Category Archives: animals

Chocolate Monday: Savvy Cakes at Cakewalk

Savvy cakesOn my recent trip to visit my best friend in Athens, Georgia, she told me that a new bakery had opened up. She suggested we take a trip there, knowing full well that there was no way in the world I was going to turn down a chance to try a new bakery. Especially not one named Cakewalk. I’m always willing to partake in a cakewalk!

When we pulled up to the shop, I was a little thrown by the exterior. It didn’t really look like a bakery. It looked like someone’s house. Now, I know looks can be deceiving. After all, the best bakery I’ve found in Athens is in a building that used to be a BBQ shack. And when I say shack, that is really not an exaggeration. When it was The Butt Hutt, it was a take out place. With its transformation into a bakery, there is just room for a display case, a few display fridges/freezers and a fancy coffee machine. It is still a take out only place.

When we walked in the front door at Cakewalk, I was even more confused as I didn’t initially see any baked goods. I saw lots of home goods and cute gifts, but no food. Turns out Cakewalk is not actually a bakery. As the very enthusiastic and helpful woman working there told us, they aren’t zoned for baking. They are zoned for retail. So, what Cakewalk does is connect with small, local bakeries to resell their delicious treats.

What Cakewalk does (and does quite well in my opinion) is allow dessert lovers to take a “cake walk” through the store. Would be chocoholics can sample nearly all the cakes and bars available for purchase. The samples are already prepared in tiny sealed cups and customers can try as many as they’d like. The cakes are on display in large glass cake dishes for anyone interested and come from several local bakeries.

My best friend and I indulged in several samples, including an old-fashioned chocolate cake, a red velvet, a carrot and a double chocolate. Although they didn’t actually have a sample available, my best friend opted for a slice of the almond cake. Since I have a serious chocolate addiction, I had to go with the double chocolate cake.

I’m not sure which bakery my BFF’s cake came from, but mine came from Just Desserts Made from Scratch Bakery located in Statham, GA. For some reason, that I’m still not quite clear on, it is listed as a Savvy Cake by Just Desserts Made from Scratch Bakery.

Regardless of who made it, it was pretty darn tasty! The layers of cake were incredibly moist and very chocolaty. I loved the layers of creamy chocolate buttercream frosting. I was also happy that this cake was not too heavy on the frosting. For me, cake should always be the star. When people add too much frosting to their cakes, it almost seems like they are trying to hide the fact that their cake is not that good. I prefer a fairly thin layer of frosting on both the top and the sides of the cake. I actually would have been even happier with a little less frosting on this piece, but it was better than what many bakeries produce. I would definitely like to try more of these Savvy Cakes.

I did a little googling and it looks like Staham is only about 20 minutes east of Athens, so as much as I enjoyed the very friendly service at Cakewalk (and petting the seriously adorable dog who was hanging out in the store far from the actual food), I think on my next trip to Athens, my BFF and I will have to hop in the car and make a trip to the actual bakery for some additional treats.


Appearance: 8/10
Taste: 8/10
Value: 7/10 (we bought from a retailer, so prices were a bit higher than at the actual bakery where they seem pretty reasonable).


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Free Reading Friday: Secretariat

SecretariantSecretariat by William Nack was an obligation book for me. I read it because one of my students asked me to so that she could use it for her non-fiction book project. Since I’d read Seabiscuit the year before for a similar reason, I figured this would be similar. I’d already exposed myself to the world of racing, so this book would be easy to get through, right?

WRONG! At least not for me. Now, I am not a racing fan of any sort, so I’m sure that was part of my problem with the book. Actually, it was like 90% of my problem with the book. Since I am not a fan of horse racing and do not follow it in any way, my only real knowledge of racing comes from Seabiscuit and the one time I went to the race track with my family because my aunt had won some sort competition which entitled her to a party at the racetrack. I was 15 and wasn’t even allowed to bet, so my memories of it are hazy at best.

