Cicadas and Slurpees…

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It’s hard to fathom just how many are out there this year. It sounds like hundreds and I just might not be that far off.  I’ve been finding small holes in my yard under the pines for weeks and their empty shells litter the landscape.  The South has been invaded, the Cicadas are here.

As they sing atop the magnolias, pine and poplar all around the neighborhood and the temperature and humidity rise signifying afternoon storms are on their way I was whisked off to my childhood and simpler times.  A neighborhood full of stately old magnolias, azaleas and bring streets one of which still exists today.  Although now all but that brick road has been replaced by parking garages and lots in its day there stood a quintessential Southern neighborhood.  It bustled with the usually kids on bikes, barking dogs, lawnmowers whirring and the comings and goings of the court house & downtown area.  Nestled a between downtown and the court house was my stomping ground.  I could see the front of the historic court house from my back yard.  Beneath the towering old oaks my friends and I would jump our bikes over their protruding roots practicing for our future careers as were would dreamed of following in Evil Knievel’s footsteps at the tender age of 8.

Most often I remember after a busy morning of spectacular bike jumps and tricks and upon hearing the noon whistle blow my friends and I would retreat to our homes and emerge with whatever gourmet lunch an 8 year old (or our moms) could whip up.  It was the 70s mind you, so my preference in those days was white bread, bologna and catsup sandwich, a side of cheese balls and one of my moms aluminum tumblers full of sweet tea or if I was lucky grape cool-aid.  Our pallets were obviously very cultured at that age.

We’d sit beneath the leaning Jacaranda tree in my side yard listening to the summer cicadas savoring our lunches all the while boasting of cool jumps and epic tricks.  Then We’d plan our adventures for the second half of our busy day.

On hot afternoons when we craved a slurpee or some candy we’d grab my aunt and my wagon and head for the 7-Eleven  7 blocks away picking up pop bottles as we walked.  By the time we got there we usually had enough bottles to get our goodies.  In those days I was usually barefoot, I only wore shoes to the grocery store and church.  By the time we got back the bottom of my feet were pitch black, we called it 7-11 feet.

There were no video games or computers to sit in front of, no cell phones to stare into with social media distractions.  It was real, tangible and happening all around us at any given moment.  We rode bikes, climbed trees and explored as far our little worlds would allow.  All the while knowing that the louder the cicadas sang the shorter our summer was getting.   It would soon be back to school with the smell of freshly sharpened pencils new books and warn lunchroom rolls.

I would love to go back for just one day.  One day to ride my bike, climb that mulberry tree or ride my wagon down the sidewalk without crashing on the corner, I know I could make that turn this time.

Even then, as we walked through the neighborhood treasure hunting for pop bottles we could hear the cicadas singing in the trees.  The sweet smell of magnolia and honey suckle floating on that warm summer breeze they were there, buzzing and zipping from tree to tree.

Today my bicycle has been hanging in the garage for a few years now collecting dust and they just opened up a new convenience store/gas station a few blocks from my house.  But alas they don’t have any penny candy or a slurpee machine either.  What I wouldn’t do for a banana slurpee or a banana flip right now.

I may just go get my bike down, clean it up and take it for a spin down the green way today and try to get a glimpse back into those days of cool jumps and fantastic tricks.  Then, sit in the back yard under the trees and have lunch with my husband while the cicadas serenade us .

Tomato Folklore

38E779B2-F942-4D9B-B8EF-63CBD0E6CFB8_1_201_aIt is already too hot for the devil himself outside, there’s a heat advisory today so I went out with the sunrise to tie up my towering sunflowers and a trellis of pickling cucumbers that drooped last night after a heavy rain.  I picked my first tomato of the season as well.  Although, I have no idea what kind of tomato it is.  You see, this year is “the year of the mystery vegetables” in my garden.  

