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I received my first shipment from Cenegenics of the various hormone replacements and supplements two days after my visit there.  It’s a LOT of stuff.  My Cenegenics doctor, Dr. Mayweather, sent me my schedule for taking them and the specific things they were addressing.

It was really nice when I sent her an email with a couple of questions and I got an immediate response.  I’ve gotten so used to the medical care system as it exists that it was a wonderful surprise.

I’m working on my “system” of remembering to take everything at the right time.  I have one pill that I’m supposed to take on an empty stomach without food.  So I put the bottle next to my toothbrush.  I have two creams that I’m to use in the morning so they’re on the bathroom counter with my other lotions and potions.  I have a pill case at my bedside and that’s where I put the things I’m supposed to take at bedtime.  Then there’s two packets plus four other things I’m supposed to take in the morning with food so I grabbed them this morning to have with my breakfast shake.  Another two packets and one pill at lunch or dinner time.  Phew!

I went there last Monday and today is Sunday.  It’s been a kind of stressful time since I was fighting lots of congestion (which I thought was a cold but am now pretty sure was allergies…Zyrtec seems to have done the trick).  My mother turned 90 and I made a celebration weekend for her.  I brought all my (3) kids into town plus my cousin flew down from Seattle.  I split the visits into two days so my mother wouldn’t be too overwhelmed.  Unfortunately, my mother’s mental condition continues to decline and combined with her lifelong emotional and personality issues…well, it’s not pretty.  She was able to pull it together for the “parties” but there was a LOT of upset and confusion before and after.

Even so, I maintained my diet and supplements.  I have lost FIVE POUNDS since Monday.  I don’t think I’ve ever lost that much weight in a week.  Obviously, I don’t expect to keep losing at that rate but it’s nice to see the scale move down for a change.

It’s hard to know if the supplements are “working.”  I definitely feel better and I noticed, last night, that I slept better.  When you change diet and take supplements and do some exercise…hard to know what to attribute the “better” feeling to.  There may be a placebo effect for all I know…that just taking them and believing they make a difference..they make a difference.

So…we’ll see.  The journey begins.

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I had my Cenege…

I had my Cenegenics day yesterday at their Beverley Hills center.  My appointment was at the ungodly hour of 7AM. When I protested the time…yes, I can be that whiney…the very helpful Brandi said they could try but that traffic starts getting bad pretty early.  I opted to keep the early appointment and drove up to my son’s house Sunday night.  We had a lovely visit and I retired to their guest room with a blow up bed.  Not the most comfortable night’s sleep…I turned in early (since I had to get up so early).  The cats were quite annoyed that I had the temerity to lock them out of the room…and proceeded to periodically rattle the door all night.

 

Headed through the deserted LA streets at 6:30AM and arrived in plenty of time.  I was greeted by the delightful Jen, “my” fitness and nutrition coach.  Jen took me in hand and we started the day.

First Jen showed me a video made by one of the Cenegenics doctors.  It was actually an excellent explanation of how insulin works in the body and the general ideas of metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance.  He clearly laid out how a low glycemic diet can really address the ills of glucose and insulin surges.

Next Jen did the usual blood pressure, pulse thing.  Then a full body scan.  You lay on a machine that has an arm that hangs over the table and moves over you calculating your bone density, muscle mass, body fat and skeletal mass.  Jen is friendly and high energy which really helped keeping me involved and moving forward.

Next came the fitness test.  Height and weight (yikes!).  Then Jen had me jump on a stationary bike, put on a heart monitor and a VO2 mask.  The machine the mask is attached to calculates your bodies ability to use oxygen and perform.  You have to keep peddling in a certain range and the machine increases the resistance every 3 minutes until you give up.  I gave up earlier than I would have hoped.  My legs were SO tired.  What a wimp I am.

