Jun 17, 2011

Georgia on my mind.

We recently took a short vacation to Dahlonega, GA.  It's best known as the site of the first U.S. gold rush.  If you've never been there, and you can appreciate the "charm" of a small southern mountain town, it is worth a visit.  Just be sure to load up on Dramamine before you load into the car. 

Smith House  
We stayed at the Smith House, a historic hotel about a block from the town square. It is located directly above a gold vein.  You can go downstairs and see the mine shaft and a mini exhibit which is quite good.  In addition to historic lodgings, the Smith House also boasts of family style dining in the basement, all you can eat "home cooking" for a price.  Since our youngest(under 3) was free and dessert and drink were included, it ended up being not much more than a normal night out at a nicer restaurant.  The food was good and plentiful, but the decor was mid 1980's.  For some reason I was expecting Angela from Who's the Boss to walk through the door. 

The decor of the guest rooms was much nicer.  The beds were cozy and appointed with "luxury" linens.  We couldn't resist having a lie down before snapping the picture below.  Lots of charming details, and we enjoyed our stay.  However, this is a 100+ year old building and has many characteristics of an old building.  It had a clean, but old smell and some minor maintenance issues like a broken towel rack in the bathroom.

The fresh rose was a nice touch.
 Consolidated Gold Mines
The highlight of the Dahlonega trip was an excursion to Consolidated Gold Mines.  My husband and I went into this, eyes wide open that it was likely a tourist trap, but left rather impressed by the whole operation.  We ended up doing a tour of the mine, the complimentary sample gold panning, and gem panning which we paid extra for. 

Bottom of stairs leading into the mine.  Do you see the image in the shadows?  Is it a ghost, or just shadows on the rock?

The kids Gem panning.  The man is one of the friendly employees.  He was very good with the kids.
  All of the staff was very friendly and knowledgeable.  The tour was a quality experience and since a sample pan for gold panning was included, it was a great value.  It took the kids about 20 min. to complete their pan of gold and sand and each of us left with a few tiny gold nuggets as a souvenir.  The Gem panning although extra was a hoot!  We now have a rather large collection of precious and semi precious stones.  Days later, the kids are still talking about there "gems" collections.

Chestatee Wild Life Preserve
We also visited the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, a non profit "zoo". It was small, and a bit confusing since there was no official ticket booth and signage was minimal. However, as "backyard zoos" go, it was really nice. The animals seemed happy, healthy, and well cared for. The enclosures were clean and well maintained. They had dispensers (like candy machines) where you could buy corn to feed some of the animals like the zedonk, miniature horses/ponies, turkeys and chickens. The ponies and zedonk were very tame and ate very gently out of my hand. There were plenty of places to picnic and even a nice little playground for the kids. However, if you are expecting a "big zoo" experience you'll be disappointed. But for the price, it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and cheaper than taking the family to a movie.

This is what happens when daddy watches
the little guy. ;o)


Zedonk, miniature horse, and miniature donkey(?)

Stone Mountain, Georgia
On our way home, we made a detour to Stone Mountain, GA and took the sky lift all the way to the top where we found a visitors center and of course, the entrance to the top of the mountain where you can walk around or even picnic.  The top is rather impressive.  Not being a huge fan of heights or shear drops, it was also a bit creepy knowing the only thing between us and the edge was a short chain link fence.  

You can go all the way up to the fence.
It was only about 4 ft high.   

There is an alien quality to this place, the kids loved it.

Sky lift up to the top.  Don't miss the carving.

Jun 14, 2011

Card Table Rehab

Just a few pics of a recent project turning a ratty old card table (older than I am) into something that I think doesn't look half bad.
BEFORE -filty, cut, and torn top with rusty edges

Close up of ratty table

AFTER - A bit of white paint and New vinyl on the top from the clearance rack

Jun 12, 2011

Jelly Babies!

Dr. Who fans (the original series) eat your heart out!  Then go eat some Jelly Babies!
Thanks to my dear friend Sharon, I was recently given a bag of these.  I am so excited  I finally get a chance to try this favorite treat of the fourth Doctor.  It wasn't quite what I expected, kind of a soft shell less jelly bean.  As a rule, I hate jelly beans.  They make me think of sugar coated slugs.  However, these are softer and like Diet Dr. Pepper and M&M's, they are addictive.  

Warning:  exercise caution when offering these to children as the resulting sugar rush is frightening. 

FYI, if you're not a follower of Dr. Who, or only follow the latest incarnations let me enlighten you.  Dr who is an amazing sci-fi series out of the UK.  It first appeared in 1963 and has enjoyed a comeback in the last several years.  It follows the adventures of an alien time traveler, The Doctor and his many companions who repeatedly save the world.  They travel through time and space in a miraculous contraption called the TARDIS which is bigger on the inside.  Another pertinent fact is that should the Doctor become critically injured he has the ability to regenerate into a new form.  This has enabled the series to endure when actors find themselves called in other directions.   

Tom Baker was the forth and in my book one of the best Doctors of all time.  His incarnation of The Doctor loved Jelly Babies.   I learned that well as a little kid when I crept into my older brother's room (often against his protest) to watch the series on his tiny TV.  Those are some of my fondest memories from childhood. 

