Y*mmy: Glazed Lemon Cake & Homemade Whipped Cream

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan of lemon. In fact, I’d say lemon ties with vanilla for my favorite flavor! So when I ran across this recipe for a lemon bundt cake on Pinterest, I just had to try it out! The fact that I even have the same bundt pan just made it all the better (smile). I made this for my co-worker’s birthday and it was a huge hit. I served it with homemade whipped cream and fresh raspberries to add a little seasonal color and contrasting flavor – seriously amazing!

(The original recipe for the lemon bundt cake can be found at CrunchyCreamySweet. I have slightly modified for my purposes, but I encourage you to click on over for the original and more tasty ideas!)

lemon bundt cake with glaze

Glazed Lemon Cake

For the Cake

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Freshly grated zest of a lemon (medium/large)
  • 1 c Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour the bundt pan. (Side note: Make sure you shake out all excess flour – otherwise you end up with a floured top like me.)

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and lemon extract. With the mixer on low, alternating dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Once everything is in, beat on medium speed for approximately 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes (5 or so) in the pan. Place a cake plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip it upside down. If the cake doesn’t immediately release, gently tap the pan until it does. Allow the cake to cool completely before adding the glaze.

For the Glaze

  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • Two drops lemon extract
  • 2 Tbsp +more lemon juice
  • Lemon zest (optional)

Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Add ¼ teaspoon lemon extract. Whisk in one tablespoon of lemon juice at a time until you achieve the desired consistency.

Homemade Whipped Cream

For the best results, place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment/beaters in the fridge/freezer for about 10 minutes beforehand. Make sure cream is also straight from the fridge.

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-4 Tablespoons powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

Pour whipping cream into mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Add vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar one Tablespoon at a time until you achieve desired sweetness. Continue to beat until peaks hold steady (or the mixture is the texture you prefer).

Travel Tuesday: Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! I was just thinking over the weekend that holidays are always fun times for travels. At least they can be fun, given the proper planning and attitude. I mean, it is prime people watching time! Over the years, and through much trial and error, I’ve found found a few tricks that always help me out. As we head into the busiest travel days of this holiday season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you guys!

flying airplane wing through the clouds

Stay connected. Luckily there are all sorts of travel apps available these days. From traffic alerts to flight trackers, there seems to be an app for tracking just about any method of transportation! Do some research before your trip to find the one(s) you’re most comfortable with.

On a similar note, make sure you have a list of pertinent phone numbers – hotels, airlines, family, etc. – so you can keep everyone on the other end updated on your progress as well!

#itdoesexist

#itdoesexist

Pack snacks and bring water. Hangry is real folks. And it’s a condition that hurts everyone. Pack a few fun snacks for the road for just-in-case situations. If you really want to be nice to your fellow passengers, consider the odor of the food you’re bringing along as well – not everyone is a fan of strange smells!

Likewise, be sure to stay hydrated. If you’re in a car this is straightforward enough, but airports are a bit more challenging thanks to security. I always bring an empty bottle with me and fill it up on the other side A lot of airports these days have special bottle refill stations at the water fountains just for this purpose. A little piece of advice, if you put your empty bottle in the tray outside of your bag, it’ll save TSA and you a lot of trouble when it goes through the machine!

Bring entertainment/headphones. Books, movies, music – pack whatever you need to keep yourself occupied for the duration. Sometimes it really helps the attitude to have a safe activity to retreat into. And don’t forget those headphones! Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, it’s better safe than sorry.

Ilona Andrews, Clean Sweep, book review

Vehicle maintenance. There are few things worse than having car troubles on a trip. While some things are simply unpredictable, having your vehicle serviced prior to the big road trip can at least give you some peace of mind.

Plan your route ahead of time. Then plan route alternatives, just in case. You never know what you’ll find out there on the open road, so it doesn’t hurt to know your options. I also keep a paper map in the car with me just in case I end up somewhere even Google maps can’t follow. (Yes, apparently that is still possible…)

Bring a phone charger. I always charge my phone before I leave, but if I encounter delays, etc. then it’s nice to know I can re-charge. If I’m driving I keep an adapter for my car and if I’m flying I make sure to keep the charger in my carry-on bag. I know this all sounds like a no brainer, but I had to learn it all the hard way!

