More Muffins?

pumpkin muffins

Sister Moo found an incomplete place setting of Fiesta ware for me at Kohl’s. The dinner plate was missing. Who cares? I love the color. And I realized that it matches the salt and pepper shaker that she found for me at a yard sale in Spruce Pine. (Turns out that the set belonged to the grandmother of one of my high school classmates. Makes me love it even more.)

Son #1 and Fiancée invited us over for an end-of-summer cookout at the pool at their apartment complex. The Most Adorable Baby in the World (who is now 7 months old) loves water. She would have crawled right into the deep end if her mommy had let her. No fear. I am very happy about that. I want her to be fearless and think that she can do anything that she sets her mind to. I, on the other hand, have long been afraid of water that is over my head. I didn’t learn to swim until I was in the 6th grade. My uncle taught me when I visited his family in Raleigh for a couple of weeks that summer. They had a pool in their backyard. I love to waterski and ride in boats, but I don’t like the idea of deep water. I took a swimming class in college. My teacher was a very patient woman and she taught us all the strokes, made us dive off the side of the pool, and timed us while we dog-paddled. Even though it was an 8:00 am class I enjoyed it tremendously. I enrolled both boys in swim lessons early on and they loved hanging out at the pool, but neither had any desire to be on a summer swim team and I was not the kind of mom to make them do something like that. I never told them about my fear of water. I swear I didn’t. But I don’t think that’s a genetic thing.

Anyway, Son #1 loves pumpkin spice. I thought of him when I found this for MABW–

kenn pumpkin spice

Too cute. The little black leggings have a ruffle-y tutu-like thing on the back.

I like to try out new recipes on the Ex-Ex and Son #1 and I found one for muffins on Sally’s Baking Addiction a couple of days ago. I took them to him yesterday and he texted today– “Those muffins btw were excellent. They are already gone.”  That’s my boy! And I am so happy that I found Sally!

Another thing that I’ve found (at Target)–

parchment liners

These are the best. The muffins don’t stick like they do sometimes in regular cupcake liners. (That is a major baking pet peeve of mine.) Target had two boxes left on the shelf and I bought them both.

Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins

15 muffins

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (340g) canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk, at room temperature (buttermilk would probably be really good in this recipe)

Crumb Topping

    • 3/4 cup (94g) all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light or dark brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, melted

Maple Icing (optional)

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk2

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner. Set aside. (SC note- I didn’t read this part– and wondered why I had leftover batter. I doubled the recipe so I used the leftover batter to bake a small loaf.)
  2. Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.
  3. Spoon the batter into liners, filling them almost full.
  4. Make the crumb topping: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together until combined. Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form. Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they’re snug. (The recipe for the topping makes a lot. Don’t be afraid to use a lot on each muffin.)
  5. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 21-22 minutes, give or take. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the icing. *For mini muffins, bake for 11-13 minutes at 350°F (177°C) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Make the icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together until combined and smooth. Drizzle over muffins and serve warm. Cover tightly and store at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make ahead tip: For longer storage, freeze muffins (with or without icing) for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or warm up in the microwave if desired. Top with icing before serving if needed.

I didn’t make the icing. Not enough time. But I bet it would be really good with the maple syrup added.

bran banana muffins

Today I decided to use up the overripe bananas in my refrigerator when I discovered a forgotten box of Raisin Bran Crunch next to the flour in my pantry. (How on earth I could have forgotten about it I have no idea. It hadn’t been there long, only a couple of weeks, and I am constantly pulling out the flour. Who knows? Anyway, I found a recipe to use as a guide. I cut down on the amount of sugar Genius Kitchen listed and I added cinnamon to mine. See how easy that liner peels off?!

Think I will make a cup of tea and enjoy one! While I do the week’s lesson plans.

 

Banana Raisin Bran Muffins

Makes 12

Adapted from Genius Kitchen

1cups Raisin Bran cereal

cup buttermilk (I used almond milk because that’s all I had in the refrigerator)

1cup vegetable oil

egg

1cup brown sugar

1teaspoon vanilla

small bananas, mashed

cup flour

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together cereal and milk; stir and let stand ten minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.

Combine vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, vanilla and bananas, then add to milk/cereal mixture.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Add to first mixture and stir until just blended.

Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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En français:  L’automne est un deuxième ressort où chaque feuille est une fleur.

…Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at https://frenchmoments.eu/french-quotes-and-sayings-about-autumn/ .

Bon appétit, tout le monde. I hope you are having a great Sunday afternoon wherever you are and whatever you are doing! Merci, French Moments and Albert Camus!

Blue

 

clean water

Meet Lightening. My advisory mascot. An African Spotted Water Frog. Oui, une grenouille africaine. One of the girlies brought him in to share with the rest of us.

While out and about, roaming around in one of my favorite thrift shops, Pennies for Change, I found a treasure.

blue nude

I am a fan of Henri Matisse and his Blue Nudes are beautiful. I found this on a website called Paradis while looking for “my” nude:

The Blue Nudes refer to a series of cut-outs by Henri Matisse. Completed in 1952, they represent seated female nudes, and are among Matisse’s final body of works. Blue Nude IV, the first of the four, took a notebook of studies and two weeks work of cutting and arranging before it satisfied him. The pose he finally arrived at for all four works—intertwining legs and an arm stretching behind the neck—was his favorite. The posture is similar to a number of seated nudes from the first half of the 1920s, and ultimately derives from the reposed figures of Le bonheur de vivre.

