EeeYikes! December seems more fleeting than usual . . .

... this year.

For some reason the month of December seems so fleeting this year, 
more so than us usual.  Does it seem that way to you, too?

Here, blogging and most internet activities have taken a back seat to 'real' life; 
keeping up with the critters, the regular household chores, getting
ready for Christmas, yummy meals, some minor sprucing up for the kitchen, 
as purging the kitchen cupboards of bake and cookware I seldom use.
Donations from the closet and attic plus there are a few crafty things going on, 
and most importantly keeping the wood stove fire
stoked.  I love the cozy wood stove!
Here are a few things I captured to share with you ~

I'm normally not a big breakfast eater, but I love
winter breakfasts. :)

with cheerful flowers for the table to brighten a gray day.

A steaming cup of fragrant tea and a little bowl of hot oats 
(a little undercooked, just the way I like them.) Not gluey and sticky. No.

 Served with brown sugar, cinnamon, berries
and half & half (with a small pat of butter buried smack in the
middle of the bowl, rising to the surface as it melts) ~ Just the way
mama always made it for us. Yum.

And to warm the dark, cold evening ~

An (improvised version) of Shrimp and Halibut Chowder 
with Bacon and Thyme from 'Fine Cooking'. Their version is made
with haddock or cod, and clams.

I swapped shrimp for the canned clams, halibut for the cod,
omitted the jalapeño and used chicken broth for the clam juice, 
(no clam juice on hand, but it came out great.)  
So comforting on a rainy evening, like a warm hug from the inside out.

In the past couple of weeks there was time to celebrate a birthday...

To make the celebration complete I made a cute little birthday cake.

After looking at 'Google Images' for cake inspiration,
It felt like coming home ~Google led me back to a favorite blog: 
Once more I fell in love with Alicia's ideas* and her take on cakes ~ 
It's just what I was looking for. 

Perfect, down to the tall picks (super easy to make ~ 
glue scraps of fabric, trim, and/or ribbon to the top of  long, 
thick, bamboo food skewers.) 
A few fresh flowers and greens to add color.
The finishing touch; hand-dipped beeswax birthday candles (Etsy.)
I love Etsy!
I wanted to make a small cake, this one is only six-inches in diameter
(but waaay tall!)  A little too tall.
We ended up serving it as one would a tiered wedding cake ~ 
deconstructed layer by layer.

Lesson learned :) next time I will fill the batter in the pans a
little less than 2/3rds full. It did make a dramatic presentation though. ;) 
And it was soo scrumptious.

As Alicia suggested you can use this 6 x 3 Inch Round Cake Pan
If you use the single tall pan, horizontally split the baked cake into 
halves or thirds and frost between layers.

I have also used 3 of these:

Round Cake Pan, 6 Inch x 2 Inch 

Which work particularly well; I'm more comfortable with
them, especially if you don't like to deal with splitting the one cake.
(And as noted, fill them a little less than 2/3rd's full of batter.)
These also bake more evenly, imo.

Since most cake recipes make more batter than you will need
for a 6-inch layer cake, place a few cupcake liners into your 
cupcake pans and bake off after your cake has baked. 
Who doesn't like cupcakes??!

*Are you familiar with Alicia's delightful blog and incredible creativity?
She is an absolute treasure and she offers such fantastic inspiration, 
and is a talented writer as well.

Simply an amazing human being, and now she and her hubby Andy
are new parents! Lucky, lucky little Amelia!!

Back to the cake...
I used my tried and true chocolate cake recipe from
(but I have forever subbed melted, cooled butter for the vegetable oil.)

Alicia's youngest sister is an honest-to-goodness pastry chef, 
and recommended THIS- 100% Cacao - Extra Brute  cocoa powder.

 Product of France, it is the richest, finest cocoa powder of all I've tasted. 
Bar none.
Get yourself some.

For the frosting?
An old-fashioned frosting recipe my mom would make, 
I believe it was particularly popular during WWII, (just a wee bit before my time.)
A time when food rationing required homemakers to make adjustments.
As much as I loved mom's 7-minute frosting, I always liked this one the best; 
it's like buttercream, but better. And with a surprising ingredient . . . flour. 
If you didn't know it was there, you might never guess.  
I think Joe mentioned you can make it with cornstarch, too.