Ship gifts/buy gift cards. Every year I seem to encounter this issue. I find these really neat gifts and this really pretty paper but then face the ship or unwrap at security situation. I usually succumb to the lure of the shiny paper just ship them all ahead, which also saves space and weight (double win – smile). Of course gift cards are always a fun/easy option. They travel well – either with me or through email – and who doesn’t love a pick-your-own opportunity?

Pack light. This is also something I struggle with every year. Since I’m usually leaving the desert for colder climates, it’s always hard for me to judge exactly what to pack; so I overcompensate. I have improved over time, but it’s been a process. That said, the benefits of being able to navigate my luggage myself and to even occasionally save on checked bag fees make that process totally worthwhile!

Arrive early. It’s worth missing a little sleep to save a lot of worry. If there’s a huge line, you have time and if there’s not, then you have Starbucks (smile).

Soft Kitty always works :)

Soft Kitty always works :)

Breathe/be nice. Possibly the most important piece of advice on this list – and somewhat of a mantra for myself this time of year. If you’ve planned ahead, there (hopefully) should be no reason to be in any big hurries. Try to pause, take a deep breath, and remember that we’re all in this together. Someone else’s lack of courtesy should be an encouragement to balance that out with kindness, not to battle it out to the lowest possible levels. In the end a few minutes here or there rarely makes a difference in the destination, but it can make a huge impact on someone else.

What are your travel tips for surviving holiday travel??


Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkling Memories

I want to dedicate this one to my grandfather. Christmas has always been his season – from being Santa Clause to over-the-top decorating, I always think of him this time of year. These are from last Christmas, sadly his last big decorating hurrah as he’s unfortunately too ill to get out and decorate. However, he’s still been making Santa phone calls to the local children – just in case he can’t do it on Christmas Eve, he doesn’t want them to think Santa forgot. So here’s to a man who has always had a twinkle in his eye…

Christmas decorations grandma's house

Grandparents House

Grandfather

Grandpa (aka Santa)

tree with christmas lights

Lots of Twinkle :)

This week’s photo challenge is twinkle.

Happy weekend everyone!!

Throwback Thursday – Christmas Edition

I found these gems while looking through some old photos my brother had scanned and couldn’t help but share. A part of me will always be the girl in the sparkly dress who finds nothing wrong with trying to sneak a peek at Christmas presents(smile). It soothes my Grinch-y adult soul somehow to look back and remember all the really good memories related to Christmas. Ah the innocence…

christmas photo

I swear I wasn’t peeking!

 

Christmas photo

I LOVED this dress! :)

Travel Tuesday: Glastonbury’s Legends

Happy Travel Tuesday from the wilds of Wyoming! Okay, not really “the wilds” per se, but a long way from my desert. It’s also much colder than my desert – finally a place that feels like winter! As I mentioned last week, I didn’t know much about the myths and legends surrounding Glastonbury when I went in search of the Tor. I just knew it was supposed to be a really cool place with an “energetic vibe.” So I was very pleasantly surprised to find such a rich history behind the town and its famous hill.

Archaeological evidence shows that Glastonbury has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The town used to be an island surrounded by a shallow sea. Glastonbury was a place of trade, but the Tor always set the town apart. Through the years there have been any number of rituals, beliefs, and legends surrounding the Tor, several of which claim that it as a gateway between the heavens and the underworld. With the rise of Christianity, the pagan beliefs took on a more Christian tone and Glastonbury Abbey was erected, swiftly becoming a popular pilgrimage stop.

Glastonbury Abbey England

Glastonbury Abbey

If you research Glastonbury, you will find an overwhelming number of hypothesis and stories, myths and legends. However, two of the most popular figures are Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur.