The Blue Nudes also reflect Matisse’s earlier sculptures. Despite the flatness of paper, they are sculptural in their tangible, relief-like quality, as well as the sense of volume created by the overlapping. Blue Nude I in particular can be compared with sculptures like La Serpentine of 1909.

The color blue signified distance and volume to Matisse. Frustrated in his attempts to successfully marry dominant and contrasting tones, the artist was moved to use solid slabs of single color early in his career, a technique that became known as Fauvism. The painted gouache cut-outs that comprise the Blue Nudes were inspired by Matisse’s collection of African sculpture and a visit that he made to Tahiti in 1930. It took another twenty years and a period of incapacity after an operation before Matisse synthesized these influences into this seminal series.

“Mine” is the bottom left in the series.

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I am spending the weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains visiting my family. Great Nephew J and I decided to cruise around the Blue Ridge Parkway this afternoon. He took me to his favorite spot, Chestola Overlook.

mountains

blue skies

Table Rock

trees

Lovely views. These mountains will always be my home. The Cevennes are the closest to the Appalachians that I have found in France. I took these two photos in 2008 when Chef Érick and I went to visit his friends Richard and Nadine at their beautiful home built into the side of a mountain. This is the view from their patio.

france mtns france mtns 2

Thank you, Great Nephew J. For organizing my phone apps, for helping me with my photos, for cruising around the mountains with me and showing me where you spent a lot of time playing when you were a mere young’un and for enthusiastically eating and photographing the cake I made.

jared

Keep taking photos, working hard in school, and having fun. I am very proud of you.

Today’s recipe came to me from an 8th grade girlie. She wanted to make a cake for her advisor to celebrate the opening of Ms. S’s play. (I work with some seriously talented people.) Ms. S asked for a Funfetti Cake. Girlie doesn’t bake from a mix. Scratch only for her. A girl after my own heart. She has even started a binder of her favorite cake recipes. Thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction and Girlie for the recipe!

Here is a photo from Sally’s blog. She made it in one 9-inch pan.

blog cake

Girlie’s cake was amazing. Dense and very vanilla-y.  She doubled the recipe and made two 9-inch layers.

pages cake

I decided to make it for Mama Mildred and Moo. (Favorite Niece, I hope they save some for you…) I doubled the recipe also. I used a 13 x 9 pan. I didn’t account for the doubled recipe and I didn’t have enough sprinkles for the batter.

my cake

But lots of them for the top!

sprinkles

Yum.

Homemade Funfetti Cake

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt  (plain or vanilla; or greek yogurt; or sour cream-I used Oui vanilla flavored)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk (cow’s milk; or soy milk; or almond milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (90g) sprinkles (not nonpareils)

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups (360-480g) powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream (see note above about substituting milk or half-and-half)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform or baking pan (round or square) generously with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Melt butter in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl or on the stove top. Whisk in the sugars vigorously getting out any brown sugar lumps – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Slowly stir in sprinkles, but do not over mix because the sprinkles will bleed their color. Do this at the last minute.
  3. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. This cake takes around 33-37 minutes to bake. What I suggest is to bake it for 20 minutes, then cover loosely with aluminum foil (loosely to avoid the top from sticking to the foil) and continue baking for 13-17 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  4. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add 1/4 teaspoon (or more) if frosting is too sweet. Frost cooled cake as desired and top with sprinkles. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you wish to use.
  5. Cake stays fresh covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days.

 

Bon appétit, my mountain family. Thanks for letting me hang out for a couple of days. You can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.

 

 

 

If God’s not a Tar Heel fan…

sky

then why is the sky Carolina Blue?

That’s a question I’ve heard most of my life. Actually, I am pretty sure that God has a lot on his plate right about now… hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorists, people who feel so alone that they don’t know what to do or who to turn to. Who wins a Saturday afternoon college football game isn’t high on his list of worries, in my humble opinion. Probably not there at all. He might be keeping an eye on those young men off the field, trying to give them some guidance about keeping out of trouble, though.

But, back to Carolina Blue. Son #2, GF and I went to see UNC play Louisville yesterday.

game1

An absolutely perfect day. I now know who Lamar Jackson is- the defending Heisman trophy winner and the quarterback for the Cardinals. He had a record day yesterday, if you care about those things. I love college football. Particularly, the Tennessee Vols and the Duke Blue Devils. You can add the Appalachian State University Mountaineers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the list as well. A colleague gave us the tickets and a parking pass. The Ex-Ex couldn’t go because he was working. (He watched the second half on TV.) So, sorry for not really caring who won. I cried when the marching band played The Star-Spangled Banner. I am a sap that way.

SSB

Halftime was exciting.  Mo came to see me, trekking across the stadium from her seat to  mine.

mo

She’s a die hard Tar Heel fan (along with the BFF, my Favorite Niece, Andy P, who also came to find me, and the colleague who gave us the tickets). Check out the necklace!

