Saturday, May 31, 2014

Warm Kahlua Chocolate Sauce

Sometimes we all need to add a little sparkle to our day. Consider these 43 DIY Ideas  from

Add glitter to give some lift to your shoes for that special occasion 
or perhaps add some sparkle to change a candle from ordinary to spectacular.  
Add edible sparkles to your favorite recipe. This tutorial is easy to follow on how to make your own edible glitter sparkles. It would be perfect sprinkled over warm chocolate sauce. 
Homemade Chocolate Kahlua Sauce
Cook's notes: The recipe directions from the Yummy site said: preparation 5 minutes.  I was skeptical but my neighbor timed it and it was right on. Couldn't have been easier.
Options include: Adding edible sprinkles or crushed nuts
Substitute Amaretto or Baileys Irish Cream for the Kahlua
  • 6 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips ( I tested with Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 TB. butter
  • 1-2 TB. Kahlua (could substitute Amaretto) 
  • In a double boiler heat water and in upper or top pan add chips, cream and butter
  • Whisk several times to blend and cook till thick about 3-4 minutes
  • Whisk in liqueur
  • Serve warm sauce over ice cream or frozen yogurt or store sauce in refrigerator and microwave later adding some cream to thin out sauce

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's A Wrap

With only one more letter of the alphabet left to study 
we learned today that Y stands for our very own yo-yo
Room 13 mailboxes brimmed with papers  and art projects to take home  
and celebrating all those summer birthdays is but a MUST! 
 Happy Vacation to us all.

Cherry Limeade Cupcakes
Cook's notes: This is a fun summer treat, light and refreshing!
recipe makes 24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used half butter and half margarine)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. limeade concentrate
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)

For the lime syrup:
3/4 cup limeade concentrate
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the frosting:
3- 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
5 TB. butter, softened
4 tbsp. (or more) maraschino cherry juice
red food coloring (optional)

For decorating (optional):
fresh lime slices
maraschino cherries
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line two muffin pans with paper liners. 
In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamed. Add in the limeade concentrate and mix to incorporate. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Add in the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix ingredients just long enough to incorporate but no longer.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack over wax paper to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk together the limeade concentrate and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl to make the lime syrup. Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a skewer and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.

To make the frosting, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter and maraschino cherry juice in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed and beat until smooth. Add more maraschino cherry juice as needed to achieve desired texture. Add red food coloring if desired.

Frost cooled cupcakes. Garnish with lime slices and maraschino cherries, if desired.
Source: adapted from Baking Up Chaos

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Time To Say Goodbye

Does this sound like the title of a Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli song?

Room 13 was in high spirits today. They were dressed to the 'nines' for their kindergarten concert. The school year 2o13-2014 started out with a stylish bunch. Remember those fancy shoes that sparkled and lit up? 

Today they did not disappoint me with their wardrobe. I practically melted at the sight of two boys wearing shirts and ties.
As they lined up some still had shoelaces trailing on the floor. Guess its a never ending process keeping shoes tied. 


Tomorrow we celebrate summer birthdays with cupcakes and bubbles. How fun is that for the school year countdown!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, 

but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Maya Angelou (2012)

It was with great sadness today I read about the passing of Maya Angelou (civil rights activist, poet and winning author) What a void left in the literary field. She leaves behind an incredible legacy with her spirit of activism, words of inspiration and gift of prose.  
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Roasted Pear Salad
Cook's notes: This flavorful side goes well with any grilled entree.
  • 4 pears, halved and cored
  • 8 teaspoons fig jam, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fig jam, divided
  • 5 ounces soft goat cheese, cut into 8 slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 cups watercress (may sub baby arugula or spinach)
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
  • Preheat oven to 325°F Place pear halves cut-side up in 2 large baking dishes.
  • Spoon 1 teaspoons jam in center of each pear half. Top with goat cheese rounds, and lightly drizzle with oil. 
  • Bake pears 30 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown.
  • Whisk together remaining 2 TB. fig jam, lemon juice, and mustard in bowl. Whisk in 1 Tbs. olive oil.
  • Divide watercressor salad greens among 8 serving plates. Sprinkle with onion and walnuts. Top each with pear half, and drizzle with dressing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Many poets, authors, playwrights and song writers have found inspiration in luscious sweet strawberries. Consider this humorous prose from Shel Silverstein from his book, Where The Sidewalk Ends on strawberries. 

