Monday, February 01, 2010

What I Did During Winter Break

Who says you don't get summer vacation and winter break when you leave school - you just have to know how to plan.

Last week I was in Atlanta taking a 5 day intensive course on making gum paste flowers. It was like camp for kids who like to bake and craft and like flowers too - really it was KO heaven.

I had never worked with gum paste before but my friend from Seattle asked if I would be interested in taking the class with her. It was one of those days and I was in one of those moods so I said sure. Two months later I was in a class room trying to figure out how to roll this little ball of white sugar dough in to a carnation bud.

The class was taught by Nicolas Lodge (pictured below with the K's - Karen on the left and Kristin on the right).

I didn't check out his credentials, but Karen had assured me he was the best. As it turns out he is a world renown cake decorator. He even made one of the official cakes for the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. He was an amazing teacher. He started us off with simple techniques, very helpful to those of us who had not worked with gum paste previously. And as our confidence and skill grew he moved on to more complicated techniques.

On the first day we made small buds and small flowers.

And then moved on to larger parts - the centers for orchids and gardenias and Gerber daisies with delicate petals.

Once all of the petals were formed and dried we assembled and colored the flowers. What a difference a little bit of edible food dye can make!

Hydrangea blossoms ready to be grouped and wired together.

A completed daisy, Dendrobium orchid, sweet pea, lily of the valley , stephanotis, Cattleya orchid, and a rose bud.

And a full size calla lily.

The shading on the Cymbidium orchid was intricate but it turned out so beautiful.

With just 16 people in the class we had so much personal attention from Nicolas and his teaching assistant Emily.

Emily was great. Until recently she was an intern at a popular bakery. One day at lunch she shared a few photos of her cakes. One was shaped like a Louis Vuitton trunk. She couldn't find a stencil to make the signature LV design so she hand painted it - it was incredible, it looked exactly like a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk.

And everyday we were served a hot home made lunch and fresh baked cookies in the afternoon by Scott.

I'm sure they figured out it was easier and quicker to serve lunch as part of the class - but it was really nice to not have to worry about finding somewhere to eat and the students got to chat for a few minutes while eating.

I shipped some flowers home but hand carried a few of the more delicate blooms on the airplane. I did my best to get a few portrait shots of the flowers I brought home (yes these are all made out of sugar and they are edible but probably wouldn't taste great).

Gerber daisy:


Cattleya orchid:


And of top of all of that Karen and I were able to catch up with a dear friend from MBA school. We went to dinner one night and stayed until they kicked us out of the restaurant.

And the last day we were in town she took us on a private tour of the Georgia Aquarium (she volunteers at the aquarium on the weekends).
The set up at the aquarium is amazing - lots of interactive displays, huge tank walls so you can bbeasily see the fish. We didn't get to spend enough time there - luckily I know someone that likes to visit Atlanta to see his Braves play so I can't wait to go back.
The aquarium has the only two whale sharks in captivity. They were sick and the aquarium took them in to nurse them back to health. The aquarium doesn't seek specimens, they only take in animals that have been injured or need to be rescued.

Jelly fish!

And I can't remember the name but it was funny, something like the Turkey Dragon fish.

Of course back to work this week. Some of my co-workers know what I was up to so I get to do some 'show and tell'. I'm sure they all think I am crazy. Now I just need to figure out how to incorporate what I've learned in to a spectacular Mother's Day Tea showpiece!