Casseroles and cakes

mushrooms

When there is a death in the family of a friend, Southerners head to the kitchen. We don an apron and heat up the oven. We get out the cast iron skillet, casserole dishes and cake pans. We need to feel useful and we know that there will be people who need to be fed. Maybe it’s the same in the Midwest or North, but I have only lived in the South. I remember once when a Bell relative died and my cousin from Raleigh came for the funeral. Maybe my Uncle Buck? We were maybe in the fifth grade? Anyway, she and I ate a whole loaf of white bread, toasted, with butter and jam. Grandma Christine was a jelly/jam lover of the first order so we had many choices. We sat at the kitchen table, where the toaster was always plugged in. I have no idea why we chose toast because I am sure that there were a lot of “real” things to eat in that kitchen.

This past week, the BFF’s mother-in-law passed away. Sweet T’s mama. We’ve been friends for 26 years so I met Eleanor early on in the friendship. I remember driving over one summer day to pick up their Son #1 to come to play with our Son #1. Those two became fast friends on their first day of Pre-K. Anyway, the BFF had forgotten to tell Eleanor that I would be coming and she wouldn’t let me have her grandson. There was no use arguing. She was not going to let him leave without written permission. So, I loaded up a tearful 5 year old and his 10 month old brother into the mini-van and went home. The BFF and I had a good laugh over it at the end of the day. Just the thought of me actually kidnapping another boy to add to my collection was hilarious and not at all believable in the least.

Sweet T is a creative, talented man. He wrote his mama’s obituary. It is my all-time favorite. I’ve promised him that if he will write mine that I will cook for him until we are both called to great beauty parlor in the sky. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You were the world’s best son, Sweet T. I hope that my boys take care of me the way you did Eleanor.

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Eleanor Daniels King

May 21, 1926 – November 26, 2017

Eleanor would like to inform everyone that King’s Beauty Shop is now officially CLOSED… stating, “It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to have helped make the world a prettier place by washing, cutting, setting, styling, and coloring the hair of so many wonderful women (and even a few men from time to time) in and around my second home, Durham NC.” 

So now, after 73 glorious years as a self-employed Beautician in the Bull City, she recently received a call — sort of an offer she couldn’t refuse — to travel to a wondrous place where she can “catch up on all the latest” with all of her Customers, Family and Friends who have gone before her… and there have been many. As she would say, “It’s impossible to do somebody’s hair for 40 years and not become a friend — even the ones that aggravate you.”

Eleanor Grey Daniels King was born in Orange County in 1926, when the average life expectancy for women in the US was 58 years old. She was the second child, but the first girl, for Rainey Samuel Daniels and Lola Harris Daniels. Raised on a farm, she quickly learned that “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” And while she was a good ol’ country girl at heart, the big city lights were also calling her.

Right after High School graduation, Eleanor moved to Durham to attend Beauty College in 1944. And by the end of the year, she graduated as one of the top hairdressers of her class… and the rest is history.

Sure, she’s had her ups and downs, but to borrow a line from the movie, Steel Magnolias (one of her all-time favorites); “…my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.” And that’s the way she rolled. She didn’t have time to stop and feel sorry for herself. She had her Customers, and they were depending on her, regardless of how she felt or what she was going through personally.

She’s also seen Customers come and go, but she was most proud of her “Regulars” — the ones that came to get beautiful again every week or so, year after year. But as her “Regulars” would one-by-one leave this earth, she would simply pack up her “Beauty Bag” and head off to the Funeral Home for one last “touch-up” (I still don’t know how she did that). 

And yet, with all that dedication to her Customers, she still found time to be the best Mom in the whole world.

But, now it’s time for her to put away her appointment book and finally close up shop here on earth. Eleanor, you done good, girl. 

Eleanor was preceded in death by her father, her mother, her older brother Wayne Daniels, her brother-in-law Cecil Isley, and her niece, Sheila. She is survived by her only son, Tracy King and his wife Martha, of Durham, NC, and 3 Grandsons who were her pride and joy – David King (and Lexi) of Wilmington, NC, James King of Greensboro, NC and Andrew King of Raleigh, NC. Eleanor is also survived by her younger brother Richard Daniels and his wife Bonnie, of Mebane NC, her younger sister Raynelle Isley, of Elon NC, and 10 nieces and nephews, Linda, Larry, Sam, Mike, Kay, Dianne, Kenneth, Deborah, Randy, and Rick.

