Friday, June 19, 2009

The Betty Crocker Baking Clinic

Since my Kitchenaid and I have been best friends this week, I figured that I would share some recipes that seem to have been repeatedly baked during our time of funeral treat dispensing. Pull out your bundt pans!

Mom's Apple Cake
1 1/4 c vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 (1/2) t vanilla (I always use more than a recipe calls for.)
Mix these things together first.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1 1/2 t baking SODA
1/2 t baking POWDER
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
3 cups flour
Mix these things in next.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3 cups cut up apples (2-3 apples- I leave the skins on. Older apples are fine.)
1 cup nuts (Mom uses walnuts, I used raw slivered almonds that I toasted in a pan.)
1 cup raisins (Mom always uses raisins, I would love to use craisins. Raisins are cheaper, though.)
Fold these things in last.

This is a VERY FINICKY cake. You must bake it in the center of the oven at 350 F. (Don't bake with anything else. It loves to be an only child.) Grease the pan with Pam GENEROUSLY. I had it stick. This will be crusty. Check with a toothpick. Should not be doughy, but not come out completely clean. My mom said that this is a very difficult cake to get done. She suggests that if it isn't done after repeated attempts of doneness, turn the oven off and leave it to bake through the time that it takes to cool the oven down. Whenever that blessed event of doneness occurs, make a little drizzly glaze for the top.

Cheater Pound Cake
1 pkg cake mix (I've used Chocolate or Lemon. Vanilla DOES NOT work well with this recipe.)
1 pkg (3.4 oz box) instant pudding in the same flavor as your cake mix
4 large eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Mix together, plunk in a bundt pan sprayed with Pam and bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes. After 5 minutes or so, invert cake onto a serving plate, drizzle a glaze over top and you are done!

Smiles in my day:
- I had success with the second apple cake.
- My aunt racing K- up and down our street while riding on her mobility scooter.
- K- having saved enough of her own money to go and buy the Barbie Beach Car that she has been wanting for a few months. She stood at the register and, with help, counted the money to the cashier. (The cashier had much patience.)
- Out of the blue, K- telling me "Oh yes, I hear a 'b' in that word." (Or another letter.) She is initiating Phonemic Awareness games with me! Those classes are working!
- Lightning bugs starting their lightning game last night. We've been waiting!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


From Is it just me or is this story bizarre? (Second post for today. Don't forget to scroll down.)

No benefits for girl born from dead man's sperm
By Associated Press
POSTED: 02:28 p.m. EDT, Jun 18, 2009

PASADENA, CALIF.: A 10-year-old girl conceived from the frozen sperm of a dead man cannot receive his Social Security benefits, a federal appeals court ruled.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a lower court's rejection of child survivor benefits for Brandalynn Vernoff, who was born nearly four years after her father's death in 1995.

The case involved sperm that Bruce Vernoff's widow, Gabriela, had a doctor extract after he died unexpectedly from an allergic reaction. In 1998, she used it for in vitro fertilization and gave birth to Brandalynn in a Los Angeles hospital on March 17, 1999.

Gabriela Vernoff later applied for child survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration but was rejected. A federal judge in Santa Ana also rejected her claims.

The appellate panel ruled that while there was an "undisputed biological relationship" between Brandalynn and her father, the girl was not a dependent at the time of his death as defined by Social Security regulations and by California law on the establishment of paternity.

The three-judge panel noted that California law only grants inheritance rights to children conceived within one year after a parent has died. The ruling also said there was no evidence that Vernoff consented to his wife's artificial insemination, which under state law would be required to establish his paternity.

Gabriela Vernoff "has not provided any evidence of consent to the conception by the insured or his willingness to support Brandalynn," the ruling said.

A message left for the widow's attorney was not immediately returned today.

With the twirl of a wand . . .

I shall make a cardboard shack today for the VBS we'll be doing next week. (Crocodile Dock.) They have to remember that they've asked an artist to build it. I have a large refrigerator box, a bunch of boxes from work and we're going to have a slightly wonky (Not like the House that Jack built. Though at Idlewild, it is pretty cool.) home with cardboard shutters, an awning over the front door and a welcome mat. Oh, this will be the house that they paint the red over the door to simulate Passover. So they'll be painting over a bright funky door. It's all good. I've also got a ton of loaned fishing equipment, a boat and a bunch of other fishing type things that I need to get displayed around the church.

