Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cheer Me Up Cupcakes

Since our whole family is still feeling very sad about Romulus, I thought I might try cheer everyone up a little and talk about cupcakes. Mocha cupcakes with buttercream icing, to be exact. Oh boy, they are good! My middle daughter wanted to make these so we got out all the ingredients and equipment and went to work. We used a new recipe and it actually worked on the first try- go figure. I let the kids decorate which was good and bad :), as you can see below....

Mocha Cupcakes

2 Tblsp. instant coffee

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temp.

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

6 ozs. unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 Tblsp. vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin pan with baking cups. Combine instant coffee and water, mix and set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mix well. Add melted chocolate, vanilla and coffee mixture; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to butter mixture; mix well. Spoon into baking cups. Bake 18-20 minutes or until center of cupcake springs back when touched. Cool completely before decorating.

Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla

4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

2 Tblsp. milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, mix well. Gradually add sugar one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape bowl often. Icing will appear dry after all sugar is mixed in. Add milk and beat on medium until fluffy. Refrigerate when not in use. Can be stored up to 2 weeks.

"When you look at a cupcake, you've got to smile."
-Anne Byrn

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this -- the last battle -- can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close -- we two -- these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.
Goodbye, Romulus. We'll miss you so much, old boy......

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Things that Make You go Hummmmm.....

Rude Kid

In an effort to deal with yet another bout of homesickness, I decided to steer clear of posting about the South and offer an interesting and amusing link to a site that can only make you go hummmmm about what the heck other people are thinking.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Classic Southern Comfort Food

As much as I love talking about Chocolate and the many ways to fix it and eat it, I am detouring here a bit to slip down memory lane. Pimiento Cheese sandwiches....ahhhhh! If you are a Southerner, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you are not a Southerner, I highly recommend you try this. When we were kids growing up in the South, my mother used to make this for us, even though she herself is not a Southerner. I had almost forgotten about how wonderful it tastes until I came across a recipe recently. I made it and went to heaven all over again.

Pimiento Cheese

2 cups finely shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (not a traditional ingredient-can be left out, if preferred)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1 green onion, chopped

1 jar diced pimientos (4 oz.)

Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Dry Mustard, a pinch

Place all ingredients in a food processor except pepper and mustard, blend on pulse. You want the spread to be creamy but still maintain plenty of texture. Add spices to taste. Serve at room temp. so it spreads easily.

You can spread this on bread and eat as a sandwich or use on vegetables or crackers. Traditionally, at least where I lived, we ate it as a sandwich. Use a sweet bread and add bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Hot sauce adds a kick if you prefer hotter foods.

"Southerners can't stand to eat alone. If we're going to cook a mess of greens we want to eat them with a mess of people."
-Julia Reed

"The South--where roots, place, family, and tradition are the essence of identity."
-Social historian Carl N. Degler

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thank a Soldier

Though I don't think anyone needs a reminder to think about and pray for our troops, this YouTube video caught my attention. It's called Remember Me. It's well done and really brings home how I'd like to think we all feel about our troops. No matter what your political beliefs are, it is the troops and their families that really matter.

"It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."

-Norman Schwarzkopf

"If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier."

— US Bumper Sticker

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

What Makes a Dad
God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew
His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it ... Dad

-Author Unknown

Happy Father's Day to my husband. Thank for being a great father to our kids!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chocolate Mint

One of the most fun plants I have ever grown is Chocolate Mint. First off, it's chocolate. How bad can that be? Second, it's so easy to grow a newbie to gardening, or even a relative newbie like me, would have a hard time finding a way to kill this plant off. Third, the smell is unbelievable. The leaves smell like peppermint patties. Yumm!

I got my initial plants from a wonderful seller on Ebay. She sent me extra plants and great instructions, and even included a recipe (which I am in the process of trying to find-Grrrr). Once planted, the plants grew quickly and multiplied like crazy. Over winter, I learned that you just dig a hole in the garden, place the whole pot in, and cover with hay. After you take the pot out in spring, you just pick up again with regular care and the plants come back with a vengeance. My kind of plant!

Some of you may be saying, yeah, great....but what do you do with this plant? Well, I wouldn't tell you all about this great plant without giving you at least a few recipes, would I? :)

"There are two types of mints you never turn down in life: breath mints and compliments. Either way, someone is trying to tell you something."