I was prepared for an underdog race horse story with lots of descriptions of the people surrounding the horses and the races themselves. And I got that. What I was not prepared for was page upon page upon page (seriously, like 1/4 of this book) devoted to begets. It was like reading Genesis in the Bible, only for horses. This horse beget this horse beget this horse ad nauseum. I was also not expecting very detailed descriptions of horse insemination. Seabiscuit was all about one horse and his racing career. Secretariat is all about those thoroughbreds that came before him, his amazing performance and those who trained him. It made the book awfully long.

I was also not a huge fan of Nack’s storytelling. I think part of the reason I enjoyed Seabiscuit so much was because of Hillenbrand’s storytelling. I actually liked her narrative so much that I went on to read Unbroken, which was a book that appealed to me even more and I found myself engrossed in. Nack’s narrative seemed broken up by all the begets and race times. It felt more like a list than a story at times.

I was also not a huge fan of Penny Tweedy. I thought her behavior spoiled and superior throughout most of the book. If Nack was trying to paint her as a heroine in the world of racing, it is not how she came across to me. She threw too many tantrums and was far too nasty to too many people for me to like her or even sympathize with her.

For true horse racing fans I’m sure this is an interesting read. It was just not the book for me. I felt each one of the 455 pages I read and I hate when that happens.

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Throwback Thursday: Vacationing with kids

Athens playgroundFrom the moment my best friend delivered the devastating news that she’d gotten her dream job–10 hours away from me–I started planning my first visit to see her. It just so happened that her move at the end of July coincided with my school’s very first year on the balanced calendar. In between trips to our favorite coffee shop and last minute movie watching, she was packing up boxes to move three states away and I was putting the finishing touches on my lesson plans.

Although juggling the heartache of her leaving with the extreme stress that comes with the start of each new school year was really weighing me down, I just kept reminding myself that in a little over two months I’d be taking my first trip to see her. I attempted to delude myself into believing that I’d be so caught up in the new semester that it would be easy to forget she was no longer right down the street. Sadly, I’ve never been a great liar…not even to myself.

The time did pass and at the end of the grading period, we loaded the family up and headed to Georgia. Of course, we only stayed with her one night before continuing on to Disney World. After five days that I can only describe as the best family vacation we’ve ever been on, we turned around and headed back to see my best friend.

This time my husband only spent one night before he had to head back home to work, leaving me and the kids behind to spend an amazing week with my best friend and her husband. Although we had no car of our own, it really wasn’t a problem. When my best friend had to teach we either hung around her house doing crafts and taking walks or we went to campus with her and played in the fun park-like area near her building or she lent us her car and we went to local parks. Then, when she was off, she introduced us to a plethora of really fun places for the kids to play while we got to talk.

Since this initial trip, we’ve found some favorite places in Athens that we go back to every single visit.

park bulldogOne of the best parts about visiting Georgia in October is that the weather is usually pretty nice. Unlike Indiana, where the temperatures sometimes sink down into the 40’s, in Georgia the weather rarely dips below 75, which means plenty of outdoor time with the kids. And since my kids LOVE to be outdoors, if it’s not raining, we plan outdoor activities.

This year we got to check out the new World of Wonder park, which is actually part of Southeast Clarke Park. We’d actually visited the park on one of our previous trips and while the playground was pretty cool and the kids had a blast, it was not nearly as epic as the updates are. The playground was actually moved to the other side of the park and now has two separate park areas, one for kids under 5 and one for bigger kids. The bigger kid playground features 10 different slides, a really cool webbed climbing merry-go-round thingamabob, a three-story tree house looking structure for kids to climb, wobbly bridges, tons of swings, lots of room for families to sit and even these really cool porch swings (of sorts) that are in shaded areas. The picture at the top of this blog is from the WOW park. My kids had a blast on it. My son particularly liked the “mushrooms” which were these stepping areas that reminded him of the mushrooms in Mario Bros. He loved the way they sprung beneath his feet as he jumped from one to the next.

My BFF and I loved that we could sit on a lovely shaded bench and talk while my kids ran amuck on the playground. Since we could see just about every area of the playground from our seats, we never lost eye contact with the kids for more than a few seconds. And, since the playground is surrounded mostly be a wide open grassy area (and is completely fenced in), it’s not like they could really wander off anywhere.

