Thursday, August 13, 2015

Florida Gators Mini Banner

Florida Gator Friends,

I wanted a mini Florida Gators banner suitable for hanging in my house for football season. However, being a West Coaster means I cannot just pick one up at a shop in Gainesville.  I checked online and found this cute, free printable but it didn't have the Florida Gator logo! While I am not a design expert, I quickly made this one and it looks pretty cute.

Feel free to print your own on card stock. Cut apart, punch holes, thread some string or ribbon through it and you are ready to shout, "Go, Gators!!" 

Orange Gators Banner Panels

Blue Gators Banner Panels

Remember, this banner is for personal use only.  This banner is not for sale, nor should it be sold.  
The Gator retrieved from Fernando Hernandez on Flickr:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

We are... because of God

Yesterday morning, Wee One and I walked into school with one of her friends.  The friend immediately shared, "You know what I have been thinking about? Where I come from.  I know I came from my mom, and her mom came from her mother, and her mother came from her mother but where did it all start? Why am I here? This is what keeps me up at night." 

The kid is 5.

Wee One did not comment but took my hand as we peeled away to enter the classroom.  While the friend was busy putting her belongings into a cubby, I asked her how she would have answered the friend's question.  She proudly replied, "From God!"  I was beaming but at the same time, I was a tad unsettled.  In this highly competitive academic environment, parents are always comparing their children and looking for ways to gain the edge.  While I try to stay distant from such behavior, it is easy to get sucked in and worry my own children will somehow be behind.  To my knowledge, my daughter does not ponder such big questions. 

I shared this event with my husband later that evening.  His response was filled with wisdom and eased my mind.  "Maybe the reason she doesn't worry about such things is because she already knows.  She is confident in knowing where she came from and why she is here."

Thank you, God, for blessing our family! My most enduring prayer has been that my children would know the Lord and would confess Him before others.  Thank you, Jason for helping me see we are on the right track. 

Are you looking for a way to find this confidence?  Do you wish to impart it in your own family?  With faith and obedience in Christ Jesus comes peace, true happiness and freedom.  Connect with other Christians. Look for a Church in your area.  Attend Bible class. Study God's Word.  Do not be lured into thinking the ways of this world, or the things it contains, are to be sought after. 

A more meaningful life exists!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Downton Season 5 Finale and Earl Grey Cupcakes

The end of each season of Downton Abbey is always soo bittersweet.  I LOVE tuning in each week to take in the gorgeous fashion and discover what twists and turns Julian has in store but this baking gig can get tough!  Yeah, I know you are probably thinking, "Oh, poor you.  It must be just awful having to try soo many delicious desserts each Sunday."  Well, you are right.  It is a pretty sweet gig but the preparation involved can be tough for a busy professional with two little ones.  The big question is if  I will embark on another baking journey for Season 6.  The answer?  You betcha!!

The evening of the Season 5 finale, I had been on the road and just wanted to prepare something easy.  I found a great recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes in The Great British Bake Off cookbook.

They look good, right?  They didn't require any ingredients I did not already have in my cupboard so I decided to give it a go... with a few tweaks.  I also prepared a delicious orange buttercream with fresh backyard oranges for slathering. I am really glad I did.  What a treat!  These cupcakes were almost as jaw dropping as the red coat Lady Mary wore when she visited Anna in prison.  Almost.  Seriously, look at this coat!!
Retrieved from

Let's dive into these Earl Grey Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream!

Cupcakes --
200ml milk
2 Earl Grey tea bags (3 if a more obvious flavor is desired)
115g softened, unsalted butter
225g fine sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
250g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting --
75g softened, unsalted butter
Juice of 1 - 2 oranges (should yield 5 - 6 tablespoons juice) (Could also use lemons)
385g confectioners sugar

Cupcakes --
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place cupcake liners into a standard muffin tin and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk to steaming. Do not let it boil.  Remove the saucepan from heat and allow the tea bags to steep for two minutes.  The milk takes on the subtle floral flavor of Earl Grey tea but if a deeper flavor is desired, use three tea bags.

Gently squeeze the tea bags prior to removing and discarding them.  Measure 150ml of the milk and allow it to cool on the counter.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition.

Add one-third of the dry mixture, mix, then add one-third of the milk and mix.

Repeat the process until all of the dry and all of the liquid are added. Scrape the bowl and mix one last time.

Spoon the batter evenly into the lined muffin pan, making sure each cup is about 2/3 full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a baking rack.

Frosting --
Cream butter with confectioners sugar.  Add five tablespoons orange juice and blend until smooth.

By the way, look at this gorgeous orange!  It was too stunning to pass up.  If you don't have an orange, use a lemon.

If too thin, add a bit more sugar.  If too thick, add a bit more orange juice.  Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes when ready to serve.  These cupcakes are delicious as a snack at home but have the potential to grace a tea table.

