Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Cup

Chocolates and Peeps and Jelly Beans...Oh MY! Nothing like nibbling a chocolate bunny with your morning cup!

Plundering a box received earlier in the week...filled with goodies...because good things always come in boxes :)  Along with the traditional de-earring of the chocolate bunny. 

Face it. It's NEVER too late to have a Happy Childhood!

Catching up with all three of my boys today...looking for the perfect newborn lacy dress for Ava (scheduled to arrive in August) before I head to Tampa in May...want to surprise Casey...anxious to see Lennon with James on a to see a beach...Happy for Chris who seems to have found the car he has been looking for...and celebrating Bella's birthday with Jake and Amanda...and he loved the ginormous Crunch Bar (sorry son, I think your chocolate bunny got ran over)...and me...enjoying the peace and quiet... puttering in the soon-to-be-gardens in 60 degrees...loving SPRING at last...and getting excited about REAL HUGS soon! Tennessee arrangements made and picking up a few more sundry items before heading that way many days is it now???  It is nice to have a friend who counts the days, too! Sharing Chocolate Bunny Talk with Pam and so happy she is out of the hospital :)  Heading out to see her next week as well as Barbara and Kara for coffee mid-week. Busy times!  Baking lemon chicken with green beans and new potatoes, tonight...and Rum Chocolate Creme Brulee for afters.

Creme Brulee! I have unraveled the mystery and finally perfected this sweet...lacy caramelized crunchy...exquisite dessert. As a fellow writer added when I mentioned the dessert propane torch used to caramelize the sugar topping 

"A propane torch in the could THAT possibly go wrong?"

Happy to report both I, and the kitchen, emerged unscathed... 

Rum Chocolate Creme Brulee

2 cups heavy whipping cream.

1/2 cup granulated sugar

6 egg yolks

pinch of salt

1 Baker's Square semi sweet chocolate

1/2 tsp rum flavoring (or optional 1 teaspoon dark rum)

Heat whipping cream with chocolate to scalding. I use a microwave and it is ready when the chocolate has melted.

Beat together sugar and egg yolk mixture in separate bowl...add salt and rum. 
 Mix together whipping cream/chocolate with the egg mixture...beat well until completely mixed. 

Pour into ramekins leaving 1/2 inch headroom.

Bake at 350 until done (about 20 minutes)


Then top each dessert with a layer of granulated sugar...and carefully use torch to will turn golden brown and bubble.

Return to chill until served. Topping will cool to lacy crispness...custard beneath will be velvety smooth.

(...a broiler can be used to caramelize sugar...if you monitor burns easy...)

(note: for traditional Creme Brulee...omit the rum and chocolate and use 1 teaspoon vanilla instead) 



Friday, March 29, 2013

A Cup of Equality

Watched the Supreme Court Oral Arguments closely this week on the probable overturn of Prop 8 and DOMA.

I have been waiting for the Gay Rights issue to be brought to The Supreme Court for a long time.

It seems historically, The States have proven, when it comes to disenfranchising specific segments of the populus and attempting to legislate discrimination...they will. Think Women...Blacks...Asians (California during WWII)...Jewish. In each case it has been The Supreme Court that has had to step in repeatedly to assure that the Constitutional Rights of the minority are protected from the majority.

Below are bits and pieces from this week's oral arguments, I found particularly revealing:

That 6 of the 9 judges tended to agree that banning gay marriage was creating a separate "class" and that in itself was unconstitutional.

That the premise that marriage (the main argument of the State) was for procreation purposes and the children...and then self-refuted by admitting that couples childless by choice, infertile couples, and post-menopausal couple were all allowed to marry.

That DOMA was not developed to create a Universal Marriage Standard but...and this

(verbatim from the House Report when DOMA was created)

“Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality,”

Because you can voice moral disapproval all you want...but it is unconstitutional to create a separate class of people and laws because of your moral disapproval.

This best reflects my feeling on the subject:

Don't like your rights taken away?
Don't take away anybody elses.