There will be a graveside service for all of Eleanor’s Customers, Family and Friends on Wednesday, November 29th at 2:00pm at the Lebanon United Methodist Church cemetery, located down the road behind the church at 6101 Lebanon Road in Mebane, NC. Eleanor is returning home, to be buried on land that her father donated to the church many, many moons ago.

I decided to make one of my favorite casseroles. And a pound cake. We are in the South, after all.

pound cake

Chicken (or Turkey) Tetrazzini

adapted from Culinary Hill

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 4 slices high-quality sandwich bread torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted

For the filling:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pound spaghetti broken into thirds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces sliced white mushrooms
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups cooked chicken or turkey cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used a supermarket rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas

Instructions

 To make the topping:
In a food processor, process the bread and butter until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses. Set aside. (You can also just tear it into small pieces and mix in the melted butter.)

To make the casserole:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well, keeping in colander, and toss with olive oil.

  3. Return same pot to medium-high heat and melt butter until foaming. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid, about 7 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  5. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and half and half.

  6. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. To the pot with sauce, add pasta, turkey/chicken and frozen peas, stirring to combine. Pour into a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.

  8. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Cook’s Country Cookbook.

tetrazinni

Bon appétit to all, especially to Sweet T, the BFF and their boys. Thinking of you and am always ready to tie on the apron to keep you fed. Much love. Rest in peace, Eleanor. I hope you meet my Grandma Christine. I think that the two of you would get on quite well. I don’t know if you were a Jim Nabors fan like she was, but I can picture the three of you having lunch. With a big slice of pie or pound cake and a cup of coffee for dessert. And maybe a song.

Give thanks

give thanks

I am thankful for so many people and things. I have a good life.  As I was stirring up biscuits for breakfast this morning, I started a list in my head.

A: animals, Arles, apples, art, Aaron, Amelia, Andy, Appalachian Mountains, Abby, airplanes, Alex, adjectives, adventures

B: Bertie, butter, bacon, baguettes, buttermilk biscuits, bluegrass music performed by Balsam Range, books, Barb, blogging, bracelets, Betty, baking, BFF

C: children, choices, colors, Candice, Caleb, Côtes du Rhône, Cindy, champagne, colleagues, Christiane Buchanan, cousins, Carmague, cheese, chocolate, cookies, coffee, café au lait, cats, cafés

D: dancing, David, Durham, Duke basketball, dreams, Daddy, Durham Academy

E: Elizabeth, elephants, electricity, Érick

F: family, friends, Fanny, French, France, fall, foie gras, figs, flamingos, fresh flowers, french fries, Facebook, freedom

G: Grant, grandchildren, great-nephews, grandparents, Ghislaine, Google, Grandma, gum, garlic, goats, goat cheese, Granny, girlfriends

H: home, health, heat, herbes de Provence, hand-me-downs, Hailey, hamburgers, hearts, history

I: ice cream, internet, Impressionism

J: Jake, Jared, Judy, jokes, jeans, Joel/Joey, jam, Jean Valjean

K: Kennedy, kittens, Kim, Karen, kindness, Katie

L: love, lavender, lemons, lambs, laughter, lipstick, letters, Logan, llamas, Lily

M: Mama Mildred, Marsha, Martha, muffins, macarons, moon, music, Makayla, Monette, mascara, movies

N: Nelson, North Carolina, Natalie

O: oysters, Olivier

P: Paris, Provence, pasta, pesto, pizza, pink, photos, passport, perfume, pens, postcards, poetry, parents, Papa

Q: quirkiness, questions

R: Rick, rain, reading, resilience, Rob Hershey

S: Steve, sons, students, Sean of the South, soldiers, sleep, smiles, steak-frites, Sundays, spring, shrimp, sea salt, sisters, Seth, sunshine, Snoopy, Sandra Boynton