Bear Hollow signOn our last full day in Athens we also got to visit one of our favorite places: Memorial Park/The Bear Hollow Zoo. My BFF is not normally a fan of zoos. Like many people, she hates the fact that animals are taken from their natural habitats, forced into cramped spaces (at least compared to how they’d live in the wild) and put on display for our amusement. However, she is a huge supporter of The Bear Hollow Zoo. The reason is simple: The Bear Hollow Zoo only has animals that are native to Georgia and only has animals that have been injured and are in need of rehabilitation and protection. All of the animals in the zoo have been injured and cannot survive on their own. They are brought to the zoo by people who rescue them. Some times the animals can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild, but often times their injuries are so severe that they would not be able to survive in the wild, so instead they get to live out their lives at Bear Hollow. The zoo is fairly small with only less than two dozen animals in it, but it’s pretty cool.

The zoo has a few birds, including two owls, an alligator, three bears, an opposum, a tortoise, an otter, a bobcat, an eagle, deer, turkeys and some reptiles. Every time we’ve gone we’ve been able to see all of the animals, which is pretty cool. Since it is part of the public park system, it’s not fancy, but it’s a great way to spend half an hour with kids.

Bears at Bear HollowAs part of her service learning class, my BFF has her students do volunteer work for the zoo, so she always has some great information to share with me and the kids. One year she even got us a “backstage” tour. We got to feed almost all of the animals (we skipped the alligator and the snakes) and even got to go into some of the enclosures. My daughter still goes on and on about how she fed the bears blueberries. Yes, that’s right, my kids actually fed the bears in this picture yogurt covered blueberries. It was initially pretty terrifying for me to watch, as I was sure they’d lose at least a finger if not an entire hand, but they loved doing it.

Once we finished up at Bear Hollow, we walked down a short wooded path to get to Memorial Park. Although much smaller than the WOW park, it has a fun little playground, which is geared more toward younger children. My son, who is 10, still finds ways to have fun on it, but everything is sized a bit more for my daughter, who is 7. In addition to the playground equipment, Memorial Park also has a large man made lake full of ducks, geese and turtles. There are hundreds of turtles in that lake. And, there are little machines with food in them scattered all around the lake, so once we finished on the playground, I handed my kids a few quarters and we killed another 20 minutes walking around the lake and feeding animals. The turtles were not too quick on the uptake. Most of their food was snatched by very quick little fish. My kids thought that was hysterical.

One great thing about the parks in Athens is that they also feature the famous UGA bulldog. My kids LOVE driving around Athens and looking for bulldogs, which are all over the city. At the parks not only do they get to look, but they get to climb on them as well. My kids have memorized where some of their favorite bulldogs are and they make a game of trying to be the first to spot them. Whenever we find a new one, they get very, very excited.

Not only is Athens the home of my best friend, but it’s also a wonderful place to find great food and some great outdoor family fun.

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A Cat Named Bob

I’ve always been a cat person. Not that I have anything against dogs. When I was a kid we even had a couple of dogs and as much as I loved them, there has always been something about a cat curled up in my lap, that I just love.

When I was finally out on my own and had my own apartment, my best friend found a litter of kittens in the rather scary maintenance shed of her apartment complex. What she was doing in the shed is still a bit of a mystery, but the end result was half a dozen little balls of fur who all needed lots of love and warm laps. I fell absolutely head over heels with the one I nicknamed “second to runt.” As the oh so clever name implies, she was the second smallest in the litter. At least for the first few weeks. But then, even the runt outgrew her and was quickly snatched away by neighbors. Second to runt was my favorite and every time I visited, I spent all my free time letting her run all over me.

It just so happened that my birthday fell somewhere between her sixth and eighth week of life. My ex (who was quite allergic to cats), decided my love for her over-ruled his allergies and in a moment of great sacrifice, put a little bow on her and let me bring her home. Olivia was my pride and joy.

