Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Daring Bakers' November Challenge - Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

Caramel! It has to be my very favorite sweet flavor. So you can imagine how happy I was to see a caramel cake as this month's challenge for the Daring Bakers. (Recipe HERE.)

I haven't made a cake in a long time! But this recipe was a pretty straight-forward one, and not difficult. The only part that was a little challenging was making the caramel syrup, which was simply a cooked and caramelized mixture of sugar and water. I decided to make this sweet, amber concoction a day early, to make the actual cake-preparation simpler. (I think I might have stopped the caramelization a little too soon; it would have been better to have a richer, darker color.) Here are some pictures of the process and the final syrup.

The next day I baked the cake and iced it. I spread the icing on the cake using this old icing spatula, which used to belong to my dad, who was a professional baker. As you can see, it's well-worn, and has his name engraved onto the blade, so some other baker wouldn't walk off with it. It means a lot to me, because I know his hands held and used it innumerable times over many years.

To jazz up the top, I used some left over dulce de leche that I made the week before. It had been in the refrigerator, so I warmed it up, briefly, in the microwave, and drizzled it randomly across the top.

It was fun to bake a cake from scratch again. As I said, it's been quite awhile. I would certainly make this recipe again sometime. I was pleasantly surprised at the cake's texture, which was both dense and moist - unlike those fluffy, airy cake-mix cakes. The addition of the caramel syrup to the batter gave it a wonderful, mildly caramel flavor. I would be happy to eat this cake with no icing whatsoever! In fact . . . I think I'd prefer it that way. I'd have much preferred a sort of caramel glaze, poured over the cake, instead of a butter-based icing, which was too sweet for me (and that's not something I can often say!).

The next evening, after baking and icing the cake, we invited our across-the-street-neighbors, David and Lorraine, over for cake and coffee. I had stored the cake in the refrigerator, and I really enjoyed the flavor more the second day. David and Lorraine both told me how good the cake was, and both cleaned their plates, which is always a compliment to the cook.

Many thanks to the Daring Bakers' hosts/co-hosts for this month:
Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity
Alex of The Blondie and Brownie Duo
Jenny of Foray into Food
Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go

The recipe they presented was by Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites (

Other Completed Daring Bakers' Challenges: Lavash, Pizza Napoletana

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fall Day at the Gardens

Mom is here, visiting with us for Thanksgiving. Today I took the day off. I spent a little time preparing a few things for tomorrow's dinner, but still had plenty of free time, so I took Mom to the Botanic Gardens, where we strolled a little bit. There are lots of benches, scattered here and there, so it was not too tiring for her. We both enjoyed getting out in the fall weather for a while. The sun was shining and it was around 65 degrees.

Mom, at one of the garden gates.

New Mexico's state bird is the roadrunner. I was happy to get a clear photo of this one. Roadrunners can run up to 17 miles per hour, and are "skittish," making it very hard to get their picture. This one, though, was wandering around some tables at the entrance to the Gardens, where people often feed it, so it was a little less camera shy.

Some dried tree pods hanging in front of a clump of pampas grass.

In the courtyard, just outside of the gate to the Gardens, is this bronze sculpture that I love. You can see, in the background, some flocked trees. They are setting up for the month-long River of Lights.

After the Botanic Gardens, we went to the 66 Diner, on the old Route 66 (currently Central Street, in Albuquerque), and had lunch. Here's Mom with Betty Boop.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I wish each of you a wonderful day with your family and friends.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When I Grow Up

Let me tell you about Isabella. Isabella is a beautiful, elderly widow lady in our church congregation. She has been battling cancer for the past two years, going through surgery, chemotherapy, recovery, remission, and relapse twice. Now she's facing another round of chemo. I never see Isabella without a smile. It's true, last Sunday night I saw her with tears in her eyes . . . but she was still smiling! She has amazing strength of character, abiding faith, and a thankful heart. I want to "grow up" to be like Isabella.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You've Got to Watch This!

Be sure you go to Kelsey's blog at: to see Sweetpea's first dance recital (which was back in the summertime). She's third from the left, as you're looking at them. The part I love best is when she stops her performance to point to the spot on the floor where the little girl next to her should be standing. Pretty dog-gone cute, if you ask me.

For those of you who are her adoring fans, I think her second recital is coming up sometime before Christmas.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Date Night

Dan and I usually go to dinner on Friday evenings. It's our "date night." But last night we did things a little differently.