Terrifyingly, and maybe the sign of the impending apocalypse- Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and several members of the GOP have vocalized seeing the writing on the wall...that DOMA and Prop 8 will be overturned.

My take on it?

This could be a Watershed Moment for Gay Rights (as well as the Supreme Court) This could be our Woman's Vote...or Civil Rights Act...encompassing 50 States and nullifying discrimination written into our State Constitutions. A moment for the history books.
But don't bet the farm on it, just yet.

It took from 1890 (first allowed in Wyoming) -1920 (...when it became nationwide) before Women in the United States won the RIGHT to vote.

A cozy 30 years.

The Civil Rights time-line has an even more shameful delay...with starts and stops. Even after slavery ended, when a black person was considered (legally) only 25% of a human being. From 1948 when Truman signed executive order 1954 when separate but equal was declared unconstitutional.

(I actually started to use the term abolished...but in the Southern States as late as the mid-sixties the signs and facilities remained...I saw them...and if you think the attitude has totally been abolished...even here in don't get out much.)

In 1955 Rosa Park was making history by not moving to the back of the bus.

In 1962 President Kennedy had to mobilize 5,000 troops because of the riots over ONE black student trying to legally attend the University of Mississippi.

In 1964 black people were STILL being murdered over registering to VOTE.

Until 1967 interracial marriage was STILL BANNED. Interesting, using many of the same arguments we hear against SSM.

And in 2008 the Civil Right Act of 2008 was passed in order to assure that Federal Funds were not used for discriminatory purposed.


So excuse me if I am skeptical of the States "doing the right thing...simply because it it the right thing to do" or not legislating discrimination because it is "unconstitutional" because, frankly, the States have a pretty poor track record.

My point.

These things don't happen overnight. They don't even happen over a decade. Amazing progress has been made since 2000...but it is probably unrealistic to think that this Supreme Court is going to change the world by June.

What I  foresee- is both the overturn of California's Proposition 8 (and a case that will set precedence for future battles) and most certainly the overturn of DOMA...both will be deemed unconstitutional.

And their overturn will be stepping stones to future Gay Rights.

But hopefully the Supreme Count will take a minute and realize how woefully dismal leaving these type of decisions up to the individual states has always been.

Equality....for ALL

Final thoughts:  If a Gay Man or Woman can taxes...serve in the military...fight...kill...and DIE for this seems that they should also be able to MARRY the person they LOVE.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Cup of Cocoa...Snow...and Hope

Happy Monday!

Sipping hot cocoa and rethinking the whole  "...maybe get a jump on Spring Gardening..."  thing.

Broadsided last night out of the Great Plains with about 6 inches of new wet snow.  Drifting in the valleys and stuck to the firs. This morning, all that was missing were the Christmas Lights :)   It's warming up, now, though...and all around is the sounds of clumps falling from trees and gutters and downspouts...and water dripping.
                And the robins, thrilled over the bread I've tossed outside.

All things considered it is very good for the soil, and will make Spring planting easier when the temperatures rise.

In less than 15 days I will be headed toward Spring: Tennessee-Style ( Opossum Fest is a bit later in the year...closer to the car show...yes there REALLY is one...) but Angie reports that the trees are blossomed in Memphis...the bulbs are up...Spring and the pollen is in full swing so

 "...don't forget antihistamines..."


 The girl thinks of everything! Going to do some Southern-Style Cooking together...and of course Duplin Wine and Dark Chocolate!  Can't wait! Have an idea for an in-the-studio photograph I think she will love!

This week's book:  Eight Girls Taking Pictures

by Whitney Otto. A fictional portrayal of eight female photographers spanning 1917 through the end of the 20th Century. Taking a close look at the "conditions" specific to female photographers...and sometimes just females during those turbulent years. My favorite passage uttered by Cymbeline Kelly (1917):

"Men ban women (photographers) from the battlefield, then they tell them that the only important pictures are taken on the battlefield."

