serendipitous reflections

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pride Weekend

While we were Atlanta we also went to a Gay Pride Brunch. Every year, Tiff's friend Gil has a brunch before the Pride Parade. Dean, Tiff, and I went to brunch, but we didn't make it to the parade. We had an awesome time, and got to meet some really nice people. Posted by Hello

Raspberry Crumb Coffee Cake with Vermont Maple Frosting

Tiff asked me to make a couple of dishes for the brunch. I made a raspberry crumb coffee cake, blueberry muffins, lemon poppy seed muffins, and at Gil's request potato salad. My favorite was the raspberry crumb. It was wonderful! (Thanks Emeril!!) This recipe would be wonderful if you are having out of town guests because you can make it the day before minus the frosting, and reheat it covered, then pour on the frosting. It's super moist and full of flavor.

Raspberry Crumb Coffee Cake with Vermont Maple Frosting

1 teaspoon butter
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 stick plus 4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Vermont Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 11 X 7 X 2-inch rectangular pan with the teaspoon of butter.

In a saucepan, combine the raspberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the mixture for 3 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the water and cornstarch together. Stir the slurry into the fruit mixture. Cook and stir the mixture for 4 minutes. Remove the pan and cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream 8 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. In a small mixing bowl, sift 3 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternately to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly. Mix in the vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining butter, remaining flour and brown sugar together. Using your hands, combine the mixture until it resembles a fine crumb-like consistency. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the fruit mixture over the batter. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the remaining batter over the fruit mixture, about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the entire pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the powdered sugar, maple syrup and milk together. Set aside. Remove from the oven and drizzle the frosting over the top. Cut into slices and serve warm.

Posted by Hello


Blueberry muffins and mini lemon poppy seed muffins

In addition to the raspberry crumb coffee cake, I made blueberry muffins and mini lemon poppy seed muffins. Both of these recipes we were pretty easy to make and easy to double. They were both a hit! The lemon glaze made the mini muffins so moist and yummy. And you must to use fresh blueberries.

The blueberry muffin recipe came from an old Martha Stewart Living and the lemon poppy seed muffin recipe came from Emeril.

Blueberry (Breakfast) Muffins
Makes 12

10 Tbl (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1 3/4 C all purpose flour
1 Tbl baking powder
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped*
2/3 C sugar
2/3 C milk, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/4 C blueberries (or raspberries, strawberries, or peaches)
Streusel, recipe below

Preheat oven to 400. Butter a standard muffin tin. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, vanilla bean scrapings, sugar, milk, and egg; whisk to combine. Fold butter mixture and fruit into flour mixture; use no more than 1o strokes.

Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each prepared cup; press 2 Tbl streusel on top of each. Bake until tops are golden, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool in pan 15 to 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* I used vanilla extract.


5 Tbl unsalted butter, melted
2/3 C all purpose flour
2/3 C confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix with your fingers until mixture is moist and crumbly.

Posted by Hello



We were lucky enough to get to visit with some of Palmer friends while we were in Atlanta this past weekend. Rick and Hannah live in Evansville, IN, and were down in Atlanta for a seminar. We met up with them for dinner at Spondivits. It's a local seafood restaurant that Tiffany recommended. (well done Tiff!) It was so much fun and the food was wonderful. The snow crab legs were delicious. If you are out by the airport, you must stop in for dinner.

We enjoyed our visit so much with Rick and Hannah. We laughed until we were crying, mostly at us trying to crack the crablegs. (Most notably the crab on my eyebrow and on my glasses.) It was so sad having to say good-bye. My heart was heavy when we had to leave. We miss those guys so much. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Kelly, the Bluecoats, and Fort Mill, SC

Dean and I went up to Fort Mill, SC last Wednesday to see his sister, Kelly. She is spending the summer traveling all over the USA with a drum and bugle corp, The Bluecoats. Kelly is the really little one carrying that HUGE horn (the contra). If I remember correctly, the contra weighs 50-55 lbs. It was hard to tell which one was Kelly because you can't see their faces. The easiest way to find her was she and one other girl, Ria, are the only girls on the contra line, so look for the smallest ones. The performance was awesome. It beats the heck out of most marching bands I've ever seen. Posted by Hello

Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corp

This is the whole band just before the competition. I'm sorry it's so far away, but we were in the stands. The website has some pretty neat pictures. (From the left of the picture Kelly is the third row in, in the front, on the right)Posted by Hello

Marching Ants

Here is one picture while they were marching. Kelly is in the second row, second from the left. Look how big that contra is. She's going have some serious biceps and triceps when she's done. (And hopefully not a lot of shoulder and wrist problems.) Posted by Hello

Home sweet bus

This is where Kelly and the rest of the bunch live for the summer. It's pretty tight quarters in there. These are Kelly and Ria's seats. They use suction cups to hang stuff on the windows and little suction cup bath catties to hold things on the windows. It's really something...and the smell, my goodness.

