Wellness Wednesday: Applesauce Cake

Happy Wellness Wednesday, Friends!  I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays, as I noted so many of my friends & creatives struggle with balance, as do I. Join me on my humble journey to wellness, picking fruit along the way, but also stopping to rest, once in a while.  

I am mixing it up today, in honor of Apple Sauce Cake Day.  Apparently, that’s a thing.  Click here if you don’t believe me.  So I decided to share another excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes – a collection of stories and recipes.  Here is a true story about apple sauce, followed by one of my favorite of my mom’s recipes: Applesauce Cake.

A Sticky Situation

My sweet young baby boy loved his applesauce when he was

a baby. I often would blend cooked carrots into his

applesauce, at home. Nana would make him applesauce from

scratch. After trick-or-treating, he proudly counted his shiny

wrapped candy bars, and then requested applesauce.

Normally, applesauce is not a bad thing! But, we once

experienced quite a sticky situation involving applesauce.

Whenever I hear Def Leppard’s song “Pour Some Sugar on

Me” this is what comes to mind.

My Dear Son was a man of few words when he was a toddler.

We had started calling him Mellow Man. He was

extraordinarily well-behaved, though, and a delight to take to

restaurants. Yeah I know; this is rare.

On this particular day in the Adventures of Mellow Man, I

brought him to lunch with our dear friend, his Auntie Rachel.

Although she’s not related, she grew up with my husband and

she’s the one who set us up, so we call her family. We were

dining at Bennigan’s, a delightful American restaurant chain

with tchotchkes on the walls. Like every other American

restaurant chain, right? This one has some pretty special

broccoli bites or something, as I recall. These were broccoli,

cheese, and bacon, battered, and deep-fried. (Right? I know,

my arteries just got scared, too.)

The two-year-old was seated happily in a wooden high chair,

pulled up to the table. We enjoyed lunch and conversation,

laughing as we do whenever we get together. We were

reminiscing about some of the fun we’ve had together, like the

time we went to all the Burger Kings in South San Jose for

“Free Fries Day.” And the time she screwed up the words in

the Alleluia verse so badly, she voluntarily removed herself

from the cantor podium with an imaginary hook and cane. Or

my wedding video, in which everyone else in the wedding

party said “Thank you for choosing me to be in your special day…”

and she said, “You’re welcome.” I hope everybody has a

special friend like this.

I had ordered apples instead of fries for his kiddie meal—as

apples are healthier, right? They came in a heated bowl with

raisins and sugar—it was more like pie filling. I took out the

apple slices, diced them some more, placed them on a clean

bread plate for my son, and gave him a spoon. He seemed

content, and we gals continued talking and digging into to our

lava cake.

Suddenly, I look over at my son, who is visibly discontent as

he is trying to wipe off the gooey apples from his hands. Quite

unsuccessfully, I might add. In fact, in his attempts to wipe the

goo off, he inadvertently had wiped sticky sugary apple-y goo

all over his hands, and up and down his arms, as well.

“Oh, My God!” I exclaimed. And then, to Rachel, “Can you

grab an arm?”

Rachel says he was all oiled up like a pro-wrestler. (I don’t

watch wrestling, so, whatever.) Seriously, he was glistening. It

took each of us two pre-moistened wipes and two napkins to

erase away the goo. Then we had to wrestle him out of the

high chair and to the bathroom sink. We were laughing

hysterically as Auntie Rachel held the toddler in front of her at

arms’ length while he, in turn, held his arms out in front of

him, like a little Frankenstein. We managed to get him to the

bathroom sink and she balanced the boy between herself and

the sink, while I scrubbed his little hands and arms with soap.

Pour some sugar on me.

Applesauce Cake

This is one of my favorites of my mom’s recipes.

It’s delightfully sweet and unique.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt (optional)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ cups Applesauce

1 cup raisins (soaked in warm water and drained)

½ cup oil

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

Dump dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Add one at a time without mixing, applesauce, raisins, oil

and walnuts.

