I was looking for a coffee cake recipe that didn’t require butter. I couldn’t find one so I adapted my old standby muffin recipe. The cake turned out to be exactly what I had in mind.
Muffin recipe transformed to cake follows. Double the recipe above so there is sufficient volume for a Bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. (I made adjustments to the time and temperature to accommodate a cake. )
First, combine the wet ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup liquid-I used vanilla almond milk
2/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
Whisk the above ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Sift together the dry ingredients.
2 1/3 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add to wet ingredients and stir just until mixed. Then I greased a Bundt pan and added chopped walnuts to the bottom of the pan. Approximately 1/2 cup.
Then I folded the following into the batter.
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Pour the batter into the pan. Place in oven for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven when toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a large plate. Allow cake to cool completely.
You could consider the cake done at this point. I decided to add an orange glaze. To do this I mixed together the following:
Juice of 1/2 an orange
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Blend these three ingredients to desired consistency. Add more juice if you want to thin the glaze. Add more sugar to thicken.
Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.
And you are done! Enjoy the cake with a scoop of ice cream on the side, or just with a warm cup of tea.
Bernie Sanders started a craze of memes across the nation with his mittens at President Biden’s inauguration last week. What is it about this cold, winter wear that has caused the mittens to go viral?
Yes, they are just mittens. But, they represent so much more. In this time of cold, both wintery and emotional, they represent comfort and warmth. The mittens were gifted to Bernie and he obviously appreciated them. They may bring memories of caring gifts to our own minds. I remember my Aunt Ruth who gave me handknitted mittens and slippers on many Christmas’. She made them for all the nieces and nephews because she loved us and wanted us to stay warm. I always thought of her when I put them on. And even though she has been gone for many years, I still think of her sunny and caring personality.
We like the idea of nurturing that the mittens bring to mind. The idea that we can reach out and take care of each other sits well with us. People are in special need of extra compassion and thoughtfulness during these hard times. There is political animosity, racial unrest, even people becoming confrontational about how to deal with the pandemic. Someone to reach out with kind actions and provide warmth is what we all need right now. We need warmth of body and soul. Our souls are tired and it is time to lift each other up. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be caring. There has rarely been a better time during my lifetime to employ the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These mittens represent so much as their image goes viral around the world. They represent what we all need.
Bernie’s mittens were repurposed from an old sweater. That they found new life as hand-wear pleases our utilitarian urges not waste, but to give new uses to old things. Old things can have beauty and still serve. The wool from the original sweater is still doing a job and serving a purpose. The fleece lining is made from recycled plastic bottles. These are some of the values that have served our country well. And the Bernie memes show that government officials can be down to earth, just like us.
We also like the coziness of these mittens. At the inauguration, all around were people in finery. Beautiful long coats, stylish scarves, slim leather gloves, fancy footwear. As it should be for such a formal and momentous occasion. But there was also room for comfort and things that are meaningful to the wearer. We are nothing, if not a diverse people.
The popularity of these simple mittens goes far beyond what they are made of. They are a symbol. They represent things we have and things we want, in the figurative sense. Let’s hope that in the coming days and weeks these mittens will foster a kinder America. A place where we can all feel at home again.
On January 1st, I wrote Contemplation on a New Year. Now it is January 27. We have been through a Capitol Riot, other political upheaval, an inauguration, and continued deaths, infections, and societal closures to avoid virus spread due to the pandemic.
And yet, I feel like I am still waiting for the New Year to start. I feel like I got cheated out of last year too. Since last March, one day is much like the next for me. Getting up in the morning, drinking coffee, hanging out with dogs and hubby, reading a little. Late morning is for blogging, baking, or cleaning. Cleaning is always last on my list.
Lunch splits the day up for us. While we eat, we stream the television show My Name Is Earl. Earl is trying to make the world a better place by righting past wrongs he has committed. And boy, did he excel in the “wrongs” department. Trying to make the world a better place is a worthy goal though, so we persist in watching.
