November 11, 2018

The cake that didn't want to be made...twice!

Yesterday was The Husband's birthday and we had planned to have our friends two doors down over for dinner and dessert.  The idea was to celebrate The Husband's birthday and Man-Child's birthday (which was a MONTH ago!).

The reason we hadn't celebrated MC's birthday yet was because getting him here to actually do so has been impossible with his schedule of late. 

At any rate, I planned to make a praline cake - yes, not a traditional birthday cake, but a cake that Man-Child loves.  The Husband, who typically doesn't eat many of the sweet treats I make, scoffed at that cake.  I offered to make something else but he said no. 

Then, as I pulled out my recipe binder, I remembered I had his mother's recipe for his all time favorite dessert; the one he always requested for his birthday when he was younger - and just like that I was making two desserts.

With relatively no issues, I whipped up the base for the "pudding pie" for The Husband and set about to making the praline cake while it cooled before finishing it up.

Truly, I can't even call this recipe "baking" as you use a boxed cake mix but it is - usually - incredibly easy.  I am sharing it here both because I think some of you might like it and because it will help to explain what happened in both instances.

Praline Cake

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (as always, I prefer dark brown sugar)
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 pkg SuperMoist Butter Pecan cake mix

Heat oven to 350.  Mix pecans, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in small bowl, with a spoon.  Spread on bottom of un-greased rectangular pan.  Prepare cake mix as directed on package.  Pour batter carefully over the pecan mixture.  Bake as directed on package (35-40 minutes).  When done, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen; immediately turn pan upside down onto heatproof serving tray or wire rack.  Leave pan over cake for about 5 minutes; remove pan.  Serve warm or cool.

When the praline cake was finished baking, I pulled it from the oven, ran the knife around the edges, and prepared to turn the cake upside down...

 ...and promptly lost my grip and the entire cake exploded onto the stove top.  Ruined.  The entire cake was a total loss and the incredible, sticky mess was, luckily, contained to the stove top.  Thank goodness I was home alone as I may have let a few unladylike words fly.

I threw the ruined cake in the trash, cleaned up the sticky, gooey mess and headed to the grocery for supplies - this cake was going to be made come hell or high water.

Upon returning home, I started the whole process again.  While the cake was in the oven, I finished off the pudding pie.  And, in the event that anyone wants that recipe, I'll share it here.  Also, not really baking.

Pudding Pie

1/2 lb butter (2 sticks of butter)
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans is my preferred nut for this recipe)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup Cool Whip
2 4 oz packages instant chocolate pudding
3 cups of milk
1 chocolate bar

Mix flour, butter and nuts with a fork or pastry blender.  Spread in 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  Set aside to cool completely.

Beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and Cool Whip.  Spread over the cooled crust.  Mix up instant chocolate pudding and milk.  Spread this mixture over the cream cheese layer.  Spread the remaining Cool Whip over the last layer.  Grate the chocolate bar over the top.  Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

As I was finishing up the pudding pie (which The Husband was delighted to see), The Husband was hovering around the kitchen waiting for me to finish so we could go to lunch.  And, as he told me repeatedly, he was starving.

As I pulled the cake from the oven, I thought it seemed a little jiggly but the toothpick I had used to check for done-ness came out clean.  The Husband flipped the cake for me, as I had told him about the first cake.  In my rush to wrap up this process, I neglected to leave the pan over the cake for the required five minutes.  Turns out, this step is pretty crucial to the recipe.  It doesn't ruin the cake, but it helps to firm up the topping (which was in the bottom of the pan).

We left for lunch, only to come home to discover that a lot of the praline "juice" had run off the sides of cake - once again leaving a sticky mess on the stove top. *sigh*  And, even worse...the center of the cake had collapsed!  Despite the toothpick being clean, the cake clearly could have done with another ten minutes in the oven.  Luckily, it was only that one, small part - the rest of the cake was fine.

You know what is next to impossible to photograph?  The collapsed part of the cake.  The topping serves as a fine camouflage...


This angle kinda shows the collapse...but also shows what happens when you neglect to leave the pan on for the required five minutes.


At this point, there wasn't time to make it again, so I called it "good enough."  I also neglected to take a picture of the pudding pie...I am clearly failing as a "food" blogger. ;-)

Despite, the collapse, this cake was a clearly a hit.  Man-Child took the rest home and will, hopefully, share with his roommate...but I have a feeling he may hide it.

The pudding pie was also well received, I did notice that The Husband didn't offer to send any of it home with MC though...

November 4, 2018

A weekend of purging...

Next week, we are having a business dress clothing drive at work to benefit those who are in need of nice business clothing in order to interview for jobs, etc.  As I have been meaning to clean out my closet of some of those now, unnecessary clothes this was the prod I needed.

