Retirement Cake

By popular demand…How I spent most of my birthday (and at least four days before it). My friend Stephanie and I created many cakes together during our careers in GIS and map making. She created mine when I retired in 2012 so it was definitely the thing to do for her retirement. Her chosen party theme centered around cartography, pirate ships, mapping, and sailing off into uncharted territory. Only the ship, plastic critters – deer and moose, trees, and the top part of the sign were inedible. I created everything except the critters and the orange and yellow “trees”. Equivalent to 7 cakes in the end and only a calorie or two in sight!

I used Betty Crocker Buttercream frosting recipes – vanilla and chocolate, the LMF Marshmallow Fondant recipe from Liz Marek at The Artisan Cake Co., and the Gum Paste recipe on the Wilton Gum Paste can. I wasn’t happy with the way the cakes tasted in the end but creating all of the parts and pieces really was a blast.

I’m a maker – from the initial thought, to the planning, researching, and working through the plan with changes and fun discoveries – it was all great fun. I loved every bit of it – changing the dining room and kitchen into the studio for most of a week and even cleaning it all up again!

Special thank you to Liz Marek for creating and posting her great videos. She is inspiring, encouraging, and charming!

A special thank you also to Ann Wood of Ann Wood Handmade for her ships patterns. I used her largest ship as a starting point, reduced it by 50%, and altered a few things.

There are several videos on YouTube that steered me for making the green trees. Think miniatures and model railroads.

Here is the best photo of Steph that I have. The lighting was pretty awful but Steph looked great!

From the backside
From the North west corner

The Compass Rose

 From the middle of the backside

Sea Serpent


Smokey the Nutcracker

Smokey the Nutcracker was created as a retirement gift for my former supervisor, Cindy Lane. She has a collection of nutcrackers that she loves and Smokey just seemed to be a fit addition. He started with a wooden base created by John Bruce of Bruce’s Woodworks in Draper, Utah. John generously sent various pictures of wooden parts options and suggestions via email as we worked out what he could build me for a base. The wooden soon-to-be-Smokey image is courtesy of Bruce’s Woodworks.

Once Smokey arrived, I set about creating patterns for his jeans, head, body, feet, ears, and arms. I used fleece for body parts – cutting and sewing and trimming again and again to get the fit I wanted.

When it wasn’t too hot, I worked outside on the table top studio.

Smokey’s hat is wet felted – think top of a light bulb taped to a ring of plastic – using a tan wool pre-felt with merino wool roving on top of that. Once I had the general shape and size right, I let it dry then soaked it with fabric stiffener. I stalled the drying of the round part of the hat by covering it with plastic. Once the brim was dry, the hat came off of the form and I made the 4 dents in the top. When that was dry, I trimmed the rim edge, added a ribbon and cut red felt letters out of stiffened felt.

Smokey’s nose is needle felted using craft felt. I went to the internet to see how bear noses were patterned. I also found instructions for creating your own patterns for doll clothes. The belt is cut from a thrift store belt and the buckle is crafted from polymer clay. Smokey is holding a purchased and altered tree since his new owner was a Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Vegetation Staff Officer (aka Timber Beast).

Smokey’s shovel was crafted by my dear husband and crafty enabler, Tam. Smokey is holding a shovel because, well, that’s what Smokey does! We discussed having Smokey hold a tree and an axe. However, like John Bruce said in one of his humorous emails,

If you axe me, he might not look right without his shovel!

Here is Cindy and Smokey the NutCracker.