Saturday, October 30, 2010

Excuse Us While We Goof Around For a Bit!

Dr. Evil & Mr. BiggelsworthIt's been a busy week what with spending way too much time in court on Monday (thank you again to the ex-husband for being a reasonable man and allowing this to be worked out like two adults who had the best interest of their children at heart), regular work, overtime at work, trying new recipes in the kitchen, laundry,dental appointments, grocery-shopping, and other assorted stuff.

With all that, I've not gotten another vacation post done or even thought about looking at or editing any of the myriad of pictures I took whilst traipsing around northwestern Connecticut with Princess Patti of Ansonia in the Valley last Saturday.  Alas, at the rate I'm going with these posts, it'll be Christmas before I finish telling you about my vacation to Maine and I'll have forgotten all the things we saw!  I really need to learn to be not quite so wordy ... heck, it's not like I'm getting paid by the word or anything!  

Anyhow, I'm going to try to get caught up on things here in the Blogosphere later on but for today I'm going to be pointing the car northeast and heading up to Beverly to drop a few things off to Amanda, visit with her and her brain-twin Sami whom I haven't seen in far too long and who will be visiting from Amherst, as well as probably get talked into buying groceries or at least lunch!  Heck, if I'm going to drive all that way, I can at least buy lunch, eh? I am taking cupcakes with me but still ...

Jamie is going to spend the day at her grandmother's raking leaves and earning a few bucks of her own while I go to see her sister and then on Sunday we'll attack the leaves in our own yard before settling down for some relaxed TV watching and maybe a bit of Rock Band on the XBox while waiting for my son to bring the grandsons over in the evening for a little trick-or-treating.

I'm not sure if any of that qualifies as goofing around or not but it does count as time off of the computer and I've also told myself to leave off taking so many pictures until I can get some of the ones I already have edited. Let's see how long that lasts, shall we?

Everyone have a lovely Saturday doing whatever it is that you're going to be doing and I'm sure I'll be back soon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Five on Friday - The Ghostly Version

Five on Friday - Halloween editionWith Halloween a mere two nights away, it seemed like the perfect time to scare up a few good ghostly tunes for Travis' fantastic Five on Friday meme. Not all of this week's songs are necessarily about ghosts but they've all got the word "ghost" somewhere in their titles. It's a pretty eclectic mix running the gamut from Johnny Cash to Iron Maiden with quite the mixture in between but that's the fun of this meme - it can be what my grandmother used to call a "mixed-up mess" and still make sense! And as an extra treat, I've tossed in a bonus track this week guaranteed to have less calories than a Hershey bar!

Should the spirit move you, be sure to click on over to Trav's Thoughts and check out the other Five on Fridayers where you'll find no tricks - just treats!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Putting the Cupcakes Aside for a Bit, Today It's Cake - For Adults!

Remember how last week I said that I had been on a cupcake kick lately and I had made Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with a Bailey's Irish Cream frosting?  I took the ones that I had made to work and they were a definite hit whilst being dubbed "Car Bomb Cupcakes" - something that made perfect sense! - but then my partner Jeff said to me, "You know what would be really good, too?  A Jack Daniels Cake!"

Hmmm, I think I had some Jack Daniels in the cupboard left over from last year's Dispatch Christmas Get-Together ... Yep, I sure did so after a quick trip to the grocery store for butterscotch pudding mix and Heath Toffee pieces I followed the recipe I had found on-line and created this ...

Jack Daniels cake

Now being that I've not cut into it yet and won't until later today, I'm not exactly positive how it tastes but I can tell you that it smelled delicious while baking and the tiny tastes of glaze I had were most excellent so I've got my fingers crossed that it came out halfway decent. I'll let you know what Jeff thinks later!

If you'd like to try your hand at baking one yourself, the recipe is quite easy and comes courtesy of Food.com but I'll post it here for you so you don't have to click over to the site and take your eyes off of that delicious looking picture!  Oh, and I didn't use anywhere near the amount of confectionary sugar that the reciped called for with the glaze as that seemed like a bit much but, that said, if I had followed the directions perhaps my glaze would have been glazier.  Ah well, live and learn, right?

Jack Daniels Bundt Cake

For the cake:
  • 1 (18 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
  • 1 (12 ounce) package almond toffee bits
For the glaze:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon Jack Daniels Whiskey
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and instant pudding, then add oil, water, 1/2 cup Jack Daniels and the eggs.
  2. Mix until smooth, about 4 minutes.
  3. Pour into a well greased bundt pan; tap the pan on a solid surface several times to remove any trapped air bubbles.
  4. Pour 1/2 of the toffee chips evenly over what would be the bottom of the cake.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
  6. Cool 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool cake completely.

