Tag Archives: band

Close but no Cigar

17 Nov

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Whether it’s buttercream, fondant, or the finished product, caking is all about consistency. Which I don’t have. And I’m pretty sure I may never have- but that could be the scale talking. Ask fellow cakers how they got so good and how they learned to turn out a consistent product and every one, and I mean every single one, will tell you, “Practice, practice, practice.” Ahhh, but my scale says I’ve practiced far too much. My doc will tell you the same, but his scale needs fixed ‘cause there’s no way I’m that much. No… flippin’… way.

So you tell these lovely cakers that you can’t hack more cake sitting around and they tell you, “Use dummies. Decorate on the side of a box or pan.” Okay, the dummy thing. I’m a dummy with dummies.

 (See this post: https://2chickscakesandcatering.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/fake-it-%e2%80%98til-you-make-it/)

 Aside from that, dummies don’t work for everything unless you want to spend a lot of money and be personally responsible for killing off the wildlife in a 1000 ft. radius of your nearest landfill because once you shape Styrofoam, there’s no putting it back to the original and you will never need that exact shape again.

 Then they tell you to give away your practice cakes. The problem with this is:

1. I don’t know that many people and even they’re sick of cake.

2. It is highly unlikely in this current society of weirdos and freaks that I’m going to walk into a nursing home, fire department, school, whatever, and give away cake. This little town thinks I am odd enough as it is; I don’t need a total shunning happening. “Here comes the crazy lady with more cake. Don’t make eye contact. Just walk away, quickly.”

3. It does not make sense to me to continually give free cake to the people who are your target market. Why would they buy when they can just wait and get free cake the next time I practice? I see lots of “I’ll buy the ingredients and you can get the practice” conversations in my future with this route.

4. It’s obvious I have no solid solution so let’s move on, shall weeee????

I tend to run across cake pans at thrift stores. Of course, I have to buy them. One of my finds is this pan:

http://www.cakesnkitchens.com/servlet/the-725/wilton-holiday-candlelit-3d/Detail

If you don’t have it already, you’ll have to get it used somewhere ‘cause this is older than my kids and my kids aren’t kids anymore, if ya know what I mean. I got this home and thought, “I bet this would make a good body” and felt another practice cake comin’ on. I was able to wait a few weeks, but sure enough, another cake was acomin’. Unfortunately, the execution was a tad problematic. I should have stopped after trying to get the black fondant to work for 2 hours. Yeah. Two hours. On the other hand, my bat wings are looking better.

At first, it was going to be a Bobcat mascot; but I’d already made a Rufus cake this Fall. I’ll show you that one another time. Never heard of him? Here ya go: http://www.ohioalumni.org/bobcats-mascots Instead, I had what I thought was wonderful idea, and it would have been, had I been able to get along with fondant that day.

The directions for this cake don’t say to fill the core tube thingy, but I did anyway. I dunno if Wilton learned later how handy a core of cake is and then the changed the instructions for the newer pans or what, but I filled mine. I used a cream cheese pound cake recipe so it would be sturdy, but having that core still seemed a wee bit necessary to me. Enough explanations, let’s get caking!

Using a paring knife, I trimmed off some of the bumps so it would be easier to frost smooth. I also whacked off the top so it would (hopefully) look like shoulders.

After that, I set it aside and started working on the head and limbs. I made a ball from crispy treats mixed with a little modeling chocolate (optional, but it worked really well to hold everything together tightly). I stuck a skewer in the head so I could install it and checked it for fit/size.

The arms/hands and the feet/legs were shaped from trial and error and previous experience with cakes. They looked rather penile but I kept on trucking and turned the radio on to get my mind out of the gutter.

 When the crispy treats were cool and solidified, I used a small grater to smooth the surfaces a bit more. I got that little tip from cakecentral and it worked fabulously! I’d give you the link but the site is still having issues so I seriously doubt I can find the thread again.

I stuck skewers in the arms before they were too solid to poke. I tried them on the cake for size. It turns out I am occasionally good size guesser, as these were perfect.

Yeah, I know. Penises on a stick. Think I could sell these at the fair? Hey, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do, right? Uh hem. I better turn that radio up louder, huh?

