Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Packing It In...

So, it is two in the morning, and I feel as giddy as a five year old on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow—or should I say today­—I am flying to Orlando for my very first Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference. I know—you’re thrilled too, I can tell ;)

I have been planning for this trip for months, and now that it is finally here I am all kinds of excited. About what? Well, first of all, I can’t wait to meet with all of the lovely ladies of my online critique group who function more as my online support group than anything else these days. Internet interaction is great, but I am thrilled to actually talk to these ladies in person.

Secondly, so many of the wonderful authors who I have read and come to love over the years will be there, live and in person. These accomplished woman not only provide me with inspiration with their talented writing, but give me a goal to aim for in my career. Julia Quinn, here I come :)

Thirdly, I will have the opportunity to hobnob with some of the best and brightest in the industry, including all those wonderful agents and editors I have been doing my best to get noticed by.

Fourth, I am eager to learn as much as humanly possible from the oodles of workshops I plan on attending. It's possible to cram two years worth of knowledge into three days, right? RIGHT?

But, if I were honest, I am most excited about packing. Yes, I know, I have tried to ease you into my obsession, beloved reader, but the truth is, I love packing just about as much as the actual trip. For this trip, I was able to pack for a six day trip, two changes of clothes a day, swimsuits, electronics, and over FIFTY cupcakes … all in two carry–ons. I know. It’s a gift ;) Truly, though, through the years, I have honed it down to an art, and today, I will impart some of my best and brightest tips for the perfect packing experience.

You thought I was kidding about the 50 cupcakes, didn't you ;)

1.) Decide on a color palate. Every item that gets packed should be able to be worn with at least 2 other pieces (i.e. shirt that goes with shorts and skirt). By having a common color scheme, it cuts down on how many pairs of shoes, accessories, etc. that you need to worry about.

Yellow to blue ... makes for easy accessorizing

2) Choose outfits ahead of time. In the week (or month, depending on how OCD you may be) leading up to the trip, clear a space to hang up all the clothes you are planning on taking. Know what you are going to wear each day, and hang that outfit up, including accessories and shoes. If an item gets used multiple times, stick a Post-It note on the hanger in lieu of the item. Then, try everything on as a completed outfit. You want to make sure everything still fits, it is clean, and you like the way everything ‘goes.’

3) Roll clothes tightly. Anything that does not need to be hung up should be rolled, not folded. After they are rolled ….

4) Pack clothes into packing cubes or gallon Ziploc baggies. Not only will it protect your clothes, but you can squeeze out all the air for packing efficiency, and when you repack you can separate the clean from dirty clothes.

Handy-dandy packing cube

5) Hang up dress clothes on 1 hanger. Starting smallest and working towards the bulkier clothes, hang all items on one hanger. You will be amazed how much space you will save without the extra hangers, and it helps to keep items neatly together.

6) Pack essentials in your carry-ons. If you can’t fit all items into your carry-ons (and you should, but I am being generous and understanding here), Make sure that at least 2 changes of clothes gets packed in your carry on - as well as pills, jewelry, and electronics.

7) Pack snacks. Bring a bag with breakfast bars and other small snacks for not only the plane but for the entire trip. They usually fit into nooks and crannies and can save you time and money by having on hand.

Notice all my sneaky snacks (raisons, granola bars, fruit snacks)

8) Buy a travel-sized Downy Wrinkle Releaser. It comes in handy for fabrics that don't quite need an iron, but could use some freshening up. Also, if you are allergic to perfume like me, it serves to freshen you up as well ;)

9) Utilize space inside shoes. Pack smaller items, like socks and underwear, into quart-sized Ziploc bags and stuff inside shoes.

10) Wear your heaviest / bulkiest items on the plane. If traveling in the winter, I always wear my boots and jeans in transit. Also, a coat/jacket is never considered carryon, so load those pockets up!

Here are some of my ‘general travel’ tips. I hope this stuff can come in handy!

11) Bring a water bottle. Drain a water bottle, then crunch it up and screw the lid on. Once you are past security, you can un-crunch it (I usually have to blow into it) and refill it at a water fountain.

12) Bring the smallest umbrella you can find - you will probably need it!

13) Bring an extra memory card for your camera, as well as the transfer cord. Download pictures every night if you have your laptop so that if something happens to your camera you still will have most of the pics.

14) Bring blindfolds, earplugs, and socks on the plane. I also sometimes bring a hoodie for added light/sound protection. I have a blow-up neck pillow that I love, but the plane will have little pillows too if you don't want to buy one.