Then Jen had me a do a variety of physical things:  push-ups, plank, crunches.  The only thing I did pretty good on were the pushups.  Once that ordeal was over Jen set me up to the Cognitive Testing while she crunched my numbers.  The Cognitive Testing was quite straightforward.  It took about 20 minutes.  I felt like it was pretty easy.  Finally…something easy 🙂

Once I finished the test, Jen was finished crunching.  She then spent the next hour or so going over my results.  While it turns out bones are quite light (my skeleton weights 5.5 pounds…there goes my “big bones” excuse) and I have about 90 pounds of muscle the rest of me is, ick, fat.  It was upsetting and disappointing to see how high my body fat percentage is but, at least, I felt like I was trying to address that so skipped any weeping.  She also mentioned that the bone density around my hips showed osteopena (an early indicator of osteoporosis).  Since I already knew about this I wasn’t surprised.

Jen then walked me through the low glycemic diet, figured out how much protein I should have and had lots of advice about meal spacing.  She also recommended adding more cardio-based interval training and explained how that should work.  My current strength training (with the dear hubbie) is fine.  So I’ve committed to adding several days of interval training.  Go me.

Once we made it through that, the doctor came in.  She did a quick physical exam and we talked about my concerns and goals.  She was very warm and approachable.

Then we sat down and went through my blood panel results.  Holy cow.  I am out-of-whack.  The tests showed that my cortisol levels are very high which, apparently, indicates adrenal fatigue.  Since the adrenal glands are responsible for producing all kinds of hormones it’s not good if they’re “tired.”  Other hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) were quite low too.  My glucose and insulin were at the very high end of the normal range…also not good and potentially pre-diabetic.  My cholesterol, surprisingly, was pretty good.  Basically, the blood work showed some pretty significant deficits of various hormones plus DHEA and a few other things including a low T3 thyroid level.  The doctor indicated that my hormone imbalances could account for my weight gain and difficulty in losing weight.  Of course, she recommended the low glycemic diet and interval training (apparently interval training, in particular, is very helpful to reduce fat stores).

She then went through her recommendations for hormone therapy plus other supplements.  Pretty comprehensive list.  Biodentical estrogen (as a cream), progesterone and testosterone (as a cream too).  Multi-vitamin plus a special antioxitive supplement.  DHEA, melatonin (to help my sleep problems) and a few other things.  Cenegenics provides a package that includes most of what the doctor ordered…and then you can add other things that the doctor suggests.  They ship the drugs to you once a month.

It IS pricey.  The package plus the monthly fee is painful.  But I feel that I  piss away plenty of money without any real direction so I signed up!  I should be getting my first shipment tomorrow and we’ll see.

Unfortunately, I seem to have caught a nasty cold while in LA so now I’m snuffling pretty badly and feeling lousy.  I’ll baby myself today and get ready to start tomorrow.  It is a lot of money and I’m still not certain it is “worth” it.  But there’s really only one way to find out.

I’m looking forward to my visit to the LA Cenegenics facility on Monday.  While googling around I saw a suggestion for “cenegenics scam.”  That caught my attention!  Have I been duped?  I was (and still am) worried that I am getting value for the money I’m spending.  The article I read from that search mostly seemed to be saying that Cenegenics is providing supplements and drugs (most notably HGH) that one could get from your own physician.  However, in my experience, my physician is not terribly interested in prescribing tests to address aging issues (like reduced hormonal output) nor is he interested in things like bioidentical drugs (he has me on Premarin).  I’m going to continue to wait-and-see.  I’m pretty sure that the doctor I meet with will prescribe stuff.  After all, I am going there to get help with issues like my energy level, weight loss, etc. and I’m hoping they will have stuff to give me that will help.  I guess, ultimately, there’s only one way to find out.

This, of course, is the problematic side of the internet.  You can find all kinds of information but it’s really hard to know what’s for real, what are just people’s opinions (informed or otherwise) and what is just an expression of a person’s biases.

