Touch of Cinnamon Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake

cake 01

Note the coupons in the corner.

I had a new bundt pan and a chocolate craving, so I decided to combine them into something delicious.  All the “easy” recipes called for chocolate cake mix and pudding. I had white and yellow, but no chocolate, and no pudding. But hey, I have plenty of baking chocolate in many forms. So, while I am notorious for making horrible baked goods when I veer from the recipe, I gave it a shot. What I did in no way resembles the recipes I referenced. I was nervous. But it turned out nummy.

Touch of Cinnamon Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake


  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 16.5 oz package yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
  2. Beat egg whites until they form very soft peaks.
  3. In a large bowl, mix everything else but the chocolate chips until well blended.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Fold in egg whites.
  6. Bake for 50 minutes. Remember when testing for doneness that melted chocolate chips may come out on the knife.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes, turn out, and dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar.
  8. Om nom nom.
I'mma eat the hell outta that.

I’mma eat the hell outta that.

Ghosts, Chips, and Hot Maori Boys

I’ve been planning on make some seasoned chips for Halloween. I’d stored the “ghost chips” recipe in Evernote. I have Evernote set up so its results come up when I use Google. And that’s how all this started.

See, a video came up in Google, next to my Evernote stuff. It is an anti drunk-driving ad from New Zealand:

But wait, there’s more. This led to a parody video by The Cuzzies, a side project of JGeek and The Geeks.

So who the heck are these guys? They’re kinda performance comedy art. They are multi-talented, which you’d expect from a group led by a former Disney kid. Check ‘em out in this Maori version of the history of dance:

And now my new favorite song, which is hilarious:

Finally, something spooky for the holidays from my new favorite metro Maoris.


For the record, I would totally steal ghost chips.


Q: What’s the difference between a banjo and a motorcycle?

Gourd banjo

A drum with a stick.

A: You can tune a motorcycle.

I was listening to a Rascal Flatts song this morning, and found myself wishing the banjo was more forward.  Then I was listening to Charlie Parr, and wishing he was playing banjo. Apparently, I am in the mood for banjo.

First, check the gorgeous tone on this gourd banjo played clawhammer style by Adam Hurt:

This is amazing once it gets going: Ross Nickerson playing Stairway to Heaven:

Here Jens Kruger plays Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. It’s as pretty as you think it might be:

Finally, the late Mike Seeger talks a bit about the gourd banjo, and plays a bit. There are banjo jokes at the end.

I love unconventional banjo, especially when it’s used as a lead instrument in pop or rock music. If you have recommendations, send ‘em my way. I’m gonna go ’til I hear banjo.

(PS: That’s Ashley Campbell on banjo for RF)

Rainier is Trying to Kill Me

Hurt Couture

Hurt Couture

I often seek out new experiences to add to the richness of my life. Last night, I’m utterly thrilled to say, I experienced my first ambulance ride.

At first, I tried to muscle through a bastardly case of food poisoning, but when consciousness threatened desertion, I gave in.

“Biiii. Buhhh! Brriii,” I called from my throne of despair. Bill heard his not-name and came to the door of my misery chamber. “Caa shpitul. Nee mekul tnshin.” Luckily, my Spousal Unit is fluent in Stupor.

Yesterday was cooking day, and I ate many delicious things, including lasagna, hash, and a Subway sandwich. All of these things were shared equally with my hale and hearty Spousal Unit, except one: Rainier cherries. AKA: Death Globes.

We live about two block from a firehouse, so the guys showed up first. I was most disappointed. Yeah, sure, they were fit and conventionally pretty. Even crush-worthy–if I were 17. This was about 1am, and I imagine the more senior and dashingly rugged firefighters get the day shift. Really must time my horrible illnesses better. Of course, I was barely conscious, so with my luck, the hottie was on the periphery while I wasn’t strong enough to turn my head. The boys took my blood pressure and asked me questions.

Next, the EMTs showed, also very quickly. We live in a posh neighborhood with elderly folks. I imagine they know the way. The EMTs were jovial, straightforward women. They took my blood pressure and asked me questions. Then the firemen thought it would be hilarious to use their air horn in the middle of a very quiet neighborhood at 1am (and to be fair, it was), and we were off.

During the ride, they poked me with needles, some more successful than others. I will be forever grateful for the Zor-something they put in that IV (even though it took two tries and some vein mangling), because soon I felt well enough to smile and joke a little. I apologized for possibly leaving blue hair dye on their stretcher. They said that would be the nicest thing they’ve had left on their stretcher all day.

At the hospital, they took my blood pressure and asked me questions.