The big deal at halftime was the presentation of the 2017 NCAA Championship Rings to the UNC Men’s basketball team. James Worthy, of the 1981-82 championship team, presented head coach Roy Williams with his ring.

roy and james

basketball team

I am a James Worthy fan as well as a fan of Roy Williams. That 1982 championship was legendary coach Dean Smith‘s first and Roy was an assistant coach then. Roy is one of my hometown boys. He lived in Spruce Pine for a while as a little boy. He is a few years older than me, so we didn’t live there at the same time, but that’s okay. It still counts.

It was a fun afternoon. Carolina didn’t end up winning. But what a day to be alive and outside. Eating hot dogs, people-watching, cheering for great plays made by both teams. A real slice of American life. And a few hours respite from worrying about Hurricane Irma and her path of destruction. That’s why Son #2 and GF (along with the way too cute and lovable Couper and his sidekick Charlie) were here.

couper and charlie

They left Charleston, not knowing if Irma was headed that way or not. GF hails from Texas so she knows football. She was a cheerleader for UT-San Antonio. I hope she was impressed with the Carolina cheerleaders. She has already heard of the Louisville squad.

Yesterday was also JC’s birthday! Duke won just for her, I am pretty sure. We went over to her house for a cook-out. I was in charge of dessert. She loves chocolate so I decided that little chocolate cakes would be a good way to go. I just happened to have three bars of European dark chocolate in the pantry.  A gift from Pretend Daughter #2. I made them in a muffin tin and wasn’t happy that they didn’t come out easily. So much for presentation. But they tasted good, with a little whipped cream on the side. Pas mal du tout.

choc cakes

Natalie’s Melting Chocolate Cakes

makes 12

200 g (7oz/ scant 3/4 c.) butter, cubed

200 g (7 oz/ 1 1/3 c. dark (bittersweet) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

200 g (7 oz/scant 3/4 c) castor sugar (superfine sugar)

4 eggs

1 tsp plain all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350 F˚/gas mark 4).

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and leave to cool a little while.

Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour and mix well.

Pour the cake batter into 12 mini-loaf pans (or buttered muffin tins) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the centers are set but still a little wobbly.  Turn the oven off but leave the cakes inside for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can store these covered, in the fridge, for up to 2-3 days.  Take out 30 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit et bisous! I hope that Hurricane Irma loses steam and there is minimum damage and no loss of life in Florida. Be safe. Stay dry. Hug your loved ones.

Courage

LyndaHatcher_About1

Photo credit: Tasha Tolliver

So, what exactly is courage? I’ve just spent more than a few minutes looking at definitions of this noun. I believe that if I found just the right one it would have this woman’s photo next to it.

According to Oxford English Living Dictionaries on-line, courage is defined as:

  • the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery
  • strength in the face of pain or grief

Meet Lynda Harrison Hatcher. Because of Lynda I stayed up way too late last night. I could not stop reading her memoir until I had read the final words and then the acknowledgements.

mothering addiction

There is no ending to her story, at least not yet. And at the end of the book, she questions why she wrote it all in the first place. If it was hell for me to read every word of every paragraph of every chapter, I can’t imagine what kind of hell it was to write or to live, for that matter.

I might never have come across this book if not for the BFF. She and Ms. Hatcher were college friends. The BFF was in her seemingly fairytale wedding and she watched her sail off into the sunset of her imagined perfect life.

Not to be. Not in the cards. Not what the universe had in store for her.

If there is anyone in America whose life has not been touched by an addiction of some sort, I don’t know him/her. We can all put on a good face, pretend it hasn’t happened to us, throw disbelief and scorn at those who do admit it, all the while saying “Bless her heart.” And maybe even delivering a casserole, hoping to catch a glimpse of grief or heartbreak up close.  Kind of like watching a car wreck. How many of the people we interact with on a daily basis are either the victim of an addiction or the family member or close friend of an addict. I cannot imagine a worse hell than being the parent of an addict. With the all-consuming question “What did I do to cause this?” All the while trying to keep up the façade, keep a child out of prison and/or alive, protect the addict’s siblings, the other children who need their parents. What about having to give up on the dreams you have had for that child since he/she was handed to you just seconds after arriving in this world? A mother’s instinct is to try to create a Disney-like childhood, never yell, let alone have a complete screaming breakdown with the windows open, never be too disappointed or to disappoint your children. To protect him/her come hell or high water. To be a fierce fixer.

But what if we aren’t in control? How much is personality and /or genetic? The old nature vs nurture debate. What’s best? What will keep a child from becoming homeless, a dealer, needing an intervention involving his grandfather who used to take him fishing? If only I had… or If only I hadn’t…

I can’t even pretend to understand what Lynda Harrison Hatcher’s life must be like. Daughter of an alcoholic? Not the same. Aunt to a young man in prison for five years for dealing and possessing guns? Nope. It has to be a whole different level of hell when it is a child. And you are not in control and you can’t fix it.

