April 20, 2014

American Sign Museum

If you would ever think to cross the Las Vegas strip (as seen in movies) with a history buff's garage, you would get the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Without even entering, you can already tell you're in for an intriguing journey.  

When you walk inside, your eyes adjust to the numerous illuminations of in-candescent and neon bulbs shouting advertisements for businesses that have long since closed their doors.  

However, businesses that have stood the test of time also have a larger than life representation. See: Big Boy. There was also a moving neon- light McDonald's sign that was larger than 5'5'' me and 5'2'' Lauren standing tip-toed on each other's shoulders! I could not get a picture that did it justice, you're just going to have to go see it for yourself. 

One thing I really liked about the set-up of the museum, is that they created entire scenes for the signs they acquired. Under the "Drugs" sign, there was a small store front. Instead of items for sale being displayed in the windows, there were historical items relating to drugstore advertising. For a gas-station sign, they created a simple gas station that looked like it could be parked right off the road in a small town. 

I think my favorite sign was this "Pops" sign in the room used for private parties & gatherings. Its lettering was a glittering white which scattered the light from the flashing bulbs that flashed across the calligraphy. 

I also really loved all of the interesting reflections the bright lights created against the glass panels that protected the historical material. 

Surprisingly, this place is also very educational about the transition from old-school advertising to what we see on the side of the road in the modern day. It takes you not only through different types of lettering, but the shift on how these letters were made over the years. They have definitely struck a good balance between lit and unlit signs, between fun and educational.

Over all, this was a wonderful stop to make. Admission was slightly over priced ($15), but I do not regret having the opportunity to look at an interesting history of U.S. advertising.  I hope some day that there might be an international sign museum, examining the contrasts of how different areas developed their advertising practices. 

Remember, if you would like prints of any of these photographs, you can message via Etsy or e-mail me. All information can be found on my contact page. 
Have a wonderful day! 

April 15, 2014

Treat Yo-Self Tuesday: Bunny Cake

Easter is almost here already! How?! It seems like February just ended and, wow, it's almost time to start dying eggs! My roommate's birthday was on the 7th of April and I made her this cute, coconut-cream cake shaped like a bunny. Shaping the cake like a rabbit was the least of my worries, how to make coconut cream pie (her favorite) into cake form was my main challenge. Luckily, pinterest came to my rescue and I found this recipe. Like always, I didn't follow it completely. I attempted it to the letter, especially after reading the comments. One claimed this cake saved her marriage! However, the filling it asked me to make turned out absolutely abysmal. It was yellow, lumpy, and downright gross looking. I didn't even want to taste it to see. Instead, I made my own filling to compensate and I think it turned out much better. 

The Cake
3 1/2 cups Flour (All Purpose)
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 lb Butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
7 large egg yolks
7 large egg whites
1 3/4 cup coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 and butter two circular cake pans
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
3. Beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy using a hand mixer. Add 2 1/2 cups of sugar and the seven egg yolks, (one at a time, y'all). 
4. Add one tablespoon of vanilla and beat until the mixture is fluffy. 
5. Mix half of the dry ingredients in, add the milk, and then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.
6. In a separate bowl, whip the 7 egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the whites to the batter, folding in gently to avoid breaking them down. 
7. Divide the batter into separate pans and bake until cooked all the way through. 

The Filling
1/3 cup Greek Yogurt
1/3 cup Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Butter
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
5 tsp Cornstarch
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Toasted Coconut
1/3 cup Coconut Milk

1. When I did this, I added things on the fly and these might not be exact measurements. Combine the greek yogurt, cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer. 
2. Add the granulated sugar, almond extract, and cornstarch- throughly combine
3. Mix in the coconut milk and toasted coconut. 
4. Let chill for at least an hour before spreading between the layers of the cake.
This will create a slightly runny, but delicious filling. 

Even out the layers of the cake so that they are flat on both the top and the bottom. Spread the filing liberally and stick the layers together.

The Frosting 
1 stick Unsalted Butter
4 ounces Cream Cheese
3 cups Confectioners' Sugar
3 tbs Heavy Whipping Cream
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

1. Beat together the butter and the cream cheese until fully incorporated and fluffy.
2. Slowly add in the confectioners' sugar, until thick
3. Add the whipping cream, vanilla extract and the salt
4. Beat until combined 

Bunny Construction
1. Cut the finished layered cake a bit more than one half, but less than two thirds of the way across. This will be the body of your bunny. 
2. With the remaining cake, sculpt a head and one foot. The head will utilize the two layers still stuck together with the filling. 
3. Separate the two layers of cake from the one foot you sculpted and stick them to either side of the body. Your cake should look like my unfrosted construction above. 
I did not use anything to stick the layers together other than the filling. My body leaned one way, but with a few trimmings from what I had already cut off the the cakes to even them out, I was able to create a cake-shim of sorts to even them back out.  

4. Frost the entire thing. Frosting can be forgiving, so if your construction is not perfect, simply layer on the frosting! 
5. Bunnies have fur, so cover liberally with coconut shavings! 

6. Cut index cards into ear shapes that best fit your bunny and either color the inside pink strip with markers or paint with acrylic paints.
7. Stick the index cards into some cake or excess frosting
8. Add two black beans for eyes
9. Optional: Decorate with easter grass, peeps, chocolate eggs, or whatever tickles your fancy!

My roommate loved the cake, not just cause it was a bunny, but because it turned out being very delicious and it captured her dreams of coconut cream pie. I hope you all enjoy and have a lovely Easter! Take Care! 

April 10, 2014

Mammoth Cave

After we visited Nashville, we made our way up to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky to camp for the night. We took the historical cave tour before checking into our camp site. 

I know we took the historical tour, but even if you take one of the other fun tours listed for Mammoth cave you will learn a lot. This cave is absolutely full of history. You will see everything from an old tuberculosis hospital (yes, inside the cave), to mining operations dating back to hundreds of years ago!

They have been offering cave tours since the early 1800s, and yes, this means 200 year old cave graffiti. They used the smoke of candles to make markings on the ceiling, making and connecting dots to spell out names, dates, even arrows drawing more attention to certain names of people who really did not want to be forgotten. For a brief portion of the 1970's, they held self-guided tours in which many people added their own names to the historical ones by carving them into the cave walls.They have since discontinued the self guided tours, since those actions are a federal offense. 

We did not get to see many cave formations (those were presented on another tour) but we did get to see a few different areas where water had pooled and swirled (when the entire cave was an underground river) causing these deep gouges in the roof of the cave. 

After the tour, we returned to our campsite to officially set up camp. I made sure the tent was extra cozy since the temperature was supposed to get down to the mid twenties (fahrenheit) that night. 

I made us an awesome dinner of pasta with tomato sauce, roasted mushrooms with onions and garlic, some chip-dip (refried beans mixed with cheese and salsa, heated over the campfire), and after it got dark, we made s'mores! 

I was very pleased with the campsite itself. Had it not been so cold, I would have definitely enjoyed it more. I was excited to hear the howls of coyotes and the scurrying of critters through the night. It was the only thing distracting me from the cold! I did not sleep all night because of the freezing conditions, and Lauren only got a few hours of sleep. We chose to pack up camp in favor of a warm car at 6:30 am the next morning. We were shocked to discover that there was actually ice on the poles of our tent! 
Needless to say, we got an early start to our next destination: Cincinnati.