It’s That Time of the Year

wherein a large storm (aka hurricane) approaches, gets us a little excited, and then decides to head north instead. We’re not complaining though. It looks like it could be a rough one and even though the rain would be nice, we don’t mind it heading away from us. We be even more okay with it if it heads back out to sea and totally misses land. I believe people on the North Carolina coastline are leaving for higher ground.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving around for a bit one evening, trying to find a subject for a photo assignment. Didn’t get quite what I wanted for that but got some other shots.

It was apparent that a storm was building. Here is something I’ve seen only a few times though it probably happens often and I just don’t see it.

 Stormy Night Aug 8 - 6

From what I can tell, the sun is hitting some moisture between the clouds and the sun must hit it just right, creating the same effect as a rainbow. The photo is SOOC, in case your wondering. I was driving and shooting at the same time which I wouldn’t recommend for you or me.

Stormy Night Aug 8 - 7 

Stormy Night Aug 8 - 2 

Stormy Night Aug 8 - 1 

Stormy Night Aug 8 - 5 

Just before it got dark the bands of clouds were really forming and looking ominous.

Stormy Night Aug 8 - 4 

So I found a wide open field to shoot a pano and watch it come rolling in.

Stormy Night Aug 8 - 3  

Alas, it got very electrical and windy but we didn’t get much rain. I like saying alas. What, you thought it was cheesy?

So, all you folks in the path of the storm, stay safe!!


Turtle Cheescake Cake

Okay, so this recipe may end up sounding complicated because I made it 2 different ways from 3 different recipes. Originally I did a web search to try to find a recipe similar to Cheesecake Factory’s cheesecake/cake combos. I think I had a slice of their Reeses Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake when I was there last. Oooh la and la!

I found a recipe similar to what I wanted on another blog. I have lost the blog address so I can’t share that with you. I took the cheesecake layers and made my own combination.

I showed you pictures of the Strawberry version I made but I only have that one shot. So I’ll give you the turtle version first.


Cheesecake Layer
4 – 8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. sugar
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350*. Beat cream cheese and sugar together in mixer until softened. Beat in the eggs just until well blended. Pour into 2 waxed paper lined and greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 35-40 minutes or until middle is set and not jiggly. Remove and let cool completely. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2-3 hours.


Chocolate Cake
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk½ c. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. boiling water

Combine dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water; the batter is very thin. Pour into 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350* until toothpick comes out clean. (25-ish minutes. Original recipe was for a bundt cake so I’m not sure of time.) Let set for about 10 minutes before removing from pan and placing onto waxed paper until ready to assemble the cake.


Chocolate Buttercream Icing
1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. milk
3/4 c. cocoa

Cream ingredients together. Add milk to consistency of icing.
Turtle Cheesecake Cake 2

Start by placing a chocolate cake layer on bottom of cake plate. If your layers have domed at all, slice them off to be as even as possible. Add a layer of Chocolate Icing. Remove waxed paper from bottom of cheesecake and place on top of icing.

Turtle Cheesecake Cake 3

Now this is where it gets sticky (har har) – I didn’t have a recipe for a caramel sauce that would be thick enough to work. I first tried melting Brach’s caramel bits and didn’t keep my eye on them and before I knew it, they were smoking in the microwave!

Turtle Cheesecake Cake

Started over and melted more, and then added a little butter and some caramel ice cream topping. Well, it was good but it was way too soft. As long as the cake stayed chilled, it was fine. It even helped that the cheesecake had a bit of a lip. But, when the cake got room temperature, it started oozing just a bit.

Turtle Cheesecake Cake 4

Turtle Cheesecake Cake 5

So if you come up with a better caramel layer, feel free to let me know. 🙂

Repeat layers until it looks somewhat like this.

Turtle Cheesecake Cake 7

Finish off by covering everything with chocolate icing. Pour caramel topping over top of cake and then top with chopped pecans. Keep chilled until ready to serve. This cake is fairly tall and rich so it will easily serve 20. And it has a bazillion calories.

