Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sentimental Photomosaic

It's become somewhat of a tradition that with each "official" family picture we take, I make a photo mosaic out of it using the pictures we've taken over the course of our marriage. This year, I had over 6,000 images in the tile library and 10,000 tiles were used to make the following photo mosaic.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, this image is worth...(carry the one...raise to the power of...) 10,000,000 words. I love looking through this mosaic at a high zoom and reminiscing about all of the experiences the four of us have lived through together. Where's my box of tissue?

I already had one reader ask, so I'll tell you in advance. This image was made with AndreaMosaic (Win, Mac, and Linux) which is completely FREE. I've tried several photo mosaic utilities over the years, and I think this one is my favorite. There may be better, but not for the price. :)

Let me know if you make any masterpieces with the program. I can think of one friend that could probably make an amazing flower mosaic with flower photos...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Op-ed

Saturday, whilst I sat in a library studying the design and pricing of insurance products, the family decided to do something a little less nerdy. Off to the pumpkin patch!

Cynthia is really the one that should be writing this post as she was there and I was not, but apparently she was not so inclined to acquiesce my request. I can therefore only give my opinion as to what the pictures might mean.

I believe Carter is trying a Vulcan mind-meld with this pumpkin...or is it a Horta? (too obscure?)

I believe that instead of charging customers for the pumpkins, the owners simply take embarrassing photos of all persons picking out pumpkins. This allows them to participate in the much more lucrative practice of blackmail.
Doesn't that little ghost in the middle know that witches taste terrible?

I believe that, given the presence of a bathtub in the background (seriously, what's that all about?), the two animatronic puppets are presenting a PSA on the benefits of proper hygiene during flu epidemics: "give hand sanitizer to trick-or-treaters for the ultimate in fun this flu season! Remember to have a fun, and safe, Halloween this year!"

Sleeping on the Edge

Kids crack me up. How is it that they always fall asleep in such weird positions? His center of gravity sure looks close to the edge. I wonder how many inches away he is from falling off. Bonus points for him falling asleep in a Superman cape.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Family Pics

We FINALLY got things organized enough to get family pictures. It's been at least two years since our last photo session. Verdict? I'm bald. And have three chins. Besides those two inconvenient truths, the pictures turned out pretty well. If we had taken the pictures back when we actually bought the shirts Jordan still would have had his front teeth.

Note to self: must teach Carter how to smile and show teeth at same time. Still, he's a really cute little guy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jordan's Super Party

Birthday parties sure are an elaborate affair. Cyn and I decided that the boys will now have a birthday party for friends every other year.

As much hard work as it was, we had lots of fun. Three full families came over - 8 adults, 9 kids. We ate pizza and then the kids had a Super Why activity while most of the adults chatted. Every one of Jordan's friends got a superhero cape in the same colors as the Super Readers.

Then the kids watched the introduction to an episode of Super Why and then they had to find super letters to learn the moral and solve the problem.

I just realized that if you've never seen the show, this probably won't make too much sense...just know that it was cool.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the cake. Which is great, but I kind of wish we didn't have to eat the darn thing. Way too much work to admire for only 3 minutes and then cut up.

The cake says "Super Jordan". So great that Jordan was dressed up in his Super Why costume from last Halloween. We even had Carter in his Alpha Pig costume!

I had all the kids put their capes on and strike a superhero pose. This is the result.

Many thanks to everyone that came and the kind gifts. Even more, thanks for sticking around and playing Crokinole! :)

FBCT Saves the Day!

Jordan told us that he wanted a cake decorated with Super Why for his birthday party. It seemed appropriate enough, given that the party was going to be a Super Why based event. But how were we supposed to put Super Why on a cake? He's a lot more complicated than the stylized buttercream and fondant Elmo we made back in 2008 for Carter.

I needed something that would look like Super Why, taste good (so fondant was out), have an even texture (so the star decorating tip was out), and look good enough to not end up on Cake Wrecks! After a bit of investigation, I found the frozen butter cream transfer technique (FBCT) online and decided to give it a shot.

Like most cake decorating projects, the hardest part was getting the colors right. Unfortunately, this cake had ten different colors. It took at least three hours to get all of the colors mixed, bagged, and ready to pipe. Dark brown was the hardest - even harder than red and black! I used cake food coloring, cocoa, and dutch process cocoa to get the proper shade.

I printed a mirror image picture of Super Why, taped it to a cutting board, and taped a sheet of wax paper on top. Then Cynthia piped the black outline on the wax paper while I made the rest of the colors. We used a #2 tip, but only because we didn't have a #1 tip...note to self: USE A #1 TIP NEXT TIME! The thinner, the better.

We put the piped outline in the freezer for a few minutes and then I piped out (with #2) the three brown shades and the dreaded red. I loved the highlights I put in his hair - nothing worse than a flat color of hair. The above picture was the end of day 1.

I put it in the freezer overnight and resumed work in filling in all the colors. Another 90 minutes and I had a very sore hand.

As you can see from the picture, I also had the most adorable looking super hero ever.

I put whole thing in the freezer multiple times during the piping so it would be easier to work with. When I finished all of the coloring, I placed it in the freezer for another 10 minutes or so. Then I took a cake decorating knife and press the whole design down to make an even appearance for the front of the cake.

To facilitate the transfer process, I put a layer of buttercream on top and repeated the freeze-and-press-down process.

In hindsight, I made my biggest mistake here. I was in a hurry and didn't press down the layer of white buttercream enough. The front was a little layered after I transferred it - kind of like a cloth behind Super Why.

I placed it all in the freezer as I frosted the cake (even more buttercream). The cake was frozen to make the frosting easier, but it was still a rough process. I can't figure out how my Mom ever got a recipe for buttercream that tasted great and was easy to spread - I'll have to get her recipe for my next cake.

At the end of day 2, I pulled the image out, removed the tape, placed it on the cake and CAREFULLY removed the wax paper.

Here's the finished transfer! What a fun method! It was really time-consuming, but we were all impressed with the result. Carter has already requested an Alpha Pig cake for his birthday. There was still plenty of piping work on day 3 which Cynthia graciously did while I was at work.

My other big mistake was not putting the cake back in the freezer at the end of day 2. The colors bled a small amount. Next time I'll remember that eating cold cake is preferable to messed up colors.

The final product is in the the next post - Jordan's Party.