Sunday, January 31, 2010

No photos, but ...

RAVE reviews! Everyone loved the cakes - especially the carrot cake! It was gone faster than the other two. Chocolate was a close second, and there were actually a few pieces of streusel left at the end. I cut each cake in 16 pieces, so 48 pieces for 27 people ... they really, really liked it.

So - any of you who like carrot cake - the recipe I made up below is a keeper!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday is Baking Day

The church I am working at is holding a planning retreat tonight and tomorrow. I get to go along to observe and take notes and take photos (gotta remember to bring the camera!) and I really do mean it when I say "get to" go along - no sarcasm at all, I am eager to meet some of the people I email with or talk on the phone with, and I am VERY eager to see what types of plans they develop for their growth. The church is in a transitional phase right now with TONS of potential, having recently hired an impressive minister and a dynamo administrator (if I do say so myself) - they are poised to do some great things, if they can figure out how to organize and align themselves.

How many times over the past 25 years have I watched (or participated) as a nonprofit tries to plan for growth and development?!?!? It's got to be one of the most difficult things in the world. We will have about 40 personalities in one room, led by an able facilitator - I haven't met her yet but I am very pleased with the impression I have gleaned from her website, her emails and phone calls, and her plans. But while I have not met the majority of these 40 people in person, several of them I am getting to know quite well - and several of them are very headstrong leader types, which can be difficult in a group setting. Too many queen bees and not enough worker bees can make planning complicated and contentious. So I am very eager to see how this group works through all the strong personalities.

And - I am in charge of bringing desserts for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's lunch. I volunteered in the spirit of "Oh, I LOVE to bake!!" It's so easy two weeks ahead of time.

So - I am baking two batches of cake-mix cookies - the easiest, yet most delicious cookies there are:

1 Cake Mix (any flavor)
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
Mix up, drop on cookie sheets, bake 9-11 minutes at 350.

I made one batch of chocolate cake mix + PB Chips as "stuff", and one batch of yellow cake mix + chocolate chips as "stuff." Easy-Peasy.

Now I am working on 3 bundt cakes.

First, I am making Christy's Amazing Chocolate Cake - as blogged on previously, here.

Next, I am making a cinnamon-streusel cake - without a recipe. I have made them before, years and years ago, so I am hoping that if I just follow my gut, all will be fine.

And finally, I am making a sour cream carrot cake. Again, no recipe, but I have had this carrot cake mix in my cupboard for too long (they don't go bad, do they?) I've never tried this before - and I figure if it doesn't work out, I still have time to come up with another option. Basically I tried to adapt the chocolate recipe - so I added 8 oz of sour cream, 4 oz of baby food carrots, an extra egg, and then, when it seemed too thick, I added a 1/4 cup oil. It's in the oven right now - my fingers are crossed.

I'll add photos when they are all done!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sorry ...

Just don't know if I can do this anymore. Blogging, I mean. I thought I would give it a go again after the holidays, but it just doesn't seem to rank high enough on my list of to-dos, and I just never seem to have anything to write about.

So maybe I'll get back into it in a while, but for now - life is full and blogging is not a priority.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Heavy Sigh

In 2009 I lost two of these; one is back.

The holidays were killers this year. I loved every moment of gluttonous enjoyment, but I am paying for it now. And since I refuse to buy another set of work clothes, I simply must be strong and determined and get back into the ones I just bought in the fall.

Dating one who can - and does - eat any- and everything without being affected a whit makes it really hard. Plus he's so darn generous, always offering me bites of whatever indulgence he is taking in ... baked potatoes slathered in butter and cheese, fully-loaded nachos, chocolate treats of all kinds ... I'm drooling even as I write this.




(and then I found this graphic.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Super Juice?

I was recently given two bottles of Mona*Vie acai juice blend. It is supposed to be a "super juice" with tons of health benefits ... you can find just as many reports that it's a scam as you can that it's as effective as it claims.

But two women I trust gave it to me so I am going to drink it. Two ounces a day. I have enough to last me 3 1/2 weeks, so I will let you know if I feel any change. So far - my primary impression is that it's tasty!