Olivia and I have been together for somewhere between 12-14 years now. She is still thin as a rail. She still loves to curl up next to me, but now that’s only after the kids have gone to bed. I’m not sure she’s forgiven me for bringing my son home from the hospital almost six and a half years ago. While my kids are wonderful around animals, Olivia wants nothing to do with them. The have never chased her or pulled her tail. They are just too darn loud. She’s always been skittish and constant pounding of their feet and the insane echoes of their voices is just too much for her. She hides most of the day.

The same was true for our other feline friend, Jenkiss. He was a stray I was fostering for a local shelter that was out of room. Even though I really wanted to keep him, Olivia didn’t seem very fond of him, so I decided that when the shelter could take him, I’d have to give him back. That was, of course, before my husband (who was just my boyfriend back then), took a liking to him. My husband never had pets as a kid, and he thought Jenkiss was the bees knees. Before the week was over, I got a sheepish call asking me not to give him back to the shelter, so I quickly bought kitten supplies and took them over to his apartment so there was no way my boyfriend could back out.

Late last year Jenkiss got sick. We took him to the vet, but to no avail. My husband had to let him go and it about broke his heart. At that moment, he decided he was done with cats. Well, at least with getting any more (Olivia is still around, after all).

Even though I sometimes thought how much fun it would be for the kids to get a kitten that would be used to their loud noises–like Olivia, Jenkiss never took to the kids either. I think he actually despised them even more than Olivia. She never hissed at them. The same could not be said for Jenkiss. My kids got used to it and learned to just ignore the cats, but every now and then, my son would get sad that the cats didn’t like him–I knew my husband didn’t want more cats, so I let it go.

That is, of course, until Bob happened. bob 2

Being a cat person is sort of in my blood. Everyone in my family loves cats. My parents were no exceptions. Well, at first my dad was. He hated cats (or so he claimed), but when I moved in with him at 14 and begged and begged for the stray kitten my aunt had found, he caved and Pookie came to live with me. It never fails, as much as I showered that cat with attention, she preferred the person in the family who seemingly wanted nothing to do with her. And that, is how my dad became a cat person: a sort of war of attrition. She just plain wore him down with her constant love. He got so used to having a sleeping cat on his lap, that when she passed away (I had to leave her behind when I moved into the dorms), he got another cat.

Bob was my dad’s cat. He loved Bob. The two of them could be found every afternoon lounging in my dad’s favorite spot on the couch. Each morning Bob would wait for my dad to get up, and then trot down the hall with him on the way to the kitchen. Like my dad, Bob was a night owl, and I suspect he was a huge bit of comfort to my father as the cancer slowly made his life harder and harder to bear.

When my dad passed away last year, Bob was a bit lost. He still had my step-mom and she loved him dearly, but he was my dad’s cat and you could see him pining a little. Now, not so much that the little fatty refused treats, more like just enough to get extra treats. He became my step-mom’s new lap kitty and seemed to be loving life.

But then, all of a sudden, my step-mom passed away in June. Once again, Bob was set adrift. He was still living at the house (my aunt came over daily to check on him and the other cat), but he just meowed sadly. My aunt and I had talked about what to do with the two cats, but we weren’t really sure. She already had about a dozen animals and I knew my husband really did not want another cat.

A little over a month ago, my son overheard me talking to my aunt about giving clothes to Goodwill. We must have been talking about Bob just moments before, because all of a sudden, I heard this desperately sad cry from across the room, “You mean you’re going to give Bob to Goodwill?” My son’s eyes filled with tears and he begged me to let Bob come live with us. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so legitimately worked up about anything in my life. I calmed him down, assuring him that Bob was not going to be loaded up in the truck and tossed aside with the old waffle maker and coats, but it was not enough. He wanted his Pop Pop’s cat.

It was my husband’s call, but before I could even finish recounting the Goodwill story to him, he shook his head and said, “so, I guess we’ve got ourselves a new cat.”