We went to an afternoon movie matinee, to see "The Changeling," starring Angelina Jolie as a single mother, living in Los Angeles in the 1920s. When her nine-year-old son goes missing, in 1928, she frantically turns to the LA Police Department, which, at that time in history, was known for rampant corruption.

After five horrible months of waiting and grieving, she is ecstatic when told, by the police, that her son has been found! But when he arrives in LA and steps from the train, she comes to the awful realization that the boy is not her son at all. In his attempt to make the police look like heroes in the eyes of the news reporters, who are crowding around to capture the happy reunion, the police captain (played by Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame), refuses to acknowledge the mother's protests, and sends her home with the boy. "It's been five months, Mrs. Collins," he tells her. "The boy has been through a lot. His appearance has changed, that's all."

The movie is based upon a true story. I won't divulge any details or reveal the ending, but will say that it left me, both, angry at the injustice of the situation and full of admiration for the unbending courage and determination of the mother, in what appeared to be an impossible situation.

For Dan and me, "date night" started, this week, with an afternoon matinee, and ended with a trip to Costco, where we each enjoyed a Polish sausage on a bun for dinner - best dinner bargain in town (hotdog and drink combo for only $1.50). The movie and the bargain dinner both get a thumbs up from me.

The Changeling (Directed by Clint Eastwood).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How Does a Rabbit Tell Time?

Every evening, at almost exactly 4:45, this fall, this same little rabbit shows up in our yard, sits down beside our footpath, on a clump of dead grass, and rests for a half hour or so before high-tailing it out of the yard. Today I decided to leave a little snack for him. I sliced up a few carrots and put out several lettuce leaves, right beside his little soft spot. Right on time, he showed up and was delighted to find dinner! He seemed to prefer the lettuce to the carrots. In fact, the lettuce was gone in a flash, while most of the carrots are still sitting there. (So much for having learned everything I know about rabbits from Bugs Bunny!)

Here's his picture. I walked out to the back patio, very slowly - he didn't appear to notice - and snapped this quick shot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

12 of 12 for November 2008

I've just posted my 12 of 12 blog for November 12, 2008. Today was just a typical weekday, without any out-of-the-ordinary activities, but was pleasant, none the less. I invite you to go and take a look, at

Friday, November 7, 2008

The New Mexico Blues

In New Mexico, stunning shades of blue are the most popular contrasts to the warm, sun-splashed terracotta adobe and sand colored stucco that predominate the local architecture. Blue doors, blue window frames, blue gates, blue benches, blue vases, blue art are found all over. Even blue corn is popular here - blue corn pancakes, blue corn chips, blue corn tortillas. I hope you'll enjoy these pictures I took, of some of our blues.

And let's not forget BLUE skies.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Response to the Election

Yesterday's election results are in. The victor in this 2008 Presidential election is Barack Obama. He was not my choice.

I've been perusing some reader comments on both and A large percentage of those comments are no more than bitter and vicious verbal attacks, coming from both sides. I find such talk grievous and disturbing.

My goal, in this respect, is to be like my favorite Bible hero, the man after God's own heart, David. Even when King Saul, in a jealous rage, was trying to kill David; and even when David had the perfect opportunity to take the King's life; David chose, instead, to honor Saul and spare his life, because Saul was serving as King through God's appointment.

I may not have voted for Barack Obama, but it appears that he will be the president of my country. My duty is to honor our leaders (1 Peter 2:17), pray that God will grant them wisdom and character to face the challenges that will come their way (1 Timothy 2:1-4), support them in what is good, and respect their office even though I may be compelled to voice convictions that stand in opposition to certain of their policies.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oh, My Aching Tooth!

It began over a month ago, when I went to a new dentist. It was a nightmare appointment that lasted three hours and 45 minutes, just to fill a tooth! While I was in this dentist's chair, she told me about a terrible accident she had about six years ago. Her horse, that she was leading, was spooked by something; rared up, hitting her in the head and knocking her to the ground; then landed on her, breaking her neck. As she was working on my tooth she told me she's had a terrible problem with her hands shaking, ever since her recovery. But now she's on some meds that control it "pretty well." Way to make a patient feel confident!

