Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Job & Life Downtown

Today marks my first month at my new job. I recently made a career change, moving from a high-level software support role into a software development role. I am now working in an applications development team at a large law firm in downtown Minneapolis. Thus far the job is going very well. I'm enjoying the work, and getting to know my new team. I gained some great experience and worked with some great people at my last job, but I'm looking forward to new challenges and opportunities going forward in my new role.

Probably the biggest change I've experienced is the change in the environment, going from a small office in an industrial district to a high-rise in the middle of downtown Minneapolis.

Parking downtown can get expensive quickly, so I've been taking the bus to and from work. This has worked out very well, as the bus stop is less than 2 blocks from our house, so I don't have to drive anywhere, and drops me off a block from my building. Since we're fairly close to the freeway, it usually only takes 15 minutes each way. My employer lets me get a Metropass paid for with pre-tax dollars out of my paycheck, which is an added bonus. Overall this works out to be much cheaper than driving in, and best of all I don't have to worry about driving and traffic. This will be especially nice now, going into the winter months. I typically put on my headphones for the trip and relax with my podcasts & audiobooks on the iPod. Sometimes I almost wish I had a longer bus ride so I could really get into reading or watching something for more than 15 minutes. All things considered, I don't think my transit situation could have worked out much better.

The Minneapolis skyway system has been fun to explore as well. The more I explore the skyways on my lunch breaks, the more I can appreciate the 7-mile system of corridors connecting downtown. I'm still impressed with how busy the skyways get, seeing thousands of people milling about each day. I can find just about any restaurant or store I need, and I don't need to go outside. This means I don't have to put on warm clothes, wait for traffic lights, deal with the elements, or anything like that. I also find that I'm just walking more as a result, whether I'm running errands to Target or just going for a walk. It's nice to know that if I want to get away for my lunch break that I have more options than just going to eat in my car. When I leave the skyway system to go back to work, I zip up my elevator and head back to the office. I love the view of downtown from the high-rise.

So, the first month has gone well, and I'm looking forward to the months (and years?) to come!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dad's Latest Cakes - Cross & Curious George

I thought I should take a moment to show off the latest cake creations of 2011 from Dad's cake shop. Partially because I'm proud of how they turned out, but also to show how simple they really were, and maybe help somebody else do the same.

Cross Cake

The first project was a basic cross-shaped cake for our youngest son's baptism. This was made from a basic 9x13 cake. The shape of the 9x13 pan lends itself well to this design. As shown in the pictures below, you can cut out the corners of the cake and they stack up to make a second layer of the cross. Essentially you make the cuts as if the cake were divided up into a 3 by 4 grid.

One thing I learned with this cake was the trouble of putting white frosting on a chocolate cake. Even though I froze the cake, I still had a large number of crumbs come off in the frosting process. I ended up having to chill and re-frost another layer to get a nice white exterior. This was also due to the fact that I used a cream cheese frosting, which is pretty thick. While tasty, the extra frosting was almost too thick for my taste. Overall the cake still got good reviews.

Curious George

Our older son loves Curious George, so when his 2nd birthday came around it was easy to pick a theme... Curious George! The cake design was inspired by ones I had seen through some Google image searches. The cake is made up of 2 round cakes stacked, and the ears were made by baking some cake batter in a muffin pan. The muffin was cut in half to produce each ear.

Frosting was done with some basic jar-frosting, using chocolate for the darker brown, and a mix of chocolate and white frosting for the lighter brown. The eyes were frosted with white frosting as well. I happened to have some black coloring, which I added to the chocolate frosting for piping the dark lines. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how easily this one came together, and how good it turned out. Best of all, our son liked his Curious George cake, and our guests ate it up!