And that’s how Bob joined our family. Unlike Olivia and Jenkiss, he likes the kids. He doesn’t run from them and even lets them pet and kiss him. My daughter has started calling him Bobby and she loves to follow him around the house. He never seems to mind. He’s claimed a spot on our bed where he spends about half of his day. He and Olivia are learning to tolerate each other. Even my husband has been won over by the Bob’s charm.

Still, I don’t think we’ll be getting any more cats any time soon.


Filed under animals, married life, motherhood, my childhood, my crazy family, my daughter, my son, nostalgia, ramblings, what makes me me


I hate ants. I make no secret of this hatred. And it’s not just ants either. I really dislike most bugs, however, 99% of the members of the insect world have the decency to stay out of my house. Sure, occasionally I see a spider or two, especially if I wander into the basement. About once ever six months, a silverfish will cross my path. Sure, about once a week I have to stop my son, the bug whisperer, from bringing a rolly poly, slug or glow worm inside with him, but usually all it takes is a stern look and the critter is returned back to it’s grassy home.

Other than that though, my house’s lack of creepy crawlies is a serious blessing to me.

Lately, however, we’ve been getting a lot of rain. And that means ants. And lots of them. I have no idea what the ants are drawn to, but nothing I do seems to stop them. The good news, is that the pesky little jerks only seem to terrorize me in the kitchen. The bad news is that they are in my kitchen, which is pretty much the last place I want any other living creature (including other humans, when I cook, I like to do it on my own, it’s sort of a Zen-like thing).

At first there was just an ant or two wandering around on my counter. I crushed them, washed their corpses down the drain and didn’t think too much about them. However, they must have used their dying breaths to call out to their breather to avenge them. It does not seem to matter how many of them I kill, I swear two more spring up in their place.

At first I thought it might be the dishes in the sink. We don’t let our dishes “soak” for days or anything, but my husband and I have an agreement when it comes to chores. I cook the food and he does the dishes. For me, this is great as I actually enjoy cooking and HATE doing dishes. He doesn’t really like to do either, but as cooking takes a lot longer, he gave in to the dishes. In attempt not to do additional housework (I do about 80% of it and have a full time job), I will sometimes leave breakfast dishes in the sink for him.

When I found a plate with a tiny scrap of cheese on it covered in ants, I immediately nixed this idea and made sure each dish, pan and utensil found it’s way either into the dishwasher or was washed directly after the meal.

That seemed to stop them. I noticed only one or two on the counters and I thought I had one. But I was a fool. A fool I tell you! The little bastards found their way into the trashcan underneath our sink. Apparently the children had been throwing fruit pits and sucker sticks in there and the can was lousy with ants. I yanked it out, double wrapped the bag, threw it outside and then completely washed the garbage can. It is still resting outside on my back patio since I’ve decided it can no longer live under the sink just in case someone forgets and throws food there.

Once again, like a fool I though this would help. The crafty little buggers have found a new haunt: the dishwasher. I opened it up to load in the dinner dishes and there must have been two dozen of them in there. I threw the dishes in, popped in a soap tablet and turned it on, but not before one of them found it’s way onto my arm. Even though I know I killed him, I keep feeling phantom traces of his dirty little feet all over my arms.

This is why I hate ants. I know they don’t really do any “harm,” but just seeing them crawling around makes my skin crawl. I feel them on me, even when I know they can’t be.

I have no idea how they are getting in, but I have to find a way to stop them. War has been declared and I will be victorious!

Either that or I’m going to have to abandon my kitchen to them.

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Chocolate Monday: Sweet Ass Cupcakes

Tonight I went out with some friends to an art show at my favorite local coffee shop. I’ll admit I had alterior motives for going. I mean sure, I like art and all, but this particular show had an additional draw: cupcakes! That’s right, the artist not only paints but makes adorable cupcakes, cakes and truffles as well. And let’s face it, my favorite kind of art is edible.