This spring I was able to find all of my saved seeds in the kitchen junk drawer, but the writing had rubbed off the baggies so I had no idea what they were.  If you haven’t gathered yet, I am not a savvy gardening savant.  At least I could tell the type of seeds they were for the most part (peppers, tomatoes, squash).  Oh, did I mention I have mystery peppers and squash in my garden.  Not quite knowing exactly what I’m growing excites me a little bit, gave me that “devil-may-care” semblance.  So I started me seedlings, being sure to separate them by some mediation but markers were useless at this point.  Most popped up in the next 2 weeks but then, the pandemic hit, work went into hectic overdrive and there was a medical emergency in the family.  I did get the opportunity to move the seeds to the garden into what I proudly call my “Southern Green houses” which are some clear plastic tubs turned over.  Hey, it worked great.  I uncovered them to let them harden as it got warmer but then, I strayed for a time from that true southern woman’s instinct, woven into our genetic makeup somewhere down deep is the need, nay the desire as I age to wear a big funny hat and grow tomatoes.  

By the time I had gotten back out there my tomatoes were a foot tall and so were the weeds around them.  Mind you I’d left everything squeezed like an 80s teenage girl in a pair of Jordache in the seed starter trays (and yes, I was one of those girls).  

My work was cut out for me, I began to weed, and tend the soil,  bartered some pineberry plants for a few bell peppers, chili, pickling cucumber and basil and I was off to the races as they say.  

606D9C00-E67E-4248-8341-698EB44002C2_1_201_aThis morning as I said, I picked my first mystery tomato. Adorning my Sherlock Holmes hat with magnifying glass in hand I’ve begun the arduous task of identifying this little cherry-esque tomato. 

I gather seeds as a squirrel would gather up nuts for winter.  Whatever vegetable finds it way into my kitchen is fair game.  Like a mad scientist in his lab, I dissect these poor veggies to their own horror.  I bought some of those cherry tomatoes labeled “artesian” a while back so I have a feeling this tomato “tree” may be a product of seeds I sniped up while making a salad, that’s how I roll.  And yes I said tomato tree.

This thing is taller than my 6 foot privacy fence and the stalk has begun to resemble a small maple tree.  

15F8A11C-BE55-4AA1-BE06-7B7D0CA7019D_1_201_aIt reminded me of a summer in 2005.  We’d decided it would be a great idea to move North because we were sick and tired of the South and its “southerness”.  So we picked up and randomly moved to Pennsylvania.  When we arrived the house we’d arranged to lease fell through so with a Uhaul toting our possessions we scrambled to find another.  We happened upon an eccentric farmhouse nestled on a century old orchard on the side of a ski mountain.  It was bliss.  

Our back yard was a cherry orchard, to the side was a black berry patch, then pear trees and across the road were the biggest Granny Smith apples I had ever seen.  You had to get to them before the wasps did because the orchard had been long forgotten by its original owners so the bugs and birds were the proprietors now.  Over by the blackberry patch the night life was jumpin’.  We’d sit on the back porch in the evening to watch the deer graze and thousands of fireflies dance the night away.

 It was right off that porch where I had decided to stick a couple of tomato plants that spring.  I am, I suppose what you’d call “an accidental gardener” because those tomato plants had hardened trunks and produced well over a hundred tomatoes that summer.  Tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, usually quite big and some twisted and huge, heirlooms I believe. They were stored all over the house that summer, like an invasion of tribbles from the Starship Enterprise.  Open a cabinet and they’d come pouring out onto you.  I may be exaggerating just a little bit.   At one point we’d begun to think we were on some ancient Indian burial ground and that plant was possessed by some ancient spirit because of how it grew like an old twisted tree eloped from a haunted forest.  I was down right scared of it by the time fall sauntered in.  We had to excavate the stump out of the ground that fall, it was burrowed into the ground stronger than a deer tick on an Alabama Cur!  

Early the next spring the well ran dry at our quintessential little farmhouse and the owner decided not to continue leasing so we moved to an apartment in the city.  And as the South usually does, it called us home like your Momma to supper on a warm summer evening and we went back to her. Sometimes when the summer nights begin to cool and cicadas song begins to wane we still speak of that ole twisted tomato tree we grew on the orchard that summer.  Each time the lore is spoken the tomatoes are more plentiful and large, the stalk more tree-like and twisted but it was, in reality, a sight to behold and legend to be part of.  A wondrously tall tale to be spun.

 

Beads, beaches and Bungalows

Today is Monday.  Not the sort of day that promotes inspiration but none less I am inspired.  I’ve found a new mania and it has really become a passion.  I’ve started stringing Bohemian hippie style beaded bracelets.  At first it was for myself because I really love the look of having several earthy colorful bracelets on ones wrist.  But, it soon became apparent that I had made too many and that is when the idea came to me that I should sell them.  I have a shop on Etsy with a few Florida style necklaces and k   noted pearls on it but I wasn’t feeling an artistic vibe when making those.  At least not like I do when making the bracelets.