Mix well, then pour into well-greased angel food

or 13×9 pan

Bake in 350 oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Test with toothpick

for doneness.

(Cupcakes: only 20-25 mins)

 

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Wednesday Wellness: Information at your Service

Happy Wellness Wednesday! I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays as I noted so many of my friends and creatives struggle with balance, as do I. Join me on my journey towards Wellness, along the yellow brick road, acknowledging all things shiny along the way.

One of my first jobs was working at the bookstore at the mall. I loved to work the Information Desk. It was a really neat way to be helpful and also learn things along the way. Many times somebody would ask me a question and I didn’t even know that I knew the answer until they asked. This continued as I moved on to the bigger flagship bookstore. I would put books on hold for myself, but after a few days return them to the shelves, as it seemed just thinking about them helped me realize what I needed to about them. Information was everywhere. So many books, so much information. It was my job to help people, but they were helping me, too. They were helping me develop my intuition.

I’m only just realizing that my current job (of twenty years!) is kind of like that, too. People come to me for assistance, and I assist them. They might ask me for information. I might know the answer, or I might know whom to ask to get the answer. I am providing information, as well as learning information. Sometimes still, I am able to provide the answer, not even realizing that I had already known the answer until that very moment. A little glimmer of a whisper in the back of my mind comes forth. And I am humbled.

The Doctor is IN

I am NOT a doctor. But I can help you find a book.

My dear friend Noel was a kindred spirit, and we both used to improvise playing piano.  When people said they liked her piano playing, she’d say “Isn’t it great? It’s the Holy Spirit!” She had a way of playing a song that is commonly known as “faking it.” There are Fake Books published, and this means the basic notes of the melody are noted and lyrics, but no other music is provided, only the Guitar Chords. It is an outline for the recipe of the song, if you will. There are many ways of making chocolate chip cookies, but in the end, they are all chocolate chip cookies. I love to improvise as I play piano, in fact, I even ignore the written accompaniment, now. If you listen hard enough, you can play the tune. You can play notes, or you can play music. You can follow a recipe, or you can make a cookie.  Are you with me?

So often something reminds me of something else.  Many times, I find myself looking for something, when, in fact, I find something else which I had been looking for before. Whomp, there it is.

Call it The Secret, the Law of Attraction, remote preparation, seek and ye shall find.

I truly believe that having an open mind allows one to perceive truths one might not otherwise recognize.

Everything in your life thus far has prepared you for the next moment. It’s synchronicity.

This afternoon as I drove around during my lunch break, the 80s station played that song “Pure Energy” by a group called Information Society.  Upon entering a place of business, I heard their radio station playing “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha.

What I know for sure, is that I am not yet aware of all that I already know.

What do you know?

Wellness Wednesday: Organized Chaos and Magic Words

My friends, I started writing about Wellness on Wednesdays, as I noticed so many creative souls struggle with balance, as do I.  Join me on my journey to wellness as I follow the yellow brick road, marching to the beat of my own drum, stumbling along the way.

I reached a milestone this year, and something has happened.  People are asking me what I think and I realized I have something to say.  Truth is, glimmers of whispers have been brewing, like quiet storms in the back of my mind- for some time.  And that’s part of what I want to share with you today.

I haven’t always been a planner. In fact, as an Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver (INFP on the Myer-s Briggs Type Indicator), I often eschewed organization, preferring spontaneity and the freedom I perceived.  But in college, grad school, and then being a working mom, I began to see the benefits of planning.  I developed my own way of planning- that is Plan, to Have Fun.  Research and mapping activities sure helped get things done! When we go on a family trip, I know exactly what we need and when we hope to do things. There’s a lot of planning in advance, as well as some down time and flexibility. So, I’ve come to recognize planning as an important step. Otherwise, you are wandering a theme park not getting on any rides like the Heck family on the tv show The Middle. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Holiday Collage

Planning for Chaos (Tis the Season)

It was only a couple of years ago that I finally discovered the magic of using a personal planner.  I have to say, finding the right one that works for you is everything.  I had used a Bloom planner, then the Shining Year (before it was discontinued) and now I use the Erin Condren Life Planner (vertical).  Michael’s Recollections line is very similar, and Happy Planner is another planners’ favorite.  There is also Passion Planner. All of these planners can be used quite creatively, you’ll see.