They don't spend every night sleeping on the bus. Some nights they get to sleep on gym floors, library floors, or even in hallways. Posted by Hello

Kelly and Ria

This is Kelly and her friend Ria. (Ria is holding up one of the last peanut butter cookies that we took up there.) Ria is from Japan and this is her first stay in America. She and Kelly are the only two female contra players. Ria speaks some English, but she and Kelly are giving each language lessons. So Kelly should know some Japanese when she gets home.

In the background is the stadium where they performed, and all the eighteen wheelers it takes to hall all these bands around the country. It really is something to see.
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Me and my little chefs

Dr. Jones and Barbara asked me if I would be interested in taking their kids and teaching them to cook; specifically planning the menu to fit the people, grocery shopping of the menu, then actually cooking it. I said sure. So last Thursday was our first dinner. We made a Tomato Napoleon, Rigatoni and Meatballs with Vodka Sauce, and Turtle Brownies with hot fudge and ice cream. The dinner turned out wonderfully and the kids did great. (Andrew, 15; Pierce, 13; and Charlotte, 9) Posted by Hello

Tomato Napoleon

This the Tomato Napoleon. The recipe came from Southern Living, August 2000. Make note that the Fresh Tomato Dressing needs to chill for 8 hours. We didn't have that kind of time, so we chilled it in the freezer. It still tasted wonderful.

Tomato Napoleon

8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into slices
3/4 C Fresh Tomato Dressing
3 large tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
24 basil leaves, shredded

Place cheese in a shallow dish. Pour Fresh Tomato Dressing over cheese; cover and chill 1 hour. Remove cheese slices, reserving Tomato Dressing marinade.

Sprinkle tomato slices evenly with salt and pepper.

Place 1 tomato slice on each of 4 salad plates; top each with 1 cheese slice and 2 shredded basil leaves. Repeat with remaining tomato slices, cheese, and basil. Drizzle evenly with reserved tomato dressing.

Yield: 4 servings
Prep: 30 mins
Chill: 1 hr

Fresh Tomato Dressing

1 C olive oil
1/2 C balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl salt
1 tsp pepper
4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 Tbl fresh thyme leaves or 2 thyme sprigs

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a large glass bowl. Stir in tomato and fresh thyme. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Yield: 4 Cups
Prep: 20 mins
Stand: 1 hr
Chill: 8 hrs

Note: Dressing may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month. Stir additional fresh chopped tomatoes into dressing after each use. Posted by Hello


Rigatoni and meatballs with vodka sauce

For the main course, we served rigatoni and meatballs with vodka sauce. It was wonderful - very filling. The rigatoni and meatballs recipe came from Martha Stewart Living and the Vodka sauce came from Giada De Laurentiis (Everyday Italian).

Rigatoni and Meatballs
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork (we used mild Italian sausage)
1/4 C fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 C finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
6 Tbl fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 C milk
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
2 Tbl olive oil, plus more as needed
1/2 C dry white wine
Vodka sauce
1 lb rigatoni, cooked

In a large bowl, combine ground beef and pork, parsley, Parmesan, eggs, breadcrumbs, milk, and salt. Form into 1 1/2" balls.

Heat 1 Tbl oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs; cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 5 mins. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining Tbl oil meatballs. (We put the meatballs in the over at 350 while the other meatballs were browning to make sure they were going to be cooked fully.)

Add white wine to same pan; deglaze by stirring up browned bits from bottom with a wooden spoon. Reduce wine by half, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of sauce and meatballs; bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium-low; cook, uncovered, 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Toss pasta with sauce and pour into a serving dish. Top with meatballs or put them in a separate bowl.

Serves: 4

Vodka Sauce
1 quart Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store-bought marinara sauce, blended until smooth
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Simple Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.

Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and then pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Yield: 6 cups Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Posted by Hello


Turtle brownies

I guess we so full from the pasta and meatballs we forgot to take a picture of the turtle brownies. This recipe came from Martha Stewart Living.

Turtle Brownies

For the batter:
4 Tbl unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3 oz good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 C milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the topping:
1 C sugar
1/3 C heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (4 oz)

Preheat oven to 325. Line a buttered 8" square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2" to hang over sides; butter the lining, excluding overhang; set pan aside.*

Make batter: Put butter and chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a a separate bowl; set aside.

Put sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture, milk, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl until well incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies come out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 27 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan.

