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: Planning Ahead for the Holidays and Gift-Giving

Happy Wednesday Wellness, Friends! I started writing about wellness as I noted that so many of my friends and creatives struggle with balance, as do I.  Join me on my wellness journey!

I haven’t always liked to plan. I’d been spontaneous all my life, until becoming a mom.  Then I started seeing the value of planning, researching and mapping out. I discovered the crafty stickering planning community. I still love the shiny sparkles of whatever whims, though, and the stickers really help!  (Read more about my planning here.) Yes, organized chaos is a too a thing.

I just dusted off my 12 year historical gift giving spreadsheet, as I do every September.  I review the prior year for completeness, copy and paste a new year, and clear the contents.  I also add any new recipients, and sadly, hide anyone necessary. I don’t actually delete anyone, I just hide the row.  I may need to check what I got beloved Aunt Barbara before she passed away, as it may be a good idea for somebody else in the future. I also study last years budget vs. spend.  If I spent less for somebody, maybe that’s my new budget.  If I spent more on somebody, maybe that’s my new budget!  My niece became a teen this year, so her new budget is now the same as her older brother.  See?

This is a gift-giving list, reference, and budget, all in one. My own family has a ton of birthdays September through January, so I track those here, too. Many times as my own children approached certain ages, I’d scroll back and look at what I got my godson when he turned 12, for instance. Or, where did I get that musical teapot that all two year old girls seem to love?  Scroll back- and I see the store and the price.  Have I already given so-and-so my favorite book?  Scroll back to that year I gave most everybody the same book… oh look, so-and-so wasn’t on my list yet at that time.   See what I mean? Super helpful.

Here is a snapshot of a clean year.  I started on Excel, but I moved it to Google Sheets last year.  (I blacked out my budget so that my dear family members won’t see what I’ve budgeted for them.) But you can see from this template what I’m doing.  Many of my family members have two entries for their two occasions.  So I start shopping in September, and spread my shopping budget over ten paychecks (through January).

Pro-Tip: Enter your spouse and children’s gifts in white font, so they won’t see it on the printout.

list

Nota Bene: Creative Gifts. Two years ago I made necklaces for my best friends and sweet cousins. So last year I made a different kind of necklace for them.  Earlier this year, my daughter and I made her a memory quilt using her favorite t shirts that she had outgrown.

quilt

We made this Memory Quilt together!

As my godson approaches college age, its something I’d consider doing for him.  But I may outsource such a big project.  This may change my budget.  Or, I may bookmark that for his Graduation. I’m learning how to knit, maybe I will knit scarves and give some out as gifts!  Oh hey, I WROTE A BOOK THIS YEAR! maybe I can give somebody on my list a copy of my book.   (Maybe I can afford to outsource that quilt after all.)

I hope you enjoyed learning about my planning tool.  Let me know if you try it this gift-giving season!

How do YOU organize your shopping?

 

 

My Alaskan Cruise: Day 7

Come vacation with me!  I love to write about my family’s vacations.   I hope you are inspired to plan your own exciting journeys! Have you been on a cruise?  Have you been to Alaska and Canada?  Let us know in the comments!

My daughter and I rise early again for our early excursion.  I am so excited to be in Victoria, Canada! This is a special place I remember visiting when I was a young girl, and now I get to share the experience with my little girl. We are going to see the beauteous Butchart Gardens.

Somehow my in-laws didn’t see us, and so they missed the bus.  (They got on the next bus).  We love these little bus tours, the friendly guides/ drivers and their oft cheesy remarks.  It’s a bit chilly and there are clear umbrellas at the gardens for everyone to borrow, if needed.

imageThe Gardens themselves are exquisitely gorgeous, every bit as wonderful as I remember.  We take many photos and enjoy the lovely blooms.  We enjoy a rousing ride on the carousel, and a light snack of popcorn, after.  My daughter had just said, if I were separated from my granddaughter and there was a merry-go-round, I would know that that would be the place to meet.  When sure enough, her grandparents approach the carousel!  She runs to greet them, it is really cute.    The carousel and the popcorn stand accept our U.S. Dollars, and give me change in Canadian dollars.  I love the Sunken Garden, and the Rose Garden the best.  The fountains are beautiful.  I am deeply moved by the Love and Peace rose, vintage 2001.

image

delsol

Butterflies by Del Sol (white indoors, sun-activated colors!)

