie category (this year’s theme: Minnesota Flowers) and I’m raring to go!

I’m planning on making up a bunch of royal icing using meringue powder (so it will keep, in an airtight container, for up to a month) and I will practice a few different types of flowers and decorating techniques in the two months before I have to turn in my cookies.

I’m not certain if I’m permitted to enter multiple groups of cookies, I’m going to look that up, because if I run across several decorative techniques that work well I’ll want to show them off.

My previous floral attempt

So in preparation, I have sugar cookie dough in the fridge (my favorite, very simple recipe with added cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom) and I’m watching The Great British Bake Off!

I had avoided watching the show because for so long I wasn’t sure when, or even if, I’d be able to bake again.  I’m feeling more hopeful about that these days.

Even if baking is a drawn out process for me (rest, bake, rest, bake…) I know that it can happen, and that has lifted my spirits more than I can explain.

Obviously I love knitting and crochet, even though I haven’t done much of THAT since my diagnosis, either.  It’s just been recently that I’ve been sitting and knitting or crocheting for any length of time, and it’s just been swatching mostly (although I did just finish a little crocheted doll for my small friend, Charlotte, who lives nearby…). But baking is also a great love of mine, and the results are more immediate, and more immediately shareable.

Now that I have both kids home for the Summer, plus an extra kid who’s dating Andy and is a lovely addition to our household, I have a captive audience of young adults who will eat just about anything I pull out of the oven.  Perhaps I’ll even get back to making a daily (weekly?) loaf of bread for us, which is SO delicious.

One huge change in my baking since the cancer is that I’m not limiting myself to gluten free flours, I WILL be using wheat flour, but only organic (so I can avoid the Round Up that is used in some non-organic wheat harvesting, and which seems to exacerbate my fibromyalgia symptoms.)  Using organic wheat in place of gluten free is still an experiment for me, but it seems to be working well.  And it CERTAINLY makes baking easier and a bit more fun.

As I struggle with the residual pain of the tumors that lived in my spine and hips, I don’t want to return to the terrible fibro pain in my shoulders and legs that I’ve been dealing with for the past 10 years.  Avoiding gluten, taking vitamin D3 and exercising kept the pain at bay, I’ll continue with that but instead of GF I’ll be using organic wheat flour.

My knees are doing well thanks to the cortisone shots (more successful in my left knee than in my right knee) and the TENS until I bought at Amazon has been an incredible aid to help me manage my extreme back pain.  All in all, I’m doing about as well as can be expected.  All I’m missing is the bike, but that’s a tale for a different blog post!

The lovely cane makes walking more beautiful! Thank you, Deb!!

I’m walking better now, for the most part I’ve moved onto the BEAUTIFUL cane that my friend Deb bought me last Fall, and leaving the walker for longer strolls.  It feels very freeing to be able to drive again, and take the car with a CANE only, not dragging that walker everywhere I go!

What a difference a few months make!

Japanese Milk Bread

I love baking.  A year ago I was all about the cake, this year I’m more about bread.  It makes sense, bread is slower, there’s less timing involved, and it’s easier for a person with pain and exhaustion issues to plan out a loaf and deal with it ON MY TERMS.

I can move slowly through a bread recipe, feel I’ve made something special for my family, and NOT knock myself out trying to make something special and memorable.

There are SO many excellent bread resources out there that I’m not going to even TRY to list them.

Right now my favorite source of recipes to try for bread items is the King Arthur website.  In full disclosure, I’m a member of their baking club. I pay a certain $ each year to get free shipping on my orders and other little treats.  

It’s a luxury, but when I break down how cheaply I can whip up a loaf of bread for the family, and how much they enjoy it, it actually makes good sense, financially.

Bread + Pain Strategy
So this morning, waking at 2am with intense pain (2 is when my 8-hour Oxycodone wears off, and at this point I could set my clock by the pain) my strategy has become to

  1. Take my 2am pain pills (short lasting Oxycodone for breakthrough pain)
  2. Get up and take care of nature’s call
  3. Try to stay in bed for at LEAST 1/2 hour
  4. Read a bit from my current bedtime book

If all of this leads to me falling back asleep, then I am what’s known as le Happy Camper.

