Thursday, August 17, 2017

magically sweet retirement ahead

There are few cakes I get to make that make me squeal in delight with every added detail. This was one of those cakes from idea to delivery. My friend Cora contacted me and asked if I would make her Aunt a retirement cake. When she told me that her Aunt was most excited about working on her fairy garden during retirement, I could hardly contain my joy! A grown up fairy garden cake is way more fun to make than one for a 4 year old because I can use colors besides pink and green.  I went overboard on the pictures, but since Cora didn't get to see the finished cake in person, it seemed like the right thing to do so can see it up close too.

The moss roof is a homemade sugar cookie, covered with frosting and cookie crumbs.


Cora was my "fairy consultant" and she made sure I was properly educated in fairy culture and put to rest my presuppositions. She made sure I knew where glitter comes from. I don't know if you can see the glitter trail on the roof because it doesn't show up in photos as well as in person.

The wings only took me 3 tries to get right. FYI, gelatin shrinks until it dries.

Congratulations, Chris! I wish you a very sparkly and magical retirement!

Friday, July 14, 2017

a dollop of cake

My now 11-year-old daughter is hilarious. Yesterday she had me laughing so hard with her quick wit and creative humor.  I have repeated her jokes over and over because, well, she's funny and I am starting to mimic my dad in telling the same jokes over and over again so I need new material.

She had her cake all figured out and I was willing to make it, but I have to admit, it was a little boring compared to her bacon feast or Rapunzel's tower.  One night we were sitting down at our Taco Friday dinner, reprimanding her for nearly emptying the huge tub of sour cream on one taco. I said something about making her a cake filled with sour cream and she joked, "I should have my cake look like the sour cream tub."

I laughed at her joke, "You really should!"

"Wait, can you actually make it look like sour cream?"

"Yes, I can."


"Yes, if you share the rest of the tub on the table with your brother and sister."

This one is only slightly bigger than the Costco size tub we normally buy.

I asked some of her friends describe her with one word.  Unanimously, they agreed on "crazy."

Looks like she expired a long time ago. So don't eat.

Happy, Birthday, crazy girl!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Broadway Bound!

My neighbors are wonderful. They're normal - but not so normal that they're boring. They're fun and real.  I wish Minnesota didn't shut down for winter 8 months out of the year, so we could hang out more.

One particular family has a special place in my heart. They're theater geeks like me. I've done shows with each of the kids and I'm pretty sure I'll someday say, "I knew them when..."

Sweet Zoe has finished high school and off to college next fall. I was excited to be able to make her graduation cake featuring some of her theater experiences and excitement for the next stage of her life (cheesy pun intended).

My goal was to have the cake upstage her. I'm not sure it worked, but it sure was fun to try!


Center Stage



Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Even bacon."
- Kelly DiPucchio 

My oldest asked for unlimited bacon for her birthday dinner. Unlimited BLT's for an extended family birthday party. It only took 3 of us 2 hours to cook it all and I could've probably made 80 bars of soap with the leftover grease.

She wanted a bacon party which meant bacon on her cake too. And a pig. (Because she's my mini-me when it comes to humor)

So, because I'm inclined to spoil my children once a year, she got maple glazed bacon with a pig on a chocolate cake. It was a challenge to make this cake while on vacation 1000 miles from my kitchen, so I made the pig ahead of time and brought the rest with me to make on-site. She wanted him to be on a blue cake that looked like dirt. Specific, ugly and easier than fondant.

I did like the pig, though. But I kinda felt bad for him.

 Poor little piggy.  Happy little girl.

the very specific cake

I realize I've not posted much for cakes this past year.  It's not because I've not been baking, but because I've been lazy in posting. I'm trying to catch up on all the things I've failed to brag about, so I'm hoping to post a few things this week. I know. You've missed me, dear followers - all 3 of you.

I've mentioned before how I have a child who starts planning her next year's birthday cake the day after her birthday.  She's drawn up plans for her next one already. Hoping she changes her mind from a cow jumping over a rainbow over a pile of emoji's.