Joseph of Arimathea

Biblically speaking, Joseph of Arimathea was the one to whom Jesus’ body was released after the crucifixion. According to local legend, Joseph was also Jesus’ uncle and the two visited Glastonbury to trade goods. When Jesus died, Joseph fled to Britain, bringing with him the Holy Grail. [Side note: In this case, the Holy Grail was a cup. Supposedly the one Jesus used at the Last Supper and which may have also contained drops of his blood.]

Joseph was granted land at Glastonbury by a local King. As the story goes, upon his arrival, Joseph struck his thorn staff into the earth whereupon it took root and burst into bloom. A cutting from that first thorn tree was later planted at Glastonbury Abbey where it continued to bloom every year at Christmas. In fact, there is a thorn tree at the Abbey, of a variety native to the Holy Lands, which does indeed bloom around Christmas each year.

As for the Holy Grail, there are many theories. One theory suggests that Joseph buried he cup at the base of the Tor, whereupon a spring of blood gushed forth from the ground. In fact, there is a well at the base of the Tor called Chalice Well. The water is tinged red from the heavy iron content. Bottles of this water can be purchased as a token of your pilgrimage and as a good luck charm. (smile) Another legend indicates that Joseph was buried with the Grail in a secret grave. The search for the Grail continues even today.

Some say that Joseph also founded the first church in England at Glastonbury. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest a very early Christian church in the area. Glastonbury Abbey was first built around existing monastic structures and then rebuilt following a devastating fire. The Abbey became one of the richest in England thanks to its popularity as a pilgrimage destination. Unfortunately, Glastonbury Abbey fell victim during the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII and today remains in ruins.

King Arthur

Legend has it that the nearby hill fort at South Cadbury was the location for Camelot. In fact, archaeological records do suggest that the area was in use during the early 6th century, which is the likeliest era for the real Arthur. The Tor has been linked to the Isle of Avalon, where King Arthur’s famous sword Excalibur was formed, and where Arthur was buried after his death.

In the late 12th century, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey announced that they had found the grave of Arthur and Guinevere, his queen. According to the monks, a stone inscribed “Here lies Arthur, king,” was found during an excavation near the Abbey. Beneath the stone they found the bones of a large man and the smaller skeleton of a woman. The remains were reburied in the grounds of the Abbey, adding increased popularity to the pilgrimage destination.


Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my dad’s 60th birthday! I wish I could be there to celebrate with him, but the timing just didn’t work out. I know my step-mom will take good care of him though – I hear there’s a surprise party somewhere in the day and I know he’ll love it (smile).

I’m so lucky to enjoy such a fun relationship with my dad. I’ve been a daddy’s girl from the beginning and I doubt that will ever change. He’s been a great role model, supporter, and father and I so appreciate everything he has done and continues to do for our family. So here’s a big shout out to my favorite guy -

Lots of Love

Lots of Love

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone but not Forgotten

This week’s photo challenge is “gone but not forgotten.” I figure this photo fits that theme on a couple of different levels. The bustling society that built the great temples may be gone, but their breathtaking work is certainly not forgotten. Likewise, I will never forget just how carefree and happy I was in the moment this picture was taken. I can’t help but remember and smile every time I see this photo (smile).

Angkor, Cambodia

Angkor complex, Cambodia

Happy weekend everyone!!

Winter Book Challenge: November Check-In

November was quite the month for reading! Not sure if it was just the lack of worthwhile television or I just craved some quality time with stories, but I’m not complaining (smile). In addition to those books that qualify for the Winter Book Challenge, I also completed a short YA series (Saving Angels 2.5 stars) and read a book from the perspective of a cave man (Transcendence 3 stars). Both were very…interesting. Anyway, be sure to check out the challenge page – it runs through February 2015 so there’s still plenty of time to join the fun

My Favorite Book of the Month

My Favorite Book of the Month

5 points: Freebie – The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (582 pages paperback edition, 4 stars)
I came across this book on a list of “Halloween” books. It is a little creepy I suppose, but definitely not Halloween related. The story centers around a modern day burn victim who encounters a woman claiming to be his soul mate. What makes this book interesting is that while it is grounded in modern day, it’s also a historical account of a love across centuries. While the modern story gives you more details of the burn recovery process than any squeamish person may be interested in, the flashback/story portion gives you a most intriguing historical insight. Truly, this book is difficult to describe (although Goodreads does a better job than me). For anyone interested in this sort of theme, I recommend it.

