Chocolate Spice Cake

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This delicious cake is always a hit with the family, at pot lucks, or when company is coming.  It’s moist and rich and easy to make.  Don’t let the title fool you…  The only spice is 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in the mix. 

Dry ingredients: Mix and set aside:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then remove from heat:

1 stick butter or margarine

3 heaping teaspoons of cocoa

1/2 cup oil

1 cup water

Stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.  Then add:

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 beaten eggs

Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan.  Bake in 350° oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes.  Frost while still hot.

Frosting

Melt 2 sticks butter, then add 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1/3 cup milk.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat and add: 1 box Confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cupped chopped pecans (optional).  Pour onto warm cake.  Icing will harden as it sits.

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Enjoy!

Gail 

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Things I’m Loving These Days

Picnic Season

It’s picnic season and I love these picnic plates.  They’re durable melamine.

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I have my mother’s old picnic basket  from the 1940s that I can remember our family using when I was a child.  It still has the colorful Jerywil plastic picnic plates and cups inside it.  The hubby and I used it on romantic picnics when we were dating.  This picnic basket has served its purpose well!!

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Wov-n-wood picnic basket by Jerywil

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Jerywil plates and cups from 1940s

Taco Tray

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I don’t make tacos much, but the other night, I retrieved this taco tray from the top shelf of my pantry and I made tacos.  I can’t remember where I bought this tray but I like it.  It seems like I ordered it out of Miles Kimball or Harriet Carter or maybe a Lillian Vernon catalog.

Cranberry Juice 

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After the kidney stone episode this past winter, I’ll do just about anything to NOT go through that horror again.  A urologist told me that there really is something to drinking cranberry juice and it’s good for the kidneys. He said it does help to prevent urinary tract infections and it also helps clear the kidneys of excessive Calcium Oxalates which is one of the main contributors to kidney stones.  That’s all I needed to hear.  I drink it almost every day now.  It’s grown on me.

Backyard Summer Blooms

Our Hydrangeas are a little puny this year and slow to bloom.  Right now, they’re gasping and shriveled up from the heat (it’s 94 degrees with a 100 degree heat index).  They have to have a good rain every few days to perk  up.  I love the Rose of Sharon (at least that’s what I think it is).  Hubby doesn’t care for it and has talked about cutting it down (don’t ask me why).  Part of our Clematis (that was creeping up our flag pole) died out last year.  So it’s considerably smaller this year and I noticed today that the Japanese beetles are feasting all over it so I’m guessing that’s what probably killed part of it.

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I’m pretty sure this is a Rose of Sharon

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Clematis

Ed Sheeran- Divide CD

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I love, love, love this CD!  SO many great songs!  I think I’ve played Perfect a trillion times and Supermarket Flowers too. I’m afraid poor hubby is tiring of dear sweet Ed!

Gail 

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French Toast for Breakfast

I love French Toast. 

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My mother was a firm believer that breakfast was the most important meal of the day and she believed in having a big breakfast.  When my sisters and I were growing up in the 60s and 70s, she always cooked breakfast for us and our dad in the morning.  One day it might be French toast, the next Oatmeal, the next Scrambled eggs,  the next Cream of Wheat, the next country ham and biscuits and gravy, the next sunny-side-up eggs (she called them dip toast eggs), the next waffles or pancakes, the next grapefruit (I wasn’t a big fan but I ate it), and the next soft-boiled eggs.  When she had eggs, there was always bacon, sausage or ham to go with them and toast or biscuits.  If she had leftover mashed potatoes from the previous night’s dinner, she’d make potato cakes (hers were SO good and I’ve never been able to make them where they taste as good as hers) or sometimes she or my dad would make hash brown potatoes.  Some days we’d have a bowl of cereal and toast and jelly or cinnamon toast, and very rarely, there might be something like cinnamon rolls, pop tarts, or heated Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but she just about always cooked.

On cold days, she would make my sisters and me a cup of hot cocoa (she and my father drank coffee but my sisters and I were not allowed) and I remember having chocolate Ovaltine a few times.  She just about always made us drink milk with breakfast and there was always some sort of juice.

I think the French toast she made was just about always my favorite.  This morning I made whole wheat French toast and topped it off with some fresh berries.  Yummmm!

 

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Are you a big breakfast eater?  Do you like French toast?  How do you like to eat it? 

Gail 

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Pillow (and Mattress) Talk

No, this post isn’t going to contain that kind of pillow talk.  Sorry if I disappointed you.

My husband and I just purchased a new memory foam mattress and new memory foam pillows. We’re trying to adjust.

