World Nutella Day: The Reckoning

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Friends

Events were such that we actually cracked open the Nutella tub on Friday night. I baked some yummy vegan brownies (Thanks, Andrea!) to take to Chooch‘s band practice. (He’s the super sexy bassist for Ditched By Kate, dontchaknow!) While I’ve had these brownies before, I’d never made them so I took the Nutella as insurance against failure. Sure, Nutella isn’t vegan, but I didn’t spread it on the brownies. Rather I just set it beside the brownies for folks to use if they liked. Needless to say, the pan was empty before we left for home and the Nutella was a hit.

Too few hours later, World Nutella Day had officially started so I broke my fast with Bloom bakery croissants that I lightly toasted in the oven. I spread Nutella on top and it was crispy, gooey and heavenly. I had hoped to make crepes or waffles, but just didn’t have time during this super-full weekend.

Lunch found us at a dear friend Grailwolf’s birthday party at Hard Times Cafe somewhere in Maryland (Chooch drove). I brought along my trusty tub of Nutella and cookies to set out for folks to enjoy. Lorna Doone’s were my favorite with Nutella, but the oatmeal chocolate chip and chocolate graham crackers were also enjoyed. It seems the hands down favorite was the Nilla Wafers, especially in the “Reverse Oreo” configuration that Andrea invented – Nutella sandwiched between two wafers.

At dinner (and after a tasty cocktail), I felt a bit more adventurous and decided to push the envelope of my pledge to incorporate Nutella into every meal. Pre-dinner nosh included blue tortilla chips, and being a lover of pretzel or potato chips with chocolate I couldn’t resist. It was pretty good, but nothing I’d specifically seek out. I have a feeling that Nutella covered pretzels would be much better and will be testing that theory at a later date.

During dinner itself, I mixed a small amount of Nutella in with fettuccine noodles. The noodles were un-sauced, and I’d enjoyed chocolate pasta in the past. It’s a bit odd, but as another carbohydrate-Nutella-delivery-system it served well.

I then pushed beyond the limits of decorum by spreading Nutella on garlic seasoned broccoli. Judge me all you like, but I was not alone in thinking it was not unpleasantly interesting.

I redeemed myself at dessert, having prepared a cupcake bar of sorts. Chocolate cupcakes, which I hollowed out the top for filling with a small variety – cherry preserves, Nutella (natch), banana slices, chocolate frosting and a last minute addition of peanut butter.  Several iterations were created, but my very favorite was a smidge of Nutella on a banana slice inside a cupcake with a thin layer of Nutella on top.

I’d say the day was a success, except that I got on the scales this morning and am dealing with a Reckoning of another sort.

Nutella Day (Don’t Judge Me)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Weight Loss

I love Nutella. It’s a recent favorite, as I first tasted the insanely delicious chocolate and hazlenut spread about 6 or 7 years ago. If you haven’t tried it, think peanut butter, but sweeter and deeply chocolatey. In fact, it’s typically stocked next to peanut butter in the grocery store. It’s also pretty close calorie and fat-wise, but the sugar is much higher in Nutella than in peanut butter.

I occasionally buy a jar, but it’s a dangerous purchase since I’m the only one that likes it. Because I’m focusing on eating healthier I haven’t had it for awhile, and the craving has grown to obsession. Did I say obsession? I meant to say OBSESSION.

I’ve decided the only solution to purge this frantic desire is to have a Nutella free-for-all. One day where I can have as much Nutella as I want until I’m sickened at the sight of it. What? It could happen.

I’ve chosen this Saturday since my regular weigh-in day is Friday. That allows almost a week to undo all the damage a 20 ton vat of Nutella will do to my weight loss efforts.

I was debating writing this post in order to proclaim Saturday, February 5th as Viv’s Nutella Day and invite folks to indulge as I am. But I hesitated because big girls don’t like to trumpet their fatty-fatty-bo-batty indulgences. On a lark, I did a search and discovered that there is already an established Nutella Day. In fact, the 5th World Nutella Day is … wait for it … Saturday, February 5th! The same day I’m doing mine! How could I not post and encourage folks to join me?

So if you’re interested in this foolishness, you may enjoy the links I’m providing below:

World Nutella Day Website – includes links to 400 Nutella recipes and information.