The magic is in writing it down.

I started using the spaces in a vertical planner for timed activities, but then I had these long lists that didn’t fit at the bottom.   So I learned to use the boxes for checklists and inspiring quotes. I use the lines for weekly focus, daily water tracking, goals and interests.  The thing about writing it down is that it makes it more concrete.  Our lives are so digital these days, we’ve literally lost touch.  But once we dare to write things down, we can see that more things are possible.  It’s visual. It’s real. Even long term goals and dreams become less intimidating once we break them down into steps. Successful athletes are known for practicing visualization to better their sports performance. Commedienne Ellen DeGeneres visualized her first Tonight Show monologue to the detail of crossing the stage to shake Johnny Carson’s hand. Envisioning success helps achieve success.

The trick is to find the words that motivate or inspire you.  Which word means more to you:  Motivation or Inspiration?  I am an inspiration girl working in a “motivation” world.  When I start to hear too many buzzwords, jargon, and “productivity-ness”, part of me shuts down and I actually get de-motivated.  You know the sounds that the teachers make in Peanuts?  Wah wah, wah wah, wah.

NOTIFICATION

NOTIFICATION

The kinds of words that means so much more to me (personally) are words like personal growth, inspiration, creativity.

Carriehqdefault

“Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth.” – Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally, 1989.

Writers and speakers know the importance of the adage Know Your Audience. Well, my friends, YOU are your audience. Plan accordingly. Use the right words for you: motivational or inspirational. And use your tools. Maybe all you need is black pen and the occasional highlighter.

Or MAYBE you are like me and you like COLOR! and STICKERS! and WASHI TAPE!

coffee

Focus on the Good Coffee (weekly spread)


I cannot tell you the joy I have found in discovering the creative planning community. I buy hand-drawn embellishment stickers and kits via Etsy. And I decorate, that is, pre-plan my week. My young daughter is doing this with me now, too. We are looking forward to using our planners. We fill them in and make check marks with pride. If I had forgotten to list something that we did, I will go back and add it. Then, my planner becomes a memory keeper, as well, which I reference when I complete my separate Gratitude Journal. I also write down funny/significant things my family and friends say. #quoteofthemonth

My life has changed since I started planning creatively. Sure there are things I haven’t quite got control of, yet. But I keep listing my tasks and dreams. Since I started planning creatively, I have written and self- published a book, earned a promotion at work, saved money by reducing bills and trading books/cds, made investments, and attended webinar trainings for work and personal growth. I’ve achieved a kind of work-life balance as I’ve learned to prioritize some things over others, at certain times, and then maybe getting back to them or just letting them go! If you haven’t watched 19 episodes of that show on the DVR, then maybe you are not really watching that show, are you? Time to let it go. Overall, I am much happier, and way less anxious.

Finally, I wanted to share the importance of remembering what’s in your wheelhouse. I keep a lot of what some people may call clutter, but I know these ideas and things will have usefulness. You never know when something you did long ago or kept will become needed. This has happened to me so many times, personally. I had saved a vinyl tablecloth, which I used again as a picnic blanket. My sister’s wedding singer cancelled last minute, thank God I studied church music and could literally just step up and SING the whole Mass including Schubert’s Ave Maria (with no rehearsal). (I’m still waiting for that opportunity where someone says, Denise, I will pay you a thousand dollars to sing a Karen Carpenter song! Alas, that has not happened yet.)

Having access to your own personal toolkit invites serendipitous synchronicity, which is when you are uniquely qualified and prepared for something, like when I got to sing for my sister’s wedding. Or when I used my experience training volunteer choirs to sing diphthongs to help teach my young child to correctly say the letter Y.

Or writing this post.

How do you plan? Are you organized? Do you like inspirational or motivational words? Let us know below.

