I was at the grocery store the other day and they had the most delectable looking strawberries that I just couldn’t resist. I got them home, sliced them up and added a little (okay, to be honest, probably a lot) sugar and let them marinate for a while. I really, really wanted Strawberry Shortcake, but in order to have that it meant another trip to the grocery store for shortcake and whipped cream (prior, proper planning–not). I got to thinking what I could substitute for the shortcake and whipped cream to take care of my craving and came up with my own an “it’ll do in a pinch” version.
I used a white cake mix and baked it according to the directions. After it had cooled, I took some of the strawberries and most of the sugar juice and put it in a saucepan to heat. I mixed about 2 tablespoons of corn starch with just enough water to mix it into a creamy texture (you may need to add more or less depending on the amount of liquid you have in your pan) and added it to the strawberries and cooked them until the juice had thickened. Using the round handle of a wooden spoon, I poked holes all over the cooled cake and then poured the thickened strawberry and juice over it. I spread the strawberries around to make sure the juice got into all the holes poked in the cake. I then spooned the remaining strawberries onto the cake.
I was still missing a very important ingredient in my mental strawberry shortcake, the whipped cream. Not having that, I figured the next best thing was butter cream frosting on top the strawberries. I have to admit I didn’t measure anything. I know it takes very little liquid to overpower the powdered sugar, so after I added probably about a cup and a half of powdered sugar, about a teaspoon of melted butter, I added the milk just a tiny bit at a time. When I liked the consistency, I drizzled the icing over the strawberries. Voila! Strawberry Poke Shortcake.
White Cake Mix (plus eggs, oil, water according to cake mix directions)
Butter or margarine
I am very much a planner. Somewhere in my head I believe if I plan enough, the chances of things going wrong are lessened. That’s probably not true but it sure makes me feel better. My husband’s birthday was coming up and his favorite cake is German Chocolate with Coconut Pecan frosting. Being the planner that I am, whenever the local grocery store runs a sale on cake mixes for something like $1.00 a box, I stock up on as many as I can buy so whenever I need a cake mix, I have one.
So knowing I would have the cake mix I needed to make my husband’s birthday cake, when I was at the store, I only bought the jar of Coconut-Pecan frosting. Of course, this was the night before jos birthday and I’d planned on baking his cake while he was out fishing the next day BEFORE I left to spend the day at the zoo with my friend. But as Murphy’s Law will have it, I had almost every flavor cake mix EXCEPT for German Chocolate. What to do, what to do? After examining the cake mixes I had, White, Yellow, Lemon, Spice, Carrot, it dawned on me I could just add cocoa to one of the mixes and make my own chocolate cake. I chose the Spice cake mix and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out.
To turn the spice cake into a chocolate spice cake, I simply added cocoa. In addition to adding 1/4 cup of cocoa, I got a couple of other really great ideas from Rachel Ray’s website, She has a video showing ways to enhance boxed cake mixes. Two of the suggestions were to substitute melted butter for the oil and using hot water instead of cold. The hot water reacts with the cocoa and enhances the chocolate flavor and using butter instead of oil adds more flavor (not to mention butter is a whole lot more appetizing than oil). To check out her other great tips click here.
I also added about 3 additional tablespoons of flour to upsize the mix just a bit.
I baked it according to the directions on the box and when the cake had completely cooled, I iced it and waited patiently for our dessert time to serve it with a scoop of ice cream. Yum!
Ever wanted to make one of those fantastic Fastinators you see the women wearing on Derby Day? Well, I did. Using some cardboard, a headband, hot glue and miscellaneous craft items I had on hand, I made this Fastinator for the annual fundraising Melodrama my church puts on and that year’s Melodrama was “The Brother’s O’Toole. I thought my character needed a little extra panache so what better way than a Fastinator? And just in case you don’t know what a “Melodrama” is, Webster’s dictionary defines it as
drama in which many exciting events happen and the characters have very strong or exaggerated emotions
I don’t know about exciting events but our characters definitely ham it up.
Using some light-weight cardboard and a saucer for a template, I cut a circle out of the cardboard, cut a triangular notch out of the circle and then stapled the circle back together. I glued fabric from scraps of the dress I made to the circle and glued the fabric covered circle to a headband. I finished the creation by gluing flowers and feathers on top the fabric. To get the perfect angle of the Fastinator, I tried the headband on. One lesson I learned while doing this is not to try the Fastinator on before the hot glue is completely dry. I ended up gluing it to may hair. Oops!
On stage “The Brothers O’Toole”
One duplex, two sides. Both sides rented by single mothers with two children. One single mother works full time. One single mother works part time and goes to school part time. One single mother pays her rent from her income. One single mother’s rent is paid for one year by a social agency. One single mother lives alone with her two children. One single mother allows her unemployed, pot-smoking boyfriend to move in. One single mother works twelve hour shifts and is generally gone fourteen hours at a time. One single mother no longer works or goes to school and has another baby with the boyfriend. One single mother assures that her children are always properly supervised. One single mother has Children’s Services called because her children are left home alone or are unsupervised while outside and often in the street. One single mother has visits by the police and arrests made out of her home and one single mother does not.
