Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tasty Treats

Those who read this blog regularly know cooking and baking are hobbies and a stress-reliever when I have the time to indulge in it. Last week I tested a recipe before I made it for mom on Mother's Day, and it was so delicious I think it's the best cake I have made this year. 


Serves 8
Prep 20 min. Total time 3 hrs b/ c of cooling

1/2 c . olive oil, plus more for pan
1 1/2 c . all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for pan
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. pinch a pinch of fine salt
3/4 c. whole milk
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 T. finely grated mandarin zest, plus 6 T. mandarin juice (about six mandarins)
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 14 c. confectioner's sugar

HEAT oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a loaf pan with o oil and dust with flour, tapping out excess.

WHISK together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 t. salt in medium bowl, set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, butter, vanilla, mandarin zest, and 4 T. of the mandarin juice; set aside.

BEAT the granulated sugar and eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on med-high until light and fluffy -- 2 to 3 minutes.

REDUCE speed to low and add the flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing well between additions. (The batter will be thin),

TRANSFER the batter to the prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 minutes (or 70). 

COOL cake in pan 30 minutes, transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

COMBINE the confectioner's sugar, the remaining juice and the remaining pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add a teaspoon of water or more juice is needed to loosen. Drizzle over cooled cake. Let set before serving.

There are a few things Arkansas is 'famous for,' in the food category: pink tomatoes, peaches, watermelon, and finally -- strawberries! The strawberries came out two weeks ago so I have been stocking up. When not gobbling them up whole or freezing them, I am using them any way I can. Excy loves my strawberry-rhubarb pie, but my frequent staples are shortbread and an Indian strawberry bread. If anyone is interested, I'll post these as well.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Weekend Update

Well, she did not take Frodo and Charlie. After numerous email's, buying more of his meds to get them stocked up, and assuring her they are indoor-outdoors cats, great hunters, and Frodo takes his little pill easily, she canceled our meeting, and then a day later wrote to say 'her husband was concerned about giving Frodo his pill.' Seriously? Lady you contacted ME. I understand there are lots of cats that need homes who don't have to take a 5 mg pill, but I was still annoyed, so didn't respond (after all, what was there to say?)  -- but also glad not to worry about them running off. I had assured her they were to come back to us should it not work out, but you never know what runs through a cat's head, ha...

Thanks, all, for not dropping me from your occasional reading list of blogs. Mom has been in and out of the hospital and between those dramas, their dr appts., beginning to get the house for sell, a few freelance writing and editing projects, etc., etc., the blog writing has slipped away. Mom's doing okay (for now), and the dr added two more chemo treatments, thinking we may be able 'to stay on top of it,' even though there is no cure. She has scans in two weeks. Other than that encouraging information, the biggest news is we finally, finally, forced them into getting a personal caregiver to help four hours twice a week by threatening to quit before we all fell apart. We have been struggling for 9 months and are tired of triage management -- a caregiver is going to take a huge load off me. It took a few meetings with a social worker, their new geriatric internist, family meetings, and my melt-down and threat to make it happen, though.

T just started last week, so this is still on a trial basis, but I think it's going to work out. Dad has turned on his charm and she 'gets' his dry humor, and mom is the kind of gracious lady who writes a thank you note after receiving a thank you note or a get-well card, so I think the parents will be on the best behavior and they will all get along fine. T is sweet but strong enough to insist on their having a meal or taking a stroll around the yard. She will take care of meals, laundry, housework, and errands. I am thrilled to have a pair of eyes and ears on them in the home and not to spend 3 hours cleaning out their refrigerator or throwing out pantry items from the '80s. When I found out dad's answer to their pantry moths was to put mothballs on the shelves, I decided it was the final straw. I was not moving into my old bedroom and it was just a matter of time before we were all spending the night in the hospital again.
The hospital couch-into a bed was clearly designed by a misanthrope (who should be forced to sleep on it every night for a month) and it's taken me awhile to get 'back to normal' (some semblance of it, anyway).