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Send me a Rainbow

Sometimes, life just gets to you. A friend of mine sent me this story and it helped me realize that I sometimes see the world in a limited perspective. Nothing earth shattering, but it can't hurt, right? :)

When Your Hut's on Fire

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.
He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him.
Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect himself from the elements, and to store his few possessions.
One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky.
He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost.
He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger.
He cried out, "God! How could you do this to me?"
Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island!
It had come to rescue him!
"How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers.
"We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

The Moral of This Story:
It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and suffering.
Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summon the Grace of God.

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."
-Dale Carnegie

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Forever our Dog

Lots of people lose pets. I know that. But when it's your pet, it's different.

Romulus is technically my husband's dog. My hubby likes the big, black dogs who love to guard and are loyal to the end. And that is what Romulus is. But a few years ago, when Romulus was about 7 years old, we started to notice him stumbling a lot. We learned he has a neuro degenerative disease. I think of it like Lou Gerig's for dogs. He was going downhill fast. The vet said that he would gradually lose muscle control then bladder and bowel control. Damn. The vet said a year left at best.

When Romulus was about 4 years old, we lost our Cocker Spaniel, Locksley. Romulus seemed sad and lonely for a long time afterwards. A little while after Romulus was diagnosed, we decided that we were all ready to have another Cocker join our family so we found Scarlett. The difference in Romulus was amazing! He defied all predictions that he would be gone in a year. He became so happy and almost like a puppy again. He played, ran, and enjoyed life. But now, Romulus is nearing 10 years old and the disease is taking it's toll again.

We have a date set to take Romulus to the vet to have him put down at he end of the month. It's so hard. He shows all the symptoms the vet said he would of advanced disease. Our hearts are so heavy. But we don't want him in pain. It's the best we can do for him-try to find that balance between when life is good and when it's a burden.

Here is to you, Romulus.

"If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience"

-Woodrow T. Wilson

Thursday, June 7, 2007

In Memory of Smitty Kitty

Four Feet in Heaven

Your favorite chair is vacant now...
No eager purrs to greet me.
No softly padded paws to run
Ecstatically to meet me.
No coaxing rubs, no plaintive cry
Will say it's time for feeding.
I've put away your bowl, and all
The things you won't be needing;
But I will miss you little friend,
For I could never measure
The happiness you brought me,
The comfort and the pleasure.
And since God put you here to share
In earthly joy and sorrow;
I'm sure there'll be a place for you
In Heaven's bright tomorrow...
by Alice E. Chase

We will all miss you, sweet kitty. Your parents loved you so much and so did we!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Treats Indeed!

Avalanche Bark is one of my favorite sweets. The first time I ever saw it, was in Williamsburg, VA (that place again!) at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store. It looked interesting so I decided to stretch my chocolate experiences a bit and try it. I fell in love. It's chewy, crunchy, soft and smooth all in one. Normally, I shy away from "white" chocolate which I don't even consider a real chocolate. But this treat uses it in such a way that it blends into the texture and comes out as a totally different experience.

These pictures are too blurry to really see the detail of the Avalanche Bark. I seriously need a new camera :)

Anyway, here is a recipe I found for the bark after coming home from Williamsburg in a panic cause I couldn't get more Avalanche Bark easily. Thank goodness for the internet!

Avalanche Bark

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 3/4 cups white chocolate chips

1 cup Rice Krispies cereal

1/2 cup slightly packed mini marshmallows

1/4 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips (frozen)

  • Melt peanut butter and white chips together, stirring constantly. Set aside and let cool for 5 minutes.

  • Transfer mixture to mixing bowl. Fold in Rice Krispies. Let cool until mixture feels barely warm (you don't want to melt the marshmallows and mini chips when you add them). Do not cool in the refrigerator.

  • Line a 4 inch x 8.5 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Spray the pan with cooking spray for easier removal.

  • When mixture is cool, fold in marshmallows first then mini chocolate chips. Do not over mix.

  • Pour mixture into the prepared pan, fold the excess plastic wrap over the mixture and gently press so it's even in the pan. If you want denser bark, press harder.

  • Place pan in the refrigerator for about 20 to 30 minutes to set mixture. When set, remove pan and cut into desired pieces.

"If the only way we judged hunger was how full the stomach is, no one would ever have dessert"

-Mark Friedman

"You know an odd feeling? Sitting on the toilet eating a chocolate candy bar"

-George Carlin