Friday, April 24, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life to Travel the World



I can't think of traveling without thinking of George Bailey. You know, the guy played by actor Jimmy Stewart in the classic Christmas Movie, "It's A Wonderful Life." I think of George's giant suitcase and all of the stickers that didn't get put on it as he planned. George got sidetracked from his travels when he stayed in town to save the old Building and Loan. I hope George got to travel one day.



We're just a few weeks away from sending our son to Europe for 9 days. Every scenario possible has woken me up at night over the past week. But I have always made a conscious effort not to parent out of fear. We want our kids to be safe, but we also want them to spread their wings and fly.




I think it's funny how life goes along with little bits of fate mixed in. Last week I pick up this vintage globe bank. It reads: As you save, so you prosper. It just resonated with me that what you make a priority in life will surely be available to you. We hope our kids will make it a priority to see the world and appreciate the diversity of its people. (Interesting side note, this bank was made around the same time as the movie.)

If you're interested in this bank, go HERE.

"And he said to them, go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Southern Hummingbird Cake with Tupelo Honey Cream Cheese Frosting



Do you have a favorite cake? Funny enough, I associate a specific cake with each of my siblings. My sister, Tara, is without a doubt "Pineapple Upside Down Cake." It's one of her faves and I enjoy making them for her when I can. My twin bro, Ty, is Coconut Cake. We grew up with a sweet little Southern neighbor named AnnieBelle, who adored Ty so much that she made him a Coconut Cake all for himself. I'm not sure if he likes it as an adult, but there's nothing he can do to change my mind that Coconut Cake = Ty. And my biggest bro, Stephen, is Baked Alaska. It's a long time running joke that he would, of course, request one of the most difficult desserts to make from his wife on his birthday. Poor Dawna.

So what cake am I? I don't know...I'll have to ask them what they think. Samantha thinks I am "Carrot Cake." And I do love it. But for my birthday I decided to make a Southern cake staple, the Hummingbird Cake. The density and icing is totally something you would like if you are a carrot cake lover.

I'm making a few changes. First of all, no nuts for us - Both because of food of allergies and because I don't like a crunchy cake. Secondly, I am using Tupelo honey in both the cake and the icing. My sister gifted me with a jar of my favorite Tupelo honey from the Savannah Bee Company.* Tupelo honey has a buttery flavor and it's going to pair nicely with the bananas, pineapple, and coconut in my recipe. (Recipe at the bottom.) *This isn't a paid advertisement. I just really like their honey.



To get started, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.


In a smaller bowl whisk the eggs and oil. I whisked the honey in at this point, too. But next time I'm going to add it at the same time as the bananas.


Time to add the bananas, pineapple, and coconut.


So rich with the yummy Tupelo honey cream cheese icing...Disclaimer: I am NOT a cake decorator. Not pretty, but oh so good!


Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey (You can order Tupelo honey from Savannah Bee Company HERE.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups very ripe chopped bananas
  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple (un-drained)
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 chopped pecans (optional)
  • softened butter and flour for greasing pans
  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar
  4. Beat eggs and oil in a smaller bowl; add to flour and stir with a spatula.
  5. Stir in bananas, un-drained pineapple, coconut, and honey. (And nuts if you are using them.) Mix well.
  6. Pour batter into pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cakes are done when a tester comes out clean.
  7. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes and then cool completely on wire racks.
  8. Ice with honey cream cheese icing and top with toasted coconut and/or nuts.
  9. To toast coconut or pecans spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350*.
Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 tbs. room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 cups of powered sugar
In an electric mixer beat the cream cheese, butter, honey, and vanilla until it is smooth with no clumps. While the mixer is on a slow speed, gradually add the powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you like. The more powdered sugar you add the thicker the icing will be.



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Friday, April 10, 2015

Caring for Blueberry Bushes



So I pruned my blueberries a few weeks ago. Super Important. You will not believe how much blueberry production will increase if you've never pruned before. More branches and growth do NOT equal more blueberries. For more info on how to prune go HERE. If the plant is using all of its energy and nutrients to feed leaves, guess what it won't be doing? That's right, making blueberries!

Now is the time (I'm zone 7) for all of the flowers to cover my bushes. And time, too, for the very important work of bees. Without the bees and their pollination, the blueberries would not be possible.

A busy bee at work pollinating my blueberry bushes.


This essential pollination is why you should have at least two varieties of blueberry bushes planted. Next to each other.The cross-pollination will greatly increase the production of blueberries. Some varieties won't produce at all without cross-pollination. Side note: this is really the only time of year bees will be attracted to the plants. So if you have bee sting concerns, don't worry!

All of these flowers will soon be blueberries!


During the time of year when the bees are pollinating the bushes, I also like to fertilize with Epsom salts. I let 1/4 cup dissolve in a couple of gallons of room temperature water, and then I divide it between the two mature plants. (I planted 3 new ones this year, and I'm not going to fertilize them this year.) Epsom salts provide magnesium, which blueberry bushes like. (Your tomatoes and bell peppers like it, too, BTDubs.)


Okay, so are you ready to see my bushes? I hesitate to post a picture because it doesn't look like these two could actually produce the gallons of berries that they do. Here you go...

These guys are in full sun on the south side of our house.
They love to be mulched, so there is pine straw covering the soil. 

Can you believe it? They don't look like much, but they are big producing bushes!

If you want to read more about my blueberry care and other blueberry related posts:

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Pie

Misc. Blueberry Nonsense