Saturday, September 22, 2012

Two-ingredient Muffins with optional chocolate chips

Pumpkin Muffins         
It seems that everyone I’ve talked to is eager for autumn temperatures.  After such a sweltering summer, it’s no wonder that we all want cooler days and nights. 

To celebrate the arrival of fall, I decided to bake pumpkin muffins for breakfast.  One of my friends made these and gave me her recipe: "Two ingredients: cake mix and pumpkin.  Add chocolate chips if you like."  What?!  Only two ingredients, plus optional chocolate chips?  “Skeptical Me” had to see this for myself.  I bought a cake mix and the pumpkin puree and found a bag of chocolate chips in the pantry.  So far, so good.  I 'GOOGLED' this recipe to make sure I wasn't dreaming and found several.  One of the comments on one recipe site said that the mixture was too stiff and lumpy and didn’t yield the dozen as noted.  I decided to keep a little milk close at hand just in case.  However, after mixing the cake mix and puree together, the mixture was quite moist.  I put in half a bag of chocolate chips (about 1 cup). I filled each muffin liner 2/3 full and found that I had batter left over. 
Only two ingredients!!
I added a few spices, just in case, because my cake mix was plain white.

The batter, sans chocolate chips

With chocolate chips, about 1 cup--minus the few that I snacked on

The batter was a little stiff, but I pushed it down slightly into the liners.

My husband asked for brown sugar on top, so I obliged.


This is how many was left from the original dozen. 
When hubby came in for breakfast, he seemed quite pleased to find something new to have with his morning coffee.   He watched as I mixed the batter--and could hardly believe that I only added a can of pumpkin.  Of course he agreed that a few spices might be good.  He also wanted a little brown sugar on top. 
Once the muffins came out of the oven, he took a gallon-sized zipper bag and filled it with muffins for his co-workers.  That left me with one. But wait! I have more batter.  I was able to get three more muffins for a total of 15!  Friends who have made these before sometimes bake them as mini-muffins.  Either way is wonderful.
Three for me!

Good morning, Autumn.  Nice to see you at last.  Have a pumpkin muffin, won’t you?


1  box cake mix (I used a white mix, but yellow, butter, or spice can be used)

1  15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

Chocolate chips, optional (about 1 cup; I used semi-sweet)

Mix cake mix and pumpkin together until mixture is no longer dry.  Add chocolate chips, if desired.

Spoon mixture into muffin liners and bake as you would for cupcakes or muffins following directions on package.  (I baked mine at 350 for 10 minutes and then at 400 for another 10 minutes.)

Note: I added about ¼ teaspoon each of allspice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg because I wanted a little bit of zing.  The spice was barely noticeable, but gave just the right amount of something extra. Hubby wanted brown sugar on top of his. We never seem to leave well enough alone.  The left over muffins made a nice cupcake type dessert with after-dinner coffee.

I added this to StoneGable's tutorials and tidbits at
What a wonderful site!
Hugs to all,


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Last Day of Summer and a Poem or Two:

     I can’t remember a time when fall has been more welcomed.  Only two months ago, we experienced record-breaking heat for days on end, so it is no surprise that we are dancing in circles and cheering for the advent of cooler weather.  At last I can go outdoors and get the plants in shape.

This had a few leaves, but not many!

     I have three teeny- tiny ever-blooming rose bushes that only have about 3 flowers apiece.  Something has eaten the leaves, though, so they look quite spindly.  Sad, really.  I doubt if they have time to recover and bloom again, so I think I will snip the booms and enjoy them up close indoors.  This brings to mind the poem—and song—by Irish poet Thomas Moore, “The Last Rose of Summer.”  I memorized this when I was in sixth grade and find myself repeating it each time I see a lonely rose putting forth a brave face as if to defy winter.  Do you know it?

“Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone,

All her lovely companions are faded and gone.

No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes, to give sigh for sigh.”


     I usually stop halfway through the next verse and mentally pluck it:


“I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem.

Since the lovelies are sleeping,

Go sleep, thou, with them.

Thus kindly I scatter

The leaves o’er thy bed.

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.”

While I wish this were from my garden, it is a photo from a book.  I suppose I could show it to my few little roses for inspiration!

     I suppose it’s true that the things we learn when we are young stay with us.  I think my teacher who insisted that we all learn poems (and recite them with expression!) must have subscribed to the same idea as this one by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers:


“Keep a poem in your pocket,

And a picture in your head;

And you’ll never be lonely

At night when you’re in bed.”


     The second verse if lovely, too:

“The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.”


     Isn’t that lovely?  I wonder how many children memorize poems these days.  I know that as a preschooler I was chanting nursery rhymes like “Jack and Jill”, “Little Tommy Tinker”, and “There Was a Crooked Man”.  My mother knew that the cadence of poetry helps to establish language and vocabulary for young children.  Which ones did you learn? 


