coca-cola cherry blossom cupcakes

With nostalgia for my Great Aunt Catherine (she loved the cherry blossoms), I made cupcakes. Of course, you could make these cupcakes from scratch, but in true Aunt Catherine form, I used box mixes! I have great memories of stopping at hot dog carts for a coke and a dog during my last trip with her to New York City. She was always on the move and liked to eat Chinese take-out while reading the paper.

White Cake Mix: substitute Coca-Cola for water, add 5 T Cherry JELL-O powder, follow box instructions.
Frosting: Cockylit is my go-to for Meringue, and I added about 2 t Cherry JELL-O Powder to her instructions.
Together: Cherry Vanilla Coke in a cake with a big dollop of pink sugary protein on top!

reading letters telling stories

Earlier this week my grandma and I spent an afternoon together reading letters, telling stories, and eating ice cream. We read the correspondence of sisters, between a Midwestern farm in Indiana and the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. My grandma’s eldest sister, my Great Aunt Catherine, was laid to rest a few weeks ago. She enjoyed a long and lively career in the city while my grandma raised a family as the wife of a professor near their hometown. My grandma laughed and laughed as she read aloud one letter she wrote her eldest sister in the ’40s (thanking her for the use of her high school formal and including a joke she had heard that day over the radio). The letters sparked many lively memories, which led to storytelling. The afternoon was ageless.

orangina french toast clouds

There’s this magical thing that happens when you slice up a loaf of challah: yeasty cumulus clouds fill the board! The braided kosher egg bread is so beautifully golden and perfect for french toast that it makes any cloudy day feel sunny.  Since I had the eggs blown out from my little seasonal decorating project, I made my Orangina French Toast and decided to share the recipe here.

I went through a phase a while back using fizzy beverages in my cooking (Limonata, Jarritos, Ginger Ale, you name it). In my head it perks up anything; who knows if something really is happening there. I may just like the excuse to purchase single soda bottles, add a portion to the recipe, and finish drinking it while cooking (if you cook with wine, you know what I am talking about).  The first time I had Orangina was at the rooftop cafe of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  Needless to say, it was a good day.

Since Christmas, I have been keeping my new recipes and cards in the book in the first picture: a gift from my brother-in-law’s folks!  I will treasure it till the cows come home.

Orangina French Toast for 2

1/3 C milk or cream

2 eggs

1/2 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon or cloves

4 slices challah

Orangina & orange zest

Whisk together first four ingredients.  Soak challah in mix for several minutes.  Sprinkle with zest and splash with Orangina.  Melt one tablespoon of butter (sub oil or use bacon drippings) in skillet.  Fry orange clouds over medium heat until golden.  Dust with powdered sugar, fruit, or your fav. light amber syrup.  Buongiorno!

good morning easter eggs

I made some simple Easter eggs this year with pigment and glitter letter stickers. Growing up, we always “blew out” the contents of the eggs (so we could make egg sandwiches) before dyeing them. It was only a few years ago that I had even heard of people hard boiling their Easter eggs (is that what you do?). I do enjoy a good pickled egg. Anyhow, I like how delicate and weightless the egg shell is once it has been emptied. This year I made french toast with the empties!

The more I look at the words “rise” and “shine,” the more I like them. At once, they can be simple and profound. Such renewal in nature this time of year here; it is my same hope for all of the people waking up out there.

chocolate peanut butter march basketball

After having record-high temps this week back home, we got the most wonderful rain all day today that made the redbuds pop against the wheat fields. Today was my day off, so I took a quick drive this afternoon to Peru (Indiana, Sillies). While I was there I stopped in at Day’s Sweets (I love that they have three OPEN signs) and could not resist bringing home some of their chocolate peanut butter bars for the sweet sixteen ballgames tonight. I partially blame the pervasive Reese’s commercials during March Madness, but chocolate, peanut butter, March, and basketball just seem to go together in my head.

modern (lovers) pastry

I got to see Boston (and my dear, engaged-to-be-wed, friends Emily and Jarrid) for a day at the end of my trip out East last week. The sun was shining, and soon after walking past the Government Center, I had my first ever bakery fresh cannoli from Modern Pastry. Sweet little fried pastry tubes stuffed with sacchariferous ricotta. In my head were the song lyrics, “Oh that feelin’ inside we’re gonna transmit it to life!” from The Modern Lovers. Here’s hoping for future cannoli transmissions to/from my kitchen.

sweet st. paddy’s

Upon closer inspection of the baked goods I brought back to my hotel room, I realized they were appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day. Cupcakes: Dreamsicle | Pistachio. Whoopie Pies: Choco-Mint Chip | Bananas Foster. All from Flying Monkey. Wishing you the luck of the Irish and a reason to shout, “whoopie!”

signs of spring in philly

It seems as though the minute I landed in Philadelphia, it was Spring. The past few days have been unseasonably warm. I ate a Geno’s cheese steak in 70+ degree weather! The outdoor basketball courts and city playgrounds were packed. Fruit lined the narrow city streets of the Italian Market. On a conference break, I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream in a pretzel cone. Pretzel cone, more on that later. Spring bulbs were in bloom by Independence Hall, Rocky and “The Thinker.” All pleasant Philadelphia Spring surprises.

postcards and the city of brotherly love

Isn’t it the best to see something in the mailbox other than a doctor bill or credit card application?  A few weeks back I received a handwritten cardboard apple postcard in the mail, and it has been cheering me up ever since.  It was from the artful and thoughtful Katie, who took on the month of letters challenge and mailed at least one item through the post every day last month.

It was my turn to write, so I leafed through scraps of old end papers from bookmaking projects and sorted out all of the floral patterns (because SPRING is coming, you know!).  This year I am trying not to buy any new paper or fabric until I use up what I already have.  I cropped them into postcard size and sewed them onto cotton paper and the backs of old stationery.  The zig-zag stitch reminds me of a postage stamp.  Sewing paper always takes me back to practicing steady machine sewing in Mrs. Dafforn’s middle school Home Ec. class (we were allowed to start work on our fabric “Super Pockets” once we acheived a certain amount of control and straightness in our paper stitching).

Since I can never do just one of anything, I now have a pile of stitched postcards.  The timing is perfect, because I will be traveling for a few days this week to attend a library conference in Philadelphia.  When I am away I like to write cards, either at breakfast or before bed at night.  For me, it is important to share a bit of the experience I’ve been granted.

If you would like to see something in your mailbox from me, email your postal address to  I have seven postcards unaccounted for, and I would love to write to the first responders.  Oh!  And this will be my first time in Philadelphia, so I would be grateful for any tips you may have to share.

dirty leprechaun & thin mint s’mores

Homemade chocolate (with a hint of mint) cookie coated marshmallows! That’s what the Dirty Leprechaun is all about. I can’t think of anything more perfect right now then being on a camping trip at the close of a full day, sitting around a campfire and toasting one of these babies over hot embers. They really need nothing more than a little heat to be thoroughly enjoyed. But since I could, I put it between two Girl Scouts Cookies. Thin Mints to be exact. Now there’s a St. Patrick’s Day S’more if I ever saw one.