Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

(Ever hear of the Thanksgiving "Chicken" ? My cat, Scoots!)

Hi friends! I trust you had a very happy, healthy and filling Thanksgiving Day! My little guy and I feasted on a wonderful dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's home. I am always amazed at how long planning for the perfect menu from the beverages and appetizers, to the entree, side dishes, and desserts can take; and then how quickly all of that planning can be consumed! Overall, dinner was an enormous success and the time flew by so quickly! There was so much wonderful food, laughter, good conversation and most of all being together with people I love. It was a good day and for that, I am grateful. I never get to have nearly enough time at my Aunt and Uncle's house. I have told them for years they need a plaque which reads "You are entering the house of warmth and love!" When I count my blessings, I count them twice.

I know my Aunt is going to kill me for posting this picture (which is exactly why I did not tell her I was going to put it on the blog, mea culpa, mea culpa!) I am bringing cupcakes over! :-) I think it is very important to recognize the hostess who puts in all the hard work of organizing, shopping, cooking, serving, cleaning up and putting their heart into serving up a memorable meal on a special day so we can all have a place to gather! So kudos to you Linda! You know I love you! (Kiss the cook!)

As promised, pictures from the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) Thanksgiving Supper at the Buffalo Soldier Pavillion here at West Point, below. I was very happy to have been able to provide a small piece of deliciousness to our soldiers who are stationed at the United States Military Academy at West Point. (Here I am pictured with several dozen cupcakes I dropped off during "set up")
(Just look at these gorgeous smiles and delicious cupcakes!)
(Life is sweet! My little guy with a pumpkin spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting dusted with cinnamon sugar.)

The different cupcake flavors were:

1) Vanilla cupcake with cream cheese frosting, triple berry puree and a strawberry.
2) Pumpkin spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting dusted with cinnamon sugar.
3) Vanilla cupcake with Godiva mocha whipped cream sprinkled with cocoa powder, topped with a Dunkin Donut coffee bean.

I will post the recipes, but for now I wanted to share these pictures with you! Did you have any amazing desserts for Thanksgiving? Discuss.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers - Thanksgiving Cupcake Project

Hi friends! Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I seem to be touched with a bit of nostalgia. The cold, November winds have begun to blow. The rain that's falling is threatening to turn to snow. The last of the autumn leaves have turned colors and fallen into crunchy piles on the ground; another year is about to come to a close. As I think about Thanksgiving, I am reminded there are some years when I am "the cook" and there are other years I am "the guest." Either way, it is nice to know I have a place to welcome friends and family or to go and share happiness during the holiday season.

During most of my adult life I have, in one way or another, spent the holidays serving meals at a shelter, to soldiers in a mess hall, hosting family and friends and many soldiers in my home, inviting friends of friends to come and eat, spending time at the VA hospitals, or nursing home with my grandmother. I have an incredibly deep and affectionate spot for the elderly and I do admit to doting on anyone who does not have a place to go during the holidays. There is "always room for one more" at my table.

It is precisely this train of thought which prompted my little guy to completely empty out our pantry this past weekend, "for the good of the community" he told me when the Boy Scouts did their annual food drive. I noted he was more than happy to donate the artichoke hearts, peas, carrots and string beans. When I asked him what we should do about the Fruit Roll-Ups, Animal Crackers and Slim Jims, he quickly responded that was not a canned item and therefore not an adequate donation. I fear he might be right on that one!

What can I say, I was born in September and therefore my Libran personality requires me to thrive on balance and harmony. I need to know everyone is happy and most of all well fed! I do not do it out of a sense of obligation; I do it because it is the right thing to do. There have been many holidays I spent alone, in foreign countries. What I would not have given for a friendly face or familiar food. Not to be overly dramatic, but I told myself I would not go through those lonely days again. Familiarity is what brings us together. I try to do my part, no matter how small.