While looking for a definition of courage, I came across this–

“We take so much of our strength and resilience for granted. Courage isn’t about being a battle-ready soldier; some days there is courage in saying, “tomorrow is another day”. We show courage on a daily basis because our lives and the lives of those we love matter to us. When we feel deeply passionate about something, we find courage easily — for example we find superhuman strength to protect our children. So let us find that same passion and courage for ourselves, trusting that whatever our circumstances are right now (and regardless of whether we feel courageous), we can find a valuable seam of courage if we dig just below the surface.”  –Rebecca Perkins, The Real Definition of Courage

I have nothing to offer. No advice. Just admiration for Ms. Hatcher. I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart for having the courage write this book. Anything that I choose to read now will pale in comparison, I’m afraid.

Son #2 has sent me a couple of adorable photos lately of his and his GF’s pets. Need some cuteness? Well, I have some for you…

Meet Charlotte, Charlie for short. She was a stray in Charlotte where Son #2 lived for 2 years. And where he met GF.

charlie

“She is either very sweet and loving or possessed by a spawn of hell. Not much of an in between yet, Mom.”

I guffawed. Thank you for making me laugh, Son #2.

One more cute photo.  Of Couper and Charlie. What must Couper be thinking?

couper and charlie

I don’t know about you, but I need a recipe for comfort food. Mac and cheese is my go-to favorite.  This recipe has been on the blog before, in a 2015 post about resiliency.

 

Comforting Mac & Cheese

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
16-oz. macaroni
Salt, pepper (black or white), ground mustard or Texas Pete sauce can be added.  Or a combination of all.  Today, I decided to add bacon that had been cooked to crispy and then drained on paper towels.

Cook macaroni in salted, boiling water until it is al dente (for small elbows, about 9 minutes).
Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Melt butter in large pan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and combine well.  Cook for about a minute to remove the flour taste.  Gradually add milk and continue to whisk.  Cook until the mixture thickens into a creamy roux.  Add seasonings and whisk well.  Remove from heat.
Add 2-1/2 cups of the cheese and stir until melted and combined.
Put macaroni into a buttered baking pan.  (I cooked the bacon in the cast iron pan and left some of the drippings in for flavor, so I didn’t need to butter the pan.)  Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir well.  (I added the crumbled bacon at this point, reserving some for the top.)
Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. (My grandmother always topped hers with bread crumbs or crushed crackers.)
Bake in pre-heated 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.

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Bon appétit, Lynda. I have so much respect for you and the lessons you have learned and are trying to pass on to the rest of us. May you find peace and self-love. Thank you. Be courageous, mes amis. Seek help and find even just one or two friends who get it and will always be there for you. Everyone needs their own Book Club. And I think that this book is definitely worth reading, whether you are mothering an addict or not.

Once a mom…

sleeping in chair

…always a mom. These two little critters are now 29 and 24. When I look at photos like this one I want to turn the clock back. Please? Just for a little while? What would I do differently? Nag more? Worry less? Check homework more often? Read more stories at bedtime? Feed them more vegetables? Make more of their favorite cookies?

I try not to second guess myself too much.  They have turned into amazing young men and I am very proud of them. They both graduated from Durham Academy, where I teach, an academically demanding school.  Each had to be in my French classes in the middle school, one for three years, the other for two. They were lifers, attending DA for 14 years each. They were very good athletes, balancing homework, practices and games. Both won awards and were team captains in their respective sports. One had to play basketball for his dad. Both graduated from college, one from Guilford College, the other from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Go Quakers. Go Vols. Son #1 played college basketball, the equivalent of working a demanding part-time job. He is now a dad (hence my previous posts about the joys of grandmotherhood). And a very good one. He is moving into a new job in his chosen field of school administration and teaching. He has brought EB into our life, my chance to finally have a daughter. Buddha dog is pretty cool, too. Son #2 is in law school and has successfully interned with a real estate law firm for the past year. He has moved twice since his Knoxville days, now settling into Charleston, SC, a city I plan to visit soon. He has a girlfriend and we are already quite fond of her and her sweet pup. They recently adopted a kitten they named Charlotte after the city where they met (Charlie for short).

These darlings aren’t perfect. Neither am I. Not by a long shot. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, played hours of UNO, SkipBo, and now Cards Against Humanity games, eaten many, many breakfast-for-dinner meals, hugged, covered thousands of miles on family road trips to Nebraska, Québec, DC and to the NC mountains and beach, watched countless sporting events together whether on TV or in person, laughed at silly sitcoms and game shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway, learned to count in español with the Sesame Street gang, sung along with Barney while wearing Barney bedroom slippers, tried to figure out the ending to several seasons of CSI, watched Disney movies from the late ’80’s to the mid-2000’s, including The Little Mermaid about a million times, eaten more than our fair share of popsicles and bags of microwave popcorn, read every single Berenstain Bears book multiple times, built lego spaceships and castles… I could go on and on, but I risk making myself cry if I keep this up. Right now, the eyes are just a bit misty. I just hope that they know that I have done my best.  (Now, I am crying.)

Some favorite photos–

 

2009beach

Jakes grad 11

beach14

I love you, Son #1 and Son #2.  You are all I could ever have hoped for in the mom department.