Yesterday, I waded into the closet and was able to fill four bags of clothing and shoes that I do not need anymore.  I did save a few favorites because you never know when I might need some "grown up" clothes.  But now, the majority of my closet is fairly casual.

A little over two years ago, when we moved in, I knew that I would need to go through the dresser that landed in my dressing room when we discovered that all of our furniture wouldn't fit in our bedroom and move some of The Husband's clothes to his closet.  But then life got in the way, as it always does, and this project was put off.  Mainly, because the system I had in place was working...kind of.

Today, I dove in to that dresser.  There were two drawers of The Husband's old socks and two drawers of old tee-shirts.  He has not wandered into that room to look for any of these clothes in well over two years.

Because I am a kind wife who wanted him to know what I was about to do (since he's accused me of taking his clothing and giving it away before without telling him; which I have never done!), I walked into the living room and informed The Husband (aka The Hoarder) that I was sending all the socks and tee-shirts to Goodwill.  He agreed - and then it dawned on him that I wasn't talking about sending MY socks and tee-shirts; because why would I announce that to him?

Then he said, "Do you want me to come look through them first?"  I told him no, because then he would want to keep everything - despite not missing those clothes for over two years.  Surprisingly, he didn't argue.  So I packed everything up, along with a few items of my clothing that weren't business, and some of my costume jewelry that I never wear, into six bags, put them in my car and carted them away - before he could change his mind and take a peek!

When I came home, I was then able to rearrange all the drawers in a way that actually made sense and was able to find a home for my socks and tights that had been living in tucked away bins.

Now, the dressing room, is far from where it needs to be - as I have stuff that was under the extra vanity in the guest bath living in there (we FINALLY had it removed AND had the Amityville Horror paint job fixed!  Now we are waiting for our friend to find the time to help with building the shelves - baby steps), but it's getting closer.  And I know it will get worse before it gets better - because Christmas is coming...and guess where all the gifts get hidden prior to being wrapped?

Speaking of which, I guess I better get started on some serious Christmas shopping because, holy cow, HOW is it already November 4th?!


October 26, 2018

A post about water fountains...yes, really.

Life in Corporate America - umm, I mean Casual American Business - has changed in many significant and insignificant ways.

First to fall was the dress code...this has it's good points and bad.  I'm looking at you, young man with the graphic t-shirt that was clearly visible under your button down...although you do get a gold star for trying.

Then came the efforts to make the company more appealing to the younger workers that we are trying to attract.  Wear your favorite team jersey to work day!  Purple shirt for Alzheimer's awareness day!  And, most recently, an email blast was sent out encouraging us to wear a costume to work for Halloween...kinda makes me wonder if we are working at a business or attending elementary school.

Truly, I don't mind - I can see what they are trying to do.  Merge the two different cultures into one and make the workplace fun...which may be a culture that some of the younger potential employees would consider a good fit.

Then, in a move I did not see coming, we got new water fountains.  I was puzzled when I noticed they were installing a new one in place of a perfectly fine, albeit 20 year old, water fountain.  I remember thinking that maybe they should be replacing the one in the main hall as the water from that one doesn't come up high enough to be hygienic.  In other words, you would actually have to put your mouth ON the fountain in order to get water.

And, as most of us (readers of a certain age) were taught; that is something we should NOT do - ever.  The more I think about it, I have to wonder do any of these children that work here even KNOW what a water fountain is?  Have they been wandering the halls ogling these ancient things hanging on the wall and wondering what they are for?

Well, if so, no more are they wondering as we now have these beauties...


Now, if THIS doesn't attract the younger set, I don't know what will!

I kid.  This is actually kind of cool.  That screen on the upper right tells you how many bottles you have saved every time you refill a bottle or insulated cup.  And?  I can now actually fill my cup to the tippy-top since I don't have to hold it at an angle while trying to fill it from the spout.

October 20, 2018

Difficult conversations...

About a month (?!really?!) ago we were at my mother in law's for her birthday.  Where The Husband had to reiterate what his brother and sister had already told her - she has mold.

We took the bull by the horns and found a company that can remediate the issue but now Mom keeps saying that the house is too much for her to handle...which I totally understand although if she were willing to spend the money to have people in to keep up with things, it wouldn't be an issue - but I also understand that issue - because $$$.  But at the same time, I worry that moving her - whether to Connecticut, Florida or North Carolina (where all the siblings live) - will change her quality of life.

Currently, she is a very active 87 year old.  Regularly, she bowls with gusto, she has a "lunch club", there is the monthly trips to the casino, etc.  While we were there she mentioned, that if she were to move, she would give up driving.  Mom has never been a big driver, as she didn't learn until she was in her forties.  To move her now, would put the nail in that coffin...that coupled with losing the close group of friends she has makes me worry.

