DAY TWO: Washington, D.C., 05.30.13

Standard

Brad’s day began with meetings at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). At 1:00 pm, I gathered in the lobby with some other MADD board members and staff to take the Metrorail to join Brad and the others for a tour of the Newseum. “The Newseum, a 250,000 square foot museum of news, offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits.”  Very interesting!

November 22, 2013 marks the 50 year anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The museum has on display fabulous exhibits of never before seen photos and artifacts.

Creating Camelot - The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe.

Creating Camelot – The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe.

2013-05-30 14.08.09

“We are going to sell Jack like soap flakes.” – Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.

2013-05-30 14.10.34

“I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris and I have enjoyed it.” -President John F. Kennedy

Along with the beautiful, happy photos of the Kennedy family were not so pleasant reminders.

Abraham Zapruder's famous camera. The private citizen captured the infamous deed on this home-movie camera.

Abraham Zapruder’s famous camera. The private citizen captured the infamous deed on this home-movie camera.

A sobering presentation of the Berlin Wall displayed actual sections of the Wall. East and West sides pictured.

Berlin Wall - East Side & West Side

Berlin Wall – East Side & West Side

Brad and I posed for a photo on the terrace of the Newseum. Notice the Canadian Embassy on the immediate left and the U.S. Capitol in the background.

American Citizens being all touristy.

American Citizens being all touristy.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

First Amendment Display. Shout out to MADD!

First Amendment Display. Shout out to MADD!

Washington D.C is steeped in the history of our nation’s founding and progress.  The historic presence was palpable as we walked the streets and were surrounded by artifacts. It’s a must-do trip for all Americans!

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY ONE: Washington, D.C. 05.29.13

Standard

My husband Brad is a member of the MADD National Board and Executive.  I’m so proud of him. This bittersweet appointment comes with an unfathomable price.  http://www.jedbulla.com

Brad's MADD nametag

I accompanied Brad to our nation’s capital on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 for a MADD national board meeting.  This gorgeous sunset welcomed us to town.

Sunset, Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is steeped in colonial history – our union’s founding, a northern perspective on the Civil War, intricate architecture.  This is a thrill trip for me as I am a lover of history and old buildings.

Practically Perfect White Cake & White Icing

Standard

Practically Perfect White Cake

I found it!  The best recipe for scrumptious white cake!  Well, I found a recipe that I modified into what I want white cake to be – moist, light, moist, tantalizingly delicious, and moist.  One of my soulmates, Shelley Haynes Heile, had a birthday in March. Her favorite thing in life is white cake with white icing.  It’s never too late (early?) to celebrate, right?  Okay, so Shelley and I don’t need an excuse to indulge in this blessed confection, but I’d been promising it for two months.

Shelley & Tracy - Seniors at RCHS 1985-86

Shelley & Tracy – Seniors at RCHS 1985-86

Tracy & Shelley - 25 Year Class Reunion 2011

Tracy & Shelley – 25 Year Class Reunion 2011

Now on with the business at hand. CAKE!

Ingredients:

-2 1/4 cups cake flour –  I use Swans Down Cake Flour but oddly, their cake recipe isn’t my favorite
-1 cup almond milk, at room temperature
-6 large egg whites at room temperature
-1 teaspoon almond extract
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
-4 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 sticks of butter (12 ounces) softened

Directions:

-Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees.
-Grease or spray two 9-inch round cake pans (I use coconut oil)
-Sprinkle greased pans with flour
-Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds (I cut some rounds out of wax paper).
-Grease/spray the wax paper rounds, place them in cake pans, and dust with flour

-Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measuring cup/bowl, and whisk until blended
-Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed.

photo 1

-Slice butter and add the pats to the flour mixture a couple at a time while slowly mixing.

photo 2
-Continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs and all flour is moistened

photo 3
-Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed  for 1 1/2 minutes.
-Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more.

-Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl.
-Return mixer to medium-high speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

photo 4
-Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread and smooth batter.

photo 5

-Place filled cake pans on middle oven rack.
-Bake 23-26 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
-Let cakes rest in pans for about 3 minutes.

photo 1 (2)

-Cover wire racks with greased wax paper or parchment paper.
-Loosen cake from sides of pans with a knife (if necessary), and invert onto wire racks.
-Let cool completely, about about an hour or so.