Son #1’s Sausage and Brie Bites

Son #1 loves to make these at the beach and on our back deck. Buy whatever kind of sausage you like- we usually buy andouille. Cut it into bite-sized pieces (but not too small). Choose a good creamy French Brie cheese and leave it out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. We usually use Triscuit crackers for our feast. Fire up the grill. Cook the sausages, being careful not to lose any to the coals! Sprinkle with red pepper flakes or any other seasonings or sauces you like.  Voilà.  Let the party begin.

Son’s #2’s Shrimp and Grits with Sausage

peeling shrimp

Grits
1 c. grits
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 c. cheese (extra sharp white cheddar or Gouda)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper, paprika, Tabasco, salt and pepper, to taste (usually better to start with small amounts, taste and adjust)

Cook grits according to instructions on package.  As grits are finishing, whisk in butter, cheeses and seasonings.  Cover and keep warm.

Shrimp
3 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
2 c. sliced leeks
1/2 c. chopped shallots
3 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 lbs. 20-30 count shrimp
4-5 grilled andouille sausages, cut into bite-sized slices
1/2 dry white wine or vegetable stock
Chopped roma tomatoes, if desired
4-5 strips of bacon fried crisp
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, if desired

This cooks very quickly.  Be sure to have everything ready and easy to reach before beginning.
Heat large skillet until hot.  Add olive oil and butter.  As oil begins to smoke, add leeks and shallots.  Sauté until translucent.  Toss in shrimp to cover bottom of pan.  Before stirring, add salt and pepper.  Stir until shrimp just begin to turn pink all over.  Let pan return to original hot temperature.  Stir in garlic and be careful not to burn it.  Add sausages.  Deglaze pan by adding wine or vegetable stock.  Stir for about 30 seconds or until everything is well-coated.  Add tomatoes, if using, and toss for about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

To serve:
Spoon grits on to plate.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture on top of grits.  Crumble bacon on top.   Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Bon appétit to all moms and sons. To all families in all shapes and sizes. Hug each other as often as possible.

 

Another trip around the sun

kenn&mejly26

It has been quite a year. And here is the best thing that happened during my 58th year on this earth.  The birth of this darling nugget. It snuck up on me. It wasn’t something that I gave a lot of thought to– after all, it wasn’t up to me! But what happiness my granddaughter has brought to my heart in the past five months. Oh, the places we will go and the things we will do, my Little Pumpkin.

The rest of the year in numbers. In no particular order (that would take too much organization on my part):

2 Brad Paisley concerts, thanks to the BFF and her Boss, pit passes no less.

3 Wine and Design classes, with friends, colleagues, and students.

3 trips to the mountains.  Boone, Brevard, Blowing Rock, Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Spruce Pine.

Too many macarons to count. Made by me, my students, local bakeries, bakers in Paris.

 

1 visit to the grotto of St. Bernadette near Linville, NC to pray for Mama Mildred’s health.

stbernadette

1 hug from Buddy Melton during intermission at a Balsam Range concert in Cary with Arles Lucy. I kind of snuck up on him during intermission. To quote Childhood Friend, who plays guitar, “Damn fiddlers get all the hot girls…” Flattery.

If you are interested, here is their latest video for “Something ‘Bout That Suitcase” one of my favorites from the Mountain Voodoo CD.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/225107197″>Something 'Bout That Suitcase &ndash;Dedication to Fans</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user4482073″>Mark Skoultchi</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

2 trips to France with ACIS. January and March. On the new non-stop flight from RDU-CDG. I love this, Delta.  Please, please, please keep it around.

ET1

1 dinner at La Tour Eiffel 58.

2 visits with Vincent at le Musée d’Orsay.

2 Duke football games. I didn’t bring them luck.  They lost both.  Sorry, Coach Cut.

2 trips to the beach. Sunset and Carolina.

2 sons, 2 women, 2 dogs.

Many, many beautiful roses.

2 outings to the Rooftop Bar at the Durham Hotel.

A few glasses of North Carolina cider, even a visit to Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone.

1 cemetery visit in Paris to find Lafayette and pay my respects (with a beautiful rose bought at an outdoor flower market near La Madeleine).

lafayette

1 North Carolina flag delivered to a French school, Collège Anne-Marie Javouhey in Senlis.

ncflag

5 friends, French and American, in France with me. Actually, there were 6, but AP isn’t pictured with me. Oops. I experimented with making memes just for him…

AP meme

1 Christmas.

christmas

Way too many baked goodies.  Is there such a thing as too many?? Ask the Ex-Ex.

3 reunions.  One with my 2016 France trip group, one with 4 classmates from high school– Harris High Class of ’76, one with my first class of 7th graders, celebrating their 30th reunion (the same night, Son #1 celebrated his 10th and Son #2 his 5th).

There is so much more I could add. I had a very full year. New friends made. Old friendships strengthened. A few friends and relatives lost. Adventures. Family love and a bit of heartbreak. All of the intangibles that make another trip around the sun so very worthwhile. Here’s to the beginning of year 59.

For Son #1’s senior chorus performance, he asked me to perform a song with him.  We chose the Jimmy Buffet / Martina McBride duet Trip Around the Sun. Enjoy.

