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Life Matters………Generational Twister!

August 29, 2012

Life happens quickly. Looking through my lense I have a panoramic view of four generations. Interesting, if you step back and remove yourself from the daily grind of it all. Sad often in the midst; especially watching my Mom. She is and has been a tremendous woman. She has dealt with more challenges than most. Her smile and sparkling blue eyes are still radiant. Her body and mind are failing her. As we rode in  an ambulance (the ambulance had a broken air conditioner this was August 7th in Texas, probably about 102 degrees in the back of that rough ride.) to the nursing facility so many memories rushed through my heart.

Mom singing hymns in her beautiful soprano voice while doing the dishes.

Her off the wall sense of humor.

Her full blown family style dinners after a full day of teaching fifth grade.

Her deep faith and genuine spirit.

Her stamina.

Her warm coconut poundcakes.

Visiting a nursing home comes with so many feelings. Each resident is a story, a novel, as they sit in their wheelchairs waiting out their days. Visiting a nursing home with a six year old and a sixteen year old shows a glimpse of one generation passing the torch to another. Me, in the middle watching it all. A story yet to be lived in the grandchildren, a life well-lived in the grandmother. Bittersweet. My Mom is closer to the time when she will meet Jesus she has been looking forward to this for years. The song in her heart was sung every night while she cleaned the dinner dishes. Blessed Assurance.


Tiny Tarts–Valentine’s Day Special

February 11, 2010

I love these tarts–mix and match your

favorite fillings for fast and fancy

Valentine’s Day treats.




Buy ready-to-fill pastry shells. (See Note.) Fill with your choice of fillings (or all three): 

•Lemon curd with a raspberry on top 

•Cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce) topped with shaved chocolate 

•Nutella with almond slices on top 

Note: We used Clearbrook Farms tart shells from Central Market, but there are several brands available. You can also use small graham cracker shells. 

Photo by Evans Caglage Story excerpt from Dallas Morning News Guide Daily

Cake Balls on a Roll

February 3, 2010


Cake balls a fire! For sure. One of the hottest trends in desserts has rolled back into town. That’s right; today in the Guide Daily section of the Dallas Morning News you have this fast and fancy confection bouncing right into your kitchen for the second time. Why?? Last month this story, by Valerie Jarvey got over 18,000 hits in one month. They are everywhere.

I have the fortunate assignment of food stylist; that means, they pay me to play with food. I have made hundreds of these balls. So I am passing this on to you. As Valentine’s Day approaches you can design your own dessert. Get the kids involved and before you know it you will have more fun rolling, dipping and topping a treat than you thought possible. Look out Godiva truffles you got a new elegant candy scoring points with all age groups. Yum!

Basic Cake Ball Recipe

1 (18.25-ounce) boxed cake mix plus ingredients called for on box
1 (16-ounce) can prepared frosting
  Almond Bark Coating or Confectionery Wafer Coating (both recipes follow)

Photos by EVANS CAGLAGE/DMN; food styling by JANE JARRELL/Special Contributor;  styling by DANIELLE LEVKOVITS/Staff Designer

Photos by EVANS CAGLAGE/DMN; food styling by JANE JARRELL/Special Contributor; styling by DANIELLE LEVKOVITS/Staff Designer

Strawberry cake balls with chocolate coating

Bake the cake according to package instructions. While warm, crumble the cake into a bowl with a hand mixer to a fine texture. Mix in frosting to make a paste, using 3/4 to a full can of frosting, according to taste. Chill the mixture for at least 2 hours.

Using a melon baller or your hands, form the mixture into 1 ½ -inch balls. Place the balls on wax paper; freeze at least 6 hours.

Working in small batches, remove the balls from the freezer and dip the balls into warm, melted Almond Bark Coating or Confectionery Wafer Coating, using toothpicks or forks to manipulate the balls. Remove the balls. Place the balls on wax paper to harden.

Makes about 30 cake balls.