A couple hours of our afternoons consist of walking or hiking with the dogs. This has sometimes been tricky to pull off with the January weather. Our winter has been mild so far. We rotate our walking locations depending on the weather and day of the week. If the weather is dicey, we walk on the campground entrance nearby. It is plowed and rarely salted which is better for dog feet. By then, we require tea! And of course I must follow this with a little reading .
Late afternoon is time for a little more work of some sort. I pick a job or two from the list I keep and knock those out. Then it is time for supper, and tv, and more reading!
What is missing from my existence is family and friends. And so it is for many across our country, and indeed, the world. Until now, I was not able to imagine how much I would miss everyone. And the new people I have encountered through dog rescue, Facebook, and other ways. Some of you, I would have invited over and gotten to know better. I miss our yet to be forged closer friendships.
Many are in the same boat as me. Truth be told, I am luckier than most. I have the option to stay home without losing a job and everything else that would follow. I have dogs and cats and a spouse to pass my days with. I have a warm home, food, and lots of books. (I have been so much happier since I have figured out the selection system and curbside pickup at the library! E-books just don’t do it for me.)
I can’t wait until I am eligible to receive the Coronavirus vaccine. As soon as they tell me, I will be there! I know very few people who have received it so far. My mother-in-law did get her first dose this week. My own mother is long gone, so I don’t have to worry about her. (What I Chose to Do the Day My Mother Died, my most read post of all time!)
Looking back, I guess if I feel like I am still waiting for the New Year to start, that is on me. I need to do some things that make me feel productive and like time is moving forward. What are you doing to make 2021 into a good year? I would love to hear in the comments below.
Cassius is currently the only greyhound we have. We have had three others over the years, Merlin, Cyrus, and Phoebe. To be precise, Merlin was probably a lurcher. A cross of greyhound and hunting dog. Some hunters like this cross because it can result in a fast hunting dog. Merlin looked just like a greyhound to me, only a litter smaller and shorter, front to back. Merlin was a stray that came running by my house my day. Our three previous greyhounds overlapped in the time we had them for a couple years. Boy, that was a lot of dog food! Greyhounds may look skinny, but they eat a lot because of their fast metabolisms.
The photo above is Cassius in his new collar which arrived on Saturday. It was long overdue. His previous collar was once a fancy, handmade one that I bought for him from a vendor at a dog event, the Pet Expo at Hardesty Park, in Akron a couple years ago. The collar had a hard life (see photo below). As you may know, we have been doing quite a bit of walking and hiking since I retired Fall Hiking. Cassius’ old collar has been torn by briars and underbrush as he goes crashing along the trailside. The other side of the collar is even stained with a substantial amount of blood. On one of our hikes in the fall, as he was looking for a spot in the weeds to do his business, a large thorn caught in one of his ears. The thorn impaled itself in a vein in one of his ears and broke off. I was able to remove the thorn, but then the blood started flowing. And flowing. I had a couple of tissues in my pocket that I used to apply pressure. We had to stop our hike while I treated Cassius’ wound. It took several minutes of applying pressure to staunch the flow of blood. By the time we were ready to continue our hike, Cassius’ ear, a good portion of the collar, and one of my pant legs had large blood stains. All this from a relatively small injury that healed up within days.
Greyhounds do have very thin skin, and little body fat, so cuts on them can produce quite an injury. I remember one time Cyrus was running from the pasture to the house and ran headlong into a planter. The ceramic planter broke into shards and cut his head open. There was lots of blood and he ended up getting several surgical staples on top of his head. It must have been feeding time for him to be so intent on getting in the house.
