Sweetwater Creek State Park

Second in my series of field trips this week was Sweetwater Creek State Park.  This is number 4 overall but number two for the week.  We took third graders and loaded up the big yellow school bus. Put down the windows because there is no air conditioning on these buses.  Air conditioning?  We only live in Georgia.  Why would we possibly need air conditioning?

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We drove past the location of the very first episode of The Walking Dead on AMC.  It was filmed a this Texaco station.

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This is also the back roads way to get to Olivia’s college so I point out this Texaco each and every Alzheimer’s time to Davis and Olivia.  They groan and roll their eyes at my overkill.   Never gets old!!!

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We arrived at the guest center.  It is a “green” center with waterless toilets and solar panels on the roof.  It was won awards for its design.

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Ranger Andy started us off with a snake show.

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The snake was a friendly ambassador for the park.

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Next we headed down the trail to the river.  Ranger Andy led the way and wisely didn’t allow any children to walk in front of him.  I guess he wasn’t born yesterday and knew that they would be running full steam down the trail and most likely plunge into the water if given the opportunity.

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Since Ranger Andy was expertly guiding us, we got to walk a bit more leisurely and enjoy the view.

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The wildflowers were out in abundance. Don’t ask me the name of them.  All my field trips are running together at this point.

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We walked by the mill race.  The sluice was built by workers in 1849 and it provided the water for the waterwheel at the New Manchester Mill.

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Another sluice photo shows the rocks used to make the walls.

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The New Manchester Mill was a cotton mill used before the Civil War.

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It was five stories tall.  A town built up around the mill including housing, businesses, a post office, and a dance hall.

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General Sherman ordered the mill to be burned to the ground during the Civil War.  He ordered the same for the mill in Roswell, GA, too.  The mill workers, mostly women and children, were relocated to Ohio.

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The ruins were used in the Hunger Games and other movies.  Sadly, no one returned to New Manchester after it was burned down and now it there is nothing left of the town.

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We were successful at keeping all the kids out of the water.

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Finally, it was time for lunch!  I enjoyed gnawing on my giant granola bar.

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After lunch we walked around the visitor center and museum. There are a lot of interesting artifacts and taxidermy animals.

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And a live animal or two.

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Or twenty-two.  I counted all the kiddos and loaded them back on the bus.  Hooray for another field trip in the books.

CNN Center in Atlanta

I have been on a four day spree of field trips at my elementary school. I teach gifted students so each day I teach a different grade level and we take each grade level on a different field trip.  The fifth graders get to go on two field trips with us. If you’re counting, that makes six fun-filled days.  Six, I tell ya!

We decided this year to try putting most of the field trips in one week to see if it made it any less painful to take 6 field trips in every year.  We thought it might be like ripping a band aid off all at once rather than painfully anticipating each and every one. I’ll let you know the verdict when the trips are done.

I do enjoy the break from the classroom and our students are WONDERFUL (parents, too) but field trips are a lot of work no matter how terrific the kids act.  First up was the CNN Center in Atlanta.  Off we go on the Big Cheese. I jump in the front seat because…I can. Get up kiddo!  Go sit in the back and sing 99 Bottles of Coke on the Wall until I have a headache.  The perks of the job never end.

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At last we arrive at the CNN Center.  We got to ride the 8 story escalator to the top to start our tour. This is the largest freestanding escalator in the  world. It used to take you to the World of Sid and Marty Krofft in the 70’s. Remember H R Pufnstuf? Who’s your friend when things get rough?

Now…

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Seventies…

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Side view of the elevator and its 196 feet of moving stairs.  There are no supports for 8 floors.    It is all that’s left of the Amusement Park.

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Up I go. There was no one behind me to catch me as I imaginarily tumbled back to the bottom. No worries though. It was a fun ride and I made it to the top.

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We got to see studios, control rooms, and lots of security guards. Lots and lots of security guards.   The news is safe in Atlanta!

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As you walk along the balconies you can look down on the food court which was the site of the former ice skating rink when the building was called the Omni International Complex.  We went there many, many times in the late 70’s. Apparently my little band of friends was the only one going because the Omni closed and Ted Turner bought the complex for CNN in the mid 1980’s.

 

Here is what the “skating rink” looks like today.  The dark tiles of the food court are loosely shaped as the different continents. You are looking at South America on the bottom right of the photo. I think.