I would LOVE to have Mom come here and we have the room for her...but I don't think she would thrive...here, Connecticut or Florida.  I've checked, there isn't any place where she currently lives that would satisfy all of our requirements for her or us.

Ultimately, she will make a decision and we will have to live with it...and I'm not happy with that.

October 14, 2018

An Awkward Wardrobe Post - I Need Your Opinion

Before we get to the "wardrobe" portion of this post, I wanted to share this picture I snapped at my mother-in-law's house while we were there a week or so ago.


I opened the back door and stepped out, expecting that they would bolt...they didn't.  Instead they looked at me with a "What? WE belong here; you don't." kind of expression.  And proceeded to stay there until I went back in.  The deer in the Poconos have ZERO fear.

And here's a requisite shot of a beautiful sunrise on the beach from our trip to attend a wedding in Hilton Head that immediately followed the trip to Pennsylvania.


That was a great, but long, week with too much time spent in the car!  Now that we've got all that out of the way...

As I've alluded to in other posts, our company has adopted a "casual" dress code.  This has meant that I've been slowly adding a few things to my closet while simultaneously removing things from the closet destined for Goodwill.  This is because I have a new policy regarding my closet - I refuse to buy any more hangers - so if something comes in and there are no available hangers, something must leave to make room.  Besides, I really don't need all the "corporate" clothes anymore.  So slowly, they are going away.

And I am training myself to stop heading to that section of the stores.  Part of the problem is that I am very particular about my clothes and I generally avoid any patterns or florals - of course, I make exceptions for polka dots and stripes.  As a result, a lot of my casual shirts are solids - and are mostly darker colors.

Back a few weeks ago, when Hurricane Florence was flirting with our area, I wandered into a store and bought this shirt.  I can only surmise that the dreary weather made me even consider it - but I do love the square-ish neckline.

The shirt that started it all

And this is where the "awkward" part of this conversation makes an appearance.  Trying to capture a shot by myself.  It's hard to keep it in focus, show the neckline and not have a weird look on my face.

The Husband has RAVED about this shirt.  Every single time I have worn it, he has commented on how much he likes it on me.

A pink(!), striped button down that I bought has also brought compliments.  I forgot to mention that I generally avoid pink - why I don't know.  But it has never been a color found in my closet.  Ever.

These two events got me to thinking...maybe I need to add a little more color and pattern into my wardrobe.

With that in mind, I headed to the store this afternoon - a store which a friend's college-age freshman has declared a store for "old ladies."  But, to be fair, this store was my best source for my "corporate" wardrobe.  But when I take off my "corporate" blinders, I don't seem to find much that I care for - lots and lots of wild patterns and florals.  But I thought, if I was really careful and thoughtful, I might find something.

I added another pink shirt with a scoop neck.  I'm not quite sure what I've had against pink for all these years.


I have to admit, it was still difficult for me to select this shirt over a black one.  But I think I'll like it.

And here's the one where I need your opinion.  I will admit, I accosted a random lady outside the fitting room to ask if she thought this shirt screamed "little old lady" - she said she didn't think so and thought the colors would work well with my dark hair.  Could I rely on the opinion of a complete stranger?  Maybe; maybe not.

I bought the shirt and carefully folded the receipt into my wallet in case I decided to return it.  My plan was to ask The Husband for his honest opinion. He did say that asking a husband for an honest opinion strikes fear into his heart - because what if he hated and I loved it?  I told him, I definitely wanted his honest opinion because this was so far out of my comfort zone.  I tried it on and showed him.  He liked it and said it reminded him of the floral.  So here's where you come in - should I keep it or return it?

Again - what IS that expression?  And what is my hair doing?

Completely honest opinions please.  I am just not so sure this is for me.  But maybe I just need to get used to it?  No comments on the awkward faces or crazy hair, please...  ;-)

September 22, 2018

How to break a husband's spirit...

Months ago we had planned to see my Mother-in-Law for her birthday (this coming Monday).  Then we had the unexpected pleasure to be invited to a wedding that we had assumed was going to be "family" only...which happens to be next Saturday.  After determining that we would do both - because honestly, we can't NOT go see my MIL NOR can we decline this wedding invitation.  She is in her 80's, healthy but still...

And the groom is a child we've known since he was teeny, tiny...

So both are TOTALLY necessary.

Despite The Husband's misgivings (insert eye roll here...by now, we all know how he can be sometimes...God love him.), I told him that it was non-negotiable; we would be attending both - I promised him that when he gets to be 80 he won't look back and say, "Boy, I really regret that we went to that wedding so soon after going to see mom".  To his credit, he is cautiously optimistic that both events will be fun (they will be...as he will discover once we get there).

