June 2022 Roundup: Blogs, Dogs, and So Much Cake.

Over the past month I’ve been sharing about our trip down south, which mostly took place in May. But since we got back on June 6, life has still been happening full-speed. That speed has been dominated by a new canine member of our household, and by semi-accidentally starting a cake business. I’ll tell you about the dog first.

Diamond in the Fluff

This is Diamond. She belongs to our next-door neighbor. She’s been there since before we moved in, although back then, she was an aggressive little teenager of a dog who had a habit of nipping kids’ heels. I always had a soft spot for her, though. She was maybe 20 lbs soaking wet, so when we were looking to adopt a dog and found out she had pups, I was keen to get one. Sisko was the last pup of her first litter.

Her owner wanted to get her spayed, but Diamond managed to time things so she was already quite pregnant during both of the vet clinics that came up in the last year. Plus getting spayed is very expensive up here. Anyways, her owner had been talking about keeping a girl from her second set of pups and letting Diamond go.

My soft spot for her has only gotten softer in the last three years. I gave her lots of treats, sometimes caught her and tied her up if she was annoying my kids, and let her bond lots with Sisko. (Not between when Sisko was 5 months old and when he got neutered, though. Second set of pups was not his fault.) So when the neighbor said she might let her go, I said let me know if she decides to. It made me sad to think of her not being around.

When we got back from our trip I went to visit the new puppies again, and Diamond’s owner said I should just take her home. So we slowly started transitioning her over. After a week she was sleeping at our house, after two weeks it was every night, and now after a month she comes to our place even when she gets loose.

We love having her around. At maybe four years old, she’s mellowed considerably from when we met her. She’s wonderful with the kids, and she plays with Sisko, tiring him out when we can’t give him enough exercise (which is always). She’s so snuggly and affectionate. She doesn’t beg, and she’s never had an accident in the house. She likes all Sisko’s toys that he doesn’t like. By virtue of her voracious appetite, she even taught Sisko to like his kibble. Her only fault is that she barks at our adult guests, which is a pain. But she’s been good with kid guests so far.

My One Goal is to get her spayed when the vets come up in early October.

Last week, we finally got a new Honda. Our old one died spectacularly while we were away (by no fault of our housesitters), so we had to buy a new one. When it finally arrived, we packed up that day and went to the cabin. It was Diamond’s first trip to this cabin, maybe Sisko’s third. Neither of them loved being outdoor dogs while we were there, but they did love getting to run free on the tundra.

Exploring some beached ice

It’s hilarious watching how Diamond and Sisko are the same and different. They look like completely different animals; Sisko is exactly twice her size. But they have many of the same little quirks. Diamond has the exact same size tail, which takes up half her back. They scrabble and play and wear each other out. Sometimes she’s had enough before he has, and she naps in a hidey-hole where he can’t fit. Other times they snuggle up for nap time.

I love how she sits on the back of the couch like a cat.

Out of the four pups in her second litter, two have been sold, and two are still with our neighbor. They’re only maybe ten weeks old and are nearly as big as Diamond already. We have a blast when the whole Paw Patrol is out there.

Nanuq, left, is the shy one. She will be staying next door. The male on the right is the adventurous one; he’ll be going to a new home soon.

Diamond is a real gift, and it’s been special how she’s helped us connect with our neighbor. This dog has clearly been loved a lot. We’re holding her with an open hand, as her affectionate disposition (and convenient small size) may be needed at her old house at some point. But we’re enjoying having her stay with us for as long as needed.

Cake: That Escalated Quickly

So, I’d been planning for a while that I would officially start selling cakes when we got back from vacation. I hadn’t quite decided when to pull the trigger. That moment came when an acquaintance posted asking for cakes for her twin sons’ birthday. I offered, we agreed on a design… and then I set a price. It was very reasonable, even by southern standards, but it was my first time asking for money for my baking. I was nervous, and she didn’t respond right away. She did not too long after, and was more than happy with the price, but while I waited, I put my cake album together, mostly to make myself feel legitimate for asking for payment.

Twenty-four hours later, I had twelve cakes booked for the next month. I had to start turning people away, because I didn’t know if I could churn them out any more quickly.

After a week or so, I got into a groove. Using the vegan recipes from You’ve Been Desserted makes for a very streamlined baking process, and I’ve got my swiss merengue buttercream down pat. I started taking a few more orders. All told, since June 16th, I’ve made and sold twelve cakes. Here are most of them.

The initial pair of cakes were Minecraft themed. They were a ton of fun to design. I love goofy kids cakes, especially when it’s piped or fondant details at a level that I can do pretty well.

Another was a simple carrot cake. Cream cheese is awfully expensive up here, but so worth it.

I tried my own design with this skittles-themed cake. Tried color dragging for the first time.

I had two requests for birthday cakes within a couple of days, so they got the same color theme.

Not pictured is a batch of four more black forest cakes.

This is my most favorite recent cake. A design requested by a customer, it’s a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting speckled with oreo crumbs. It took me two tries to get the chocolate ganache right, but thankfully that oreo-crumb-buttercream is very forgiving. She ordered a dozen cupcakes to match.