Anyone (other than the two who gave it to me) tried it? Heard of it?

Hmmm ....

Processing what happened in Massachusetts today.

So many things to ponder.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Skol, Vikings!

Some how this year I have become a Vikings fan. Big time. I guess it's not all that surprising given that

A) They are having their best season EVER (well, at least in recent history)
B) I am dating a DIEHARD fan

I have to say I am really, really enjoying it. We have a small group of people that we gather with every weekend to watch, we laugh a lot, yell a lot (at the TV, not one another) and share the exhilarating experience of watching our team - OUR BOYS! - win, week after week.

Who wouldda thunk? Me - a sports fan!

Shows that I can change and expand my life even as busy (and [gasp] old!) as I am. Makes me curious about what other new changes in my interests and choices are still coming up? One year for my parents' anniversary I gave them something with the inscription "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be."

Can't wait to see what my best is going to be!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti and a Dream

Last night I had a dream that I was in a place that had had an earthquake. Now, it was nothing like Haiti - most buildings were still standing, and there weren't people dying in the streets, but there was no power anywhere, I was separated from everyone I know and love with no idea how to find them again, and there were people taking advantage of the situation and doing bad things that I was afraid of (no detail on what they were doing, exactly, just Bad Things.)

I had been on a train of some sort, and had developed an instant bond with another woman who was sitting next to me, as it's easy to imagine could happen in a catastrophe. The train doors opened, and there were two very young children - a girl and a boy - standing there crying, so this other woman and I drew them in to us and shared the thought that we would care for them until we could find where they belonged. She took the girl, I the boy. Shortly after that, we got separated and it was just the toddler boy and me.

We walked the dark streets (somehow it looked a lot like south Minneapolis) and I tried to figure out where I was going to get food for this baby, where we were going to have shelter to sleep, how we were going to protect ourselves - or rather, keep ourselves out of harm's way so we didn't need to protect ourselves, and where-oh-where was MY family?

And that's when I woke up, crying.

Suddenly this was real, and personal, and inside of me in a way that it wasn't before.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Helping Haiti

How can you not?

I read this.

I chose this and donated.

Please, give what you can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Health Moves

I have been working for the past few years to get my blood pressure under control, thanks to the genetic hand I was dealt. Last week I had a follow-up appointment with my enthusiastic young MD, after switching to a new medicine. And it works! None of the side effects, all of the benefits. He and I were both pretty much dancing on the ceiling. He is such a great doctor to go to - he really, really listens to me, even when I sound wacky or emotional, and he celebrates every milestone with me so enthusiastically. AND HE'S YOUNGER THAN ME. This is critical. I am of the age where I do NOT want to be switching doctors midstream as I age, and while I know there are no guarantees in life at all, finding a younger doctor at this point is even better than finding the perfect chocolate recipe!

Now we are tackling my cholesterol. It's not sky high by any means, but it's higher than we would like, so I am trying to make some lifestyle changes over the next 5 months and then will go back and get it checked. With luck and hard work, I won't need meds to get that down.

So I have started hanging with the Wilford Brimley crowd. I'm on day 2 of daily oatmeal. Thankfully I really like oatmeal. But even as much as I like it I think it may get monotonous, as I really don't want to succumb to eating Honey Nut Cheerios and calling it healthy. But perhaps once in a while, just to mix it up a bit.

And next, sigh, I am going to have to exercise.


OK, I think I have to go now.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Chili - nature's perfect "get warm" food

Tonight I made chili, from a new recipe I found on That is my favorite "go-to" recipe source. When I need a recipe, like I did tonight, I browse through their listings until I find one that has at least 4- or 500 reviews, and an average rating of 4.5 stars (or higher - on a 5 star rating scale.) This recipe had around 842 reviews and was a 4.5 star recipe, so I tried it out.

Unfortunately, no photos, as I (as usual) didn't think of it til after the bowls were scraped clean. But I will still share the recipe because yes, it was that good.