I’m actually hoping that blogging my experience will help others to know what I experience and whether I feel that I’ve been helped.  I remain optimistic that Cenegenics knows something since they’ve been doing this for 16 years and now have 7 centers around the country.  Seems like you’d have to get something right to be able to sustain and grow that much.  Or, maybe I’m just justifying a significant financial outlay.

I’ll be heading up to LA on Sunday to stay with my son and his girlfriend so that’ll be nice to have a little visit with them.  My appointment is at (ulp!) 7:00AM.  That is freakin’ early for me.  I called to see if they could make it later but was told that it’s a better time to travel as LA traffic gets really wacky later in the morning.  Given my experiences with LA traffic I have no trouble believing that so I kept the 7AM time.  <sigh> And I was hoping for a nice blowout (wine, martinis, food, dessert) before embarking on the New Improved Me journey.  I don’t think I’d enjoy the fitness test and such while being hungover.

In advance of my appointment maybe I should describe (for myself if no one else) what I AM hoping to get by going to Cenegenics.

  • Energy.  I definitely feel that I don’t have the degree of energy that I would like.  I pretty much always have trouble waking up and hauling myself out of bed even when I’ve had a reasonable night’s sleep.  I often start feeling really sleepy in the late afternoon although I get my second wind around 6PM.  I feel like my default state is “tired.”  If you ask me what I want to do, what typically pops into my head is lie around and watch TV.  I don’t, usually do that, but if I’m honest that’s the way I feel.  Like everything is an effort.
  • Weight loss.  I have fought the same 40 pounds or so for a long, long time.  But this past year I’ve picked up a delightful extra 10 pounds.  So, on top of feeling low-energy I’ve got too much of me to drag around.  My weight wreaks havoc with my ability to feel good about myself, my body, my sexiness.  I have tried pretty much every weight loss plan there is.  Most recently I’m doing a low-carb/paleo type thing but my results are dismal.  Very discouraging.
  • Youthful look.  I’m told I look young for my age which is awesome when it happens!  I’m blessed with some good genetics and my skin is relatively unwrinkled and unmarked by age.  (I’ve been religious about the sun and sunscreen for years.)  However, I believe that I could definitely look better.  Obviously, weight loss and more energy would help but I’ll be curious if there are other things I can do.
  • Fitness.  This has become increasingly important to me.  For years, I’ve extolled the virtues of exercise and fitness to my mother (who is turning 90 this month), harangued her about letting herself go and having no muscle tone, etc.  But when I take an honest look at my own efforts…let’s just say they’re lacking.  I’m pretty sure that an improved level of fitness and physical activity would help in lots of ways but particularly with respect to aging.  I’m not sure what they can do for me in this area other than suggest ways for me to workout.  If it were that simple it wouldn’t be a problem for me (or anyone else)…we’d all have rock hard bodies.
  • Mental alertness.  I feel I’m still pretty acute mentally.  I’m a software professional and I haven’t really noticed much change in my ability to focus or execute intellectual tasks.  I do sometimes have to strain to remember a word or an actor’s name…things that rarely happened to me earlier in life.  And it scares the crap out of me when it does happen.  My mother (again…turning 90) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago.  Her mental decline is quite frightening and sad to witness.  I realize that I am not her.  I have remained mentally engaged, I’m always learning new things, etc. but if there are therapies or programs I can do to maintain or, even increase, my mental capabilities now and into the future…sign me up.

It’s an ambitious list and I know there are no magic bullets.  Whatever the doctor at Cenegenics recommends I’m sure it will require participation on my part (i.e., I can’t just take the recommended drugs and/or supplements and expect a miracle).  And that’s the rub of course.  I have embarked on “programs” before…my follow through record sucks.

If anyone reading this has had experiences they’d like to share I’d love to hear from you!

Taking on Aging

I can’t seem to go to any site that has anything to do with health, fitness or aging without seeing an ad for Cenegenics.  Needless to say their strategy worked and I clicked on one of the ads.  Because who can resist seeing that picture of Dr. Life…I mean c’mon…a 72 year-old hot body?  Wow.