It's known by several names; Heritage Frosting, Cooked Frosting, Flour Frosting,
Thunder Cloud, Faux Buttercream, and others. It is so creamy and decadent, but
doesn't have the greasy, synthetic taste that 'Buttercream' frosting does. 

This updated version of Heritage Frosting IS made from real butter 
(not solid shortening as so-called 'Buttercream' we know today.)
You must try it to taste the difference for yourself. 

 Hop on over to the following link to get the recipe and read more about it 
here on Joe Pastry's blog.

Love his blog ~ if you ever have questions about baking, Joe is your man.

And more comfort food for these cozy rainy/foggy/chilly days and nights~ 

My quickie take on Chicken with [Fresh Herbs and Black Pepper] Dumplings. 
For this quick version I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large
chunks, seasoned with salt and black pepper, tossed in a little flour, 
then quickly sautéed in a little oil. I only 'stew' the chicken for a few minutes. 
I add the partially cooked chicken to the thickened chicken stock and vegetables 
during the last few minutes (while the dumplings are cooking) 
to keep the chicken breast pieces tender, juicy and flavorful.

This time I made the dumplings from a baking mix (like Bisquick®) 
Mix milk and the mix, add herbs, fresh black pepper and stir. Cook them as
usual; spoonfuls added to the hot chicken stew; 10 minutes with the cooking pot
uncovered, then place the lid on the pan and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Perfectly light, tender and puffy dumplings.
So good and easy.

Of course, you can make dumplings from scratch, or make your own 
biscuit mix ahead of time, it keeps in the fridge for several weeks. 
I don't do the rolled dumplings, but you could if you prefer.

And finally a little peek at one of the hooky gifts I'm finishing up
for Christmas ...

Good old granny squares. :) 
I love the primitive, simple repetition of granny squares, I can watch movies 
or have a conversation while I make them without being distracted 
by a more intricate pattern.

The request was for something bright and happy (and sturdy.)
  I just have to finish 1 more row of squares, then the hooky crochet trim.
I grabbed these colors from my stash; I'm not so sure about 
the colors together, but I think the recipient will. 
At least I hope so... and that's what counts.

Each granny is 6"x6", finished it will be about 5 feet square, 
a generous throw size, or to fold at the end of the bed to keep 
toes snuggy warm. :) 

Yes, December continues to fly by;
but I'm not complaining at all ~  so much to be thankful for.

My heart goes out to all those displaced by Sandy, 
and all of those away from home and loved ones
for other reasons. Prayers to all.

xo ~mari



  1. What a lovely lovely post..That cake is too cute..:) And the granny squares:)

    I Love Alicia's Blog..

    Perfect Gerbera pics too..R us stitching any of Alicia's Xmas ornaments? They are a delight to make?

    Take care.. and Happy Holidays..


  2. Oh my...looks as though you are really busy! I saw the recipe for the chowder and after seeing yours, I have made a grocery list!

    I have been in a panic today as my sewing machine has major issues..my projects are looking at me waiting to be finished...guess I will hit the kitchen instead!

  3. Gorgeous cake and flowers! My December is a whirlwind too!

  4. December has definitely rushed in and seems to be passing by very quickly.Enjoy!!! Have a wonderfil Christmas season.

  5. Oh, how I feel your pain! Though, your photos are warm and comforting! Merry Christmas!

  6. I love your winter breakfast. It's so chilling out there I think I need a bowl of that hot oats! :)

    That cocoa powder looks deep dark and flavorful. I'm going to give that a try. I currently use Valrhona's and it's been good. But seems like this is a better value. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Mari-

    I absolutely adore reading your blog. You are a special gal!


  8. Hi Mari. Thanks for all those wonderful recipes and posts that you bring to us. This one is completely amazing, I love it. I really wish a Merry Christmas for you and your family.


Thank you for your comments, friends ~ they make my day!

A Sampling of my food . . .


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