One single mother trims her lawn, plants flowers, flies the American flag.
One single mother has weeds growing in front of the house, has broken the glass storm door and blinds in windows are broken and hanging.
One single mother allows pot smoking in her home which permeates the heating system in the other side subjecting the other single mother and her children to second hand marijuana smoke. One single mother worries that if her blood were tested whether she would have inhaled enough second-hand smoke to test positive for THC.
One single mother babysits her sister’s children making five children under the age of seven in the 800 square foot duplex. One single mother allows her children to run up and down the stairs, banging and screaming at all hours of the day and night. One single mother respects the fact that the walls are thin and most things can be easily heard on the other side.
So which side is which? If you guess the side on the left is occupied by the working mother who pays her rent, you would be correct. But I bet you were hoping that the right side would be occupied by the mother who outwardly is doing all the right things, thereby negating the stereotype of people who receive assistance. This is unfortunate because the single mother who has been afforded the opportunity to live rent free takes no pride in the appearance of her home or how her actions affect her adjoining neighbor or the rest of the neighborhood. Actions such as these perpetuate the stereotype that people receiving assistance are lazy and irresponsible. It is actions such as these which make communities rally to prevent any low income housing in their neighborhoods. It is actions such as these which make prospective landlords refuse to participate in programs which can help the less fortunate, law abiding, upstanding citizens who may just need a helping hand. Individuals described above hurt not only themselves, their children and their neighbors, but also every other person who honestly needs assistance. Will that landlord ever allow someone like that single mother to rent from him again? I wouldn’t bet on it.
I first wrote this post last year, but I couldn’t decide whether or not to publish it. It all sounds so unchristianlike. But between the time I wrote this and all of us in the neighborhood were being subjected to almost daily drama which finally resulted in the eviction of the single mother on the right, and now, the right side duplex has been rehabbed and new renters moved in. What a difference. As an added bonus for the new renters (who, incidentally, paid for all the landscaping and mulch themselves) a water spigot was found buried in all the overgrowth in the front. Bonus!
You know how you see those posts on your Facebook timeline asking something like “Name something…..?” The other day one came across my timeline saying “Name Something Your Mother/Grandmother Cooked that was Your Favorite”. Several of the comments said “chicken and dumplings” and I immediately agreed. My grandma was the only person who ever made chicken and dumplings for us, usually on holidays. I loved them. Not sure about my mom though. I don’t know if she didn’t like them, dad didn’t like them or she just didn’t know how to make them because she never did. I’m guessing it was probably a little of all three.
Another favorite of mine that grandma used to make for us was fried chicken. She made the absolute best fried chicken, the skin always crispy and golden brown; you know, that part of the chicken that is supposed to be the absolute worse for you but tastes the absolute best? Whenever my grandma (my dad’s mom) would come and stay the weekend with us, Saturday night meant fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. OMG. I thought I died and went to heaven. My dad, on the other hand, didn’t share my enthusiasm. Having been raised in poverty in the south, a lot of his subsistence depended on chicken. They were cheap to buy and raise and guaranteed meat on the table. I don’t know if my grandma liked fried chicken or not. She had been widowed when my dad, the youngest of her children, was only twelve years old, leaving her with four children to finish raising. I don’t know if my grandpa John was a drinker, but I got the feeling through some of the stories that he may have been. Grandma on one occasion said that Grandpa John would come home late at night, wake her up and make her kill, skin and fry a chicken for him. So, if she didn’t like fried chicken, I think I could see why.
But I digress. Getting back to the favorite thing my grandma used to make for me. Hands down, or at least a dead tie, would be what we called “Grandma’s pancakes”. What they really were, she never told us. They were flat and almost had the consistency of a noodle and she made them big, the entire size of the skillet. She’d serve them to us warm with lots of melted, oozing butter and syrup. Yum! It was just another one of the treats we got when grandma stayed with us. Now I know they were most likely Belgium pancakes or crepes. When my oldest kids were little and my grandma was still alive, I used to make grandma’s pancakes for them. But for some reason, by the time my youngest kids came around (a whopping sixteen years later) and grandma had passed away, I’d stopped making grandma’s pancakes and had forgotten about them all together. That is, until I took a trip to my dad’s hometown and we stayed in a motel across the parking lot from an IHOP. My son and I had breakfast at the IHOP and what was on the menu but grandma’s pancakes! Of course, they called them by a silly name of Crepes. But I was in heaven. I was so excited, that when I got home I googled the recipe and made them for my boys. I just knew they would love them. Well, it didn’t quite go over as I had hoped; they weren’t the pancakes they were accustomed to. But they are still top of the line in my book. Google Belgium Pancakes, or Swedish Pancakes or Crepes and you will find very similar recipes. Or, just do what I did the last time. Use the directions on a regular pancake mix and add two extra eggs and more milk. Worked like a charm for me.