Feed me, Seymour, feed me!

My first diary had a purple cover with tiny pink hearts, multi-colored interior pages, and was outfitted with a brass lock and a tiny key that I kept inside my kitten music box that, when opened, played “Memories.”

As I matured, so, too, did the look of my diaries…eh-hem…I mean journals. Periwinkle pages gave way hip composition notebooks and eventually leather-bound, gold-edged affairs. However, all of this goes to show you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover since the one thing that didn’t change over the years was the actual content of these journals. The spirit of what a diary contained remained consistent, even if the players and vocabulary evolved.

The beauty of diaries is that they are places where you can rail and scream and rejoice and effuse beyond reason and repercussion. You can write maudlin, wicked, pathetic, outrageous and inconceivable things that you would (or should) be mortified to share with anyone else in the world and then, when you’re done? You’re done. No one reads it. No one weighs in on your drama. No one shares your angst. You. Just. Close. The. Book.

Today we have blogs. And in particular, diary-format blogs. And all that emotion that was once poured out onto tree-pulp in the name of catharsis? Today, it lives.

Allow me to demonstrate the potentially destructive nature of these open forum diaries using what I consider to be an apt embodiment of the issue: “Little Shop of Horrors‘”Audry II:

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If Spring Won’t Come to Me…

I’ve lived in this general southern Mid-Atlantic region my entire life, and therefore I’m well aware that March is a piteous month. Indecisively running hot and cold in 24-hour increments, it’s the petulant 14-year-old of the annual calendar. My volunteer daffodils might have boldly bloomed yesterday, but it’s too cold today to bother going outside to cut them. And even more annoying, this year the Easter eggs, pastel dresses and chocolate bunnies are smack in the middle of this fickle-fest!

Where is the spring that late I wished would have sprung?

But rather than get too down about the lack of sun on my face and flowers in my hair, I decided to create my own “place-holder spring” until the real one gets its act together. I’ve pulled together pictures from a trip I took with my family last May to Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, BC, wherein we were swallowed whole by so many pansies and tulips and mums that I didn’t even know where to begin pointing my camera. This is evident when you check out the shots, as there is very little self-editing going on with the album.

Check it out, if you need a dose of sunshine for this Easter weekend: (click the image)

(Extra points if you actually know the names of the flowers in the pictures and would like to comment and help me caption!)

As found on Craigslist…

On November 12, 2005, my dad sent me this e-mail while he was traveling for work:

I bought a copy of The Elba Clipper today, a smalltown southern Alabama paper, and came across this lost dog ad in the classifieds. I was struck by the unintended poetry of it.

“Maggie”

$100.00 REWARD Return of lost dog.
Small, brown, shorthaired dog,
white muzzle. Answers to the name
of Maggie. She is 16 years old and
does not hear good,
she has trouble walking.

I’ve kept this e-mail in my inbox and return to it regularly for two reasons.

First, the sentimental: My dad is the kind of man who finds poetry in day-to-day existence, even in circumstances I would never have thought lent themselves to beauty, humanity, humor or thankfulness. It humbles me.

And second, the professional: Sometimes the simplest way to put things is the most evocative. As a journalist, this lesson is worth its weight in gold (provided you’re not getting paid by the word, at which point, verbosity has its merits).

It was with this second point in mind, that I turned to the great human equalizer: personal ads. But with a Webby twist–I hit up Craigslist and, in particular, the “missed connections” section. There’s an inherent longing and sadness about a missed opportunity, especially when people throw themselves out there to reclaim that lost chance. So it seemed a reasonable place to start. What did I find? Aside from the fact that I could fill a collection based on metro-platform flirting alone, I’m now taken with this vaguely unsettling and simultaneously comforting feeling that no matter where I am, I am so not alone.

Some of what I’ve reprinted here thrills me, some intrigues me, one kinda distresses me. But each has a lyrical quality; a cadence that calls out. Each is exactly how I found it online, though I admit to tinkering with line breaks for the sake of the blog format, and I’ve removed the “M4M” or “W4M” gender indicators as I found them distracting to the overall point. Anyway…as found on Craigslist:

“Unintended Poetry”
By Missed Connection posters on Craigslist

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Choco-Pan v. Satin Ice, Part Duex

It is with a sense of chagrin that I write this as I recently realized I never followed up on my Choco-Pan v. Satin Ice quandary. Not that I expect many of you were on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting my findings…but still. I shouldn’t leave loops open like this.