We asked two bakers, Robin Ankeny, owner of the Cake Ball Company, and Jeri Kopecky, owner of the Cake Carousel bakery and cake supply store, for tips. Here’s their advice:

1. Chill the cake-and-frosting mixture well (at least 2 hours) before you shape the balls. Freeze the balls at least 6 hours before dipping. Before dipping, make sure the cake balls aren’t frozen solid because after being dipped, the coating has a tendency to crack when drying. Pre-dipped cake balls can be kept frozen for weeks.

2. To form the balls, use a melon scoop for uniform size. Small balls are easier to eat.

3. Work in small batches when dipping, keeping the rest in the freezer.

4. Use toothpicks, a fork or a skewer to manipulate the balls when dipping. Perfectionists may want to buy a candy-dipping fork because it ensures even coating of each cake ball to make it look like a truffle.

5. Use oil-based candy dye to color frosting. Start with a few drops, and add a little at a time.

6. Lay the dipped balls on wax paper to harden, placing the spot where you pierced the ball down to cover the hole, or cover the hole with decoration.

7. For decoration, fill a narrow-tip plastic squeeze bottle with a contrasting color of melted coating and paint stripes over the balls, or sprinkle on rainbow jimmies, colored sparkling sugar or finely chopped nuts. (If you are using oil-based candy color to tint coating made from white- chocolate disks, decorate with sprinkles quickly as the oil candy color causes the coating to set rapidly.

8. Dipped balls will keep at room temperature for days; if you refrigerate them, the coating will sweat.

Do-over Year!

December 27, 2009

Have you ever had a year worthy of skipping? That sort a sums up 2009 for me. I was stuck on the whine channel; chronic pain, ongoing doctor visits, hoards of pain pills, major surgery, husband’s salary cut, free lance work missed, a toddler and a teen. A mid-life Mom in a menopausal mess. I could go on but who wants to hear it? Plus, I am tired of being stuck. Thus 2010, deemed a do-over year.

The week after Christmas every year is one of my favorite weeks. I reflect on the roses and thorns we experienced in the previous year and purpose yet again to make the next one better. Each new year feels like a blank canvas. A canvas anxious for color, style and life. After last year, I am more than ready to break out the black-eyed pea recipe and eat a bowl full as I write down the hopes and dreams of time yet lived.

My do-over is going to have to happen from the inside out as negative attitudes and “whoa is me” moments have been like a slow leak in a road weary tire. The sad part; I know better! Hung up in “used to be” syndrome has made it hard to even want to be with myself let alone trying to share life with someone else. Enough! It is time to put on my big girl pants and get back into the journey.

Please join me as do-overs need companions. I plan to facebook, tweet and shout from the mountain tops as the do-over unfolds. Prayers to pray, goals to set, a life to rebuild from the inside out. Need a do-over? Let’s encourage each other.

The Value of a Visit

November 2, 2009

It has almost been two weeks since three discs were removed, repaired or in some way “messed with” while I lay sedated in the hands of a skilled surgeon. The surgery went well after it started (we waited in pre-op for three hours), recovery room was okay once they got my oxygen level fixed. Even that night, I sat up had a diet coke and a hunk of orange jello enjoying feelings of relief. Hey I even talked on the phone briefly. Given the fact they moved my voice box, explaining I could be hoarse for weeks, this was good news.

Obviously well into surgery evening I was still “under the influence” of the anesthesiologist intravenous cocktail. As it wore off I was frightened, disappointed and pushing that pain pump like a wild dog running after a jack rabbit. All I had read in the “beware, this could happen to you” paperwork was delivered to me on a silver platter. I just put on my “grin and bear it” attitude and tried hard to focus on the steps to getting better and healthy. Looking hard for a light at the end of this tunnel.

One of the sunbeams of recovery is recovery. I have to sit, let others help me, and rest. In fact, my remote control skills have gotten much improved. The other value added sunbeam has been the good old-fashioned visit. Friends and family coming over to chat. A front porch swing visit without a porch or a swing. A slower pace, nothing but white space on my calendar and our three-year old swept away so I can relax. Sound good? It is almost worth the price of admission. Healing has forced me to stop, to pray fervently, to listen more thoroughly and to hear what God wants to teach me. This pit stop is no surprise to Him, it has annoyed me but it is part of the plan. Never, underestimate the power of time, time given to a friend, time spent helping another in crisis and time for a long and leisurely heart to heart. All guilt free because you are recovering.