Have I mentioned that I'm tired and will definitely be needing to take something caffeinated with me? Oh sweet Pete. Hubs didn't sleep the other night, kept me up, when he fell asleep, K- woke up. I'm trying to make up for a night's sleep and am not quite there yet. Argh.

I attended the calling hours last night for Julia's mom. I was only there for about 15 minutes, but Julia was glad to see me. Oh, how my heart breaks for her. Then I did my evening check-in with April. They are preparing for the Celebration of Life party for her dad tomorrow. She's working on some financial tweaking for her mom and we were kicking around ideas last night. She's doing well for now. Aunt Arlene has made the move to Hospice and Hubs' mom had gone to visit her last night, so K- was with Hubs' dad when I arrived. They were having great fun.

Smiles in my day:
1. My mother-in-law covered me for dinner twice this week. Hubs had to count frogs and toads on Tuesday night, so I picked K- up. They ordered me a spaghetti dinner from the place up the street. Last night before she left to visit with Aunt Arlene, she set a bowl of macaroni salad in the fridge for me for dinner. How thoughtful!
2. I've continued my progress with the backstock room at work. Wow. We do have a floor and it is brown. I knew it was there somewhere! (So much was coming in and we couldn't keep up with getting it out and upstairs at the same time.)
3. We all slept last night.
4. All the rain and thunderstorms have made my tomato plants grow, grow, grow!
5. The pink clover and Feverfew seem to be taking quite nicely.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In times of death, a Baptist bakes.

No WFMW this week. I am a Baptist woman and in times of sickness, birth or death, we bake. I don't know why we do this, we just do. Get us concerned enough and we'll crockpot you a meal or two. I think it's in the code.

Last evening, we got the news that Hubs' Aunt Arlene has advancing Liver Cancer and has been given 3 weeks to live. She is being moved to Hospice. Both of Hubs' parents are just beyond brokenhearted. Aunt Arlene is like a mother to Hubs' dad and like a sister to Hubs' mom. She is every bit of what I would say a "strong woman" is. She is a wonderful Christian woman who is truly the most genuinely caring soul that I know. To have a world without Aunt Arlene around will be a world missing someone great. She has knitted/crocheted K- hats over the years and made us a blanket last year. In fact, I wrapped K- up in the blanket every morning as she sits to watch Martha. It's like I'm wrapping her in Aunt Arlene's loving arms. And me? I have two bowls for my Kitchenaid from Aunt Arlene's downsizing home sale. (I think she just sent them home with his mom.) I use them to death, do and always will think of Aunt Arlene with the baking of every cookie and cake that comes from those bowls.

With the death cloud hanging thick, my kitchen has turned into a bakery and I feel like Betty-- Betty Crocker. Just don't address me as Mrs. Crocker. Ms. Crocker is just fine. Don't do the Mrs., you know. So, my baking cap is on and I'll see you tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy my smiles.

Smiles in my day:
1. One of my mom's people (mom cleans houses) came in today especially to see me. She needed some super duper white glove treatment and when she went to leave, she even hugged me. The funniest was when she came in and I told her that my mom said that she looked like my friend, Cj. She did, except for the lack of red hair. My co-worker Elizabeth used to work at the previous gallery with me and that was where Cj was our boss. Elizabeth proceeded to tell Bonnie (I blush as I type this) that her glasses were so great that Cj would have said that they were org*as*mic. Oh my goodness, I could have died. I would have loved to see how many shades of red I turned. Eek! (They were great glasses, though!)
2. I've had an odd assortment of folks from our other store to cover in Julia's absence. To surprise Julia when she gets back, I've been doing a Virgoian organization of our upstairs backstock. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It looks so good.
3. K- and I test drove the Windex Outdoor Window Cleaner at my mother-in-law's house. She was so excited that I was doing my Bzz Agent demo at her house! She loved it that she got her windows cleaned. (Yes, I'm following up with a Bzz Agent report probably Friday, barring any more death!)
4. I think that this is the first that I've sat down in a leisurely fashion all day. It feels so good!
5. I procrastinated, but the Maytag people pulled through, called me back and they have cardboard for me to be able to build a little shack for VBS! Hooray for the Maytag guys!