Here they are, awaiting further construction:

I crumbcoated everything- no easy feat with the undersides of everything- let it crust, and then the final coat and smoothing.

It’s time to drag out the fondant. As the above picture shows, I started with the head and that’s when it all started to go to heck in a fondant bucket. As you can see, I had a few problems covering the head smoothly. I used a new fondant recipe and it really really really didn’t work out. I’d tell you the recipe, or link to it, but I think it was possibly user error or a combination of user error and recipe poster error. Either way, the stuff would not stretch for God or country or nothin’. It would stretch a little if I heated it, but never ever ever did it stretch enough to make is usable for anything other than flat cut outs.  

I set aside the head thinking I would get back to it in a bit to fix it because maybe the fondant was tired and needed to rest a bit. One two hour black fondant kneading session later, and it was too stiff to fix it. I told myself to stop worrying about it right now and move on. THIS is where I go wrong with cakes; why I lack consistency in my work. I should have kept at that head until it was fixed. I didn’t want to get so frustrated that the rest of the cake would go to crap, too; so I took a deep breath, turned up the radio a little more, and moved on to the torso.

The black fondant is why we had leftovers for dinner that night. After two hours of kneading and tweaking the fondant, I gave up using it by itself. I added more water, more glycerin, more corn syrup, and more powdered sugar.  I melted marshmallows and added it in, I added marshmallow fluff, I tried corn starch and heating it up in the microwave.  I even walked away and let it rest for about 15 minutes, but no go. This stuff would shred when I tried to roll it out, no matter what I did to it. I finally sucked it up and mixed my remaining Fondarific in with it. So sad. No more Fondarific. 😦 That finally got it workable enough to use so I covered the torso and appendages with it and walked away for the evening, still hoping the cake fairies would arrive in the dark of night and fix the head. Failing that, surely the wrinkles would be hidden when the head was installed on the torso. Or the collar of the uniform would cover it, but something surely would save that head. Right?

 

Wrong. Very wrong. This far into it, the next morning I pushed on, telling myself it was a learning experience at this point and I didn’t ever have to show it to anyone if it sucked when I was finished. So, of course, I blog about it.

I used fondant from a previous batch made with a different recipe and extruded the hair, made the facial features, the uniform, and the cutest lil spats I ever did see.

The close up shows the ongoing problem with the fondant. As it dried it started cracking. One of the arms eventually split and fell off. I suppose the crispy treats sucked the moisture out of it. Or the fondant just hates me. Whatever.

 I didn’t have the heart to finish the shoulder nests.

He developed an acne scar looking divot on his face. I have no idea why. Maybe prom was the next day or something.

In the end, Jack (for that was his name) never made a public appearance. There was no way that I could find to fix his flaws, which were numerous, glaring, and ugly. I tried sealing him a box, hoping the fondant would soften without air. After that, I put him the fridge for a few hours hoping that when I took him out, he would start to condense and that would soften the fondant. I guess that only happens when you don’t want it to, ‘cause it sure didn’t work for poor Jack. I gave up and didn’t even try to add more crispy treats to make his legs look more natural or add the white fondant for gloves on his hands. He looked so cute from far away, sitting there on the counter- like a real doll so both creepy and cute. However, up close, he looked like the cake failure he was.

Three days later, I ripped him apart, removed all the fondant, re-iced the torso, and sliced him up for the family’s snacking needs.

R.I.P., Jack.

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Band Wagon Ho!

9 Nov

Have you ever tried to figure out what you can do with a heart shaped pan that doesn’t look old fashioned? Yeah, me, too. I’m not really the hearts and flowers type. I am all for masses of buttercream, so don’t count me out of lots of flowers on cakes just yet. 🙂

One day, I was cruising the ‘net, looking for inspiration and found a nifty Star Trek uniform cake that I filed away for future geeky birthdays, and inspiration hit: Heart, uniform, band, cake! Yeah, that’s it-band uniform cake!