We take a photo near the tea room where my parents took my sister and I thirty-some years ago. I tell my daughter the story of how we waited over an hour in the heat, and my little sister ordered both a chocolate sundae and a chocolate shake.  Our sweet mother balked, but my dear father said it was okay, as he knew he would be lucky enough to help her finish both!  Smart man!  She delights in this story, but we do not have enough time to dine here today.  Our tour bus awaits.  And since they didn’t wait for my in-laws before, I doubt they will wait for us if we are late.   We say goodbye to the in-laws and get on our bus. We will pass a cool spinning globe in front of a Starbucks, as well as the famous Empress Hotel. The bus is stopping at the Empress, and I decide we should exit here.  It is a lovely pier area, and very near our next excursion.   We take some more obligatory tourist pics.

 

image

Near the meeting point is another Starbucks.  Happily we run inside for a lunch/snack/drink.  My sister in law and niece are inside!  They just finished their excursion: a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown.  We enjoy a lovely mother-daughter reunion and share our stories.  My husband brings the boys (our son and nephew) off the ship after their lunch, and we all meet up for the Hippo Tour: a bus that turns into a boat.  The kids are delighted- it really is a unique tour.  Unfortunately for us, although we are first to line up, they boarded from the end of the line and we ended up with the worst seats on the bus- right behind the driver / tour guide  in the heat with closed windows and no leg room. The kids squished in the middle and got good views, but all my photos have the windshield in them.

IMG_3638[1]The bus becomes a boat and we float through the water.  We see a seaplane land in the water, which was very cool.  Our Hippo sails so close to our Royal Caribbean ship that the ship’s wifi pops up on my phone!  After the water ride, we drive through a park with lovely peacocks everywhere. After the tour, we split up again, and my son stays with me to souvenir shop in town, and the others walk back to the ship via another park/playground.

We are looking for another baseball cap for my son’s collection. But of course, we must also stop for the famous fudge, that was once eaten in space! I am using my Canadian dollars and coins, and I am looking for a penny, when the cashier  reminds me that they don’t have pennies anymore!  I vaguely recall this news from more than a few years back.  Why do they continue to ring up amounts with pennies, then, I wonder?  The fudge is fantastic.  I try the famous maple, Dear Son tries another flavor. It’s quite fun exploring with my son, just he and I.  He navigates quite well, shares appropriate observations, and some punny jokes. It is in many ways, like hanging out with another adult 🙂  It is sprinkling, and I consider taking a penny cab back to the boat, but we can handle it.  And I log a ton of steps today!IMG_3695[1]

We return to the boat and meet for dinner.  Tonight will be for packing.  You can pack by 10pm and the staff will take your luggage off the boat for you, or  you can select early departure/ walk-off luggage, which is what we will be doing.  We packed light.

We join the karaoke line-up and Dear Daughter selects Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.  This Cyndi Lauper classic is a bit to high for my alto range, and I regret I did not do it justice.  Fortunately my sweet girl skips happily around me during the instrumental break, and we are saved.  But I do not think I will share that video.  LOL.

Tomorrow we will disembark in Seattle, and enjoy the city before we head home in the evening.  Can’t wait to share more with you!   I will also be sharing my godson’s video with you.

 

 

 

Wednesday Wellness: Perspective

Happy Wellness Wednesday, Friends!  I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays, as I noticed so many of my writer friends and creatives struggle with balance, as do I.  Join me on my wellness journey and let’s chat!

My superpower is anxiety.  I’ve only recently decided to claim it as my superpower, and just doing so has already changed me.  More on this in a minute.

Recently, I shared a story at a family dinner.  The story included my oldest child, when he was but a baby.  My daughter asked me to tell her more stories about when she was a baby.  So I started rereading my personal blog posts from eight years ago.  Of course I discovered and remembered many delightful stories that I could share with her and my family. But there was more.

As I reviewed my own writings of the past eight years, themes and patterns became obvious.  Some of them painfully so.  Sure, some posts chronicled my agonizing year of regular gall bladder attacks and subsequent surgery to remove the darn thing, and then my “recovery.”  This was during the year of my husband’s job search, so there was anxiety and depression, as well.  Earlier our oldest child had received a diagnosis, actually both children have undergone surgical procedures as well as been hospitalized for days for illnesses. I know after sleeping in the chairs in hospital rooms so often, I have learned to pack my travel neck-pillow. The only reason I can come up with for  all the suffering in the world is because somewhere, somebody learns something from it. Somebody somewhere is going to find the cure for cancer.

