Friday, June 29, 2012

A Fancy Vanilla Cake

Photo by Anna Spiro/Absolutely Beautiful Things
I equate summer with birthdays, holidays and fun.  Perhaps that's why despite the heat, I adore summer so!  In my family, we make a lot of cakes over the summer months, more than at other times of the year.  Is there anything better than a simple flavored, but moist vanilla cake?  You don't have to use the food coloring for the layers, but trust me, guests love it!  You will hear squeals from “kids” of all ages if you make the extra effort.  Go here for the original recipe.  Here are the ingredients I use:

Vanilla Cake in Color:
3 cups flour [I use 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat], plus ¼ cup 
 more if needed to get a just right (not too stiff, or runny) batter.  Eyeball it.
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups milk
5 eggs
sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
4 teaspoons vanilla [I like to taste the vanilla.  Get the good stuff from Mexico or Madagascar.]
gel food coloring, assorted: blue, red, purple, orange, etc. [Liquid food coloring is too weak.]

1. In a mixing bowl, add one ingredient at a time (except for the food coloring), and beat with a mixer until smooth.
2. Divide the batter, evenly, into 4 or 5 (your choice) separate bowls, and add a different food coloring to each bowl.
3. Pour into separate, well-greased cake pans.  Bake each at 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
4. Take out of the oven.  While warm (not hot, it will fall apart; not cold, it will stick to the pan), remove the cakes from their pans and let cool.
5. Stack the cakes (bottoms up, i.e. the flat sides up) and frost in between each layer.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
3 cups confectionary sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted (½ stick)
½ cup milk, more or less.  Add a little at a time.
3 teaspoons vanilla

Throw the ingrediants into a bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth.  Add as much confectionary sugar as needed to get a stiff, creamy icing.  Frost the top, sides and each layer of the cake.  Tip: Professional bakers usually frost a cake once, refrigerate it, then frost it again before they decorate it.

Serve at your next party and enjoy! 
Gift with a bow
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

BB Cream: The Secret Of Korean Actresses

These brands are formulated For Western markets.
BB Cream is a big makeup craze in Asia (with men too!), and it's quickly spreading to the West.  Created by German dermatologist, Dr. Christine Schrammek in the 50s, to protect and heal skin after laser surgeries, it eventually gained popularity in Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia and is now hitting markets in Europe and the US.

"BB," short for Blemish Balm, is sold as an all-in-one beauty cream.  Depending on the formula you buy, it works as a moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock with anti-aging effects.  Reportedly, the cream feels lightweight and looks completely natural.  It covers skin imperfections and gives you a radiant and dewy appearance.  Plus, BB cream absorbs into the skin for a matte finish.  Overtime, the product is supposed to improve your skin, making it smoother and minimizing some of the signs of aging with it's anti-inflammatory properties.Clock

Asian brands include Missha, The Face Shop, Skin79 and Etude House.

Dior, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Garnier, L'Oreal and Dr. Jart are amoung the first Western companies to launch BB creams.  With Smashbox, Maybelline, Marcelle and others following.

Sounds promising, doesn't it?  I'm always looking for multi-taskers.  Sunblock with a matte finish ... of course!!!   I don't even wear foundation, but hey, if you can't feel it, and cosmetic companies want to throw that in too ... fine.  Personally, I'm itching to try the original Asian brands.  How about you?
Etude House BB cream for men
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Memory

When I was a child both of my parents worked, so once when my Dad went on a short trip out of town, he took me along, but Mom stayed home.  We left the family car with her, packed a single suitcase and took a Greyhound bus across the state to a small town. I was 4 years old at the time, but remember bits and pieces of the trip vividly.  It was before people were in the habit of carrying personal bottles of water, and on the bus ride, I remember telling Dad I was thirsty. He told me to chew a stick of Doublemint gum until we got to a rest stop, and indeed, it helped.
After we arrived at our destination, we spent the afternoon hanging out downtown before later being picked up to spend the rest of our trip with my grandfather.  Man, that was a fun afternoon!  Just Dad and me, bumming around a rustic, sloping, sleepy, concrete town.  We hung out at a soda joint, eating burgers and fries.  We played pinball, which turned out to be one of Dad's hidden talents.  He racked up lots of points in several games, as well as, taught me how to shoot the metal balls to hit the various targets, setting off bells and whistles and lights.  We spent time in a magazine-smoke shop and a record store, plus encountered a charming, elderly lady on the street who recognized Dad and seemed happy to see him.  She referred to Dad as my grandfather's “baby boy,” and I was surprised and delighted to hear it.  We finished off our afternoon, back at the soda shop, sharing a banana split before our ride picked us up.

A few years later, we became a two car family, but nothing tops the trip where we had to board a Greyhound bus, kill time and wait for our ride.  Happy Father's Day to fathers everywhere!
A song from the popular album.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Laugh With Me

People send me jokes, quotes and articles to read, which are often funny and interesting.  Today I'll share a few of the clean ones:
 First Quarter 2012 Airport Screening Results From The Department of Homeland Security:
Terrorists Discovered - 0
Transvestites - 133                               
Hernias 1,485
Hemorrhoid Cases - 3,172
Enlarged Prostates  8,249
Breast Implants 59,350
Natural Blondes 3
The Husband Store

A store that sells new husbands has opened in New York City, where a woman can go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates:

You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may select any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads: 

Floor 1 - These men Have Jobs. 

