Sep 29, 2007

Another First - Apple Strudel

I made an Apple Strudel today - with what was left of the Honeycrisp apples that we brought back from NC (yes! they are still good!) for the first time ever. I used a combination of the recipes that I found in the most recent WeightWatchers magazine and a recipe I found online adapting them both just a little to include some Pampered Chef seasonings (the cinnamon and caramel ones) of course. It's the first time I've ever made Apple Strudel and the first time I've ever used phyllo dough - which was an experience all on it's own. The strudel turned out both beautiful and tasty although Russell & I both decided it could use just a tad more sugar (next time). BTW - we've decided that we love the Honeycrisp apples so much, we ordered some online and are having them shipped to us (a case split 4 ways is very reasonable).

Sep 24, 2007

Cake Decorating - Course #2/Lesson #3

Check out these flowers we made tonite - roses, daisies, primroses, dafodills and pansies!

Ashley missed because of having her wisdom teeth pulled on Saturday so she'll have a makeup class like me now - but it was fun anyway and I learned alot again. The last class of this particular course is next week. We have to come to class with our prepared cake and all the flowers and the birds that we've made to date and will be turning all of these combined elements into a (hopefully) beautiful cake. Be sure to stay tuned for the finale!

Sep 23, 2007

Sweet Updates

Two awesome things have happened this weekend; 1) I got a new iPhone, a leather case and an iTunes card (for uploading ringtones & such) from Russell and

2) I made the most b-u-tiful apple pie using some of the Honeycrisp apples that we brought back from N Carolina a few weeks ago. In making this truly tasty and pretty pie, I used the Cinnamon and Caramel spices and the pie crust shield (all Pampered Chef products) that helped to make it both tasty and beautiful.
Granted the iPhone is way groovier than the Apple Pie, but both were really terrific and fortunately I can and will enjoy the iPhone for wwwwwwaaaayyyyy longer than we'll enjoy the Apple Pie. Thank you RH for the surprise gifts - I do truly love you and appreciate all you do for me.

Sep 17, 2007

Cake Decorating - Course #2, Class #2

Tonite was interesting and productive. No cake of course, but we started making the decorations for our final cake using Royal Icing (confectioners sugar, meringue powder & water). We made the birds for our cake w/the 'Color Flow' icing (later I had to re-do mine because I messed them up and I also added a birdhouse). We also made the Apple Blossoms, Violets and Violet Leaves for our final cakes. It's a small, but fun group with a great teacher, Belinda. I found out tonite that Ashley and I are 1 of 2 mother/daughter 'teams'. I can't wait to see everyone's final cake. Stay tuned for the 3rd class of Course #2.

Dad's b'day w/grandkids

My dad's b'day is the 19th and in celebration of his 71st, Ashley and I picked up the grandkids and drove to E.Texas (on Saturday, 9/15) to spend the day w/he and Grams & celebrate. It was a fun, but stressful day - driving that far w/all 4 kids (Alexis, Dylan, Damion Jr & Dom) in one vehicle; but we had a good time and I think Papa & Grams really enjoyed seeing the grandkids. Lunch was good and the special b'day cake they'd made was wonderful! Happy Birthday Dad! and We LOVE YOU!

Long time, really good friends are moving back to NY

On Friday nite (9/14) I mourned best friends of 17+ years moving back to NY. A lot of us got together and threw them a surprise party at their 'old' house - moving truck and all - to tell them how much we will miss them. Everyone had a good time, we re-lived some special moments and cried a lot. Hopefully pictures will follow (I forgot to bring my camera, but there was a lot of picture taking done so if all goes well, I will get some of the pictures that were taken and will be able to pass those along).

Sep 11, 2007

Best and Worst

This is another first - hard to get 'firsts' these days! I'm gonna publicly share my first 'best and worst' list...or at least those items that are currently on my mind. I'm sure I'll add to each category at some point....that point being when I'm really happy with something and/or really 'peeved' at/about something.