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The building is pretty big and we made our way back down the eight flights of stairs equivalent to the escalator ride up.

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The tour dumps you out in the gift shop.  Imagine that.

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Turner Broadcasting also owns Cartoon Network.  There was another gift shop just for the kid in all of us.

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We then walked across the street to the Centennial Olympic Park.  It has been 20 years since Atlanta hosted the Olympics but the park is still a big attraction.

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We posed for an iconic photo in front of the CNN building, hopped on the bus and headed back to school.  We didn’t leave anyone behind and we only needed one real band aid for the day.  The imaginary one is ripping off with each successful field trip completed. (The first one was in January to the Shakespeare play and the second one was in March to the College Football Hall of Fame.)  We are half way there.  Three more to go.  Tomorrow is the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

Do you like my faceless students?  Maybe this is the solution to 99 Bottles of Coke on the Wall.  I can erase their mouths. If only it were that easy.

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I Can Sew a Somewhat Straight Line

I can sew a somewhat straight line but that’s about it.  I’m not particularly skilled in the sewing department.  Nevertheless, I helped my mom make a curtain for her pool deck changing area.  Chupa helped, too.

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He decided to help even more.

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We found this fishy print at Joanne’s fabric and we measured and remeasured and even lined up all the little fishy fins so that no one would lose a tail.

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The cutest part is the hooks she used last year.  They matched this fabric perfectly.

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You can pull back the curtain and change with the bedazzled gecko and get ready for a swim. Come on summer!

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Taste of Home – Summer 2016

RUN to your nearest grocery store or book store and buy the Summer 2016 issue of Taste of Home Magazine.

 

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Turn to page 27.

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And look for me!

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What a surprise!  I had submitted this recipe about 6 or 7 years ago for one of their contests.  I didn’t win the contest and so I had forgotten about all about the recipe. Then about two years ago Taste of Home sent me a letter asking about the recipe and asked when I served it and other questions.  They said they were going to use the recipe in a future publication. I’ve been scouring their magazines and cookbooks for two years and haven’t seen it.  Then, yesterday I was sent this issue in the mail in a plain white envelope.  I didn’t even open the envelope until this morning while I was eating breakfast.  I thought it was an advertising copy at first but instead it was a complimentary preview copy for me.  Fun!

Spring Sampler

Saturday we had a nice time at the Spring Sampler.  The band at Davis’  high school sponsors this event in the community.  The local restaurants provide food and the high school students provide the entertainment. We pay for tickets and then get to eat six samples of foods from various restaurants.  It is held at our community amphitheater. This is the view from the top where the food vendors were.  I neglected to get a photo of the amphitheater itself. I guess I was too busy selecting samples.

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Each of the food samples featured the specialty from the various restaurants.  My favorite was the hummus, pita, and baklava.  I also had turkey Tetrazzini, biscuit with grits and sausage, a cake pop, and frozen yogurt.  If you’re counting, that was only 5 samples.  I got an extra cake pop for Davis.  The samples were filling and five was plenty.

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The best part, of course, was hearing Davis sing with his a Capella group, Men of the Mill.  He is on the far left at the end.

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This group is a crowd favorite and has been a beloved part of his high school’s tradition.

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Davis plans to continue singing at college but I will surely miss this group of guys singing together.

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Surprise Visit

Olivia popped home unexpectedly to bring some of her belongings before the semester ends.  She only has five days and then school will be out for the summer.  I can’t believe she will be a college senior next year.

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I snapped three quick pictures while she grabbed a snack before heading back to college. In this one she seems to be convincing me how studious she can be for her upcoming exams.

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And in this photo she is showing her Greek mythology side by posing as half-girl-half-dog.   I’m not sure that there is such a beast, but she and Chupa make a cute one.

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Of course, she always looks pretty to me even if she does have a tail.

Test Kitchen

I played test kitchen today with two new recipes from a Taste of Home Brunch Cookbook.  I altered the egg recipe a bit but made the raspberry coffee cake as printed.  Both turned out great.

Chupa is sniffing out something yummy!

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We ate by the fire and enjoyed egg strudels, hushpuppies, fruit, sausage and raspberry coffee cake.   I couldn’t find my phone and my camera batteries were dead so the next food photos I am using are the ones from the Taste of Home Website.  All credit goes to them and their obviously skilled photo stylists.