World Nutella Day Twitter Account

World Nutella Day Facebook Page

Let me know in the comments if you’ll be indulging in any way on Saturday, as I’m curious to see who else is a fan of the sticky, dark deliciousness that *is* Nutella.

Now, does anyone know where I can find a 20 ton vat of Nutella?

What I Learned When I Wasn’t Watching

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Cooking, Dizzy, Exercise, Family, Health, Kaylee, Our Kids, Soulful

– Watch what you wish for – I’ve learned this countless times over my life. The best example is the one I’m currently afflicted with, my goal for 2009 of “Twirling More.” My intention was to allow myself to be more free. Not closeting myself off behind walls of defenses because of the hurts I’ve suffered in the past. But, more specifically, to twirl more. Especially in the rain, as I’ve loved to do my whole life, but stopped doing because it wasn’t cool (late teens) or too busy to get rained on with job/infants/kids/teens for the last 20 years.  What I ended up with, if you want to interpret it as cause and effect, is dizziness. Or, the near constant sensation that I’ve just been twirling. Meh. I still go out on the rare occasion to twirl in the rain.

Running with a “gentler landing” from playing Lord of the Rings Online has helped reduce my knee and ankle pain.

– Don’t trust appearances, as those with the biggest smiles and kindest words may be hiding more manipulation than can be believed. How did I forget this one? Re-learned and not to be forgotten again.

–  When editing audio, inserting pauses is just as important as deleting flubs. Thanks to Martha Holloway for teaching me this during an interview for my Girls’ Rules Podcast.

– Kids are heart breakers. Looking into the eyes of our children melts my heart. I first experienced this when my sons were born, in the first nanosecond I looked into their eyes. I relived that rush of joy, sadness and overwhelming protectiveness when they returned for Christmas break. I love them completely and the selfish, ugly part of me wants to guilt or beg them to move back. But I won’t do it. I want them healthy, happy and confident in life and the choices they make. I’ve sacrificed since they were born to help with this, and I’m not going to mess with it now. If the only negative to their choices is that I’m sad, then I have to suck it up as a part of motherhood.

– Don’t be a doormat. Either confront it or remove myself from the situation. This is something I’ve worked on for a long time, but it’s become physically necessary this year since stressful encounters amplify my migraines and dizziness.

– Don’t sweat what you can’t control. All the preparations in the world won’t ensure success, so if a last minute problem surfaces and you can’t fix it just relax and make do. Training for 5k’s and weight loss has been stalled for me several times this year, resulting in missing a 5k earlier this month. Twisting my ankle a few days ago and being on antibiotics that increase risk of tendon damage have likely postponed resuming training on Monday as scheduled. I will resume as soon as I’m able, and if I have to walk instead of run for awhile, then I’ll just continue to do my best without risking long-term injury.

– Brussel sprouts can be damned tasty.

– I over-commit. I’ve been working on this, but as I sit here amidst mountains of desserts I realize that I need to share the load of work more often. I’m the only one that does the traditional baking for our family, which includes my sister and her husband, my brother and his kids, my dad, and my guys. I shortened the list from list year, but am still baking 2 batches of Chewy Noels (brown sugar bar cookie), peppermint brownies, applesauce cake, 3 traditional cheesecakes, 1 “Reese’s cup” cheesecake, a chocolate/cherry pi-cake (I added this one on myself) and double chocolate cookies (delayed). This is the last year I’ll be doing it all on my own, methinks, as I baked from Monday to late Wednesday. Less is more and it’s time the rest of the family learns all the recipes. Right?

– Marshmallows are not vegan. Unless you seek out vegan marshmallows, they will contain gelatin. Gelatin, which everyone else probably already knows, is made from animal parts. ‘Nuff said.

– We’re becoming those dog owners. You know, the ones that act like their dog is their kid? It’s happening. We’re completely smitten with Kaylee. Luckily, everyone else seems to be as well, so at least we aren’t deluding ourselves that she rocks when she doesn’t. I think the shock of the suddenly empty nest is the impetus behind this. Watching her play and frolic with the four boys this week has been adorable, and they have a new found love for her as well.

