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Monday, December 27, 2021

Product Review and Recipe - Nostalgia MyMini Bundt Cake Maker

I have a thing for tiny things, especially kitchen tools and appliances. Santa left a Nostalgia MyMini Bundt Cake Maker under our tree. It is definitely tiny. It makes three tiny bundt cakes at a time. Really tiny. Miniscule. Each cake takes about a teaspoon of batter. That's all. The baked cakes are just a little bigger than a quarter. Which makes them adorably cute. You could fill them with a tiny squirt of whipped cream. Or a tiny bit of frosting or pudding or even two or three M&Ms. Or just eat them.

They don't take as long to bake as I thought. Because they are tiny, they cook in only a minute or two. I could see myself with four of these little appliances lined up. As one finishes, I pull out the cakes and fill it up again, and the next one should be through cooking by then. Assembly line to efficiently make a whole pile of these tiny cakes. Next tea party, I'll be prepared.

This recipe worked really well in the cooker as well as in my mini doughnut maker. It's a half batch of a regular bundt cake recipe so if you want to make it as a big cake, double it, put in a well-greased and floured bundt pan, and bake at 325°F for about 55-70 minutes.

Yes, that's a quarter by the tea cup and this is my tea set for when grandkids want a tea party.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Teeny-Tiny Bundt Cakes

Makes a whole big pile, no I didn't count them partly because I was eating them almost as fast as I was cooking them, at least for the first few batches.

1/4 c. butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 a box)
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. flour (I like 1/2 whole wheat for the chocolate cakes)

Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar until blended. Add in vanilla, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa. Beat well, until it's really creamy. Add egg and milk. Beat until it's really fluffy and lighter in color. Stir in flour. Beat for 1 minute on high.

Cook in mini bundt maker - use about 1 t. per spot, cook until the light turns green, about 1-2 minutes. Remove carefully with a fork, they will be very fragile until they cool a bit.

Eat as is or try glazing and decorating them. Or fill with jam or pudding.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas 2021

Santa was very good to me this year. And my kids. It was kind of weird to only have adults in the house this year for Christmas, but it was also fun in its own way. Either way, for the first time in 35 years of marriage, I got the motherload of presents. Usually it's one of my kids or my husband, but not this year.

I got socks, thread, Astronomy Fluxx, a Munchkin Booty expansion deck, and a Nintendo Switch of my very own. Now I don't have to use my son's Switch all the time. I can use my own. This makes me very happy. This isn't a family Switch, although I'm happy to share. It's all mine.

That sounds just a little selfish so let me give you some context. I've been going through some pretty heavy therapy for the last few years. I realized one of the reasons I get extremely territorial over things like my closet space or my dresser or my pillow is because I never really had anything that was just mine. Except my underwear and even then...

I've always shared my room. I had eight siblings so my own bedroom wasn't going to happen, not in a five bedroom two bath house. I lived on my own for only a few months before I got married, and yes, I shared a bedroom with a roommate for those months. Then I shared with my husband and we added eight children over the years. One thing they never tell you is that when you have kids, you share everything with them, whether you want to or not.

My husband told me that I had most of the house as mine, but public rooms like the kitchen and living room don't count. Those belong to the whole family. He's had workshops and office space and currently has a shed that is just his. Me? I had no space except a tiny corner of our bedroom that was just mine.

When I got my own sewing room last August, I was beyond thrilled. For the first time ever I had a space that was just mine. I could choose to share it, and I do when my kids want to do some sewing, but it is primarily MINE. I can go in there and close the door with the Do Not Disturb sign on it and no one disturbs me, except by standing in the hallway outside the door whispering, "Do you think she really means it or can we go in anyway?" They'll learn.

Anyway, back to the Switch. MY Switch.

Ownership is a powerful thing. Everyone needs at least one space that is theirs and theirs alone. Everyone needs things that are only theirs, that they can share if they want but if they choose not to, that's fine, too, because they have ownership of that thing. It's a boundary thing, and respecting other people's boundaries plays in to it, too. Something I'm learning. Finally.

I started a blog to review Switch games, so if that ever takes off, I can maybe write the Switch off as a taxable expense item. Right?

So go check out my game reviews at Grammer's Games. There are some fun ones on there, and I have a whole list of new ones to review.

And Merry Christmas! I hope you had a lovely day filled with surprises, laughter, fun, and loved ones. I know I did.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Importance of Music

 I once believed I wasn't musical. I couldn't carry a tune, or so I was told. But in high school, I tried out for A Capella choir on a whim and was accepted. I sang occasionally in church. I played the piano for years. I'm currently our congregation's organist. I volunteer to play the piano at a retirement home once a week, usually easy songs that they can sing along to. I teach piano to several neighborhood children.

I don't sing any more, though. Two throat surgeries and thyroid cancer killed my voice for that. I can't stay on pitch and my voice cracks. I also lost all of my upper range. On a good day, I can sing tenor and maybe lower alto. Sometimes bass. Which I think is funny.

But music is part of my life and always will be. It has power to bring emotions up from the depths. It can bring us together when we participate as a group.

I'm sitting here listening to Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, one of my favorites. Without the music the movies wouldn't be nearly as compelling. That's true of just about everything in our lives. Music adds dimension and color. It evokes memories. It can excite or calm or threaten or bring a whole host of other emotions out in the open.

When I'm writing or sewing, I usually have music playing in the background. Sometimes we'll get jazz or swing or disco going while we cook. I'm not picky about what genre I listen to, only that it fits the mood.