 

 

Monday Music: Open Mic

Welcome Back, Friends!

I have been away from the blog for some time, and I am sorry about that.  I took some time to work on my career, and that has proven fruitful.  I am still planning creatively, writing intermittently, and micro-blogging on Facebook & Instagram. Life continues, presenting us with one opportunity after another. Can you see it?

This morning on my commute, I switched radio channels and happened upon some lovely acoustic guitar picking. On the 80s channel, this can only mean “Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi.  Isn’t it funny how just a few notes from a song can take you back in time?  I was instantly back in a dark, windowless downstairs pub, sitting in the corner with my big 80s hair, surrounded by a bunch of rowdy collegians, facing my first “open mic. ”

(I bet I have a pic in an album at home- check back again- dear reader!) (I WONDER- might I even have a recording of “Love Song” ?  A few years ago, I had some tapes converted to dvd. HMMM.)

Please enjoy this excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes.

Way Back Wednesday

During my freshman year, two friends and I entered in the Open Mic Contest at The Pub, which was then downstairs from the Brickpile (grille) at St. Mary’s College. We were underage, but that didn’t seem to matter at the time, they let the three of us in. I was not prepared for how rowdy it would be. Did I mention that we were all in the Chapel Choir? I recall vividly how I wore my pink turtleneck sweater and my big hair somewhere between Deanna Troi and Elaine from Seinfeld, complete with a big pink scrunchie atop. [It was still the 80’s.]
The emcee was stirring, the first act a nasty comedian. The 2nd act: 2 dudes with guitars singing Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive. The 3rd act: 2 dudes lip-synching air guitar to Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive. The crowd booed them off the stage. We three lowly and somewhat naïve freshmen were completely distinct from the scene. I asked my friends several times if they wanted to bail. They said no. It was soon our turn to perform my original work, simply titled, “Love Song.” Amazingly, the crowd quieted respectfully, as I began playing the introduction on the old, out- of- tune upright piano in the corner of this dark and dusty pub. As the composer,  I had the unique advantage of substituting notes on the fly, as not all of the piano keys worked! I subbed an A in the bass line- that’s okay, I remember thinking,  A minor is close enough to C major… My two confident friends aced the duet, singing sweetly and dramatically. The crowd cheered respectfully.
And soon after, we left. We didn’t even stay to see if we had won. It so wasn’t our scene.
So now whenever I hear Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, I recall that night of uncertainty, with a smile.

Grateful for Green Beans (excerpt & recipe)

Happy Thanksgiving!  Are fresh green beans out of stock in your area? I had to go to two stores this morning, and I met a man who had been to three. So I am grateful for green beans! 

Read on for an excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes and my recipe for Roman Beans.  I hope you and yours enjoy it as much as my family does!

Roman beans

Beans #greenbeans #pinenuts #bacon #gratefulforgreenbeans #deesdishes #thanksgiving

Scandalous! Unpopular Opinion

You know that I am a grateful gal. There are so many blessings in my life.

My husband loves Thanksgiving. It’s his favorite holiday: food, family, football, four-day weekend, and he doesn’t have to go to church or exchange gifts.

I confess: Thanksgiving is NOT my favorite holiday, because of the food.

[Insert needle jumping off vinyl record here.] WHAT?

I realize this is an unpopular opinion, which is why I have kept it secret for 34 years. Alas, I simply cannot stand it any longer. THE TRUTH MUST BE SET FREE!

I like turkey. I like real cranberry sauce. I just think the traditional trimmings with all the fatty starchy carbohydrates, not to mention all the bland mushy similarly boring taste(s) and texture(s), are plain as baby food to me.

One year I was blessed to share Thanksgiving dinner four times within five days. Like I said, I am a grateful gal. Among countless blessings, I am very lucky to have opportunities to visit and dine with three superior hostesses (and not have to cook, myself.). You know, it was one set of parents, and the other, and then said parents’ favorite neighbors, and then the obligatory leftovers. Oh. My. God. Make it stop! (Don’t even get me started on the vat of cornflake cheese potato casserole that someone brought one year.) Break a successful stream of healthy eating habits for this? I just don’t think it’s worth it. I’d much prefer a filet mignon, medium rare in a merlot sauce, baked asparagus with Parmesan cheese, and bruschetta on toasted sourdough followed by a respectable amount of chocolate. And I’d be just as thankful, if not more.