This one was executed precisely as she described it and she was giddy.

"I want the grumpy red M&M guy reading a book under a fall tree and I want M&M's around the bottom of the cake."


I couldn't help but think of a favorite teacher at our school who loves both reading and M&M's.  Except she's not grumpy...or red.

Happy Birthday girl!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Construction Season

We have only 2 seasons here in Minnesota.  Winter and Construction.  Construction season has been the worst ever during the past few years.  I generally have one place to go during rush hour and all 5 routes to that one place was shut down or had major lane closures and back-ups for the last two years.  This summer, none of my routes are shut down (yet), but every other route is, so all of the traffic has migrated to my routes.  My son continues to be obsessed with construction equipment, so he naturally requested a construction cake "with real trucks on top" for his birthday.

This cake, from last fall, was my own way of venting about MN-DOT as well as celebrating the completion of all the season's projects. My son was pretty excited to have his cake and he didn't seem to care that I was being a jerk all over it (but I know I'm not the only one who felt this way).

You know you've seen this sign before.

I don't think that date is an exaggeration.

I realize this isn't exactly an accurate portrayal.
In reality, there would be 12 guys watching him sleep.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Methylisothiazolinone and School Supplies

After my daughter was patch tested over spring break for contact dermatitis, I spent weeks finding the right shampoos, soaps, lotions, and other personal care items.  By the end of the school year, her hands were 90% improved, but she still had a couple fingers that were stubbornly refusing to fully heal.  It was around the end of May that I found out via support groups on social media (Methylisothiazolinone VictimsMethylisothiazolinone Free and Allergy to Isothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone) that art supplies, glues, paints, insecticides, and almost every other item in the world contains the evil preservative Methylisothiazolinone.  My heart sank as I realized that my summer would be consumed by doing research for school supplies knowing that I would only scratch the surface.  I hated having to meet with the school’s art teacher to take pictures and make lists of everything in the supply closet and classroom.  The school was extremely helpful and the teachers accommodated my seemingly odd requests, but I am suddenly forced to feel like a weirdo granola helicopter mom.  My daughter’s teacher last year was well aware of contact dermatitis since her daughter struggles with even more allergies.  Even though I'm sure it will go fine, I'm still not looking forward to telling next year's teacher that I can't buy my daughter several things on the supply list and that I WILL be labeling all of her supplies to avoid cross contamination with other kid's lotions and soaps, and that she will not be wiping her desk down with Clorox or Lysol wipes.

I have thus spent many days of my summer compiling lists of school and art supplies and briefly researching a few cleaning supplies.  Some companies have been extremely helpful while others have given me the cold shoulder.  I find that, in general, the larger the company, the less helpful they are (with one or two exceptions).  I have found that the word “proprietary” makes my blood start to boil.  I did get some replies asking me to contact my doctor.  Evidently, doctors are allowed to know the secret ingredients, but customers are not.  I still need to request legal information to see what rights we consumers have. If anyone reading this is privy to legal requirements in the USA, please let me know!  I’d love to have a smart and valid response to “proprietary.”

Our school’s art teacher uses a lot of Blick artist supplies, so they were first on my list to contact.  Amazingly, the rep I was referred to was the most helpful person I found on my summer quest for art supplies and I can’t say enough good about this company and Audra, the wonderful rep that is still helping me out as I find more products to inquire about.

I sent this form letter to each company I contacted via email or online forms:

To Whom It May Concern:

My daughter was recently diagnosed with allergic contact dermatitis for glucosides (a common lathering agent) and for Methylisothiazolinone (a common preservative in, paints, glues and markers).  I am writing to ask you which, if any, of your {products} do or do not contain glucosides or methylisothiazolinone (derivatives listed below).

Even in trace amounts or hidden in fragrance mixes, these two ingredients cause an unsafe reaction for my daughter, so as thorough of an investigation as possible is essential for the safety of my daughter.  Since MSDS forms to not include methylisothiazolinone as a toxic ingredient, they are not sufficient in replies. I am contacting you along with several other manufacturers of office supplies, art/craft supplies and construction supplies.