The first thing I do when using something is to find a picture of it. No problem for this. I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pictures of this particular uniform. In fact, every home game I take at least 200 pictures of it. The trick is to find one that shows the front without an arm, an instrument, or someone’s head in the way. That’s why it took me so long to actually make the cake-sorting through all those pictures. Having finally found one, I opened Word and used Auto Shape to make a heart. Then I inserted the picture over the heart. After that is was 15 minutes of “bring to front, bring to back, format picture, size picture” and all that jazz to get both objects they way I needed them ‘cause that’s how I roll. Why do it right the first time when you can do it 6 times and curse along the way? My biggest act of bravado? Not saving it when I finally got it right. A magic thinker, that’s what I am. Of course it will print perfectly- no need to check. Naw, you won’t need to fuss with it again, just one copy and you’re good to go. Or not. Anyway….  I created it three different times and then saved it.

110 uniform heart cake template compressed

(To find out more about this spectacular band, go here: http://www.marching110.org/ . Do them a big favor and go to Kroger’s website and sign your shopping card up so they get moolah to get them to the Rose Bowl Parade every time you shop.)

Then I said a lot of bad words, dragged my son into it, and we copied into Paint just to be able to save it as a jpeg for y’all. Ain’t the new Office Suite great?

Actual directions instead of rambling. Eventually.

Bake your heart. Well, not YOUR heart. Halloween is over, after all. Bake a heart shaped cake. Cool, torte, fill, and then ice it in the appropriate color. Cover with fondant if you’re into that kind of thing (I am, and I’m not afraid to admit it).  

Next step: decorate as appropriate. Done.

What? You need more?

 Umm, I don’t quite know how to say this. Best to pull it off fast like a Band-Aid, right? Right. Here goes. I didn’t take pictures. Not one. Not this time. I have the final pictures, but none of the process. In my defense, it was Friday night. What’s so special about Friday nights? My Fridays right now are this: get up at 5:30, get to work at 7:40-ish. Leave work at 4:30, fight the Nascar race on the outerbelt, buy groceries. Get home between 7 and 9 at night, starving, exhausted, and a tad cranky. Put away groceries, decide that although you don’t care what you eat someone had better put food in front of you in the next 10 seconds or your grumpiness will reach heights heretofore unseen in this here parts. Eat, stumble to the shower, and remember tomorrow is game day and you haven’t planned what to take to the tailgate. Crud! So much for Woman’s Lib.

I can’t just leave it like this so let’s foray into another cake file and look at the pictures I took for the Star Trek uniform cake. The process is nearly identical, so I think you’ll live to bake another day. If not, invite me to the wake. I’ll bring cake.

Where were we? Ahh, yes- bake a heart shaped cake:

heart cake compressed

Torte, fill, ice:

torted star trek cake compressed

star trek uniform cake filled compressed

(No, I don’t remember what I mixed into the icing. Chocolate something from the look of it.)

star trek uniform cake stacked compressed

(You thought I forget to stack, didn’t ya? Never, my dears, neva!)

star trek uniform cake crumb coat compressed

star trek uniform cake final coat compressed

Okay, we’re back where we were. Yes, we are. I checked. We’re back to “decorate as appropriate.” I checked. If you don’t believe me, scroll up and look for yourself. Stop arguing with me. I’m too tired for this. Let’s move on before this gets ugly, k?

Most band uniform collar stand up like the 80’s never left. How surprised were you when the cool kids started doing that again but called it, “popping your collar?” Man, we were cool before it was cool.

The collar is simply a rectangle of fondant, roughly 5 inches long by an inch to inch and a half tall.

star trek uniform cake collar compressed

The trick to getting this on the cake is folding it in half lengthwise and making sure your fondant has plenty of flex. You can add glycerin or corn syrup to the fondant to help it along. Take the piece to the cake, gently fold it without creating cracks, and place it in the dip at the top of the heart. The folding is the hardest part of it. Do NOT crease the fold. Have patience and expect to re-do it as needed so you don’t get frustrated when the blessed thing cracks like your feet in winter.

Once that’s in place, it really is “decorate as appropriate.” I have no idea what your local band’s uniform looks like. I’m sure it not the same as the ones I know, so I can’t guide you much for this part. The one I made in cake form was fairly straight forward. Okay, I decided to not get too fancy. It was Friday night, after all. Mine had block lettering, and piping. Piping like sewing piping, not piping like frosting piping. I mean, you can pipe on the piping, but the piping has to look like piping. Did I mention it was Friday night?