This book inspired by the real-life works of eight prominent female photographers...with the author projecting a story and a pseudonym for each of them.  A book to be savored a life-story at a setting.
Excellent piece of work.

So...hoping for warmer weather soon. Gained back 10 of that 25 pounds I lost last year.  It's always the same 25 pounds. Starting to realize it fluctuates seasonally...and that it isn't the snow so much as the hot cocoa and homemade breads and thick stews and soups. Okay, and maybe the it is just the way we are programmed. Squirrel fat...for the winter.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Spring Cup...The Rest of the Review...Recipe and More


Okay, maybe not quite warm enough, yet. Not quite basking temps. Maybe the tulips and daffodils are still weeks away and the ground is hard as cement...but according to the equinox we've made it through another winter. And THAT is certainly worth celebrating!

Finished the Fifty Shades Trilogy last week with the final book Fifty Freed. The third being a much better read than the previous two. The three books could have been edited down into one really incredible book (The actual storyline and backstory was very good) With the third book her writing seem to mature. Not so much of the oooh...ahhhh and a nice tying up (pardon the pun) of loose ends of the story. Complete with the feel good Hollywood ending! Although you can't go into these expecting breathtaking might be pleasantly surprised. Glad I gave them the time. Nelson. 
Now untie Eric, okay?

Getting the last arrangements made for my Early Birthday Adventure with my very best friend, Angie. Planning to plunder Memphis together!  Can't wait for Coffee and Biscotti (at the SAME table), to see what she has done to her studio, to "play in the dirt" a little...because at her Cottage it is already warm...explore some of the little nearby finds she has been telling me some photography...and REAL HUGS!!!  Also plan our Great Lakes Duneside Adventure for summer while she is here in July.

Putting the finishing touches on The Mindful Life: Zen Living with a release date of April 24, 2013  My 53rd Birthday  :) And continuing to hammer away at The Ashes...with a (hopeful) 2014/2015 release.

Planning a raised bed of those Tribute Strawberries this year..and have the perfect recipe to share. Thanks to Sue in Texas. Going to buy some California berries and give it a try soon.

 Quality Control...Job #1.

Strawberry Layers

Line baking dish with whole graham crackers.

Layer CoolWhip dessert topping over grahams.

Top with fresh sliced strawberries.

Another layer of graham crackers.

Another layer of topping.

Another layer of strawberries.

Repeat with the third and final layer of graham crackers.

Top with whipped topping.

Then sliced strawberries.

Cover entire dish with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.  This step is a must. Graham crackers will soften to a nice cake-like consistency!  Quite like a trifle.

Just before serving drizzle top with melted semi-sweet chocolate and drizzle serving plate with chocolate syrup or a sifting of powdered sugar.

Best served cold- with coffee or black tea.

(...although an extremely simple recipe...when cut and served this has outstanding presentation...and is delicious...)


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Monday Coffee and A Re-Blogged Cup

(Sometimes, something is so perfect...the only thing you can do is share it. Thanks Kris- for helping me re-focus...)

22 Things Happy People Do Differently

There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, smiling and content with their life. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.
The question is: how do they do that?
It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.
Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.
Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.
The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.
There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

5. Dream big.
People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.
Being nice feels better than being mean. As fun as gossiping is, it usually leaves you feeling guilty and resentful. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they pro-actively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.
Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savor the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the roses.

10. Wake up at the same time every morning.
Have you noticed that a lot of successful people tend to be early risers? Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.

11. Avoid social comparison.
Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

12. Choose friends wisely.
Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

13. Never seek approval from others.
Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

14. Take the time to listen.
Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

15. Nurture social relationships.
A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Always take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

16. Meditate.
Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a Zen Master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

17. Eat well.
Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

18. Exercise.
Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

19. Live minimally.
Happy people rarely keep clutter around the house because they know that extra belongings weigh them down and make them feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Some studies have concluded that Europeans are a lot happier than Americans are, which is interesting because they live in smaller homes, drive simpler cars, and own fewer items.