So here’s the background. When I first started baking anything close to fancy looking cakes (opposed to just fancy tasting), I experimented with fondant — primarily because my buttercream icing skills leave just about everything to be desired. Fondant is, first and foremost, sugar, water and corn syrup. It is a curious saccharine thing and hopelessly in-fashion among the cake world, initially popularized by the likes of Martha Stewart before spreading throughout the entire, predatory wedding industry. When most people taste it, it generally ranks up there with eating paste–assuming paste is still passĂ© for those over 4. It’s all the more disappointing when you finally gnaw through the exquisitely decorated fondant to find, within, a sawdust cake-block smeared with a scant offering of flavored buttercream. But that’s a digression for another time.

First I tried, (and quickly abandoned) Wilton, as I dislike the taste of caulk. Sorry, Wilton. So, through recommendations and experimentation, I now toggle between Choco-Pan and Satin Ice. Let’s discuss:

Choco-Pan

It bills itself as a “white chocolate” fondant, and actually does taste a lot like white chocolate (which isn’t saying much in chocolate snobbery circles, but is worthwhile in this application). While the taste won’t eclipse what’s inside, it has a present taste. That is to say, it is not merely sweet, but also flavored and therefore has a stronger sweetness than other fondants. Put simply, it can set your teeth to rattling. But as a result, it happily lacks that chemical sweetener taste that accompanies other fondants, which I appreciate.

On the “white chocolate” front, a scan of the ingredients leaves me wondering where the “Choco” comes into the picture: sugar, corn syrup, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat milk powder, soy lecithin, monoglycerides, water, titanium dioxide and artificial flavor. I’m left with the impression that I could just flavor any fondant with white chocolate artificial flavor and get the same taste results, though I suppose the milk powder and shortening also plays into the milkfat flavor. It’s not so much made from white chocolate, as it’s made with things that also make white chocolate.

On the consistency front, it can be rolled out quite thin and, in able hands, transfers well to the cake without tears and stretch marks. Its mouth-feel is fairly smooth and it dissolves nicely without leaving much of a sweet coating behind. I find it dries rather quickly, which can work for you and against you. In terms of appearance, I’ve only used this fondant in Wedding White and then with my own coloring, but the end product has been a matte finish that looks very classy.

Satin Ice

It’s decidedly (and perhaps refreshingly) less sweet than Choco-Pan, but the trade-off is that you can taste the starch. The ingredients are also more complex and alien: sugar, corn syrup, modified food starch, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial flavor, gum tragacanth, glycerine, acetic acid, potassium sorbate, titanium dioxide, cellulose gum, (and because I purchased red and black) food coloring. If you’re into organic, this will probably give you pause.

Much like Choco-Pan, the Satin Ice product is reflective of its name. Both in mouth-feel and in how it rolls out, this fondant has a slicker texture. Biting into it, it dissolves quickly from a fine grain to a slick paste that sticks with your teeth longer than Choco-Pan. Which sounds disgusting when I write it out, but it’s actaully a perfectly fine and edible process.

The rolled product also has a kind of sheen to it (although I was using intensely pre-colored versions, and therefore the comparison to my Choco-Pan experience is less reliable). It transfered easily to cover the cake, though I could not roll it out as thin without it stretching. The end product had a mostly matte finish, but there was a decidedly brighter look to the fondant and how it caught the light.

And so…?

Which do I ultimately prefer? I’m still working on that one. The price has a small variable with a 2-lb. bucket of Choco-Pan costing about $2 more than with Satin Ice. But that’s less of a determinant for me than how the end product looks and tastes. When I settle on one (or if I unearth other favorites), I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then, I’ll be perusing Into The Oven for varieties (both in color and flavor) for the two fondants. Choco-Pan has a caramel flavor that I’m intrigued by, and the array of colors for satin Ice makes me want to do more kids’ birthday parties.

Until then, may your cake always rise and your soufflé never fall.