Turtle Cheesecake Cake 8

For a shortcut use a cake mix. Personally I don’t care for cake mixes with a few exceptions of recipes that build on them or take them out a different direction (turtle bars, dump cake, earthquake cake, etc.). To me they’re just not as good as a made-from-scratch cake.

Or to make it really rich, replace the cake with brownie layers instead! Or make 2 cake layers and 2 brownie layers. All kinds of options.

Now for the La Vita Dolce Strawberry Cake version:

I used the Muffins That Taste Like Donuts recipe, which is kind of a lightly spiced flavor. I’ll share another dessert version using that recipe some other time.

1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. oil
3/4 c. white sugar
1 eggs
3/4 c. milk

In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, numbeg and cinnamon. In another bowl combine oil, sugar, egg and milk. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir only to combine. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350* for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for a little bit before removing from pans.

Cream Cheese Strawberry Icing
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
¼ cup chopped strawberries or strawberry freezer jam

Whip cream cheese and butter until nice and creamy. Add vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Add strawberries and whip until blended.

Assemble this just like the photo shows. If you want a good amount of icing, you may have to make a recipe and a half. When I served this, I added a scoop of ice cream and topped with sliced, fresh strawberries.

Italian Supper 10

Happy, Happy, Happy Children

Okay, some of you have heard me quote him: “But doctor, we want happy, happy, happy children!”

Click on the link below to watch him (Dr. Kevin Leman) say it in this broadcast (plus other parenting tips):

Your Family Live by Focus on the Family

I especially like the part near the end where he makes a guess on the birth order of the young boy who is so thankful for all his parents have done for him. Classic!

More Summer

 photos that didn’t get posted.

I recently went through some pictures I had taken over past couple of months. I know for some summer is nearly over but we have had a hot dry summer and the hot will probably stay for another month or two. Sounds like heat has hit many places and as dry as we’ve had it at times, we’ve had weeks where things were lush and green as well.

Our garden did not do so great this year. In fact, it was downright poor. The tomatoes got blight. The ants kept wanting to eat everything they could get their mouths on. Last year I put up pints and pints of pickles. This year the neighbor dogs dug up one of our cucumber plants, and the surviving cucumber only produced about 5 cukes.

Summer 11 - 2

I started cilantro and dill from seeds and they did pretty good. However, I somehow don’t like the flavor of the homegrown cilantro. I have no idea why. Just tastes different from the bunches from the grocery store.

We are getting a good amount of jalapeno & banana peppers off our plants. Most years they will produce up until the first had frosts and one year we pulled the plant out around Christmas. Guess the ants don’t like them as well!

Lois planted soybeans and got a nice picking off of them.

We had access to lots of Vidalia onions, although most of these “lots” got sent to Faith Builders. In case you’ve never had them, Vidalia onions are very mild, “sweet” onions that can only be called Vidalias if they’re grown within certain radius of the city of Vidalia. The company (Bland Farms) that is the main grower also has onion farms in Peru. If I understand correctly the soil type is similar, also producing a “sweet” onion. They are sold in grocery stores. [Okay, after visiting their website, I see they grow them in 4 states and 5 countries other than the U.S.]

Summer 11 - 5

Back at the driest part of the summer there were a number of forest fires in this part of the state. The biggest one being in Okefenokee Swamp Park. It can slow burn there for a long time if there isn’t enough rain to put it out. Many days it looked like this:

Summer 11 - 3

And then the wind would shift and it would be clear again.

Summer 11 - 4 I have not seen much smoke for sometime so I’m guessing we had enough rain to take care of it.

Yes, our lawn needs some fertilizer. Because it was so dry we didn’t feed it as often as normal so it wouldn’t get “burned.”

My pet flowers aka Gerbera Daisies:

Summer 11 - 1

Summer 11 - 13

I have one plant that stayed nice and green all summer but it has yet to produce a bloom. Wow. Is this post sounding melancholy to the rest of you?

I had to run over to a friend’s house one evening to pick something up. There was a beautiful rainbow that was very low to the ground. I don’t think I’ve seen one quite like it.

Summer 11 - 7 

From the perspective of an armadillo. ^

Summer 11 - 6 Ummm. Not sure what to say about this one. Although it’s pretty typical of southeast GA.