And so, my journey begins.

I clicked the ad and, feeling a little trepidation about giving my contact details, signed up to receive more information.  Within a short time I received an email from Dr. Weiss introducing himself and suggesting that we talk by phone.  I was busy and was feeling a little silly for trying yet another way to feel and look better.  The truth is that I feel somewhat obsessed with the whole aging process…and how to mitigate it. Probably my mother’s struggle with aging and, now, Alzheimer’s is a big influence. 

Part of me feels that I shouldn’t care about how I look.  I am a woman in her sixties.  I should be okay with that.  I’m told I look quite good for a woman of such advanced years which I, naturally, have a lot of trouble believing.  On top of that, I’ve gained 10-15 pounds in the last year and am the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.  Not helping.  I was listening to a book and this phrase came up “she was an old woman of 60.”  Shit.  I do not feel like an old woman.  I’m afraid to be an old woman.  I want to accept being an old woman.  No, not just accept, I want to enjoy being an old woman!

Hence, Cenegenics.  I ignored the email.  I figured it would just be a sales pitch of some sort.  Then Dr. Weiss called me.  When I saw the number on my cell I didn’t know who it was but I was expecting a call so I answered.  Dr. Weiss was lovely.  He asked some questions about my health, fitness, etc.  Was quite nice when he tactfully explained that I would be considered “obese.”  (And if that’s not a scary, upsetting word…I don’t know what is.)  Then he explained the focus of the Cenegenics practice.  Basically, the idea is to evaluate your body chemistry (i.e., hormones, blood levels, etc.) and then help you through pharma- and nutri-ceuticals to restore your chemistry to a younger state.  By doing this, he explained, I would not only look better but actually feel better.  Since I read a lot about aging what he was saying made a lot of sense.

He explained that if I signed up for their program it would start with a very complete evaluation.  First, there would be an extensive blood panel.  Then I would go to one of their centers (they have seven) and would have a full day evaluation of fitness, body fat, etc.  Then a 2 or so hour consultation with the doctor who would likely recommend various things to get me back to where I want to be.  Once I got over the sticker shock I signed up.

Within a short time I received a couple of emails from personnel at Cenegenics and, specifically, the Los Angeles center that I would be visiting.  A few days later I was contacted to schedule someone coming to my home (or office) to draw blood for the chemistry panel.  I also received a variety of forms to fill out regarding my health, medical history and  lifestyle.

The technician arrived promptly and drew 7 vials of blood!  Apparently, they’re not kidding when they say they’re going to check everything your blood can tell them!  Then the very nice technician said, “okay…just need a urine sample.”  

“Uh oh,” I thought.  The appointment was fairly early (at least, for me) and, of course, I peed upon waking.  So I had nothin’.  He was very patient as I tried chugging down water and trying to eek out the small sample needed.  Nothing.  I asked if I could bring the sample somewhere?  He said, “I can come back and pick it up.”  Wow.  I had to go to work so I asked if I could leave it by the door (feeling kind of idiotic but when you’re dry you’re dry)?  “Sure,” he said.  Wow…again.

After more drinking and a small mishap spilling some of the “sample” as I was transferring it (per instructions) from the catcher jar into the sample vial I finally had enough to come up to the line indicated.  Phew!  I placed the vial in a plastic bag, set it out at my front door and left for work.

The appointment at the Los Angelese facility (which was scheduled during my original first call with Dr. Weiss) is next Monday.  Since I live in San Diego, I’ll drive up to LA and stay with my son on Sunday.  I am probably overly optimistic about what they’ll be able to do for me but it’ll be nice to hang out with Grant and Amy in any event.

There’s part of me that feels like I’m fighting uphill.  That I should just learn to accept the natural progression.  But what the heck!  I’m not ready to give up quite yet!