Glaze:

  1. Add together the powdered sugar, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon Jack Daniels and mix until smooth. You will definitely have to add more Jack here, as it will be too thick to drizzle over the edges and the glaze should just about run to the bottom of the cake before setting up (add a tablespoon or two, a little at a time to make it work).
  2. After drizzling, pour the remaining toffee bits over the wet frosting.

Easy peasy, right? One word of caution, though, I had a bit of trouble with it overflowing the pan while baking so you might want to put a piece of foil underneath just in case and save yourself the trouble of having to clean the oven afterward!  Now then, let's just hope it tastes as good as it looks!

A Jack Daniels cake

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pardon Me for a Moment ...

... while I go take care of some business at the courthouse involving the ex-husband and Jamie.  Once this gets settled (and my stomach stops all of this ridiculous churning) I'll be back to continue our trip through Crawford Notch on the Conway Scenic Railroad.  Until then - here's a picture of the scenery for you to (hopefully) ooh and aah over!

New Hampshire Scenery

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Scenery & Songs

Quick post today as I take a short break from telling tales from my vacation.  After much planning and comparing of schedules, I was finally able to get together yesterday with Princess Patti of Ansonia in the Valley to head over to northwestern Connecticut in the hopes of finding some of fall's finest foliage.

Driving South - at the speed limit!

In spite of feeling very much like Death eating a cracker on Thursday and part of Friday, I felt pretty good on Saturday morning so I donned a warm sweatshirt, filled up the gas tank, and pointed the car southwest to meet up with Patti at her humble abode to begin our "Girls' Day Out". While I was driving down Route 395, I couldn't help but notice that the foliage along the side of the turnpike was looking pretty nice so I carefully shot a couple of pictures along the way.

Heading south on Route 395
Turnpike Foliage

With my iPod plugged in to the stereo I was cruising along singing with the music while enjoying the drive when a song came up in rotation that was one of "Amanda's songs". Like a bolt out of the blue I found myself missing my former co-pilot and as I looked at the empty passenger's seat I was reminded of all the fun roadtrips that she and had taken in the past. Darn - I hate when that happens!

So, in honor of Amanda who wasn't along for the chance to look at rocks and trees (ah yes, I can hear the sarcasm all the way from Beverly!) I thought I'd post a few of her favorite songs from her favorite groups and admit that - yep - I do miss the kid from time to time!


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Five on Friday - The "I Told You So!" Version

Five on Friday - Halloween editionTime again for Travis' fun Five on Friday meme wherein I get to pick five songs be they in a theme or not and inflect your eardrums share them with you!  Should you wish to join us some Friday and play along head on over to Trav's Thoughts where he gives you an easy-to-do guideline as well as shares some very good tuneage of his own choosing! It's a win-win!

Speaking of wins, my featured artist for this week didn't win American Idol but he may as well have as he's launched a very successful musical career following his time on the show. I knew right from Week One that Adam Lambert had "it" when he made his debut on Season Eight and he never failed to impress with each subsequent week. When Amanda would crack on me for watching AI, I always told her that I was only watching for Adam and it was true - I haven't watched a single show since the end of Season Eight.

I'm also happy to report that the kid who cracked on me finally cracked herself and Amanda now has a few Adam Lambert tunes on her iPod. Needless to say I was quite happy to tell her "I told you so!" over and over as was my parental right! I listen to so much stuff that she's introduced me to that it's kind of nice to have the tables turned every once in awhile; I think the last time I managed to get her to listen to some of 'my' music was when I introduced her to Depeche Mode.

Anyway without further ado, for your entertainment I give you Adam Lambert and what the heck, let's make it six on Friday instead of five because I'm feeling good!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Vacation Posts for ... CUPCAKES!

A King CupcakeI don't know why but I've been on a cupcake-making kick lately and not just regular size cupcakes but the jumbo ones - sometimes with filling to boot!  I even bought a king-size cupcake pan the other day when I saw it at A.C. Moore because it turns out ginormous cupcakes and I just couldn't resist.  I am so, so, so weak sometimes!

The other day I was perusing some recipes on-line and came across one for Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey Irish Cream frosting and promptly decided that I just had to try it.  Not that I'm a major beer fan or anything but the recipe just sounded really good and I figured that if tomato soup cake doesn't taste anything like tomato soup then chances are good that Guinness cupcakes wouldn't really taste all that much like Guinness - though the touch of Bailey's in the frosting is most definitely right up my alley!

I asked my boss if he could spare some Guinness (he is a major beer fan and I knew he'd have a bottle or two around) so he brought me in two the other day and then I went to the store and got the rest of the ingredients I was going to need to make the house smell really, really good while these cupcakes are baking!