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books – Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella (448 pages paperback edition, 2 stars)
I’ve read several of Kinsella’s books, but this one is by far my least favorite. The story centers around a modern day girl on a mission to find a family heirloom so that her great aunt will stop haunting her and rest in piece. There are funny parts to the story, but for the most part I just found it a bit annoying. The ghostly great aunt is the only real saving grace in the story. The main character starts off a little shaky and just never quite seems to evolve as most characters are expected to do in these sorts of books. Overall, there are other Kinsella books I would recommend above this one.

20 points: Read a “bookish book” – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (550 pages paperback edition, 5 stars)
Set in Nazi Germany, this book tells the story of a orphan who takes opportune moments to obtain books as well as her friends and life in her small town. Narrated by death/the grim reaper, you know from the beginning that it will not be a story of rainbows. Yet that narrator lends a surprisingly fresh perspective on an incredibly grim situation. It was a brilliant move – and there are even a few rainbows after all.

When this book first came out, I was in an audio book phase and tried to listen to it. I cannot tell you what a mistake that was! It just doesn’t translate well into the oral format for me. As a result, I’ve put off trying to read this story for some time now, convinced that I would not like the book at all. I figured this challenge was a good opportunity to try it again – I started one afternoon and was finished by the next. I simply couldn’t put it down!

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title – Summer in the South by Cathy Holton (352 pages hardcover edition, 3.5 stars)
A bit of a mystery, this story centers on a yankee (sorry, but that’s the term y’all) who ends up in Tennessee to write a novel. While staying with two aunts and an uncle of a college friend, the main character uncovers a family secret buried under the Southern charm and pride that threatens the fabric of a community. Overall I found this book to be true to its setting and the story intriguing. I was satisfied with the ending – it wasn’t rushed as some mysteries are and it had just enough of a twist to be plausible. I enjoyed the characters as well as the history. I suppose my only complaint was in the writing style itself. Some books read themselves (like The Book Thief) and are thus effortless to consume. This one took a little work. Sometimes that’s just how it works I suppose.

Total: 55 points

 

 

 

 

Travel Tuesday: Glastonbury Tor

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! I feel like I’m finally getting back into the office groove after a few short weeks in a row. I tell ya, those short weeks can be a blessing and a curse! Over this past weekend I finally got serious about tagging my photos now that they’re all in one spot. While doing so, I came across so many fond memories, including a trip out to Glastonbury during a work-study stay during law school. Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England known for its annual festival as well as its myths and legends.

Glastonbury Tor

Welcome to the Tor

I must admit that when I insisted on making the pilgrimage out to Glastonbury (which it sort of was given my dependence on public transport) I only knew about the Tor that dominates the skyline. It was only once I arrived that I discovered the associations with the Holy Grail and King Arthur.

Glastonbury Tor, St Michael's Tower

I was going through an “awkward angles” phase

Tor is a local word of Celtic origin meaning “conical hill.” I first heard about this mystical place on a History channel special about “energetic spiritual places,” such as Sedona, Arizona and Machu Picchu, Peru. The St. Michael’s ley-line passes through Glastonbury Tor and is “marked” by St. Michael’s Tower, which sits at the pinnacle. I won’t attempt to explain the concepts and meanings behind all this, but suffice it to say I was intrigued. I suppose some people would label it all a bit “New Age,” but I find any kind of religious mythology/history fascinating (even if I adhere strictly to nothing in particular).