15) Do something to your luggage to make it easily identifiable from a distance. Neon tags or brightly colored ribbon tied around the bag tightly are a good way to make a generic bag stand out.

And last but not least, some out-of-country travel tips:

16) Scan in a copy of your passport and email to yourself and your emergency contact. Also email a full itinerary to your contact. Make color copies of your passports and keep them separate from your real passport.

17) You MUST notify your credit / debit card company of your travel plans. Email yourself copies of the front and back of the cards so you can have your information should something be stolen. Keep a backup card hidden in a piece of luggage - possibly inside a maxi-pad packet or in the sole of one of your shoes.

18) You must also notify your cell phone companies if you plan on being able to use them. Do this as soon as possible to make sure they have time to make changes to your account.

Oh, and one more:

Make sure you pack your cupcakes with care!

So tell me, what are your favorite packing tips? Did you find anything useful in this list?

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One (Not So) Happy Camper

I love camping.
Actually, I think I love camping. Until I am actually camping, at which time, not so much. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I actually hate camping.
Unfortunately, I never remember this when the siren song of the summer begins to call out to me, and I think, once again: Hey, let’s go camping!
Lately I have begun to feel the lure of the mountain air tugging nostalgically at my heart strings. So, in order to remind myself of exactly why it’s been so many years since we have packed up the sleeping backs, dug out the perpetually moldy tent, and headed off into the wilderness for the great outdoors, I decided to dedicate this blog to the turning point in my love affair with camping.
I can clearly remember the first—and last—time Kirk and I decided to forsake the traditional campgrounds and rough it for real. It was the summer of 2000, the year before we were married. Our good friends Jacob and Sara were recently engaged—as were we—and though we hadn’t two pennies to rub together between us, we all wanted to go on vacation. What could be more fun than eating hot dogs off a stick and sleeping on the cold hard ground?
Young, and optimistic—and stupid—were we. Sigh.
It has been lost in the annals of time who it was that first suggested heading to the western North Carolina mountains, away from the heat and oppressive humidity of Columbia, South Carolina, for a little man-on-wilderness action. It is probably a good thing, as the remaining three of us would still not be speaking to that particular genius. Regardless, I can recall packing up my old navy-blue Acura Legend in 100-degree heat and taking the long climb into the highlands.
Kirk and I were practically giddy because the last time were had visited our parents in KY, we had raided my dad’s cache of mountain-man survival gear. His horde, along with the hours we spent pouring over the camping section of Wal-Mart, combined in a sort of supernova of supplies which somehow (at least in our minds) made us overnight experts in the field of wilderness survival. Training? Pfftt, we don’t need no stinking training—we had collapsible cups. And a camp stove. Everyone knows a owning a camp stove is tantamount to earning an honorary Eagle Scout badge.
With the heady scent of kerosene and Off filling the car, we pulled into the parking lot of one of the Blue Ridge Mountain’s finest trails.
Stepping out the car like generals inspecting a battlefield, we scanned the surrounding parking lot, full of other weekend warriors brandishing their own nifty folding silverware and fashion-forward headlamps. Aww, our fellow sportsmen. We nodded knowingly at each other, testing out travel compasses and lacing up shiny new Aslo Power Matic 2000 Gor-tex hiking boots with optional reflective tongues.
We were going camping.
Kirk, Jacob, Sara and I busily went about unpacking the car and loading ourselves up for the trek before us. We knew the rules (sort of) and knew that we had to head out on the trail, then hike a good distance off the main trail in order to set up camp.
Having carefully and lovingly—and knowledgeably (remember that honorary Eagle Scout badges?)—packed our backpacks the night before, Kirk wrestled the enormous moldering red backpacks from the trunk. He held the smaller of the two up for me, and I slipped my arms through the straps. He released his hold on the pack and I, along with my backpack full of every gizmo, gadget, and thing-a-ma-jig we could think of, hit the ground like a ton of bricks.
With that, we were off to a fabulous start.
I staggered back up to my feet, grinning as though nothing happened and hefting the four tons of gear on my back with as much grace as I could handle, which incidentally, wasn’t much. Incredibly happy that neither Jacob nor Sara had seen the fall, I ambled down toward the trial, wobbling and swaying like a drunken sailor.