Anyway, back to Cassius’ new collar. I searched for some time for what I wanted. I never did find it, but settled on this one which I do like. Greyhounds should ideally have wide martingale collars. Their necks are bigger than their heads so the martingale type of collar makes it harder to slip out. And a wide one is preferred, about 1 1/2 inches, so there is not so much pressure put on one point on the throat. Again, greyhounds do not have much body fat, so this is particularly important. I wanted his new collar in safety orange or safety yellow. There is lots of hunting in our area and I can see how a dog of Cassius’ size, shape, and coloration might be mistaken for a deer from a distance. Better safe, than sorry! My search produced no martingales in these collars. I could find orange and yellow, but not in the designated “safety” collars. So, I went with the green. It is pretty and bright and highly noticeable.
After his adventures, Cassius likes to have a good nap. Greyhounds are sprinters by nature, so walking and hiking (Hiking In Winter) over uneven terrain, for long distances tire him out. And greyhounds are excellent couch potatoes. He would be happy napping under a blanket even without the walk!
In my life before retirement, I was a Water Treatment Scientist. My days consisted of testing various components in water and giving feedback and advice on how to adjust the treatment systems. I worked hands on, in the treatment of wastewater and drinking water. Drinking water is self explanatory. Wastewater, is basically anything that goes down your toilet and other pipes for disposal. Some businesses discharge chemicals and other wastes that must be dealt with, but for the average homeowner, your wastewater consists of poop, pee, and some “gray water”. So, my professional career involved dealing with other peoples’ poop.
You would think my dealings with poop would end there. Not so! I deal with the poop of other beings on a daily basis at home too. We have two cats and two litterboxes. Cats are fastidious creatures for someone who poops in a box. And we greatly hope that they continue to use these boxes. So every single day, I scoop the litterboxes. Cats, being the fickle creatures that they are, want a clean litterbox. You DON’T want to see what happens if you don’t keep up with the scooping. Every afternoon I scoop “the biscuits” into a plastic grocery store bag, carry it outside, and hang the bag on the fence to scoop dog poop into it too. I also sweep up the floor so the cats don’t get confused by any stray bits of litter on the wooden floor boards.
I only use Tidy Cat litter. This seems to me to produce the least amount of dust and to do the best job of containing odors. You don’t want anything to strike the cats as being unpleasant. We want them to keep using their giant toilets in our front hall. Which reside behind a baby gate to keep the dogs from using them as a buffet. But that is another story.
I mentioned dogs, so you know my poop story isn’t over yet. We have six dogs. They eat twice a day and so they poop AT LEAST twice times a day for a total of twelve times. Often more because, hey sh*t happens! You would think it would be as easy as scooping up the piles, throwing them in the bag and being done. HA! We have two dogs who think that poop is a fine delicacy to be enjoyed at every opportunity. One of us humans must go out with the dogs to be “playground monitor” each time. Otherwise, these two dogs will partake of the buffet. If you are lucky, the dogs will “leave it” when you yell at them. But mostly not. This results in me running around with the poop scoop trying to pick up sh*t as it happens. And you may think this sounds easy too. Again, not so! With six dogs, there is usually more pooping going on than I can keep up with. So, it deteriorates to me running after the offenders who have picked up the poop, yelling “drop it”. Sometimes this is effective. Other times, I must give chase and shake the poop scoop in the air as if I am going to bean the poop bandit over the head. (I only threaten, I never actually resort to violence.) I’m sure the neighbors must think I’ve gone insane.
The dog doing the pooping does not take kindly to all this activity taking place near his rear end. He often ends up finishing the job while waddling across the grass leaving a trail.
This used to be the end of the story. Now I have another saga to share. Oh, joy! One of the baby rabbits that was born some where in the vicinity of our vegetable garden in the spring time, has grown up. And apparently decided that the clover growing inside the fenced area where the dogs do their business is quite delectable. I never see him, but this bunny comes inside the fence and after dining, deposits his little bunny pellets in the dog yard. The dogs, of course, find this to be the caviar of their buffet. Even some of our dogs who don’t eat canine poop, will chomp on what the bunny leaves behind. I hoped that as the bunny grew, he would no longer be able to fit through the slats on our fence, but so far that has not happened. I suppose that is why the heartworm preventative that I give the dogs also contains other types of wormers. Living in the country rabbits, squirrels, mice, chipmunks, and so on, are always around.
