Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lemon Pound Cake Recipe

 Hey, I'm not the Food Maven, okay? So yes I continue to scan my recipes instead of rewriting them. It is sort of for your own good. Haven't we been over my inattention to detail? I'd hate for you to go to all the trouble to make this and have it ruined because I left out some minor tidbit like how much flour or what the oven setting should be (I'm only thinking of you). However, if you really can't read it let me know and I'll bite the bullet and rewrite it just for you.

The basic recipe calls for lemon zest and flavoring, but I have used orange as well and it s equally delicious. I also changed the cup of light whipping cream to 1/3 heavy whipping cream, 1/3 sour cream, and 1/3 milk.

This is one of the lightest cakes I've ever made. The batter is something akin to whipped cream.

Perfect for gift giving.  Friends, neighbors, and coworkers will love you. This cake is delicious all by itself but the light citrus flavors would also be great with a variety of toppings.

Surviving the Ferry of Death in Mexico


Having visited Chichen Itza  at the previous port of call my owner continued on the "march of the history nerds" (as a fellow traveler called it) by signing up for the excursion to Tulum.  Cozumel is an island so it's necessary to travel to the mainland via ferry, a ride that takes about 45 minutes.
Okay 45 minutes, a cast iron stomach, and the ability to keep at bay in one's mind every headline you've ever seen about how many people die when a ferry capsizes.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was a magical azure blue. MO found her group, had a sticker stuck on her (the "tourists are like kindergarteners" theme continued), boarded the ferry, and found a place to sit. She had made a narrow escape of being stuck with the single  friend of a couple she'd met at breakfast, as a companion for the day. After a couple of minutes of hearing about the woman's cat (Why do single fifty-something women never figure out the cat thing?) MO opted for a change of seating due to "the sun."

She ended up next to an amusing couple from Georgia, a high school principal and his highly entertaining wife who had led an interesting life growing up in the Virgin Islands without shoes. They both had something MO highly values in others...a snarky sense of humor. Does she detect sarcasm? You can be friends!

The ferry pulled away from the dock and the color of the water was intoxicating. It passed the ship and headed toward the mainland. It began to rock a bit. My Owner hardly noticed, so engaged was she in conversation with her new seatmates. It tilted a bit to one side...then to the other.  Again...people began screaming and upon the next heave a word came into MO's mind.


As in a ship, to one side. 

She was enthralled by the conversation however, and continued laughing as the ferry rocked back and forth violently. From the corner of her eye she noticed the crew had wedged themselves in various corners and were holding on tightly. Their expressions were resolute but without worry. MO held on too but managed to keep up her end of the conversation over the sound of people screaming and children crying. Then, the first person threw up.

A view that is alternately ALL sky, then ALL water, while waves crash over the TOP of a 3 story structure has that effect on some people. Fortunately MO does not get seasick, and so she continued to crack jokes and make discoveries about her new friends while her hands turned white from holding on and she put the thoughts of sudden and certain death out of her mind, though another word popped into it...


Now two lines of thought were going on simultaneously in MO's mind.

1.) The chatty bit of small talk she was engaged in with this woman about her childhood.

2.) Calculated risk... this ferry is safe or they wouldn't be using it for tourists (I'm going to die in a third world country). The crew doesn't look concerned (they've resigned themselves to an early death). I feel so sorry for those who are sick (the smell of vomit..ignore it...ignore it...).

MO's theory of how to deal with this situation is one she uses often in life which is, trying to keep your bearings and trying to behave in a highly unusual situation as you do in others isn't very beneficial. Sometimes when you don't have control you just have to go with it. (Hey, I never said she was deep.)

Finally the rocking calmed, land was in sight. MO loosened her grip on the backs of the seat in front of her and the one she was sitting on (she had braced herself this way to move along with the ship instead of fighting it). Her hands ached. The ferry pulled up to the pier and everyone stepped off, some laughing, some not so perky, but all relieved.

As MO stood on the motionless dock, she felt sick.


The ferry docks at the beautiful resort town of Playa del Carmen which is quite beautiful and she thought she might like to return there sometime. They met their tour guide for the day and boarded a bus for the lengthy ride to Tulum as MO remembered the Dramamine she had hidden in her bag.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting to Chichen Itza

Seeing the ruins at Chichen Itza was high on My Owner's list of priorities during the Christmas cruise she and her family took last year.  No one was interested in joining her so she set out for the day on her own.

The people who run these shore excursions must have had lots of experience and they weren't taking any chances.

The very first thing that happened was that a wrist band with the name of the tour was attached to them. The number of the bus they were going to be on was said numerous times, and they were told to "form a line of twos" MO realized something she had never quite noticed before; the world is designed in many ways for couples.  She paired up with the one other single person in sight who couldn't wait to announce that she was a lesbian.

"But I'm in a relationship".

"Oh" said MO, "me too".  She contemplated further explanation but thought better of it.

She ended up sitting next to her new friend on the two hour bus ride to the ruins and discussing the book MO was reading, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain which the young woman had recently finished.

