Happy Friday!

I have been waiting for the weekend since, well, since Monday. Maybe since before Monday.

I think a little dancing,

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reading,

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and baking might be in order. (Yes, I made that bread…last week…and I’m ready to make more.) ūüôā


bread

What are your plans to celebrate?

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Mama’s in the Kitchen…

I’m not making shortening bread…but I have been up to my ears in pots and pans and bowls and beaters over the past several days. That’s what fall does to me. I just don’t know any other way to function…so into the kitchen I go…and what comes out becomes a blessing and a curse. (Thankfully, I also exercised and ran yesterday….) ūüôā

Well, over the weekend, some loving friends secretly “Boo”ed us…as in they dropped treats at our door with a cute message and instructions to “Boo” more people within a certain amount of time…which brought me back into the kitchen (after cooking and baking most of the weekend) to make something sweet to share. I had been eyeing this recipe¬†from Lil Luna¬†since it was posted recently…and I found my moment to make it! Hooray!!!

Let me tell you…it was divine.

I have shied away from pumpkin bread recipes in the past due to my unhappy experiences of the bread being either too dry or not fully cooked. Either way I tried to slice it, it turned out all wrong. Fast forward several years (maybe more than a decade), and–with this recipe–I have found phenomenal success. So much, in fact, that I’m glad I sent most of it out to neighbors and friends before I really tasted it (I was too full after our yummy dinner of chili and grilled cheese last night…I told you…cooking mania over here)…because after I tried it again today, I’m thinking I might have saved a little more for ourselves. (Just kidding. At least, I hope I’m kidding.)

To top off the experience, my house smelled FAB-U-LOUS yesterday. Like fall. And today, it tasted like fall, too. ūüôā

Here are my notes:¬† I doubled the recipe, which made three large loaf pans and three smaller loaf pans.¬† The batter looks really wet…especially as you add the water to it.¬† FEAR NOT!!! It will be the most delicious thing you have tasted lately.¬† I promise.¬† Also, the batter rises–A LOT…so fill the pans about half-way, sprinkle the streusel generously (I doubled that, too…of course!), and bake on a cookie sheet in your oven.¬† And–one more thing–I couldn’t find cloves, so I substituted pumpkin pie spice for¬†half of the nutmeg/ginger/cinnamon/cloves in the bread and half of the cinnamon in the streusel.¬† I was a little concerned the extra spices would put it over the top, but it was amazing.

Hugs and love to all of you! & happy baking!!!!

ūüôā

Random Thoughts

I used to listen to Matchbox 20 on Mix 106 out of Tavares, FL before they were picked up by a label.

I don’t really have any memories before age 5…and very few specific memories between 5 and 15.

I only find myself singing when I am really, truly happy.

I’m working on self-confidence.

I liked alternative music when it was still called progressive.

I have several children.

I love to paint but rarely do it.

I love to bake and do that more often than I should.

I like the rain when the air is warm.

I hate wearing shoes but love my heels, platforms, and wedges.

I adore my husband.

I LOVE sunshine.

I would sleep in some days if my family life would permit it.

I like to exercise.

I thrive on progress.

I love to study, write, and discuss myriad topics.

I believe in God as a loving, caring, forgiving Being who is in the details of our lives.

I’m learning to like myself.

I’m trying to be happy where I am.

I have lots of love for others.

I like to help people.

I believe that I can see my family forever, even after death, in another more peaceful existence.

ūüôā

Chocolate Wishes and Brownie Dreams

I bake often. In the course of a day, I¬†often run my oven more than once (though I do try to conserve energy and heat as much as possible). Today, I actually fired it up¬†for three loaves of delicious bread and then again for the subject of this post…and I’m getting to that.

I¬†adore chocolate. I crave it. I bake with it. I create with it. I eat it. I share it.¬†ūüôā Fewer food items create the endorphin boost within me¬†the way¬†chocolate does. It’s almost as awesome as a good date with my husband…(now, a good date with my husband AND chocolate…yes, please!).

Still, I have worked on various recipes of chocolate cakes and cookies, frosting and fondue, until they have become part of my baking repertoire. Sadly, I have not been able to find a brownie recipe to replace the box mixes in my cupboard.

“Box mixes are just better,” declared my almost-professional-baking aunt once. I agreed with her. I would sample varied forms of brownies…some very delicious in their own ways, but I could not find a from-scratch brownie recipe to satisfy the sweet and gooey, fudgey¬†deliciousness of a box. No frosting. Just chocolate amazingness.

Well, today I can say that no more. I found a recipe someone posted on Facebook (is it just another form of Pintrest these days?) that I had taken a screenshot of on my phone. As I was deleting photos to free some space, I started to write down the recipe…and thought I might give it a whirl. It was touted as “replace your box brownie mix for pennies on the dollar” or something like that…and I needed an afternoon activity with the preschooler…so, into the kitchen we went!

Sugar, cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, vanilla, oil and water swirled together in a bowl and tossed into a sprayed, 9×13-inch pan later, I waited. And waited. And watched. And counted down with the timer. And removed the pan from the oven at twenty minutes to check–still un-done. Three minutes later, I checked them again and voila!