Make topping when brownies are cool. Bring 1/4 C water and the sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. When water comes to a boil, stop stirring, and wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Continue to cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is medium amber, 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and immediately add cream, vanilla, and salt.** Gently stir with a clean wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until smooth. Add pecans, stir until caramel begins to cool and thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Pour caramel over brownies; spread with a spatula. Let caramel set for about 1 hour. Serve with ice cream and hot fudge.

*we sprayed the pan with Pam. It worked just as well.
**Be CAREFUL- this will bubble up fast when the cream is added. So start stir immediately.


Herbie the Love Passat

Herbie the Love Passat is the new name for our car. It does some of the coolest things. You can set the seat positions to the driver and to that driver's remote. So when you unlock the door with your remote, the seat automatically moves to your position. Also the A/C is sort of like a heat pump because is automatically controls the temperature. If you have the temp set at 70, and the temp inside the car goes up, the A/C fan goes to auto and cools the car to the set temp. And the coolest feature goes to the window wipers. If the wipers are set to intermittent low, they automatically speed up with the amount of rain. So you don't have to turn them up or down when the rain changes, the car does it for you. Pretty cool, huh? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Our new car

Well we finally got our new car. Yippppeeee! It's a VW Passat and we love it! I'll give you more details tomorrow...I'm bushed tonight. And I'll also take a picture during the day tomorrow. By the time we got all the papers signed and everything, it was 10 pm before we got home. Posted by Hello

Thirty-two candles...Well five actually

This was our last night at the beach and my birthday. Denny and Sharon so thoughtfully surprised me with a cake and a flip-flop charm for my charm bracelet. The kids thought it was so funny because the candles on the cake kept relighting. I had a wonderful birthday. I sat on the beach all day. Got to spend the whole day with Dean and the kids, and have Japanese steakhouse for dinner. Not a bad way to spend your birthday. Posted by Hello

Let's go surfing now

After the construction of the big hole, Hallie, Sarah and Tanner went boogie boarding. They had a ball! Unfortunately, Hallie missed this wave, but Sarah and Tanner rode it all the way in. It was so cute. Posted by Hello

Big Hole

Dean's sister Kelly told Sarah to dig a big hole in the sand and jump in it and it would be a load of fun. Dean and I just couldn't imagine how in the world that could be fun. On the last day, Sarah and Noah decided they were going to dig a big hole. We said sure, why not, have fun. (we thought it would mostly tire them out.) So they start digging, and digging, and digging. Before you know it Hallie and Tanner (two kids that they had made friends with over the week) came over with their shovels and start digging too. By the end, the hole was about 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep, and believe it or not, they did have fun.Posted by Hello

Uncle Dean and Sarah

This was taken off the back of the ferry coming from Fort Fischer to Southport. We took the kids to the aquarium for the day because most of us had gotten a lot of sun the first day out and decided we needed to take a day before heading back out to the sun and surf.
Posted by Hello

A night out

Dean and I took a night and went out to dinner, just the two of us. We went into North Myrtle Beach to Barefoot Landing. We had dinner at Greg Norman's Grill. The food and serve was out of this world. They also had a wine list 5 times as long as their menu. I had the seared tuna, and I can honestly say it was probably one of the best piece of tuna I've ever had. Posted by Hello

We are family

Sharon's family came down from Wilmington, NC for the afternoon and brought us wonderful barbecue. (L-R - Uncle Tony, Aunt Karen Sarah, Sharon, Uncle Eric, Noah, me, Dean, and Denny) We had a really nice visit with the fam. Noah may have meet his match when Uncle Eric and Pop (Denny) through him into the pool. Posted by Hello

Up a tree

This tree was out front of the seafood restaurant that we ended up eating enough fried seafood for a lifetime. We took a bunch of picures of the kids up there, but this one is my favorite. Posted by Hello

Noah and the shark

I thought this was hilarious. We were out on the pier at sunset and this man caught this tiny shark. Dean said "Noah do you want to have your picture taken with the shark?" Noah, with his beautiful smile said "SURE." We tried to get Noah to hold it, he declined. I'm sure that would have sealed the deal for Cathy and Doug not to let us take their children anywhere, ever again.Posted by Hello


This was the first of many sandcastles built during the week. It really turned out nice. The kids and Dean really put a lot of detail into it. It's kind of hard to see in this picture...sorry.