Baking Your Own Cherpumple (or PiCake)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL

I wish I’d thought to post this before Thanksgiving, as it seems a lot of folks took the annual American day of unrestrained gluttony as justification for baking their own cherpumple.  While I did not make a full cherpumple for Thanksgiving, I did make two PiCakes (term coined by my husband for the individual cherpumple-like layers). One was the pumpkin pie/spice cake layer, (we’ve nicknamed Spumpkin) and the other was the pecan pie/chocolate cake layer which we’ve nicknamed ChocoCan (pronounced like Chaka Khan).

I’ve previously baked two full cherpumples and 2 PiCakes, starting back in August. I had already forgotten the process I developed through trial and error, so am documenting them here for myself and anyone else that wants to give them a try. I considered taking pictures and posting them also, but I just don’t think they’re necessary as I’ve embedded creator Charles Phoenix’s video instructions at the bottom of this post. It’s the guidance I used to bake mine and while it’s fairly general, it take the mystery out of the process in a humorous way.

Ingredients for full traditional cherpumple recipe:

  • 3 frozen pies – apple, cherry and pumpkin;
  • 3 cake mixes – yellow, white and spice;
  • Ingredients specified on cake mix boxes (you will be following the box directions for the cake batter);
  • Canned frosting – cream cheese (see recommendations below).

My recommendations:

  • 10″ cake pan works perfectly, I prefer the Wilton aluminum pan.
  • Substitution of vanilla for cream cheese frosting, based on the stickiness and unforgiving texture. It may be different with other brands, but the stuff I had resulted in a really rough looking finished product. Swapping the vanilla gave a much nicer-looking cake. The flavor change didn’t matter to me since I don’t eat the frosting, I dive into the layers.
  • Whipped cream for the Spumpkin (Spice cake/pumpkin pie) PiCake. It’s heavenly, but then that’s my favorite topping for both pumpkin pie and spice cake, separately.

Ingredients for PiCake layers are essentially the same as above, except you choose the flavor combinations you want to try. For instance, the ChocoCan PiCake is chocolate cake mix with pecan pie and chocolate frosting.

I’m embedding the slideshow of photos of the cherpumples and PiCakes I’ve baked. If you’ll notice, the first cherpumple (better seen in the video at the end of my slideshow) is not nearly as attractive as the second one. This is for two reasons: One I was short on time so used an 8, 9 and 10 inch pans to bake all at once and ended up with a layered effect. I also used the cream cheese frosting which was unforgiving and nearly transparent. The second and subsequent cakes have been MUCH more attractive.

Here are the steps I take to ensure the best possible end result:

  • Bake or thaw the pies. They will not thaw inside the cake if you don’t, and your cake batter will not cook if you have a cold or frozen pie inside. Raw cake batter is not the goal here since you need the cake structure to support the ooey-gooey pie.
  • Bring the pies to room temperature before starting. You don’t want them hot since you’ll be using your hands to drop them into the cake. I disliked even using slightly warm pie because the whole thing is much more fragile.
  • Set oven temperature to 325 regardless of cake box instructions. Anything higher and you risk undercooked batter or burned cake in trying to get the batter fully baked.
  • Now is the time for putting a sheet of aluminum on the bottom of the oven to catch any overflow. It can happen.
  • Use a 10″ cake pan. It’s the perfect size for the pie, even if one of larger than average. It also allows for all the cake batter to be used.
  • Spray generously with cooking spray.
  • Cut a parchment circle for the cake pan interior bottom. The ease in removing the cake is COMPLETELY worth the effort of this step. Yes, it’s easier to line with aluminum, but my results were tremendously better with the parchment.
  • Spray again with cooking spray. Yes, it’s overkill. You’re welcome.
  • Mix the cake batter according to package directions.
  • Carefully break off the crust around the edge of the pie, but don’t break the top or bottom crust! This step is optional, but preferred. It makes it easier to cover the pie with batter and I just like it better taste-wise.
  • Pour most into the bottom of the pan, reserving about a third for covering the pie after you drop it in.
  • Drop pie and smooth remaining batter of the top, making sure to “seal” the pie in batter.
  • It will obviously take longer to bake than a regular cake. I recommend setting the timer for 45 minutes and doing the standard toothpick test. It’s a bit tricky since you don’t want to go into the pie and distort the results. It usually takes about an hour for it to bake in my oven. Expect it to take even longer if you have more than one layer baking in the oven. The first cherpumple I made, I had all three in there and I do not recommend doing this.
  • I recommend running a knife along the inside of the pan after it comes out of the oven. If there is any cake batter overhanging the cake pan edge at all, you’ll have an easier time when it first comes out than after it cools and hardens.
  • Wait 20 minutes before removing from pan instead of 10. The cake is a bit more fragile with the essentially liquid core.
  • As always, allow cake to fully cool before frosting.