I had a request for a repeat of the “Cereal and Milk” cake design that I lifted wholesale from You’ve Been Desserted. This time I got the white chocolate ganache right the first time, and put more of the marshmallows on the inside than on the outside, because on the outside they taste like styrofoam, but on the inside they absorb just the perfect amount of moisture.

And finally, this masterpiece was a request from a mom for a special little girl who just turned six.

Unfortunately I mistook the timing and had to rush at the finish, so I couldn’t take pictures to do it justice. But it was sure fun to do another two-tier cake.

I have two cakes due in the next week, and there’s a big bake/craft sale next weekend that I think I’ll turn up for. I’m thinking lots of small cakes at a price point that you would take one home to enjoy with your family, and cupcakes with new cake flavors to try.

It’s been a lot of work. Like a part-time job, really. But so far, I’m having fun. It’s the sort of thing I can work on while the kids have friends over, and a lot of times they help. I find that I enjoy the part of cake business that is planning logistics, buying bulk ingredients, making spreadsheets. I’m able to more or less assure that I can pay myself local minimum wage (15$/hr) for my time, after all ingredients and consumables and wear and tear on equipment. My prices seem high to me, but up here if you want a custom cake you have to pay to get it cargo shipped from Winnipeg, so everyone has been happy to pay.

And the part I wasn’t expecting? How happy people are to get a fancy cake. I get to make people smile! I love it when people follow up to tell me how much they enjoyed their cake. You know, being a priest isn’t really about making people happy. I mean, in an aristotelian sense, happiness is one desired outcome of the spiritual care pastors provide. But mostly we do a lot of encouraging, listening, praying, and walking alongside, sometimes waist-deep in human brokenness. So it’s a real change of pace to just give a smile in a short-term, tangible way. To say, your special celebration is worthy of a piece of edible art made just for you. I’ve already met so many new people.

I hope I don’t burn out. It’s been a lot of cake, and I’m getting to the end of my usual attention span on intense new projects. I want it to be sustainable, and save up some money for long term goals. But for now, it’s still fun!

Everything Else

I know what you’re thinking. “How do you get so much done? And still all the other crafts?” Well let me tell you, between dogs and cakes, I don’t. I’ve spent all month slowly picking away at one pair of socks, a far cry from the six pairs of the month before. The only spinning I’ve done was at the two spinning nights at Alide’s. I’m four days behind my usual laundry schedule, and I’m not proud to admit just how much TV Dooner has watched this last week.

But, there is one more thing. I built a garden.

It started out as an old sled box that I hacked the top off of last year with a circular saw. The kids helped me paint it last year, and we shipped up a ton of garden soil with last year’s sealift. The soil has been sitting in a crate for a year, reminding me that I’m committed. When we got back, before all the cake stuff happened, I wanted to get this garden finished.

Jared helped me put the box on top of an old broken sled. It has to be off the ground so it doesn’t get cold from the permafrost. This also puts it at a very convenient height for working the garden. We pulled out Jared’s new chop saw, and turned a bunch of the scrap wood in the back yard into chunks to use for filler. I added a huge bag of mostly-cotton fabric scraps, and Alide contributed a giant bag of straw from when she used to have chickens.

On top of this went my twelve bags of soil, and most of one bag of peat moss. Not many houses have outdoor water up here, so I bought a hose and a sink attachment. I hooked the hose end near my kitchen window, and when I need to water the garden, I open the window, take out the screen, and pull the hose to the sink. That has been so much better than lugging water from indoors, since the doors and stairs are on the opposite side of the house from the garden.

I thought I was going to get away with just some plastic over two end pieces, but that didn’t even last a day. I got back to work and spent a couple of days building a frame, which both encapsulates the rickety box, and makes the whole business into a proper cold frame. It’s not precision work. This is quick-and-dirty carpentry. But I’m pretty proud of it all the same.

Then I did something really weird. I bought a duct from the hardware store and ran it from our dryer vent (which comes out below the house) to the garden. The idea being that when it gets colder, to vent the heat from the dryer to the garden. Might keep things from slowing down quite as soon? I need to get back under there and attach the duct to the bottom of the house, and tighten the whole thing up, because with the duct snaking along the ground I don’t think the air is still hot by the time it gets to the garden.

Two weeks on from when this was finished, the spinach and kale and beets and chard are all coming up. No sign from the herbs or peas. The tomato plants Alide gave me are hanging in there. I’ll report back. This is something I’ve wanted to do properly for ages, but it took a week of solid work to get it done.

Yeah, it’s the arctic summer. The sun only goes down for a few hours, and it never gets dark. You have lots of energy for getting stuff done, you stay up too late, you sleep badly, and then you get up and do it again. You just keep going until you crash, because it’s always daytime. It’s good fun while it lasts!

It’s been great being back. It’s been nice to be busy. I’m probably too busy. But it’s summer. I’m just going to enjoy it.

2 thoughts on “June 2022 Roundup: Blogs, Dogs, and So Much Cake.

  1. I love everything in this post. Your cakes are AMAZING – what a completely joyous enterprise ; your gardening innovations impressive and who can argue with wee Diamond? We are far further south, but I do know exactly what you mean about that particular summer feeling – you’ve just got to make the most of the long, light nights (and days!)


    1. Thank you Kate! Yes you guys get super long days too right? Your gardens must be going like gangbusters right now. I’m loving Toms pics and your summer adventures so far!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s