I made Blueberry Skillet Cake last week.  A good use for my iron skillet (it will be the subject of an upcoming blogpost) and the fresh blueberries I had in the refrigerator.

bleuberry pie

Cowboy Skillet Blueberry Cake

from a tea towel purchased at Fort Robinson State Park Nebraska

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine in a bowl and stir a little to mix:

1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. granulated white sugar (I cut this down to 1/2 cup)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl, whisk, then set aside:

2 large eggs

1-1/4 c. milk (I used buttermilk)

In a 10″ iron skillet, melt:

8 Tbsp. of butter

When butter has cooled, add to egg mixture and stir.  Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Stir in:

1/4 tsp. lemon extract

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Fold in:

1-1/2 blueberries (you can use any kind of fruit and change up the flavorings, if you feel like it- depending on what is in season or what’s in the freezer; I’ve used apples & cinnamon, cherries & almonds, peaches)

Pour into cast iron skillet.

In a small bowl, combine, then sprinkle on top of cake batter:

1/4 c. sugar

zest of 1 small lemon

Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done.

Bon appétit!  Here’s to many more trips around the sun for my friends, family, and moi!  Keep breathing! Grabbing my toes like this would be fun… but I think that I will leave that to Nugget.

kennupsidedown

 

 

 

Lucky and Crippled Crow

Today’s guest blogger is the Ex-Ex.  I will let him tell the tale of our sixth day at the beach.

star2

So, when you walk on the beach with Sabbatical Chef you’re supposed to keep your head down – looking for the perfect shell.  I try.  But I often get distracted by the waves, the sand castles, the red, white and blue swim suits……of all shapes and sizes.  I really try to keep my eyes on the sand because I do want to find that perfect shell or sand dollar for her. But it’s hard. Sunset Beach is beautiful, but not full of shells…it’s hard to pay attention to the sand.  Mostly all you see are “bits and pieces.” It’s hard for me to stay focused.

Well, today as we’re walking, I spot a “crippled crow”.  An ordinary black crow that is generally a nuisance at the beach. But he’s hard to not like….he’s lame, mostly hopping on one foot along the sand. Then I see what he sees and why he’s hopping near the surf. He’s found a four-armed starfish.  A starfish on the beach is a rare sight and a major find for beachcombers like Sabbatical Chef and me….when I’m paying attention.  My interest  and concern immediately leave Crippled Crow.  I’m sure he’ll be OK.  He seems fine hopping and, after all, he can still fly.  Now I’m worried about the starfish that Crippled Crow was about to eat and, if he’s not alive, then he’s the perfect beach find.  Either way I’m going to save him from Crippled Crow.  Sabbatical Chef will love it if I can deliver a starfish to her collection….even if it only has four arms!  “Lucky” the four-armed starfish is already a goner….so he’s better off in Sabbatical Chef’s beach week shell collection than being picked over by Crippled Crow.  Lucky, I’m sure, had a good life at sea.  Even if somehow he lost an arm, I bet he had some stories to tell.  So, being rescued by me and becoming the crown jewel in Sabbatical Chef’s 2017 “bits and pieces” collection is a fitting and deserving way for him to spend his summer of 2017….and help us remember ours……

Bon appétit to all beachcombers.  Thanks for reading the Ex-Ex’s story.  Actually, I think that Lucky will become a part of the little collection of bits and pieces that I will put in a jar and save for Adorable Granddaughter to one day remind her of her first trip to Sunset Beach.

Bits and pieces

shells

I used to roam the beach looking for whole, perfect shells and sand dollars. I spent more time looking down than looking up. Now I just pick up whatever I happen to see that strikes my fancy.  Bits and pieces. Odds and ends.  Kind of like last night’s dinner here at the house we are renting for the week.  Cheese and crackers, blackened sausage, hummus, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and broccoli with ranch dip and leftover Frogmore Stew. Really good at the end of a long day spent sitting in the sun and trying to hit 10,000 steps on the Fitbit by walking to the end of the island.

Cooper, the Wonder Dog, was relaxing and hoping for a bit or piece of something tasty to come his way. Cooper belongs to Son #2’s girlfriend.

cooper

There has been some great first-thing-in-the-morning play time with the Cutest Baby in the World for both Granddad and Gramma.

kennedy steve

kennedy

Some fireworks in the distance, at Ocean Isle, on July 3.  All the beauty, none of the noise.

fireworks

Fireworks are illegal on Sunset Beach due to fire hazard, but that didn’t stop some of our neighbors. The police cruised by multiple times trying to find the culprits. The Ex-Ex and Brother-in-law were questioned when they decided to go out and check out what was happening, but they didn’t come home in handcuffs in the back of a squad car so I guess they were believable.

The Ex-Ex captured a lovely shot during a moonlit walk towards the pier.  Sort of Starry Night Over The Rhône-ish with the reflections on the water, I think.

pier

Son #1 and his two beautiful girls had to go back home because he has a follow up job interview this morning.  Fingers crossed. They will return in a few hours.