Every now and then the bus passed men in military style uniforms with machine guns, sometimes tanks, and once burning the contents of a young man's car on the side of the road.

Secretly this thrilled MO because she loves a bit of adventure and she knew it would make a good story.

"We have very little crime in this area" the guide announced.


One thing you realize after a good bit of travel in the world is that around every monument, ruin, or wonder of nature likely to attract tourism, small, well run towns spring up and Chichen Itza is no exception. This is what greeted them at the entrance. It made MO laugh.

                       Click here to read more on Chichen Itza.

Here are some more of My Owner's pictures from her visit.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Santa, the Pretty Pretty Princess, and Mr. Snarky.

1985 Pretty Pretty Princess(2 wks.)
It became an annual tradition and I was nearly obsessive about it. I was determined for my kids to have their pictures made with Santa EVERY year until they were 18 or so. It sounded so easy in the beginning. You take the baby, and eventually babies, stand in line, plop them on Santa's lap while some teenage girl in an elf costume tries to get them to smile, snap! Pay here.

Here's your photo...

She really wasn't sure about this at all but by the following year she had made up her mind.

She was terrified of Santa.

Well, the costume is a really bad one, I'll admit. I finally had to tell the photo elf to just take the picture screams and all.

A year later she had discovered HE BRINGS PRESENTS! Well NOW we are talking.

I'm thinking this was a My Pretty Pony, Cherry Merry Muffin, Care Bear discussion...

Around this time she realized the whole Santa visit was also a photo op.

Now she's just working us...and Santa.

She is still VERY good at this. 


Sharing the spotlight.


Well he can't ask for much, right? 

This was the year we discovered a nearly authentic version of Santa. He even had me fooled.

This is my all time favorite.

So precious.


I miss that.

The haughty Mr. Snarky made his first holiday appearance in '93.

His expression sums up his whole attitude.

You gotta problem with that?
 While waiting in a long line for our chance to visit with Mr. Claus Mr. Snarky disappeared. Two parents and two grandparents were looking frantically for him when we heard a man yell "HEY! That's not my kid!" My husband and I exchanged glances that said "No. He would be ours." There he was, sitting on SC's lap with another boy. When we asked him why he cut in line he just said "He's right there, why are we standing around?"


A couple of years came off without a hitch and the kids looked forward to it.
This was the year the malls discovered if they took real photos instead of Polaroids they could charge fifteen dollars instead of two.

The princess is in the braces years, Mr. Snarky is in the full throes of Legomania (symptoms include a crazed facial expression whenever the toy is discussed).

Time just kept marching on...

and on...

The kids got older, the lists got longer, the Santas got better and the photos got more expensive. 
We had just returned from London, where I had wanted to have the Santa photo made but was informed that the kids would have to STAND next to Father Christmas as sitting on his lap was considered...sort of suggestive.

Oh heaven help me, are they kidding?

We all especially love this one of Mr. Snarky...

He recovered nicely the next year from whatever was wrong with him, part of which was probably my decision to let him wear whatever he wanted. Clearly, in this picture his sister and I had laid down the fashion law.

The photo above was the last year I insisted they get the photo made.

The next two years they missed doing it so much that the following year they went and secretly had it made, framed it and gave it to me for Christmas. There was almost a tear.



                  So that was it...the LAST Santa photo.

Not to say there are not new kinds of Christmas photos...

My daughter is engaged and so her holiday photo this year with her intended came out like this. Okay, this is the one I liked, but they actually chose another one for their official Christmas photo.

I'm thinking at some point in the future the process is going to start all over again...

           This is the last post until after the holiday.

 "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

                Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Frenzy in Dixie

I have no one but myself to blame. 

Less than a week until Christmas, what have I been DOING?

I can tell you what I HAVEN'T been doing; baking, writing Christmas cards, shopping, watching holiday movies, and anything else that I suddenly realize with 6 days to go, should be done... NOW if it is going to get done at all. 

I HAVE been making time to be with people I care about, making myself available for my daughter's wedding related activities (very important stuff), and pretty much pretending that Christmas isn't just around the corner.'s time to pay the eleven pipers piping.

Is anyone else addicted to that adrenaline rush that happens when it looks like you might not make it?

I should be finished and have my feet up in front of the fire watching Christmas in Connecticut but I'll admit to being in a bit of Christmas rebellion. When the decorations arrive in stores in August and the carols are heard immediately after Halloween, I work hard to ignore it.

I've been a major success.

What am I serving on Christmas Eve? No idea.

What am I having for Christmas Day brunch? Beats me.

This is however, where many previous years of scrupulous planning come into play. Because I have...

The Binder.

It will save me. It contains every holiday menu I've served over the last 15 yrs. or so along with a master shopping list in a plastic sleeve to be marked off with a dry erase marker. It has lists of every present ever given, received, or contemplated along with receipts and price lists. It contains articles about holiday decor ideas from magazines and books along with photos of decorations I've used in the past, themes, instructions, etc.