The kids won’t have hot, fresh bread waiting for them in the morning, but they WILL have a well rested, happy, mom, and that’s worth EVEN MORE!

However if, like this morning, pain won’t abate until I move a bit, I get up and wander the ground floor of the house, putting stuff away, emptying the dish washer, trying to do anything that isn’t too noisy.

If I’m still awake at 6am, I can take my entire pain pill regime (three times a day, 6am, 2pm, 10pm.)  To my list this morning I added, “Make Japanese Milk Rolls!”  Because – why not?

Soft Bread
I like soft bread, and I cannot lie.  Recently I like it even more.  When approaching a chewy crust of bread, I tense up a bit as hard chewing can really bother my teeth these days.  I’m such a sensitive flower…

I love this recipe from King Arthur Flour because it uses a warm milk starter, called a

Sometimes I like to bake my Japanese Milk Bread Rolls with an egg wash & sesame seeds.

“Tangzhong Starter” which really does seem to make the bread soft and easy to eat.  When I was a kid my dad used to buy a loaf of bread called, “MIlk Toast.”

I don’t know if this was an Ohio or WV thing, but we’d get this special bread at A&P, in a blue wrapper, sliced VERY THICK.  I remember it was a soft and comforting bread, and my dad would toast it, then cover it in cinnamon and sugar and warm milk and eat it like a pudding.

These Milk Rolls give me the same feeling when I eat them.  There’s a pleasant density and softness to the bread that makes me feel like I’m 5 again.  This is wonder bread, x100 for taste and texture!

Japanese milk bread roll with jam!

Once I’ve created the starter (I do it 30 seconds at a time in the microwave) and mixed together all of the ingredients, I knead it in my mixer, then give a few extra kneads on my table and put it in a buttered, covered bowl to rise.

60-90 minutes later, the dough’s been raised and it’s time to shape it,

At this point there are a number of ways to utilize the dough.  One of my favorites is to create the above rolls, which are very easy to make.  If I feel the need to fill them with spices or nuts or chocolate or cheese, it’s easy to do and makes a beautiful change up from plain bread.

Japanese Milk Rolls baked as a loaf

Other times I roll the dough out into a rectangle, fold it up in thirds (like a business letter) then turn under the edges and slip it into a loaf pan.  Once again, when folding the dough I can add fillings to different section of the bread if I feel so moved, and can make a sweet or a savory treat.

I’ve used this recipe as the base for a nice Babka, too.  It’s such a versatile dough!

I think this morning I’m going to make a kind of cinnamon roll using a nice mix of Cinnamon, Cardamom, Nutmeg and a bit of Vanilla. That sounds like it would be great with a cup of coffee (I seldom drink coffee, but this morning I might!)

When the bread’s had a second rise I’ll roll a Cinnamon-Spice mixture into the dough, then do some creative twisting and try to make something pretty.  Once it’s baked up, I may add a bit of icing and there’s Sunday morning, done and dusted!

What About The Gluten, Annie?
And, for those of you keeping score, YES this is filled with gluten.  But I’m using an organic wheat which should guarantee that a Monsanto product wasn’t used in the harvesting of the grain.

I was experimenting with using organic wheat vs gluten free, and felt that I was having some good success, and then the cancer happened.

I’m so full of various pain killers that I wouldn’t even FEEL the side effects that I’d been chalking up to eating gluten.

So I’m giving myself permission to eat a bagel every now and then, and I’m ESPECIALLY giving myself permission to eat a wheat product I bake at home using organic wheat.  So far I haven’t had any terrible side effects from this, the pain I feel tends to line up with the pain from my lymphoma and metastasized tumors.

So, whether you consider yourself a baker or not, I have found this recipe to be a VERY good soft-bread, and not really difficult to make at ALL!

I hope you’ll give it a try, and let me know how it turns out!  From start to finish this generally takes me about an hour’s work and a few hours of rising/waiting.  Perfect for a 2am wakening on a slow pain-filled morning.