20. Tell the truth.
Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

21. Establish personal control.
Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth.

22. Accept what cannot be changed.
Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

So true...every word of it!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Roses, Tea Rooms and a Sunday Cup

Sunday at last...and an hour later, I might add...thanks to DST.

Spent a thoroughly wonderful Friday at my favorite tea-room (Almost Home) with Tammy and Loretta. Sipping tea and enjoying their signature broccoli casserole brunch while discussing the latest creation of David Austin Roses~  The above photographed~ "Keira"  Although they are still unavailable to plant (soon I hope) the latest creation is sold cut. Love the huge papery petals which number over 100 in each rose. As well as our Spring Planting plots and plans.

Have several other "Old Damask Roses" that I am adding to my border this Spring.

For your own David Austin Catalog

They are remarkable!

Spring Cleaning done except for having the carpets finished...and tackling the storage (patio) shed this afternoon in the 50+ degree warm up. The snow has melted. Robins are everywhere. Heard Mourning Doves at dawn. And it smells like Spring at last!

Everything arranged and looking forward to an early birthday celebration with "Idgy" soon... Can't wait to see your new little town and your Cottage/Studio! 

Continuing with the 50 Shades Trilogy this week...with the second book Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James.

Opening with a flashback of his early childhood, a nightmare. Ana having walked away from him at the end of the first book because of his fetish. 
Darker fleshes out Grey's psychological character more and we are introduced to Elena (~the older woman/family friend who helped build the sadistic Mr. Grey~) and also one of his former submissives. The watered down SMBD scenes and descriptions become tedious and repetitive and I found myself skipping over them often to get back to the story. Once again...a full 3/4 of the encounters could have been edited out and would have vastly improved the novel. And the exclamations of holy cow...or holy hell...or _______ continued to be as unrealistic and distracting as ever.  The numerous e-mails between the two characters were this novels saving grace. Funny. Quick-witted. Sarcastic. Entertaining. Have noticed a bit of maturation in the writing by the end of the second novel. There is hope. 

Finishing the Trilogy early next week to start on my book club's book of the Month:  Ender's Game. 

Off to enjoy the warmr weather and clear the shed!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A "Fifty Shades of White" Cup

                                           The Blizzard of 1947's kind of like this...

Spring Proper may be only weeks away...but the tipping bulbs and readied flowerbeds and baskets are back under several inches of snow here. It appears I now live in Narnia and I can't find my way back to the damn wardrobe.

And taunted by my Coastal boys:

"Don't know what you're talking about is 75 degrees and beautiful...oh and look who we met at the beach shop while we were buying shades!"

To quote Kevin "Bloody" Wilson,
 "It's enough to make you spew."

So it is back to a Winter Wonderland here in Indiana. Wonder being the operative word. As in...I wonder where the snow shovel is?
                                      I wonder what that lump on the porch is? 
                                      I wonder where the cat is.
                                      I wonder why we have to Spring Forward to DST when it
                                         is clearly still Winter?

That is right.
 Sunday...that hour that we bat back and forth like a seasonal game of Pong, disappears again till Fall.

                              (beep...boop....beep beep...boop)
 It is okay. Nowadays, with friends from Coast to Coast and across the pond in several directions...nobody really knows what time it is, anyway. Cue Chicago. Hell, with the global climate change...most of the time we can't even look out the window and be sure of the SEASON.

A surprising (to me) collection of books for the next three weeks. And keeping with the spirit of the whole thing.

"Thank you, Mrs. Nelson...and sorry about that e-mail asking you WTH Dane was doing dropping porn off on my breakfast table."

Call it pre-conceived notion, This from the writer who once read Rushdie for the sole reason that if someone is going to issue a fatwa over a piece of literary work...aren't you obligated as a fellow writer to read it.  ~sigh~
( The correct answer should have been "No." btw)

So when a family friend sat extolling the virtues of a certain trilogy that I have actively avoided like a Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele, or stack of Harlequin Romance Novels I nodded and smiled and was agreeable...but quietly inside was
laughing to myself, "Oh hell no." with a misplaced sense of literary smugness.