We bought Noah a really cool sandcastle book that came with all the tools you need to build a sandcastle (minus the buckets and sand). Of course we ended up losing one of the pieces. Basically it was rectangle cookie cutter to make imprints of windows. I'm sure it buried under the sand for some other kid to find and use. Posted by Hello

Body surfing

This was our first day at the beach and Dean and I had taken the kids out into the water several times. The undertow was pretty strong the first couple of days we were there, so we didn't want the kids to be out there allow. Dean and I were trying to teach the kids how to "ride the waves," but we were too busy fighting the waves to really ride any. So Nanny decided that she needed to go out and teach Noah and Sarah how to body surf. She did a pretty good job. Our pictures turned out a little hazy from the spray, but I thought this was such a nice picture of the kids and their Nanny. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

Homecoming present

When we went got home on Saturday, I just couldn't believe how hot our apartment was. I had left the A/C on for Jasper so I thought it would be at least cool when we got home. I drop the temp down in hopes of a fast cool off, but nothing happened. The A/C is broken for the second time this summer....I mean spring. It could be a long summer if our maintenance man can't figure out the problem. And by the way, it always happens on a weekend.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

We're home

Ocean Isle Beach was a lot of fun, but it's good to be back home with the kittens. We took lots of pictures, and will start putting them up soon. We have to take the rental car back ... Pontiac G6 ... but we really don't want to.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Happy Birthday, Amy!

My neice Amy turned three yesterday and I just can't believe it. I would have sworn that she was just born the other day, but I've seen proof that she is actually growing. We wish we could have been there for her birthday, but we will be sending her gifts back with Sarah and Noah (biggest gift, taking them away from her for a week).

Heading to the beach

We are off to the beach with my parents and neice and nephew. We are looking forward to nice weather, sand castles, kite flying, ocean and sun! Pictures when we return...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I can see light at the end of the tunnel....

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I...I, I...I, ... I want the knife

Well, Jeni found my knife. Sure enough, it had gotten mixed up in a Target bag that I had put my shoes in. Good thing I waited before lamblasting the Cincinnati baggage handlers (all good people, I'm sure...)

(BTW ... obscure reference in title ... Eddie Murphy from The Golden Child)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

MIA -- Swiss Army Knife

Since returning from our busy weekend in Cincinnati, I have not seen my Swiss Army Knife. Right before we left, I slipped it into our checked baggage (can't carry it on ... might hijack the plane with the corkscrew) and I didn't use it during our visit. When we returned, the TSA had placed a notice in our bag saying they had searched it. No biggie ... happens almost every time we fly. But I can't find my knife! I called TSA and they were very sympathetic and gave me a number to the Cincinnati airport to follow up, and said they would replace it at replacement value. And like I said, it's not the biggest deal in the world, except it's the knife Jeni bought me when we got married, and I've had it almost 10 years now and it just bugs me to lose things (like my mind ...) so I'm hoping it shows up again. (I do have a backup knife.)

A rose by any other name...

They say that what you name your child lays the groundwork for their future. Doug and Cathy may want to rethink Evan William and maybe go with some more like Moxie CrimeFighter.

Friday, June 03, 2005

I may have been solicited...

On Thursday morning on my way to work, I stopped at the BP station right down the street from our apartment to see if they carried gas gift cards. As I'm walking in, I notice a minivan sitting under the covered portion with Illinois tags. Inside the van is a middle aged white woman (late 30s, early 40s -- looked like heavy smoker, regular drinker -- long fingernails painted pink and sparkled) and her teen daughter (probably 17-18). I go into the station (no gas cards) and on my way out the lady says "Hey. Excuse me."

I stop by the window and she says, "Oh, nevermind. I was going to ask you a crazy question."

I linger and say "It's ok. What do you need to know?"

"Are there any places around here that have prostitutes, hookers?" She asks.

I shrug and replied, "Not that I know of," and left it at that.

On my drive in to the office (yes, this conversation was at 7:10 a.m.) my mind is running through the motivation behind the exchange. (I should have asked why, but that may have opened a big fat can of worms.) I came to three possible conclusions: 1) Most likely, she has a husband/boyfriend who is running around; 2) With the out-of-state tags, possibly a runaway daughter they are looking for who my be hooking; 3) She was looking to earn a quick buck. I hope it wasn't #3, because that would make me sad. She was haggard looking and her daughter ... well, that's just child abuse. Also, #2 makes me sad to think about. I'm leaning toward the jerk husband/boyfriend because that's the only one outcome that can give me some piece of mind.

On a side note, do I look like 1) the kind of guy who knows where the brothels are, or 2) the kind of guy who's going to pay for a quickie at 7:10 in the morning?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

That's some phone call

Today I received a funny phone call. I can't remember what came up on caller ID, but I was pretty sure it was a solicitor. I answered, and the woman on the other end says "May I speak to Carolyn D____?" I sort of snicker and said "Well...She's been deceased for 10 years, so no you can't." The woman says "Oh, oh, I'm sorry. And we will take her off our list." I said "Thanks."

The reason why this is funny is because my mom obviously never has lived here, and the fact that Dean and I have had 3 different addresses and phone numbers since she died, makes me wonder how in the world they would have every tracked to her to here.