Cherpumples I Have Made


Charles Phoenix Video Instructions

Thanksgiving Eve Thoughts

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, Friends, Health, No Whining, Our Kids

Like kajillions of other folks, I’ll be working in the kitchen today for more than just normal meal preparation. With Thanksgiving already upon us and day two of brain pain, I’m glad that I only have minimal work to do.

I’m not hosting dinner, so we’re only bringing a few sides and two desserts. And while I’m grateful for this lighter load, I’m even more grateful for the company we’ll be in tomorrow.

This year, my baking list includes two PiCakes (PiCakes = term my husband coined describing stand-alone cherpumple inspired layers). I won’t be stacking them because I want to use different frostings on them. The ChocoCan PiCake (Chocolate cake and pecan pie) will have chocolate frosting and the Spumpkin PiCake (Spice cake and pumpkin pie) will likely have vanilla. I haven’t decided yet, as I’m considering leaving it unfrosted for topping by the slice with whipped cream, in traditional pumpkin pie/Thanksgiving manner.

I’ll also be baking a sweet potato casserole. I’d intended on a healthier recipe, but am having second thoughts as I hate to serve an untested recipe at Thanksgiving. I suppose this is the ideal venue for it, as the diners are an adventurous sort and Lord knows there will be plenty of other tasty food to eat if it’s not as tasty as I hope.

Besides beer and wine, we’re also bringing a simple green salad. I’m hoping to find and whip up a yummy mustard vinaigrette to go along with it. I fell in love with it at the Dogfish Head restaurant a few weeks ago and want some of my own. If you have a tried and true recipe that you want to share, please let me know in the comments!

In the morning, Chooch and I will do the annual Turkey Trot 5k race. It’s the third year we’ve been registered, but we had to skip it last year because of my then new-and-unknown illness. Since I stopped waiting around to get better, I’ve been “training” for it for months. Knee and back problems have hindered me of late so I’m not where I’d hoped to be, but I’m still thrilled to be able to do it. Just crossing my fingers that this downgraded migraine will subside and let me actually run it.

As has been the case for the last four Thanksgivings, Mom is heavily on my mind. We used to bake together in preparation for Thanksgiving and knowing that another year is passing without her is not an easy one to wrap my mind around. Hell, as recently as last week, I had to correct myself when I said “… my parent’s house…”.  On the one hand, I know I need to find out how to accept on a subconscious level that she’s gone. On the other hand, I just don’t want to. It’s hard to give up the comforting feeling of unconditional love from knowing that there’s this person out there that loved you before you had a name or even took your first breath. She loved me at just the thought of my existence, and that’s a heady feeling. I’ll be grateful for her for the rest of my life and refuse to let sadness take the day. I instead choose to celebrate her and all that her life meant to others. <3 Pocket Mom!

In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to share some of the things I’m grateful for on this day:
~ That my family is healthy and happy, in spite of the bumps on our paths. I love them all, for their perfections and their flaws.
~ The amazing friends I’ve somehow lucked into finding. Whether its my friend of 22 years or friends I’ve made this year, I can’t help but reflect that this is one of the richest times in my life. I’m inspired, challenged and emboldened by them all.
~ Three handsome boys that break my heart from longing to see them and heal it just by existing. Regardless of the distance, they are the spring in my step and I can’t imagine my life without them in it.
~ My husband, for all that he is and wants to be. I pledge my turtle love. Forever.

Dear Reader, know that whether you are traveling or staying at home, I heap blessings upon you for a safe and happy holiday.

Harry Potter Movie Marathon

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Books, Chooch, Cooking, Exercise, Friends, Health, Movies

Late Friday night, dear friend Jett Micheyl arrived so we could rise early and begin our long planned Harry Potter Marathon in preparation for the release of the seventh installment in the movie series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.