To cut the letters, I folded paper and used my middle school art class skills. Remember folding a square of paper into a smaller square and then cutting that to make letters? No? Geeze, what school did you attend? Click, click, click, nothing. Hmm. I know I’m not the only one who was taught how to do this. Really. I have this friend…. I gots nothing. Of all the sites on the ‘net, no one has posted how to do this. You can try finding a font in Word- something block letter shaped, or stencil shaped, or something. Maybe the kids have something in their craft stuff. You keep looking and I’ll keep looking and if neither of us finds something in the next 10 years, I promise I’ll make a tutorial for you.

In the meantime, here’s my finished cake:

band cake completed compressed

And my finished cake with its little:

band cakes both completed compressed

It’s not exactly as I planned, but the tailgate DID get tailgate of the week. Coincidence? Yeah, yeah, I know. Coincindence. Our tailgate hosts are so awesome, they don’t need cake to win anything. The cakes were finished in time, though; and in my defense, it was Friday night.

 

Slip Me Some Sax, Baby!

4 Aug

As promised, here’s the next tutorial, with one change: this baby’s so big we’ve split it into 2 parts. Part one now, part two later this week (hopefully).

On with the show! (Or tutorial, in this case.) Tute! Tute! (Yes, I know it’s toot, toot; but this is my abbreviation for tutorial. Cut me some creative license, will ya’?)

I was asked to make a cake for a local cake auction. They wanted a sax, natch- that’s what the band geek plays, after all. The guidelines were: sheet cake size, flavor doesn’t matter, and stay within the budget. I knew they knew what size a sheet cake really is, so I knew it had to be a mondo-big cake.

 How to make one, though? I didn’t want a sheet cake with a picture of a sax on it. I used to chair this auction so I know this cake has to be spectacular. The point of the auction is to raise as much money as possible in a short amount of time and to try to get your donation noticed. It’s a friendly competition amongst the town folk and the students. Whose cake sold for the highest amount? What cake was the coolest one there? Knowing all this, I put on my detective hat and did some research. I put the chicklet on the detail work because when it comes to music and instruments, she’s just anal enough to make it “right.” No pressure, the band geek would know if anything is missing or out of place or whatever. We can do a replica in cake, right? Of course we can!

 My research turned up this wonderful cake here: http://www.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1229817

Debster's Awesome Sax

Debster's Awesome Sax

Look how shiny it is! I’m digging that ligature, too! Check out how the poster carried through the theme into the covering for the board. Most excellent job, doncha’ think? Man, I hope I can do this cake justice.

I saved that picture and imported it into Microsoft Publisher. From there, I made a poster that was three pages across and three pages down- for a total of 9 pages. Publisher has a nifty ruler on the screen, so I measured my cake pans and enlarged the photo to the size I needed. Once that was done, it was time to print that bad boy and see if it worked.

sax template

Yup! The size is correct, so get out the tape and let’s attach the pieces together.

template cut out- fronttemplate cut out-back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, time to cut it out. Hmm, I think I need darker lines. If you need that, too, take a marker and draw the outline before you start cutting. See? Better now, huh? Once you have the template cut out, check once more to ensure your cakes will be large enough ‘cause it would really stink to make the cakes and have to re-bake them or re-size the template. Hmm, let’s see. It doesn’t fit straight up and down. What happens if I move it like this? Yeppers, that’ll work! It fits if I lay the template at an angle. A little tougher to manipulate once it’s cut, but this will work.

Now, it’s baking time. Wow factor is great, but it has to taste good, too. I don’t want nasty rumors spread like, “Sure, she can decorate but have you tasted them?” I’m going to go wild here and make 2 flavors: White Almond Sour Cream (AKA WASC) and Chocolate Decadence. Get your pans sprayed and floured, get your ingredients out, and don’t forget the bake even strips and flower nails (from Wilton). What? You’ve never used them before? *Sigh* (just kidding)

Okay, a short tute within a tute for the uninitiated. Bake even strips help cakes bake evenly-just like the name says. Although my personal experience has been that they will dry out a smaller cake, they are almost a must for the big daddys. You’ll get less of a hump on your cake, too- which means less leveling. I’m all for that! The flower nails will draw heat to the center of the cake which will help the center bake faster and almost at the same pace as the edges of the cake. You prepare the nails like you do your pan- spray and flour them. Some people don’t do this step, but better safe than cursing, I always say. Place the nail pointed end up in your prepared pan. They should be evenly spaced near the center. Simple enough. Before you do that, I suggest you do the strips. Otherwise, the nails will flop over and you’ll have to do it again anyway.