T: turkey, travel, teeth, teenagers, tears, teachers

U: underwear, uncles

V: Vincent Van Gogh, vacation

W: weather, walking, winter, writing

X: Xmas, xylophones

Y: Yolanda

Z: zebras, zoos

Perhaps this will be the last pumpkin muffin recipe of the year? Who knows? I had some leftover pumpkin from making pumpkin cheesecake and it simply couldn’t go to waste. This recipe comes from The Kitchen Paper, adapted from Smitten Kitchen.  I didn’t mess with it. No variations. Seemed pretty perfect. We will find out in about 20 minutes. I will say that my kitchen smells pretty darned good right now. Wish you were here to have a cup of coffee while we wait. Stay tuned.

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins

12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin-pie spice**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

**If you want to make your own pumpkin pie spice, use this recipe (from My Baking Addiction.)

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line or grease muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and butter, then whisk the eggs in one at a time.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the flour, then divide among muffin tins.
  5. Mix the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar with the 2 tsp cinnamon, and sprinkle over the tops of the unbaked muffins.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes. (I set the timer and started checking them after 20 minutes. Mine took exactly 30 minutes.) You know your oven. Test with a wooden toothpick.)

muff

Bon appétit! Make your own thankful list. You may shed a few tears while doing it, but those are good tears. Eat something good today. Savor every crumb or bite. You deserve it. 

What’s your favorite recipe?

Thanksgiving card

(Carlton Cards)

I found this card to send to my turkeys in SP since I will not be with them for Thanksgiving. Too funny. I miss those turkeys. I will visit them soon. I promise.

Today’s question of the day… “What’s your favorite recipe, madame?” Asked by one of my 6th graders after she told me that she had read some of my blog entries over the weekend. She is new to my school and a sweetheart. My favorite food/recipe/dish depends totally on the day/hour/minute that I am asked. If I had to decide on my last meal on earth at this very second, it would change by tomorrow morning. However, I did my best to answer LZ. Since it is (almost) Thanksgiving, I would have to vote for Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. I plan to make it for my small crew in just a couple of days. Of course, I might change my mind…

stuffed pumpkincheese thyme nutmeg

It really is delicious.

It was fun to reread the post with the recipe. From November 2010. Can it really be seven years since that post? And funny thing is… I am waiting for the BFF to stop by tonight, too. Her mother-in-law is in hospice and I wanted to make something for her husband to eat whenever he gets to come home from being with his mama. Nothing fancy. Just chicken-pasta-vegetable soup. I hope it helps his aching heart. We are never ready to lose a loved one.

The best part of making soup? You can add whatever you want, as much or as little as you want, throw it all in a pot and voilà. Dinner is served. With lots of leftovers.

The Sabbatical Chef’s Chicken Soup

Olive oil – about 2 Tbsp.

1 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

8 cups chicken broth

8 oz. pasta (elbows or whatever you want) or you could add rice instead

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone, chopped/shredded

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

Torn baby spinach leaves, optional

Seasonings- salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, etc.

Parmesan cheese, for garnish, if desired

In a large pot/Dutch oven, sauté the onion, celery and garlic (if using) in olive oil until soft. Add the chicken broth and water, if needed, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Add the chicken and frozen vegetables. Season to taste. Bring to a second boil. Reduce heat. Add more water or chicken broth, if needed. Add spinach leaves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings, if needed/desired. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired. (Spinach and Parmesan added at the suggestion of my lifelong across-the-creek neighbor Ms. Mary!)

soup

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving Week. Hold your loved ones near. Tell them how much you love them. Feed them good food. One of the highest forms of love, in my opinion. Keep asking questions, LZ!

 

 

Random thoughts on a chilly November night

helmet

It’s Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day in France. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice, the replica of the train car tucked away into the forest near Compiègne in northern France. The original one was burned by Hitler. Merci, Ghislaine. Thank you to all who have and continue to put their lives on the line so that I can be free to do whatever I please whenever I please with whomever I please.

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It’s hard to believe that is almost Thanksgiving. It seems that once we survive Halloween in the middle school that the year is almost over.

I am a lucky Gramma! Miss K came to visit me in my classroom one day.