As my friends and readers know, I am a writer and a reader.  I love patterns in fiction and in music.  I am a believer in the hero’s journey and a sucker for the sonata form.  I can’t even take a personality quiz anymore, because I find the pattern and skew the results to what I want.  (Does anybody else do this?) Even still, I was kind of surprised to see patterns before me in black and white.

In my never-ending pseudo-dieting, it sure seemed that once I did a cleanse, I was on my way to that weight loss.  I’d find prompt results and relish in my “success” for a little while. Eventually, I’d cheat and then stop altogether.  Many times this cycle repeated.  Wow. It was almost kind of depressing reading this.

But also it was enlightening, seeing what worked. Here’s what worked for me.

Cleansing as a jump-start to eating well.  Doing a cleanse is a supercommittment and opportunity to focus.  It’s not easy, but it works.

Tracking calories using an app on my phone.  Pretty much when I stop tracking, is when I start cheating.

Practicing Gratefulness.  When I journal and write and speak of my gratefulness, it is underscored.

Practicing Yoga. Reading about how good it made me feel, made me wonder why I’d stopped.  Even if I don’t do a DVD, just taking the time to remember my favorite positions is wonderful.

Visualizing.  Envisioning positive results from whatever my struggle du jour may be. Also, breathing loving energy directly to parts of my body helps the aches and pains.

Creating Art.  After my first essay was published, I got the bug.  Writing and self-publishing my poetry collection  A Maze in Grace was a journey in itself.  But also, taking the time to collage journal and color with my children. Singing in the car.  I recorded a Christmas album and shared it with my friends and family. (Would you like an mp3?  Send me your email addy!)

Writing. Personal journal entries and blog posts.  Poems and lists.  Ideas for my breakout novel. And jukebox musical. Hey- it could happen!

Perhaps it is my writer/ reader connection with the hero’s journey that allowed me to finally accept my anxiety for what it is.  Years ago I attended a Marianne Williamson lecture in San Francisco, and she stated plainly that AIDS was a call to compassion.  I get it now. Anxiety is the Catalyst.  In the Hero’s Journey, something happens to the main character which changes everything.  It is the Call to Adventure: when Luke goes with Obi-wan to Mos Eisley, when Harry Potter gets on the Hogwarts Express.

And so I have changed my perspective on my anxiety.  How lucky am I that I have a prompt to get me back on track.  It’s like my secret superpower.

What’s yours?

ww

 

 

 

 

Friday Friends: Kelly Wilson & Caskets from Costco

Happy Friday, Friends!  Today I am delighted to feature Kelly Wilson, author of Caskets from Costco.  Kelly is an amazing unique talent: writing with humour even as she writes of trauma and grief. Her ability and commitment to telling it like it is, is inspiring.  Thank you for stopping by today, Kelly!

1. What made you decide to publish?

There was no way for me to process what I had been through than to publish Caskets From Costco, my funny book about grief. I had this visceral sense that it needed to be published, if for no other reason than to hopefully help somebody else going through grief and trauma. Maybe my story could shine a little light in the darkness.
2. How important is writing for your well-being? I write literally every day. I have a small notebook I carry in my purse – I take notes in this as well as on my phone. I’m a comedian, so I’m always writing and refining jokes, which for me just come up in the course of life. My work for money is freelance writing, and I have a blog and am working on one or more writing projects at any given time. When I need to think about something deep or work out something complicated or want to remember something funny, I write it down automatically…partly because my memory leaked out of my uterus with the birth of my two children. I do not know what I would do without writing.

3. What is in store for you in 2016?

My first class of the year is Musical Improv, during which I will learn how to use my comedic improv skills through music and a little bit of choreography. I am working with Stand Up for Mental Health this year to help others write about their experiences through writing and performing jokes. I am also working on my next book, a funny parenting book called, Poop Before You Get on the Boat.

 
4. Who are your favorite funny people?

There are so many funny people worth looking up to right now in pop culture, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, Will Ferrell, Stephen Colbert, Louis C.K., and Steve Carell, just to name a few of my favorites. My all-time favorite funny person is Erma Bombeck. A couple of readers compared me to her and I was over-the-moon honored.