Although it was just the three of us (including Chooch, of course), Jett began long ago planning out theme foods for the weekend. Much to the doom of my health plan, she succeeded in making adorable and delicious sugar mice and horrifically addictive pumpkin pasties. And by horrific, I mean the screams coming from my bathroom scales when I stepped on them this morning. The work she put into them was richly paid off as both her desserts were gorgeous and delicious.

My contribution was a batch of chocolate frogs and pumpkin juice (which Jett ended up doing most of the work on), as well as regular meals. I’ll be honest when I say that I was unfamiliar with all but the chocolate frogs before settling in on Saturday morning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But we literally squealed with delight when we saw the sugar mice being chomped on by Harry and Ron in the first movie. Later in the weekend, when Jett dropped a chocolate frog she was eating, I couldn’t resist saying “What a shame! They’ve only got one good jump in them.” And I imagined that every time they sat with the orange colored beverages in front of them that it was pumpkin juice. In truth, I’m already eyeing some recipes for butterbeer in preparation of a sudsy beverage on movie launch. If anyone has a recipe they like for it, please link to it in the comments.

Fear not for our health, dear readers, for we planned to counter all this gastronomic delight with a healthful jaunt. We went for a brisk hour-long walk in my neighborhood, on a route I had long wanted to share with her. We braved dogs off leashes and an aromatic gift from Kaylee. We prevailed against these hazards and immediately settled back into the movie marathon, refreshed and ready for the remaining adventures of Harry and his posse.

Having only read the last few books only once each at the time of their releases, I find that I’m really missing that world. The movies are fantastic and truly enjoyable. Particularly in watching the kids grow up in a seeming fast forward effect when watching them all back-to-back. But there is simply no way to pack all the charm and depth of the books into the movies. This is proven by the nearly unanimous acceptance of us devoted Harry Potter fans of the seventh book being broken up into two parts. After all, the one continuing complaint since the movie franchise started up was that the movies were too short and left too much unseen.

I will say that thanks to the tantalizing draw of TuacaCon, created, planned and executed by P.G. Holyfield (with help from Chooch, Rich Sigfrit and others), I understandably missed parts of the movies. I’m tempted to watch them all over again, before the movie is released in theaters on Friday. I would feel that was obsessive if not for the fact that Jett read the entire series TWICE since we started our planning. Time is short this week, with two exams and much work to be done. If only I had a time turner. *sigh*

Judge us all you like, but we had a truly magical time geeking out to our approximately 16 hours of immersion into Harry Potter’s world. And I can’t wait for more!

Dessert Hacking, My New Addiction

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Family, Friends

Maybe it’s just boredom with traditional desserts, but since the first planning stages of cherpumple baking in August I’ve been looking at desserts differently.

My immediate thought after the first viewing of the “how-to” video was that I needed to attempt it with one of my cheesecakes baked inside a chocolate cake for the first cherpumple. Sadly, it was a failure on two fronts. First, the chocolate cake batter never completely cooked and was raw in places. This was, in hindsight, due to the density and temperature of the cheesecake. I’m sure I can overcome the issues in future attempts. The second disappointment halted future attempts for now – my husband, son and I decided that you couldn’t even taste the cheesecake as it just absorbed the chocolate flavor. (I’ll get back to those later, as I’ve got some possibly tasty solutions to this problem.)

Even so, they let out cries of horror when I tossed it in the trash.

Another modification to the cherpumple was at the request of P.G. Holyfield, which I surprised him with during his visit this weekend. After trying the cherpumple I baked for BlenderCon, he pulled me to the side and let me know that he would love to try a chocolate cake/pecan pie layer. As expected, it turned out to be extremely delicious. My concern over what would happen to the inner pie layer was unnecessary. It retained its moisture and texture and also added its distinctive flavor to the chocolate in a very tasty way.

Note: My husband coined the term “PiCake” for any cake/pie layers or stacked layers, so that’s what I’m calling those that are not true Cherpumples (cherry/pumpkin/apple pies baked in white/spice/yellow cakes).

Behold the ChocoCan PiCake

Another friend that has not yet experienced the cherpumple, Tee Morris, let me know last week that he wants to try it. He also suggested a chocolate layer with pumpkin pie inside. While I personally don’t like chocolate mixed with pumpkin pie spices, I can’t deny Tee his request and will make him that layer.