Real friends & family - my list is really long
Stonington, Maine

Burt's Bees Products
Palm T/X
Don Davis Ford
Honeycrisp Apples & Hendersonville, NC
Pampered Chef products
McCoy Plumbing in Ft.Worth
Cake Decorating Class & the instructor, Belinda
Survivor (it begins again on 9/20)
Dancing With the Stars (it begins on 9/24)
Texas Roadhouse in Arlington
The Original (mexican) in Ft. Worth

People who act like friends but really aren't - fortunately my list is pretty short
Forest Hill Police Dept
Ad-A-Staff in Arlington
Compass Bank

Sep 3, 2007

Cake Decorating Continues - Course 2/Lesson 1

Yes, more cake decorating classes....I haven't given them up yet! Although I might if Ashley keeps outdoing me ;-) Man has that kid got some cake decorating talent!! Tonite was the 1st class in Course #2 (I still have to complete Course #1 since I missed the last class due to that darned 'ole vacation) of the Wilton Cake Decorating Classes. This course involves making only 1 cake but lots of different flowers, borders and something called 'flow icing'. We'll be using Royal Icing instead of Buttercream Icing (thank goodness because I'm eaten waayyy to much Buttercream Icing!) so, I think, what this means is that we'll be making icing that hardens and is transportable. Tonite we had to practice several different shell and flower techniques...none of which I mastered...but of course Ashley did each and every one! I've attached a pic of the Course 2 workbook showing the cake we are 'supposed' to be able to decorate by the end of this course as well as the 'mum' that I made in class which Ashley is kindly displaying for your amusement. Her's is much better as you will see when you check out her blog. BTW - I am very thankful to Ashley and her KitchenAid mixer for helping me out tonite by bringing enough icing for both of us.

Sep 2, 2007

Vacation - Day 7 (Friday)

It's nearing the end of our vacation and we've saved the best for last (although we didn't know it at the time). We (again) lazed around the cabin, took a walk around the area and then took a short ride into historic Hendersonville (, just a few miles up the road from Saluda. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were about to be amongst the many visitors of the 61st annual North Carolina Apple Festival. Our real reason for venturing into Hendersonville was to visit Mast General Store (, an 'ole fashion and very historic general store which began it's existence in 1883. What a treat that and the Apple Festival turned out to be!!!! We spent almost the entire day there wandering into and out of various stores and booths, eating naughty foods and just generally being 'child-like' - a completely fun-filled day. It rained off and on but that didn't dampen the fun at all because we were given plastic ponchos by the locals - a ploy to keep us there I'm sure! And if the day wasn't special enough all by itself....we found a 'Barney' look alike (seems that, unbeknownst to me....Andy Griffith and Mayberry are N. Carolina treasures) that we were able to talk into taking a picture with. The day couldn't have turned out any better!

Vacation - Day 6

Today we've decided to venture into Asheville and take the Asheville Trolley Tour ( - a 90 minute narrated tour aboard a trolley that travels through historic Asheville. Because it was raining throughout much of the tour, we were able to take only a few pictures. The trolley wasn't exactly a 'real' trolley like we'd hoped but more of a shuttle type bus used for touring the city. We did learn alot about Asheville, including additional history about the Biltmore, famous people who'd lived in and visited the city, movies that had been filmed there, historic buildings, etc) but were more than a little disappointed overall because of the weather and the lack of being able to actually visit some of the places we were told about. After the tour we walked over to the McDonalds across the street from the Biltmore Estates - a totally different McDonalds to be sure because of it's unusually elegant interior (it and the Hardee's across the street had been rebuilt in order to make it more closely fit the ambiance of the Biltmore Estates). We didn't eat there but did stop to take pictures as we figured 'never again would we have the opportunity to be in a nicer McDonalds' than this one. After lunch, we visited Biltmore Village, the 'village' that George Vanderbilt purchased (formerly the town known as 'Best') near the time he was building his Estate and now known for it's eclectic collection of antique and gift shops.

Vacation - Day 5 (Wednesday)