Stinky Patch

October 12, 2009

Life can really stink sometimes. Not always but recently more often than not it feels like an uphill climb. I keep telling myself when the top of this hill is reached the view will  be spectacular. I’m trying that positive attitude route in hopes it will rub off on me. It feels as though  my mission is to remove “joy” not only from my life but from the life of all those around me. Have you ever been there?

Well meaning folks will offer Sunday School answers:

“God will not give you more than you can handle.”

“This is just a season.”

“Stop looking at your circumstances and live above them.”

Not a thing wrong with these verbal gestures, what else can one say to another under the influence of a stinky patch. My 80  year old Mother has certainly had her share of  situations. She still sports a peaceful smile and a gentle spirit. One of her sterling pieces of advice; “Whenever things get really bad reach out and do something for someone else. You can always find another living a more challenging slice of life. You can always help someone.” My saint mother is awaiting a hip replacement do-over, has Parkinson’s disease, 8 stints in her heart, and a fierce financial burden.  I could add more “issues” causing stink in her world but she still chooses a gentle spirit, a fresh aroma.

Should you find yourself in a similar spot please join me as I pro-actively attempt to improve the fragrance of today. Consider it a fresh spray of hope.

Baby book of Blessings–I carry with me a little notebook, normally used for to-do lists, reminders, and Luke doodles. Today, I list blessings. Like–A roof over our heads, generous and helpful friends and family, a stocked refrigerator, A God bigger than ALL difficulties. Get your book out; list, list and list again. Read it often.

Box of Burdens–Get a cute box (or a shoe box), gather some paper scraps, and a pen. Write your biggest problem on the paper scrap, one problem per scrap. Pray about the problem, fold the paper and place it in the box. Use this as a visual reminder for giving your trouble to God. Once it is in the box let it go. Repeat until you REALLY let it go. (caution, this could take hours.)

Phone a Friend–This is no time for isolation. Isolation make issues grow and grow and grow, suddenly, in your mind, they are bigger than a hot air balloon.  A friend can help you deflate and exhale by simply listening. (caution, do not stay on the whine channel forever.)

Got Stink? Take deliberate steps to improve your state. Let’s purpose to learn our life lessons quickly so we smell better to everyone we influence.

White Flag Faith

October 7, 2009


White Flag Faith

The waving  of a white flag is the universal sign for surrender. After over two years of chronic pain, four steroid cocktails shot into my vertebrae and three rounds of physical therapy,  my little white flag is waving like a handkerchief in a hurricane. It has been a “war vs. will” fight for me. Most of the time I could will myself mentally (and with  pain pills) through the toughest spots then, one day,  it was  simply too much. Super short temper, change in personality and a longing for bedtime as soon as I awoke in the morning, signaled  that my life had stopped being livable.

We found a surgeon through the recommendation of a friend who became our second opinion guy. He had a beautiful bedside manner, a keen knowledge of the spine and a peaceful way of explaining his craft.  So I signed up for neck surgery.

 Now, we countdown to the big day.  On Oct. 19, the doctor will make a small incision in the front of my neck, move my voice box over and tunnel down to the discs, removing one that is dead and fuse another. I opted not to read all the paperwork on the downside possibilities. I think lots about my family;  this situation seems to have evoked a keen focus on what is truly important,  an interesting change from my normal hummingbird head self. I understand this is not cancer, no one has given me three months to live,  but fear still frosts my thoughts when allowed. 

When one signs medical directives, living wills,  and hands daily task lists to friends and family it feels like an out of body experience. This is where faith arrives. It is a bit like boarding an airplane. You are in the middle seat of a crowded jet, and the taxi down the runway begins. Do you run to the cockpit and see if the pilot has his license? No, you follow the flight attendants instructions, get out your reading materials and trust. Faith and trust is my current flight pattern, love is what I am feeling from so many offering to help. Please ride with me as I blog my way through the process of, eventually,  living pain free.

  On the bright side my Halloween costume is decided, I will be sporting a decorated neck collar wearing chic lounge wear.