Pardon me, but I have baking to do. Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A hovering cloud of loss.

No Tales this week. Instead, I'm giving some love to folks in my life who have lost loved ones this week. Unfortunately, there are several.

Shirley, the person who ran the church food cupboard, died last Tuesday from Pancreatic Cancer. Shirley was a wonderfully caring person. She had a heart for serving and the food cupboard was her calling. The poor and needy were here people and she treated all who came through the doors of the cupboard with respect. Her calling hours are this evening.

April, my best friend in the whole wide world (and since were were 9), lost her dad early Monday morning. We've grown up like sisters. Sure, in our adult life there have been spans of months that we haven't been able to speak (not as much anymore, but a while ago), but we always pick up right where we left off. April's dad had been moved into Hospice last week after continued suffering with congestive heart failure. The family was told that he had weeks to months to live. She got the call at 3:30 AM that he was gone. I got the call at about 7 AM. My heart goes out to her. She was a later in life baby, so her dad was older. He would have been 80 in September. Memorial services for her dad are on Friday night.

Julia, my co-worker and partner in crime, lost her mom Monday morning. This was pretty unexpected, as her mom had a TIA a few weeks ago, was home recuperating in anticipation of having aortic valve replacement shortly. I spoke with Julia Monday morning and she said that her mom said that she was feeling better. Julia was another later in life baby and her mom was in her mid-70's. She had some hiccups with her heart previously, but this truly came as a surprise to her family. As with April, I can't imagine being in my mid 30's and having lost a parent. My heart goes out to these girls in ways I probably can't fully express. (Rachael, I know that you have gone through this.)

Carol, a co-worker at our adjacent store, lost her husband this past Thursday. Apparently, her husband was quite a leader in neurology and was well known in the medical community. He was quite an accomplished and respected doctor that will be missed by family, friends, colleagues and patients. Though I really only know Carol in passing (she works during our busy season), my heart goes out to her in the loss of her life long partner and friend.

Smiles in my day:
(Remember that I write these the night before.)
1. The kids that were put on duty to dispose of the baby diaper from their sibling. It was so funny. Turns out it was pee only, but the poor kids were hilarious. I thanked them for bringing it in to me. I was so glad it wasn't deposited in the parking lot!
2. I have red Asiatic lilies blooming!
3. Hubs mowed the lawn even though he was tuckered. Thanks honey!
4. We've been walking every evening, even if it is just the "long loop," we're able to spend time together and discuss how when we were both down with different illness', stuck watching far too much TV, we watched infomercials, love the Workx GT and both really want one.
5. The lavender is in full bloom.
6. The bunnies that have decided to take up permanent residence in our yard since the back is full of yummy white clover.
7. Hubs and K- were able to go fishing Monday with our little boat and caught 2 fish.
8. Hanging laundry outside. I just love it. (Minus bugs and bird poop, of course.)
9. The fact that our neighbor is so thoughtful. He will either push his motorcycle to the end of his driveway, then start it in the AM or if rolling in at night, he'll shut it off on the road and coast down the drive and into his garage. Why does he do this? K-'s window is on that side of the house and his driveway is 6 feet from her window.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Negative Spin

I'm normally a fairly positive person, but lately I've noticed that negativity has been pouring from my mouth.

I'm not happy with this.

Oh, it's a little nit-pick here, a nit-pick there. Just general crankiness about really trivial stuff. This habit has come more to light over this past week when one of my co-workers were called out on negative speak. Again, nothing major, but a little bit seems to ooze. She was talking to me about it, called something I said to my attention (with no offense, but just calling attention to it so that I wouldn't have issue with people) and it got me to thinking. How the heck did I get this way?

I've come up with a list of possible triggers. Notice that I'm not giving reasons, but triggers. I'd just like to get back to my sunshiny self. I'm not trying to defend bad behavior or negative speak.

