Lessons Learned, Recipes

I’m Just a Wannabe

I posted this last Easter. I’m still just a wannabe, but this Easter I made easy peasy Banana Pudding. Happy Easter!

I’m a Cake Baker Wannabe. My problem is I lack two qualities necessary to bake a beautiful and delicious cake—infinite patience and laser focus.

I saw this beautiful Strawberry Mousse Cake in Southern Living and decided to give it a try. It was a bit complicated with three separate lists of ingredients and directions for: 1) cake, 2) mousse filling, and 3) frosting. Usually this is the sort of thing that sends me running back to something simple like triple chocolate cupcakes, but for some reason I was up for a challenge.

And to look at it, you’d think it was a huge success.

But looks can be deceiving.

Oddly, you can learn a thing or two while baking.

And not just that when faced with the choice to: a) follow the directions and chill the mousse for at least 30 minutes before spreading it on each cake layer and b) putting the mousse in the freezer for only 10 minutes, you should choose a.

Because underneath this pretty cake, was this

What a mess!

It’s amazing what a little (make that a lot) of frosting can do. It can cover a multitude of mistakes.

And so I am reminded this Easter that my Savior looks at me with all of my cracks, lack of patience, and poor focus and HE loves me anyway.

Happy Easter!

And another lesson I learned was it really only matters how it tastes, and that was great! Three sticks of butter and heavy whipping cream have a way of doing that!

Middle School Mishaps

From the Files of Middle School Mishaps

So, I’m on my way to work the other morning when my son calls from school saying, “I forgot I was supposed to bring candy to school for my Careers class and if I don’t I’ll get a zero.”

After two minutes of sounding like one of the adults on the Peanuts cartoons (you know, wah, wah, wah) I let him know there was no way I could bring candy to the school and to try his dad.

Yes, I know… he should just suffer the consequences of being irresponsible and receive the zero; but in all honesty he hardly ever forgets stuff. There was only one other time last year when he forgot his lunch. I saw it on the counter and emailed his teacher saying I’d bring it up to school. She emailed back telling me he said it was okay and he’d just eat the school lunch.

I wish he’d do that every day because I hate making school lunches. Where’s the creativity in that? Slap something together between two pieces of bread? And I spend all my time looking for a container to put the sandwich in because I used the last baggie on yesterday’s lunch. Sometimes I get desperate and send in a sleeve of Ritz crackers and an almost empty family size bag of Cheetos held together by a gem clip.

But back to the forgotten candy.

I call my husband to see if he can rescue our son. And his response? “How can y’all let this happen?”


After more wah, wah, wah-ing, he said he was already late for work but he had a bag of Starlight peppermints in his car.


This would be worse than a zero. Either the 7th grade Careers class would have the best-smelling breath in the school or our son would have to spend the rest of the year living with the humiliation of passing out peppermints like a WalMart greeter. I decided to let the chips, er mints, fall where they may.

When he came home I asked how the peppermints went over.

Him, “I decided to sell high fives instead.”

Me, “High fives? As in actual physical high fives?”

Him, “Yep,” placing the unopened bag of peppermints on the counter.

He’s likely to receive a high five when his dad gets home. Down low.

Lessons Learned

My Mom Divorced my Father on my 50th birthday…Or something like that

I’ve been writing all year about turning the big 5-0 and it’s finally here.

I’m sort of in shape (from all that walk-jogging), I’ve taken a few risks by changing jobs and trying to write a novel, and I’m still blogging (although a little less these days).

I figured today would be anticlimactic since my husband invited a few friends to dinner to celebrate last night. But noooooo-

First, I woke up to a Happy Birthday email from my favorite Mexican restaurant. We go there every Friday night so getting birthday greetings from Alejandro, Jorge, and Sal was like getting one from a family member.

Then my husband shared a bit of shocking news. I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet.

Him: “What’s up with your mom?”

Me: “What are you talking about?” Really thinking, “why didn’t you say ‘happy birthday?’ Alejandro and his friends already have.”