I really love the idea of making the jewelry with natural earthy stones so I have been picking out those types at the craft store but I didn’t feel as though they were quality nor were they truly authentic.  So, this weekend I decided to take a little road trip into Nashville to try and find a bead shop with quality authentic beads.  It was Sunday so quite a few were closed but I found one open in East Nashville so my husband and I headed out.  He wasn’t really to enthusiastic about going “bead” shopping but there are also some amazing artisan restaurants in the area so he was up for it.

We got there and although in a small space this shop was packed with goodness.  He actually enjoyed looking through the store immensely and even found a couple of things he liked.

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The name of the shop is Red Dog Beads on Woodland Street amongst several other artisan shops I wish had been open.  I was impressed by their selection and the staff was amazingly helpful and pleasant.  I will be returning for more supplies for sure.  And, I will reveal my shop where I am selling all of my artistic creations when it is set up and ready to launch.

On to the next “B”, beaches.  The weather here in Tennessee has been so far from pleasant most of the time lately I’ve fallen into a depression a time or two. One grey overcast cold and/or rainy day after the next with no sunshine.  You see I am a Floridian, and this just is not going to work for me at all.  So of course my mind wanders straight down to the tan cinnamon sand and warm breeze of the coasts of Florida, which use to be about 10 minutes away but is now like 10 hours.  Ok maybe a little less but if feels like 10,000 some times.  I run on sunshine.  My friends all say I am truly solar powered and my batteries are very very low right now.  So don’t be surprised if there is a blog from the beach very soon.  Or a least a pool in a tropical climate.

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Recently my son has been going through a minimalist phase ( a whole other blog post entirely) and it has inspired me to do the same. So, on Saturday I decided that the kitchen and then my closet would the perfect places to start.  After hours of debating and 7 boxes and trash bags filled (of which most will be donated).  It’s a really liberating feeling to tell the truth.  because my husband and I have been discussing how we can spend our lives living with work here and there instead of spending it working and stressing with a bit of living here and there.  Let me just say there is an amazing documentary called “Minimalism: A documentary about the important things” that has changed our way of thinking about our purpose.

Anyway, we have been throwing around the idea of minimizing our bills, our living space, our carbon foot print and so on seriously for about a year now.  We’ve toyed around the tiny house idea but aren’t really into the whole tenement on wheels so we’ve started looking at plans for a tiny house and I believe we want to build our own.  More of a small bungalow or sorts.  We would have solar panels and hopefully solar hot water as well.  A garden, a great big garden so I don’t have to go to the grocery so often.  You get the idea but it’s an evolving plan right now.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  If you’re in Nashville check out the Red Dog and go have lunch at The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden.  If this gloomy winter weather has you down find some sunshine and give the minimalist documentary a watch.

The Adventure Kit

As the years pass it gets more and more difficult to buy presents for my husband.  This year was no different.  At first I could not think of anything and I spent weeks searching, hoping I’d see something that would trigger that “its prefect” moment.  And unlike many other Christmases I actually found it.   He’s been talk about going to Utah and the mid west “exploring” the state parks all the way to the West Cost for some time now.  But not just driving around and staying in a hotel, Nope.  He talks of camping under the starts and hiking through the wilderness, exploring the Mountains, paddle boarding the lakes, kayaking the rivers and experiencing the beauty.  I am eager to photograph it all ,capturing that beauty.

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My Husbands gifts included LED tents lights and lantern, a military compass and the crown jewel – a Napier Sportz Truck Tent.  I love the idea of this tent being up off the ground and in a truck bed.  My Son also gave us brilliant gifts of L.L. Bean boots and Wigwam Socks which are the most comfortable socks I think I have ever had.

So the day after Christmas we put on out boots and took our tent out to the woods for a “test” set up And I must say this tent was truly the easiest to set up other than our little bitty 2 person pop-up.  We were able to get it completely set up in no time – minus the tailgate polls – so two thumbs up on that, and the take down was even easier.  AND, it fit right back into the carrying bag with no struggles what-so-ever, a Miracle, right?