First up is the egg strudel.  It called for ham but I omitted it and added an extra egg.  Olivia didn’t want the ham and I wasn’t too crazy about it either.   Another change I made was out of necessity.  It calls for 1/2 cup of the filling to be rolled in the phyllo dough, but I used 1/3 cup and made 8 instead of 6.  It was too difficult to roll 1/2 cup in the phyllo dough.   Here is the original recipe as submitted by Jo Groth of Plainfield, Iowa.

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Ham and Cheese Breakfast Strudels

  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 pound ground fully cooked ham (about 3/4 cup)
  • 6 sheets phyllo dough (14×9-inch size)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheeses and salt.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Add eggs to pan; cook and stir until almost set. Stir in ham and cheese sauce; heat through. Remove from heat.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°. Place one sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.) Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons bread crumbs. Fold in half lengthwise; brush again with butter. Spoon 1/2 cup filling onto phyllo about 2 in. from a short side. Fold side and edges over filling and roll up. Brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo, butter, bread crumbs and filling.
  4. Place on a greased baking sheet; sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon cheese and 1 teaspoon parsley. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.
    Freeze option: After topping strudels with cheese and parsley, freeze unbaked on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet until firm. Transfer to a freezer container; return to freezer. To use, bake strudels as directed, increasing time to 30-35 minutes or until heated through and golden brown.
    Yield: 6 servings.

The next new recipe I tried was submitted by Debbie Johnson of Jefferson City, Missouri.  The only change I made to this recipe was the fact that my nine-inch cake pan was on top of the others and I didn’t want to dig for the eight-inch one.  It worked out beautifully in the 9-inch pan and filled the cake stand better so I will probably continue to make it with that sized pan.  I shortened the baking time approximately 5 minutes to accommodate the larger pan and thus thinner cake.

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Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • ICING:
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons 2% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Additional raspberries, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, toss raspberries with brown sugar.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk egg, sour cream, melted butter and vanilla until blended. Add to flour mixture; stir just until moistened (batter will be thick).
  3. Transfer half of the batter to a greased and floured 8-in. round baking pan. Top with raspberry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over raspberries; sprinkle with almonds.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.
  5. In a small bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth; drizzle over top. Serve warm. If desired, serve with additional raspberries. Yield: 8 servings.

And now I’m heading out to the yard to spread some grass seed in some bare spots.  I’m about ready to install artificial turf or just liberally spread pinestraw EVERYWHERE. I’ve seen people do that in my neighborhood.  Their whole front yard is trees and subsequently underneath all that shade is bales of spread pinestraw.    The rest of us grass warriors pass by and smugly acknowledge that they have given up and don’t care about their curb appeal.  Ha!

Well, I’m just about to that point and don’t care how many smug looks I get.  Bermuda grass does NOT grow in the shade that my yard has in abundance.  It makes for a pretty view out my windows as shown below  but it also makes for a pitiful lawn.  So, I’m out to give it one more try to help the lawn, but I don’t hold out much hope. It is always such a waste of money.   I might as well open my wallet and dump the dollars directly on the lawn.  At least they would be green!!!!

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Grant Park

Tonight I spent a lovely evening with Terri in Atlanta in the Grant Park area.  We ate pizza at Grant Central and then watched the sunset on a rooftop loft. Pizza, chocolate, friends, sunset – a great night all around.

First stop was Grant Central.  Terri ordered white pizza and an arugula salad. In case you want to order one, here’s what you’ll be getting.

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My fresh tomato and pepperoni calzone was delicious.

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Everything tasted even more amazing because we got to sit in front of this wall of windows.

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Windows make everything better, I think.

Next, we headed to the top of a friend’s loft to watch the sunset and enjoy dessert.

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We brought up some Gigi’s cupcakes and shared a chocolate chip and wedding white.z3

We saw the nearly full moon on one side and the Atlanta Skyline on the other.

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This was a nice break in the week to get to do something which for me is very different from my suburban lifestyle.  Other than visits to my grandparents, I have lived in the suburbs my entire life.  It’s funny how you get used to a way of life yet it’s fun to imagine a do-over sometimes.  I’m not really sure where I’d go if I did reinvent myself, but I would be sure to include a few cupcakes and most certainly blue and pink sunsets with friends.

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Dole Whip #1

When we go to Disney, we love to eat the Dole Whip soft serve from the Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian Hotel.  Sadly, you can’t bring that delicious elixir home.  All you can do is eat as much as you can while you are there!