1. I have not been sleeping as well as I used to. -- When Hubs has sleeping issues, I have sleeping issues. When K- has sleeping issues, I have sleeping issues. When there are family issues, I have sleeping issues. I internalize, then I lay awake in the middle of the night praying about things. Oh, the direct line to God is good and all, but if I could get my talking to done with Him before 3 AM, that would be super.
2. April and May are dreadful for any park naturalist. -- This is the final push for school programs. There is also the frog and toad survey that keeps Hubs up and out until after 11 PM traipsing through people's yards counting the frogs that they have. This makes Hubs tired, but wired and he can't sleep. He can't sleep, I can't sleep. See trigger #1.
3. The economy. -- For several months, out-going funds and incoming funds differed by sometimes as much as $800.00 per month. I was watching the cash in our savings plummet. We were still fine, but not as fine as we like to be. About 1/2 of what we wanted to be, actually. We've resolved that by completely banking the income tax check, K- isn't in preschool anymore, so that tuition is being banked, utility costs have gone down, we still stick to lumping a bunch of trips into one and we're just generally being mindful of our spending. We've been successful in pulling the account back around and we're trying to bank more money now to try to offset the dip we might have in the winter.

Which brings me to another point on #3. I haven't had a raise in 3 years. Hubs got a minimal raise this year (county government for parks doesn't generally give huge raises), but we were told that they will NOT be getting raises this next year. It is wonderful to have a raise, but good to be warned. They apologized profusely, but they have a raise freeze next year for the county that Hubs works for, so we certainly know that they have to follow suit. Only seems fair.

In addition, my bosses have always been wonderful in giving us a bonus each year. That bonus two years ago + money that I saved up completely paid K-'s preschool tuition in full at the beginning of the year. I didn't have that cushion this past year and the bonus only paid for one month of tuition and not the 4 or so that I was hoping for. Still very thankful, as I was surprised that we got anything at all.

The economy in general have made customers want more for less-- oh like me. They've even said this past week that it is as much or sometimes more work to sell a $30.00 item than it is to sell a $300.00 item.
5. When you are around folks that tend to spew negative, it rubs off on you. -- 'Nuff said.
6. I love my brother, but I've had to pull back from bailing him out. -- Yes, cost wise is a concern, but he has rested on enabling behavior and I refuse to do it anymore. I was pulling back before, but the turn of the new year clinched it. He needs to keep his appointments, continue to take his medications, provide for his family and GET A FREAKIN' JOB, please.
7. Road rage. -- People can't let you in. They don't want to let you out. They don't want to be nice.
8. Store attitudes. -- People are cranky there, too.
9. I worry that I'm not teaching K- enough or do enough with her. -- Don't you always feel not good enough in some way as a mom?
10. One of my biggest fears is cancer and every newspaper and magazine that I read seems like there are 12 major stories about this. I end up thinking about this, having a pain in the very spot that I was reading about and remain awake and worry about it. Hypochondriac? Um, yes.
11. Allergies have been dreadful this year, and I had a major battle for a month and a half.

Again, these are triggers, not excuses. In effort to spin myself to a sunshinier side of life, I'm going to do something that my internet friend, Rachael does. I'm going to end my post with some good stuff from my day. She calls them "Sparklies" but I'll call mine "Smiles in my day." This way, I will be thinking of and being thankful for good things.

Smiles in my day:
1. We attended a family graduation party today for Hubs' cousin. Though I'll be writing about this on Thursday, we had a lovely time and K- was very good!
2. There is a couple at church that have adopted K- as a pseudo grandkid that she makes treats and cookies for. They made M & M cookies for K- and chocolate covered cherries for me. I'm sharing my cherries with my mother-in-law and the folks at work.
3. My father-in-law has lost 8 pounds! I'm so proud of him!
4. My brother and his family stayed at my sister's house last night until about 9:30 PM. It was nice for them to get out and have a good time. (There was a birthday party-- part of Thursday post-- and they just stayed on.)
5. K-'s graduation picture came in today. So cute! So glad we ordered it since she decided to fly down the aisle to catch up with her friend! She moved so fast we didn't catch her!
6. The sermon today got me thinking about my negativity thing. The message made a positive impact on me and got me moving to make a positive change.