Considering this is a fairly small local coffee house which already puts out a pretty darn tasty variety of treats (scones, muffins, cookies, brownies, etc), I wasn’t sure sure what to expect. But Cory Shutters, the artist and creator of Sweet Ass Cupcakes had quite a spread for everyone. There were samples of every flavor of cupcakes she makes as well as most of her truffle flavors. While I generally have no qualms about making a pig of myself, since I was out in public and I knew other people would want to share in the sugar-coated goodness, I limited myself to four mini cupcakes and one truffle.

It was not easy to pick which flavors to sample. My choices were chocolate, white almond, lemon, yellow, Kahula, carrot cake, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Mojito, vanilla chai, spiced chai and red velvet. After looking at both tables, I went with Mojito, vanilla chai and red velvet. I also picked up a Bailey’s Irish Cream truffle.

I started off with the vanilla chai cupcake. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect . Usually when I pick a cupcake, I go for chocolate with some sort of fudge frosting. However, I adore chai. I grabbed the vanilla version because I didn’t realize there was a spiced version. Spiced chai is my drink of choice when I go to the coffee shop, so I knew a chai cupcake was a must for me. It was good, but it didn’t remind me nearly as much of chai as it did of spice cake, which makes a lot of sense since chai is a spiced tea. Now, I do like spice cake, so I didn’t mind that it didn’t taste much like my yummy hot beverage. It was a little drier than I usually like, but then again, I find spice cake in general to be a bit dry. I think it’s the nature of the beast. Plus, these were mini-cupcakes, and those are never quite as moist as their bigger brothers.

 My next cake was the red velvet. I make it a point to always try any red velvet offering. To me it is a measure of excellence. Not only do I think these cakes are pretty to look at, but I also am intrigued by anything that has a chocolate taste, but doesn’t look chocolatey. So many bakers claim to have a red velvet cake that ends up tasting like, well, nothing really.This particular cake was moister and fairly tasty. Not overly chocolatey, but I still liked the taste of it. The frosting was also tasty. It was creamy and not too sweet. It also wasn’t piled sky high, which is a mistake I think most makers of gourmet cupcakes make. They give more frosting than cake, and let’s face it, they are cupCAKES. This particular frosting really helped to balance the sweetness of the actual cake.

 Before I tried the next cake, I decided to nibble on the truffle. It had a really cute pink candy swirl on top. The inside was incredibly fudgey. The texture wasn’t as stiff as some truffles I’ve tried. It was a bit more liquidy, but it was quite creamy and even though the center looked like it might be a dark truffle base, it wasn’t a bit bitter. It also didn’t have an overwhelming alcohol taste that so many alcohol based truffles too. For example, as much as I love Godiva, their liquer based truffles have a definite alcoholic kick to them that isn’t flavorful, just powerful. This one, however, didn’t at all. It was just creamy and good.

 My final cupcake was the Mojito. This one was the cutest to look at. I loved that it was topped with a tiny slice of real lime. I had to taste that first and I’m glad I did, because it really set the tone for the cupcake. The cake was fairly moist with little bits of lime in it. The actual cake wasn’t nearly as limey as the frosting. When the frosting hit my tongue, I got a little bit of that sweet/sour lime taste. It was pretty yummy.

 Since my dear friend Eee was with me, she let me taste two of her cakes as well. I tried the lemon with the pink topping. The lemon cake was very lemony, but not in an artificial way. The frosting was a little higher than I’d like. For me the frosting on this one was a bit much, especially sincre it was that overly sugary decorator’s buttercream. I also took a taste of her spiced chai cake. It tasted very similar to the vanilla chai cake I’d had. I actually couldn’t tell a difference at all. Since my taste was so tiny, I didn’t get too much of a comparison. I would have liked more, but like I said, I didn’t want to make a pig of myself.

Not that my pig fears stopped me from trying one more cupcake. After all, this is chocolate Monday, so I had to actually try one of her chocolate cakes. I have to admit that this was my favorite. I know, I know, I’m a traditionalist. The fruity flavors are cool, but really, it all comes back to the chocolate for me. This little tasty treat didn’t have tons of frosting on it, which I liked. The frosting it did have looked like dark chocolate to me, but I was once again pleasantly surprised when I tasted it and it was not even remotely bitter. It was rich and if I’d had an entire one, I would no doubt have needed a big glass of milk. I do, however, have two small complaints about this cupcake. First, it wasn’t nearly as moist as I’d hoped it would be. Like most of the tiny cakes, it was a bit on the dry side.