Lovely, cooling cakes

While cake is baking or cooling, whip up some frosting from scratch, like this:

Lighter-Than-Air Cake Frosting

Ingredients:

- 3 egg whites

- 1 tsp vanilla extract

- 1/4 tsp almond extract

- 1 cup granulated sugar

- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

- 1/8 tsp salt

- 1/3 cup water

In a large glass or metal bowl, add the egg whites and extracts, set aside.  In a saucepan, mix the sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and water; stir well and bring to boil until the sugar dissolves. This creates a sweet, syrupy concoction.

Start beating your egg whites and extracts on HIGH while slowing adding the hot syrup. Beat for 4-5 minutes with a stand mixer or 7-8 minutes with a hand mixer. Gorgeous, fluffy peaks will form.

Beat frosting mixture on high!

Hello there precious, fluffy, marshmallowy icing!

This frosting recipe makes enough to frost a three layer cake. Since my cake recipe is for a two layer cake, I had to eat the remaining delicious, fluffy, marshmallowy frosting with a spoon over the next couple of days as any self-respecting baker will do.  Fill a pastry bag or decorating tool with the light, airy frosting or easily smooth onto cake with a knife or spatula.  I used a Pampered Chef Frosting Spreader on this one.

Happy birthday, Shelley!

Happy birthday, Shelley!

I don’t want to cook dinner!

Standard

At the end of a mind numbing Monday workday, I couldn’t bear the thoughts of cooking dinner.  I got home and scrounged around in my fridge and cupboards and came up with this:

Easily found, easily fixed.

Easy fixin’s.

  • A can of white albacore tuna – drain it.
  • Grape tomatoes – slice them in halves
  • Grapes – slice them in halves
  • Ranch dressing
  • Crackers
  • Best part – remember those fantastic crockpot black beans I made yesterday?
Albacore tuna and black beans.

Albacore tuna and black beans plopped in a bowl.

Slice the grapes and maters.

Slice the grapes and maters.

Mix it all together and serve with crackers!

Mix it all together and serve with crackers!

Brad! It's suppertime!

Brad! It’s suppertime!

Black Bean Quesadillas

Standard

Black beans are absolutely delicious and nutritious! I made an extra-fabulicious “mess” of black beans today.  I poured six or seven cups of water and nearly a pound of dry beans into the crock pot.  Then seasoned  with 3-4 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, and cooked them on the low setting for seven-ish hours.  Oh mercy! Delicious isn’t a good enough description!

I decided to whip up a fast dinner of Black Bean Quesdillas. I used to wait tables with a lady who called them kwaza-dill-ahs. Well, she wasn’t entirely incorrect, phonetically speaking. Anyway, here’s what I used:

  • Scrumptious, homecooked black beans
  • Goat cheese
  • Raw spinach
  • Fresh avocado
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Flour tortillas
  • Olive oil

Drizzle olive oil into a skillet on medium-low heat.  Lightly brown one side of a tortilla, flip it over. While the other side is browning, crumble goat cheese onto one half of the tortilla, spoon black beans on top of cheese, crumble a little cheese onto the beans.

Tortilla, goat cheese, black beans.

Tortilla, goat cheese, black beans.

Roughly chop spinach leaves and lay them on top of the beans/goat cheese.  Slice the avocado and grape tomatoes and top off the the quesadilla innards.

This just keeps getting better.

This just keeps getting better.

By now the tortilla is golden brown and slightly crunchy. Using a spatula, gently fold the bare half of the tortilla over the yummy-ness.

Hello darlin!

Hello darlin!

With the spatula, lift the quesadilla onto a cutting board, slice into triangles with a pizza cutter, and move to a plate.

Ooh la la!

Ooh la la!

If you have time, this dish would be even better with my fresh salsa and guacamole.

A pretty pictorial of Pinterest promoted painting projects….

Standard

A pretty pictorial of Pinterest promoted painting projects….

Peter Piper, where are ya, son?  Last weekend brought with it delightful sunshine, temps in the 70s, and Spring breezes.  Perfect weather for painting on my porch!  St. Patrick was surely smiling on his special weekend. I hauled out three chairs I have been waiting to paint.  I got the chair on the left from a local ‘buy, sell, trade’ website for three bucks from an adorable girl who loves ‘junk’ as much as I do. It was very wobbly. Elmer’s Wood Glue rectified that situation!  The chair on the right was hanging out in one of our closets.