A Jumbo Cupcake

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1 stick + 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
To make the cupcakes:
  • Combine the Guinness and the butter, chopped into 1-inch chunks, in a large sauce pan and heat to melt the butter.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
  • In a bowl, whisk the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla then add to the beer mixture.
  • Sift together the flour and baking soda and fold into the batter.
  • Pour into cupcake tins and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees or until inserted cake tester comes out clean.
  • Let stand 10 minutes, remove from tins, and cool completely on a rack.
Frosting ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
To make the frosting:
  • Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy and smooth.
  • Add the Bailey's and half of the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth.
  • Add the second half of the sugar and beat until smooth.
I used my jumbo cupcake pans and ended up baking the cupcakes for 30-35 minutes roughly thereabouts - or whenever it was that the toothpick came out clean; because I doubled the recipe, in addition the dozen jumbo cupcakes I had enough batter to make six of the king-size cupcakes, too.  Those cooked a little bit longer but I can't really give you an accurate time as I basically just kept on eye on them and took them out of the oven after they passed the clean toothpick test.

The King Cupcake vs The Jumbo Cupcake

I had Jamie hold one of each size so that you could see the difference and as you can see, that cupcake there on the left is most definitely man-size!  Just think how big it would be if I were to have filled it with even more batter  - cupcake heaven!!

As for the cupcakes themselves, they were absolutely yummy with a small taste of the Bailey's kicking in shortly after the first bite.  Jamie declared them to be delicious though I will give two words of warning:
  1. Use caution should you decide to lick the beaters and the bowl! 
  2. These are best eaten accompanied by a nice glass of cold milk! 
For my next cupcakes, I'm working on a zombiesque version that should be perfect for the Halloween season - muuaaahhaahhaahaa!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday

Jamie & Samantha

With all of the pictures that I take, I tend to forget about a lot of the ones that I've already downloaded - like this one from when Jamie and I went to Salem last month!  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Venturing Out on Vacation, Part Four: The Christmas Farm Inn

Okay then, now that I'm done telling you about sliding down rocks and almost into a river back to telling you about the place that we stayed at for our night in the White Mountains - the Christmas Farm Inn on Black Mountain Road in Jackson.

Christmas Farm Inn

Click on this link and visit The Distracted Wanderer for an absolutely beautiful place to stay in Jackson whether it's Christmas-time or July!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Venturing Out on Vacation, Part Three: Falling for Jackson

Wooden Snow RollerRemember what I said yesterday about not being sure if I was hale and hearty enough to live in the Jackson area of New Hampshire during the winter months? Chances are good I'd be complaining about how cold I was for the entirety of winter but by the same token, I'm willing to bet that winters in New Hampshire are a lot nicer than winters in Connecticut for a variety of reasons - not the least of which one is easier able to find romanticism in the mountains!

For example, see that gadget pictured above?  That is an old-fashioned snow roller that was used back in the days before snowplows were around.  It was pulled by a team of six horses or possibly oxen and was used to pack the snow down which then made the roads perfect for sleighs and sledding.  Not liking to drive in snow myself, I think this would have been an absolutely fantastic way to get around during those cold winter months - especially if you had a couple nice warm blankets and someone to cozy up to in the sleigh!  Honestly, I think I may have been born in the wrong century sometimes!

Rolling Snow

The Wildcat River at Jackson FallsGuarding the CropsThe refurbished snow roller is found on Carter Notch Road at the base of Jackson Falls where the Wildcat River ends its tumble down across all of the boulders and rock ledges and crosses under the 1931 Stone Bridge - yet another thing I need to go back and get a picture of!  I believe that that particular area is what was called the historic Jackson Falls area of Jackson and it really was very pretty - just like the rest of the town was.

When you get right down to it, I really needed more than just one late afternoon/evening to capture more of the magic that made Jackson so charming but that's okay as it gives me all the more reason to go back up one of these days!  I certainly don't mind chewing my cabbage twice if given the opportunity and considering I've been finding one adorable little inn after another while doing my research, I get the feeling I could go back up to Jackson quite a few more times and never get tired of it.  The area reminded me a lot of the mountains around Lake Tahoe though obviously in a quaint New England way versus a California pioneer way!

I guess my fascination with the area goes back to me always being partial to the mountains versus the seas and then when you add on all of the history that can be found in the White Mountains I just get all caught up in it.  Though the more I think about it, the more I could see myself living quite happily in a place like Jackson.  Now I just need to find an eligible bachelor with a sleigh looking for a companion!  Or win the darned lottery!

Anyway, all foolish daydreaming aside ... back to my falling for Jackson Falls - literally!

As I mentioned yesterday, Jackson Falls is near the center of Jackson Village and powered by the Wildcat River which was designated as New Hampshire's first federally designated "Wild and Scenic River".