Glastonbury Tor, St Michael's Tower

Once I arrived in Glastonbury I discovered that the Tor (apparently) had been called the “Isle of Avalon” by the Britons and is believed by some to be the Avalon of Arthurian legend. There are several other sites in the area linking Glastonbury to Avalon, but I’ll save those for next week. The Tor has also been associated with the first Lord of the Underworld (Gwyn ap Nudd, Celtic mythology) as well as the King of the Faeries.

So is it a magical place? I don’t know that magical is the right word, but it certainly gives off an old-in-an-ancient-sort-of-way vibe. The most popular place I can think to compare it to would be Stonehenge. You get the feeling that something happened there that left its mark on the atmosphere. Even if you believe in none of this or detest such theories, the Tor is still a beautiful climb and a worthy place for sitting in the air while reading a book (as my trip companion can attest). If you are interested in more background on the Tor’s myths and legends, I strongly encourage you to have a little pow wow with Google – and to take most sites with a grain of salt. The sheer variety of tales ensures that there’s a little something for [almost] anyone (smile).


Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Pondering Procrastination

What is it about long weekends that make them seem to go by even faster than regular ones? I’ve really enjoyed the freedom of the last few days, but if I’m honest, I’ve definitely been much less productive than I intended. I know sometimes you just need down time, but that’s the excuse I tell myself in the evenings. Eventually that excuse runs into procrastination or just plain laziness, depending on your perspective.

LastMinutePanic

I was born a procrastinator. I’ve always been perfectly happy putting whatever task off until the last possible moment – I do some of my best work under last minute panic. Unfortunately, this last minute panic is just that – a panic. Just because I can procrastinate and still do a good job doesn’t mean that I should allow myself to go that route. Yet that’s exactly what I find myself doing. Some people have problems sticking to a diet or exercise routine – my biggest problem is sticking to the commitment to complete tasks ahead of their deadline.

It’s only recently that I can really look back and see some of the true effects procrastination has had on my life. I always thought I was doing just fine, but in truth I let a lot of opportunities slip by due to time constraints. I settled for good enough instead of my best. I know I could have done quite a few things differently and found myself in a very different position today. However, I refuse to mark those choices down as regrets; instead I’m trying to view them as learning motivational opportunities.

2014 is winding down and there are so many decisions that I’ve allowed myself to defer to 2015 that I’m rather disappointed in myself. As a result, I also find myself disappointed with 2014 in general, which really isn’t fair to the year itself. I already find  myself marking this off as “yet another disappointing year,” when in truth it’s been anything but disappointing. I have made some progress, even if it’s only been in fits and starts. At least now I see the truth behind my habits so that I can work on making new ones.ProcrastinationI just celebrated my 31st birthday a couple of weeks ago. I’m now officially in my thirties and it’s time – it’s past time – to stop procrastinating and move forward with life. This procrastination lately isn’t because I’d rather be reading a book for pleasure (although that’s almost always true…) or due to laziness. I’m just afraid to fail. And that’s something that’s been really difficult to admit. One of my friends recently pointed out that I always think three steps ahead in any situations – even my “spontaneous moments” are well calculated. I’ve gotten pretty good at calculating possibilities in an instant; given longer to think about a decision and I can work things out to a plan Y (a double-edged sword depending on the situation). Maybe it’s no wonder I’ve been procrastinating on moving forward with big life decisions lately – I’ve exhausted my motivation in contingency planning!

I’d like to wrap this up with some positive statement about how I plan on not falling back into my old patterns in this new year of life – and that’s true in a not-likely kinda way – but frankly, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I’m not sure how to find a constant source of motivation. I truly am working on taking a mental step back and more organically going with the flow – doing things as time allows and staying out of my own way – but I’ve found that there is nothing smooth about that “flow.” There’s been great difficulty lately in staying patient with myself during the bumpy times and that makes me question so many things, mostly myself. It’s so much easier to blow off the hard stuff and stick my head in a book or some artsy project! Sometimes I wonder if  I will ever be able to overcome my procrastination – or my fears – to really move forward in the way I think I want. I suppose only time and hard work will tell…