It’s official. I work and live in the state of Maine. Given the tax-free nature of NH, I’m shocked I decided to make the jump, but now that I am here- I’m glad I did it. This marks the sixth state I have ever lived in, my first grown-up-looking-and-feeling house, my first HOUSE in general, a shorter commute to work (47 miles vs. 73), a shorter trek to the beach (2.5 miles), my second official residence with my Brad, and the first time I do not live in walking distance to a store. As I pulled out of my driveway this morning I could smell the ocean. I love it.
Bragging aside (as you know my love of a good bragger), I’m going to share another secret recipe. I have no idea why I have been giving so many recipes lately, but I feel you all like them. Why? Also, MAINE-ly (see how I did that?) because it is the first thing I baked in my new kitchen! Caveat: this is not one of the “super healthy” ones.
It was my SVP‘s birthday on Cinco de Mayo, and I thought I would bring some of my baked-goodness into the wonderful world of TideSmart Global for Monday morning. I was going to go with a bundt cake, but I felt that Gunnar and Brad should be able to taste-test, so I went with cupcakes. SVP’s favorite? Vanilla with chocolate frosting.
My grandmother Lois was the founding artist of this recipe, but it has been tweaked over the years. The best part of what I am about to explain to you? You can create this melt-in-your-mouth-goodness with ANY flavor.
Grocery list: flavor of choice cake in a boxed mix (chocolate, carrot devil’s food, vanilla, red velvet, etc), corresponding flavor instant pudding mix (so if you buy chocolate cake, get chocolate pudding, for red velvet- I suggest dark chocolate if available and carrot, go with vanilla), frosting flavor of your choice, PURE vanilla extract, REAL butter in sticks, and eggs. Extra goodies: white/dark/milk/chocolate or butterscotch chips.
Basically you follow the directions on the box, adding the powdered (not prepared) pudding mix, a healthy pour of vanilla extract (I find it cuts the battery/egg flavor), subbing butter for the oil portion, and only 2 eggs. Some boxes will ask for 3. You don’t ever need 3 eggs. I don’t know why it went to 3, but don’t listen to them. For the topic of the office-birthday cupcakes, I added white chocolate chips as well. Don’t forget to let them cool for a while before you add the frosting (you don’t want the melted mess of frosting everywhere).
Aside from a colleague spoiling the surprise in the Monday morning meeting (by announcing that cupcakes were in the building), the cupcakes went over without a hitch and were inhaled by each member of the TSG team with the joy of anyone who is eating a cupcake made from a recipe inspired by a grandmother.
Holidays are coming up. Makes you think about everything that happened the year leading up to it. As I reflect, it occurs to me just how much I am thankful for the good things in my life. Studies show that people respond to a list, so I thought I would simply be a good student and blog accordingly. I’ll keep it to five things, but know there are hundreds more. Unfortunately, I am long-winded, but you probably knew that already.
1. I am thankful for the times I had with my grandmother, Lois, who passed just a few weeks ago. She was southern and cheery and perverted and creative. How many people can admit that their grandmother was perverted? Oh, I can. I will not go into details, out of respect, but let’s just say I’m accurate. She was married 3 times and even after her last husband passed, was on the prowl. She was fabulous.
The story goes: Lois Rose was a beautiful woman, and when all the men went off to war- they would propose she wait for them for when they came back. “Of course” she would say to them. Well, once the war ended, one handsome Colonel by the name of Earl Schmidt came to collect on his woman. And the rest is history.
She was great at Bridge, and played competitively. Lois (not grandma, just Lois) baked me FOUR birthday cakes my freshman year of college. Good Lord could that woman bake. For years I have tried to mimic her methods, but I can assure you I am only mildly close (and I make a damn good cake). She was very into quilting. In fact, she could sew anything. She use to make my Christmas presents (along with her checks for $5)- and at any age would insist I was an adult size extra large. That means in the 6th grade, when I was a whooping 78 pounds at 5’3″- XL. It was amusing, but I wore everything, every time. I am thankful for all the memories I had with her, good and bad. I will remember the giant trampoline in her yard that I use to get my head caught in the springs after my sister would convince me that a front flip was safe. Every grandchild was her “favorite,” to which she would say on the phone, as if on cue, “is this my favorite granddaughter?” I will miss traveling to North Carolina to visit, and I will miss her never quite knowing my name (I have 5 girl cousins and a sister, so I was any mixture of the names Caroline, Jennifer, Robyn, Jessica, Stephanie, or Erica. If I was lucky, Katie would get a shout out). Rest in peace, Lois, you lived a long life with many people who loved you very much.