So to end, here's some epic music - 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Why Jack Sparrow is the best character in Pirates of the Caribbean

My son and I had a long discussion about Pirates the other day. We like to tear apart movies, tv shows, books, and pretty much everything else to figure out what works and what doesn't in their storytelling.

I'm a big pirate fan. Swashbuckler is one of my top all-time favorite movies along with Cutthroat Island and Muppet Treasure Island. I love a good pirate story. To be clear, I love the romanticized idea of pirates, not real-life pirates. I love swashbuckling stories with adventure and dashing rogue heroes. The first Pirates of Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl, ticked all those boxes for me. The second movie was just an exercise in very lazy storytelling. It could have been more epic than the first one but they knew they'd make money so they made a craptastic movie. The third one was better but a little too mystical to really be a good pirate yarn. The fourth and fifth movies were okay, fun pirate hijinks but on the forgettable side of things. I still own them all and plan to have a pirate marathon soon that also includes my other favorite pirates, including the space pirates.

But on to the real subject of this essay: Jack Sparrow.

Jack Sparrow is one of the best conflicted, flawed, anti-heroes out there. Part of that is due to the fun acting that Johnny Depp brings to the character, but most of it is the writing that brought him to life.

Jack Sparrow is too moral to be a good pirate but not moral enough to be a good citizen. He wants desperately to be respected, or at least feared, as a pirate captain but he isn't ruthless enough to achieve it. When we're introduced to him, he's the captain of pretty much nothing. All he has is his hat. And his character. His crew mutinied and stranded him on a desert island when he had misgivings about taking a cursed treasure, which leads to the whole set-up in Curse of the Black Pearl.

You think the story is about Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan? It's really, at its heart, about Jack Sparrow. All the movies are about him. He's the catalyst. He's the reason any of this happened.

The whole scene of him sailing his horrible little sinking boat into the harbor, almost getting arrested, tricking the guards, then giving it all up to rescue a woman he just noticed has fallen into the ocean sums up who he is. What does he truly desire? Adventure. Treasure. But most of all, he wants fame and glory as the best pirate captain to ever sail the seven seas. He wants his Black Pearl back. Like Captain Kirk, his first love is his ship and the ocean he sails on. He steps foot in Port Royale on a mission to get his ship back from his backstabbing crew. He's focused on that goal. But then he sees Elizabeth fall from the wall into the water. She doesn't surface. He's torn between his mission and knowing if he doesn't rescue her, she will drown. No one else noticed her fall. She obviously isn't going to swim to safety. So instead of sneaking past the guards, Jack hands them his sword and his hat and dives in.

He saves Elizabeth and even as she is recovering, he's being arrested. He knew he would be as soon as he chose saving her over sneaking into the town. His only hope is that his good deed will win him some clemency. But he's a pirate and all pirates are evil. So off to jail he goes.

All through the movies, Jack Sparrow is repeatedly faced with similar choices - will he choose his own skin and selfishness or will he choose the higher moral ground and sacrifice what he wants to help others? He makes what should be the ultimate choice at one point by giving up his life to the kraken to save everyone else. Jack Sparrow repeatedly shows his higher moral character. He isn't a good pirate because he cares too deeply for other people. Yet no one else shows him any respect. He's just a filthy pirate. No one is willing to see beyond the surface. Elizabeth glimpses it for a brief moment, when she almost chooses him instead of Will Turner. But Jack Sparrow is a pirate to her, not someone she could love wholly. Jack is trapped in a cage of his own making. He's made enough of a name as a pirate that he can't be seen as anything more, despite him being the most caring selfless character in the series. He's the one with the best moral compass. He's the most altruistic character. And yet no one else is willing to see him in that light.

His character has a nuance and depth to it that is obscured by the nature of the movie. It's just a pirate movie, popcorn fluff, no real substance, and yet I'd argue that if you pry open the pirate movie label, like Jack Sparrow, you will find hidden facets of a real gem to explore.

Except for that second movie. That was just dumb.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

I Think I'm Back

 So the last few years have been very difficult for me. Mental illness is not fun. All my energy pretty much went into surviving and working my way through the darkness back to the light. There's a reason we have so many stories of heroes fighting through horrible, tough challenges to emerge victorious, but very scarred, out the other side. We need heroes. We need someone we can look to when we feel like we're fighting our own evil monsters and villains, even if they only exist in our own heads or in our past. We need the hope that we will emerge victorious. Some day. And that our scars will only make us more beautiful, a mark of courage and bravery and resilience.

At least that's what I'm telling myself. It's one reason I write. I need to find my own hope and courage to face the real life problems I fight. I find it through my fiction. It's a way to reach my own inner truths, to uncover what lies hidden beneath the detritus of every day life.

So, anyway. I don't know if anyone reads blogs any more but I need a place to put essays and rants and other things. So if you still follow me and read my posts, welcome back!

Today's post is mostly an announcement. I finally have a new book out! And I'm starting to write again. It feels good to be flexing my creative muscles again.


Reality and time hang in ragged shreds, torn apart by a strange new weapon.

A lighthouse with no door stands at the heart of a desert of stone, guarded by ghosts. One man seeks its hidden truth, his steps dogged by death and a government intent on keeping it secret.   

The crew of a ship lost across fractured realities awaits a beacon to guide them home. Powerful enemies hunt them at every turn, driving them further apart with every leap to a new world.

A simple waitress in a dead-end town holds the key to mending existence, but it will take a heart willing to believe and courage to take a leap into the unknown.

And nothing will change until time bends backwards.

Until the beacon is lit.

And the travelers return home.