Before going into that, I’ll tell you about my first experience with memory foam.  Last year I developed a painful neck condition after getting my neck hyper-extended while leaning back in a shampoo bowl at a hair salon. Ladies, seriously… watch that!  The pain was severe and intense.  I went to my doctor who sent me for cervical spine X-rays (and later an MRI) which showed arthritis, bone spurs on the vertebrae, and a herniated disc, but no nerve impingement.  He thought my pain was musculoskeletal.  I was given pain pills, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxants.  He also referred me for physical therapy.

pexels-photo-576831 (1)I took the pills as prescribed, I did my physical therapy faithfully, I laid in bed alternating ice packs and the heating pad, and I used Icy Hot and Bengay ointments until I almost ran my husband out of the house with the overpowering smell of menthol and camphor. My pain lasted for nine months and let me tell you that during that time, I developed a newfound respect for people who endure chronic neck pain.  It’s debilitating.  After weeks of pain, I was referred to a highly respected neurosurgeon for a consultation.  He agreed there was no nerve impingement and said surgery would be of no benefit.  I was thrilled to hear that, but still, I had neck pain.  So he in turn referred me to an anesthesiologist/pain management specialist.  I had painful nerve block tests so that they could further localize my pain to see if I was a candidate for nerve ablation.  I wasn’t.

During all this, my doctor recommended a memory foam pillow.  Willing to try anything to relieve the pain, I bought the pillow.  He told me it would take a while to “bond” with the pillow, but that he thought it would help my pain.  It was my first experience with memory foam.  Did you know that NASA invented memory foam for their test pilots and astronauts to be more cushioned during flights?

Long story short, I hated that pillow.  After weeks and weeks of trying to like it, I quit using it.  As a matter of fact, I quit the pillow, I quit the meds, I quit the physical therapy.  None of it was helping and I was tired of it all.  And you know what? My neck got better.

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A few weeks ago, hubby and I decided we needed a new mattress.  We had been sleeping on the same mattress for almost 33 years that we had purchased as a newly married couple.  It was a Simmons Beauty Rest and it was obviously a good mattress.  Hubby had been experiencing some hip and back pain though which seemed to bother him more while he slept.  Everyone was in awe that we had slept on the same mattress for 33 years. I think the current recommendation is to change them out every 5-7 years but we figured why change something we like that’s working for us and is comfortable?  But when his back and hip pain started, we decided maybe a new mattress would be beneficial.  We decided we would get a pillow-top mattress. When we mentioned that we were ready to mattress shop, we were surprised how many people told us to go with a memory foam mattress.

Even the saleslady at Sleep Outfitters we ventured into recommended a Memory Foam mattress.  Thirty three years ago, about the only decision we needed to make when mattress shopping was whether we wanted a firm, medium or soft mattress.  Now?  The options are overwhelming.  Mattress shopping is like buying a new car now.  I walked around and browsed and when the saleslady walked off to answer the phone, I whispered to hubby with wide eyes, that I had seen a mattress with a $10,000 price tag!  For. A. Mattress.  I thought we might be on Candid Camera.

We tried several mattresses– memory foam, pillow tops, and hybrids.  We tried firm, medium, and soft.  We ended up purchasing a Tempur-Pedic Adapt Medium.

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Here’s the description given of the mattress.

Description

A part of the TEMPUR-Adapt series, the Adapt Medium offers a medium-soft feel and is great for both side and back sleepers. With two layers of innovative TEMPUR material that conform to your body, it provides legendary comfort and support all throughout the night, unlike ordinary memory foam which don’t continuously adapt. The new cool-to-touch cover provides exceptional knit technology that moves the heat away from the body for a cooler night’s sleep.

The saleslady threw in two of these pillows. S1401710335F00

TEMPUR-Cloud_Breeze_Dual_Cooling_Pillow_Queen_5x7I was a little skeptical since I had not had a good experience with the previous memory foam pillow.

We’ve had the mattress now for about two weeks.  And I haven’t had a good nights sleep since.  I toss and turn all night.  It does conform to your body, but then those areas of your body that sink down in the mattress get hot.  I learned that memory foam retains heat.  And heat is never good in a postmenopausal woman who lives in the southeast U.S. where we have very hot and humid summers.  I’m sure the heat retention has been a common complaint because I’ve noticed that almost all memory foam mattresses have a cooling layer or a cooling pad, as do most of the memory foam pillows.

The Tempur Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow was like sleeping on a rock.  I tried it for a few nights and woke up with headaches the first two nights.  The third night I woke up with throbbing jaw pain and I knew it was time to ditch it.

We returned to Sleep Outfitters last week after 10 days of me not sleeping.  Our nice saleslady wasn’t there so we dealt with another, very nice and patient salesman whose aim was to please us.  I explained I did not like the memory foam mattress and couldn’t tolerate the pillow.  I told him I felt like I was sleeping on a slab of hot concrete.  I wasn’t trying to be spiteful by saying that, only truthful.  Sleep Outfitters has a 120-night comfort promise.  They will exchange your mattress for one of equal or greater value within 120 days of purchase, provided you have slept on it for a minimum of 30 nights. I told him I didn’t think I could stand another 20 nights of not sleeping, of getting hot and sweaty, of tossing and turning.  He told us the first two weeks are usually a big adjustment period, especially if one has been sleeping on the same mattress for 33 years.  We decided we would go with a pillow top mattress and tried several out until we found one we thought was comfortable.  We decided we would keep trying the memory foam mattress though and give it the full 30 days.  That was a week ago and I’m still not sleeping.  I knew it was bad when I tossed and turned one night and got up in tears.  The salesman did tell me I could go home and get my pillow and he’d exchange it for a softer memory foam pillow and admitted the dual breeze pillow is a very supportive, firm pillow.  He gave me a Tempur Cloud pillow.