I haven’t blogged in a while and lots has happened.  I thought since I’ve started on the Cenegenics path I’d use it as a jumping off point to start blogging again with the ostensible purpose of documenting what I experience.  Along the way I hope to share more of what I’m up to, what’s going on in my life and generally enjoy capturing my thoughts and feelings.

I’ve had a long drawn out “epiphany” (if one can call realizations that take years to percolate and come to the surface an epiphany).  The realization:  that I’m not who think I am, I don’t even want to be who I think I am and who am I to being juding me anyway?!

All of this has arisen from making a commitment to my art.  That’s right…I’m not putting quotes around art anymore.  Because I finally (mostly) realize that I am an artist.  Okay, gulp, that felt a little weird.  But I said it and I’m standing by it. Because what does that even mean?  Is there really a set of rules, validations one has to accrue, approvals one must seek to then be anointed as an artist?  No, I don’t think so.

I think being an artist means you want to create stuff.  You may want to create it because it expresses your inner most thoughts and feelings.  You may want to create it because it evokes a thought or feeling.  You may want to create it because you want to make something beautiful.  Or cute.  Or whimsical.  Or weird.  It’s all up to you. To be an artist you have to make stuff.  If it turns out to be what you want to call art…cool.  If it doesn’t then you’ve learned something.  I can guarantee that every failure has a lesson to teach and be learned.  Or not.  You can beat yourself up and tell yourself that you’ll never produce anything you’d be proud of…nothing that you’d feel good about.  Because you’re sure that “everyone” will think it’s ugly, strange, stupid, crude…wrong.  But how would you know?  Can you read their minds?  Have you showed it to everyone?  Isn’t just you saying these things to yourself?  Aren’t you the voice that says that undermining and hurtful thing?  Give up?  Yes…it’s you.

So I’m stopping. Stopping as often as I can.  As often as I notice.  And I think you might want to stop too.

No, this isn’t about food.  It’s about Life with the big ‘L.’  I read one of Martin Seligman’s books, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, several years ago.  He is the “father” of the positive psychology school of thought about people’s moods and ability to be happy.  It’s a great book in a lot of ways but one of the ideas that has really stuck with me over the years was the notion that to fully engage with and enjoy your life you need to savor the moments.  All of them.  And you need to bask in the delights that cross your path everyday.

I regularly forget this advice and find myself sinking into a sluggish morass of self-pity and whining (not that those aren’t  fun, mind you, but not exactly life-affirming).  I stopped doing much real cooking or baking last fall.  I was gaining weight from having so many baked goods around and my husband decided to lose weight so he stopped eating much of anything.  It’s not much fun, for me, to cook and bake if there’s no one to eat it.  I, of course, would eat it but it’s really more about the making it than particularly enjoying the food.  I can be pretty satisfied with cereal for dinner most every night.

Plus I think I must be somewhat subject to SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) or, at least, I seem to want to hibernate as soon as the days get short and the air turns chilly.  And, okay you caught me, I developed an avid <ahem> interest in online poker.  Wish I’d stayed with art.  Or even cooking.  Poker is a LOT of fun.  A lot.  But, it loses some of the fun when you lose.  Everyday…losing.  Not good for the soul.  So, no more poker.

So, that left a bit of a void.  Getting a new job has helped, naturally.  It keeps me pretty busy.  But it doesn’t satisfy that deep desire to create stuff.  I’ve decided to not care that what I make gets seen, used or appreciated by anyone.  What I like is making stuff.  Don’t really care much what happens to it after I make it.  And that’s helping free me up and stop judging everything I do.  Judging yourself and your results is the bane of making art.  Making art is about expression.  Wow…writing that I realize that’s one of the PROBLEMS.  I feel uncomfortable really expressing myself.  Really putting myself out there in the world.

But no more.  I’m resolved.  I’m staring down the beginning of the last part of my life and it’s time to grow up and confront myself.  To say this is who I am (whoever that turns out to be any particular day) and act in accordance with that!