     Since the things we learn as children stick for years (as in forever!), it may be that learning new things as we get older will help new things stick as well.  What new things are you learning?  Crafts?  A new language? Music lessons?  Flower arrangingMemorization of poems? 

Flowers arranged for a tea in a lovely silver wine bucket.

     As a former teacher, I know the importance of what I call brain exercises.  I have attached a link to a lesson plan which is a fourth grade poetry unit.  Why not be a student again and click on the links and enjoy the tickle in your brain?  

I’d love to read some of your poetry creations!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tea for Two

The leaves are largely still green, but the single red, yellow, or gold leaf here and there is peeking out. For the second night in a row, the temperatures reminded us that fall is in the air.   Ah, the crisp chill is a welcome relief to the summer heat.  It is time to let the fall feeling be felt inside as well, so away go the pinks and light colors into storage; out come the browns, reds, and ochre tones.  The dining room is the first room to shed its summer colors.  Goodbye pastel candles.  Hello autumn shades of green and orange!

The birds are coming in full force, not to nest, but to settle into a winter home.  The feeders are being emptied by a great variety of birdies.  Even the bird bath is getting a lot of use and needs frequent filling.

For an intimate tea for two, homage is given to our newly-arriving feathered friends.  The table is set in colors appropriate to late summer/early fall.  For ease in conversation, we will sit at the small table by the living room bay window and enjoy the view of the front garden. 

Since the table is small, only 30 inches in diameter, a generously-sized tea cloth is a perfect size.

A snipping of bay leaf and rosemary complement the greens in the cloth.
A favorite pair of ceramic birds watch over two nests: one of marble eggs and one of papier mache.
An arrangement of feathers, mostly pheasant, make the birds feel at home. 
The white china is Franciscan's Country Fayre, while the teapot, cups and saucers are from Teavana. (They are perfect for soup, by the way.)  Tableware is Oneida Raphael, my everyday flatware from the early days in our marriage.  The napkin rings that hold flowers were on eBay and are by Two's Company.  Stemware is Royal Crystal Rock that was found when walking past a booth in an antique mall.  The dish holding the marble eggs is Arthur Court.  The feathers are from a long forgotten store when traveling, as are the papier mache eggs.  The birds are most likely from HomeGoods or perhaps At Home.  Finally, the tea cloth is Tableau Black by April Cornell and was found at Tuesday Morning.
Lunch is nearly ready.  Shall we dine?
I am taking part in Tablescape Thursdays at Between Naps on the Porch.

I am in love again.  It happened without me being aware of when, but it has surely happened. 
I actually fell in love with coffee!  Me! A certifiable lover of good, strong black tea!! 
Most often-used tea pots!
Wedgwood Signet teapot
Myott Meakin Finlandia
Wedgwood Windsor
I think it first began when someone brought me a chai latte from a popular coffee shop.  Knowing how much I love hot tea, it was a thoughtful gift from a friend and was a nice change of pace to my plain black tea.  It was so wonderfully delicious with such fabulous spices.  It made a cool morning seem perfect. 
Then, in a day or so, someone brought in a spiced-pumpkin latte.  Oh, it smelled so nice, so I couldn’t pass up a taste.  Mmmm.  Wait! I didn’t even like coffee, or so I thought.  As the cool days stretched into a season, I found I desired a coffee latte as often as my tea.  To keep the cost down, I purchased a bottle of coffee flavoring and added it to my own version of latte.  Then one bottle turned into six, then a dozen, and so on. Now my first drink of the day is based on coffee.  Can you believe it!?  I have to admit, though, the coffee is minute.

Here’s my recipe:
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • a splash of flavored coffee creamer, about a Tablespoon 
  • a little less than a third of a cup of coffee.
 Heat the milk and creamer in the microwave for a minute to get it nice and warm and then add the coffee.  Yum. 
Just milk (I took a sip first; I LOVE milk!)
Adding creamer
Final product with coffee added!

It has only a tiny amount of coffee, so I’m getting my calcium AND enjoying the pleasure of spicy flavors with coffee. I guess it’s true: “Variety is the spice of life.” Here’s to change.

  I found a blog with a coffe mug swap.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Here the link:



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I recently walked through the house with my iPhone, taking photos of "before" situations. It may be a while before I can take the "after" shots, though. My first project became one for my daughter for her new home.
She sent me a link for a damask and houndstooth valance which was much too small for her window and wanted to know if I could copy it. We shopped for fabric and ended up buying exactly what she wanted.

My first task was to determine how the take advantage of the print.  I laid out the piping to determine a pleasing shape and then used paper to copy the outline.   After copying the outline to the lining and sewing the piping on, it was time to decide how to use the houndstooth fabric.  After much deliberation and seemingly hours of walking around and around the fabric, the same outline was used to keep it uniform.

After stapling the fabrics to a 1x4 board, the valance was complete.
I'm sorry that the photo is so dark, but all I had on hand was my phone. 
Here's the before
and after: