Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Lucky Agate

It was fast, but a worthwhile trip. Our first stop was Saturday night in Gold Beach, Oregon. As soon as we checked in, we changed our clothes and headed to the beach. It was windy, but beautiful.
For those that don't know Sue - she is a collector. She was eager to search for agates... She looked and looked.

She was so proud when she found this one! A big 'un. The staff at the hotel reception desk were very impressed. She carried it in her pocket the entire trip for good luck. I think she needs to make it into a giant earring. Just one. Yeah - that'd be awesome.

We arrived in Standish, CA (just outside of Susanville) the following afternoon with a bug splattered windshield and achy joints. Monday morning, we picked up her Mom and had breakfast. The two hadn't seen each other in four years. It was a sweet reunion.

Next thing you know, it was already time for the trip home Tuesday morning. We said goodbye to our hosts - Dar and Rudy (and little Fritz). OK, I really liked that dog. Super cute.
We pumped gas and took one last look at something Sue still owns... the property across the street with a rental and historical building. It probably would have sold years ago if it weren't for this darn housing recession.

We spent our last night in Eugene. We had great fun going through the bags of things Sue's Mom gave her. There were 50+ pairs of socks, several undies, funny keychains, childhood crafted pottery, collectible mini liquor bottles and other unmentionables. You know, stuff your Mom gives you. This required a photo shoot.

It was great spending time with Sue. I don't know what I'd do without her.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Road Trip

Heading out on a road a matter of minutes. I am going with my Aunt to Northern California. For those who know me, you are aware I do (not) like being in the car for extended periods of time. But, because I love my Aunt, am equipped with hours of downloaded music and have some things I would like to emotionally escape from - I will survive.

I'll report back next week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cupcake Bites

If you love to bake like I do and haven't ever been to Bakerella's website - you must go there now. Come back and visit me afterward, but make sure to check her out. She does the cutest things with baked goods.

As many of you know, Bill and I have really been watching how we cook and what we eat. I have done baking, but it has been a loooong time since I've made Courtney Cookies. I just can't keep myself away from them and they are very high in fat and calories. Instead, I've either made Devin Alexander's super yummy Chocolate Chocolate Brownie Cups for us or done baking for others - for instance, my Dad LOVES pie.

But, sometimes... Sometimes you've got to just go for it. I was supposed to be working today and since I'm home I'm going to take the time to photograph making my niece Bakerella's Cupcake Bites for her third birthday. Seriously, they are so dang cute! I did find reduced sugar cake mix and frosting and I used only egg whites in the mix. But, I also figure these things are just bite size, so it isn't close to being as sinful as having a delectable, but giant Hello Cupcake.

We had them last year at one of my bridal showers. There is a big picture of one of them on our photo album and Maggie for the last year always points to it and asks, "Courtney? Would you pleeeeeease make me that pink cupcake?" Have you tried a Hello Cupcake before? Oh, mmmm...yummmm... But, I digress.

It's Maggie's birthday and I'm finally making her a pink cupcake.

Marcie wanted me to do this in a video, but I'll do it the Pioneer Woman way and show you every step with a link to the full recipe at the end. You can learn how to do these on Bakerella's site or you can follow along with me.

Items you will need:
Cake Mix (any flavor) (+ ingredients: oil, eggs)
1 16 oz. Container Frosting (any flavor, but cream cheese is fav)
1 pkg. Chocolate Bark
Colored Candy Melts for cupcake top
Squirt Bottle (optional)
M&Ms (minis or regular size) and sprinkles

First, you are going to make a cake. Use your favorite box cake mix or make one from scratch if you desire. Bakerella's favorite is Devil's Food, but Red Velvet would be good too, or how about Lemon. OK, I'm doing Devil's Food today.

Below are the ingredients I'm using for my cake.

Preheat your oven. My boxed cake mix calls for 350 degrees.

Empty your cake mix into a mixing bowl and add your water and oil. Mix.

Then add the egg whites. Mix until combined.

Then, spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Spread mix into your prepared pan. Place into preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes (according to your boxed cake mix recipe).

Cake is ready when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Voila.

Now, you've got to let the cake cool for several hours or overnight. I broke mine up and put it into a large bowl since it would cool faster. The stoneware dish I baked mine in keeps it warm for quite a while.

Here comes the messy part. Remove your jewelry...

Take one container of your favorite frosting - cream cheese is a favorite. Today I'm using this reduced sugar vanilla flavor.

Spoon out almost the entire contents of the frosting into your broken up cake pieces.

Now, make sure your hands are washed and dig in. Continue mixing until the frosting is thoroughly combined (photo below needs a little more mixing). It is OK if it is a bit sticky.
Take a few pinches or a cookie scoop to get somewhat of a uniform size and then roll into balls. [Note: I'd make yours a little smaller than I show here... you'll see why later].

Very important step. Put your cake bites into the refrigerator or freezer to chill. This is an important step before dipping.

Next, you'll need a candy mold. You can find them at Michael's or order it here. You will also need chocolate bark or your favorite meltable chocolate candy.

Bakerella also uses these squirt bottles. I found them at Cash 'n Carry. But, I found that you can't heat up the chocolate in them (plastic melts), so I gave up and just dished the melted chocolate out of the bowl and it worked just fine.
Fill the molds about halfway with chocolate. You will then set your cupcake bite into the mold until the chocolate reaches the top. [Here's where you'll begin to see I wish I had made mine smaller].
Assemble your sprinkles. Really, you only need one, but I have options. I like options. Maybe it's an HR thing.
These are your M&Ms for the top of the cupcake. You can use regular size and any color, but I wanted red and I used the minis. Just thought they fit the lil' cupcake better.
This is the candy you'll melt for the top of the cupcake. You can use vanilla bark or any colored candy for melting (Michael's is a good source). I ordered Bakerella's favorite brand from Amazon. You can order here.
Fill up a small, but deep bowl for melting and dipping.

Dip your little cupcakes in.

Try to get the candy to just touch the chocolate cup. If you are really particular you can use a toothpick to help push it until it just meets the cup. I did this on some, but realized I wasn't too picky.

And, here it is. Not too bad for my first try... Lessons learned:
  • Make smaller bites
  • Try regular size M&Ms
  • Don't need the squeeze bottles

For Bakerella's recipe, click here.

Be sure to let me know if you give these a whirl!

Libby of the Libbenshire... and Libya

Libby is about six and a half months old now and weighs 30 lbs. She was spayed last week and stayed overnight at the vet. We were nervous about bringing her home - worrying she might not feel well. That certainly wasn't a problem. She was a complete spaz and it was practically impossible to "keep her quiet for 4-5 days." Yeah right!
Check out her curly tail! That tail did not start out that way and the older she's gotten the more it curled. That is the fun of having a mutt or border collie-bull mastiff-labrador; you just never know what you're gonna get. When Bill called to check on her after the surgery he asked, "Is her tail still curly?" The tech said, "Oh yes, I played with it while she was under anesthesia." How cute is that?
Here is her owie. Can you believe what a small incision it is? (I didn't post this to be gross, honest. Just wanted you to see how small it is). She'll get the stitches out next Friday.

And here is the latest round of Wilson v. Libby. Don't you worry, Wilson can always hold his own!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


When we first moved into our house our friend OJ had a hard time orienting herself to where our new house was. We are kind of in the middle of our three connected cities. She looked at a map on-line and set out one morning to go drive around and see things nearby. We live somewhat close to Wolf Haven. She was very interested in this, "Have you been there? What it is like? Can you hear them?" My answers - "Yes." "There are wolves there" and "No, we only hear coyotes." But, secretly I kind of wanted to go there too. We were needing to entertain Tanner and Maggie last weekend, so I thought - perfect - let's go see the wolves!

Tanner and Maggie were into it, but not because of the 40 wolves that lived there - because of the two coyotes they'd see. They were very curious and Maggie even said, "I'm kind of scared."

Here's what I learned.

Wolves eat meat and the tour guides talk about this - "Yes, last week we brought in a 200 lb elk carcass which the wolves dragged by the snout to the back of the enclosure."

Tanner: Why did he kill the elk, Courtney?

Me: Honey, the elk was already dead. [Yikes, change the subject quick!]

Tanner: How did he die?

Me: Oh, he'd lived a long life. He was old and sick.

Tanner: But, what about the elk's Mom and Dad?

Me: [Oh no, think, think!] He was old honey and his Mom and Dad weren't around.

Tanner: Well, why did the wolf want to eat the elk?

Me: Because they are wild animals and they eat meat.

Tanner: That's reallllly gross. Why do they do that?

Me: Well, you eat meat.

Tanner: No, I don't.

Me: Yes, you eat hamburgers and ribs and...

Tanner: But, I don't eat the FUR! Why do they eat the fur?

Me: [Oh boy, his Mom and Dad are going to kill me!] Well, sometimes they don't.

Tanner: Do they eat the bones too?

Oh, my. Maybe this was a mistake. But, he was quickly distracted. Enough to say:

Tanner: Courtney? I'm glad you brought me here, but... it is kind of boring. She talks a lot. But, I still love you.
Here's Maggie trying to muster a smile while still being silly - a difficult balance.

The End!


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