Bless one of the EMT guys for bringing me a heated blanket. Did you know? When you really need a hospital, you don’t think about things like: dang, I’m only wearing pyjamas. Yep, I was braless and shoeless, and I so didn’t care.

I think the primary method of treatment at hospitals is to bore you into feeling better. Everyone was very nice, except for the doctor, who was tired and efficient. My nurse had Captain America scrubs, and lamented that she could no longer dye her hair purple because of a hospital policy change. She was my age. I don’t find many of My People here in Florida, so it’s always happy-making when I do. Thought the weight thing was funny: I told her I weighed about 300lb, and she said: “Oh honey, you are not that big. I’m putting down 280.”  Um, thanks?

They fed me horrible tasting things, gave me a magical pill, and allowed me my undignified escape. They did give me warm socks. And I stole a blanket.

I’m still a little ooky, but loads better. I have certainly lost my taste for cherries.

End of an Era

photo by thornypup

photo by thornypup

I have deadline anxiety. Weeping, swearing, teeth-gnashing anxiety that can last for weeks, and worries the hell out of the Spousal Unit. It doesn’t matter if the deadline is casual or important–with rare exceptions, they have the same devastating effect.

At about 4am this morning, I got rid of my last deadline.

I’d been planning a letterboxing event for this October. It had a wonderful story to go along with it, and was going to include lots of artsy props. I had some good help from far away, and more good help close by. It was a big job–very big–but certainly not impossible. The problem is, I hadn’t been all that interested in carving stamps or building letterboxes for a year or more. The stamp I’d already carved was beautiful, but I rushed through it, begrudging every minute. My heart wasn’t in the project, and the anxiety was already starting to pinch.

I’d been talking to people about the possibility of cancelling, but I think my mind was already made up. Early this morning, I let it go, and admitted that I’m walking away from letterboxing.

Letterboxing has been a huge part of my life for several years. I’ve made a lot of friends I cherish, discovered new places, and created some fun art. I’ll probably still hunt boxes with friends. Maybe I’ll get the urge to plant one or two. I’m still in a few facebook groups that I like to keep up with, and I have an event that’s basically encouraging other folks to plant–so that’s okay. But no more big stuff with looming end dates.

I’m a little numb today, feeling a weird post-stress letdown. My studio time is now mine to do with as I please, and that’s tremendously freeing. By Monday, I suspect I’ll be tackling my art with renewed fervor.

The trick now is to avoid adding more deadlines as much as humanly possible. I’ve been very good over the past year at reducing them to this point. I have one deadline a year that has, for some reason, never given me anxiety, so I’ll be keeping that one.

Everything else, well, I hope folks understand when I say I don’t take commissions.


Adventure Saturday: Nurseries

monstera deliciosa
It was kind of a mini Adventure Saturday today. We’d planned to visit two nurseries. We ended up at three nurseries and a farmer’s market.

old myakka farmer marketOn our way to the first nursery, we discovered the Old Myakka Farmers Market. It was small, but there was lots of goodness. We left with honey, eggs, and veg, all directly from the folks who produced them. I couldn’t resist a couple of rare fruits, a sapota and a monstera deliciosa (pictured above). The monstera deliciosa (delicious monster), aka Fruit Salad Plant, was irresistible just for its strangeness. You cannot peel and eat it. You must (must!) wait for the scales to fall off on their own, and then you can eat the bits of exposed fruit. It is supposed to taste like a cross between a pineapple and a banana. Can’t wait to try it.

4beesFrom there, we headed to 4 Bees Herb Farm, to get some of their beautyberry insect repellent for a friend in Oregon.

4bees 02Deborah has grown herbs for decades, and the shop features a delightful apothecary-like shelf of medicinals.

crowley nursery anoleSince it was just down the road, we headed to Crowley Nursery; an exotic garden of ornamentals, as well as an amazing collection of edibles–many I’d never heard of! When we want tropical fruit trees, I know where we’re going.

crowley nursery anole 02Of course, did we get any pictures of this wonderland? No, we took pictures of the anoles. As you do.

Our final stop was Mariposa Nursery, at which we also got zero pictures. Heh. We were distracted by all the pretty sculpture and fountains and pots and plants and things. This is our closest nursery, and I imagine we’ll be spending some time there.


Happy Moments All ‘Round

tri colored heronI have been doing the 100 Happy Days project over on my other frytopia on Tumblr. But I can only post one a day, and there were many happy things today.

The day started with me dropping the Spousal Unit off at work, and spotting a tri-colored heron. This is the best shot I could get. He was lovely.

