Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not all cupcakes are equal!

First up on the cupcake auditions is a beautiful chocolate chip cupcake with dark chocolate fudge frosting. I think I came pretty close to "Martha's" version. I ended up with three dozen of them and it's fortunate that some family is coming into town tonight so there will be a new home for these delicious (really!) cakes! Before I started baking, it occurred to me that there might be a place to buy cupcakes in lots of varieties and I visited a new cupcake store. What a disappointment! The cupcakes were huge, which can be good or bad, but it was absolutely the worst cake I have ever tasted! It was like heavyweight cardboard. And while there was a good amount of frosting on board, it was standard "bakery" icing made with vegetable shortening instead of a luscious buttercream. The second picture is a mocha cupcake from the bakery, but I couldn't figure out why as there was no mocha taste. And the malted milk ball and walnuts on top made it more of a mystery. So, looks like we'll have a little cupcake factory going here in a couple of weeks! Tomorrow's flavor: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh joy! Oh bliss! I got this book in the mail yesterday, so today is going to be a cupcake-testing day! It's Martha so you know it's a good thing! Cupcakes are so civilized ... they're just the right size that one can eat the whole thing and not feel like a pig. There's endless variety. They can be decorated with whatever imagination one has at any given moment -- but they can also be plain! I'm so glad that the cupcake has been enjoying a resurgence in the chic world. We're going to have cupcakes at the wedding instead of a traditional cake. I want to test some out, but I think we'll end up with a variety. What's your favorite flavor?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In the Garden

I took a quick peek out in the garden today and found a couple of treasures ... I have four pots of begonias going and this is the first bud! They are beautiful Flamingo Begonias from Dutch Gardens and will eventually look like this beautiful plant. Yes, they do have all those lovely colors on them! I just went over to look at Dutch Gardens home page and the amazing new tulip! Definitely for my fall garden!

The second pleasure in my little garden is a little tomato plant that is absolutely growing it's heart out and already has two tomatoes on it and they are almost bigger than the plant itself! Better get some stakes to help support the lil sweetie! This is a Rutger's tomato plant. This variety was introduced in 1934 in Rutgers, NJ, and was grown as a commercial vegetable used by Campbell's and Heinz. It's not grown commercially any longer, but it is still available from many seed companies as an "heirloom" tomato. I'm growing this one as a canning tomato. Also in the garden are Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Roma, and a couple of cherry plants.

About Aging

Most of the time I forget or don't think about how old I am (59), but then there are days like today when I am reminded that 30 was a while ago! And moving a room of furniture around by myself is probably not a good idea. We both woke up with aches and pains (although he looked more like the Hunchback of Notre Dame than I did, definitely!). Even the kitties looked at us oddly as we sort of groaned our way downstairs for that elixir of life (coffee!) and settled ourselves on the porch. Ahhh there's a valid explanation out there -- it's going to rain! So, we're both a little achy in the joints because of the oncoming rain, and it has absolutely nothing to do with aging! That's my story and I'm sticking to it. My conclusion is that age is just a state of mind, not a state of body.

Monday, June 15, 2009

June is Iced Tea Month

This is the seventh annual National Iced Tea Month -- who knew? We're being encouraged to drink at least one glass of iced tea every day this month in celebration. What are we celebrating? Well, it definitely tastes good, it's easy to obtain and reasonably priced, and it actually has some healthy benefits -- phytochemicals in green and black teas have strong antioxidant properties! Iced tea has been around for over 100 years -- since the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair (you can learn more about that by watching Judy Garland in "Meet Me in St. Louis") when an enterprising British tea purveyor realized folks didn't want hot drinks and promptly began adding ice to his tea. It's been an American hit ever since -- 80% of the tea we consume in the U.S. is iced!

I love iced tea -- any iced tea: green, black, flavored, sweetened, lemony -- love it. For this month, my choice has been entirely devoted to "Awake" by Tazo, a bold blend of black tea from India and high-grown from Ceylon that is truly invigorating. You can easily find it online or at your local Starbucks Coffee Shop. I make mine a bit concentrated by using 3 teabags per 16 ounces of boiling water, then add water and ice when I'm ready for a drink.

It's gardening week for me here in Virginia -- still have lots of plants here that need to find permanent homes. I've been creating a little woodland retreat area in amongst the trees in the back yard and have 20 or 30 shade plants to incorporate -- hostas, astilbes, bluebells, hollyhocks ... I'll put up a picture when the planting is done!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Shiny Ball Story

My Google Alerts this morning sent me to a blog that mentioned African Violets -- my new passion (well, not really new, but renewed). Last month I decided I really missed my violet obsession so I rushed out and ordered new plants and leaves. The lovely Irish Sweeps is blooming it's little heart out, and here's a couple of NOIDS (no identification/no name) that are struggling valiantly to hang on ... and here's one tray of leaves -- there are 60 planted. Now I just have to wait for the little baby plants to grow. Wish they'd hurry!

And already I got distracted from the shiny ball story by telling you about my violets! and of course I had to go out and photograph them, then download a new photo editing program, and two hours later, voila!

Have you ever seen a ferret running around? They are so very cute, and they love shiny objects and will run to one, see another and forget the first, and on and on -- easily distracted by the next fun thing. Well, that's me!

I seem to get very focused on the subject or hobby of the moment. I go to the library. I want to find blogs or forums with similar interests. I buy books on the subject. I search out any kind of information I can ... until another shiny ball catches my eye.