“Hey Erin, hang on,” Kirk shouted from the car. I slowed to a halt, and looked back. “Can you grab the camp stove?”
I felt the blood drain from my face, but with the people around me taking notice and beginning to question my ruggedness, I quickly agreed. At last, our little foursome headed off down the trail, eagerly setting off into our own adventure.
I’m fine, really. No, I’m sure my knees normally make that noise…
With various utensils and essentials dangling from every available surface of our packs, Kirk and I clattered along the trail like a caravan of gypsies, totally obliterating any possibility of enjoying the peacefulness of nature. Not wanting to appear weak (I used to have a complex about that) I trundled on for what seemed like miles, huffing and puffing and straining under the weight of the overstuffed pack and the stupid camp stove whose completely un-ergonomic handle bit ruthlessly into my fingers.
After a while, we chose a break in the vegetation and headed off the trail in search of a site to set up camp. For what seemed like hours, we hiked along the rocky, uneven ground, wanting to get as far away from the trail as possible. Finally, as the light was beginning to fade and I didn’t think I could take another step, I pointed to a completely unremarkable patch of ground. “Wow, that’s beautiful, let’s camp there.”
Gee, what a picturesque site…
I was weak with relief when the others agreed, and we promptly dropped all of our gear to the ground. The guys and got to work assembling the tents, while Sara and I headed out to gather wood for the fire. When we returned, the boys had the site nice and tidy, with two perfectly assembled little tents in place, the stove set up, and the firepit assembled.
Look at us, we were like pioneers!
Kirk got to work cutting up the wood, since we had brought the handy-dandy machete.
Oh, yes, like cavemen, cowboys, and small boys from the 1950’s, we were on our own, one with nature.
The only problem was … nature in the wilderness wasn’t like nature in the campgrounds we were used to. There was no toilet (don’t even get me started on that particular joy,) no lights, no entertainment … and lots and lots of scurrying. Furtive, secretive rustling seemed to surround us on all sides, especially as the sun set and twilight settled. I chuckled and smiled all nonchalant-like to the others, like hey, I’m cool, but inside I was wondering what, exactly, a ten-foot tall grizzly bear sounded like moments before it launched at its hapless prey. Heh heh, I’m fine guys, why do you ask?
*rustle rustle* What’s that?!!
By true nightfall, I was a nervous wreck. I had developed a crick in my neck from all of the sudden swiveling I was doing, making sure a Puma wasn’t poised for the kill behind me every time a leaf fluttered.
Notice the dead-behind-the-eyes look I have? I kind of have the whole ventriloquist dummy thing going for me…
Worse than my neck and my nerves, however, was my body temperature. I was freezing. Having only brought a thin rain coat and one pair of jeans, I was totally unprepared for the precipitous drop in temperature that happened the moment the sun went down. Of course, poor Kirk didn’t even have that. Notice he is keeping his hat on for warmth here.
Cold, jittery, and bored, we decide to turn in for the night. We said goodnight to Jacob and Sara, and we headed to our tent as they went to theirs, which was about 10 feet away. By then it was cold enough to see our breath, and there was no way we could change into our flimsy night clothes – we would surely freeze. Kirk and I only brought a few extra articles of clothing, none of which is particularly warm, so we decided to layer up, wearing everything we brought.
Kirk blew up the air mattress, and we outfitted it with the sheets we brought. Notice I didn’t say blanket. It was 100 degrees when we left Columbia; we had been worried we would be sweating all night. It had never once occurred to us two honorary (wannabe) Eagle Scouts that it might get cold in the mountains at night.
So we slide under the sheet, fully clothed and shivering, only to discover another fact of physics. When you sleep on air (i.e. an air mattress), the air will not warm with your body heat. Oh no, it will acclimate to whatever temperature the air around it is, in our case, about 40 degrees. Oh, and here is another fun fact for you: as air cools, it contracts. The result? An air mattress which slowly collapses on itself, leaving the occupants both cold (yep) and utterly uncomfortable (double-yep).
So there we lay, freezing, making our slow but steady descent towards the hard rocky ground, clinging to one another in a desperate attempt to steal each other’s body heat, when we hear a noise outside of our tent.
We froze, eyes wide in the darkness as we strain to hear the sound again. There it was! It sounded like … footsteps? Of the biped persuasion, perhaps? Were Jacob and Sara playing a trick on us?