Such is my life. And, you know what? I wouldn’t trade it.
Every so often an advertisement for a sweatshirt comes up on my Facebook feed that says “You can take this girl out of Beach City, but you can’t take Beach City out of this girl”. I would have to say this is fairly accurate. Our roots are something that stay with us for our entire lives. The experiences that we encounter growing up play a part in helping to form who we become.
Beach City is a small town near the southern border of Stark County, Ohio. I grew up there from the time I was born in 1962, until I moved away to attend college in 1983. It was a village of 1,200 people, give or take a few. Even now, the population is just over 2,700. I thought we were “city people” because we lived on one of the two main streets that went through town.
I walked across the street to attend the local elementary school, and home again at the end of the school day, from kindergarten through 7th grade. The only exception to this was on my first day of 1st grade. Kindergarten was only for half a day, so 1st grade was my first full school day. I got in the wrong line at lunch time. I was supposed to eat lunch at school, but got in the line with kids who were sent home for lunch. Oh, the horror! So I dutifully marched across the street to my house. My mother was surprised to see me, especially since I was in tears because I got in the wrong line. My mother fed me a can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli and sent me back to school. These things are earth shattering when you are six years old. Enough so, that I still remember it clearly.
In case you have not guessed, my world was very small. I did not realize this. Like most youngsters, I thought everyone’s lives were this way. Three of my five aunts and uncles lived within walking distance in the same town as us. The other two lived the next town over. They and my cousins were a frequent part of my life.
Most of my time outside school was spent playing Barbie’s, riding my bicycle, walking my dog around town, reading, or sitting on the front porch swing watching the cars go by and daydreaming. Evenings were spent watching television with my mother. That was pretty much what happened every day of my life.
Once a week we would “go to town”. This meant driving to the larger towns of Dover and sometimes New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County, to shop at department stores and grocery stores. Before doing the shopping on those days, we would often “go visiting” first since we were already in town. We often stopped to see my mom’s second cousin Janice where I got to play with her three children while the grown ups talked. Or perhaps we would see some family friends. Driving 12-15 miles for shopping seemed like a big deal in those days, so it was reserved for once a week.
Other evenings, mom and I would ride bicycles to visit one of my cousins and spend a bit of time playing. This was big excitement once my cousin Eddie got a swimming pool. That was also the summer I finally learned to swim, despite having taken swimming lessons in previous years. You don’t learn to swim by getting in a pool five days a week, once a year.
Despite living in the country now, and being a few years older, my life isn’t all that different. I have a few more dogs but still take them on walks and hikes. I spend lots of time reading and sitting on the porch or patio and watching or listening as the cars go by. Evenings are often spent watching television with my husband.
In the photo from my childhood, although we lived in town, I was dressed like a country girl in my cowboy outfit complete with the boots. I called it my “cowby” clothes. The Sundays of my childhood were often spent going to the family-owned woods, adjoining the family farm and “running the dogs”. The farm was originally owned by my grandfather, later run by an uncle, and then the uncle’s son. I think that although we lived in town, this is where my country roots began.
So, I guess it really is true, you can’t take Beach City out of the girl.
It is mid-January now, the heart of winter. Each year around this time I like to write one post that features some pictures from my gardens during the previous summer. Something to bring back memories of flowers, gardens, swimming, and summer warmth. I love winter, but even I am ready for a bit summer by now. The lush green plants and vibrant colors of the flowers bring me flashbacks to fun time spent on the patio last year.
Having the break of winter makes time spent on the patio, and gardening, that much sweeter. I would not enjoy either season as much without the break of the other. By autumn, I am tired from planting, splitting, weeding, fertilizing, deadheading, pruning, watering, and all the other work that accompanies keeping up multiple flowerbeds.