SO who wants to come by and have some bread?


Let’s find a happy place. No cancer today on the blog (well, not much) just a LOT of gorgeous egg, flour, butter and sugar!

Fondant Covered Chocolate Bundt

I love to bake. I always have. I’m kind of hit or miss, sometimes I do well, sometimes I don’t, but I generally always have fun.

Baking is only FUN for me if I give myself permission to screw up. So many folks don’t, they seek some kind of idealized bake, and they beat themselves up.

“Perfection is for fools and liars, everyone else is a realist” — Annie

Add to that all of the current baking shows streaming these days, with the numerous judges with their various catch-phrases “no soggy bottom!”, and many folks who EAT a baked good begin to think of themselves as a mini ‘Mary Berry in training’ and try to deep-dive into a critique of a cupcake. Which is just about the WORST thing a friend can do to a friend.

Just eat the damn cupcake, say “Thank you!” and shut up.

My Layered Chocolate “Autumn Flowers” Cake

But, being gluten free (something I’m struggling with right now as the circle of foods I actually WANT to eat is shrinking) I realized that if I wanted to have a piece of cake every now and then and NOT pay $7 per slice, I’d better learn to whip up a good, simple cake.

There are some amazing resources out there for GF baking. Two of my favorites are Shauna Ahern at Gluten Free Girl, and Jeanne Sauvage of The Art Of Gluten Free Baking.

In fact, one of Shauna’s tweaks of Joy The Baker’s Chocolate Bundt Cake has become my ‘go to’ for any kind of family celebration. I don’t make it as a bundt much anymore, I prefer to bake it in layers, freeze the layers, slice then thin and assemble a lovely striped confection. I love layers of flavor!

Hazelnut Hanukkah Cookies

Like so many folks around the world, I’ve been inspired by Love Productions “Great [insert country name] Bake Off” shows. My favorite, of course, is The Great British Bake Off (because it’s the one I knew about first) but you can look up other nation’s shows (Irish Bake Off, Australian Bake Off, etc.) and enjoy those, too!

One Year Ago
It was just about this time of year, last year, that I was enmeshed in the final stages of auditioning for Love Productions Great American BAKING SHOW (Pillsbury owns, “Bake Off” Love can’t use it in the U.S.)

It was, without a doubt, one of the MOST EXCITING PERIODS of my life. And that was just the audition process!

Around Christmas 2016, in the same well of pain that was wrenching our nation after the theft of our presidential election, I found a great deal of solace in ABC’s airing of The Great American Baking Show. Compared to the other LOVE offerings, it was a light-weight piece.

It’s almost as if LOVE couldn’t really grasp that Americans DO love to bake, that we’re good at it, and things DON’T need to be ‘dumbed down’ for us.  I think that we, as a nation, have a reputation for not being hard workers in the kitchen. That’s wrong.

Unfortunately, though, look at who was soon to be in the White House.

Apple-Apricot Custard Pie, Purchased Crust

No wonder the Brits get the idea that many of us are functioning idiots. Just listening to Paul Hollywood speak scathingly about “American Pie” in an episode of #GBBO makes my blood boil. Elitist fucking baker. It’s clear that he sees Americans as lazy, indulgent folk who’d rather buy a sugar-loaded Hostess pie than bake a light-crusted tarte tatin. His loss.

And, lest the Brits get too comfortable in their smugness, one word: Brexit.

Swearing On
Oh, this is a baking post, but I’ll be swearing and including some politics.

Because it can’t not happen these days. Sorry if that’s offensive, but I’m a bit beyond caring right at this moment, and ALL WORDS MATTER. Have I mentioned the gigantic tumor in my T10-T9 vertibras yet?  Sorry, no more cancer…

Almond Hazelnut Dacquoise With Baileys Cream

So, it was the holiday season 2016, I watched The Great American Baking Show, and recognized that the tent was THE SAME as used in #GGBO.

I wanted to be IN that damn tent so badly I could taste it.