It contains more ideas than I could get to in 50 holiday seasons. Asian themed it. Directions for making silhouette plates of pets for gifts...check. Web addresses for ordering personalized gift wrap...yep.

But at this point if I get out a few cards, finish my shopping, and make everyone feel welcome in my home while we sit next to the fire eating pumpkin pie, I'll consider it a blazing ;) success.

I killed off my perfection driven demons years ago and I don't miss them.

Neither does anyone else.

The documentation of those years is about to come in very handy though!

Time to "git r done"...

I cannot believe I just wrote that. It cannot be a good sign.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eating and Drinking in Savannah Georgia

My owner is always fond of experiencing fine food and drink especially when traveling. Savannah did not disappoint. Staying with the Food Maven meant wonderful food would be shared and enjoyed and yes, read about. Just about the time MO was falling asleep one night in came her hostess with a book and instructions to "Read this in the morning, you'll like it."     Early the next day My Owner did as she was told, pulled out the assigned reading material and her reading glasses and was promptly distracted by the color coordination of the book, glasses, and comforter. She reached for the camera to document this little random piece of eye candy (and she wonders why no one reads her blog).

The book was excellent and full of good advice about how and what to eat, a subject that always is of interest to her.
Which brings us to the restaurants and food of Savannah.

Vinnie Van GoGo's is an amazing pizza place where one slice is more than enough to fill you up. The atmosphere is super casual. 

MO had the tomato and spinach which she deemed "fabulous" because of course she loves to make use of an extensive vocabulary when describing food.

What better to follow pizza than champagne and chocolate? So it was off to LuLu's Chocolate Bar for champagne cocktails, served up with chocolate cookies with a chili pepper kick.

 Flourless chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry.

There really




Espresso chocolate creme brulee served up with a beautiful orchid garnish (which is edible, by the way).

Champagne and chocolate...genius.

A girls' afternoon out included some shopping but not before stopping for a superb lunch at Soho South Cafe.
A charming tea room and antique store complete with original art for sale. Mo snapped this picture of the sign and iconic moss covered oaks before they went in.

MO and Food Maven's daughter split the ham & brie with granny smith apples and ...

the Greek salad.

Fresh. Delicious.

This photo was snapped AFTER lunch and a couple of mimosas.
MO abides by the strict rule of never declining champagne if it's offered.

The result is what we have here.

I know what you are asking yourself. "Didn't they visit the culinary darling of Savannah, Paula Deen's restaurant?


MO is not fond of southern style home cooking (desserts excluded), so it wasn't a must see for her. But she did snap a pic anyway as they drove by.

Speaking of desserts, friends don't let friends leave Savannah without a stop to the Back In the Day Bakery. 

Coffee and a Miss Hannah which consists of butter cream frosting sandwiched between two lavender shortbread cookies. 

The bakery is infused not only with the most heavenly aromas but also with a nostalgic charm that is comforting in today's fast paced world that can, if only for a few moments, take you back to a simpler time. 

However for all the great food devoured in this beautiful coastal Georgia city, one of the best things she ate all week was a chicken salad with roasted potatoes thrown together by her friend and eaten at the kitchen table with a family she loves.

                  What is EVER more delicious than that?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Southern Lit Field Trip, Y'all!

Isn't her hat cute?
Nobody loves a field trip like two blogging former home school moms. While I was staying with The Food Maven last week I heard her talking on the phone to her daughter.

"And you didn't invite US?"

This is code for "We are officially inviting ourselves." Her daughter had been assigned a trip to Flannery O'Connor's childhood home by her English professor during finals week.

"We'll meet you there!"

We showed up and met FM's daughter and friend and we proceeded to be those horrible middle aged women that my daughter used to complain about in her college classes.

"Oh my gosh! They are so annoying, they ask all these questions and keep us there so long because they just appreciate their educational experience SOOOO much."

Yep. That's us!

We apologize again for all our shortcomings.

 Naturally neither The Food Maven nor I could resist purchasing an award winning book of her letters. You know how I feel about those.

Here's a little tour.

 Fireplace in the parlor with family pictures displayed above.

A simple but bright and charming kitchen. The O'Connor home is the only museum home in Savannah restored to it's original depression era style.

Door to the back yard where young Mary Flannery kept chickens and gained notoriety as a little girl for training them to walk backwards.



Mary Flannery's bedroom
           and the home's one bath.

Mary was a critic early on and some of her books include inscriptions voicing her opinions as early as age six, about the time she began calling her parents by their first names. In this photo she looks unimpressed with whatever book she is reading.

Of Alice in Wonderland she wrote:
"Awful. I wouldn't read this book."

This is the worst book I ever read next to “Pinnochio” was her comment on Georgiana Finds Herself.

She led a fairly simple life much complicated by the disease lupus which caused her untimely death at age 39.

There won't be any biographies of me because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy. Flannery O'Connor

I think Ms. O'Connor would be very surprised indeed to see that not only are there biographies of her, but she still has fans and is considered a great treasure of Southern literature.