Monday, August 17, 2009

When the neighbor hands you lemons….

It’s another beautiful day (although it’s already half over, and I still have WAY too much to do.) Last night, my neighbor Beth brought over a bag of nine, beautiful lemons from what sounds like an incredible tree on the other side of her yard. I haven’t seen it yet. She also told me to come over any time to get more if I wanted them. So, asap—either tonight, as soon as I get home, or tomorrow, first thing, I’m going to try a brand-new slightly lower-cal recipe I recently found for LEMON BARS. Which I love. Who doesn’t?

Watch this space—I’ll post as soon as I’ve tried them and let you know.

On the flip side, I gained a couple of pounds last week. NOT the direction I want to be heading! So much for the No-Pudge Fudge Brownie Mix from Trader Joe’s. Oh, well. They were pretty fudgy, though—fun while it lasted!

So this week it’s salad, chicken breasts, and no carbs. Well, except for Lemon Bars! (does that count?!) :)

ps—If anyone has a great Lemon recipe to share, I’d love to add it to my stash! And, with your permission, will share it here. I’ve been looking for AGES for the perfect Lemon Pound Cake or Bundt Cake Recipe: moist, yummy…mmm! Anyone?!

And in the meantime, I’m off to the gym. Making that a priority these days—even if it means that not every single thing on my list gets done that day. At least I’ll be fit and healthy to tackle it all again tomorrow. :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009


It’s a beautiful morning, bright and blue and clear, with just a little hazy smoke around the edges and just the slightest scent of smoke in the air. A day full of hope, of promise, with just a hint of the fall soon to come. A day to count blessings, and be grateful.

For a time, I used to keep a sort of journal where each night I would write down the five things I was most grateful for that day. A nice reminder to notice, and appreciate the good. And attract more in the process! So today--

1. I’m grateful for a beautiful day, in a beautiful place, on a beautiful planet.

2. I’m grateful that Trader Joe’s sells good German and Swiss chocolate for a reasonable price, and that I have to go in to town today and right by there anyway...

3. I’m grateful for the new (to me) little toaster oven from my friend Emily, that I can use to make myself dinner, without heating up the big oven & the entire kitchen. While I’m at it, I’m grateful for my wise and wonderful friend Emily and her calm, clear take on life.

4. I’m beyond grateful for my wonderful, loving, supportive-in-spite-of-all-the-stupid-things-I-do mother. I love you, Mommy!

5. I’m grateful to alive, to be healthy, to feel (even when it hurts), to be given the opportunity to do better.

It’s hard to believe that just up the coast the fire has doubled in size again.  A special wave of gratitude to all the firefighters and the incredible work they do to keep us all safe.

Have a wonderful weekend! Laugh, love, play, pray. Life is good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Smoke at Sunset

It’s that time of year. There are fires burning all over California. Earlier this week we had a day or two of high, smoky haze from the fires in Los Padres National Forest, but nothing compared to the smoke from the much closer Lockheed Fire that started two days ago. Made for an incredible sunset last night, though.


DSCN2216  DSCN2217DSCN2218  DSCN2224 DSCN2225

On the news last night they showed a satellite image of the smoke plume stretching 600 MILES down the coast of California, all the way to Baja. I’ve had to keep the windows closed, despite the heat. This morning dawned dark and grey and smoky, with a heavy acrid stench in the air. Between the weather, wind, and smoke cover, the temperature’s dropped about twenty degrees since yesterday. As the day goes on, the air here is starting to clear, but I’ve decided to more or less stay indoors, get caught up, and WRITE this afternoon. And count my blessings.

My prayers go out to every one in Bonny Doon, Davenport, and the Santa Cruz Mountains who’ve been affected—and evacuated—by this fire. And their animals. May they all be safe, and have homes to come home to.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Choose Caramel Cake

I've spent my whole life wanting to write--and I'm not doing it. Not even here, where all it takes is a tiny segment of time out of each day. So I'm surprised and sad to find that it's been weeks since I've posted, and my beloved blog has become one more weight in the big 'should've' bag I'm dragging around behind.

1. Add this to my list of things to do (again): LOSE the 'should've' bag. Ugly, heavy, and NOT an attractive accessory.

2. While I'm at it, stop being sad that I haven't worked on my novel for more months than I'm willing to admit out loud and just start writing again. Before all those words and images crammed in my skull explode out and make a yucky mess.

3. Share this today:
Yesterday I baked a really good Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake for a friend's birthday. I've been wanting to try one for a while, and was having a hard time deciding which of several recipes I'd ferreted out to use. Yesterday I finally had a chance, and the choice of which recipe was dictated by the ingredients I had on hand. So, despite the 90+ degree heat (FABULOUS weather at the moment! VERY happy) I baked the following for our dear friend Jane. Maybe the heat was appropriate, as Jane is also approaching 90... bless her.

I first met Jane in 1992, when I'd just bought my little house in Pacific Grove. Every minute I was home (which wasn't often in those days--I got sent to Liverpool, England "for a week or two" and ended up spending most of the next three years overseas) I'd be out working in my first, VERY OWN garden. Once or twice a day I'd see Jane and her husband Cliff walking by, a lovely elderly couple, hand--in-hand. It was enough to renew my faith in humanity, and in love. One day she stopped to compliment me on the work I'd been doing, and I learned that my first house had once been THEIR first house. And that in that house, more than fifty years earlier, their son had been born.

Years later, my mom moved to town and was immediately greeted by her new neighbor across the street...Jane. When my mother brought up that her daughter lived nearby, Jane informed her that she already knew me--I was living in her old house! They've become fast friends in the ensuing years.

Happy Birthday, Jane! Glad you enjoyed your cake :)

Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsps water
1 1/4 tsps salt, divided
1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
2 tsps vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs

Grease and flour the bottoms of two round cake pans.

To make the caramel sauce, in a medium saucepan, mix together brown sugar, butter, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat (234 degrees) until soft ball stage. Remove from heat and and stir in evaporated milk and vanilla; cool.

In large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining teaspoon of salt. Blend in shortening, milk, and 2 cups caramel sauce. Beat thoroughly approximately two minutes. Add eggs and continue beating another two minutes. Pour into pans and bake at 350 degrees 35 to 40 minutes. Cool before frosting.

I used the frosting from another recipe--it sounded yummy, and was.

Caramel Frosting

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 14 oz. can Eagle Brand milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and
bubbly. Remove from heat and let cool until fairly thick. Makes enough for filling between layers and frosting sides and top of cake. (Repeatedly dipping your knife or spatula into a glass of hot water will make spreading the frosting easier and give it a smoother finish.)