Roman Beans

Adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookbook.I made this once for Thanksgiving at the in-laws’ and now they ask for it every year. As we say in liturgical music school, if the people like it, it’s a “tradition,” right?

Ingredients:
2 lb. fresh green beans
4 oz. bacon cut crosswise into ½-inch strips
1 tablespoon. olive oil
½ teaspoon. salt
¼ cup pine nuts

Directions:
Toss the pine nuts in the skillet without any additional oil. Using a wooden spoon, toss until they are slightly toasted. Set aside.

In 12-inch skillet (at least 2 inches deep) or 5-quart saucepot over high heat, in one-inch boiling water, heat green beans to boiling.

Reduce heat to low; simmer 5-10 minutes until beans are tender-crisp; drain. Wipe skillet dry.

In same skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until golden, stirring frequently. With slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels to drain. OR, do this: cook the bacon in the microwave over paper towels. Allow one minute for each strip. The bacon is extra crispy this way, and not fatty. I think it adds a nice texture to the dish.

In same skillet over medium-high heat, in drippings and olive oil, cook green beans with salt, stirring frequently, until beans are lightly browned and tender.

Spoon green beans onto warm large platter; sprinkle with bacon and toasted pine nuts.

Monday Music: Psalms & Olives

Happy Monday, Friends!   I started writing about music on Mondays, to get me blogging regularly again.  Music is such an important part of our lives.  And I always have something to say about music. Don’t you? 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to cantor, that is- songlead, at church. The Psalm setting of the day was one I had learnt last minute at my sister’s wedding, eighteen years ago.  Her friend and cantor had come down with the flu suddenly, and although I was also the Maid of Honor, I was called upon to sing for the entire wedding Mass.  I had heard the song one time only, during the wedding rehearsal.  But as it was also my profession as a church musician, I knew I could step up and sing.  It was like my entire life had prepared me for that moment.

I hadn’t heard it since.

As I sang the refrain from the ambo, I remembered singing at my sister’s wedding.  I had liked the psalm so much, I chose it for my own wedding which was only twelve weeks after.  As I sang the second verse, I looked out at the congregation and saw my two beautiful children sitting in the third pew.  And I realized, as I sang the blessing “Your children flourish like olive plants” that indeed, here are my children and how we’ve all flourished!  I saw my mother, and realized that as her child, we are all part of her olive branch.

I was so overwhelmed by this sensation that indeed, we have all been blessed.  I may have inadvertently changed the words at this point, I mean, who says “Olive plants” ?  Olives come from trees, with branches.  Right?  And then, I raised my arms to invite the congregation to sing along with me, and I sang “Happy those…” instead of “Blessed are those…” I guess I was happy.

That’s one thing I like about music ministry. The lyrics are prayers. The congregation is so forgiving. How can I keep from singing?

Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother-in-law! Olive you!

 

olive you

olive you

Monday Music: More Triangle

My family just loves this fun GEICO commercial depicting a classical triangle soloist gone wild.  Have you seen it?  Click here: Triangle Soloist Geico Commercial

I have a playlist entitled More Cowbell.  Sometimes I do wonder, though, if the guy playing triangle in Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” was paid by the ding.  Or maybe they were trying to make up for an underutilized percussion instrument in popular music.  I love castanets and cowbells in pop music, don’t get me wrong! But, every single measure seems a bit much. What do you think?

more triangle

more triangle

Last year I wrote a Monday Music post about the triangle solo in a Billy Joel song.  Check it out here. (Video link at the end of my post.)

And here’s that playlist- because I know you want it.

 *some songs featuring vibraslap may have snuck in  

more cowbell playlist

more cowbell playlist