Flatlander Chili (no idea what that name means. anybody?)
(this is exactly what I did - which is varied from the original recipe)

Brown 1 lb hamburger
Add 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
Add 1 can "spicy chili beans" and 1 can rinsed white kidney beans
Puree one can of stewed tomatoes (so there are no lumps!) and add to mix
Mix together spices into a paste before adding to main pot:
1/4 c water
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each: black pepper, oregano, sugar, and cayenne pepper
3 tbsp flour

Stir spice mixture into pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 - 1.5 hours. Serve over bed of white rice, with grated cheese on top.

(original recipe calls for chopped onion, which I forgot, chopped celery & green pepper which I didn't have, and garlic powder, which I somehow didn't see so didn't do.)

Enjoy!!! We sure did.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

How I spent my Thursday evening

So Brian & I went to visit his mom in the hospital (a story for another post - the short version is she has a cracked pelvis but there is really nothing to be done about it, just bed rest, pain meds, and slow increase in activity as tolerated) and when we left the parking ramp, we heard a strange thwap-thump-thwap as the tires rotated. More intrigued than concerned, I pulled over to the side of the driveway to get out and look, thinking there was a hunk of ice banging or some such thing (which, in retrospect, seems kind of not really possible, but that's what I was thinking at the time.) Well, no ice or snow - just one flat tire.

And it's dark.

And it's about 4 degrees out.

And I am not wearing heavy-duty gloves, or boots, or a hat, even.

BUT! There is a gas station - a Sinclair - just a couple of blocks down the road, so we decide if I drive slow, with my flashers flashing, we can get there - perhaps, maybe, hopefully, it's just a cold-related thing.

So off we went, down France Avenue at about 14 mph, to the station, where a nice young man came running - yes, running - out of the station when we drove up -- "Full Service at Self-Service Prices!" -- and directed us to the air pump. He then looked at the tire, and asked what was going on, filled it with air, and then got his magic spray bottle of diagnostic power bubbles to discern the real problem (he tried not to laugh when I feebly suggested it might be the cold?)

He had me drive about 9 feet forward, and then, yup, there it was. A big-ol'-honking piece of metal sticking out of the tire. The nice young man told us he could fix it right there, while we sat inside the car (on our heated seats), all for the whopping price of $15.50, if that was OK. I told him I would even pay him $16 to fix it, and into the car we hopped.

I watched out my rear view window as he tugged at that piece of metal, and tugged some more, and lay down on the frozen tundra-like ground, took off his gloves to better grip the pliers, and tug some more.

This is one tough Minnesota Dude.

He could not get it out. He called his co-worker. Co-worker tugged. Tugged some more. Could not get it out.

Time for Plan B. We will remove (and I use the word "we" loosely) the tire, put on the spare, and they will attempt to do tire surgery in the morning. Brian and I move to the station, where Nice Young Man sheepishly apologizes because just this morning the heater in the station went out, and it's 38 degrees in the station. He points to the thermostat which displays the 38, as if we wouldn't believe him otherwise. But they have a small electric heater which looks older than my grandmother, in the corner, earnestly trying to heat the entire room, and Brian and I hover around it while we watch Nice Young Man and Co-Worker out there, bare-handed, trying to get the spare tire off the back of my car.

They can't get the protective cover off. Brian goes out to help, I stay with the little heater that could.

They can't get it off. I brave the cold to see what's up. They are worried about ripping the spare tire cover. I, being the car owner, have no such illusions and I YANK on that puppy, and now they call me She-Ra.


So, now we just have to get the old tire off. Oh, did I have you going there for a second? NOTHING IS THAT SIMPLE.

Now Co-Worker tells me the old tire is rusted on and the lug nuts will NOT loosen. Co-Worker, Nice Young Man, and Brian brainstorm and they decide if they re-inflate the tire, lower the jack, and rock the entire vehicle back and forth while standing on the lug nut wrench, maybe - just maybe - it will work.

By now about 45 minutes have passed.