She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads: 

Floor 2 - These men Have Jobs and Love Kids. 

'That's nice,' she thinks, 'but I want more.' So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads: 

Floor 3 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking. 

'Wow!,' she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads: 

Floor 4 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework.

'Oh, mercy me!' she exclaims, 'I can hardly stand it!' Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads: 

Floor 5 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak. 

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads: 

Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. 

PLEASE NOTE:  To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opened a New Wives Store just across the street.

The Wife Store

The first floor has wives who love sex.

The second floor has wives who love sex and have money and like beer.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.

Definitions for English language words:
ADULT:  A person who has stopped growing at both ends.  And is now growing in the middle.
BEAUTY PARLOR:  A place where women curl up and dye. 
COMMITTEE:  A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours. 
CANNIBAL:  Someone who is fed up with people.
EGOTIST:  A person who is usually me-deep in conversation. 
HANDKERCHIEF:  Cold Storage.
INFLATION:  Cutting money in half without damaging the paper.
MOSQUITO:  An insect that makes you like flies better. 
RAISIN:  A grape with a sunburn. 
SECRET:  Something you tell to one person at a time. 
SKELETON:  A bunch of bones with the person scraped off. 
TOOTHACHE:  The pain that drives you to extraction. 
TOMORROW:  One of the greatest labor saving devices of today.
YAWN:  An honest opinion openly expressed.
WRINKLES:  Something other people have, Similar to my character lines. [For more click here.]
And here is the best definition of calories I have come across:
CALORIES:  Tiny Creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little tigher each night.
 Finally, this image below CRACKS me up.  OMG!  What kind of perverted minds create these things?  Please.  Keep them coming.
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Monday, June 4, 2012

Guilty Pleasure Songs 2

Several months ago I wrote a post on the subject of Guilty Pleasure Songs, the songs you might be slightly embarrassed to admit to liking.  Well, today let's revisit the subject to come up with another list of songs.  But let's change it up a bit: This new list would not open you up to the laughter of friends like your previous Guilty Pleasure Songs might -- because the 2nd list will comprise songs that many critics agree, are well crafted songs.  Just for fun let's now come up with a list of songs we never, ever grow tired of listening to.  So the guilty pleasure element of my new list of songs (below) is this: Even though they have been around for a few years, I can still listen to them a sickening number of times.  I love listening to my list of songs, even though I have heard each and every song over and over and over again.  Someone else may think it obsessive, but I get the same pleasure out of playing them one more time. 
Listing only one song per artist is the challenge.  In many cases I love an entire album.  I could easily list 3 songs by Jimi Hendix alone; but for my Guilty Pleasure List, I will only list one of his, or any other artist's songs.  Also, I will leave off early iconic rock and rollers, since any one of the early artists, such as The Everly Brothers, could make up my entire list.  And I'm not including recent songs, like Somebody That I Used To Know (by Gotye) or Crazy (CeLo Green) or Blue Jeans (Laura Del Rey) or Telephone (Lady Gaga) since without the test of time, who knows if I'll grow tired of them.  So, here is my list in no particular order:
Best Loved Pop Songs (a/k/a, songs I'm not ashamed to play 10,000 times, or more):
1. Paper In Fire - John Mellencamp
2. Caribbean Queen - Billy Ocean
3. Father Figure - George Michael
4. Ode To Billy Joe - Bobbie Gentry (here)
5. It's Raining Men - Weather Girls
6. Billy Jean - Michael Jackson
7. Super Freak - Rick James: RJ really, really likes his groupies and pays tribute.
8. Smoke On The Water - Deep Purple
9. House of the Raising Sun - The Animals
10. Heartbreaker - Rolling Stones: I love the Mick Taylor period of the band the best.
11. Aqualung - Jethro Tull
12. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
13. Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix
14. Freebird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
15. Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin: There's a good reason radio stations play this classic to death.
16. Time Of The Season - The Zombies
17. Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress - The Hollies: Very underestimated band and lead singer, Alan Clarke.  I like so many of their songs, I keep switching my selection.
18. Behind Blue Eyes - The Who
19. Born To Be Wild - Steppenwolf: Everybody knows this ultimate biker song.  I like it even though I will never ride a bike on a highway for fear of becoming a human missile if in an accident.
20. Layla - Derek And The Dominoes: Eric Clapton and Duane Allman playing blues rock is bliss.
21. Sharp Dressed Man - ZZ Top: Billy Gibbons is an underrated guitarist, who is still very much alive. Click here.
22. Put A Little Love In Your Heart - Jackie DeShannon: I know you're tapping a toe just thinking of how the tune goes.
23. What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted - Joan Osborne with The Funk Brothers here: The FB are Motown's house band.  {Want to hear more of JO?  Click here.}
24. I Heard It Through The Grapewine - Marvin Gaye: The more paranoid, the better, example here.
25. Alone - Heart
26. Come As You Are - Nirvana
27. All Right Now - Free
28. Iron Man - Black Sabbath: About a superhero gone wrong.  Male cousins, thus the influence.
29. Don't Fear The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
30. Black Magic Woman - Santana
After you move past the tabloid stories, what you have is a sophisticated songwriter and a gorgeous vocalist.  When George Michael is feeling a song, few other singers can touch him.  Father Figure was a US #1 hit in 1988, but I love this more mature rendition.  For another lovely one, click here.  GM has several fine albums after Faith.                                                      
Which songs can you listen to 10,000 times?
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