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I have wanted to make a copycat recipe of Dole Whip for a long time. One reason is obviously because I want to be able to eat it at home.  Another reason is that I searched for the ingredients to Dole Whip (thinking I could recreate it from the ingredients list) and if this list is correct, I was dismayed at all the chemicals in it. The list is from Disney.wiki

Ingredient list
Sugar
Dextrose
Coconut Oil
Stabilizers (Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Karaya Gum, Pectin)
Maltodextrin
Citric Acid
Natural & Artificial Flavor (contains Pineapple Juice), Modified Food Starch, Malic Acid, Artificial Color (Yellow 5 & 6)
Mono & Diglycerides
Less Than 2% Silicon Dioxide (Anticaking)

Since I don’t want to eat sand with my pineapple (silicon dioxide) I have been searching for a good recipe online, however every recipe calls for completely different ingredients. Some use canned pineapple, some use fresh.  Some add milk while others add coconut milk or almond milk.  There was absolutely no common thread to the recipes.

I decided to start with the basics and blended up some fresh pineapple and some half-and-half left over from the cake last night.  I added some sugar and a tiny dash of salt. Then, I placed the mixture in my Cuisenart Ice Cream Maker (love that machine) and froze it like ice cream.

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And that’s where my Dole Whip is still sitting.  That was the most VILE tasting frozen treat I have ever tasted!  I’m going to have to search and experiment further because this was awful.  Maybe I need to go out to the sandbox and toss in a handful because mine was certainly inedible and maybe a little silicon dioxide would do the trick.  It reminded me of brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice. The mix of dairy with fresh pineapple was jarring to the tastebuds.

Do not try this one!  I will work on it some more and hopefully will be able to report back with better results.  In the meantime, eat your fresh pineapple and dream of your next trip to Disney.

Anna Lee

My great grandmother was born 131 years ago on April 17th.  I was fortunate to have spent lots of time with her growing up and I have many memories of her.

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This is her wedding picture from 1902.  One source says she was married in 1901 but suffice it to say, she was a young bride by today’s standards.  She had four beautiful children whom she loved dearly.  She talked about them lovingly while we sat with her under the giant oak trees shading her front lawn.

She was a woman of contrasts.  She was gentle yet feisty.  She was tiny but strong. And she was generous yet thrifty.  She was also serious but fun-loving.  I remember one year at Christmas when we all piled in her cozy house, she had a punch bowl on the kitchen table.  When we finally served enough punch to reach the bottom of the bowl, there were three very large nails in the bottom.  She then announced that she had “spiked” the punch. We enjoyed her pun and it obviously made an impression on me as a youngster that it is fun to be witty,  jovial, and light-hearted. To contrast her jolly side with her serious side, it was clear that she loved the Lord and would memorize entire books of the Bible and recite them in church. She enjoyed worship and praise and it had to be an insurmountable problem to keep her from going to church. Even then she would turn on a televangelist and worship from home.

Grandma was my first inspiration for a love of home arts.  She sewed, canned, cleaned and kept house.  She made us all feel welcome and patiently played with each great grandchild even when we were on our umpteenth game of bingo or cribbage.

Lately I was reading through some journaling questions and one of them asked who was a favorite relative and do we currently exhibit some of the qualities we admired about him or her.  My great grandmother is certainly high up on my list of favorites and I can only hope that someone who knew her could see a bit of her in me – a worthy goal, for sure.

My great grandmother loved sweets starting with the pink wintergreen candies she always kept in a jar on her desk and including the soft sugar cookies she kept in her kitchen and finally the assurance that she would always buy us a nickel pie from the bread man as he made his rounds. I think this cake would have been perfect.         Happy Birthday, Grandma!

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Birthday Chocolate Pound Cake 

3 sticks butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour (I used White Lily)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup half-and-half

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan. (I “floured” mine with cocoa powder to keep from turning the crust white with flour).  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat until creamy.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and cocoa.  Add to creamed mixture alternately with the half-and-half. Place batter in the prepared bundt pan and bake for 80 to 90 minutes.  Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Pour glaze on cooled cake.  Glaze:  1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, 7 tablespoons half-and-half, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Place all ingredients except vanilla in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly.  Allow to boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Allow to cool slightly before pouring over cooled cake.