The true test will be this weekend.  We will be taking it down to the Southern Alabama woods for a true test of ruggedness and withstand ability of the elements.

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My Christmas was also a bountiful one, I received my L.L.Bean Boots, Wigwam socks and – Jeep accessories of course.  You can never have enough of those.  And, being it was 72 degrees on Christmas Day I was inclined to wash “The Grey Jedi” and treat the fenders and bumper before winter fully sets in.  I do believe I will be getting a slant back topper in the spring and I am shopping for bumpers right now..  My new LED headlights and fog lights are truly awesome.

 

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Oh my, I almost forgot about Christmas morning.  I was going to make home made cinnamon rolls but, the time just flew and so I improvised.   Pillsbury Buttery Crossiants, cinnamon, brown sugar, butter and raisins.  12 minutes later, YUM!

 

 

 

All in all it was a wonderful Holiday and I can’t wait for our first weekend adventure.  and I will post all about it.

Hopping you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

 

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Old Fashioned Brownies

These brownies are from the old cooking style of cooking everything together before baking it.  I absolutely love this recipe, they were an absolute hit at my house.

 

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So, I could not help myself last evening and had to make this recipe I came across in the family recipe archives.  I don’t know which family member originally wrote this recipe but it is amazing.  The taste reminds me somewhat of those cosmic brownies you can buy at the convince stores.  I get one every time we take a road trip.  I’ve noticed each of our family members has a particular snack they go for with we travel.  Mine is Milo’s Sweet Tea, Cosmic Brownies or Combos.  What’s your favorite “road trip” snack?

 

OLD FASHIONED BROWNIES

PREP TIME 10 mins

COOK TIME 20-30 mins

TOTAL TIME 40 mins

Serves: 12 GIVE OR TAKE 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup sifted flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS

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  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter glass baking dish  5×7″.
  2. Measure shortening and cocoa into a saucepan and stir together over a medium low heat until shorting is melted.
  3. Stir in sugar and milk, bring just to boiling point, then remove from heat.
  4. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt and add to chocolate mixture along with vanilla, nuts and eggs.
  5. Pour into buttered baking dish.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Chicken Tetrazzini

 

This meal is sure to please even the pickiest of dinner guests – easy to take along as well to any holiday pot luck.

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As I sit in front of a crackling fire with my precious Lucy at my feet (my Dog) slowly sipping an apple brandy I write this.  Christmas jazz plays in the background and all is right with the world for a moment or two, so I ponder the day.  With Christmas upon us I was reviewing my gift list, checking it twice actually.  I still have a few gifts to buy and recipes to test before the big day.  The season of baking and cooking is now in full swing and my thoughts turn to sherry, not cream sherry but crisp clear dry sherry.  I love the way some wines will actually coax a hunger from deep within, something that makes you want savory delectables.  So I searched my recipes and behold, I have plucked this one from deep within the archives.I am most proud of how the chicken tetrazzini came together as a beautiful meld of sherry, cream and buttery goodness.  I used a very old, about 40 year old, family recipe from our New England kin and followed it to the letter.

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I started with a young tender whole chicken.  The house filled with it’s calming aromas throughout the afternoon.  Boil this slowly to extract every ounce of essence from it.    After slightly cooling in the broth, remove the chicken and shred the meat, adding the skin and bone back to the broth.  This practice gives abundant flavor to the dish.  Cook broth down to about 2 cups of liquid when strained.  It should have a nice full bodied aroma and be very dense in color.  Sauté mushrooms in 3 tablespoons of butter and a teaspoon of sherry for 2 to 3 minutes, set aside.  Once the bottle of dry sherry had been opened things began to “warm” up a bit.

 

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So, Back to the recipe.  Strain your broth well in a fine sieve.  Cook and strain your pasta of choice.  Melt 3 more tablespoons of butter and blend in 3 tablespoons of flour, once mixed well add this to broth whisking over low heat until smooth and thick. While stirring the sauce this would be a perfect opportunity to ensure your choice of dry sherry was a good one, taste test thoroughly.  Add heavy cream and sherry to your broth and incorporate well.  Divide the sauce in two parts, add the shredded chicken to one part and the pasta and mushrooms to the other.  Choose a baking dish that has a round or oval shape as it will be most appealing, I did however use my rectangular one which worked out fine.  Coat our dish with butter then add your spaghetti with mushrooms, arrange in the dish with a “bowl” in the center for the chicken and sauce.  Once this is constructed sprinkle with cheese of your choice, I took several slices of smoked gouda cheese and julienned it.  The smoked cheese gave way to joyous marriage with the sherry in this recipe.  Bake this at 350 degrees until browned, about 20-25 minutes.

