Wish I was there . .
My passport is ready and I can be packed in minutes.

30 April 2009

Out Baking

Making fifty cupcakes for t-ball tonight. Back with pictures later.

29 April 2009

Another Field Trip . . . But With Clothes On

I am off this morning to chaperon my son's field trip. We will taking a hike through a nature preserve which I suspect will require me to repeatedly say "Get on the path." Something about trees, sticks, and creepy crawlies calls out to five year old boys, and before you can say "snack time" these kids are in the woods poking at gators and snakes. Yes, there are gators in nature preserve. I'm just going to hope they've already breakfasted on a couple of old retiree bird watchers this morning.

Anyways, as I enjoyed my last drip of coffee, I found this article on BBC news. Even if you don't click to it, the title of it says what you need to know "Naked Swiss Hiker Must Cover Up". I have to admit that I am very glad we are not in Switzerland this morning. I only need to lie about explain the mating love bugs, and not why the bird watchers are nekkid.

27 April 2009

Daring Baker - Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

As this challenged gave us the freedom to pick out flavors, I decided to go light for spring. I have made cheesecake before so this challenge was not overwhelming. I could have made it more difficult by choosing more layers, but the garden was calling this month so I went simple. I made a lemon cheesecake on a graham cracker crust with blueberry glaze. I used the crust recipe from Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake and then made a few alterations to the cheesecake recipe. I included the original recipe with my alterations below.

The results: the cheesecake was very light tasting, but not quite enough of a lemon flavor. The blueberry glaze was tasty, but next time I'd make a bit more glaze as I had more blueberries than glaze. Overall, a successful challenge. Thanks to Jenny from Jenny Bakes!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice (2 tbsp of lemon juice for mine)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (a tbsp of grated lemon peel)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!
I did not use the water bath and my cake did crack after only 45 minutes of baking, but I covered it with the glaze.
Blueberry Glaze
1 bag of frozen blueberries
1/2 cup of water (next time I'd use more)
1 tbsp of sugar (approx.)
2 tbsp of cornstarch (approx.)
1. Pour water over berries as they defrost and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
2. Drain berries, keeping 1/2 cup of liquid.
3. Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan and add reserved liquid. Bring to a boil over medium heat for about a minute.
4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. As cooling, stir in almost the entire package of defrosted blueberries.
5. Once cool, pour over cheesecake and allow to sit in refrigerator for at least six hours.
6. Remove from spring pan once completely cool.

25 April 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Remember I said quiet birthday . . . just me and the family . . .

This was the view out my window this morning . . .

An Army of Pink Flamingos

There even in the trees!
Do 40+ pink flamingos seem low key to you?

Happy Saturday!

22 April 2009

Grus Gott!

Well, yes I am still around. I didn't intend to take a blogging break, but it appears that is what I did. Can't say I accomplished too much during the break - helping settle the estate of my Grandmother and a lot of airfare watching. I did chaperon another field trip. This one to Bok Tower. I only managed a couple of quick photos as I tried to keep a group of wandering first graders together.

My plan is to return another day unaccompanied by the minor distractions and visit the gardens.

News for the week: The big 40 is this weekend. I plan to spend it with my family. In honor of this new decade I finally booked our summer trip this morning. Let's see if you can guess where we are headed:
Clue 1: A UNESCO world heritage site since 1997

Clue 2: Home of the Festung Hohensalzburg.

Clue 3: Is famously pictured in this classic
And yes, I've been there before, but I could not resist returning. However this trip may finally give me a chance to visit the capital of the country. And yes, I am smiling as I write this.

09 April 2009

In need of flowers and rainbows

Is it me or does all the news seem to be horribly sad? I understand that scandal and bad news sells, but I couldn't seem to find one positive story this entire week. Instead it's pirates, earthquakes, financial disaster, unemployment, cyberspies, kidnapping of reporters and ship captains, shootings, and torture by governments. I keep hearing that Matchbook Twenty Song: " . . . but I believe the world is burning to the ground.. Oh well, I guess we're going to find out. let's see how far we've come . . . "

After the past couple weeks, I could stand to hear something good. Anyone? Something good?

UPDATE: Have read a bunch of your blogs and am now feeling better about the world. Still feel free to leave happy news as the kids are off from school tomorrow and I may need a pick me up.

06 April 2009

Where I've Been

I apologize for the disappearing act. When my grandmother passed away, things got a bit hectic. Gram died unexpectedly as she was returning to Maine. It happened at a rest stop in New Jersey. My uncle and grandfather had to finish the drive to Maine and were actually hit by a drunk driver about an hour from home.

For us, we had been scheduled to be in South Carolina for Spring Break, so plans had to cancelled and arrangements to Maine were made. Being the only lawyer in the family, there were things to be handled, a eulogy to write, and just those sad details that have to be handled even in death. I planned to take some pictures and get them posted but it just didn’t happen.

We decided to try to have a few days of Spring Break when we returned to Florida last Thursday. There were some good times, but we have had a week of craziness. I am just going to write it all out because some day I’ll be able to see the humor in these past two weeks. If you are looking for happiness and sunshine, you’d best go elsewhere today.

Thursday morning as we board the plane for Florida, Hubby gets a call. His Mom (MIL) and Sister (SIL) were involved in an accident. Another car ran a red light (witnessed by a police officer) and slammed into MIL and SIL. Both are taken to hospital and the car is totaled. Thankfully everyone is okay – bruised, sore, and cut, but nothing broken. MIL tells us to head onto the beach as she is just going to be at home with SIL.

Thursday night, there is a tornado warning for the beach area. Hubby and I end up sleeping down in kid’s room due to strong winds and my fear of “what if”.

Friday through Saturday are uneventful – swimming and shell collecting are the high lights.

Sunday we pack up to head home. Hew complains of pain in his stomach. Within thirty minutes, he can not comfortable stand. We stop and give him some gas medicine and he uses the bathroom. The pain does not go away. After an hour more in the car with screaming child, we find an ER. Hew is pale, has low blood pressure, and is still in severe pain. An hour and half later, we are taken to a room. The attendant is cleaning the room from the prior patient; he is not wearing gloves. After stripping the bed, attendant reaches for a clean sheet (no hand washing between cleaning and making of bed) and drops clean sheet onto pile of dirty sheets from prior patient. Attendant picks up the dropped sheet and goes to put it on the bed for Hew. Hubby asks for a clean sheet. While this is going on, we are standing in the hallway with a woman who is having a psychiatric episode which includes loud, nonsensical talking and hitting herself. Hew and KK are freaked.

When doctor comes in, he pushes on Hew’s belly and Hew reacts with pain. The doctor then tells us that he has concerns about appendicitis but this hospital has no pediatric doctors and no surgical doctors for children. We can wait for three hours to have test for appendicitis, and if it is positive then they will transport Hew to a hospital an hour away. Or we can leave now and take Hew forty minutes away to a children’s facility. We take Hew and begin the drive. About fifteen miles from the children’s facility, Hew says he is feeling better. We call FIL who is an ob/gyn and he tells us if the pain goes away, it is not appendicitis and says to go home and follow up with pediatrician unless Hew has severe pain again. So this morning’s visit to the doctor has resulted in an unknown diagnosis that could be irritable bowel, intestinal problems, stomach problems, food reactions, or any other potential stomach/bowel/intestinal ailment. We are keeping a food/waste diary and are to return when/if the pain returns.

While I am trying to keep a sense of humor, the past ten days have included visiting hours and a funeral, the writing and delivery of a eulogy, the appointment as the executor of the will, the handling of an insurance claim for an auto accident, a visit to the ER, and an undiagnosed stomach ailment. I need a nap.