Then there’s the layer I’m dying to try, and have already added it to my Christmas baking list. It will have a chocolate cake with a cherry pie inside. I’m a huge fan of chocolate covered cherries, and I think it will be most delicious!

I’ll post updates with the results of those modifications, assuming I don’t forget again. I’ll also post future dessert hacks, as they are attempted, with photos. The list is very long, so it will take awhile.

Oh, and I’m baking the pumpkin pie/spice PiCake for Thanksgiving. Don’t judge me. It’s good enough that it bears repeating.

Cherpumple Exploits

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Family, Firsts, Friends, Our Kids, Podcast

Fiddle dee dee. I came to post an update on my cherpumple exploits only to discover that I never posted anything about it here. Shocking!

A cherpumple is a dessert phenomenon that I first heard about thanks to J.C. Hutchins, when he tweeted a link to a picture of it either at the end of July or beginning of August. Intrigued by the link, I naturally googled it and found a video showing how to make your own.

Chooch and I were amazed, and discussed possibly making it for BlenderCon, our annual party that was coming up a few weeks later. We got the name BlenderCon from the name of our blended family podcast, Into the Blender. We decided against it because we’d already spent quite a bit on what was needed for our chocolate fountain, which has been a part of the tradition since we held the first BlenderCon in 2008.

A week or so later, I was listening to Jared Axelrod’s Fables of the Flying City and he was discussing the sixth anniversary of podcasting. (No, August of 2010 wasn’t the fifth anniversary as Apple celebrated. It was just the fifth anniversary of Apple listing podcasts in their iTunes store.) Jared felt strongly that something needed to be done in August to celebrate it, and I realized, hey! We’re doing something in August! And Jared’s coming to it! We should make the cherpumple! Sixth anniversary, six desserts in one! Perfect!

I baked it the night before the party, and stressed because it was not as pretty as I’d hoped, mainly because of the cream cheese frosting I used (very sticky and unforgiving), as recommended in the video. In spite of the imperfections, the dessert was a hit. It’s definitely more of a spectacle than a dessert, but was enjoyed by all. Our dear friend P.G. Holyfield even took up the challenge I laid down to combine cherpumple with chocolate fountain. I’m happy to say he survived the sugar overdose and has mostly recovered. Mostly.

For further explanation, a cherpumple is a three layer dessert that includes a cake and a pie in each layer. The top layer is yellow cake with an apple pie baked inside; the middle layer is a white cake with a cherry pie baked inside; the bottom layer is a spice cake with a pumpkin pie inside. Once baked, you stack and frost as you would any layer cake. It was re-named the CakePieCakePieCakePie that night, and our friend Dr. John Cmar announced that 5 diabetics living nearby had just dropped dead because of the amount of sugar in the dessert. I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

Paul Fischer blew out the number “6” candle on top since he was the person in the room that had been podcasting the longest, and then we started carefully cutting slices. It’s as difficult as you might expect. Most people doubled up and really just wanted to taste each of the levels. The best flavor, as we were told by most guests, was the spice cake/pumpkin pie layer. I’d have to agree. The two flavors are perfectly suited and completely enjoyable.

It was such a huge hit, that when we were planning my son’s farewell party a month later we decided that I should make it again. I made a few changes, such as making all the layers 10″, instead of 8, 9 and 10″. More importantly, I dumped the cream cheese frosting in favor of vanilla frosting. It turned out much prettier and the flavor didn’t seem different at all. Besides, most folks were diving straight into the layers without going near the frosting.

When Chooch lifted the cake to move it before the party, he decided we needed to weigh it since it was so heavy. It tipped the scales at 17 pounds. I started to feel really guilty at that point.

It was again, a huge success. Just like before, everyone just wanted to try each of the layers and most ended up in the trash. The majority again held that the pumpkin/spice layer was the best.

I’ve sworn off making the full, three layer monstrosity. We’ll see if that sticks.

Platoon (Number 86)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Cooking, Movies

Directed by Oliver Stone and released in 1986, this movie starts at Day One with a new recruit in the war in Viet Nam. I first saw this on videotape sometime in the late ’80s/early 90s, as it was definitely not the type of movie I wanted to watch on the big screen.