Carefully wipe off all dust, dirt, oil.

Carefully wipe off all dust, dirt, oil.

I got this lovely rocking chair from the same ‘buy, sell, trade’ website from an equally lovely lady who lives close by.

I love to rock on the porch!

I love to rock on the porch!

Next, I rolled up my sleeves – well, proverbial sleeves because I was really wearing a tank top – and got to work!  Necessities for painting chairs on my porch: drop cloth, primer, paint, paint brush, wood glue, stir stick.

Read all your labels!

Read all your labels!

I began the painting process with primer – very important so your paint will stick to the surface.  Swift, even movements are important when using spray cans – no drips allowed!

Kilz Primer works nicely.

Kilz Primer works nicely.

I ran out to get more primer and this is what I came back with.

I love these bright, friendly colors!

I love these bright, friendly colors!

After I evenly covered the chairs with primer, I gave them time to dry which was expedited by the sweet breeze blowing.

All primed up and ready to paint!

All primed up and ready to paint!

I picked up a lace table cloth for 75 cents at Helping Hands Thrift Store to use as a stencil.

75 cents well spent.

75 cents well spent.

In honor of St. Patrick, I chose the pleasing satin green apple hue by Rustoleum Painters Touch Ultra Cover 2x for my first chair.  I chose a ‘scene’ from my lace tablecloth stencil to use on the chair seat and carefully positioned it.  Use tape to secure the stencil if necessary.  After spray painting over the stencil, leave the stencil in place for about 20 minutes before removing.

I feel so cute and crafty!

I feel so cute and crafty!

Ta da!

Ta da!

I decided to throw in a little variety and paint my rocking chair with a paint brush.   I love red! It makes me happy and makes me think of Gran as it was her favorite color. She always wore red lipstick, red glasses, red clothes, and carried a red pocketbook.  The eternal twinkle in her eye was her best accessory.  I know she would love this red paint!

Rocking red!

Rocking red!

Spray painting is much easier to me than brush painting.  I kept getting that streaky, brushy looked which I blamed on the brush.  Ahem.

2013-03-15 17.51.44 2013-03-15 17.54.51 2013-03-16 10.07.52

I surveyed the completely red rocking chair and was pleased with the paint job.  Just perfect for my front porch!

Wish you were here, Gran!

Wish you were here, Gran!

My last but not least St. Patrick’s Day weekend painting project was the wobbly chair which was perfectly strong and steady after an overnight rendezvous with Elmer’s Wood Glue.  After the primer dried, I chose the black spray paint I found on sale at Home Depot. Since I achieved such fun and satisfaction with my first stencil project, I decided to create a sequel.  Pretty cute, yes?

Chair/Stencil project #2

Chair/Stencil project #2

These armless chairs are perfect for front porch picking!  Bring on the stringed instruments!

An imperfect pair.

An imperfect pair.

On Sunday, March 17, I relaxed on a completely dry chair, raised a glass (and my feet) in honor of our Wild Irish Violet – grandchild #1 – who was celebrating her 7th St. Patty’s Day birthday.  Cheers to Violet, creativity, and holiday appropriate socks!

2013-03-17 16.51.24

Slainte!

Organizing with Old Stuff

Standard

Organizing with Old Stuff

I adore antique, vintage, retro, old things.  Pieces of history with character that bring back memories or stir my imagination.  Where did this jar come from, what stories could this crate/bowl/chair/etc tell? Here are a few of my favorite old things I use in my kitchen.

Old jars hold my cupcake papers, black beans, popcorn (no microwave corn for me, please), and straws.

Old jars hold my cupcake papers, black beans, popcorn (no microwave corn for me, please), and straws. That sweet rabbit planter belonged to my Gran.

This throw back coffee can serves as the perfect container for my coffee filters.

This throw back coffee can serves as the perfect container for my coffee filters. The Bob White syrup jar is great for creamers or sugar packets.

Vintage jars are great for holding snacks. Pecans and almonds stay fresh and crunchy!

Vintage jars are great for holding snacks. Pecans and almonds stay fresh and crunchy!

This totally fab Cudahy Cheese box is the perfect place for tea bags.

This totally fab Cudahy Cheese box is the perfect place for tea bags.