At this very moment, the Ex-Ex is still sleeping, as are Son #2, Cooper and his owner. Best Sister-in-law-in-the-World is checking out what’s happening on her iPad. Brother-in-law has gone out for a long bike ride.  When he comes back, he will turn on the TV to check out Stage 4 of the Tour de France. Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles.

route17

I have to admit that I don’t care who wins.  I watch for the scenery.

I am an early riser, even when on vacation. I have been washing clothes, turning on the dishwasher, pitting cherries and making muffins, and reading my beach week book, See Me by Nicholas Sparks. I am getting attached to Colin, one of the main characters, and I am afraid that something bad is going to happen to him. I will hope for the best.  It is set in Wilmington, a city in North Carolina only about 50 miles from where I sit right now.

Life comes in bits and pieces.  Not perfect, but sometimes perfect for me. My week at the beach is just that. Surrounded by the people I love, my family once again under one roof, no plans, nothing that has to be done, the smell of warm muffins filling the house. And a view of the Atlantic Ocean from where I sit writing this.  Life is good. Every bit and piece of it right now.

muffins batter

Cherry Vanilla Muffins

makes 12

1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 c. oil or melted butter

3/4 c. milk (this time I used a mixture of vanilla Greek yogurt and milk)

1-1/2 c. pitted, chopped cherries

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top, if desired, for a nice crunch

Prepare the muffin tin by lining with paper cups or spraying with non-stick spray. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle.

Add the beaten egg, milk (and yogurt, if using), oil (or melted butter). Stir just until combined. Fold in cherries. Sprinkle sugar on top, if using.

Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake for about 15 minutes or until muffins test done.

muffin

Sister-in-law said spreading butter on top of a warm muffin was pretty tasty.

Bon appétit and have a lovely day.  If you can’t be with your favorite people, let them know you are thinking about them. The beach is calling and I must answer.

 

 

 

 

Summer to-do list

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I am sort of a list maker.  Not that I always can find the list.  Or that I take it out and look at it. Or that I actually cross off everything more than two items. But I feel as if I have accomplished something just by writing the to-dos on a notepad. Mary Kay consultants are encouraged to make a Six Most Important Things list every day.  Maybe six is a manageable number?

6 most important

(photo: https://www.pinterest.com/thepinkbubbleco/)

What’s on my to-do list for tomorrow?

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Go to Responsive Classroom workshop.
  3. Read.
  4. Go to bed.

That’s all I know for sure. What’s on my hope-to-do list?

  1. See my granddaughter. (Maybe read her a story- she loves this now!)
  2. Have dinner with a couple of friends.
  3. Write.

Wow.  That’s seven things! Go me.

I guess I should think about my summer to-do list. In no particular order:

  1. Read my school summer reading book,  Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  2. Go to the dentist (appointment made).
  3. Hit at least 10,000 steps on the Fitbit at least four days a week (maybe five?). This means lacing up the shoes and walking in the morning.
  4. Spend a week at the beach with my family.
  5. Take an on-line writing course.
  6. Try not to worry so much.
  7. Visit Chatham Hill Winery.  (I worked here part-time before The Sabbatical. I wrote an article about NC wines and Chatham Hill for the Durham Herald newspaper.)
  8. Try some new recipes.
  9. Go to the Durham Farmers’ Market at Central Park regularly.
  10. Blog as often as possible, but at least twice a week (should I make a schedule?).
  11. Work on my curriculum for the 2017-18 school year. Read the book I was given on curriculum design. (I think it is currently upstairs? Yep. Found it.) Keys to Curriculum Mapping: Strategies and Tools to Make it Work by Susan Udelhofen. We will be working on our curriculum map next year at school. Hello, Rubicon.
  12. Have lunch with friends at restaurants around town I haven’t tried yet.
  13. Read some books I want to read. (Stay tuned for an update on my reading list soon.)
  14. Write to my nephew once a week.  Send him some books.
  15. Eat as healthy as possible.

Guess we will see how many I accomplish! At our closing faculty meeting, some silly person commented that we had 72 days until school starts back.  And we now working on week 2. But I will not worry about that.  See, I am trying. I will look at photos like these of my Darling Granddaughter:

kennedyon tummy

She can now roll over.  In the night, she was babbling and when her parents got up to check on her, this is what they found. Photo 1:  “Oops. They caught me.”  Photo 2: It’s okay. I’m cute and how can they possibly be mad? I’ve learned a new trick.” Adorable, right?

I found a recipe for Tomato Pie and gave it a try over the weekend.  Not perfect, but pretty darned good.  Especially the second night. I put pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, grated more cheese on them, warmed them in a 375˚F oven for 10 minutes, then under the broiler set to high for about 4 minutes. It’s better when it looks as if it has almost baked too long.

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Biscuit Crust (recipe from King Arthur Flour website)

To make the pie “crust” skip step 4 and go to 5. Do not cut.  Pat the dough into a rectangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Do not pre-bake.  Set aside.