Next, off I went to Tarpon Springs to letterbox with a couple of friends.

no swimmingHere’s Andrea being silly by the No Swimming sign. The sign I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of:


I don’t even want to know what prompted the placement of that.

bead loot

On the way back, I found bead nirvana, and get this–it’s a bead shop in the back of a used book store, so you wind through the stacks to get to it. It’s kind of magical. The place is Sparkle Spot, and though it’s a small space, they have a great selection of seed beads and findings. Kelly hasn’t taken up all her space with stringing beads, like I see in so many other shops. She also dyes Fireline, so you can pick up a number of colors. I spent waaaay too much money, and I’m not sorry.

Adventure Saturday: Braden Castle

braden castle 05Braden Castle isn’t really a castle. It is the ruin of a plantation house built in the 1850s. It passed hands a few times, survived the Civil War, then burned in 1900.

braden castle 02In the 1920s, the original snowbirds, the Tin Can Tourists bought the land surrounding the castle and began building cottages. Packed tightly together, with inviting front areas that encourage neighborly interaction, the cottages retain their 30s charm despite renovations.

braden castle 03The ruins are located in a small park, and surrounded by chain link fence. They are alive with anoles.

Spot the anole!

As we walked around taking pictures, we were accompanied by a pretty manx tabby we called Welcome Wagon, or Welcome for short.braden castle 08

Here he is being suspicious of me. Welcome didn’t like the camera, possibly because it looked like I would pick him up. Pets are fine, grabs are not.

braden castle 07We spent ages just sitting with Welcome, and then a bunch more time talking with a woman who owned much of the land. She was very proud of the neighborhood–as she should be–and obviously loves to chat about the castle and the park.

What was supposed to be a quick trip up the street, turned into a long, relaxing sit in a lovely spot. Cat included.

braden castle 04 welcome

Adventure Saturday: Bead Show

bead show 03Today we went to the Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show at Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium.  I was used to the shows in Portland, where they had a few interesting beads, but mostly it was other people’s work. I got inspired, but I never spent much. This was wonderfully different.

bead show 04There was still some finished work here, but mostly, it was beads and findings.

bead show 02Tons and tons of beads and findings. In fact, I’ll probably just keep a list of the findings I need and wait for the next show, since they’re here every couple months.

bead show 01There were crystals and gemstones galore, but not very many seed beads.  The Beading Ladies (website opening shortly) had some nice hanks of Czech beads, but that’s about it.

loot 01Here our new garden gator, Fred, shows off my loot. The polished agate in the front is from Huiling Design. They had several shades. I assume they’re dyed or heated. They were just gorgeous, so I got the color I already had beads to match. Seed beads and some lovely sea glass came from The Beading Ladies. I can’t wait until their site opens, because I want more of that glass. The large ceramic skull, and the black and white one next to it, came from the wonderful Firefly Design Studio. I think these were the only handmade items at the show. Michelle was great, and I look forward to buying from her in the future. The rest of the items were purchased here and there.  A few strings of crystals, more skulls, some bezels and findings. I bought a set of dremel bits from a woman who reminded me of The Junk Lady from Labyrinth. “Don’t you want a loupe? Sure, you want a loupe! Nice loupey loupey.”

For lunch, we considered Yoder’s but it was packed. Instead, we went to a place down the street I had noticed a few weeks ago, Der Dutchman. Apparently, it’s a chain, though it doesn’t seem like one. The meatloaf was fantastic, and everything else was yummy enough to go back for the meatloaf. They have a very good pie menu, which made us happy.

They also have a large gift shop upstairs, where we were tempted by many pretty things. That’s where Fred came from. I also bought my first purse in decades.

loot 02I took one look at it and said, wow, my sister would love that! Then I thought, hey, I love it!

I’d been planning on making a purse, but this has exactly the form factor I wanted. It is very well designed, right down to the adjustable strap. Plus, sparkly.

Skulls, pie, and sparkles. It was a good day.


baby cranesSaw a couple of Diplomat cabs on the road today. It reminded me of my first cab ride in Florida, coming from the Sarasota airport. The driver, as are all of the Diplomat drivers, was from Haiti. His accent was thick, but beautiful, and I was curious, so I asked him about his home. He told me it was very bad, you know.

Yes, I did know. I have seen the news, and cried over it, and felt helpless and angry. I didn’t want to ask more, because I didn’t want to minimize his pain.

But here’s the thing. If Florida were destroyed in an avalanche of greed and violence, and I had to leave, perhaps, I, too, would just tell people that it was very bad, you know. But I would still remember the best things. I would remember Sandhill cranes, walking sedately with fuzzy chicks in tow. I’d remember alligators, warm ocean water, and sunny days.

That’s what I want to hear about. Don’t tell me what I can find in the news. Give me hope. Tell me about your cranes.