 

Strips

Strips

 These eel looking things in my sink are the strips soaking. You have to wet them to get them to work properly. You’re going to pin these around the perimeter of your pan using these pins:

Pins

Pins

If your pins are new or you are better than me, they are all probably still straight. Hey, they work bent, too!

Once the strips are wet, pick them up and run your hand down the length of them while squeezing a little to remove the excess water. You want them wet- not dripping wet. I suggest you pin them around the pan before you put the batter in there. That way you won’t worry about spilling the batter as you’re pricking your fingers trying to get those blessed pins stuck into the strips.

Okay, are the strips on and the nails in place? Cool, now onto the batter! How much will you need? A lot! I used 2 cake extender WASC recipes per flavor. Especially since we’ll be carving this cake, you want it high enough to keep it from breaking on you. Here’s my ginormous bowl I used for the batter.

big bowl

It was filled twice- once per flavor. Most of us don’t happen to have the industrial mixer handy (where would you store it even if you could afford it?). I have a “thing” about consistency so I made each mix separately in my mixer and then combined them in my big bowl. That’s per flavor. I made 2 batches of WASC, stirred them together in the bowl, and poured it into one pan. Then I repeated the process for the Chocolate Decadence and poured it into the other pan. Color varies from batch to batch- just like yarn, frosting, and paint. It may not be much variation, but for me it’s enough that I don’t want anyone to notice so I combine the batches for even color. When you’re pouring the batter into the pan, pour around the flower nails. If the nails flop over, don’t worry. Set them back up and go on from there. Some people don’t even put the nails in until after the batter is in the pan, so it’s honky dorey if you need to do that. Ok, you got all that? Let’s get these puppies into the oven!

WASC in pan beforechocolate decadence before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, let’s speed this up a bit. We’ve got a long way to go and we’re just now getting the cakes into the oven. I started baking them at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Then I added another 20 minutes and then another 10. Finally, they both tested done so out they come! Here they are fully baked in the pan. Can you see that they are high enough to be workable?

I used a large cooling rack and a large rimless baking sheet to flip them out of the pan. Whatever you do- make sure what you are using is big enough and strong enough to wrestle these suckers out of the pan without breaking them. No tears of frustration in the kitchen today! I can’t afford any more chocolate calories!

flipping a sheet cake

WASC Half-Sheet Baked

WASC Half-Sheet Baked

Chocolate Decadence Half-Sheet Baked

Chocolate Decadence Half-Sheet Baked

Level them, flip them, cool, them, get them wrapped and in the freezer. Yes, in the freezer. It’s my first time carving and I’ll be danged if I’m going to struggle with tons of crumbs and mistakes. Mamma don’t like patchwork.

While we’re waiting on the freezer to do its job, let’s sit down with a cuppa and chat about boards for a moment. These cakes don’t seem too heavy at the moment because they are separate. Once they are joined, they’re going to weigh more than that toddler that has glued itself to your hip. Cardboard ain’t gonna cut it here. Neither will foam board. Do you doubt me? Do you think I’m going overboard? Consider this: you have already spent a couple of hours doing this. You have many, many hours left to go. You want the end result to be spectacular, right? What you don’t want is to be on your knees scraping cake off the floor while that toddler dances around in the frosting “helping” you. Board this cake like you’re transporting the Pope on a dais! I used 2 foam boards plus a wood board that’s about ½” thick. All three layers were glued together with wood glue. The wood board was smaller than the foam board so I could slide it around and pick it up easier. Plus, I didn’t want the hassle of gluing a ribbon around anything to keep the wood from showing. So, man up, get thyself to the garage, steal a board, I mean borrow a board,  and get gluing!

Alrighty, the cakes are as hard as Aunt Annie’s biscuits, so it’s time to move on.

 Warning: scary stuff ahead! Not for the fearless, this carving thing!