Should you pet them, or let them run free where they roam? Could they ever relax in a steam-heated home? Can they be trained to not growl at the guests? Will a litterbox work or would they make a mess? Can we make them a Cowberry, herding the cows, or maybe a Muleberry pulling the plows, or maybe a Huntberry chasing the grouse, or maybe a Watchberry guarding the house, and though they may curl up at your feet oh so sweetly can you ever feel that you trust them completely? Or should we make a pet out of something less scary, like the Domestic Prune or the Imported Cherry, Anyhow, you've been warned and I will not be blamed if your Wild Strawberries cannot be tamed.”
or this famous song written by John Lennon and attributed to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership. It was inspired by Lennon's memories of playing in the garden of "Strawberry Field" a Salvation Army Children's home near where he lived.
Strawberry Fields Forever"

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me.
Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.
Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know when it's a dream.
I think I know I mean a 'Yes' but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree.
Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
 Strawberry Pie
Cook's notes: Strawberries often provide inspiration for my cooking. The hardest part about this dessert was waiting the two hours for the pie to set up in the refrigerator.  All the reviews stressed two hours or more-NO LESS. I set my timer so we wouldn't be tempted to cheat. If you do not add whip cream it can be a healthy dessert :)
  • 1 pie crust
  • 6-8 cups strawberries, sliced but leave some strawberries whole 
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TB. lemon juice
  • 2 heaping TB. cornstarch 
  • drop red food coloring
  • splash of Grand Marnier
Prepare pie crust according to directions-set aside
Remove stems from strawberries and slice 
  • In a blender add 1 cup strawberries, lemon juice and 1 cup water-puree
  • Add puree mixture to a saucepan, cook on medium until it boils, then lower heat and simmer uncovered 2 minutes
  • In a bowl add sugar and cornstarch, stir into puree mixture in saucepan and cook on low 5 minutes
  • Add puree mixture back to blender, mix well and return back to saucepan
  • Using a whisk add in a drop of food coloring, cook on  low 20 minutes until thickened
  • Set glaze aside in saucepan to cool 10 minutes (do not stir) 
  • Add in sliced strawberries to glaze mixture with a splash of Grand Marnier  
  • Spoon glaze with strawberries into cooled pie crust and arrange some whole strawberries in pie shell with sliced ones
  • Refrigerate 2 hours or more

Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to the world-famous singer, songwriter and peace activist, John Lennon. During his career with the Beatles and in his solo work, Lennon's music gave hope and inspiration for world peace and his memory and mission lives on in Strawberry Fields.

This tranquil section of Central Park was named after one of Lennon's favorite songs, "Strawberry Fields Forever." Recorded in 1966, the song's title comes from an orphanage in Liverpool, England where Lennon used to go to play with the children. His aunt, who raised him, disapproved but he insisted it was, "nothing to get hung about." Hence, the song's famous lyric.

Strawberry Fields was officially dedicated on October 9, 1985, the 45th anniversary of Lennon's birth. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, worked with landscape architect Bruce Kelly and Central Park Conservancy to create a meditative spot. The black-and-white mosaic was created by Italian craftsmen and given as a gift by the city of Naples. Based on a Greco-Roman design, it bears the word of another of Lennon's songs: Imagine. A designated Quiet Zone in the Park, the memorial is shaded by stately American elms and lined with benches. In the warmer months, flowers bloom all around the area. Along the path near the mosaic, you'll find a bronze plaque that lists the 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

A nation that does not honor it's heroes, will not long endure.
Abraham Lincoln
Take time to reflect and honor those men and women who have served our country, past and present.  So...

When You See a Soldier

When you see a soldier
Be sure to shake his or her hand,
And let that soldier know you're grateful
For the protection the military affords our land.

But most of all express your thanks
for every soldier's personal sacrifice.
In order to serve our country,
They risked their entire lives.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

DIY Garden Ideas and a Stir Fry Chicken and Green Beans Dish

Now I know what to do with a bag of wine corks that I have been saving for some DIY project. On a recent trip to the garden center I noticed these clever garden sticks to purchase. 

Herb Cork Signage
Drill a small hole in bottom of the cork. Push into hole a bamboo skewer and add some strong glue round the base of the cork attached to skewer. On top of the cork glue a decorative glass bead. On the cork print with permanent maker the name of the herb.

These herb markers were made with stones. The lettering and decorations are painted using outdoor white paint. 

