Turning a “Boxed Cake Mix” into my own….

The convenience of a “Boxed Cake Mix ” is hard to ignore.. I’ve never been good at making a cake from scratch; don’t know why, but mine always comes out a bit rubbery.. really! From what I’ve read, I’m mixing the flour and dried ingredients into the wet a bit too long…and as many times I’ve tried,, it just does not work for me.. So, I’ve found, my own way, to make a boxed mix, just a bit better.

I’ve also found, using a good ‘Brand Name’ cake mix is best, and this one is a “Carrot Cake”

When it calls for 3 eggs, I add a fourth egg.

I also like extra spice and carrots, and the box just does not give the mix that jolt that I crave. So, I grate a large carrot and add it raw, right into the dry ingredients.

Then I find myself digging through the ‘spice box’ looking for more ‘zest’ to add to the mix.

Ginger sounds good, and more Cinnamon, then a bit of Cloves, Nutmeg and what else? As you can see, “I love my Carrot Cake, spicy”. Oh and lets not forget the Vanilla, two teaspoons of that!

The box asked for 1/2 cup water, and oil, but since I’ve added a bit more moisture with the extra egg and the Orange flavor , I don’t use the full 1/2 cup of water, as the box tells me to use.

I then whip the wet together, then add the dry, as the box tells me.

Put the mixture in a greased tube pan and bake, as to the directions on the box.

Once the cake has cooled, I invert the finished cake onto a ‘cake plate’ and with a large kitchen knife, I slice the cake in half, to make ‘two layers’, then frost.

There, it’s done. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors you love… make your ‘Cake Mix’ your own. I used a store bought “Cream Cheese” frosting and it’s so good!

Now, this is a spicy “Carrot Cake”

Asian Noodle Bowl, for dinner….

I just love “Asian Noodles”, I’m not talking about the common little packets of Ramen Noodles, but, what I call “The better grade of Asian Noodles” We do have a few stores that sell these noodles, and when I find them, I buy quite a few packets, because sometimes the stores may be out of them. These noodles can be used in soups or they can stand on their own with just a bit of butter…

On this day I chose to make a Noodle Bowl, and although It takes some time to chop and spiral the veggies, but once their done, they make for such a good assortment for the Noodle bowl, and you can use any fresh veggies you might have in the fridge. For this bowl, I used, Broccoli, Carrots, Pea Pods, Red bell pepper, Zucchini, and Green Onions. Your choice of veggies is unlimited.

I use my little “Spiralizer Veggie Maker”; there are larger, more powerful gadgets out there, but I don’t spiral my veggies too often, and this one works great for me. You can do any hard veggies, like zucchini, carrots or potatoes., and turn them into long spirals… I simply “Julienne” my other veggies with a kitchen knife, takes a bit of time, but oh so worth it.

Depending on your taste, you can go completely vege or add some pre cooked meat or shrimp; for this bowl I chose pre cooked, sliced chicken.

Once I had all the vegetables sliced and ready, I put about 4 cups chicken stock and about 5 cloves of garlic along with some Sesame oil and Soy Sauce, in a large pot, bring just to a boil and start adding each different veggie, one at a time, let cook about 3 or 4 minutes, remove then add the next veggie… I like my veggies crunchy, not soggy, so don’t let them cook longer than the 4 minutes…

The above are the Chinese Noodles I like best…

Once all the Veggies were cooked and removed to warm dishes, I added the Noodles until done. Then I arranged each in my large bowls, along with a bit of the soup liquid, to keep the assortment jucy.

Noodles and Veggies is one dish I could eat several times a week; my favorite dish has Shrimp added, but, today it’s Chicken… Give it a try, it’s quick and just wonderful.

“Happy Cooking”

When I’m upset, I bake,,, “Cinnamon Buns”….

Today I was waiting for the Postman to bring a box of personal items, left from my brother, who passed away a few weeks ago. He lived in Virginia, and his friend was sending the boxes to me. So to not lose my mind, I baked.

“Brother Charley” was with me this morning as I baked, because “This was my best batch ever”

You know the kind of “Cinnamon Buns” that are ooee-gooey, soft and flakey!