Now that we have had cold and snow for a bit, I am starting to think about planning for this summer’s gardens. What flowers to plant, where to put each and when. This month would be a good time to order any seeds that we need. Last year I made the mistake of ordering seeds when I wanted them. Everyone else decided to order seeds last spring too and garden while they were sheltering at home. I did not get most of my seeds until it was nearly too late to plant them. This year, I will order early. I would advise you to do the same.
It is always a gamble in this climate (northeast Ohio) on when to start seeds indoors. The start of warmer weather is never guaranteed by any certain date. Some years it is safe to plant in April, and other years not until late in May. Sometimes I get away with planting early by covering my seedlings with sheets if frost is forecast. Other years it is too cold even for that.
If I plant seeds in trays early and plan to keep them inside as long as necessary, many of my plants get too tall and leggy, and lack good support. If I start them in trays later, they are small when I put them in the ground or containers and more susceptible to bug and bird damage. I guess if I could plant the same way, at the same time every year, it would not be as much fun.
I do start my seeds on our enclosed porch so the temperature must stay above freezing there for me to get started. We have a vegetable garden as well so our porch can get quite crowded with the various pots, trays, and containers. It is always a mish-mash of saved containers, supplemented with assorted cans and bottles that I have pulled out of the recycling bin to augment my collection.
By the time I slip those little plants into the soil, it is reminiscent of sending a child off to school. I have fed, watered, and sheltered them for so long that I am invested in their well being and survival. When one is attacked by slugs or picked out by birds, I take it personally. Hopefully I will have more sprouts as back up replacements. Those I may cover at night with upturned soda bottle or little screen cages in an attempt to help them reach maturity.
We also buy new plants each year. Some are annuals and others are perennials to add to our collection. Even the perennials take work. Most of my perennials, I split or relocate in the spring. They also need pruning and shaping. Any dead sections that didn’t survive the cold must be removed. The roses need fertilizing when the time is right so they will produce blooms. I fertilize my roses monthly with a solution that also contains chemicals for fungus and Japanese beetles.
Trees may need to be trimmed if they have grown over plants that require full sun. Specifically, for the peonies and roses. They will grow but not flower if they do not have enough sun. Growing a garden involves a lot of doing your best to control nature. The growth of other plants and insects. Adding nutrients. Watering. It is an attempt to find a balance that allows your plants to thrive.
You can see why I am relieved when that first frost comes. Gardening is tiring work. But it is also rewarding and life giving. That is why so many people garden, and it is something that has lasted across the landscape of time. And that is why I plant.
In these difficult times, we can all use more positivity in our lives. I came across this gem a number of years ago when a family member posted a page from it on Facebook. Thanks Jim Z! Once I read the page, I knew I needed a copy of the book. I was able to get a copy on Amazon Used Books for 12 cents! Plus the $3.99 shipping, of course. I checked and you can still get a used copy for under $1.00. It is the type of book with a one page entry for each calendar day.
I used to keep my copy at work and read each day’s selection in the morning so that I could reflect on it and start my day in a positive way. On Monday’s I would read the weekend’s pages along with the one for the current day. It served me well and got me in a good frame of mind for the workday. Sometimes, after I had the book for a while, I would take a year off of the daily readings and just read a random page when the mood struck me. I always benefited from my reading.
With the upheaval we are experiencing in our daily lives due to the coronavirus, as well as political unrest, I thought this would be a good year to spend reading the entries in this book on a daily basis once again. It was a wise decision for multiple reasons. The entries are helping me to get a perspective on our current times and not feel so sorry for myself.
This is also the first time that I have read through the book as a retiree. It makes me look at many of the entries in a different light. I have time to go back and read the quote at the top of the page more than once during the morning and refocus and give more thought to the meaning and how it may or may not apply to my own life. I recommend this practice for anyone. If you are feeling down, or like your life could be better, spending time thinking about positive quotes would be a helpful activity.
And if you are in a good place in your life, then spending time focusing on positive thoughts is an investment in keeping your life on track and staying in that good place. Life has its ups and downs and working at staying on the up side is time well spent.