Thank you for taking the time to address my family’s health concerns.


Jill Sandager 

1.    -glucoside, any ingredient ending with the word “glucoside”
2.    Names and derivatives of methylisothiazolinone
INCI names:
Methylisothiazolinone (MI / MIT)
Methylchlorisothiazolinone (MCI / MCIT)
Benzisothiazolinone (BIT)
Chloromethylisothiazolinone (CMIT)
Octylisothiazolinone (OIT, OI)
Chemical names:

CAS Numbers:
2682-20-4 – Methylisothiazolinone (MI)
26172-55-4 – Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)
55965-84-9 – MI / MCI Blend

Brand names:
Amerstat 250
Euxyl K 100
Fennosan IT 21
Grotan K / TK2
Kathon CG / LX / WT
Mergal K7
Metatin GT
Mitco CC 31/32 L
Neolone CapG / 950 / MxP
Parmetol A / DF / K
Promex Alpha / BM
Proxel AQ / PL / XL2
Special Mx 323

***(If you cut and paste, please add the following to the list: Bioban tm 557)

While this list is current as of August 2016, keep in mind that formulas change over the years. I hope to keep up with this list as much as possible.  This is far from a complete list as it is based on what I found in my own home’s art supplies and what our elementary school uses in the classrooms.  I have included the date I received information from each company and any extra pertinent notes that I received.  With the exception of Crayola, I found that the larger the company, the less helpful they were.  For purposes of this post "SAFE" refers to products that do not contain isothiazolinone products and "UNSAFE" refers to those that do contain isothiazolinones.

DISCLAIMER: I cannot attest to the safety of these products and many I have never tested or used.  The information is based solely on what I received from the companies I contacted.
Blick Art Supplies was and continues to be extremely helpful.  Audra, my contact, has replied to me as quickly as she gets the information.  I highly recommend this company! Even though all of their products are not safe for MI allergy sufferers, they are upfront and desire to help.

SAFE as of 7/25/16:
Ceramic Clay (clays are generally safe as mold is useful in the curing process)
Blick Studio Markers (most studio markers contain MI, but Blick’s do not)

*Yes! Stickflat Glue (contains Sodium O-Phenylphenate Tetrahydrate)


Blick Watercolor Liquid
Blick Block Printing Ink
Blick Essential Glazes
Blick White Glue
Blick Washable Glue
UHU Glue Sticks

Crayola was also very helpful and prompt, though they could only confirm a handful of their many products to be free from MI.  They mentioned how helpful the list of derivatives was for understanding what the allergy encompassed.  Upon inquiry I found out that this list is only valid in the United States and that each country/region has different manufacturers and thus ingredients will vary based on location. Here is a link to Crayola's list of contacts across the globe, current as of 6/15/16 for products sold outside the USA.

SAFE in the USA as of 6/13/16:
Neon Color Explosion Markers (comes in kits)

Chalk and sidewalk chalks (not added in Crayola's factories, but could not confirm that the dry pigments from their suppliers was MI-free.  Most dry pigments are considered safe)

All other products were not confirmed to be free of MI.

School Specialty was another company that was very helpful in regards to Sax art supplies, commonly found in classrooms.  I was able to get a lot of information from Anna about Sax paints.

SAFE as of 6/28/16:
SAX Ceramic Clay

PROBABLY SAFE as of 6/28/16:

*The manufacturer did want to mention that they have a raw material in their factory (not an ingredient in the paint or gesso, however) that contains MI and MCI in low quantities. But, again, this chemical is not present in the formulations of any of the paints or gessos.