Here are a couple of links to some young women who have really inspired me this week:

SuziBlu – a mixed media artist with a delightful personality.  She encompasses enormous bravery in putting herself out into the world and sharing her art.  She has some great online classes that are very fun!

Melanie Testa – is a fantastic fiber artist.  Her book, Inspired to Quilt: Creative Experiments in Art Quilt Imagery, is a wonderful insight into a layered approach to fabric art.  She explains things very well and makes it all sound enthralling.  She also has a DVD workshop (based on her book), Print, Collage and Quilt: Create Unique Art Quilts.

I’ve reorganized my “studio” (I probably should stop putting quotes around that and take myself seriously) and the painters (finally) left.  I have lots of supplies and lots of ideas.  I’m working on daily journaling (visual journaling) to get my hand back in and work on my basic skills.  And, yes, I’m basking and savoring…and you should too!!


I know it’s hard to picture but there IS such a thing as too much chocolate.

This weekend I finally made the cake pictured above for my dear friend’s birthday. I had made the cake before and it came out great taste-wise but it’s look were a bit sub-par. My friend’s birthday was in May and we’ve been trying to get together before and since. Trying to coordinate people’s social calendars is a pain.

The cake is from a recipe in Pure Chocolate.  The recipe is called ‘Blanc et Noir’ for obvious reasons. It’s a fantastic concoction of dark and white chocolate. The cake itself is a flourless chocolate cake. The filling is a white chocolate ganache. And the outer coating is a dark chocolate ganache. It would be hard to imagine cramming more chocolate per mouthful. Even the decorative swirls on top are done with white chocolate.

Making the cake is a two day process. The cake is made first and then must cool for at least 4 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator. The white chocolate ganache also needs to be made in advance as it needs an overnight sit on the counter to setup properly. These two steps were done on Friday night after work.

The cake comes together fairly straightforwardly but there’s a lot of folding and chocolate melting. Last time I made it I used a stainless steel bowl set over a simmering pot of water to melt the chocolate and this required a lot of standing over the pot and stirring to ensure that the chocolate didn’t burn. This time I decided to try the microwave. Normally, I adopt a snooty attitude about using the microwave for “fine” baking. I *have* to do it “right”…from scratch…the old-fashioned way. Eh. Melting is melting. And, if you’re careful and do the melting in small increments, it works just fine. There was still plenty of hand mixing to do when it came to folding the whipped egg whites and sugar into the melted chocolate, butter, sugar mixture.

It’s a pretty heavy batter but it looks (okay, and it tastes) fantastic.   The heavy chocolate, sugar, egg yolk mixture is lightened with lots of folding of stiff egg whites (beaten with sugar).

The batter goes in a buttered, parchment lined and rebuttered quarter-sheet pan.  I diagonally cut the corners of the parchment and overlap to get nice crisp corners.  The batter is smoothed into the pan making sure that you get it even and the edges and corners have an equal amount of batter.  (Last time I didn’t pay enough attention to the corners and edges and they came out too thin and brittle).

I use pretty high end chocolate for my chocolate concoctions (in this case El Rey and Guittard for the cake, Valrhona white chocolate for the filling and Scharfenberger for the dark chocolate ganache). I may be rethinking this after the later developments of my chocolate weekend.

Once the cake was in the oven, I proceeded to the white chocolate ganache. Ganache is surprisingly easy to make. Heat some cream to just boiling and dump in a bunch of chocolate. Let the chocolate warm for a minute and then mix together. You need to make sure the cream is well heated so all the chocolate can get warm enough to melt. Stir until all chocolate is melted and then cover with plastic wrap touching the surface (to prevent a skin forming). Just leave it on the counter overnight to setup.

The only bad part about making this wonderful confection is the cleanup. It creates a LOT of cleanup: bowls, pans, counters, utensils all covered in dark chocolate. Although there are a lot of things to wash they do clean up pretty easily (chocolate melts off in hot water) compared to cleaning up after making bread. Dough does not melt…it clumps.