The season ended with a most beautiful Christmas tree.  While I was captivated by the size and shape of the tree, I was surprised by the lighting on their tree.  Was anyone else surprised by the modernity of the light string? Check them out for yourself and marvel at Lady Mary as mother.  Yes, it is a rare sight.

Until next January!!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Orange Raspberry Napoleons and Downton Abbey

Tonight was the seventh installment of the fifth season of Downton Abbey.  What a ride it was!  I don't know what I enjoyed more, Tom Branson taking charge at dinner, Violet confessing she enjoys Isobel's company, Lord Merton's TERRIBLE sons, or Mary's stunning hat.  The hour flew!
Retrieved from PBS online episode

The frosting on the proverbial cake was this... Orange Raspberry Napoleons! 

Yum-MEEE!!!  My process follows.


1 box frozen puff pastry
confectioners sugar
Raspberry Sauce (go here for instructions)
250 ml milk
zest of one orange, finely grated
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
50g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
100 ml heavy cream (and a little extra if you would like to use in the layering process)

Thaw the frozen puff pastry.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  Place one sheet of pastry on each baking sheet and cut each into a series of equal sized squares.  There should be about 12 small squares per sheet.  Bake according to package instructions and allow to cool on a baking rack.

In a medium saucepan, heat milk with orange zest. 

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch.

Temper the egg mixture by quickly whisking in a slow, steady stream of hot milk. 

Once tempered, return the mixture to the saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble and becomes a thick custard.

Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a bowl.  Top with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate for two hours.

Whip the heavy cream and place back into the refrigerator until ready to serve. While you are at it, make a little extra for use in the layering process. You won't be sorry.

Once the custard is cool, gently fold in the whipped cream to form a pastry cream.

To assemble the napoleons, cut two squares of the puff pastry in half.  Place half of one square on a plate then top with a dollop of the pastry cream. 

Add a drizzle of raspberry sauce.  Top with the other half of the puff pastry. 

Add a dollop of whipped cream.  Top with another half of pastry followed by a dollop of pastry cream, drizzle of raspberry sauce, and top with the final half of pastry.  Dust the entire form with confectioner's sugar.  Serve with a cuppa tea!

Now... where can I find one of those divine cloche hats?!
Retrieved from PBS online episode

Monday, February 09, 2015

Downton Night - Chocolate Fudge Hot-Pot Pudding

Tonight's Downton Abbey was fabulous.  I squealed with delight when Lady Mary spun around in that hairdresser's chair to reveal her stylish bob. I am a sucker for short doos.  I loved Cora's honesty with Robert.  Does she know about the maid a few seasons ago?  Likely not but hey, she knows his nature!  Are you ready to see if anything will transpire between the Russian prince and the Dowager?  Hmm... she looks a little older than he is.  I do feel sorry for poor Daisy who is still reeling from Ms. Bunting's leaving.  I do like how she and Moseley are forming a bond over education.  Times are changing!!  And poor Isis!  I sure hope she makes a full recovery.

The only thing that made this installment even better was the amazing Chocolate Fudge Hot-Pot Pudding I enjoyed right along with it.  The recipe comes from The Great British Bake Off: How To Bake The Perfect Victoria Sponge And Other Baking Secrets and it is to die for.

If you love chocolate, like I love chocolate, you will be hooked from the first bite... well, likely before.  If the scent of chocolate while making the sauce doesn't hook you, I am not sure you LOVE chocolate.

Caution:  Because the recipe came from a British cookbook, it is not written in the American style of cups.  I did convert everything to ounces so you can better estimate using common measuring methods.  However, if you have a kitchen scale and prefer to use it, the measurement for grams is in parentheses.


4 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter, softened (125g)
4 1/2 ounces of superfine sugar (125g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 ounces self rising flour (75g)
8 tablespoons cocoa
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon milk
4 1/2 ounces light brown sugar (125g)
300 milliliters boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 2 to 2 1/2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter until cream.  Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate with each addition.

Sift flour and 4 tablespoons of the cocoa into the bowl and fold into the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla mixture.

Add chopped chocolate and milk.  Transfer pudding to the buttered dish and spread evenly.

In a heat proof bowl, sift the final 4 tablespoons of the cocoa with the brown sugar.  Whisk in the boiling water until the contents become thin and even.  Seriously, the aroma is INTOXICATING!

Pour the sauce over the pudding and bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the pudding is firm to the touch and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

I am thrilled Lady Edith finally decided what she wanted and took her child back.  I feel awful for Mrs. Drew who was visibly heartbroken to lose Marigold.  Let's hope poor Edith can craft a happy life for herself.  Until next week!  Now, let me enjoy this divine chocolate dessert.

By the way, this would make an INCREDIBLE dessert for Valentine's Day.  Just sayin'.