Yet on Sunday, kicking and screaming, I was dragged into the twisted world of Christian Grey.

And...yes...I really did send the e-mail. 

So...a review of the first book in the trilogy...a book I really wanted to scorn after all the ohmigod...gasp...and BDSM goes:

Fifty Shades Of Grey by E L James.

This book is the first EVER novel by this writer. Worldwide Recognition. Not bad for your first attempt.  Dom/Submissive sexcapades aside...the psychological aspects of Fifty Shades are what make it an intriguing novel. Enter Christian Grey...who, as a child of a crack whore mother, was beaten, burned and abused by her pimp repeatedly before the age of four...then left locked in a room with her dead body until days later he was discovered half-starved.  Fast forward to a 15 year old Christian who (now adopted by a wealthy family) was seduced by a much older female family friend with serious issues. Resulting psychologically in the 27 year old Mr. Grey of our novel. The building of the perfect beast. The Fifty Shades being self-referential- describing himself as "...fifty shades of fucked-up..."  At times the writing is obviously immature- a first time work. Some of the sexual scenes are repetitive to the point of boring. And I have never met anyone outside of BATMAN who says "Holy...______________ (anything)  Especially during sex. The latter being far more distracting than entertaining. The BDSM was for the most part...pretty vanilla on the S&M spectrum. And while we're at it...3/4 of the gratuitous sex scenes could have been deleted and it would have been an exceptional book. The story and back-story was what elevated this from a twisted Harlequin Romance Novel to a book worth reading.  Looking forward to beginning the second book Fifty Shades Darker for next week. So if you haven't checked Fifty Shades out...keep an open may be pleasantly surprised! I certainly was.

And Mrs. Nelson...thanks for the "breakfast table porn"...laughing....and no...I will never look at an elevator the same way again. Oh...and I think my safe-word may have to be chocolate. <grin>

The return of winter-like weather resulting in a primal need to BAKE something. As always. So, thought I would the house fills with the scent of coconut cream and meringue. One of my favorite pies.

Coconut Cream Pie with Meringue and Toasted Coconut Topping

In medium mixing bowl combine

1 cup of milk

3/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup flaked coconut

2 whole eggs.

1 pinch salt.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or one vanilla bean scraped)

Turn into premade pie shell.

Meringue Topping

Whisk together three egg whites...1/4 cup of sugar...and a pinch of Cream of Tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Using spatula cover entire pie top with meringue before baking and sprinkle top evenly with additional flaked coconut.

Bake at 350 degrees until meringue and coconut are lightly toasted and center is set. About 25 -30 minutes.

Can be served warm or chilled.


In World News...the Pope has now resigned...Chavez is dead and "Sequesteration" continues...shaking my head.

Come to think of this point Mr. Grey seems almost sane. 


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Evening Cup

Catching my breath after a week filled with Grandchildren!

Brenden and a mid-week shopping spree...balloons...library books and Mexican restaurant... just like his Dad...he loves hot salsa...stuff that would sear my lips off, he just laughs and dips another chip!  Slipping out of his seat and "scootching" next to me to give me this ginormous hug and "I wuv you, G'wama Wose"

Yeah...that's the good stuff.

Hannah and an evening of Pizza and Playdoh and "Pop-O-Matic" board games...Muppet Movie and making fridge magnets...

And Kaylee who arrived when Hannah left to read stories and camp on the sofa and wake in the morning to have hot tea with me

                                                        Morning Tea

And make our own Playdoh tye-dye pocket stones and helped whip up "Maple French Toast with Whipped Cream"

                                            Kaylee's Breakfast Creation

Exhausted...but thrilled with all the Grandma Rose time :)

Looking forward to all of us planting flowers (and strawberries) together in Spring!!! And soon our March Teddy Bear Tea and Hannah's 6th Birthday Party!

Off soak in a bubble bath up-to-there...a facial...a loofah...the spa ocean waves sound-machine...a bit of dark chocolate  and perhaps a glass of wine.

I've earned it...~laughing~