 

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The rest of sherry is for the evening of delightful eating and merry making you should have.  The best sherry is a chilled sherry, served in a small glass to sip and enjoy the aromas.  It is perfect with a little something to eat.

CHICKEN TETRAZZINI

PREP TIME 30 mins

COOK TIME 2.5 hours

TOTAL TIME 3 hours

Serves: 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (4 pound) whole chicken
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 pound Pasta of your choice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons dry sherry

INSTRUCTIONS

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  1. Prep chicken, place in heavy stock pot, cover with water and 1 Tablespoon salt.  Summer until tender.
  2. Cool in broth until able to handle.
  3. Remove chicken from broth, spread meat, adding skin and bones back into the broth.
  4. Cook broth down to 2 cups after straining.
  5. meanwhile, sauté mushrooms in 3 tablespoons of butter for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  6. Boil pasta to desired tenderness and drain.
  7. Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter, blend in flour until incorporated and add to the broth stirring over low heat until smooth and thick.
  8. Add the cream and sherry to the sauce and mix well.
  9. Divide sauce in two parts.
  10. Add one part to shredded chicken, add the second part to pasta and mushrooms.
  11. Pour pasta mixture into casserole dish, making an area in the middle adding the chicken and sauce there.
  12. Sprinkle with desired cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until brown.

Roast Beef and Cheese Croissants

Roast beef and cheese croissant with a honey mustard glaze – a quick and delectable late night meal.

 

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I simply love late night dinners, they can be so cozy and intimate.  My husband and I decided to go check some of the trails in the state park nearby last night after all the rain we’ve had, mainly to test out the new light bar he installed on his vehicle.  It was a beautiful night with grey clouds floating over the Waxing Gibbous moon and beyond sat the midnight blue sky.  We’ve never rode these trails at night so the experience was new but absolutely exiting.  It was truly beautiful to see at night.

We did however take a wrong turn on the way home hence it took us a little longer than expected.   Dinner was much later than usual but delicious all the same, and simple.  We started by slicing the croissants open and adding some Boars Head deli meats, London broil roast beef, Maple glazed roast chicken, honey maple ham and Hickory smoked Gruyere cheese (my favorite).

I’ve found my new mania for the season, a honey mustard glaze when baking breads and rolls.  I’ve tested a couple of variations and all have been my absolute favorite so far. The base is Honey, brown sugar and a good natural dijon mustard, I favor Publix brand dijon mustard.  I tried this with an added dash of Worcestershire sauce for a hamburger and cheese casserole recently and it was a huge hit with the family.   I will “officially” make that recipe soon and post the results.

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I accompanied these croissant sammies with some Granny Smith apple slices and a delicious cranberry orange relish for a bit of contrast and it was simply delicious.  I still need to work on the relish recipe a bit more before I have it just right.  I’d hoped to have it ready by thanksgiving but that did not happen.  When it’s right I will share this as well.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  Once we had our croissants stuffed with all our favorite deli meats and cheese I brushed on the honey mustard mixture, liberally I might add, and baked them for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

This took no time to make and is a great breakfast lunch or dinner for those busy times, especially around the holidays.

HAM AND CHEESE CROISSANT WITH HONEY MUSTARD GLAZE

PREP TIME 5 mins

COOK TIME 10 mins

TOTAL TIME 15 mins

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 croissants
  • 8 slices good-quality deli meats
  • 8 slices Gruyere cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Slice the croissants in half lengthways. Place a slice of cheese on the base of the croissants, followed by deli meats and another slice of cheese.
  3. Place the croissants on a baking sheet.
  4. Mix the mustard, honey and brown sugar together and brush on top of the croissants.  Place in the oven for 7-10 minutes to heat through.
  5. Serve with apples cranberry relish or you favorite side.