Him: “She texted me. It says, “No, no, no! I can’t take this anymore!’”

Me: “Oh my gosh! She’s divorced my father on my 50th birthday!”

Him: “But, why did she text me?”

Me: “It’s my 50th birthday! Hello?”

Me: “Wait, what time did she text you?”

He looked at his phone. “10:36 last night.”

Me: “Hmmm….Downton Abbey.”

I had warned her that things were too cheery last week. I told her to prepare herself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all those years of watching All My Children, it’s that when something seems too happy to be true, it usually isn’t. Or something like that.

So, I called her. She’s not divorcing my father. She meant to text me, not my husband. It was Downton Abbey and she’s refusing to tell me what happened. (I missed the show and will watch it right before Season 4 starts.)

So, crisis averted. I’m having birthday cake for breakfast.  And all is right birthday cakewith the world.


Easiest, Best Tasting Mac & Cheese Ever!

Mac and Cheese is one of the best comfort foods and there are as many recipes as there are cooks.

photo (3)

Most recipes use essentially the same ingredients—cheese, macaroni, whole milk, etc.  But the technique below is the simplest I’ve ever found. Thanks, Jennifer H. for the tip!


16 oz. box of elbow macaroni (cooked according to box directions)

2 cups grated sharp cheese

2 cups grated any other cheese (I usually use cheddar or Colby)

4 tablespoons of flour

2 ½ – 3 cups of whole milkphoto (5)

½ – ¾ stick of butter

¾ cup Panko crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a layer of cooked macaroni in the bottom of an oven safe dish. Sprinkle a layer of the cheeses, mixed together. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour and salt and pepper. Top with 4-5 pats of butter. Repeat.  (I use a large dutch oven, so I only have 2 layers. If you use a smaller container, you’ll have 3-4 layers.) Pour enough milk that it comes to the top of the mac and cheese mixture. Mix ¾ cup of Panko crumbs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle the Panko crumbs on top. Optional: put 3-4 tomato slices on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Note: You can use any combination of cheese, as long as one is sharp.  If you have meat lovers in your house, add sliced sauteed smoked sausage.

Lessons Learned

What I Learned While Walk-Jogging

On my last birthday, I had a thought—When I turn 50, I’m gonna really get in shape.

Then it occurred to me that it was perhaps a better idea to start now and by the time I turned 50, I would already be in good shape.

I hated to act on any new idea unless I’d slept on it first.  Then, if I woke up and it was still lodged in my frontal lobe, I’d do it.

Unfortunately, it was.

I had been in pretty good condition but after a job change two years ago, I’d become rather sedentary.

My efforts to get a walk station installed at work had been unsuccessful, so about six months ago I decided it was time to start walk-jogging again. (Definition: walk-jogging  – a combination of walking really fast and intermittently breaking into a full jog.)

I walk-jog about the same time every other day at the local park and I’ve noticed a few characters in the walking/jogging/running crowd who show up about the same time as I do.

Angst Girl – Angst Girl is about 17-years-old and  1/3 my size, but you can hear her coming from behind you as she pounds on the asphalt. I want to say, “Hey, take it easy. You’re scaring the squirrels.” But I don’t. She holds her arms perpendicular to the ground, bent at the elbows. The look on her face says, I hate this.

Bad Manners Man – Bad Manners Man is somewhere between 30-35.  He has bright orange running shoes that probably glow in the dark.  Heaven help you if you should meet him on a turn. He hugs the inside lane like nobody’s business.  I was slightly ahead of him once and he almost knocked me over. I wanted to yell, “Hey share the road. Old ladies are everywhere.” But I didn’t.

Poodle Man  – Poodle Man walks willy nilly, criss-crossing the path as his tiny white poodle walks him. I almost tripped over the stretched leash once. I wanted to yell, “Hey, get a real dog.” But I didn’t.

Shuffling Senior Man – Shuffling Senior Man is at least 80 and he shuffles on the balls of his feet.  When he passes, he has the sweetest grin on his face. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey look at how fast I’m going.” And as I pass him I want to say, “Look at you!” But I don’t.