Update 11/9/2012: My cousin Caroline mailed me the program from the funeral. She wrote sweet words to speak in her honor, that she also mailed me. She actually reminded me of the fireflies we use to catch in her yard. I loved those little flicks of light and can remember chasing them until my mother would yell for me to come inside. Anyway, the program was filled with many pictures of my grandmother’s life:
You will notice the above pictures are filled with smiling faces. Except one. One person has their tongue sticking out, inappropriately. I will let you guess which member of the family that would be. Okay, I will give you a little help.
Sweet dreams, Lois.
2. I am thankful for Brad and Gunnar. I have a boyfriend who is the most amazing man I have ever known. He has integrity and warmth and loves completely and without thought. He is one of the hardest working men I have ever known, and makes me want to be a better person every single day. His son is 14 and lives with us half the time. Gunnar is considerate, sensitive and so smart it’s crazy. I have no doubt that this young man will grow up to change the world. But hell, with a dad like that: how could he not? I love spoiling them, cooking for them and living life with them. Most of all, I love stories of them together growing up, and am thankful they have allowed me into their world.
3. I am thankful for my friends. Okay, I realize this is over-the-top cheesy, but I hope I have kept your attention this far. If not, I’ll just consider this self therapy. After all, it’s good to appreciate things, even better to appreciate it out loud. I love my friends for everything they are and everything they are not. I love how they stand by my side when I’m just being a girl (you know: too sensitive, emotional, analytical of everything) . I love that no matter how many times we call each other, it’s not annoying. I love that no topic is off limits. Nothing brightens my days more than a really good conversation to get something off my chest- or to help my friends with whatever they are going through. I love that 7am is not too early to chat. Most of all I love that there is no judgement on either side, ever. I would give my last dollar in the bank to any one of my friends, and they know it. I use to think that longevity was the key to a good friendship, but I now know that it’s loyalty and understanding. Just because you’ve known someone your whole life, doesn’t mean they will stand up for you or do what’s right, and it doesn’t mean they won’t use you. The people in my life who I call friends, I know I call them that with 100% accuracy.
4. I am thankful for something so many people take for granted, health. We complain about the little things we would like to change about ourselves (breast size, wrinkles, nose shape, weight, etc), without really appreciating the fact that we are living, breathing humans on this earth. People talk about so many things that just don’t matter in the grand scheme of life, and they don’t even realize the amount of people living in pain. Appreciate your health! Take care of yourself! Eat your veggies and put that damn cigarette/cigar out! Don’t do drugs! It’s really quite simple if you think about it. I am done preaching. You will note that I didn’t comment on putting down that glass of wine, well- a little grape juice never hurt anyone, did it?
I also checked with WebMD: “The French diet is often used as an example of how wine can improve heart health. The French have a fairly high-fat diet but their heart disease risk is relatively low. And some have attributed this to red wine.”
5. I am thankful for South Carolina football. This one may seem far fetched from items 1-4, but it’s honest. As a new student at USC- I was miserable. I didn’t know many people, and couldn’t stand being called “yankee” all the time. A friend of mine in my Eastern Asian Civilization class said to me one day, “wait until football starts, you’ll see it all change and you’ll love it.” This was also the same friend who taught me about Krispy Kreme donuts (jerk), and how if you go right when they make them on the belt, they will be warm, gooey, and melting on your tongue, so I took his advice with a grain of salt. Well, he could not have been more on par. South Carolina football changed everything for me. Being from NH, I didn’t know what the hell “tailgating” was, nor had I done it; Neither of my parents are into sports. I was a cheerleader in junior high, but had no idea what it meant when I was yelling “First and Ten!” What do I love about it? The lights of Williams Brice stadium in all it’s glory, the 80,000 person-filled stadium all cheering in unison, the passion of a Carolina/Clemson game, the paupers drinking moonshine with the millionaires, the crowing Gamecock and fireworks- it was magnificent. Is magnificent. I started really watching and really understanding the game. I became addicted. It’s been 11 years since I graduated, and I still watch the games every weekend during season- even if by myself. Most years, I try to make it to a game with my friends. I watch the annual draft with pride, as the players I have followed for the past 4 years go on to the NFL. Recently, one of my favorite players was seriously injured. It broke my heart- so I mailed him a card and pitched to The Ellen Show that he be featured! 15 years I have been a loyal fan of this team, and it’s only the beginning.
So that’s five things I am thankful for, and as I said, it’s only five out of hundreds. What are you thankful for as the holiday season begins?