The cake bakes for about 45 minutes and then it briefly cools on a wire rack in the pan. Then it’s placed in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (or overnight – if overnight wrap it completely in plastic after it’s been in the frig for an hour or so).

The next day is mostly assembly.  First the dark chocolate ganache is prepared by heating a cup of cream and pouring it over 8 ounces of dark (I used 66% El Rey) chocolate. I gave it a minute to get melty and then stirred (and stirred and stirred) to get a smooth velvety consistency. 1/4 cup is placed in the frig to harden up a bit while the rest is left to cool down and reach a thick, pourable consistency.

The cake is removed from the pan by inverting another pan on top of it, flipping the whole thing over and then removing the parchment paper. Now for the construction! Carefully measure the cake (it shrinks some when cooled) and figure out the widths for three even pieces (from the length of the cake). In my case, the cake had shrunk to about 11 1/2″ in length so I made each piece 3 3/4″ by measuring and putting a toothpick in to mark the spot. Then I used a T-square to get nice perpendicular cuts. Now you have the three cake layers.

The white chocolate ganache should be the consistency of warm butter (not melted but gooey) after setting up overnight. It gets whipped in the mixer to create a light mixture to use as the filling. I created a base for the cake by cutting a 4″X8″ piece of cardboard. Then I cut a larger piece of cardboard and covered it in parchment paper to make a foundation to put the cake on. It looks nicer that way and is easier to handle.

I placed one layer on the 4X8 cardboard and then cover with 1/2 the filling. I made sure the filling went all the way out to the edges so that, when sliced, each piece would have an identical look and the finishing ganache covering would be even. Then the middle layer went on, followed by the other 1/2 of the filling and then topped by the third layer.

By this time, the 1/4 cup of dark chocolate ganache had setup a bit too much (it was solid). So I gave it a quick nuke (20 seconds) and it returned to a spreadable consistency. This bit of ganache is used to make a crumb coat on the layered cake in preparation for covering completely in ganache. Once the crumb coat was complete I turned to the ganache which seemed a bit clumpy when I checked it. So this went on top of a pot of simmering water to warm it a bit. It was about 94 degrees when I felt it was ready for pouring.

To be ready for the final decoration step, I melted 2 ounces of white chocolate (I just used Candy Melts since it’s such a small quantity) in the microwave and then added 2 tablespoons of oil (so it doesn’t harden too quickly). Now for the ganache pour!

The setup for pouring ganache is also easy. I just set out a (non-stick) pan, place a rack over it and then set the cake (on it’s little cardboard) onto the rack. First I pour the ganache around the edges of the top making sure the sides get a good coating. Then I pour along the top and use an offset spatula to smooth and allow the ganache to run over the sides. The smell is heaven!

Once the cake is complete covered you have to work pretty quickly. I had prepared a small parchment paper cone and loaded the white chocolate/oil mix into it. I quickly cut a very small hole in the tip and made three parallel lines down the top of the cake. Then, using a toothpick, I made figure eights through the lines to create the swirls. Simple!

The cake was served to our friends that evening and pronounced delectable. But wait! There was more chocolate to come. My husband likes to take treats to work for his colleagues. This week there was a request for brownies (with nuts) and fudge (without nuts). The brownies were made first and came together easily and deliciously. The fudge. Oy. The fudge. That turned into the most horrible, inedible mess I have ever created. Who knew that fudge was that hard to make!? Of course, forgetting a key ingredient (like milk) in the recipe certainly didn’t help. Nor did letting it get too hot. Again, who knew the when you let chocolate/sugar syrup heat up too much it turns into rock hard candy that you can only get out of the pot with a chisel?!! And then you have the privilege of throwing away a pound of very expensive chocolate along with everything else.

Undefeated I’m going to pick up a digital candy thermometer today and the fudge and I will be going at it again. We’ll see who survives.