Wooden spoons-herb garden sticks

Paint Sticks Spray Painted and Lettered
Stir Fry Ginger Sesame Chicken with Green Beans
Cook's notes: This dish was easy to put together and perfect for a Memorial Day supper. A fresh fruit combo pairs well with the savoriness of this chicken dish.
Green beans or asparagus should be cooked al dente when stir frying. 
recipe inspired from McCormick & Sons.Inc
  • 1 lb. chicken fillets cut into large chunks
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 TB. Hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups green beans, ends trimmed or asparagus spears, cut 
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • 1 large tomato diced and patted dry on a paper towel
  • 2 TM. lemon juice
  • 3 TB. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 6 orange slices
  • 2 TB. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • In a large bowl add flour and coat chicken pieces
  • In a wok or large fry pan heat 1 TB. oil and sear each piece of chicken 3-4 minutes per side   
  • and set chicken aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil and saute onions. Keep onion in the pan. 
  • To the rest of the flour in a bowl; add in orange juice, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, dash pepper flakes, honey, broth, lemon juice, sesame seeds and Hoisin sauce.   Mix all sauce ingredients and add to large pan or wok.
  • Add chicken back into pan with carrots, zucchini, green beans or asparagus, mushrooms and cook on low 20 -25 minutes uncovered, stir occasionally.
  • Cover pan and let set on stove, off heat for 10 minutes more. 
  • Just before serving add in tomato chunks and orange slices.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Maple Syrup recipes

The sweetness of maple syrup is a wonderful addition to any dessert. Not only does it often replace refined sugar, it adds incredible depth of flavor to baked goods and the like. 
Maple Oat Pancakes with Brandied Peaches
The oatmeal in these pancakes make for a heavier batter, but a healthier one as well. You can also double or triple the peach recipe and jar them for later use. Enjoy! Serves 4
Brandied Peaches
Ingredients:• 1 lb ripe peaches (about 2-3 large ones), cut into 8 pieces
• 1/2 cup brandy
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1/4 cup water

  • In a medium saucepan, bring the brandy, sugar, maple syrup, and water to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Put the peaches in a bowl and pour the brandy syrup over. Let steep for at least 30 minutes. Leave them overnight for even better results. You can also double or triple the recipe and jar them for later use.
Maple and Oatmeal Pancakes
• 2/3 cup flour
• 1/2 cup oatmeal
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 cup buttermilk
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1 large egg
• 2 tablespoons butter, melted
• pinch of sea salt
• pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  • In another bowl, mix the buttermilk, maple syrup, egg, and butter.
  • Add the flour mixture and stir until you get a thick batter.
  • Heat up a large pan. Add a dab of butter and pour some of the mixture to desired size.
  • Cook them a few minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  • Serve hot with the brandied peaches, the brandy syrup, and some lightly whipped cream.
Another breakfast option: Maple Oat Pancakes with Homemade Syrup

Cinnamon Maple Apple Crisp

recipe adapted from the 


  • 6 large tart apples  
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp.  ground nutmeg
For topping:
  • 1 cup quick rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Peel, core and slice the apples. Toss with the cane sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and layer in an oven-safe baking dish (9 inch) .
  • Cream the butter. Add the oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Slowly beat in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Use a food processor for this step.
  • Crumble the topping over the apples.
  • Bake at 350 degrees, 25 minutes or until the apples are soft and the topping is browned around the edges.
  • Allow to cool for five minutes before serving.

Margaret Wise Brown was a prolific American writer of children's books, including the picture books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, both illustrated by Clement Hurd.
Born May 23, 1910, Brooklyn, NY  and died November 13, 1952, Nice, France.

Margaret loved animals. Most of her books have animals as characters in the story. She liked to write books that had a rhythm to them, so many of her books rhyme or repeat a word pattern. She liked to place a hard word into a story or poem because she thought this made children think harder when they are reading.

She wrote all the time. Brown tried to write the way children wanted to hear a story, which often isn’t the same way an adult would tell a story. She also taught illustrators to draw the way a child saw things and once gave two puppies to an illustrator to use as models. The illustrator painted many pictures one day and then fell asleep. When he woke up, the papers he painted on were bare. The puppies had licked all the paint off the paper!

Margaret Wise Brown

Friday, May 23, 2014

Maple Syrup

Meet my lake neighbor, Mike. He is to be admired for his dedication and determination to his newest hobby; maple syrup making. It was quite the sight in April driving down the road past his property and his next door neighbors. The bright blue sap bags were scattered among the woods. It was quite a contrast to the barren surrounding landscape that had yet to emerge from its winter slumber. 
The following comments were written by Mike.   