On to my friend’s house and her adorable kittens were playing outside but they wouldn’t let me hold them.

Summer 11 - 9

Seriously now, would one of these make such a nicer pet than ones who run off with your shoes, and dig up flowerbeds and gardens??!!!

Summer 11 - 8

I was over at my parents one evening and enjoyed the lovely evening sun. Which reveals all the bugs in the air. Can you see them?

Summer 11 - 10 Nonetheless this is the golden hour and I wonder why I don’t get out more during this time to shoot.

Summer 11 - 12

Golden Hour Magnolias.

Oh, and peaches! How can a summer be complete without fresh peaches? We were over to the peachy side of the state for my niece’s baptism. So we picked up a van load to bring back. Oh my, they were good!!!

Summer 11 - 11   

Well, that’s it for now. 🙂 Hope your summer is a good one!


I sold tickets for an Italian supper spring of 2010 and it was January of 2011 until we managed to find a date that would suit all four couples who bought tickets. I went back and forth trying to decide what to make. I earlier thought I would make Penne Rustica, an entree by Macaroni Grill but in the end decided to go with something different.

 Italian Supper 7

I had visions of doing an outdoor meal like Christy did a few years back but when it ended up being scheduled for January, I gave up that idea.

Italian Supper 9 

Here is the menu.

Italian Supper 8

Italian Supper 5

 My sister made the fresh herb dipping oil which is better than any other dipping oil that I’ve ever had!! She uses fresh rosemary and basil and garlic and I’m not sure what all else. She smashes it to get every bit of flavoring out of it.

I made fresh bread using a recipe from our friend Beat(rice).

Italian Supper 6 
Come to think of it, the Chicken Marsala recipe was from her too. She is the kitchen supervisor at Faith Builders and let me tell you, there’s some mighty fine cooking done there!

The recipe I’m going to share with you today is Laurie’s Stuffed Manicotti. And if I have shared that before, please forgive me. I just happen to love it! And I happen to be hungry. Bad combination.

I don’t know who Laurie is. I got this recipe out of a magazine quite a number of years ago and for some reason I feel compelled to keep that name attached. Whoever Laurie is, she came up with some delicious manicotti!

1 lb. mild bulk pork sausage
2 (15 oz.) cans Hunt’s Italian tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can Hunt’s tomato paste
1/4 c. water
1/2 TBSP. packed light brown sugar
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. parsley flakes
12 manicotti noodles, cooked, rinsed, drained
Grated Parmesan cheese

In large saucepan, brown sausage, drain. Remove half of sausage, set aside. Stir tomato sauce, paste, water and brown sugar into sausage, simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in bowl, combine remaining sausage, ricotta, 2 cups Mozzarella, egg and parsley.

In 9x13x2 inch baking dish, pour 1/3 of sauce mixture. Stuff manicotti noodles with ricotta mixture and place on top of sauce. Pour remaining sauce over stuffed noodles. Top with remaining Mozzarella, sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.


Italian Supper 1 

Make sure you don’t cook the noodles too long or they will tear apart.

Italian Supper 2 

The best way to fill them is to put the filling in a bag, cut the corner of the bag and squeeze it into the noodles.

Italian Supper 3 

We have already made this ahead of time and frozen it to take to a girls beach party. I think we’ve done that several times, actually. All you have to do is bake it!

Italian Supper 4 

Spinach would be good in there too! And mushrooms on top! I’ll leave you to drool now.

I don’t have any photos of the completed meal. By that time I was desparately flying around the kitchen, trying to stay a bite ahead of my hungry guests.

Oh, and for dessert I had a hard time deciding what would Italian enough to make. I’ve never made tiramisu and didn’t feel like tackling it in case it didn’t turn out. So, I decided to make this and it got an Italian name, courtesy of Lois.

La Vita Dolce Strawberry Cake
(The Sweet Life)

Italian Supper 10 

It has cheesecake and spice cake layers, separated by cream cheese strawberry icing.

You want the recipe?

Well, you’ll have to wait. I have to find it first, or at least reconstruct it. And then I’ll give a you a turtle/chocolate version too. Make life hard for you by making you choose between the two.