We held our breaths and waited, listening as the steps wandered around the campsite. After a minute or two, I hear Jacob’s worried voice. “Are you guys walking around out there?”
Kirk and I grab each other’s hands and squeeze. Sweet mother of mercy, Jacob’s voice had come from inside their tent! Inside my head, I am screaming like an eight-year-old girl. I swallow and finally replied in a small voice, “We thought that was you!”
There was a total cessation of movement and sound for about three seconds, then all hell broke loose. Kirk and I start scrambling around the tent, me looking for the flashlight, he fumbling first for his glasses (he was nearly blind without them) and then for the machete. I finally located the light and click it on, blinding us and ruining our night vision all at once.
Nearby, I can hear the grunts and muttered curses from Jacob and Sara’s tent as they clamber around in their own tent. “Okay, I’m coming out,” Kirk announced, unzipping the flap while I cowered behind him, holding my foldable utensil set as if it could save my life. Get back, ax murder, I have a SPOON!
Holding the machete in front of him, Kirk yanked opened the flap and shined the flashlight all around. Nothing. Perhaps if had not shouted his warning, we would have caught the ax murderer, leprechaun, or exceptionally well balanced saber tooth tiger in the act. As it was, not even crickets dared chirp lest they invoke the wrath of my machete-wielding fiancé.
When it was clear that we weren’t going to nab the perpetrator, we reluctantly zipped ourselves back up in our tents. I was sure Ted Kaczynski was setting up shop outside out camp, and for once Kirk didn’t seem to think I was overreacting.
While I tried to figure out which side of the bed would position me further from the serial killer / bear / suicidal wombat poised outside of the tent (I wanted them to have to go through Kirk first), Kirk tried to set himself up as defensively as possible. In the end, he decided to sleep with his glasses on, grasping the machete in front of him. While I slept next to him. On an air mattress.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I could actually answer that question, since I spent the entire night lying awake—freezing my butt off—imagining each and every one of those possible scenarios, but I will spare you the details.
When at last the first fingers of dawn arrived, I drifted off into an exhausted, fitful sleep. It was about half an hour later that I was awakened.
By a weed whacker.
A weed whacker?! Bleary-eyed, bedraggled, wearing multiple layers of clothes and an aggravated scowl, I stumbled out of the tent to see what the heck was going on. In the new light of day, I squinted towards the sound of the whining internal combustion engine, at a complete loss what it would be doing so far off the beaten path.
And then I saw it.
The trail. We had hiked all over creation the day before, lugging our enormous packs and superfluous camping supplies, only to have looped almost all the way back to the stupid path.
So, darling reader, that was the day I decided that roughing it was not for me. To this day, I have never tried it again, and I am pretty sure I never will. In the meantime, I thought you might like to see where we stayed the last time we visited the mountains…
I'm curious if anyone else gets bit by the camping bug come summer, or if it's just me. Any fond camping memories ... or less than fond, as the case may be? I'd love to hear from you!
There is one thing that is good enough to wipe away almost all the bad stuff of camping. I speak, of course, of (drum roll please…) S’MORES!
Today, I bring you are newly perfected cupcake recipe, one that was inspired by my friend and fellow author Jerrica Knight-Catania. Check out her books - I am loving A Gentleman Never Tells :)
Campfire Cupcakes
This recipe makes 3 dozen cupcakes, so I usually cut it in thirds to make a small batch. Also, I recommend using sturdy foil cupcake liners to support the graham cracker crust.
Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 and ½ cups fine graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup sugar
- 6 Tablespoons melted butter
Mix together crumbs and sugar, add in butter and mix well. Press about a tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of the cupcake liners. Evenly distribute any leftover mixture
Chocolate Cake:
This is slightly modified from the Bakers One-Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe printed inside the Semisweet baking squares (red) box.
- 6 ounces (6 squares) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
- 3/4 cup (1 – 1/2 sticks) butter
- 1 – 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 - 2/3 cups cake flour (or sifted all-purpose flour)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 -1/2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating with electric mixer on low speed after each addition until well blended.
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. If you are using all-purpose flour, it is best to simply sift it all together.