Cross Country Team – Sometimes I’m there at the same time as the local high school’s Cross County Team. The boys and girls run in separate groups.  I try to always run in the opposite direction as them so I don’t show them up. 🙂

When the boys come my way, one of them always shouts, “Hey scoot over and give the lady some room.” Proving the next generation of boys will be alright.  And when the girls go by, they always wave. I think they want to say, “Hey look at you!” I’m glad they don’t.

I’ve learned a few things while walk-jogging. Sometimes I get an idea for a story or blog post, or I work through a problem I’m having, or I realize that stretching is a really good idea, or I simply enjoy the trail and nature around me and think how blessed I am.

And sometimes I learn some really valuable lessons like this one.


Always be in front of the horses. IN FRONT.

Anywho, I’m glad I’ll face 2013 in semi –shape.

Happy New Year!

Parenting Pearl, Recipes

Daughter, “All my boyfriends were afraid of you!” Me, “Good, that’s what I was going for.”

I took that as a compliment. Scaring my daughter’s boyfriends is quite an accomplishment considering her dad is rather physically intimidating.

He came in third once in a state body-building contest. And sadly, with time things have sort of settled on both of us, but he’s still over 200 pounds and he can beat just about anyone at arm wrestling.

But they’re afraid of me. I’m okay with that. I like them thinking that I’m just unstable enough to come after them with a machete should they do something I don’t like. Fear is good.

Of course, the downside is she might be 30, single, and still living in our house.

I guess I could be a little nicer.

Fall is here and that means I’m breaking out the dutch oven and crock pot. I jazzed up a box of Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice and it was awesome!


1 box of Red Beans and Rice

1/4  cup green pepper, diced

1/4 cup red pepper, diced

1/4 cup yellow pepper, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 lb turkey Kielbasa sausage (pork would be really good too), sliced

2 cups of white rice, cooked

1/2-1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Saute the sausage in the olive oil in the dutch oven over medium heat. Remove the sausage and saute all the peppers and onion. Remove the cooked peppers and onion. Prepare the red beans and rice according to the box instructions in the dutch oven. With 5 minutes to spare in cooking time, add the sausage, peppers, onion, extra rice, and chicken broth. Cover the pot and continue cooking until the mixture is bubbling.

This is really easy and there’s only one pot to clean up.  It’s so delicious, you’d think it came straight from the bayou. Next week, beignets. Or maybe just gumbo.

I meant to take a picture but we were starving and there weren’t any leftovers. Next time!

Middle School Mishaps, Parenting Pearl

Dear Abby, My son is in love with his socks. Should I be worried?

Seriously, if the original Dear Abby was still around (not her cousin, twice removed, knock-off Dear Abby), I’d ask her.

I thought this whole sock thing was just a fading fascination- kind of like the Razor scooter or $250 drum set. But no…he’s actually coordinating what to wear around his SOCKS!

Here he is with his mandals and favorite pair.

He said he’d get straight A’s this year if I promised him 3 pairs of Elite socks.

Yesterday on the bus, he traded his ITouch for a pair of sunglasses and a used pair of socks. Really!

I think it’s time to implement the 12 Step program.

STEP 1: Admit you have a problem.

So tonight before bed, I’ll have him practice saying,

Hello, my name is ____ and I’m a sockaholic.

Lessons Learned

Fifty Shades of Beige and Why 50 is the New 30

This post has nothing to to do with Fifty Shades of Grey. My page views have been down lately and I wanted to see if this would stir some interest.

But it does have to do with turning fifty. Not me of course. I’d like to discuss other people who have recently turned fifty.

Take my husband, for example, who just turned the golden age. Luckily on his birthday he didn’t have an enormous amount of ear hair that needed clipping… (Actually, at forty he got that under control.)

…Or a sudden desire to wear black socks with sandals… (although it does seem to be a new fad at the middle school. See my son below.)