I applied.

I didn’t expect much. It was a VERY long application, and I filled it out with lots of pictures and stories and anecdotes. The kind of stuff I figured they’d eat up, softy “I baked my family together during my husband’s cancer” and “Although I have fibromyalgia, I bike and bake with the best of them!” stuff.

And it was all true. It sounds like I was being calculating, but I was just being honest. Baking is my happy place, it gives me solace, and the fact that it’s temporary (hopefully eaten within the freshness date…) only makes the joy more poignant.

Birthday Cupcakes

For a few weeks after sending in the application I’d confess to friends, “I APPLIED for that show!” but I didn’t really think anything would come of it.

While on the road in Ohio between fiber shows and a trunk show, I received a few mystery telephone calls and ignored them. Folks who know me know that I’d rather pull out my fingernails than try to hold a phone conversation with a new person.

But after ignoring these calls for days, I thought I should listen to the messages, and it was a producer from Love Productions requesting a phone interview. Things went quickly after that, one phone interview, another one, more information passed back and forth.

LOVE Productions wanted me to fly out and do an invited cattle call audition, but the only time that worked with our schedule was in Portland, OR. This was on my dime, so I was grateful that Kathleen was cool with me using some of our MKY frequent flier miles to cover my hotel. Thanks, K!

All through this process she kept saying, “Whatever you need to do to make this work, WE WILL MAKE IT WORK!” How lucky can one woman get in both a business partner AND a husband, my two strong supports!

Boule and Tiny Baker

I was supposed to bring three bakes to the audition; A cake, a non-cake and a loaf of bread for which I was given skeleton instructions (just a list of 4 ingredients) and nothing else.

I chose to bring a gluten free bundt cake and some puff pastry palmiers in addition to the bread (Paul Hollywood’s recipe, I recognized it…)

The bread was a BOULE, a shaped bread that raises in a bowl and has a rough, peasant crust with (hopefully) a light inside.  I couldn’t EAT the bread or puff pastry I made every day to practice, but my family did, and they were grateful!

I wasn’t supposed to talk about the whole thing, so I didn’t, for the most part. I told my family and Kathleen, of course, and another friend who gifted me with the tiny, lego baker hiding behind the boule above. She became my little talisman, traveling with me all over the place and making me feel at home and loved no matter where I baked!

Puff Pastry Palmiers

The Portland Interview was really fun, no baking but lots of talking. They REALLY asked tough questions, it was a very serious interview. Then after that they did a short, 7 minute videotaped interview I bonded with “my” producer, Jordan (“you’re SO MUCH LIKE MY MOM” is a lovely compliment), and left feeling like I’d had a blast!

Traveling back to MN I remember thinking, “If this ends now, I would be happy just to have been part of this process so far!”

And that is a WONDERFUL place to be!

Not Over
But it wasn’t over!

I heard the following week that they wanted me to fly out to LA for some videotaped baking auditions, THIS time they were paying, and THIS time I had to bring six matching Flooded Cookies along with a short video I made of myself with my family.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time I give you ANNIE’S AUDITION TAPE!

The password is GABS (all upper case)

You can see how nervous I am in the video, but we got it finished and sent out, and I headed to LA with my SIX MATCHING FLOODED COOKIES!  Actually, I took 8, which was good because at one point I dropped my box and broke two…

Six Heart Cookies In The Hotel

My cookies were HUGE! For luck, I actually used the copper cookie cutter set I’d acquired when I was working at Martha Stewart Living in the Art Department of the weekly TV show. I figured any kind of MoJo Martha could slip along to me would be worthwhile.

Happy 77th Birthday,
Martha Stewart!

The other folks had these nice, small, tasteful cookies that looked like soccer balls and cars, and I had GIGANTIC HEARTS that we could have used as alternative seating at the chi-chi retro hotel they put us up in (just blocks from The Brady Bunch House!)

I followed a few YouTube videos on flooding cookies (apparently I did it differently than my compatriots they all had definite lines around the outside of their flooded areas, I really just wanted it to be smooth with no noticeable line or bump.)