Last Saturday we had our Wing Spur fundraiser. Unfortunately everything in the state of AR was also planned for that weekend. We were forced into the date because the ASPCA is giving 90 nonprofits a chance to win a $10,000 grant based on how much we raised and how many people showed, and they chose the date because it was the 100-year-anniversary of the first arrest of a man for abusing a horse. The grant will be taking into consideration how small or large the nonprofits are and based more on the activities planned for the day. We had six artist booths, face-painting, and a fishing tournament for the kids (complete with an awesome bass trophy that also featured a horse on it!), hotdogs and burgers and vegan fare for folks, and of course, horse tours. It was a fun day, and not as disastrous as we feared (no one was sending donations or RSVPs!). But our regulars were busy and didn't respond, so we didn't raise much, and will have to do something in the fall. And being associated with the ASPCA hurt us a bit, since we have hunters around here who apparently take umbrage with the organization. All we care about is feeding the horses, and if we can win 10,000 so be it, but they didn't see it that way and a few didn't make an appearance. If you're on FB go friend the 'Wing Spur wild horses' page and see the pictures. We will eventually have them on the web page, but honestly with everything that must be done these days it's not high on the priority list (I know; I bad).

An eagle was back fishing the pond. Maybe he will be a regular. The mama 'coons are coming up during  the day to eat and take a break while the little ones sleep. The horses are loving the weather and swimming in the pond……I hope that you also enjoy the weather before the dog days kick in……..

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Hundred Years Ago Today…...

..Sgt Pepper taught the band to play! Sorry, couldn't help myself……there is a column in our newspaper that reprints news from 100, 50, 25, and 10 years ago. I thought this article from 1914 was worth featuring both  for the story and the antiquated writing…….

One stray, hungry mule nearly demoralized the Argenta police force last night, when about 9 o'clock it started to roam aimlessly along East Washington Avenue and the patrolman on that beat and several of his friends organized and went in force to put the mule under arrest.

A crowd quickly formed, attracted by the voices of the pursuers, and a deputy constable and several bystanders tendered their services in the chase. Although the patrolman making the arrest declares that the animal was insulted when approached by a blue coat, the mule immediately became as gentle as a lamb when the same officer brought him a large bundle of hay and a sack of corn.

Peace was declared by the mule, he signifying his intention to become a permanent boarder, by peacefully wagging his tail.

Isn't that wonderful? 

Everybody cross your fingers and send out your best prayers/rants/and chants -- someone is interested in taking in the studio cats, Frodo and Charlie! They need a 'forever' home, so we are hoping it will  happen……one hitch is Fro has to take a every-other-day Prednisone pill for his autoimmune system, and the husband is worried about that and the cost -- I bought some more, which will get them 4 months along, and it isn't expensive. Frodo takes the pills willingly since he knows breakfast is following the duty-dose.  Maybe he also knows they make him a bad ass: The steroids have pumped this boy up to 20 lbs., all muscle! But still a sweetie, who wants his own person and a willing lap….

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On the Periphery of the Oscars

In 1989 I was 26 years old, and felt like I was living in an updated version of the Mary Tyler Moore show (in a good way). I had been divorced two years, loved my job, loved the condo I lived in, and life in general was good. In February I took a business trip to Los Angeles to attend a Design Show that coincided with the week of the Oscars. Being a huge movie fan, I was excited by the coincidence.

I spent the first four nights of the week in LA at a swank hotel in the Hollywood area to be closer to my editor and 'the action' of the Design show. One of the Oscar parties was being held at the hotel and the staff was busy setting up downstairs around the pool and lobby.....they were bringing in live lions in cages (which I felt really sorry for), a full bar, flowers, catering --the whole deal, when I left for appointments. The magazine hired black Lincoln town cars to ferry us back and forth that week and I was wearing my typical 'New Yorker/East Coast' outfit of black with black sunglasses that day. By the time I was returned to the hotel early evening, crowds were standing on the sidewalks watching arrivals. The driver drove past the taped-off security line and up the circular drive to drop me off. As I stepped from the car, people actually clapped, assuming I was 'somebody famous.' It was very funny, but I didn't crack a smile and instead pretended I was 'in the industry'  as I swept into the lobby. Later that night I went down to watch the festivities and was leaning against a pillar with my arms crossed, watching the mingling beautiful people and trying to catch a glimpse of a celebrity when some woman came up and asked if I was 'Security!' Since at the time I weighed 125 lbs soaking wet I wondered what she thought I could accomplish.