Add 1/3 of the flour, then ½ the water and the sour cream, then another 1/3 of the flour, the last half of the water, and finally the last 1/3 of the flour.

This batter is very thin, and I always transfer it into a gallon sized Ziplock bag and cut a small hole in the bottom for easy distribution. Distribute evenly over the 3 dozen graham cracker crust-lined cupcake liners.
Bake 18 to 20 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook! Cool in pan 10 min.; remove to wire racks.
Marshmellow-Meringue Topping
I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website (Click Here), but felt that it needed a little more vanilla
- 8 large egg whites
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately
Generously frost the cupcakes. Garnish with a drizzle of melted chocolate and a dusting of graham cracker crumbs. Enjoy!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

When I Am an Old Woman...

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.
Okay, so maybe not purple – for me, I think it would be electric blue, but you get the point.
This week, my sister and I cared for my 85 year-old Nana so that my parents could enjoy some much deserved time away for their anniversary. Nana is super short, with perpetually red hair, an endless cache of clip-on earrings, and bright blue eyes. She is ridiculously healthy given her lifelong love of coffee and sweets—to the exclusion of healthy food, not in addition to—and only began using a walker a few years ago.
As Kara and I fussed and fretted over her this week, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of person I will be when I am older. How much of ourselves do we bring into our winter years, and what are the parts of us that will change.
I have known many elderly people in my day. Okay, not really. It’s not as if I go skipping through the nursing homes or hang out in the shuffleboard cheering section (Go Mortimer! Kick Ernie’s behind!).
But I have known enough to gain a model for how I would like to be in my old age. There are three things that stick out in my mind.
The first is physical vibrancy. Do you know why most elderly people are so weak? Because they stop moving! Study after study proves that working out throughout our lives—even into our old age—is what keeps the body healthy. Take William Shatner for example. William is 79 year old. What?! Yes, good old Shatner, purveyor of PriceLine and provider of decades of entertainment from impersonators is a hale and hearty 79.
You may be asking yourself how it is that I know Cap’n Kirk is hale and hearty, and while I have never met the man, he did slow dance with my brother-in-law, and I have it on the best authority that he can dip a 6+ foot tall man with the ease of Fred Astair wooing the late, great Ginger Rogers in the good ol’ days. And let me tell you, Ryan ain’t no Ginger (sorry, Ryan, but it’s true!). Now, if a near octegenarian can pull off the dip and keep on dancing, than who’s to say that I couldn’t at the same age.
Oh, I know what you are going to say: You are a woman, you could never pull that off. Well, let me tell you a little story.
Three years ago, my sister and I traveled to England to spend a week abroad. As I have already talked about, I have a passion for perfect packing. For the entire week trip, during which we visited London, Oxford, Bath, and even Paris, I had one small rolling bag and a large purse.
My dear, sweet, tiny sister, however, had three pieces of luggage that together amounted to about the size of a car. A mid-sized car, at that. She had a backpack larger than she was, and if she tried to stand up straight, she soon would tumble backward like helpless red-shelled turtle. In addition to that, she also had a purse, and a rolling bag roughly equivalent in weight to a baby elephant.
My bags ..... Kara's bags
Here I am, thinking myself very clever indeed, rolling around with my smart little bag and purse. In reality, it merely opened me up to serving as Kara’s sherpa for the whole of the trip. She may be older (that’s right, sister-mine, I said it!) but I am definitely the larger—and stronger—of the two of us.
As we prepared to board the train from Bath to London, we sisters, for absolutely no apparent reason, were hit by a case of the giggles. I threw my luggage aboard, then turned around to help Kara. I was able to get her gargantuan backpack, but when I tried to help her lift Dumbo, we both were struck down with the nonexistent hilarity of the situation. Weak with laughter, we desperately heaved and hoed, completely impotent to lift the monstrosity between the two of us.
As the passengers piled up behind us, the little old lady behind Kara, who bore a rather striking resemblance to the Queen Mum, briskly approached, grabbed the handle, and swung the whole thing up in one great heave. “There we are, then,” she said in her crisp British accent, brushing her hands and boarding the train matter-of-factly.
Kara and I stood paralyzed, slack-jawed in amazement that this white haired, seventy-something year-old stalwart English gentlewoman had just out-hefted the two of us. Combined. To this day, it is one of my all time favorite stories to tell, particularly when I can pantomime her marching up, snatching the bag, and tossing it on board.
I want to be like this British bruiser and our own William Shatner. Vibrant and healthy, strong and continually in motion, it is keeping up with our bodies the best we can that will keep us young.