Sax Write on Black India Ink**
Sax Block Printing Ink**
Sax VersaBlock Inks**

**Note from School Specialty: "While the manufacturer stated that many of the inks they manufacture contain BIT, they assured me that none of the Sax formulations contain this ingredient. They did want to let you know that one of the preservatives they use in the Sax inks is CAS no. 56709-13-8.  POLYMETHOXY BICYCLIC OXAZOLIDINE. They did caution that they cannot be 100% sure that none of the 20 or so ingredients they use in the inks contain any of the chemicals you had provided in your list, but they do not add any as a raw ingredient themselves."
I will avoid until further information is provided.  I'm not sure if polymethoxy bicyclic oxazolidine is in the same class as MI.  My organic chemistry class from college was a long time ago!

Sax All Block Out White Paint (contains 1.23% Acticide)
Sax Versatemp Tempera Paint, standard, fluorescent, metallic, pearlescent (contains 1.23% Acticide)
Sax Versatemp Tempera Additives/Varnishes (contain 1.23% Acticide):
            - 100243 Acrylic Drying Retarder
            - 442136 & 247313 Gloss Medium
- 442139 Matte Medium
- 442142 Gel Medium
- 403960 & 403961 Gloss Multi-Media Varnish
- 405602 Matte Multi-Media Varnish
Sax True Flow Gloss Glazes, Colorburst Glazes, Crystal Magic Glazes, Underglazes (contain BIT)
Odorless Mineral Spirits

RIT who makes the popular dye products was another company that was prompt and helpful.  They assured me that none of their dyes contain MI or any derivatives.  Most people would wear gloves, but understanding that some people have airborne allergies and not just contact dermatitis, it’s good to know that it’s a safe art supply.

SAFE as of 6/14/16:

Sakura of America is the company that makes Koi Watercolors.  I bought these for my daughter last year on an Amazon Cyber Monday deal.  Sakura was helpful and prompt.  I only inquired about the Koi Watercolors, so I can’t verify any of their other supplies.

SAFE as of 6/21/16:

did not inquire about other 

Elmer’s was helpful and prompt in reply but disappointing. And based upon my research with school glue, I haven't found any school glue or white glue that is safe.  This has been the most frustrating of my findings.  I have replied inquiring if any product they make is MI-free and am waiting for a reply.

SAFE as of 7/16/16:

All kid’s school glues and glue sticks 

Faber Castell was helpful and prompt in reply.  I specifically requested information on markers. The customer service rep was friendly and forwarded my request on and is getting back to me.  It took some waiting, but I am thrilled to update that the connector pens, which are fine tip markers designed for children, are MI free.  Here is the official letter of confirmation from Faber-Castell and I have to say, it's the most official letter I have seen in my quest.

SAFEas of 9/13/2016:

Duo Tip Markers 12 and 24 count.

Earth Pigments is a company that sells dry pigments.  I have been looking into making my own paints and markers. Since dry pigments generally don't need preservatives, I thought this would be a safe bet.  I just emailed them today after I ordered my starter kit to make lime milk paint, so I haven't heard back from them yet.  I will update this as soon as I hear from them.  I expect good news.  This link has the company's recipes and how-to's for natural paints

Planet Inc.  As far as wipes go (they are always on our school supply lists), the only wipe my daughter can use are 7th generation baby wipes and they're terribly linty.  We tried them out on a road trip and they were only slightly better than rubbing a wet tissue on your skin.  Thankfully, I have found Planet Inc. and they have an all purpose spray cleaner that is free from all of my daughter's allergies including MI, fragrance and botanicals. They were quick to reply with ingredient lists and even offered samples.  In fact, with the exception of their Ultra Liquid Laundry detergent, all of their products are MI and fragrance free.  Here is a link to Planet's product ingredients as of 6/27/16 and a link to Planet's product information page that they sent me at the same time.

N-Dex Gloves  For now, my daughter is only allergic by contact, so I have purchased nitrile gloves for her to use at school when a project requires her to use a product that contains MI.  N-dex gloves were specifically listed on my ACDS CAMP list, so I am assuming they are produced without the use of MI (I hear, but have not confirmed that some nitrile or rubber gloves can be).  These come in extra small and are a decent size for my 10 year old's hands.  They are a little big on my 8 year old daughter, but still ok.  It's not ideal to have to wear alien green gloves, but it's a good alternative to simply not participating when the kids have to glaze ceramics this year in art class.

