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May 5, 2011

 Surfing the tube over the past weeks, I’ve run into food programs entitled: cupcake wars, cupcake smack downs and cupcake throw downs.

 Isn’t there a law against using aggressive terms next to the word “cupcake?” Certainly an oxymoron! “Cupcake” conjures up images of decadent flavors and heavenly frostings. Sweetness so delicious and perfect that it’s OK to ask for a second – or third.  We also use the word “cupcake” to describe someone who is of gentle spirit (read pushover).

 But not for wars. Rarely do you see cupcakes included with Army rations. And I doubt if the Marines carry cupcakes in their gun belts.

 Cupcakes aren’t featured in athletic events either. So far, I’ve not heard of a 10K cupcake run. Or a cupcake marathon. A cupcake pole vaulting event just sounds messy.

 Cupcakes come out to play when we’re celebrating something…birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, sure.  But also a snow day from school or work, the clearing of an acne outbreak, making it to another Friday, the first flowers of spring, another payday, a day without an argument, a customer service call that didn’t take 34 minutes of elevator music.  Cupcakes are for the important days and to make unimportant days sing.

 So, in honor of making peace with cupcakes, may I present a recipe for Gingerbread cupcakes. I just made these up last night and they are heavenly with an earthy and robust flavor. 

 Don’t ask me for the nutritional value of these, because that’s not the point. Enjoy! – That’s the point.

Heavenly Gingerbread Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 and put those little wrappers in a cupcake pan (also called a muffin tin, but let’s not go there today.)  – Makes 12 average-sized, not giant, but not mini.

 ½ cup boiling water
½ cup shortening (the new improved type without transfat)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 beaten egg (be gentle with the beating, these are cupcakes after all.)

Put these in a bowl and mix until blended.  Then add the dry ingredients:
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 ½ cups flour (if using whole wheat, please use ww pastry flour to keep them light)
Once the flour goes in, beat just until mixed. Scoop into pan.

Bake about 20 min or until done – ovens vary.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting

½ pkg cream cheese
½ stick of butter
Put these into the microwave and heat just until softened. Don’t melt them!

Add 2 tsp orange flavoring – or almond or vanilla – whatever you like, but orange is fabulous.

Beat in 2-3 cups of powdered sugar until the frosting holds stiff peaks. Don’t add too much sugar.

Frost when cupcakes are cool.  Put them in the fridge for a few minutes if you really need one in a hurry after they come out of the oven.

Divine Mystery

Weds, March 23 – two weeks into Lent.

Yesterday I sat for an hour in adoration of the Eucharist after Mass. For part of the time, I said the five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. These walk with Jesus through his passion – The Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying of the Cross and finally, the Crucifixion itself.

I tried to imagine the scenes from Jesus’ viewpoint. How did He look at those who were scourging Him and look with love? How did He see the crowd as He struggled with the cross and not resent and hate them? How did He look upon those who were nailing Him to the cross and still love and not hate?

This is the eternal secret.

Not just that He was able to endure the pain and suffering, but that He did it without having His heart turn to anger, resentment or hatred. He looked upon us all with love, at a time when most of us would be cursing and crying out against our torturers.

I’ve always thought the ultimate sacrifice was that Jesus suffered and died for us. Now I understand that Jesus showed by His example, how to love. In spite of horrific circumstances. In spite of rejection, pain and hatred by others.

He showed us how to look back with a face of love. This is the divine mystery.

Fat Free Flights

The airlines have come up with all sorts of tricks to lure us into thinking that we can fly on the cheap and be happy about it. Even though I know it’s not possible, I still fall for it in my quest to visit my granddaughters.  First I spend endless hours searching for the best deal on the best days. But it’s actually impossible to really compare because all the extra fees and options are not added until you have given your credit card and made a selection.

Some fees are automatic, like the “convenience fees” which are never explained and don’t seem to affect when the plane takes off or the comfort of the seats, which would be convenient.

Of course there are extra taxes going to the local, state and federal government coffers and probably some third world countries.

Now there are also baggage fees so many of us try to cram our clothes into a carry-on bag. Easier if you’re traveling to a warm climate and won’t be needing bulky knits and snow boots. But some airlines have changed the size of a standard carry-on to a backpack, not a suitcase. 

