Vinca Beats the Odds

Happy week of Thanksgiving, everyone. If you’re celebrating (and get to do the cooking), hope your fridge is already housing the bird and all the trimmings. Every year I swear I ain’t messin’ with the fine china, but when else will I use it? (Besides, Christmas, that is. I do really love it and–hey, there is no school and no cooking the day after the holiday, so what the heck, right?)

So maybe I’m a geek or a Pollyanna or a ridiculously positive person (RR is shaking his head yes to all three, I’m quite sure), but I am inspired by things that someone else might not even pay attention to.

Every year, I do some flower gardening. (Hubby is the veggie man.) Every year I try to add one more perennial (i.e., type of plant that comes back with little or no help from me), but there’s always room for an annual or two.  This year though, I hit Lowe’s at the end of the season and came back with a bunch of little flowering plants, but none of the impatiens or vinca I normally add.

IDK, I know annuals come from seeds, lol, but the plant is not supposed to come back, correct? Well, I started the season noticing tiny marigold seedlings mixed into the weeds I call grass on the side of the house. Found at least eleven. Transplanted every one where I normally plant them every year. Got a full spread. Every seedling made it to full growth and blooms. Cleared them out a few weekends ago.

We won’t discuss the sunflowers. Haven’t planted those annuals for at least three years now. Go figure.photo (1) That wall behind me gets crazier every year. That’s last summer’s photo. Don’t you love how I hide the hips and thighs behind the poster?

Sunflowers These are now the norm. I promise I planted a few seeds several years back.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I thought I saw a vinca sprout peeking from the edge of a little flower bed under a tree on the side of my house. Not sure if it popped up during a few very warm fall days, but uh, that thing was not supposed to grow at all (even though I did have them there last summer, 2012). Not only should that li’l fighter not have been there in the first place, it should have had full sun. (It was hidden under the crazy mums that come back every year. Found it when I cut back the mums killed by the deeper frosts.) And, the li’l bugger should NEVER have bloomed in early November, AFTER several frosts, a couple of which hit the mid-20s. (Hardy plant or inspiration that, given the right combination of circumstances, pretty much anything can get past the odds?)

vinca in Nov 2013  Crazy!

You know me. I am inspired.

Is it just me? Or have others run into similar experiences?

May you all feel gratitude, Thursday and every day–I know it keeps me peaceful!

Joanna

Easiest Cake. Period.

Hi all. Took three rounds of trying to get this post in place. Somehow the formatting wound up mixed up. I won’t fight with software, but I might have happened on some understanding about plain text vs. HTML. Honestly, almost everything I’ve ever learned about a computer has been incidental.

Let’s move on, folks. I’ll celebrate later.

Hope those of you who celebrate had a hoppin’ Halloween! With trunk-or-treat in my neighborhood, I didn’t see a somewhat steady stream of trick-or-treaters until almost 6:30 PM. And I never thought I’d miss taking kids out candy-seeking, but… 😦

Kids on halloween 2013 My older guy–2nd in from the right–and his buds turned a friend’s garage and lawn into the neighborhood haunted house and ghouled it all themselves. Have a feeling a lot of little kids lost sleep that night. Some though, walked right up for candy, no apprehension at all! 

So one of my favorite teacher friends brought in a cake for our teachers’ Halloween breakfast–ever eat pudding by holding it in your hand?

I’d say that’s almost what this was. A texture like I’ve never had. My teacher friend kept asking about how to top it.

 It.

Needed.

Nothing. 

Cake mix. Canned pumpkin pie mix. A ‘little’ evaporated milk.

Of course I had to try it. Of course I made my tweaks to the recipe. (Drives hubby nuts but he doesn’t eat most of my stuff anyway, whether I stick to a recipe or not.)

Then Stacey asked about it, so…

Here’s my version:

One box white cake mix (yellow tastes too strong for my preferences)

One 15 oz can of pumpkin. (Pumpkin pie mix is already sweetened. Figure using the ‘mix’ will yield a much sweeter dessert.)

I added, IDK, 1/8th cup of buttermilk to make it easier to stir?

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir until fully combined/incorporated. Batter will be thick. You’ll probably need to scrape one scapula with another to get the batter into a pan. (I used an OVAL 9 x 13 pan; didn’t have the 11x7x2 one of the recipes I read called for. It worked fine.)

Bake at 350 about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sprinkled brown sugar on top when done and covered with waxed paper to retain moisture. Tastes even better the next day, but then again, most things pumpkin do.

pumpkin cake I gave almost half away. Had to.

I’m thinking this would be awesome with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I mean, is there an easier dessert for Thanksgiving?

Have a great day,

Joanna

De-Stressing During the Holiday Season–Diane Lang Style!

Hope everyone had a great weekend and that no one is too stressed out thinking about cooking turkeys, stuffing and all that goes along with that. Chances are, I’m good until Wednesday night, when I have to let that big ol’ bird take up my sink for a few hours. Then I have to bleach-clean everything–the part I hate the most. I love having my family over–nieces, nephews; my brother and sister-in-law. My mom and hubby’s and probably some drop-in friends of my son’s. We shall see. 😉
I now turn you over to my good friend, counselor, life coach and real-life working mom, Diane Lang. She’ll get the busiest time underway with tips on keeping it a more enjoyable time by keeping those stress levels down. 
   