Jackson Falls, New Hampshire

In the picture above, which was taken in the area of the upper falls, I'd have to say that the river doesn't look very wild at all but it's certainly very scenic, right?  Jackson Falls is made up of a series of cascades, slides, and small plunges with a total drop of only about 100 feet from the upper falls to the lower falls.

Jackson Falls, New Hampshire

Along the way there are lots of small pools that are very popular swimming spots in the summer months and if you're looking for a rock to sun yourself on this is most definitely the place!

Jackson Falls

The area is a very popular spot for tourists - like myself - all year-round and that was no exception the afternoon that I was there trying to play intrepid photographer and make sure I captured the beauty of the area for my loyal blog readers.  Luckily people were coming and going rather quickly after snapping their own shots of the water so I was able to get most of my pictures taken without anyone else in them.  An occasional person did pop up, though, like the guy at the bottom of this picture.

Jackson Falls, New Hampshire

Luckily, that guy wasn't around when I was rather rudely reminded that I don't exactly have the agility of an elk and found myself sprawled out on the rocks on my hands and knees trying to keep my Nikon from getting damaged.  It was not exactly my most graceful moment on earth and I can joke about it now but in retrospect, it could have been a rather disastrous moment as well as my last moment on earth had things gone horribly wrong.

The Wildcat River at Jackson Falls

First off, I should probably mention that I was alone on this particular little venture having dropped my mom and Jamie off at the Inn where we were staying before I wandered out into the local area with my camera.  I had asked Jamie if she wanted to go with me but she said it was too chilly for her thin Florida blood so off I went alone in search of pictures.

The Wildcat River at Jackson Falls

Alongside the falls, there is a small hiking path that people can use to better access the falls and the rocks beside them and I had no problems negotiating that path even though it was a little narrow in places.  The water level of the river was down quite a bit being that New Hampshire had a dry summer very similar to the one we had in Connecticut so it was easy to walk out on the rocks pretty close to the water.

Falls Cottage at Jackson Falls

I wanted to try to get as close to the spot where the falls start to tumble down on a bit more of a decline so that I could take a couple pictures so I wandered out to a spot that gave me a decent view of the area below. While there, another older gentleman came out on to the rocks next to me and said that he came to the falls every autumn and that he had never seen the water level down so low before.  He told me that had we been standing where we were the year before, that we would have been standing in a decent amount of water.  As it were, we were quite high and dry.

View from the top of Jackson Falls

The gentleman took a couple of pictures then said that was it for him and he was ready to go.  I stayed and took a few more pictures before I changed lenses on the camera, threw my backpack over my shoulders, and turned to head back up the rocks the way I had come. The next thing I knew my feet had slipped out from under me and I found myself landing rather soundly on my right knee while trying to cushion the Nikon with my right hand as I came down almost flat on my face.

Jackson Falls

A Lone Tree Standing

While still lying on the rocks, I accessed that the camera didn't seem to have suffered any damage and attempted to get back on my feet when I found myself starting to slide backwards towards the edge of the rocks.  Ut-oh, this could be bad as obviously my Nikon is not waterproof!  Fortunately I was able to stop myself from sliding, regain my footing, and gingerly make my way back over to the small trail.

Rocks and Water at Jackson Falls

Of course the next thing I did was to quickly look around to make sure that no one had seen my less-than-graceful maneuver and then I took the time to make sure that everything seemed to be functioning okay on the camera, checked to make sure I didn't have a bloody gash in the knee of my jeans, and then I went back to taking more pictures as if nothing had happened.  Well ... after posting a Facebook update about the incident!

Jackson Falls, New Hampshire

Jackson Falls

It didn't dawn on me until later that evening how close I had come to sliding down those rocks into the water and down to the lower falls.  I'm pretty sure that had that happened then a lot more than the Nikon would have been damaged and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't be sitting in the comfort of my dining room telling you this tale.  As they say, "there but for the grace of God go I" and I've said thanks many times over that I only ended up with a banged-up knee and story to tell.

Knee Pain
Pretty, ain't it??

Jackson Falls

I've also told myself that if I'm going to be going out and doing this sort of thing that I need to a) buy a better pair of shoes that are designed for walking around out on potentially slick rocks and b) I really should have someone with me just in case 911 needs to be called.

Carter Notch Road (NH Route 16B)

As I got back into the car to leave, I was glad to see that all of these people walking on Carter Notch Road next to the falls weren't there when I took my tumble ... or who knows? Maybe they were and one of them has a picture of some middle-aged woman nearly sliding to her death while trying to protect her camera ... or worse yet ... video that they were hoping to send into America's Funniest Videos to try to win $10,000.  Shudder!