Monthly Archives: September 2008

Making the Days Count: A Lesson From Nana

Skirt-to-Pillow

We’ve had a busy week here at Windy Ridge! My parents (the kids call them Papa Jim and Nana) came to spend a few days.

It always amazes me how much we accomplish when they are here! This trip that list of accomplishments included the pillow pictured above that Nana helped Dagmar make. But it also includes 6 meals made ahead and in the freezer, 3 batches of cookies, a double batch of spaghetti sauce canned, my new kitchen cabinets stained and varnished, and we still did home school every morning, fixed 3 meals a day, kept the laundry washed and made a killer chocolate cake!

That was just what Nana and I did! Papa Jim and my husband did just as much if not more!

How do we accomplish so much in just a few days? I’m sure one reason is because we have extra hands!

But I think it’s also because we feel a sense of urgency when they are here. Their visit will be short and we only have a few days in which to finish all the things on our list. We want to make every day count!

It made me wonder if I have the same sense of urgency in my life? I only have a certain number of days to visit this earth before heading to my “home” in heaven. Each day only has a certain amount of hours. Each hour only has 60 minutes.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

What did I do with today?

These words from the Chris Rice song “Life Means So Much” say it so well…

“…Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much
Life means so much
Life means so much

Everyday is a bank account
And time is our currency
So no one’s rich, nobody’s poor
We get twenty-four hours each
So how are you gonna spend
Will you invest or squander
Try to get ahead
Or help someone who’s under?

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much
Life means so much
Life means so much….”

Make today count!

Chocolate Black Out Cake: Making Memories and a Mess!

Chocolate Blackout Cake
My parents are visiting for a few days, so I invited my mom, a true chocoholic, to be a guest blogger for me today! Enjoy!

My husband & I are “food show junkies”! One of our favorite shows is America’s Test Kitchen. We don’t keep or make all the recipes, but do like to see the variations and the science behind why certain ingredients are used for various results.

We were watching recently when the name, Chocolate Blackout Cake grabbed my attention! It was a signal to grab a pencil & paper and start writing the recipe in my own shorthand.

Then, I decided to bring the recipe with me and experiment with the grandkids.

This is a 3 layer dense cake with a pudding frosting and crumbled cake for a textured topping. It is a complicated cake, but delicious!

Chocolate Blackout Cake

Mix together in a sauce pan 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch & 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Add 2 cups Half & Half & 1 cup milk (we substituted undiluted condensed milk for both of these ingredients).

Stir in 6 oz grated unsweetened chocolate (next time we will use a chocolate with more fat, which will make the pudding thicker when it cools). Cook this mixture until the chocolate melts and the edges bubble. Stir it constantly!

Add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Pour into a bowl & cover the top of the pudding with wax paper to prevent a “skin”. Refrigerate for 2 hours. This will be both the filling and the frosting!

For the cake: Whisk together in a bowl & set aside: 1 1/2 cup flour, 2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon soda, & 1/2 teaspoon salt.

To “bloom” the flavor of the cocoa melt 8 Tablespoons butter in a saucepan that is large enough to mix the cake batter. Add 3/4 cup cocoa and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly!

Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup coffee, (Coffee makes chocolate flavor richer), 1 cup milk, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar.

Whisk in 2 eggs & 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Whisk in the dry ingredients.

Divide dough between two 8 ” round cake pans that have been greased & floured. Bake 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for 15 minutes. Remove cakes to a rack to cool.

To assemble the cake: Split each layer in half starting on an edge and slicing around and towards the center until you are all the way through. This gives you 4 layers.

Pick out the best 3 and crumble the 4th into a bowl. Spread l cup of the pudding/frosting/filling between each layer and on the top & sides. Spread the crumbled 4th layer over the top & sides.

Be sure to refrigerate!

We decided to experiment a little and put ours into one 15 1/2 X 10 inch jelly roll pan. After it was baked we let it cool in the pan (mainly because we had other projects to deal with and forgot it for a little while!)

Then we cut the rectangle into fourths and crumbled one of the fourths for the topping. We layered the other 3 with the pudding/frosting/filling.

It sounds good on paper, but our cake did not bake evenly so the layers were different heights and our pudding did not get thick enough (maybe because of the lower fat content of the chocolate?)

Anyway, our layers started to slip & slide! Instead of a Black Out cake, we had a Mud Slide cake!

No problem, we got out some plastic drinking straws and poked them down through the layers in strategic locations along the cake and cut them off even with the top of the cake. Then with a lot of laughter and licking we proceeded with the frosting and the crumbs.

It held together just long enough for a quick photo, then we quickly started slicing and eating before the mudslide hit the countertop!

It might have been interesting to look at, and hard to contain, but it was very delicious! Finger-licking good! And so rich that it gave us a “chocolate high”!

We made both memories and calories together and that’s one of my favorite ways to spend quality time with my grandkids!

Until next time,
The Chocolate Lady’s Mama

Poison Ivy Remedies: What Really Works

Yep. It happened again, another outbreak of poison ivy. This exposure was many times worse than my first.