Day 5 brings us to the Biltmore Estate ( - the largest home ever built in the US! An unbelievable 175,000 sq ft (and yes I said 175,000!) home on 8,000 acres (originally 125,000 acres) and still privately owned by the descendants of the original owner, George Washington Vanderbilt. When we arrived at the Estate, we were greeted by a gentleman who talked to us about the home and took our picture in front of it. Before leaving area and walking down toward the home, I asked him if he worked there, his name and if we could take his picture. He said his wife 'worked' there, his name was Cecil and why would we want to take his picture? We convinced him we did want to take his picture and later found out, via the audio tour we took and subsequent research we did, that Cecil is the name of the descendants that are the current owners of the estate. Wow! Once we'd put 2 + 2 together and did a little research via the internet, we realized that we were probably talking to John Francis Amherst Cecil, the great-grandson of George. The tour of the house was totally beyond amazing, totally beyond anything I could've ever imagined in my most vivid dreams. It took us 3+ hours to get thru the 250 room house. Among other things, it has original art from masters such as Renoir, magnificent 16th-century tapestries, Napoleon's chess set, a library with 10,000 volumes, a Banquet Hall with a 70-foot ceiling, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, bowling alley, and priceless antiques. The house opened to friends on Christmas Eve 1895 and this French Renaissance chateƔu remains America's largest privately owned home. After taking the tour of the house itself, we wandered out to what were once the horse stables and ate at the Stable Cafe (even as horse stables this must have been a fabulous place to be as a horse!). Lunch was, as you might guess, a little pricey and not as wonderful as one would expect, but filling nevertheless. After lunch, we wandered into a couple of the several gift shops and purchased a sufficient $$ amount of soveneirs before leaving and driving over to 'America's Most Visited Winery' (our ticket provided us with a 'free' wine tasting). We tasted several and purchased one - the Century - a Biltmore Estate white table wine - the best of the ones we tried we thought and later made a delicious chicken dinner w/some of it (Rachael Ray says you should only cook with wine that you would drink ;-).

Vacation - Day 4

It's Tuesday, Day 4, and we've decided to visit Chimney Rock( We got a late start because we really didn't anticipate our outing being the 'full day' adventure it turned out to be. Most of this is because once again, we decided to take a 'little' hike! Chimney Rock is a rock formation that looks like a chimney (duh!) and from the top of it, you are able to see among other things - Lake Lure. It was truly breathtaking. After climbing to the top.....okay, not really....we took an elevator to the top!, we decided to hike to Hickory Nut Falls - a 3/4 mile hike up a moderately steep trail. We figured if kids and older people could hike the trail, surely we could. Once we got there, totally out of breath and drenched with sweat, we discovered that what we thought would be something like the Looking Glass Falls we'd seen the previous day, a waterfall that looked instead like someone was sitting at the top of the falls with a waterhose! Boy, were we disappointed. Fortunately, the trip wasn't a total bust. Chimney Rock was nice, but more importantly, we'd found Pumpkin Butter and apples. We stopped in Bat Cave (yes, it is the name of the town) at the Bat Cave Apple House and purchased the most delicious Pumpkin Butter and at Granddad's Apple House ( where we purchased a peck of yummy Honey Crisp apples. We made baked apples nightly thereafter with the apples we'd purchased topped with Pumpkin Butter. Our plan is to turn the rest of them into apple pies and strudels when we get home.

Vacation - Day 3 (Monday)

On Day 3 of our '07 Vacation, we went to the Great Smokey Mtn Natl Park ( via the Pisgah Natl Forest and Looking Glass Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway. All were beautiful and despite the on and off rain during the day, we managed to see a lot and take a lot of pictures. While in the park, we climbed to Clingman's Dome (a .5 mile walk up a very steep hill - elevation 6,000+ ft) on the Appalachian Trail. Boy, were we winded by the time we got to the top!!! We also visited a Mountain Farm Museum which was quite interesting. The 'Farm Museum' is a working farm museum as it actually included real animals (chickens, roosters, pigs, etc) and real crops (corn & sorghum for syrup). On the way home, we stopped in Cherokee at what must surely be one of the only Big Boy restaurants ( still in existence and right across the street from it found the 'perfect' motel for me - the Pink Motel.
Russell spotted a bear beside our cabin when we pulled in the driveway this evening. I went in search of him so I could take a picture but never spotted him.

Vacation - Day 2

It's Sunday, Day 2 of Vacation (not really - as I'm backtracking a little since there wasn't much time to make entries each day). We lazed around alot today - mostly because my idea of vacation is to be lazy and catch up on some well needed and much anticipated rest! We finally made it to the grocery store so that we'd have plenty of food for the week. Headed out to historic Hendersonville to find a Wal-Mart and ended up at Ingles (compares to our Kroger) instead. Did our shopping and made our way back to Saluda (thank goodness for the GPS we brought with us!) via the infamous Howard Gap Rd. Since it is/was Sunday, Saluda ( was totally shut down by 6pm so we were able to take lots of good shots of historic Saluda without all the cars parked outside the stores.