But he does ask our kids to read the small print on just about everything to him and he says he’ll pay them 50 cents a toe to clip his toenails. (Bad hip prevents him from that chore.)

But other than that, 50 was just like the 49 years and 364th day of his life. We’ll see what it does to me. I’ll find out sooner than later.

I thought I was only 48 until I bought my sister a Happy 50th Birthday card. My daughter asked, “Didn’t we celebrate her 50th birthday last year?”

“Crap! that means I’m 49 this year!” I said.

“I thought you said 50 was the new 30,” she reminded me.

“That’s right! Fifty is the new 30, only better!”

Looking fit is no longer a necessity.  If I were to lose too much weight what would I do with all those shorts and pants with stretched-out elastic?I couldn’t possibly keep them up.

And when I forget things I no longer blame my ADHD (which no one was buying anyway – it’s way over used), but instead I blame my early onset Alzheimer’s.

And when my middle schooler does something stupid I can say, “Hey, I’m the kid’s grandma. Take it up with his mother.”

Yeah, I’m gonna be just fine. And…

it beats the alternative. 🙂


Chocolate Pudding Pound Cake Dessert and Easy Pasta

Well, that was quick. Summer’s over and I’m back to work. The beginning of the school year is always so hectic I don’t do much cooking.

Luckily, we’ve eaten like royalty! One night it was Burger King and another night Dairy Queen. And then a really nice girl named Wendy fixed us something to eat.

This week I was determined to get back in the kitchen. Here’s two super easy recipes you might like.

First the dessert.

Seize the moment. Remember all the women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. ~ Erma Bombeck

Chocolate Goodie (This is just a working title. I know I can do better.)


1 box of instant chocolate pudding

2 cups of whole milk

1 large container whipped topping

4 oz softened cream cheese

1 pound cake, cut in bite-sized squares

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Mix the instant pudding and milk together. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add the whipped topping. In a glass container, layer the pound cake pieces, pudding mixture and repeat two more times. Top with some reserved whipped topping and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

Easy Pasta Dish


1 pound of ground beef

1/4 cup onion, diced

1/4 cup green or red pepper, diced

1 jar of  your favorite spaghetti sauce

8 oz ricotta cheese

cooked pasta of your choice (I like  penne or rigatoni.)

1 cup shredded any combination of Italian cheeses (I to use the six Italian cheese package you can find in the cheese section.)

Brown the ground beef with the green pepper and onion. Drain off the grease. Add the spaghetti sauce and cook until warm. Add the cooked pasta and cheeses and put in a large casserole pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.

If this recipe looks vaguely familiar it’s because I’ve posted the same recipe using Italian sweet sausage instead of ground beef. My family likes the ground beef better. Whatever.

Parenting Pearl

Gone Fishing

My son has a romantic notion of fishing. He’s been a few times when he was much younger and he seems to have forgotten the less attractive side of fishing, like: waiting, putting crickets on the hook, waiting, tolerating the heat, waiting, taking the fish off the hook, waiting…

He’s begged to go  fishing this summer, so because I’m a really good mother (okay, he was driving me crazy) I took him and a friend to the local park for some fish’n.

But first, we had to stop here. Does this place scream character or what?

For $4.60 they got about 20 crickets and some fishing advice, like stick the hook through the cricket’s head because it’s thicker there. I’ve never cared much for crickets. When they get loose in the house, they drive you batty and I usually have to squash them with my shoe, but nobody deserves a hook through the head.

I left them on the dock and went for a walk.

The only thing more boring than fishing, is watching someone fishing.

After about forty minutes, the excitement was over and the boys spent the rest of the afternoon sliding down some very slippery rocks. Now, that looked like fun so I took off my socks and shoes and walked across. Nothing says you’re old like hearing your son say, “Don’t break a hip, Mom.”

So all in all it was a great way to spend a summer day. In summary –

Fish: 0

Crickets: 2 bite the dust, 18 are pardoned

Broken Hips: 0

Cell Phone: -1  That’s right. Somehow the cell phone fell out of his pocket while he was casting.