I tried to let them cool. I really did. Like, for maybe five minutes of smelling the chocolatey, brownie smell of yum. Then I cut into the corner (my favorite piece).

Oooooooooh! They were like music to my mouth. Gooey. Yummy. Crumbly from not being set yet. (I imagined them cooled in swirl of vanilla ice cream….) As I have sampled a couple more during various stages of cooling, I can happily declare success.

No frosting necessary.  No boxes required.

Love & Sugar Cookies

Sending love this Valentine’s week! Hope you are feeling love sprinkled over your life like a yummy heart-shaped sugar cookie!

And, speaking of¬†sugar cookies….here is¬†my favorite sugar cookie recipe¬†EVER, courtesy of my dear friend, Jenn!

2 cups sugar
1 cup margarine
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
6 – 8 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Cream together the sugar and margarine. Add the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Add 3 cups flour, baking soda and salt. Add 3 -5 additional cups of flour to make a soft dough. Roll out to 1/4″ thick (or a little more).¬† Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes.

This makes A LOT of cookies. If you are just making them for your family, half the recipe. I like to frost them with a cream cheese frosting. You’ll need to¬†double the frosting recipe if you are making the full batch of dough.

Cream cheese frosting:
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, milk and vanilla together. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until smooth and of spreading consistency.

Hugs, Happy Baking, and Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!!
XOXOXOXO

A few thoughts….

Monday’s post brought out a little bit of impromptu fiction…and I feared to post it for sounding sacriligious…or something.¬† Not sure what my hesitation was.

Still–it’s TUESDAY–and I’ve been thinking about songs, and words, and lines….(and, before I forget, the new iTunes now lets you copy links to songs…and here is the free one this week: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/twinkling-lights-feat.-syd/id583601337 …which I actually really like).

Since December began, I could probably sum up most of my month’s activities in two words–baking and cleaning.¬† Baking because, well, it’s Christmas!!!! And I did little baking during November (mainly because I was writing a NOVEL for NaNoWriMo)…and, as a good friend once said accurately, baking is my therapy.¬† And cleaning because, well, my house really needed a good scrubbing (did you notice the mopping story yesterday?–well, that’s because cleaning has been on the brain and in my bones for the last several days) since I spent several hours of last month taking care of sick people and WRITING!!!!! Huzzah!!!! ūüôā

So, when I clean, (and sometimes when I bake, too), I often turn on iTunes, or Spotify, or Pandora to enjoy some flavorful music (the real truth is so I can dance) and give me some motivation to keep moving.  On my cleaning spree last week, I recalled some of my favorite one-liners from songs that I love.  Here are a few I jotted down for fun:

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you?”

“I felt so symbolic yesterday.”

“Letters that you never meant to send get lost and thrown away.”

“Worlds without end couldn’t hold her.”

Are any of those familiar to you?¬† Care to guess?¬† I’ll post the answers in a few days. ūüôā

And, who has been following the free music on iTunes?¬† You can get free Christmas songs–a new one each Tuesday–if you care to head on over there (see the link above for the new one for this week)…or you could just enjoy Spotify‘s library and make your own Christmas music playlist…or you can add a holiday station on Pandora…or you could be like me and do all three.¬† Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?!?!?!?! Certainly not my preschooler…he’s been asking for cake again…and we all know what that means, right?¬† More baking.¬† More baking=more cleaning.¬† More cleaning=more music.¬† December is looking promising already!

Hugs!

Flavors, Scents, and Sounds – I

I’m going to do this blog in sections since most of my writing time currently is being devoted to NaNoWriMo. (I’ll give you an update on that later….)¬† So, I’ve been enamoured as of late regarding the ability of an inanimate object (such as food, or a smell, or even a computer speaker or iPod)¬†to bring one into auto-recall–to pull the brain back into a moment, a feeling, a memory.¬† Maybe I’m getting older (hopefully a bit wiser, too), but I find myself being pulled by certain foods, smells, sounds into different moments of life…and I kinda like the backwards d√©j√† vu experience.

So, lately, I’ve noticed this happening more with foods.¬† I’ve known for a long time that food could bring me back to the comfort of childhood, high school, college, or even being newly married.¬† By the time I was pregnant with my first child (and in a foreign setting living with a guy I barely knew…but that’s another story… ūüôā ) I was craving Cheerios (only Honey Nut), which brought me back to my childhood, running around a confederate state with my little brother in our backyard and feeling comforted by cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.¬† I needed that connection then.

I remember, after our last move, groping for some kind of connection to the world around me.¬† Over a tuna sandwich for lunch, the flavor took me back to a little dive where my dear friend Mindy and I would treat ourselves for lunch in college.¬† We sat at bar-height tables in the dark restaurant and enjoyed tuna on a pita with Lay’s potato chips and a dill pickle spear.¬† I get hungry again just thinking about it…hungry for yummy food, but also for our friendship and the laughs as well as frustrations we shared at that little table in the historic downtown where we went to college.

And even now, I bake throughout the year, and especially as the fall and winter holidays approach, and cook, and I love to hear my children oooh and aaaah over the flavors.  I hope I am building memories of comfort and love in their beings, memories they will be able to draw upon when they are feeling lost, sick, disconnected in some distant future day.

I know I do….