Plaid Enterprises, makers of Folk Art, Plaid, Apple Barrel, Mod Podge, Delta was prompt and helpful but ruled out every product they make.

SAFE as of 7/14/16:


I received this reply from Heather:

"I am sorry to inform you that the all of the paints that you have listed contain BIT and/or Kathon.  In fact, I cannot think of a single product we make that does not contain a biocide or mildewcide at some minute percentage.  If you daughter is as sensitive as you say...then I would advise you to find other paint products.   
In all may have a very difficult time finding art supplies from regular big box stores.  We add those ingredients to allow for long shelve stability.  It may be more to your advantage to make some of your own art paints as you need them.  Paints have been made for thousands of years, but traditionally they were made and used in a very short span of time so there was little need for preservatives.  If this is a route that you would like to investigate...may I suggest starting with The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer or the Formulas for Painters by Robert Massey.  They may seem technical but give good old masters formulas for egg and milk paints that children can use.  And who she grows older...oils may be a favorite for her."

Newell/Rubbermaid updated 9/1/16 (makers of SharpiePapermateExpoParkerUni-ballPrismacolor) took forever to get information from.  I filled out an online form for the mother company and also Sharpie. I got a mail or fax-in form, filled it out, and after bugging them frequently, finally heard a reply 4 months later. 

SAFE as of 8/31/16:
Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers- All colors
Expo Low Odor Dry Eraser Markers- All Colors
Paper Mate InkJoy Ballpoint Pens (styles 100ST, 100RT 300, 500, 550, 700, and Quatro)- All Colors   *These are NOT the gel pens*
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils- All Colors

gel pens
all other items are unconfirmed as of now.

BIC emailed back after about 3 weeks and confirmed that their ballpoint pens are safe, but would not confirm other products.  This is a quote from the email they sent: "BIC ball pen items such as Atlantis, Cristal, 4-Color, etc. are all safe for your use.  However, we cannot definitively confirm if our supplier’s water based inks are free from these ingredients.  Therefore, gel pens, rollers, felt pens, and markers might contain these ingredients."

SAFE as of 8/31/16:
UNSAFE (unconfirmed ingredients):
gel pens
felt tip pens

Michael’s Stores was prompt in reply, but generally unhelpful. They sent MSDS forms which I confirmed from the Consumer Product Safety Commission do not include the biocide in question (MI/MCI/BIT,etc.) hazardous.  Based upon the reply from Plaid Enterprises, I assume most of their products are unsafe with the possible exception of oil paints.

Mattel/Roseart was unhelpful in their reply which stated that they would not disclose any information I had requested.  The buzz word “proprietary” was tossed my way.

Liquitex was contacted on 6/8/16 via web form and has not replied.

3M I emailed this company about Scotch glue sticks.  I even have a friend who works for the company, so I emailed him the same letter in the hopes that they would give information to their own employee. The only reply I got was from my friend who emailed me back saying he could get no information for me. Either they would not let him tell me or they would not tell him.


Here is a link to the very ugly Exel spreadsheet that I used to organize my findings. I'll keep adding and updating as I find out more, so check back.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, other product information or any legal help you can offer for getting information from companies.  Thank you to all my support groups!

2/8/17: *Reguarding the Yes! Stickflat Glue, a user said a rash broke out on her daughter when using this when it got on her hands, so use with caution.  It may have been due to misinformation from the manufacturer or may have been due to different allergens that may have been present in the formulation.

8/18/16  I have contacted Pilot, Faber Castell, Alex Toys, and Stabilo about their markers and pens.  Several have responded saying they will forward my request to the appropriate department.  Stabilo sent me a pat answer and a poison control number out of Germany. I have yet to call because I don't have time to spell out 3 dozen names of MI.