My second complaint was that it was topped with a white fondant star. I am not a huge fan of fondant. I know how pretty it looks and I know that most real cake artists use it, because for them, the design is the art. However, I’m a taste person first and foremost. While I can appreciate a pretty cake, if there isn’t an amazing taste to go with the look, why bother? Fondant is fairly tasteless. To be fair, I nibbled it, but then pulled it off. With it came a lot of the frosting off the cake, which made me sad. I would have rather left the star off and kept the frosting on. It was what made the cake good. The fondant star did nothing for it.

Although I didn’t get a chance to try any of her full size cakes, looking at her website, her Facebook page and her brochure, they do look mighty pretty. Sure, they are fondant, but detail on them looks awesome. I specifically like the skull cake.

I wish I would have gotten to try one of her full size cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the option of variety, but for anyone who has ever baked mini cupcakes (or muffins or even cookies), they tend to be drier than their counterparts because the time to cook them doesn’t change much, but the surface area does, so they get a bit overcooked. I would be interested to know if all the cupcakes are a bit dry or if it’s just the mini versions. After all, I like a really moist, melt in my mouth cake, and I only really got that from one of the cakes I got to sample.

One downfall, is that if you aren’t local, the cupcakes might be out of your reach. If you are local though, you should check them out. Not only are you getting some tasty cupcakes, but you’ll be supporting a small business onwer (and artist).

 Taste: 7.5/10

 Appearance: 9/10

 Value: 7/10 (about $2 to $2.50 per full-sized cupcake, which is reasonble, but closer to $3.00 for a truffle, which is pricey)


Filed under animals, chocolate, cool links, entertainment, food, products, ramblings, what makes me me

The birds and the beasts were there

And so were more vendors dishing up delicious fatty foods then I could have hoped for. Actually, I guess it was really about the number of purveyors of deep fried junk that I expected. And to be completely honest, there was actually one bit of food I wasn’t able to find at this fair, or any in the last three years: frozen key lime pie on a stick. I’ve only ever seen it once, ironically in Florida, where almost nothing else good happens, yet every year I look for it, hoping that this will be the year. But it wasn’t. Instead I had to make a bite of frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick suffice. Don’t get me wrong, it was good; it just wasn’t super tarty limey good. Sigh….

This was, however, the first year we took my son to the fair. We waited until things cooled down a bit and met friends in front of the DNR pavilion. As a kid I used to delight in the fair rides, nearly making myself sick riding the Himalaya, or in really good years, the Flying Bobs*, so many times in a row that I’d lose track. Every year I made sure to climb the insane number of steps that led to the top of the super slide. I silently prayed going around the Ferris wheel that we wouldn’t get stopped too near the top, and then cursed my luck when we always did**. One year, before I lost my taste for all fair rides, I was even persuaded to ride a horrible contraption that was a double Ferris wheel with cages instead of gondolas because they also spun, leaving me upside down for far too long. I did a lot of cursing, which probably wasn’t great since the carnival was at a private Jesuit school.

The fair has been a tradition for me for as long as I can remember. Every summer when I’d visit my dad, he’d take me to the local county fair. My grandfather would spend the whole year collecting aluminum cans and as soon as I arrived, we’d take them to the recycling center. After watching the cans get loaded into the big aluminum crusher thingy, we’d get our slip of paper and head to the cashier. Each year I stood in eager anticipation as the cashier counted the bills into my grandfather’s hand. I knew that as soon as she’d handed over the last penny, he’d hand the money over to me. It was my “fair fund” and I got to spend every bit of it on whatever I wanted at the fair. Oddly, my grandfather never went with us to the fair. He just liked showing me how many bags he’d collected and spending time with me gathering them up, taking them in and watching my face light up when the money was turned over. Man, he was an awesome guy.