 

Maple Bacon Cupcakes

These cupcakes are a perfect blend of sweet and salty, dense and moist loaded with maple syrup.  Perfect to wow any holiday party.

 

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It all began with Bacon.  I’ve made these delicious carnivorous cupcakes in the past and since that day have had many many requests for them.  So, when my husband requested them for a potluck at work I could not say no or pass up the challenge. The blend of sweet and salty tantalizes the taste buds and not to mention there is bacon on them.  As my sister says “you could wrap an old shoe in bacon and I’d eat it”.  She has such a way with words.  Did I mention there’s bacon?

I just want to say, to candy bacon in the over is the most gracious and wonderful thing you can do to it.  I mixed up some brown sugar, rice vinegar, maple syrup and a little black pepper and brushed the bacon as it baked turning it once to cook evenly.  The aroma in that filled the house was euphoric.

But of course to marry that with a maple flavored cupcake literally makes the angels in Heaven sing.  The recipe I use for the maple cupcakes is a basic one.  I  love how the pure Canadian Maple Syrup gives it that distinctive tang.  This recipe produces a rich fluffy cupcake.

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These cupcakes came out spectacularly.  My husband goes through the McDonalds drive thru in West Nashville most mornings and there is a sweet mature woman that works at the drive thru.  He said she is ALWAYS smiling, always polite and she usually brightens his mornings, especially on Mondays. The day he was taking the cupcakes he stopped for his morning coffee she was there, all smiles and happily greeting customers, he asked her if she liked bacon.  She replied “of course I do” so he said “here’s a cupcake.

A day or so later he returned for his morning Java, she told him she had posted a picture of the cupcake on her Facebook page that day and it blew up her page.  And, they were a huge hit for my husband at work as well.  They went so quickly people were getting one and hiding it.

I did mention the bacon didn’t I?

 

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INGREDIENTS:

For the Candied Bacon

  • 1 LB bacon
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Pure Male Syrup
  • pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix brown sugar, vinegar, maple syrup and pepper in small bowel.
  3. Place bacon slices on a baking rack set into a shallow baking pan lined with foil for easy cleanup.
  4. brush top of bacon with brown sugar mixture and bake for 10 minutes, turn and brush other side with brown sugar mixture, bake at 5 minute intervals turning and brushing with mixture until bacon has reached desired crispiness.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cupcakes

  •  2½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¾ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 stick unsalted butter @ room temperature
  • ½ c. packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼ c. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ c. Buttermilk

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin pan with paper liners, I find parchment works best.
  2.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Set aside.
  3. In standup mixer beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed in a large bowl until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and syrup, incorporate.
  5. Stir in flour mixture by thirds, alternating with the buttermilk.
  6. Fill lined cupcake pan with batter using an ice cream scoop (about 2/3 full).
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool and ice as desired.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Maple Icing

  • 2 LB unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 6Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Pure vanilla extract
  • bacon garnish cut into 1 inch peices

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Using the wire whisk attachment for your mixer while the butter at medium high speed for 5 minutes scraping sides as needed until fluffy.
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low and begin adding the powdered sugar 1/3 cup at a time until incorporated
  3. Increase mixer speed to medium hight and mix until fluffy about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add maple syrup and vanilla, mix an additional minute.
  5. Ice cupcakes as desired with bag and tip or spatula
  6. Add bacon slices to garnish (up may also crumble bacon and sprinkle on top of icing as well

 

 

Finding Hope in Sweaters

It’s that time of year again! Time for bon fires and cocoa, fuzzy boots and big cozy sweaters (thank God!) I need them to hid the weight I’ve gained this year from my stress eating.  Life has handed me an entire lemon orchard this year and food has been my comfort.  I have packed on the pounds so it’s time to get a grip.

I wandered over to my Pintrest account https://www.pinterest.com/DominoLargoFL/ to get some health and fitness (and diet) inspiration along with some oversize sweater ideas for fall.  I think I’m just going to go buy some lap blankets and make some ponchos for the winter, I swear.

But the realization of my weight gain and the health issues it is starting to cause (aches and pains) has lead me to a life changing decision.  I have decided to start working from home starting in November.  My body is more important than my financial gain at this point.  And why bother if I may not able to enjoy it at retirement.  I feel like I may not even make it that far.  Most of my financial stress will be past me in October which thrills me greatly.  The next big stress in my life I will promptly be ending at the end of October.  My commute to and from work and the time spent in between being stuck in a position because you know it too well, so you get passed over for advancement.  The stress and frustration I have on a daily basis due to this undoes any attempt at being healthy.  For if the mind is not healthy the body surly cannot be.