After my work week I stayed on through the weekend and switched over to the Chateau Marmont. I knew the history of the hotel from 1920s Hollywood crowd on, and also admired the architecture, and had always wanted to stay there. It was well worth it. 

And there was more celebrity spotting: during 'happy hour' in the lobby the first evening, the actor John Shea was giving me the eye. As he was walking towards me two little old ladies rushed up to him to chatter and get his autograph...he looked at me and smiled and shrugged as I got into the taxi for dinner. At the restaurant I saw Bob Hope sitting two tables across from ours holding court. He had his table-mates in stitches all evening. I wish I had been close enough to eavesdrop!

As I was checking out Sunday morning I struck up a conversation with a very familiar looking man. He looked so familiar, in fact, I assumed I had seen him all week at the Design show. I was blathering away about architecture and design when it struck me suddenly I was chatting up the playwright and actor Wallace Shawn! He saw the look of panic in my eyes as I realized I did not, in fact, know him, and he smirked as he leaned towards me and whispered "It happens all the time." 

Thank heavens he had a sense of humor. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Two quick reads

Finding little time these days for long novels, I recommend two short reads that have crossed my path.  Both are first-time fictions from friends (for full disclosure) but recommended……

Running With George by Charles Lunsford is a fictional drama with elements taken from Chip's life experiences, which gives the story its flavor of authenticity. Set in sunny Florida, the book is an absorbing drama about a man who, on the cusp of 40, finds himself at odds after his husband of 20 years dies suddenly. After a long period of mourning 'Chester' begins to wake up the fact he must move forward. After taking a hard look in the mirror and not liking what he sees, he vows to begin running. A chance encounter with a runner and neighbor leads to an unexpected new life directions, with new friends and, at long last, a new love. Whether you are gay, lesbian, transgender or straight, the story of taking risks and starting over is universally relatable. It has some steamy adult content, so make sure the kiddies don't pick it up :) Running With George is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Regal crest, and has a FB page.

Immaculate Conceptions by S.E. Sward is another highly fictionalized drama taken from elements of real life experience. This novel follows the adventures and experiences of four young women dealing with the pleasures and pain of relationships, marriage, and the trials and tribulations of trying to have children. The  four women, having difficulty conceiving, find one another through a fertility website. Though each are dramatically different with such different lives, what follows are friendships that last through many ups and downs. You may find yourself rooting for one or more than others, but you will always remain interested in the outcome of their lives. This book is now offered as a free download:  

Immaculate Conceptions Free eBook
The author hopes you will share the story with family and friends and through word of mouth, and rate and review it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Lulu, GoodReads, Book Crossing, Shelfari, Tumblr and any other social networking site you may be on. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Want some Ice?


Here is the link to TALES FROM THE SOUTH podcast. I am the second storyteller.

We are engulfed in another 'Ice Age' week……so far the gutters are torn, the roof may need some work, trees are down all over, with some root balls showing, and the bamboo hiding our neighbor's trailer home and dog kennels isn't looking happy. WOWZA. More snow and ice are expected today and Monday and Tuesday.

Between running to town to drive "MR and MRS 'Daisy' " to the hospital and dr appts life's just a laugh-riot. Really considering how we can afford a trip -- anywhere - but holding up a bank seems the only option. I don't think I have the energy to deal with the fall-out from that, but we shall see.

The mustangs -- normally lovers of cold weather -- are crying 'uncle' and huddling in their running shed, which is quite unusual. The wild geese have to be held at bay or they will chase off the ducks for their food. The 'coons seldom brave weather like this to come to the terrace to eat, but when they do I keep an eye out so they don't slog through the ice and snow only to be disappointed.

The other day in ONE day I made lamb stew, chicken-cheddar-tomato stew, coleslaw, and apple pie. Now all there is to do is grow fat watching TV until we can thaw out….what are your plans this weekend? At least there is Downton Abbey and Sherlock on Sunday...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

one wedding photo

Some of you wanted to see a pic of us, so this is on our wedding day…Excy's hair is tied behind his back -- I rather miss it long...