I still watch the show with the new Doctors, thought the picture is no longer grainy, the effects are better, and my brother is no longer giving me dirty looks for invading his space.

Want to see Tom Baker as the Doctor with his Jelly babies?  Check out this link I found on YouTube.  Brings back memories.

Jun 7, 2011

A Cake of Day Dreams

Posting this year's birthday cakes got me thinking about  last years' "family" birthday cake.  It is my all time favorite of the cakes I've made.
This is it's story:

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl fell in love.  Unfortunately, their love blossomed at a time when distance tore them apart.  While the miles could separate their bodies, it could not separate their hearts. 
The strength of their feelings created a magical land where they could be together.  Stone by stone they built a castle overlooking the sea.  A  magnificent place with self washing dishes, instruments that played themselves, pet wolves, and owls.  And  of course, a tremendous friendly dragon living in a cave beneath, breathing fire to heat water and occasionally singeing the pet rats tails when he caught a case of the sniffles

Catching a nap

The Creation


Last Air Bender meets Emperor Palpatine or "Birthday Cakes"

My wonderful twins will be 8 in late June.  This year, we celebrated their birthday early in an attempt to allow more friends from school to come.  Another thing we did this year was to request donations from our friends rather than presents.  The kids each chose a local charity and we divided the donations between them.  My daughter chose the Ark, a no kill animal shelter, while my son chose a local branch of the red cross where donations will stay in our area and help people affected by the recent storms. 

BTW, The Ark is a wonderful no kill shelter run by some very kind and loving volunteers. It is always in need of our support. If you haven't checked it out, please visit their site and consider making a donation or adopting an animal in need. You can visit them here:

I am so proud of my kids.  I gave them a choice of getting presents or taking donations and they very excitedly chose the donations.  Naturally, I wanted to give them whatever they wanted for birthday cakes.  So my daughter chose Appa and my son chose Lego Emperor Palpatine.  I also ended up making a special cupcake for a classmate whose birthday was the following day.  Everyone sung happy birthday to her, and we got her a special balloon.

The cakes didn't turn out exactly as planned, but overall I'm happy considering this was a single days work.
For the first time ever, my husband can say he helped me with the cakes.
The sign Appa is holding as well as the round things flanking the stairs of the Palpatine cake are his. 
L to R:  Avatar the Last Air Bender for my daughter, cupcake for a friend, Emperor Palpatine's throne room for my son

Appa was a mint chocolate swirl cake filled with chopped Andes mints. I'd planned on using a star or grass tip to pipe Appa's fur, but the icing consistency was all wrong and it was so late that I wasn't going to fuss with it. Instead, I just spread the icing on and created the best texture I could with the spatula.  The white lines between the layers are divider plates. 

Emperor Palpatine's throne room was chocolate cake with a dark blue swirl, as requested by my son, iced in dark fudge icing with mini chocolate chips pressed onto the sides. The top and candle holders are fondant. And of course, a cake for my son isn't complete without legos.

Cupcake for a friend.

Closeup of the edible star glitter before the flower decoration was added.
 This glitter is sure to become a favorite of mine.
Like what you see?  Be sure to check out my Dragon Castle Cake.  It's amazing.

Jun 6, 2011

Moths and Eggs!

This update is for Jenni, who has been giving me a hard time about not having a new entry.  What can I say, it takes time for silkworms to emerge. 

What's happened since the last post?

I took about 50 of the white cocoons, cut them open, removed the pupa and shed skin saving the cocoon for later processing.  I'm after a lofty spun yarn I can knit or crochet with, not a fine reeled filament, so cutting the cocoons doesn't effect my final product.  However, I did save and stifle about 20 intact cocoons to reel at a later time. 
pupas removed from cocoon.
I took the pupas I removed to a local exotic animal shop called Animal Trax.  Charlie, the resident Bearded Dragon at the shop loved eating them.

The remaining white cocoons and all of the colored cocoons have been given a chance to emerge, mate and lay eggs.  The results from the colored guys have been very interesting.  Here it is in a nutshell.

Natural/white cocoons = white moths and cream colored eggs
Glowing cyan cocoons = white moths with a blue skin that shows between segments and in females scent gland, and blue eggs.
Freshly laid Glowing Cyan
Cotton candy cocoons= pink moths with darker pink skin showing between segments and pink eggs.
Cotton Candy Moths and Cocoon
Magic purple cocoons= white moths with purple skin showing between segments, and tan eggs.

Colored moths laid colored eggs based on the color of the female. The intensity of the female's body color/cocoon color is also evident in the egg color. The male's color seems to have no effect on the eggs.

I don't know if it is coincidence, but the moths fed Magic Purple are consistently taking longer to emerge/getting stuck in their cocoons and having to be cut out, and emerging with "bald spots" possibly from trying to escape from their cocoons.  
Silk moths and cocoons from colored chow
(clockwise from the top):
Magic Purple, Glowing Cyan, Cotton Candy. 
The Cyan and Cotton Candy moths are mating. 
The larger of each pair is the female.
Eggs (clockwise from top left corner):
Freshly laid Glowing cyan,
Day old Glowing Cyan that have turned
 dark as a sign of being fertilized.
Newly laid Cotton Candy from my
brightest moth.  Day old Cotton
Candy showing no color change,
 Natural colored day old eggs showing
 signs of fertility, ??