After my flooded icing dried for a FULL 24 HOURS under a blowing fan, I made some stiff white royal icing and used a technique called “Brush Embroidery” to create the flower shapes.

A Single Heart. 6×8″ of Delicious Beauty!

It really wasn’t that hard, or even complex. But, like just about anything that takes technique, it’s a matter of breaking the steps down, and doing each one well. I found Sweet Amb’s tutorials for this technique VERY good!

In the case of this specific cookie the serrated edge of the cookie cutter was a bit of a bitch, but I also think it MAKES the cookie!

Then they broke us into groups and, six at a time, we were taken to kitchens with industrial ovens and given places at tables filled with all the ingredients we’d need to make a butter cake with light mocha frosting.

3 Hours. No Nerves.

Copper Heart Cutter

The woman in charge of talking to us about our recipes made certain to say, SEVERAL TIMES, that she wanted LIGHT mocha frosting.

I, of course, added WAY too much espresso powder to the frosting when I made it and it was too dark. I fear that this was the determining factor in NOT getting me to the UK.

Perhaps it was something else, probably my personality, or 50 extra pounds I should’ve lost, but as far as MISTAKES go, that was my most glaring.

Baking the actual cake was a blast. I was paired with a wonderful baker, the two of us really worked well together, we were funny, charming, we we a ‘team’ and I think we both raised each other’s level of baking.

This, THIS MOMENT, this was the moment I wanted to experience. And I did.

Baking with a new friend, learning and having a blast, THAT was the experience I was hoping to get from The Great American Baking Show.

Oh, Johhny
When I didn’t make it on the show, I was sad.

I found out in Dallas.  Gerry and I were there for an International Myeloma Foundation Group Leaders Summit (Ironic, nu?), and the phone call came before dinner one evening. It wasn’t 100% unexpected, even though I felt I’d ACED the audition, and all things considered it was a pretty easy letdown.

We went down to dinner and I danced the night away, compelling EVERYONE I met to look at my baking shots at some point in the evening. “LOOK AT MY COOKIES!” I would yell at anyone new who walked into the room.

I guess we all cope in different ways.

But, even sadder than ME not making it on the show, was ABC’s insane decision to CANCEL the show based on the actions of one of their judges 10 years earlier. Apparently Johnny Iuzzi, in his capacity as a chef around 2006, had thrown a canister from a foam gun at a female employee in an altercation. Not cool.

That was DEFINITELY beyond harassment, but it didn’t seem as it was overtly sexual in nature. But it WAS a dick move, and domineering and wrong.

Was it worth cancelling an entire SEASON of a show so that all the folks who had done the work I’d done, plus FIFTY TIMES MORE, didn’t get their time on air?

No. I think ABC overreacted badly. I think there would have been a way to RUN the show, and at the same time RAISE AWARENESS that Johnny’s behavior will not be accepted. But that kind of courage is something one seldom sees in Network TV.

But I also know that for each person who made it in that tent, the magic that HAPPENED in that tent was what they REALLY wanted.  If there were a GBBO camp I could go do, not get on the show, just DO THE CAMP, I would do that in a heartbeat! I crave that kind of baking fellowship.

Knitting Will Be My Jam For Now

Back To Cancer
Unfortunately, for the past six months or more my back has been INSANELY sore. I obviously didn’t know what it was, but it’s really hard to bake when the back is in pain, so I’ve been baking less and less.

Ironically, I’d read an article in the Spring about organic wheat use vs. gluten free flour, and I was experimenting with OW on the hope that perhaps my problems with gluten really sprang from the use of Round Up in wheat harvest and NOT in the gluten itself.

Going Forward
My experiments were delicious (I MADE BREAD THAT I WANTED TO EAT!) but coincided with the extreme pain of my tumor, which I thought was fibro, so I stopped the Organic tests.  Now I’m thinking maybe I’ll try it again in a bit. It would be lovely to NOT have a problem with gluten, but with Round Up instead, and KNOW how to control it better by avoiding non organic wheat!