Knowing we had all this coming up, I have kept a running list of what needed to be done.  At the top of that list was purchasing shoes for The Husband to wear at the wedding (because God help me, if I have to hear him complain about his dress shoes ONE more time...).  Back in the day, I would have just bought what I thought best and brought them home for him to try.  But lately, he has decided he has an "opinion" when it comes to what he wears (I have informed him that's fine but I have final veto power - he has yet to question my power, thank God) so he wanted to come along. 

Except that was a dirty lie!!

I've been asking him for the past three weekends to join me in a shoe search.  And every weekend he has declined.

So guess what we had to do today?  In addition to laundry, packing, watering plants, etc.  If you guessed, find shoes, you get the gold star!

As we both had errands to run this morning we went our separate ways and then we met up at one store.  No luck. 

So went to the next...(he refused to pay THAT much for a pair of shoes.  Despite me telling him that this would probably be the last pair of dress shoes he'd ever buy - apparently, he took that to mean I was declaring him at death's door!  But what I really meant was, that as rarely as he needs to wear dress shoes these shoes would last him for YEARS...he wasn't buying it)

And then the next. 

And then the next.  (Is it my fault that department stores cater to women and have a very slim selection when it comes to the men's department?! Or that he decided that he NEEDED to be involved in the selection process?)

Took a break for lunch and then hit the next store - success!

Although, to be truthful, I think he was just so worn down from the process of looking at and trying on shoes, that he just caved...on it all.  He didn't care how much the shoes cost (but we DID luck into a great deal!) or what they looked like...he just couldn't bear the thought of going to one or more stores. 

Now we are home - one of us is finishing up the laundry and packing her stuff (while simultaneously crafting this post).  And the other might be napping on the couch with nothing packed...

It's gonna be a fun week...if we make it!

September 16, 2018

Florence Update.

As you all know, Hurricane Florence slammed into Wilmington, North Carolina last Friday and thoughts and prayers are with those that were affected.  Man-Child and I were in that area recently and are heartbroken at the devastation.

Then we were told to brace for the after effects that we would feel inland.  And the hype was/is getting us all very nervous.  Knowing that we had a few trees that are "iffy" on one side of our house...the side our bedroom is on, of course.  I determined that I would be sleeping on the other side of the house for the time being.

We've had rain but, so far, not nearly the amount that we were told to expect.  We've also had some wind but, again, not nearly as strong as what we were told to expect.  But yet, the news reports keep telling us to be on alert.  I can honestly say that I don't think we have too much to worry about at this point but who knows?  They are the ones with the education, tools and experience.  So we shall see.

I grabbed this screen shot from CNN.com this afternoon and was relieved to see that we aren't in the direct track and wondered why local new stations were still issuing flood warnings.


Then I saw this screen shot (also taken from Cnn.com) and it became clear...


Probably because the storm (now a tropical depression) is SO big!  As you can see, it is covering both North and South Carolina and is overlapping into Virginia and Georgia as well!  So although we aren't in the direct path we are getting hit with the outer bands - which explains the hype.

And as I was typing this a tweet came across my feed stating that there is flash flooding in Charlotte...which, as you can see, also isn't in the direct path.

I do have a funny story to share - although, especially to my husband, it wasn't funny at the time.  Friday evening as we were battening down the hatches in preparation for the worst, I asked The Husband to bring in the chairs from the front porch.  At that time they were calling for really high winds.  He told me that there was no need but I insisted.

Being the great husband he is he acquiesced.  But, for some reason, rather than carrying the chairs down the steps and around the house into the garage he decided to carry the chairs through the house and into the garage.  As he was carrying the second chair in he felt pain in his finger.  He put the chair down and that's when he noticed he had just carried a wasps nest INTO the house!  The sneaky buggers had made a home under the chair.  Then he began trying to kill all the wasps.  Luckily, there were only a few of those wasps so he was able to dispatch them fairly quickly but, I have to tell you, having wasps flying around in the house led to a bit of hysteria.

We put some baking soda on his swollen finger and once the pain and swelling from the sting subsided even he had to admit it was kinda funny...who brings a wasps nest into the house?  Especially, given with his history with bees.  Apparently, it is his destiny to spend his whole life having run ins with wasps and bees.  I've lost count of how many bee stories he has under his belt now.

So that's the update.  Currently, we are safe and most likely will not be in any danger...but I will still be sleeping on the other side of the house until this storm has passed because I still don't trust those "iffy" trees...and we will be getting someone out here to assess those trees sooner rather than later!

And, of course, as I was just getting ready to hit "Publish" both the wind and the rain has stepped it up quite a bit.  I still think we will be okay but will be keeping an eye on the news...

UDATED: It's REALLY pouring now and we have a bit of standing water...but we are going to be okay. I just hope we don't lose electricity...
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