Although we never made it to the state fair, I had so much fun at the county ones, that I am determined my son should have the same traditions and the same fond memories.

Since my son isn’t quite a year and a half, he wasn’t too interested in the rides. It probably helped that we didn’t walk down the rows and rows of rides. He was far more interested in the people around him. The only one that even kind of caught his eyes was the carousel, which makes sense since we ride the one at the local children’s museum every visit. He reached out for it and made a few noises, but when we passed by it was soon forgotten.

He was less forgetful when it came to the food though. Our first taste of the fair was offered up by friends who had heaping plates of deep fried potatoes. Despite my love of French Fries, I’m not quite as much of a fan of the deep fried spiral cut ones. My son, however, LOVED them. He’s never had any chips and only one French Fry, and this was salty fried heaven for him. He kept reaching his little hands out, begging for more. I felt kind of bad giving them to him, since sugar, salt and anything fried are not part of his diet (he doesn’t even get juice yet), but I figured this once wouldn’t hurt him. I also applied this logic to the deep fried cheese sticks my husband bought. I pulled eewy-gooey stringy cheese out of the breading and handed it over to my greedy little boy’s hands. When he had a bit, I tried to nibble a stick. As soon as he saw the stick go near my mouth, he wanted more. I think he may have eaten more cheese than I did. Luckily he doesn’t like pickles, so I got my deep fried ones all to myself.

I also made the mistake of letting him see my cherry lime slushy. One taste and he was hooked. It didn’t help that after I had one (and let everyone taste it), two others bought one, so he was surrounded by them. He kept reaching out for another drink. He had red ice running down his face and outfit, but he loved it.

In one of the buildings my son saw a girl with a balloon. There is very little my son loves in this world more than balloons. Every time we go into the grocery store and he sees them in that damn card/flower section, he clamors for one. I feel bad every time we leave without one because he obviously loves them, but paying $3.50 for a stupid balloon each shopping trip seems ridiculous. As I was telling him we’d find him a balloon, the mother stopped me and offered her daughter’s. It’s not cruel like it sounds. The girl was probably nine and was going to let it go outside the pavilion. I gladly took it, tied it to his stroller and made him instantly happy. I felt a little bad when I saw what my son was advertising: it said “Smile, your mom chose life.” Granted, I obviously did, but there is something about groups pandering to children and their love of balloons to get their message across that really bothers me. I don’t like the idea of my son’s balloon espousing a very heated political/moral stand. Especially since it’s one I have problems with. I couldn’t take the balloon away though. See, that’s how they get ya.

My son wasn’t nearly as excited about the animal barns as I thought he’d be. He’s going through a real animal phase. He’s learning what they say and can actually give his versions of their sounds (the cat’s meow sounds a bit like a squeak, which is funny since it is kind of what one of his cats sounds like). He really wanted to touch them, but at the same time was a bit afraid when the donkeys turned to look at him. He really seemed to like the piglets, but wasn’t quite sure what to make of the sheep. I’m sure it didn’t help that they were all shaved and the ones in his books are the cute and fluffy kind. Still, I was hoping he’d like the animals a bit more. Granted, his lack of interest could have stemmed from the fact that it was pushing 8:00 and even on a late day, he’s in bed by then.

We decided to wrap it up and head home. We said goodbye to our friends and turned the stroller to the parking lot. We were home and the baby was in bed by 9. Amazingly, despite only taking a 30 minute nap at the sitter’s, he was in a great mood the entire evening. He threw no fits and seemed pretty content.

Hopefully next year when he can talk and maybe even walk a little of the fair, he’ll like it even more.

*The Flying Bobs, in case you’ve never seen them are like the Himalaya. They go around in circles, really fast, but they aren’t attached at the bottom, so they also swing. If you move your body just right, they swing out pretty darn far.

**I’m slightly scared of heights and yet always got dragged on the Ferris wheel.

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Filed under animals, cool places, entertainment, food, motherhood, my childhood, my son, nostalgia, ramblings, what makes me me