They now try to force us to pay for a seat selection by saying we may not have anywhere to put our carryon unless we preselect a seat – and pay a hefty fee for it.

The last time I flew – one week ago – it cost $2.00 for a sip of water. I call that a hydration fee.

But my real fear is that they will start charging our ticket prices based on our weight. We already have to pony up and weigh our suitcases, but how long until we have to mount the scale in front of God and everyone to determine our weight fee.

They’ll call it something else, other than the “f-bomb.”   Not the “f-bomb” that causes beeps on TV during prime time. The other one. The word that is so PC we don’t use it to describe each other. The efficient and accurate word that is rather lean on vowels.  FAT.  And I don’t mean olive oil, which is a “good fat.” Nor do I mean bacon grease, which would be classified as a “bad fat.”

I mean the “I’ve gained eight pounds and I feel FAT fat.” Soon there will be a fat fee when we fly. Or we could call it a flying fat fee.  Perhaps for those who have no fat, they will fly free of the fat fee. Will we be put on mandatory fat trimmings before each flight?I cringe at the thought. It’s just not pretty.

Eyeball Etiquette

Feb 1. 2011

 Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think you should know someone’s name before they touch your eyeball. At my last eye doc appointment, I agreed to try gas permeable contacts, even though I wasn’t sure what they are and was pretty sure I already have plenty of gas in my life.

 When the day of the first “fitting” came, an unknown woman announced my name, pointed at an exam chair and told me to park myself there. “Sit back,” she commanded as she went for my eye and fished for my contacts. I would have been quite comfortable removing them myself, but the option wasn’t presented.

 In a moment she barked “sit back” again and proceeded to place the new gassy contacts on my eyes. I blinked and tried to focus for what seemed like forever. She worked on the computer and said nothing to me.

 Finally, after about 22 seconds, I asked what our game plan was. She said I had to sit for 15 minutes – and no reading allowed. Fifteen minutes!  I’m not good at lollygagging, but I tried not to squirm, lest the unknown commander would go for my eyes again.

Eventually she led me to another room where I was to practice removing the gassy coverings. First I was told to pull my eyes to the side while also opening them as wide as possible and blinking at the same time. Pull, open, blink.  Pull, open, blink.  Pull, open, blink.

When this failed to dislodge a contact after multiple attempts, she showed me another trick using two fingers of each hand. Pull, open, blink.  Pull, open, blink.  Pull, open, blink.

Minutes ticked by as I blinked , pulled and prodded but the little circles remained cemented to my cornea. I suggested I just rip them off, but “she” discouraged ripping.

I also suggested we close the door, as I suspected the folks in the waiting area and all those walking by were becoming tired of hearing my tormenter say, “Practice. This just takes practice.”  No privacy was granted.

For 30 minutes I blinked and pulled on the most delicate skin of my face. The same skin I carefully protect with cream more expensive than caviar twice a day.  While pulling and blinking, I smeared my eye makeup, and turned my eyes into those of a weepy blood hound.  I sat up desperate to get this over.

The nameless “she” relented and went to a drawer, pulled out a tiny one-inch-long blue plunger and let me use it to free myself.  Then she said, “Now put them back in.” I looked at my hands, covered in black smudges like a chimney sweeps’ and suggested I be allowed to wash.

I don’t see a big future for the gas permeable contacts in my life.  If I lose the tiny plunger, will I have to use the toilet plunger at night to get my contacts off my eyeballs?  Not a pretty site.

Life’s a Gas!

Hi all! I’m a writer starting my first blog.

I have seven sisters and no brothers, which always makes people sympathize with my father. But he needs no sympathy. He loved being the supreme ruler and still does.

All of my sisters live in our mother country, Minnesota. I am the only defector, living in the flyover state of Iowa – some 200 miles away. My father was upset that anyone would leave the great state of Minnesota and I’m not really sure how it happened, except that we took a wrong turn on the freeway and couldn’t find our way back. After 20 years we stopped trying.

Meanwhile, we sisters are getting together this weekend for a potluck and it’s sure to be a gas!

Caroline is making lentil soup.

Peggy is making white bean soup.

Holley is making red cabbage soup.

I’m bringing BeanO.

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