K in my class

I have a sparkly Eiffel Tower that fascinates her.

The Ex-Ex and I have had the opportunity to babysit a few times recently. So much fun!

k with bow

The intensity of the love that I feel for her surprises me every time I see her.

School is keeping me busier than I ever imagined it would at this stage of my career. If Son #1 and Son #2 were still at home I am not sure they would ever get fed. Luckily, the Ex-Ex can fend for himself. Curriculum mapping brought a two-day workshop in Atlanta, though. With an amazing meal at Miller Union. Our waiter was amazing. The oysters were amazing. The field peas were amazing. And the colleagues I shared the meal with were amazing.

“Steven Satterfield’s menu shows off the best of the South’s okra, field peas, turnips and tomatoes in a style that would make Alice Waters weak in the knees. Perfect for a date night or lunch at the counter, where one can explore an innovative wine list with pours by the glass.”     – The New York Times, 2016

The farm egg baked in celery cream was amazing. After the amazing pork roast with polenta, there was no room for dessert. I know. Kind of shocking.

Last week, Arles Lucy and I had a date for Pompieri Pizza‘s Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. I tend to choose wine over beer, but the pairings between the food prepared by Chef Joe and the beer were perfect. I enjoyed every sip. I took lots of photos and a few notes.

Beer cheese bites, scallops, duck, duck, duck, ribs with a ginger soy glaze, dark chocolate parfait… Pale Ale, Nooner, Torpedo, Porter, Narwhal.

yo and me

To quote Arles Lucy when the chocolate parfait was placed before her:

“I don’t know whether to pray over this or not.”  Eat, pray or love?

The BFF asked Tom to do her nails in Sierra Nevada’s colors for the occasion.

nails

This one is for you, too, Best Sister-in-Law, since you told me the Porter is your favorite. Next time we come to visit, we need to take a field trip to visit Sierra Nevada’s Mills River facility. Ok?

Since it seems that all I do is eat, I might as well include the recent France 2017 reunion dinner. Each year, I offer a Sabbatical Chef dinner as part of our school auction and for the past two years the same family has bought it and we’ve had a France trip reunion. Two daughters down and two to go! Here’s part of the crew–

2017

It was a great trip. I miss these kiddos. They are all off being freshman now. We laughed a lot looking at photos of the trip.

looking at photos

KR was still doing her trip duty and photographing our every move! Merci beaucoup!

We made cheese fondue and had Fanny’s Mousse au chocolat with locally made macarons for dessert. And to any Frenchies reading this… I apologize. Yes, the kiddos were actually dipping those cheese puffs into the delicious melted Gruyère and Emmental fondue. Teenagers.

a and k

My co-chaperones love their dessert. And the guy in the back, licking the mousse bowl? Master of the House caught on camera.

The Ex-Ex and I attended the Celebration of Life for a former student. Chris Rosati passed away after living for several years with ALS. And the service was indeed a celebration. He planned it himself. I’ve been listening to his playlist for the past week and reflecting on kindness and how to keep his motto alive– Be kind and worry less.  Thank you, Chris, for the lessons you taught us. And for the Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

cr

Life continues to be good. I am blessed with a wonderful family, many friends, a job I love and beautiful fall weather here in North Carolina. As Thanksgiving comes galloping towards me, I realize just how lucky I am.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler, grated
  • 1/2 pound Le Gruyère, grated
  • 1 package of Emmi Fondue Original (optional, I used it on the advice of the very helpful guy at Whole Foods, Durham- he also helped me choose the wine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine such as a Chenin Blanc (I used The Holy Snail, a French Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 loaves bread with thick crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine cheeses with flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Open package of Emmi Fondue and add, stirring well to mix. Add pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly. Serve with bread cubes.
**Granny Smith apples are really good as well. Pears, maybe? Boiled potatoes for a raclette-type taste. Cheese puffs?
**Can be served with slices of ham and small pickles, if you wish.
sunflowers
Bon appétit, family and friends far and wide. Happy November. Live like you were dying. And to shamelessly steal, once again, from Sean Dietrich— Life is a gift. And people are beautiful. 
playlist

 

 

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–

 

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Jakes grad 11

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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

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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