I can’t believe it but it’s almost that time of year again. Thanksgiving in a few weeks and then Christmas. It comes so quickly. When it’s the holidays, we tend to get stressed out. I wanted to give a few tips on being positive to keep us all smiling during this holiday season and there is a lot to be happy and grateful for.
1. Remember what the holidays are really about – spending quality time with family, friends and loved ones. It’s about giving love and joy to others. Watch your expectations – make sure they are realistic. We try for perfection at the holidays and we tend to forget what the holidays are really about. Remind yourself that the holidays are about being close to your loved ones everything else come second.
2. Take care of you – during the busy holiday season we forget about ourselves. We worry so much about setting a nice table, buying and cooking the food, decorating the house, buying the presents, etc. We forget to take a time out and spend some quiet time alone. Make sure to put yourself on your priority list and put yourself high up on the list. If we aren’t feeling mentally, physically and emotional healthy, how we will be able to have a good holiday. The more time you put aside for you the healthier and happier you will feel this holiday season.
3. Seasonal disorder – this is just another issue that can affect people during this stressful time. If you know that the cold weather and shorter days affects you and causes you to have negative moods then do some preventive work. Talk to your doctor about options, seek counseling before the change of weather and holidays start, set up a support system to help when your feeling down, invest in light boxes and plan a vacation to a warm destination ( this will give you something to look forward to).
4. Start early – before the holidays season is in full swing start making your things to do lists, start your holiday shopping early this way when the holidays approach your not scrambling for presents. Start early – buy  wrapping paper, holidays cards, etc. Be preventive.
5. Ask for help. There is no reason why you have to do everything on your own.  Delegate this holiday season.
   Check out Diane’s book for more tips on balance and peace. Visit her website for more details or pick up a copy at Amazon!
Diane Lang, MA
Positive Living Expert/Educator
Hope you’ve found these wonderful tips helpful. I know I have. Off to count my blessings and knowing I’ll never reach numbers of that magnitude! May all of you be blessed and know every one of you is key when I name the things for which I am grateful.
(Image courtesy of events.tru.ca)
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! 
Joanna Aislinn

Thanksgiving Mishaps and Miracle(s)

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Hope all those who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday enjoyed their day as much as I did. My brother’s family (four kids ranging in age from seven to two) and my mom joined me, my husband and boys for a wonderful meal and a lot of fun.

 So, I’ve been married over fourteen years and have had Thanksgiving at my home thirteen times. (That fire I blogged about a while back pre-empted last year.) That translates into thirteen successfully cooked turkeys, right?

 Almost not so this time. Allow me to share…

 1. My husband brought home a twenty-nine pound bird which I wasn’t sure would even fit in my oven. Luckily, it did, but not much else could. (What can I say? Hubby’s a Leo. They’re known for doing things on the grand scale. Good thing his mom had recently given us a counter-top multi-function broiler-oven unit. That thing saved the side-dishes’ day.)

 2. A quick glance at the cooking times suggested roasting this thing close to seven hours. No biggie—until I realize the directions stopped at the twenty-four-pound mark. (Oh, and I’d already scheduled everything around a two-o’clock dinner time after putting the bird in at 6:45 AM. Good thing my mom brought those appetizers.)

 3. Of course this huge critter’s foil pan needed to be supported underneath, so I placed a baking sheet under it—with a plastic market bag under it to keep raw turkey juices off the counter. Found out, oh, about three hours into cooking I’d forgotten to take it out. (By some miracle, nothing smelled so I replaced the baking sheet and tossed the one now coated with melted plastic out. What else could I do at 10:30?)

 4. A while later, I hear way too much sizzling coming from the oven—lots of smoke, too. This bird’s drippings are too much for the roasting pan to contain, so…hubby lifts Tom out, we suction as much as we can with my dollar-store baster, have a good laugh and put that monster back in the oven along with a few sweet potatoes. (I piled them on the side of the bird, against the oven wall.)

5. Fast forward ninety minutes after that: never turned on the oven after mishap #4. (Turn the oven up another 50 degrees and pray no one ends up with salmonella.)

 Somehow, it all came together. My kids, ages thirteen and eleven this month, adore their little cousins, and kept them entertained on the trampoline or with video games until dinner was ready—by 3:30. Not bad, right? My mom and my brother did the Italian drive-each-other-nuts thing that everyone else ignores or makes fun of in the other room.  My very fun sister-in-law made my day by gushing about the ‘flow’ of my downstairs ‘decor;’ the turkey turned out incredibly moist, tender and delicious; my stuffing got its usual raves—recipe at my website (www.joannaaislinn.com/Morerecipes.html)—and did I mention? I forgot to put one of the basket parts into the coffee maker. Did that once before and ended up with steaming brown liquid all over the counter. Not yesterday.

 Now it’s your turn to share! Leave a comment the rest of us can enjoy!