From that day on, the tooth gave me problems (it hadn't hurt before the treatment). And this past weekend, it went ballistic. By Sunday night I knew I would have to get to a dentist . . . and not the one I had seen a month ago. I was up, with the tooth, a number of times during the night, and spent some time looking on the internet for options. I had seen a specialist several years ago, so left a message on his machine, asking if he could please see me as soon as possible on Monday morning. Bless his heart, he worked me in. He was able to take an x-ray, confirm that the tooth was abscessed, give me a prescription for pain, and use his clout to get me into another specialist, who would do a root canal for me, the next morning (today).

Sadly, upon taking only the first dose of the pain medicine, I became very sick, and the medicine and its evil effects didn't leave my system for about 10 hours. Ugh! No Percocet for me ever again!

Today I went to the other dentist, and he performed the root canal. He had me in and out in less than an hour (unlike dentist #1's three hours and 45 minutes!). He started me on an antibiotic. I was still feeling pretty icky until about 5:00 this evening, but now things are looking up. I even made it out to vote around 3:00 (I was thankful there was no line). I'll have to go back to have a crown put on, in about two weeks, but I think the worst of this is over.

I hope to go back to work tomorrow, and am ever so grateful to be feeling up to it again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fall in Cottonwood Country

Today I went for a short walk, down in the Bosque, hoping to capture some of the color of the season before it fades. I adore fall. The colors, the scent, and the cool air are exhilarating.

As the sun sets, the mountains turn reddish.

And once the sun sets, darkness comes quickly in this high desert.

Meeting Mr. Overalls

We went to Village Inn for breakfast this morning. When we got there, there were about seven or eight families ahead of us, all gathered in the vestibule, up front. We put our name on the waiting list, and took a couples of seats, right by the front doors. Before long a tall, lanky gentleman, probably in his mid-sixties, dressed in faded blue denim bib overalls and wearing a baseball cap stepped through the doors. He surveyed the crowd, waiting to be seated, looked our way, and said, rather loudly, "Doesn't anyone ever eat at home anymore?!" We laughed, and that was a signal to Mr. Overalls that we were a willing audience, I guess. "People don't need kitchens in their houses anymore," he said. "Just a microwave in the bedroom!" We chuckled again. He went over and put his name, and "party of four," on the sign-in sheet, then came back to us.

"We should pass out song books and have a community sing, here in this vestibule," he said. Then he proceeded to hum a key, pretending he had a pitch pipe. We laughed. He was eating it up. He started telling us a story, "When I was young, I went to church with some people who went to the Church of Christ," he started. We grinned, and told him we were members. "Oh! Do you still sing a capella?" We assured him that we did. He said he was always impressed by the singing in that church. Then he told us a funny story centered around his misunderstanding of the communion service. About that time, our name was called. We said good-bye, and went to our table.

As we were perusing the menu, who should show up, but our new friend, Mr. Overalls (so I shall call him). "Oh, good, you have a third chair here." And he sat down. Our conversation turned to politics, but not the current candidates or issues. We each told about the first presidential campaign we remembered, from our childhoods. He said he could remember Truman and Dewey (1948). Dan remembered the 1952 election with Eisenhower and Stevenson, and I remembered the 1956 election with those same two candidates. We learned that Mr. Overalls had moved to Albuquerque in 1990 from Arlington, Texas, near "Fote Worth" (as he pronounced it). The conversation segued into talking about places in Texas. He brought up Post, TX, and told us that it had been founded by C. W. Post, of Post Toasties fame, as a sort of utopian, health-related colony. We continued talking and laughing as if we'd known Mr. Overalls for years.

Finally his name was called, and the other three people in his party arrived, and he said good-bye and left for his table, in another room of the restaurant.

We had nearly finished our breakfast, when Mr. Overalls came back to our table. "Do you have any white sugar here at this table?" he asked (meaning regular sugar, not the stuff in the pink, blue or yellow packets). A nervous waiter was following him, and seemed worried that he had marched across the restaurant to some other customers' table, to scavenge for sugar. When the waiter saw that we welcomed him, he seemed a little relieved, and left us alone. Mr. Overalls grabbed a handful of sugar packets and then sat down with us again. Our conversation picked up, right where we'd left off, until we all heard a holler from across the restaurant. "SUGAR!," the people from his table were calling.

"This is the only way I can get them to call me 'Sugar'," he said with a grin, and took his fistful of white sugar packets back to his table.

"I'm glad you picked Village Inn today," Dan said. It had been a really enjoyable morning, meeting and visiting with Mr. Overalls.