Which brings me to my latest project. There is an Army program called BOSS - Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. It is a program which supports the overall quality of single soldier’s lives. BOSS identifies well being issues and concerns by recommending improvements through the chain of command. BOSS encourages and assists single soldiers in identifying and planning for recreational and leisure activities. Additionally, it gives single soldiers the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their respective communities.The BOSS program originated in 1989 to respond to the recreational needs of single soldiers from ages 18 to 25 who make up 35% of the Army. As the program was implemented throughout the Army, it became evident quality of life was the primary concern to single soldiers. In 1991, the Chief of Staff of the Army officially expanded BOSS to include all aspects of soldiers’ lives. Some BOSS members then began to express an interest in participating in community service project, which was added as a component of the program. These components, recreation and leisure, well-being and community service are the core components of the BOSS program.

With that as a preface, there are approximately 50 soldiers this Thanksgiving to whom the BOSS program will be providing dinner for at the United States Military Academy. Now you and I both know, no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without cupcakes! I am certain the Mayflower would never have made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean without several dozen cupcakes to share at the feast... oops, I might have just reinvented history!

My little guy and I are donating 6-dozen cupcakes for their dinner tomorrow. I am so pleased to be able to support our soldiers in a small way. Please do not forget our single soldiers, or anyone else who would otherwise have nowhere to go this holiday season. No matter what you do, or who its for, no matter how small your gesture; someone, somewhere will appreciate what you do when you do it from your heart! Cupcakes always make life a little bit sweeter!

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. I will post pictures and recipes for all the cupcakes donated!

Monday, November 24, 2008

On a personal note... Skin Cancer Part III

Hi friends! I have been a bit under the weather, but wanted to share a few updates with you. First and foremost, thank you so much for your continued emails, comments and support during this "trial" I am going through. It means so much to me to hear from you. Thanks for checking in and sharing your thoughts with me. I am an optimist by nature and I believe I will ultimately overcome this battle.

I grossly underestimated how difficult my recovery time would be. It took me several weeks to be able to turn my head from side to side. Simple, every day things became a challenge. I had so many meals brought to my home in the days after surgery, which I truly appreciated and was so thankful for. A funny story; my neighbor brought me the most delicious turkey chili one night in her lovely all-clad pot (literally). The unfortunate part was that I could hardly hold on to the pot, due to lack of strength. She was so cute the way she had organized the condiments in Tupperware containers and Ziploc bags. All I kept thinking was "Oh please don't let me drop this pot! Please don't let me drop this pot!"

I no longer take for granted reaching up to my adjustable showerhead and ensuring it is secure, prior to taking it off the arm. I nearly knocked myself out a few times in the shower; which was cute! I never realized exactly how animated my facial expressions were; I am sure I have felt every single muscle from every, single expression I have made since October 2nd. Trust me, I make a lot of faces! I had no idea! Even swallowing became a chore. I find I am still having some trouble looking all the way up and down, but I can report it is getting better! Slowly, it is getting better; and that's a good thing.

My little guy can tell you I was relying on him quite a bit. He was an enormous help to me; especially while driving. Yes, I know what you are thinking! I quickly learned to differentiate my instructions when I asked, "Are there any cars coming sweetheart?" The "differentiation" of "cars" came to include bicycles, motorcycles, RV's, campers and anything with wheels! I would like to apologize to anyone who might have been cut off in the past few weeks by woman who looked "like Sponge Bob doing the Robot" and her darling 8-year-old co-pilot son in the Hudson Valley... I am terribly sorry!

The adorable "Sponge Bob" description comes from none other than my little guy when he very amusedly watched me switching the laundry one night with a very stiff neck and said "Hey Mommy, do you know who you remind me of?" Hmmm... this could be dangerous territory. "I have no idea sweetheart, whom would that be?" and he quipped "Sponge Bob doing 'The Robot' - you know old school, 80's stuff." I am sure I have no idea what he is talking about!

On a little more serious note, I had another section of skin cancer removed from my back last week. Pain, makes me a little bit cranky and I admit this has been quite an ordeal as of late. The best way to stay on top of skin cancer, is to be vigilant; to ask questions. Most of all, to believe it will get better. Again, I am encouraging you to seek answers to your concerns; no matter how small you think they might be! ASK! Were it not for my "cheering section" I would not be able to get through this. I laugh at myself because while my little guy might think I look like Sponge Bob, at least he didn't say I remind him of Patrick!