Although this book is a good starting place, it is not the only way to go about it. You can find lists of many positive quotes on the internet. There are lists of quotes by many wise people. One of my favorites is Ghandi’s Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World. Don’t you want to change the world? I know, I do. And each and every one of us has that ability. So, go out and get busy changing the world!
We are on a roll. Today is our 18th day in a row of hiking. We have been hiking religiously since the fall, but this is the longest stretch without a day off. We are eager to see how long we can keep it going. My husband carefully checks the forecast, and sometimes the weather radar, to find times during the day to go when it is not raining or snowing heavily. Given that it is January, our hikes have been pleasant and not overly cold.
I hate to think what the dogs’ reaction will be on the first day we are unable to go. Dogs appreciate routine and ours’ come to expect that if we do something two days in a row, it is now part of our schedules. Most days we depart near 2:00 pm for our outings. The dogs start pestering us starting about 1:50 now. They stare at us and begin to pace in anticipation for the fun to begin.
We vary our choice of hiking location depending on weather, day of the week, upcoming plans, or maybe just on a whim. The day’s pick may be at a State Park, a County Park, a local cemetery, a Hike and Bike Trail, or just up the road and back. We even have a walking trail around our property to use in a pinch. You have to go around the loop about 5 times to make a mile though. Here is a link to a walk in our woods during the spring. Woods Walk
Most of our hikes are not extremely long. The average length is somewhere between 2.5 to 3.5 miles. The amount of exertion does not always correspond with the length of the walk though. If the terrain is especially hilly, rocky, or swampy, that 2.5 miles can seem far longer than a 3.5 mile walk.
I track all of our outings with the Walk For A Dog App to raise money for Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. It doesn’t raise a lot of funds but every little bit helps. (Many other non-profit rescues are available as beneficiaries on this App too!) I like the App because aside from being a fundraiser, it lets me know how far we have walked, the miles per hour, and the time each walk took us. You can also look back at the historical information to see how many miles you have walked over the past 30 days. When we get up over 50 miles a month, I start feeling really good about it!
We enjoy our hikes for multiple reasons. Of course getting exercise and spending time with the dogs are the obvious rewards. We also get to see what birds are in the woods at this time of year. We see what plants and bushes stay green late in the season and throughout the winter. It is easier to locate side trails and see the paths that streams take without all the undergrowth obscuring the view. The sounds of the winter woods are different from other seasons too. Each season has its own beauty and can be appreciated in different ways.
Banana time at our house is eagerly anticipated each day. Five of our six dogs love bananas. I’m pretty sure my husband hasn’t eaten an entire banana in years. He’s a soft touch that way. The shelties are especially food driven. All the dogs can catch their bite as it is tossed in the air. Zekie’s (the dog on the left) catch makes a nice lip smacking sound since he doesn’t have any canine fangs, having broken them all off in attempts to escape his crate in previous years. Read more about him here. Zekie, My Pit Bull!?
All the dogs know they get one bite and they must take turns. Claire, our newest pack member, still occasionally tries to steal Nikki’s share as Nikki is old and somewhat senile. You can read about Claire joining our family here. Welcome Home! You can’t blame a girl for trying!
Luckily, bananas are one of the fruits that are safe for dogs since ours’ love them so much. Some fruits are not, and if you are confused about which ones are safe, a quick internet search will provide you with a list of which are safe to share with your canine friend and which are not. Raisins and grapes are particularly bad news.
The focus that a piece of food can hold for a dog is amazing. That’s why it is so much easier to train a food driven dog. Just look at that laser focus. You can teach most dogs to sit in a matter of minutes if you have a piece of cheese or other appropriately delectable goodie. I suppose it is not that different from me knowing when there is a chocolate cake on the countertop and not being able to stop thinking about it. Or those Oreos, or that chocolate ice cream with Reese’s peanut butter cups in it. Come to think of it, I am having a new understanding of my dogs’ focus and preoccupation with tasty food!