My daughters and I picked wild grapes on Wednesday, August 27th. I was standing on the gravel road the entire time and never even thought about poison ivy.

It wasn’t until Friday night that I felt a burning on my left leg. By Saturday I had little bumps appear and the itching started. I just thought they were bug bites.  Ha, was I wrong.

By Sunday I knew it was poison ivy.  By Monday it was spreading. After that it becomes a itchy painful blur.

I did look online for some help. Here’s what I learned:

  • Once you’ve had a reaction, each time you are exposed, your reaction will be worse. I hope not- but it looks like they might be right!
  • Redness and swelling will appear in about 12 to 48 hours. Blisters and itching will follow. Yep. I was a textbook case.
  • Because they don’t contain urushiol, the oozing blisters are not contagious nor can the fluid cause further spread on the affected person’s body. Whew! That’s a relief to know because my legs oozed everywhere!
  • The rash will only occur where urushiol has touched the skin; it doesn’t spread throughout the body. Now this one I don’t agree with. I continually had new blisters appear even in places where I was not exposed, for weeks after my exposure.
  • The rash, blisters and itch normally disappear in 14 to 20 days without any treatment. That’s a relief, this should be over any day now!

Now for treatments. Believe me, I was given lots of advice, from the medical to the downright strange!

  • Take Benedryl. This one I did only at night because Benedryl wipes me out. I get really loopy on it for at least 12 hours. But it did allow me to sleep through the night despite the itching.
  • Use Calamine lotion. I actually used Caladryl which was calamine lotion with Benedryl. Again, I did this in the evenings while the benedryl kicked in. It might have helped a little.
  • Use hydrocortisone cream. I used this with my first outbreak, but not this one. The area was just too big. It wasn’t practical. Would it have helped? I wonder.
  • Using the hottest water you can stand, rinse the area until the inching stops. Believe it not, this does work. l guess the hot water releases the histimines which causes intense itching while the water is running. Seriously, it itches so bad it hurts! But then I would have several almost itch free hours. I did this every morning. (It also helps to remove the pink dried-on Caladryl.)
  • Soak a towel in milk of magnesia and wrap it around the affected area. Hmm…didn’t try this one.
  • Wash the affected area with bleach. I tried this one. Didn’t do much but take the tan off my legs in weird streaks, like tiger stripes.
  • Scrape the blisters with a popsicle stick and pour gasoline on them. Ouch! I can’t even think about this one! Several people swear by it, but I just told them gasoline was way too expensive to pour it on my extensive rash!
  • Use a grinder on them! Umm, I think he was joking on this one. You were joking weren’t you, Roger?

And some practical things that I discovered:

  • Baby wipes are handy to carry around when you are oozing. They kept my legs clean and kept the ooze from drying in orange blobs around my ankles.
  • Pouring hydrogen peroxide over the affected area several times a day also kept the area clean to avoid a secondary infection.
  • A clean washcloth with soap and water will help the itching for awhile.

So here I am, almost 3 weeks from my initial exposure. I still have a nasty rash on my left leg and smaller ones on my right leg. I can’t wear shoes or socks because the one at my ankle is so painful. I can’t have anything touch the rash, that includes pants, skirts and even sheets.

But the swelling has gone down. I’ve slept 2 days in a row without Benedryl and there are no more weeping sores.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.


Fudge Filled Oatmeal Bars


When my husband decided we would have a picnic after church on Sunday, I pulled out the cookbooks and found a sweet treat to make. Why? Because a picnic just isn’t a picnic with out a dessert!

I needed something that would be easy to transport, wouldn’t need to refrigerated, and would have universal appeal.

I found it! These Fudge Filled Oatmeal Bars were in the oven in less than 20 minutes and left some really good pans to lick! With the M & M’s on top, they were a hit with every age.

Some of the comments I received were “Killer!”, “Awesome” and “How many can I have”?

Fudge Filled Oatmeal Bars

Combine 2 cups quick cooking oatmeal, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup brown sugar and 3/4 tsp. salt.

Add 1 cup melted butter and mix until crumbly. Stir in 1 cup of chopped pecans.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups for topping and press the remaining crumbs into a greased 13 x 9 in baking pan.

In saucepan combine 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips, and 2 tablespoons shortening.

Spread over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Top with 1 cup of plain M&M’s.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden.

Cut them small, they are very rich!

Make sure you set a few of these aside in a secret place before you serve them or there will be no leftovers for you to enjoy!

Renewing Your Mind

Have you ever thought about what scripture meant in Romans 12:2 where it says “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

I renew magazine subscriptions, library books, and minutes on my cell phone. How do I renew my mind?

Webster’s dictionary defines renew as: “to make new or as if new again; make fresh and strong again.”

I need my mind to be daily made fresh and strong in the things of God. If I don’t, my mind will conform to the culture around me. I will think and act in ways that don’t reflect the heart of God.

To renew my mind I need to be daily be in the Word reading and studying. I need to fix my attention on God and then I will be changed from the inside out.

By renewing my mind and keeping it fresh and strong in the Word, God will bring out the very best in me.