This batch is from the heart, not a recipe, really. I know the basic ingredients that go into the dough,,,, I’ve made them enough times over the years, but this batch I thought to use ‘soft cold butter’, like the way you make ‘flaky’ dough. And it was wonderful, to say the least.

In 1/4 cup of warm water, I put two packages of yeast, and 1 tsp sugar, let it foam for a few minutes.

In the mixer, with the dough hook on, I used 2 eggs, 1 stick soft, cold butter, and  1/2 cup sugar, two tsp vanilla,  whipped it together, then added the yeast mixture.

I combined, 3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp salt, into a separate bowl, Then added the dry, to the wet in the mixer, on low knead, one tablespoon at a time until it was all sticky and mixed. I did not knead for any length of time. Just transferred from the mixer bowl to the flowered glass plate, (I use on the counter top for my work surface). Using my hands with a dusting of flower, I did a few minutes of kneading,, only dusting with flower to keep from sticking.

Once I could form the dough into a ball, I put it into a buttered bowl, then into the oven with a seperate bowl of boiling water, to create heat and steam… let it rise for an hour or until double in size. (this mixture is very sticky)

After the first rising, using a dusting of flour on the work surface I cut the dough in half. My plan was to make two different cinnamon fillings, one plain and one with walnuts. (the walnuts were for me)

Then I rolled out the dough to a rectangle,

For the “Cinnamon Filling” I used a cup of brown sugar, 1/2 tsp corn startch, two tsp cinnamon and a 1/2 tsp nutmeg,,, then put in very soft butter, mixed it together with a spoon. The ‘Walnuts” were for the second batch, (yes, for mine).

Before I spread the cinnamon to the dough, I put a layer of very soft butter on the dough, then rolled it, like a jelly roll, as tight as I could.

Then I cut 6 pieces and put into a parchment lined, baking pan and let it rise again, for about 30 minutes.

The first roll, as I said, was just cinnamon filling, the second had walnuts added, (did I say that batch was just for me?)… then with the oven at 350′ I baked the two batches for about 25 minutes… watching, so the tops do not burn. At the last 5 minutes you can use a strip of foil over the top to avoid the burning.


Then for the ooee-gooey sugar topping, I used two cups powdered sugar, a tsp vanilla and a bit of milk.. no measure there.. just whipped it together then drizzled onto the warm, not hot, buns.

Once cooled, I made a cup of coffee for myself, then the doorbell rang; it was the delivery of my brothers personal items… I waited for my daughter to come, then we opened them together… Years of family photos and many photos of my brothers Navy days…. A folded American flag and his military medals… all I could do was stare at them all…. Yes I’m sad but can smile, knowing he is no longer in pain and with my Mom and older brother, once again.

“Charley”, wherever you are, these “Cinnamon Buns” are for you!

Spring is bringing the Birds back to my yard….

The pretty “Blue Bird” is sitting on the trellis, checking out the “Concrete Owl”…. I put the “Owl” there with hopes of scaring the Squirrels, but they don’t seem to let it bother them.

I’ve never been into ‘Bird Watching’, although I just love when the birds come close, and in my yard; this Spring has been different for some reason, my bird seed dish has always been lower, down in the yard, but this year I decided to bring the dishes up on the deck, with hopes of keeping the critters out of them. Above the ‘Woodpecker’ checking out the seed.. I thought ‘Woodpeckers’ ate live bugs, and the little tidbits they found in the wood; who knew?

I found ‘it’s working’, to keep the seed dishes up by the house, on the deck. The Squirrels are the worst culprits… they don’t let the birds in and make such a mess. For some reason this beautiful ‘Blue Bird’ has come into the yard… He has brought his family with him also.. there could be up to 6 at a time.. I am calling the ‘Blue Bird’ a he, because there are also some of the same shape and size that are mostly ‘Grey’ with a bit of blue on their wing feathers…. I was told the male, had the colorful feathers and the female not so pretty… (that is not fair, don’t you think?)

Then their are the ‘Sweet Doves’. They come as a pair, always, and they don’t mind if other birds stop by to eat, with them.

The “Hummers” are my favorite, but it’s really hard to catch a photo of them, their so fast, they come for the nectar, when I least expect them. Also, I make my own nectar, 3 parts water, to 1 part sugar,,, heat till the sugar is dissolved, and be sure to change it every 3 or 4 days. Also, do not add red food coloring.. they say it’s not healthy for the “Hummers”!