 
5. What is one last-minute dinner “recipe” you can share with us?

I’m a terrible cook. Hot dogs all the way.
fam-photo-xmas-resizedKelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. She is the author of Live Cheap & Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Caskets From Costco, along with numerous articles and short stories for children and adults.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Kelly writes and speaks about finding hope in the process of recovery. Through both stand-up and improv comedy, she brings laughter to audiences of all ages using a wide range of subject matter, including silly songs, parenting stories, and jokes and anecdotes revolving around mental health issues.

Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at http://www.wilsonwrites.com.

You can follow Kelly Wilson here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WilsonWrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KW_Writes
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KellyWilsonWrites
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6548683.Kelly_Wilson
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/wilsonwrites/
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Wilson/e/B0030ZX24S
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellywilsonwrites/
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kelly-wilson-i

 

Be be sure to check out her book on Amazon!  I am reading it RIGHT NOW!

Caskets From Costco  http://www.amazon.com/Caskets-Costco-Kelly-Wilson/dp/1513703919/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Dear Diary

 

On my recent travels I began reading the travel journal of a dear friend, who passed away about five years ago. Her daughter is also one of my closest friends. When she offered to loan me her mother’s journals, I was only too delighted to accept. There were ten journals, so I started reading the one covering the place that my own family would be visiting this trip.

I opened the slim red faux leather-covered journal on the plane. Along the inside cover is written all her personal contact information and VISA and travel check #’s. It struck me how here it is only fifteen years later and we would never have written so much personal info, and we don’t even use travelers checks! But the most fabulous revelation is of course, my dear friend’s handwriting. I am reminded how much I miss her. Reading her travel journal is a profound experience, as I see her writing and hear her voice in my head. It is as if she wrote me a letter. But it is also a novella. And I can’t wait to read it all.

She writes of the travel experience and sites, of course, as well as the foods and wines. Back then, there was no Euro, therefore different currencies & conversions are included, which I find fascinating. But, there are also personal ailments and difficulties. At one point she had such swelling in her leg, a travel doctor prescribed antihistamines and No Alcohol for the duration. I found myself reading as one reads a novel- will this character be able to handle this situation? I am rooting for her.

Then, familiar characters enter the scene. My own father- and mother-in law meet my friend and her husband in a foggy beach town in June, and the four of them spend a couple of days together. My friend notes how relaxed my in-laws seem, and what souvenirs they buy. My mother-in-law bought a cute hat; alas my friend did not, because her husband laughed at her. I’m saddened when they part ways.

And then. Suddenly Dear Diary tells me of the great accident. Her husband turned too quickly and walked into a pane of non-safety glass. (I had heard of the incident, of course, being close friends of the family, but I hadn’t expected the story to be in this volume. Plus now, I am reading it in present-tense in the handwriting of my dear friend.) I am shocked and heartbroken as I read of the shards of glass stuck in his leg, use of tourniquets, his (temporary) inability to move his foot, and the panic of the chaos as the hotelier and doctor try to determine how to get this man down 78 steps in Positano. (Three strong Italian men and a wrought iron chair.) The doctors exclaimed MAMMA MIA! upon seeing the glass shard in his leg. Meanwhile, they had to relocate to the one hotel in Positano with an elevator, Le Sirenuse. This was the hotel featured in one of my favorite movies: 1994’s Only You starring Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr.

Deciding to fly home for potential surgery, they tried to reach their daughter via phone. Alas, she happened to be moving that weekend (hubby and I were helping), one phone line was turned off and the other landline not turned on yet. We didn’t all have cell phones back then. So they called my father-in-law to pick them up at the airport and drive them to the hospital.

My friend writes of the pleasant customer service received flying home. Wheelchair escorts, upgrade to bulkhead seating, reconfiguration of the lavatories so that she could assist her husband. Free continuous brandy for my friend. I guess she didn’t make the 6 days without alcohol as prescribed. No wonder. Can you even imagine?

My friend was also an artist: she would sketch and watercolor scenes from their travels. Sometimes, she’d use water from the local lakes and rivers, so that the creation would be of essence. To honor her, my daughter and I brought along water colors on our trip.

I’m not the best painter, but I do enjoy sketching and such. Here’s my representational water colors:

Cinque Terre, watercolor, me

Cinque Terre, watercolor, me

And here’s my daughter’s:

Man Overboard

“Man Overboard”

My friend’s original watercolor:

Art by Noel Haas

Art by Noel Haas

Miss you, Dear Friend.

Noel & Me, circa 1997

Noel & Me, circa 1997