Happy Halloween!

Tray of brownie cupcakes decorated as witches

I had so many different ideas for Halloween cupcakes and I just couldn’t decide what to do. I think this ended up being a disservice because I kept getting ingredients and then when I settled on what I was making I didn’t actually have the right things to decorate with. But by then I’d already started, so I just improvised. The end result of this design isn’t quite what I expected, but I’m greatly amused by them. As you can see i didn’t use the cored out cupcake for all the hats. It was far too frustrating frying to cut them into the right shape, which is saying something given this is anything but a crumbly cake. So, most of the hats are Hershey Kisses. The cupcakes are the brownie recipe I made for the holidays last year and the frosting is peanut butter.1 I’m not quite sure what happened with the cupcakes because they popped up as I remembered them doing, but then deflated like a sad soufflé.

Anyway, hope you all have a fun Halloween. It’s sure to be a yummy one here.

  1. Not the one from the design link.

C is for Cookie (Monster Cupcakes)

I made these today:

Tray of cupcakes decorated as Cookie Monsters with chocolate chip cookies in their mouths

Tinting things is my least favorite part of cupcake decorating since I’m completely colorblind and thus never know if I’m actually getting the color correct. These came out a bit darker than I would have liked, but I only had royal blue food coloring in the house. They were still incredibly simple to make, though time-consuming since I also baked the banana chocolate chip cookies on my new cookie sheets. Cookie Monster is a German chocolate cupcake, which I might be obsessed with since having one on the cupcake bus because the labs were also this flavor, and his eyes are made from candy melts with a dab of black frosting.

And with that, I am officially caught up on cupcakes, which is more than good enough for me!

Pup Cakes

With all the cupcakes being made around here of late it seemed fitting that Uschi get her own batch considering her birthday is coming up. Plus we’ll be at Jenn’s tomorrow and as she’s already covered dessert, I thought Tally might enjoy a treat. Behold:

Tray of oatmeal cupcakes topped with a swirl of peanut butter

This is basically an oatmeal muffin recipe that’s been slightly doctored to be more hearty and canine-friendly by substituting in unsweetened applesauce and peanut butter for some of the wet ingredients and sugar. Oh, and I threw in some mashed banana since I had some ripening for cookies I’m baking on Sunday and I know Tally loves bananas. The frosting is just peanut butter that I piped on.

They aren’t too bad, actually. Yes, I taste-tested one. Basically they’re just more bland (i.e., not very sweet) and are more dense than an actual muffin or cupcake. More importantly Uschi and Shadow, Cindy’s golden retriever, have both given their respective seals of approval by wolfing down one each.

Thursday Things

Thing One: Either there is a strange lack of interest or everyone is trying to stress me out by waiting until the absolute last second, but in case I haven’t been clear the deadline to submit your post for the fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is THREE DAYS AWAY!!! All the details are at the aforelinked post and, of course, you can always email me if you have any questions, concerns or comments. Including, but not limited to letting me know that you may miss the deadline.

Thing Two: Uschi had her follow-up vet visit for her Lyme booster. She was equally as nonplussed by the experience as her initial poke-and-prod checkup. Her behavior around the other dogs and cats was also such that I am inclined to believe the park trip was more a fluke than her regressing into crazed distracted guide dog. She was definitely aware of the other animals and was shockingly whiny, but was able to refocus back onto me easily and she didn’t lunge at anyone! In fact, the only time she showed any lack of restraint was when I let her off harness in the exam room and she determinedly sniffed every square centimeter of space.

Thing Three: I am 95% sure that I will have completed my cupcake catchup by the end of this weekend, including a treat for Uschi’s birthday which I will likely talk about another time. That means anyone currently waiting for a package from me should expect them to be mailed out first thing Monday morning. That also means I have ample time to get Halloween cupcakes made. I’m excited about this even if you aren’t.

Thing Four: I’m making lasagna tonight. I cooked some sausage, made meatballs and started a sauce last night and it was all yummy enough for a makeshift dinner all its own so I anticipate the addition of copious cheese and noodles will only increase this fact. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Thing Five: Related to all this cooking and baking is the fact that my heat is broken. There appears to be a clog in the pipe that pumps water through the furnace and so not enough steam is being produced to actually heat the entire house. Thankfully, we have two other sources of heat through some parts of the house, but it’s not wholly efficient for my taste. My mother, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind the house hovering around 60. Anyway, the plumber can’t get out here until Tuesday, so I’ve found it’s been a good incentive to keep the oven going. Incidentally, I got a rather surprising bill today from National Grid and have been dealing with that, too.

AAUGH!

Without a doubt yesterday morning was one of the top five most aggravating mornings of my life.

At some point on Sunday my Droid clued into the fact that I have ordered an iPhone and promptly ceased cooperating with me. Initially I thought it was the same glitchiness I’ve been dealing with ever since updating the Android OS because while trying to send a tweet the screen would freeze while I was typing and then my Twitter app would crash. It became obvious, though that typing in general was an issue and neither the physical keyboard nor the onscreen one were functioning properly. I did a reset and that didn’t work and so I went to bed hoping that it would magically fix itself and expecting to call Verizon in the morning.