The “Cardinals” are just so bright and beautiful; and are regulars, year round in Central Florida. I see them all the time, and they don’t mind sharing the seed bowl. All of my photos are taken from inside the kitchen window; I have not found a secret place, to hide myself outside, so please excuse the “screen” shots.

And this “Beauty” above… I have never seen this breed before,, what is it? I need to do a bit of research and find its name.. It came only once, last week and I keep waiting to see it again; must have been traveling North for the summer, and in it’s travels, he must have spotted the seed bowl.

Let me introduce you to “Poldark”, that’s the name I gave this beautiful “Peacock” above. One day I went out back, on the deck and then I heard a very loud (I’ll call it a squawk) It was so odd to me as I looked up, and there on the eve of the roof was this really big bird…. looking down at me. I started to run back into the house but thought better, so I talked to it. It just kept screaming at me… so I got some cat food.. put it in a bowl then went inside…. “Poldark” hung around my house for 4 days; with all the neighbors coming to see him. It was fun,,, then one day, he was gone! We still don’t know where he came from, or where he went?

This beauty was taken, by me, in St. Augustine, Florida. My sister and I went for a visit to this wonderful area and there was a “Pure White Peacock” just standing on the grounds.. I went closer to talk to it and it got mad; started to walk toward me and puffed out it’s beautiful fan of feathers,, I walked backwards, camera in hand and it kept coming…. finally I got a good shot… oh how we laughed… I had to share the photo since it’s such a beautiful bird!

The “White Heron” was sitting on the railing of a bridge; down the road from my home, luckily I was a passenger in the car, that day . As I got closer, I quickly snapped a photo; not realizing the Boat was in the shot… We have these “Herons” everywhere here in Florida, they even walk in my backyard, looking for fish, out there in my creek. And, by the way, the creek is called “Alligator Creek”

Now I know this post is about “Spring” and all the beautiful birds that have come to my garden, but the photo above is about “Spring”, and how the gators come out in “Spring”, to mate… they are everywhere here in So. Florida. The Photo is of our “Gator Guy”, who we call, when a gator hangs around our backyard, in the creek, for a few days or more. He is very swift and knows what he is doing… Gator Guy carries a cassette player with the sound of a female and after a bit, here comes the Gator… or if one is being coy he may put a fishing hook, with a big, fresh chicken on it, then leaves it for the night, only to come back the next day,, reel the gator in, then puts him on the back of the pick-up truck and off he go’s… We have to laugh at his ‘flip flops’..

“I just love Spring in Florida”

Leave a comment and let me know, how your area celebrates “Spring”

I’ve been able to add a new year, to my life…

A new year to my life, may sound a bit odd to some .. but I did it, with many lifestyle changes. I actually worked hard to make these changes over the years; Food, Exercise and “My Mind,, I think ‘my mind’ was the number one thing I had to change; the way I look at life and the way I looked at all things. I need to stay alive, for my family, for myself!

12 years ago, after seeing a doctor for ‘loss of breath’, they told me I had “Asthma” sent me home with an “puffer “, to be proper, an “Inhaler”…. but I only got worse, so I went to the ER…. “Heart Failure”…the new doctor said, “Get your life in order, you have maybe, 3 to 9 months.. “The left side of your heart no longer works”.. Well, I would not listen to that… found myself a new doctor.. a Cardiologist who specialized in “Congestive Heart Failure”

I came downstairs this morning and colorful decorations were everywhere, my #1 daughter made sure I would smile, on this great birthday of mine. Thank you Cyndi!

Celebrating my birthday, this year is a milestone, after years of surgeries and getting a new, improved version of the latest “Pacemaker”.. 5 in all in the past 12 years, and a “Defibrillator” to zap my heart when it forgets to pump… So celebrating is such a personal thing for me… My heart inside, is so happy. I’ve been able to celebrate the life of 4 grandsons, during the years. How could I miss that?

My birthday cake, thanks for my #1 daughter ( #2 is the momma of those wonderful boys) along with the decorations left for me to see, first thing this morning. My heart is full…

Have to check the freezer for “Ice Cream” to go along with my cake!