 I know I just lectured you about the board, but we’re not going to use those just yet. Unless you have time to carve, crumb coat, and final coat today,  leave them on the cardboard for right now. If you have to put the cake in the fridge or the freezer again, I doubt it’s going to fit if it’s placed on what we’ll call “The Pope Board” -especially if your freezer door doesn’t open all the way since he-who-shall-remain-nameless placed it too close to the basement steps when you moved in 13 years ago and there it remained.

Place the cakes on the counter in the position you want them to be once the “two become one.”  Position your template on the cake where it needs to be so it all fits on the cakes.

 positioning template on cakes

Now, let’s talk about knives. Think more “shive” rather than “serial killer machete.” While you do want a sharp knife, you only need a blade the depth of the cake. The big watermelon/bread cutting knife isn’t going to give you the control you need to go around curves, keep from cutting the board along with the cake, and if your upper cabinets are hung too low like mine, you won’t be able to cut straight up and down without a lot of banging and jerking.

Since this is some scary stuff, we’re going to start easy. Make sure your template is placed correctly and isn’t going to shift on you and then score around the template. We’re not going to dig (or stab as the case may be) right in and start hacking off cake. Ease into the carving to gain confidence and get used to the consistency of the frozen cake. It’s tough to see in the picture, but I outlined the cake first by cutting lightly into it.

marking the cutsIf you start carving right away, there’s no room for correction and back to patchwork you go. Ugh! Okay, round and round you go. Once it’s scored all the way around, lift part of the template and check that you can see the marks. Only lift part of it! If you have humongous sections that didn’t mark, and you take the whole thing off, you’ll have to be anal and line everything up again. No, you’re not a failure if you didn’t score deep enough. You’re just cautious and ensuring the wow-ness of the end product. So, lift and check, correct, lift and check, correct. All done? Good, now take off the entire template and check one last time.

Whew! Take a break, you deserve it! Besides, that toddler probably needs fed or removed from the toilet or something by now.

Are you back? Is the house still standing? Great! Shoo the kiddos outside ‘cause now you’re going to channel your inner Freddy Kreuger. The first cut is the scariest so take a moment to enjoy it and relax into the process.

I stuck the knife in all the way, and let it stand there for a moment so I could take a deep breath and tell myself, “that wasn’t so bad.” I’m a wuss that way. 🙂

The first cut

Move one of the cakes out of the way, but keep the template handy. You want your work area to be clear enough to turn the cake without knocking stuff off the counter. When you cut, think about carving a pumpkin: in and out and straight up and down. If you cut at an angle, you will have to cut it twice to get rid of that angle so: straight up, straight down. If the cake is thawed enough, you can even slowly slide the knife while following the pattern. Don’t take the curves like Earnhardt. Slow down and remember it’s better to drive the knife too wide rather than too tight. Too wide and you can go back and trim; too short and well, you’re out of luck. ‘Tis far, far better to cut twice than to change the final shape of the cake. Feel free to slice out to the edge a couple of time to get the excess cake out of the way. However, if your spatial thinking skills are a tad below par, like mine, I wouldn’t risk it. It wouldn’t be the first time I cut where I should not and end up having to fix a mistake. Once all the lines are cut all the way through, scooch over the excess cake and check it for fine tuning. Place the template back onto to the cake and check that you’ve made all the right cuts.

WASC cut

One cake done? You alright? Kids still alive? Move on to the next one and cut it the same way.

Chocolate Decadence cut

Whew!!!! Glad that’s done and over, aren’t ya’? Get both cakes back on the counter and place them together as they will sit for the finished cake. Look good? Do you need to fix anything? Place the template on once again and check, check, check. The separation between the flavors is a lil funky on mine, so I’ll take a picture to include with the delivery sheet. The end consumer will want to know where one flavor stops and the other starts, so take that picture now.

 

Cut and joined

So, the carving is complete but you have lots o’ cake left. What to do, what to do?

No need to sugar overload you or the fam with the cake scraps. Put them in Ziplocs and hide them in the freezer. On another day you can use them to make cake truffles or cake pops. There are a lot of scraps and there’s no point in wasting them. We’re in a recession after all. LOL

 

Scrap cake

That’s enough for one day. The animals are probably getting hungry or getting into stuff. Wrap the cakes for freezing, put them in the freezer, find your counter top again, and order take out for dinner. You deserve it!

sax wrapped for freezing

Part deux coming soon!

 

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