Well, it didn’t fix itself because electronic devices don’t do that, especially not in my house. So, I called Verizon and after an hour of the tech support rep making my phone perform virtual gymnastics we fixed the typing issue. Except it wouldn’t log into my Google Account. If you’ve ever had a cell phone issue, I’m sure you’re aware that every problem is supposedly fixed with a reset, this started a long sequence of doing just so. I say “long” because apparently there are countless ways to reset my phone. I knew we were heading down a bad road, though because every time the phone booted up and I went to log in and couldn’t the rep got just slightly more baffled. Eventually, he exhausted his database of helpful tips and sent me on my way to Motorola where the heavily accented rep there had me repeat about 65% of what I’d done with Verizon before hitting on the new tricks that finally made my phone believe my password was too correct.

I thought, “My day can only improve from here,” and so I was immediately brought back to reality when I checked the mail and discovered the boxes of cupcakes were still sitting on my porch. The mail was delivered, complete with a carrier pickup notification that didn’t give me any information whatsoever as to why my boxes were not picked up and instead lounging in a late morning sunbeam. I called my post office. The line was busy. I called USPS and maneuvered through their automated system trying to reach a human being while ignoring the message about their “unusually high call volume.” The human being gave me the phone number I just called and assured me they were the ones I needed to speak to. I called again and the phone rang continuously until the line went dead on me. I called USPS once more and got another human being who apologetically reaffirmed the previous human’s statement, but transferred me to her supervisor who accidentally? hung up on me. I spent about 30 seconds having a temper tantrum wherein I nearly threw my newly functioning Droid across the room and then called the post office once again. Someone picked up on the second ring and I nearly died from relief. He very politely listened to my dilemma and assured me that he would send the carrier back out to get my perishable packages.

Meanwhile, I have gotten the mail which included an item from Amazon that I accidentally ordered. I had intended to refuse the package as a means of returning it, but noticed the return address was not Amazon’s even though it was “fulfilled by Amazon.” So, since I’d already spent the better part of my morning with my cell phone pressed against my ear, I called Amazon. The CSR who came on the line wouldn’t even acknowledge my question until she gathered the required name, email, billing address, and order number. After which she finally let me ask about the return and responded by regurgitating Amazon’s return policy word for word. When I emphasized the fact that I just needed to know if I could refuse the package or if I needed a return label to send it directly to Amazon she told me she would send an email detailing how to do a return because clearly her verbal read-through wasn’t enough. I explained again that I am quite familiar with Amazon’s return policy and process, which is why I wanted to know what would happen to this package since the return address wasn’t Amazon’s. She said she would send me an email about returns. I asked to speak to someone else. She told me they would say the same thing and would only send me the email she was going to send. I told her that wasn’t an answer to my question and asked if she would kindly let me speak to someone else. She started to repeat the bit about the email and I cut her off by hanging up. And so I had to call back again and I got another CSR who I immediately apologized to because I was sure to cross the line into “irate customer on the phone” land. I had to repeat myself a few times to this CSR, too, but she did eventually answer my question by stating the item needed to be sent to Amazon not the address on the box. She even created a UPS call tag for my package.

Throughout all of this I am most surprised by Uschi, who showed a new level of concern for me. She followed me around the house as I paced, nudging me in the leg or arm now and then to remind me she was there. When I finally sat down on the sofa she promptly joined me and snuggled up against me. And when I was finally done with my hours of phone calls, she crawled into my lap and was shockingly gentle in her exuberance for attention. As cranky as everything had made me I have to say it was difficult not to thaw a bit from that level of love. It was certainly more attentive than I was the other day when we came home from grocery shopping and I didn’t realize she was still harnessed more than an hour later. She was a good sport about it, though.

In other news, I made more cupcakes yesterday. They were only a slight fiasco in comparison to my usual baking/decorating adventures. I ended up having to do the Tootsie Roll ears three different times. The first batch burned and I put the blame squarely on the microwave which was mysteriously set for an entire minute and thus the taffy globbed into a boiling inferno. The second batch ended up being the perfect size for pug ears. Except, of course, I was making chocolate labs. Also, the design instructions I was following clearly say to use dark chocolate frosting, which I thought was too dark but I’m not above being frugal and I had made dark chocolate frosting the other day as it’s the best to dye black since it requires the least amount of tinting added, which can make things taste funky. Black frosting is required for pretty much every cupcake I am slated to make lately. I only did the two in the middle because I found them unappealingly dark and the ears don’t match as nicely, so the rest are just a more milk chocolate brown a la chocolate buttercream. And now I am very nearly out of semisweet chocolate, which means further baking is on hold until that is rectified. Oh, and if you were wondering, they have orange tongues because apparently while making monsters, my brother also ate all my pink Starbursts.

Anyhoo, today Uschi has her Lyme booster. So, we’ll be taking some chocolate labs to share at the vet’s. If last year was anything to go by, I anticipate these will be very much enjoyed.