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste* (I used only 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter or shortening (I used 6)
  • 1 cup milk, buttermilk, or water (I used about 1-1/4 cups buttermilk)
  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. With two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter or shortening in until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  3. Add the liquid all at once, mixing quickly and gently for about 20 seconds until you have a soft dough.
  4. To make drop biscuits: Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a lightly floured baking sheet; or for tidier shapes, fill the cups of a greased muffin tin about two-thirds full.
  5. To make cut biscuits: Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Fold it into thirds like a letter and roll gently with a floured rolling pin until the dough is 3/4″ thick again.
  6. Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter for traditional round biscuits. Or, to avoid leftover dough scraps, cut the dough into squares or diamonds with a bench knife or bowl scraper.
  7. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

Pie filling: adapted from South Carolina Living: 7 recipes every S.C. cook should know 

Hattie Mae’s Tomato Pie

To avoid soggy tomato pie, use every bit of the salt the recipe calls for, says Heidi Trull. “It gets all the moisture out of the tomatoes. You’re not going to be eating that salt, because you rinse it off.”  (Note: I did not rinse the tomatoes as well as I should have. So, after tasting them, I did not add any additional salt.)

Hattie Mae’s tomato pie

SERVES 8

4 ripe tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup salt

1 cup grated hoop cheese (I had to google this… sad but true. I used Vermont sharp cheddar cheese, a mixture of white and traditional)

1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise (there is no substitute for this in the south! I also added about 1/4 cup of half and half- my mixture was not pourable, but spreadable anyway)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (totally forgot to add but I did sprinkle in some herbes de Provence)

1 medium onion, diced (decided to leave off)

Salt and pepper to taste

8 mini piecrusts (or one large) – used the biscuit crust instead

Slice tomatoes, and cover with ¼ cup salt. Let sit for 1 hour. Rinse well in colander, and pat dry with paper towel. Place piecrusts in pan(s), and lay tomato slices in pie shells. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over tomatoes. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.  (Mine needed to bake for about 35 minutes- the biscuit crust is different than a traditional pie crust.)

After it cooled for about 10 minutes, I cut it with a pizza cutter.  Kitchen scissors would work also. I cut it into 10 rectangles. You can cut the pieces as large or small as you wish. This would make a great appetizer. The Ex-Ex called it tomato pizza. He liked it and he usually doesn’t like “hot tomatoes.”

Day 2

tomato pie 2

Bon appétit!  Whether you are a list-maker or not, I hope you are having a great June.  It isn’t officially summer yet… Schedule in some fun.  And try to worry less. Wherever you go there you are.

SV Day 5: Over the mountain

fog

Blowing Rock to Boone to Foscoe to Linville to Spruce Pine. That was my route this morning.  I made a stop for breakfast at Grandview Restaurant.  The address is listed as Banner Elk but it is just off NC-105 between Foscoe and Linville.  This is the grand view-

GFather

Grandfather Mountain as seen from the patio in back of the restaurant.

This was my view inside, a real Southern breakfast–

breakfast

Yep, this is how we do it.  With lots of hot coffee.

I made a quick, pull off the road stop in Linville. I spent three college summers working at Eseeola Lodge.  The photo I took  today was terrible so I found one from last fall. We thought it was fancy then, but it is really fancy now.  There is even a spa.

eseeola1

What a great place for college students from far and wide to work and spend the summer.  I was a waitress. We girls lived in an old house behind the main lodge, nicknamed The Last Resort and the boys lived in another house down the road. The gang threw a surprise 21st birthday party for me.  My first birthday party. Good times.

I made it to Spruce Pine and Mama Mildred’s by mid-morning.  Sister Moo is using three of her vacation days while I am visiting.  We goofed off. Pedicures first.

toenails

A stroll around downtown- Lower Street to be exact, BFF. The old train depot.  Not many trains pass through any more. Sad.

traindepot

I got to hang out with the Grand Nephews and their mom, my niece. The boys love my baking so I decided to make them some blueberry scones.  I wanted cherries, but at almost $4 a pound I decided to go for blueberries instead.

A good day.

BBscones

This recipe for scones is from my friend and colleague Daniela Harrell. It is so easy and so good. I prefer using yogurt instead of milk.

Quick Scones

makes 12 small scones
Use whatever fruit is in season or the currants (or other dried fruit) that the recipe calls for.  Or plain. Up to you. I used blueberries and added the zest from a small lemon. I added the fresh berries after kneading the dough.  I separated the dough into two balls, flattened each one out, placed the berries on top and gently folded the dough several times to incorporate the berries without smashing them.  Not easy and it’s okay if you smash a few.

2 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. cold butter
½ c. currants, raisins, or other dried fruit, if desired
1 egg
2/3 c. milk or ¾ c. (175 ml) plain yogurt (the yogurt produces a moister scone)
egg yolk for brushing tops
granulated sugar for sprinkling or fruit preserves

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Stir in dried fruit, if using. Make a well in the center.

In small bowl, beat egg until frothy. Pour into well. Stir in milk or yogurt slowly with a fork, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn out on lightly floured surface. Knead 8-10 times. Divide into 2 equal parts. Pat each into a 6-inch circle. Transfer to greased baking sheet or a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar (if desired). Score each top into 6 pie-shaped markings. Bake in 425F oven for 15 minutes until risen and browned slightly. Brush with fruit preserves after removing from oven, if desired.

Bon appétit to all families!  I hope that you all have a chance to spend time with your loved ones and get back to your roots!