It has a lot of familiar faces, far more than I remember being in this movie. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, John McGinley, Forrest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon and  Johny Depp are the faces I most easily recognize, but there are others whose names I don’t know. And of course Oliver Stone is in a memorable bunker scene.

Platoon is a tough movie to watch. It just doesn’t get much more brutal than this. You see ugly things happen to American soldiers and you see ugly things done by American soldiers. Heart wrenching, stomach turning, gag inducing and it doesn’t let up for more than a moment before it hits you even harder in the next scene. This kind of stuff overwhelms me so it’s hard to talk about plot points, cinematography or realism of special effects. It’s just damned painful.

That said, it’s impossible to forget that the actors, each one, give their all. It’s difficult at times to remember that this is just a movie as they are immersed so completely in this insane landscape that you find yourself immersed as well. Horrifyingly realistic, it’s one of those movies I’d hoped never to watch again and likely would not have if not for this endeavor. Willem Dafoes’s iconic death scene easily includes the best and worst moments in the entire film.

The evil red glow in Barnes’ eyes as he moves in on Taylor, the deer (?) that Taylor saw or visualized after the deadly ambush – these brief images add to the many reasons that this movie belongs on this list.

Fave quote:
“Don’t drink that, asshole. You’ll get malaria.”
“Yeah, I hope so.”

Heart Health and Cancer Prevention

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Cooking, Family, Health, Weight Loss

Like many people, I’ve spent the last few years avoiding bread and other carb-heavy or high glycemic-index  foods. This year however, other health issues presented themselves that put my focus more on wellness and disease prevention rather than just losing weight. Those issues also remind me that my family history is something I need to really pay attention to as I am getting older. One side of the family is laden with breast cancer victims while the other side of the family has heart disease as the prevailing cause of illness and death. Being 41, I cannot ignore either issue. *tick*tock*

Dietary fiber has long been believed to be extremely valuable in the fight against many cancers as well as heart disease, and I never intended to avoid it for so long. It just kind of happened. I really chose South Beach again because its final “maintenance” phase is pretty damned healthy with whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Having to avoid the whole grains while on the road to maintenance is the problem for me.

So in the last six months or so, I’ve gone off the weight loss phase South Beach and have been enjoying fruits, vegetables and, almost exclusively, carbohydrates in the form of whole grains. I haven’t had a weight gain as a result, as the weight I’ve gained happened before I added them back in.

It has been an insane couple of months, heading into and enjoying all the wonderful fruits available during summer. My palate has completely changed, and many things that I enjoyed while on the low-GI diet I cannot stand after eating foods that are sweetened by nature. Heading into fall I’m saddened by the pathetic state of the fruit department but excited to try new dishes with fall produce offerings.

For the sake of weight loss history, I attempted to review posts I’d written in a “community weight loss support group” that was started in January of 2008 but that died off shortly thereafter. I continued to use the site as my weight loss blog site until I got sick last fall.  Sadly, the blogs I wrote during this time are lost due to a change at Ning that led to it being available only by paid subscription and I am unable to do so with my permissions. I am therefore unable to retrieve the information that I posted there on what I was doing, both in nutrition and exercise. Bummer, but such is life. I was able to gather what is essentially a near monthly weigh-in record dating back to January 2008. In examining the fluctuation, I really didn’t do that much better on South Beach than in traditional “eat fewer calories and exercise more” tactics.

While I truly feel better eating only low carbohydrate/glycemic index foods, I will not go back to eating that way again. And I am having too great a time altering recipes to my whole grain preferences. It may take me longer to lose the weight that I have gained back since my illness started, but I will make that sacrifice for an improvement in my overall health. Looks aren’t everything, after all, and we’re only given one body to carry us through this life. So we’d best take good care of it. *tick*tock*

Here are a few informative links to explain some of the wellness steps we’re taking. (Yes, there is controversy on some of these as to whether or not you get cancer prevention benefits. Since the foods are beneficial in other ways, I’m going to continue eating them.)

  • Healthy cooking oils –  I typically use olive oil when I want that flavor boost, and canola oil for everything else.

Keep in mind that nearly every health regimen or recommendation for wellness includes a minimum of 30 minutes a day of exercise. Many claim that it does not have to be done in one 30 minute session, either. Breaking it up into smaller sessions work, just get moving.