Tapping the first tree. You need at least 10 diameter tap (called spiels) on south side of tree, above a major root if possible. For the sap to run the nights need to be in the 20's and days in the 40's are best. 

These bags hold as much sap as the buckets, about 4 gallons. They have some advantage in that they cost 50 cents with no clean up necessary post season and no storage issues.
The collected sap over 2 weeks came to 160 gallons. It is stored in food grade barrels over the course of about a 6 week season. I collected 460 gallons from about 85 trees. 
Before boiling the sap, it is filtered to remove bits of forest debris that invariably falls into the sap in transport. 
The Boil
This is a wood fired boiler that will reduce the sap at 13 gallons per hour. Over the course of the season I have gathered 460 gallons from about 85 trees. I made 3 separate boils with final finishing indoors on the stove. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. The process of 160-180 gallons of sap means about a 16 hour a day consuming a stove cord of firewood. 
This 2014 season produced over 11 gallons of pure maple syrup. We used up all our jars. The traditional syrup bottles cost $1.00 each. Mason jars are commonly used. This is just a hobby for me, all bottles are given away to neighbors and friends.
Of course those who return jars or bottles have a greater chance of a refill in 2015.  

The following words are mine.
As you can see this is quite an impressive feat and it was Mike's first ever attempt to make maple syrup. Which leads me now to this recent gift which is even more coveted after seeing and hearing all the work it entails. You can be sure Mike will get his bottle back so we will have a greater chance for 2015 refill. Check out his fancy labels. 
The next posting I will share recipes that use pure maple syrup.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mary Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844-June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France. In 1877 Mary met another artist called Edward Degas. He introduced her to other painters who were known as Impressionists. The Impressionists painted scenes from everyday life. They also painted with splotches of colour and Mary liked the colours they used and how they used them. Mary used some of the Impressionists’ ideas in her own paintings. 

She did this self-portrait (on the left) in 1878 and she used lighter colours and looser brush strokes. Most Impressionists painted outdoor scenes. Mary used the Impressionist ideas but she painted indoor scenes. Most of her paintings are portraits of her family, friends and neighbours.

Mary never married or had any children. During the last years of her life, Mary’s eyesight failed and she could not paint. Mary Cassatt died on 14th June 1926. She was 82.

Mary Cassatt is remembered for her gentle pictures of mothers and children. She was important as a female artist because she was the only American to exhibit with the Impressionists.

Happy Birthday Mary
I highly recommend this very sweet book based on Mary Cassatt's painting. The language takes on a lyrical quality as it entices us into the world of Mary Cassatt’s early Impressionist paintings. The story is told by Mary’s sister Lydia. It is a fictionalized story based on the relationship between the American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia, who narrates the story. 

The novel revolves around sessions in which Lydia poses for her sister. Lydia, 41, who is dying of Bright's disease. On a good day sitting and holding a newspaper while Mary paints her is physically exhausting. On a bad day, getting out of bed would be an impossible trick.

Mary, seven years her junior, is on the cusp of realizing her creative ambitions, having been accepted as the only woman in the inner circle of late 19th Century impressionists who were stirring up Paris and the art world.

These sisters savor their time together because they deeply love each other and they know they'll soon be parted. Much goes unspoken. The younger sister avoids acknowledging that Lydia has little time left and the older woman doesn't force the conversation. They communicate through the work. "I was sick again this morning, and May (Lydia refers to her sister by this nickname throughout) looked discouraged as she helped me wash my face and get dressed. I wonder whether this will be May's last picture of me. I think May wonders this too, because there's a new quietness between us. She's intensely focused on her work, and she paints for a long time without a pause."

The third and only other significant character in the book is Degas. In real life, Degas was Lydia's close friend and mentor. They may or may not have been lovers. The descriptions of Degas are among the best parts of this luminous book. Lydia knows well the famous painter's reputation for cruelty but experiences only kindness and respect from him. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the story for me, is Lydia’s perception of the relationship between Mary and Degas.

"Women should be someone and not something.”
by Mary Cassatt

Meet Minnesota Author Barbara Saefke

NAC 2020 AUTHOR VIRTUAL TOUR MEET MINNESOTA AUTHOR BARBARA SAEFKE Barbara E. Saefke author Mystery and Romance Barbara...