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It did feel much softer but I couldn’t tolerate it either.  It also gave me headaches and the old familiar neck pain returned.  I’m usually not so hard to please, really, but I swear I was starting to feel like The Princess and the Pea.  I sure didn’t want to aggravate that neck pain again, so I ditched that pillow and went back to my old foam rubber pillow.

I might be the only one on the planet, but I’m afraid I’m just not a fan of the ever popular memory foam.  Most people think of memory foam as being soft, and while it does conform to the body, it’s designed to be supportive and I’ve learned in the mattress world that supportive = firm.  One thing I do like about the memory foam is that you don’t get bounced around or jostled awake when your bed partner rolls over or gets out of bed. The memory foam absorbs that motion and doesn’t transfer it.

We also purchased an adjustable base and we like it.  It has a wireless remote and you can raise and lower both the head and feet.  It also has a zero gravity setting which is the optimal position for your body and is supposed to improve circulation, promote muscle relaxation and ease the tension on the spine.  The saleslady said it’s good if you read a lot in bed (me) or you have sleep apnea (hubby) or you have acid reflux (me) or back and hip pain (hubby).

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It is nice reading in bed without having to prop up on multiple pillows (which is bad for the neck).  Yes, I think I’m going to really like the adjustable base.

What about you?  What do you think of memory foam?  Have you slept or do you sleep on a memory foam mattress?  

Gail 

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Sunday Glory

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Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

Gail 

Posted in God, Sunday Glory | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Hello, Summer

It’s about 92 degrees outside.  We’ve had some very humid days this month already but also some nice non-humid days.  I always welcome a break from the humidity with open arms.

Our oldest son has been on a 16 day trip to Italy with friends from college.  Today they finished up their trip in Venice.  Riding.  Gondolas.  In.  Venice.  I can’t even imagine.  On their trip (that was a year in the planning), they participated in a wine tasting on Mt. Etna, walked the beaches of Sicily, toured Capri, hiked Mt. Vesuvius and toured Pompeii, Vatican City, the ruins in Rome, took a cooking class taught by an Italian chef, spent a day in Assisi and several days in Florence, and finished up in Venice, to name a few.  They ate lots of good Italian food.  They arrive back home in the States tomorrow and this mama is looking forward to hearing all about their trip. And seeing all of the pictures of course.

Hubby picked up some steaks to grill out this weekend.

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I’m making this Strawberry Bacon Blue Cheese Salad to go with the steaks.

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Photo credit: https://www.lemontreedwelling.com/strawberry-bacon-blue-cheese-salad/

I guess we’ll split a baked potato as we usually do.

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I cleaned some today and organized some drawers.  Tomorrow I plan to relax with this:

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And this:

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Happy, happy weekend!  

Gail 

Posted in Cooking, summer | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Picnic Day

Today was a nice day for a picnic.  Hubby and I had planned a picnic for yesterday with my sister and her husband, but all day long the sky kept darkening, the wind would kick up and the humidity was making it feel like it was 712 degrees outside, so we decided we would go today instead.  The humidity had dropped to a nice 42%.

I dug out my mother’s old Wov-N-Wood picnic basket from the 1940s.  Don’t you love it?  DSCF9482

I have happy memories of this picnic basket.  Hubby and I used to take it on picnics when we dated back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.  Happy times.

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Nugget wanted to come on the picnic.

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But we left him at home.  Maybe next time, Nugget.

We picked up my sister (her hubby had to work today and couldn’t come along).  We went to a local state park and stopped at an area known as the Picnic Bluffs.  There’s a whole row of picnic tables in the woods next to a trail by the lake. It was perfect.

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I packed stuff to make ham and turkey sub sandwiches, chips, veggies and dip, strawberries, blueberries and pound cake.

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Loving these Jerywil plates that came with the picnic basket- also from the 1940s

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My sister and my hubby

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Hubby

As we sat down to eat, we had a cute little visitor. This baby squirrel loved the strawberry I “dropped” under the tree.

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After he filled his little belly up with the strawberry, he climbed up in a tree right beside the picnic table and took a nice long nap.  What a cutie!

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After the picnic, we took a stroll by the bluffs on the lake.  There were a few people out boating and fishing, but overall, it was quiet.

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This tree was growing out of the side of a rock!

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I loved this tree hanging off the side of the bluff.  It looked like the roots were hanging on for dear life.

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The hubs and his truck

It was a good day for a picnic.  Hubby said it was a fun and relaxing day.  We plan to do more summer picnics.

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What about you?  Do you like to picnic?  Where’s your favorite picnic spot? 

Gail 

 

Posted in Nature, summer | Tagged , , | 10 Comments