The second is mental acuity. Much like exercising our bodies, it is vital to exercise our minds. Though my own Nana may be lacking in the physical exercise department, she puts most people—including myself—to shame in the mental exercise department.
Her workout of choice? Reading. It starts with the morning paper, which she reads straight through from beginning to end. After packing away a cup of joe or two, she moves on to novels. Buckets and buckets of novels. After a couple of hours of reading, she loyally watches Judge Judy (whose average viewer age must certainly be somewhere between Dick Clark and Father Time), before tuning in to whatever sports show is on, picking up her book once more when the game sags.
Before Mom left, she took us girls to the library to return the read books and get a fresh supply. As I hefted the bag from the car, the fabric straining beneath the weight of its contents, it occurred to me that Mom had said a couple of week’s worth of books. Seriously?! At least 10 large-print, hardback novels filled the sack.
As we combed through the library’s bountiful selection, I was amazed by how many Nana had already read. It was hard work finding new, non-violent, non-romantic (ahem), Nana-worthy books. It was most certainly a labor of love, one which my time-strapped mother frequently performs. But the results of the work are truly wonderful: having an active mind and voracious reading appetite at the age of 85 is truly awesome, and something I aspire to.
The third and final thing that I would hope for in my dotage is love. With love comes laughter, joy, and hope. Two years ago I met a 96 year-old woman named Ruth at an upscale nursing home. She wore brilliantly multi-colored glasses complimented by a sassy chin-length bob. She was thin but not frail, and had a certain understated elegance in the way she held herself.
As I sat down at the table across from her, she promptly introduced herself. “Well, hi honey, I’m Ruth. How are you today?” She spoke loud and clear, with a pronounced southern accent and a broad grin on her face.
I found that I was already mirroring her grin. “I’m doing great, how are you?”
We went on to have a lovely conversation, in which I learned she lived alone, but was at the facility for a few weeks recovering from surgery. I also discovered that her husband had died within the last few years, and she had lived in Louisville her entire life.
She was vibrant, and beautiful, and compelling, and I wished I could spend more time in her company. Shortly before I was to leave, she asked about my husband (she got an earful of my happiness) and whether I had children. I told her I did not, a little reluctantly since people of her generation are usually dismayed by this fact.
To my surprise, she grinned and patted my hand. “That’s alright, honey. We never had any children either, and I’ve got lots of people in my life that love me.”
I couldn’t help the smile that came to my lips; I had absolutely no doubt that was true.

So there you have it. When I am an old woman, I shall wear electric blue tennis shoes, dance the tango, assist young woman with their bags, read as many large-print books as I can get my hands on, wear loud, multi-colored glasses and call everyone honey. I shall love, I shall laugh, and I shall dance :) 

What will you wear when you are an old woman/man? Who would you like to be like?

In honor of the resourcefulness of British housewives (who turned to carrot cake during the sugar shortages of WWII) of the same ilk as our rescuer, I am providing you with the world's best carrot cake, slightly modified from the recipe found here.

Carrot Cake
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 and 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup crushed pineapple in own juice, lightly drained
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour either a 9x13 pan or three 9-in cake pans
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix (carrots, sugar, flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon. Stir in eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple, and nuts, and mixed until combined.
Bake 23 to 28 minutes (9-in pans) or 30 to 40 minutes (9x13), or until center comes out clean

Frost with Cream Cheese Icing (click here for recipe)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thursday Mini-Post

It will soon be the 4th of July — Party Time!! My husband and I will be heading back to KY to enjoy some time with our families. We can’t wait to spend time at his parents’ lake house, especially since it was the backdrop to us falling in love all those years ago :).

After the lake, we will head back to my parent’s house in order to celebrate a very important day: their 40th wedding anniversary!! What a wonderful occasion, a real accomplishment in this day and age. I am looking forward to spending time with my whole family for the first time since Christmas. I will be taking next week off from blogging, but will be back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on June 13th—I hope to see you all then!

Today, I give you one of my all-time most popular recipes: Pina Colada Cupcakes!

Make vanilla cupcakes (you can also use box mix)

While they are still warm in the pan, poke holes in each one using a toothpick. Pour about a half a capfull of Malibu Coconut Rum evenly over the perforated top. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Icing Recipe:

- ½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 1 pound powdered sugar (1 box or about 4 cups)
- ¼ cup Malibu Coconut Rum
- 1 Tbsp Pineapple juice
- 2 Tbsp finely shredded coconut

Combine butter and shortening, beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add a few tablespoons of the rum as the mixture gets dry. Add pineapple juice and coconut, mix thoroughly. Add the remaining rum until icing reaches desired consistency.

1 recipe will cover 1 batch of box mix cupcakes. Use 1 ½ or 2 recipes to cover vanilla cupcake recipe (depending on how much icing you like on your cupcakes)
Sprinkle with coconut flakes, and garnish with a pineapple chunk and a cherry.