They try their plan, and IT WORKS!!!!! Great celebrating ensues. Well, in our minds, anyway, it was too cold for anything else. So. Old tire is off. Spare tire (which is full-sized, not one of those little make-believe baby tires) is on. They ask if I want the Tire Doctor to look at the tire tomorrow, and Nice Young Man is salivating because he really REALLY wants to see what that sucker piece of metal so deeply embedded is, so I humor them and say yes. We all go inside to trade contact information, and I steel myself for the bill.

Two service workers, one HOUR in the frozen air, lying on the ground with no gloves on wrestling with my frozen hunk-of-metal car, apologizing to me because they have (nearly) no heat in the station AND it is taking so darn long.



TEN DOLLARS. Written up as "put on spare tire."

Good service is not dead. It lives in Edina, Minnesota.

Please stop by there for gas or service and tell them She-Ra sent you. They have won my undying loyalty.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Promises, promises ...

Ok, Ok, I am well aware that it's been a few days and I am overdue to write here. It's just that this week has been crazy-busy with the boys back at school and me back at work for post-holiday stuff (and did you know that Lent starts on Feb 17 this year? WAY TOO SOON.) And Monday we hosted my dear friend Ron from Amsterdam and Tuesday I had to make & serve supper at a women's shelter and then go to a band boosters meeting, and today I MUST get the church newsletter to the printer and it is no where NEAR ready and tomorrow I am meeting a friend for a drink after work to catch up as we have been woefully out of touch then Friday my parents come to town to stay overnight which means I have to get the sheets washed from when Ron was in our guest bed. And the dogs are almost out of food (but at least we have milk.)

So. I am thinking of blogging, but .... gotta run ......

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Cheery Thoughts for this COLD day

I do love cake and I do love daffodils, so this combination of the two is making me grin this morning! Can you even imagine this as your birthday cake? I think I would have to order a sheet cake next to it as I would be so hesitant to cut into this masterpiece. Thanks to Jen at Cake Wrecks for such a day-brightener!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year, Day 2

Well, I have to say, so far ...... meh. I have come to realize that I am not a big fan of New Year's. As holidays go, it just doesn't move me - it's because I am now getting to that part of life where the changing of one year to the next is more about the end of things than the beginning. I find myself looking back at who or what has been lost to us in the year that is ending. I find myself recognizing the parts of my life that are changing in ways that make me feel melancholy. I become sentimental and cry a lot and think of could've-should've-would've things and then look ahead at what I want to try to change and it just feels tiring.

Damn, I'm a lot of fun here, aren't I?

Before you start worrying about me - DON'T. I am fine, really I am. But just not all cheery and WOO-HOO IT'S A NEW YEAR!!! Perhaps it's my proximity to the big five-oh that makes me more aware of upcoming difficulties than upcoming possibilities. Well, that's an overstatment. I am not MORE aware of difficulties, but twenty - even ten - years ago, I didn't think about things related to aging at all, and now I do. And that's a sobering change.

A lot of people have been reminiscing about where they were on the eve of 2000, a decade ago. I was still married, hadn't started homeschooling yet, as the boys were 2 and 5, I loved being a mom but not so much being a wife (though I worked really, really hard at hiding that fact from myself and can only truly see it now from a distance.) I wasn't working outside the house, I was very VERY involved in my church, I spent my days going to ECFE classes.

Wow, not much at all that is still the same. I'm still a mom. Not a wife any more, not homeschooling any more, not going to ECFE (or any) classes any more. Not going to church any more (though ironically now work at one). Have a job outside the home.

The people who were my friends then are now people I rarely, if ever, see. Other than a few solid "forever friends" who will be with me until I die there is almost no one who I called friend at that time who still warrants that title. It's not that there were huge falling outs (fallings out?) just that those were friendships based on proximity, and shared station in life, and now that I have moved on both literally and figuratively, the friendships have faded away. And the people who I now rely on and spend time with weren't anywhere on my radar screen a decade ago.

Which naturally leads me to wonder if they will still be in my life a decade from now.

[Edited to add...] However, I also have one more significant difference in my life now that didn't exist a decade ago. This New Year's Eve I was (and still am) in the company of an amazing man with whom I am completely, mutually, marvelously, in love. And you know, that makes up for a lot :-)

So, happy new year, all.