My days fly by during the week like a blur of long hours commuting and working 11+ hours a day and at the end I feel nothing but exhaustion and frustration.  I can find nothing right now I feel I can compliment myself for and my body feels ravaged and old, much older than I am.  I continually search for happiness but find very little in my week.  My weekends are my only salvation but my time with family and hobbies is overshadowed by rushing through the 2 days to get all the chores, commitments and errands done before Monday rolls around again.

I need a “Self-Care” plan and I need to grant myself the time to care for myself.  For instance.

Eat a healthy clean breakfast (not a microwave burrito)

do 30 minutes of yoga (not a stressful commute)

tend the garden (not reply to sensory emails)

Take Lucy for a walk (not walk to the break room for terrible coffee)

compliment something about myself (not wonder where the morning went)

I need to come up with a self care plan, I’ve found a lot of information on the subject so I am going to work on one and I will certainly share it went complete.  I found this site as my starting point http://enlightenedstate.net/home/2015/11/30/how-to-create-a-self-care-plan-and-why-you-need-one-with-a-free-self-care-printable so here is where I am going to start.

 

 

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To Be, Or not to Be…

Yesterday I turned 49, yes I said 49.  But, I do not feel my or nor do I act it.  I feel like I am still in my mid 30’s and I act as such as well.  All of my friends are younger, even my husband is younger than I am.

But my body has been ravaged by years of bad eating habits and not exercising.  The good I have done has been to quit smoking in 2005, only drinking wine on occasion and sometimes a martini, and taking care of my skin the best I know how.  I try and get plenty of sleep and I have been doing yoga on and off for many years which I absolutely love.

My challenge lately has been making good use of the gym membership I started in February.  Also, keeping my calories counted and making healthy choice continually.

The struggle is for real!

About a month ago I woke up not quite feeling right and by the time I was on my commute to work I had developed an excruciating pain in my lower left side.  The short of it is I have a large cyst on my right ovary that has become slightly solid and needs to be remove.  I’ve seen the Oncologist who has assured me that my chances of cancer are about 1.5% and after the remove I can resume my normal activities.

This IS NOT my first rodeo.  When I was 38 I had the exact same thing on my right ovary, a much larger mass and had to undergo a hysterectomy, retaining only my left ovary.  I have for the past few years been going the menopause so the loss of my only ovary does not terrify me in the least.

Research, Research, Research ladies.  I’ve been doing my homework on the affects of lower  estrogen and with my greatest concern being loss of sexual desire I had to make sure I handles this change in my body in the best way possible.  Your adrenal glands, fat tissues and even your brain produce estrogen ladies.  And, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study finding that good sex is all mental. So many mental factors can sabotage your desire such as stress, frustration and fatigue to name a few.

Do your research, know what to expect, get out that sex fantasy rolodex (you know we all have one) and fear not the post-menopausal era of your life.  The best tool you can use to be as happy and as healthy possible is knowledge and seeking knowledge for others.  I am no doctor, I am no philosopher I am just sharing some of the knowledge I have aired.  There is so much more out there so please, do your research.

The Gynecological Oncologist I was referred to was a wealth of knowledge and has helped prepare me for what lies ahead.  For this I am thankful.

As far as mood swings go I have been in the throws of menopause so I am familiar with these.  My best tool to deal with them is knowing when I am being irrational, stepping back to asses my feelings, sometimes taking a moment to rationalize your situation and reevaluating you reaction can save you from having to apologize later.  Sometimes it happens, we “loss out cool” but if we are surrounded by people who love and understand us all can move forward in harmony.

With my yoga practice I also incorporate daily meditation to help balance myself.  This is my most prized and precious tool.  Having a calm and balance mind can get you through the toughest of days sometimes.

Take care, nourish your body and mind.

I have been going to the gym 3+ days a week, practicing yoga 2+ days a week and eating a “mostly” plant based diet.  I do consume some soy products because Soy contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones that may mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in your body.

simply put, my goal is to be absolutely fabulous by my 50th birthday.