My beautiful “Tulips” are from my Sisters Family, who all live so far away, across the Atlantic…

#1 Daughter, she knows me, oh so well,,, “A Succulent Garden”

“Happy Birthday To Me”

“I closed my eyes and made a wish”

“Life is good”

Yes, “Life is wonderful”, and the moral of my story,,, “Don’t let anyone tell you, your sick, or can not make things right.. work hard at it, read everything you can find on the subject, our internet has it all; you will overcome anything that stands in your way!

“It’s going to be a good year!”

It’s been a hard few weeks, so I took a walk through my yard, to clear my head. Life goes on, in so many ways, “It’s Spring”

When we lose a loved one, our head is so foggy and we feel “It’s over’, but I found when I took a walk, in the fresh air, out in my backyard, I saw Spring, blooming everywhere. “The Banana Trees were producing Fruit”

The potted “Meyer Lemon” had about 7 little babies.

And, my favorite fruit of all time had quite a few “Papayas” growing. This plant has never bloomed in all the years I’ve lived on this property, might have something to do with how many times “I’ve talked to it”. I even started this plant from seeds. Yes, it was so easy to sprout, from the little black seeds inside a fresh Papaya, one from the fruit stand, but when we had our deck replaced, I had to cut the tree down,,, low and behold it grew back, last year. I guess this will be a ‘tip’ for all who can’t get their ‘Papaya” to bear fruit.. Close your eyes and chop it down… haha

And the “Potted Pineapple” has produced, for the second time. The first pineapple fruit was tiny, but really tasty. “Spring is here and life goes on!”

Today, for some reason, all I wanted to do was ‘talk’ to my mom… she has been gone for 21 years, and every day I find myself needing to talk to her… I do, out loud or silent.. wondering if she hears me? Well today, I felt her aura all around and it brought me such peace…. “Mom, I hope Charley and Tommy are there with you”; I like to believe they are, and for the first day, since losing my younger brother a few weeks ago, somehow, I feel better.

When our Mom passed away, quite suddenly, the night before she died, she told me, “Your eggplant dinner made her sick”.. but went to bed seemly ok…. The next morning she said, “I have an upset stomach but still, you go to work, I’ll be fine” So I did, only to come home to find her gone, laying in her bed looking quite comfortable, with her morning coffee cup on the nightstand, TV on, and everything else seemed normal.

Well, after her funeral, my sister and I were beside a water feature, in the Cemetery, just talking, sharing stories of our life with Mom, and there in the water was a ‘real, fresh, Eggplant’… really, “How did it get in the middle of the Cemetery”? Was that Mom, sending a message? Who would walk into the Cemetery, with an Eggplant? The photo above, circled in red is that Eggplant. We walked away, and left it there, not knowing quite what to make of it.. But, we did believe…. “Mom put it there, to let us know, “She was ok”

In the years I’ve lived here, in this house, I’ve always fed the birds.. and the birds have always been the same.. Bluejay, Cardinal, Doves, Crows, nothing different came to my seed bowl. Well, yesterday when I looked out the kitchen window, there in all its glory was this beautiful, colorful bird… “This is not a Florida bird” or at least “I’ve never seen this breed before” “Charley, is that you”, I thought? A big crow came and scared it away, and in a few minutes it came back.. ate a few seeds, only to fly away, and has not returned! I’d like to think, “It’s Charley letting me know, he is ok”

I know a large majority of you have lost a loved one and know the pain and the feelings that over take your ‘good senses’.. but the feeling is a good one, when you get a ‘sign’.

“Safe journey Charley.. give Mom and Tom a hug for me”

Brothers, together again….

Our family lost our #2 brother this past week . Charley died suddenly at the age of 69 and it put me into a sadness that hurts me to my core. My family has had “Heart disease” in our genes … that has taken most of the men. “Heart Failure”, the corner said, the same thing that took our brother, “Tom”, way back in 1986, at the age of 43.

I was thinking that the internet could send a message out to the heavens, to my brothers, to let them know “How much I love and miss them”, Let me try… never know?

The one thing that does help me, just knowing, their with our Mom now.. she is smiling bright, I know, to have both her boys with her once again.

“Until we meet again guys, don’t forget to give “Mom” a hug for me.”