Saturday, August 30, 2014

Edible sculpture using rice krispie treats

      Today I want to share an amazing cake that my son David made for his girlfriend's father. They are always joking about the groundhogs that infest their yard. If you don't have groundhogs where you live, let me just say they can be annoying little creatures. They dig holes in your yard to create nests, and have been known to invade gardens and steal the produce. David thought it would be funny to create something where the groundhog was emerging from the cake just as they can often be seen doing when they pop up from a hole in the ground.
     The first thing he did was bake a sugar free cake from a cake mix (Lisa's dad Joe is supposed to watch his sugar intake). He then covered the cake with fondant that he bought in the Wilton baking section of a local craft store. That way Joe could easily remove the layer of fondant that covered his piece of cake and still get to enjoy a guilt free piece of his birthday treat. Plus fondant made a nice base for the "sculpture" to sit on. 

The next thing he did was utilize a large batch of Rice KrispieTreats (recipe at the end of the post) to use as a modeling compound. This makes the sculpture an edible portion of the cake as well. As I've said before, David is an art major in college so he was in his element so to speak, when creating the next part. You could make a cake sculpture as simple or as complex as you choose. Here are some photos of his work in progress.

Once the groundhog was molded, he took layers of fondant to cover the sculpture using white for the body and small pieces of black for the eyes and nose. A new paint brush was utilized to paint the white head and body brown with some Wilton coloring. The powder coloring was mixed with  lemon extract to create the food safe "paint".
   Unfortunately I did not get a clear photo of the front of the sculpture once on the cake, but here is the rear view. Brown sugar was added around the base of the sculpture to make it look like the groundhog just dug is way out of the cake. He added pieces of white fondant onto the groundhog to look like there were pieces of cake on it's back after busily digging his way up. David also made a sculpture of a squirrel (another animal that runs around our yards) with the extra Rice Krispie Treats and fondant he had left over. His plan was to put it on the birthday boy's piece of cake as an additional surprise once the cutting of the cake was done.The surprise cake and edible sculptures were a huge success, but the pressure is now on to create another magical cake for the next birthday!
Rice Krispie Treat Recipe


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40) Marshmallows
  • OR
  • 4 cups Miniature Marshmallows
  • 6 cups Kellogg's® Rice Krispies® cereal


1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add KELLOGG'S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pesto Genovese

     One of my colleagues from work gave me this recipe several years ago, and my family immediately fell in love with it. Pesto recipes typically call for pine nuts but this one uses pistachios, which I actually prefer. Our garden yielded an abundant amount of basil this year, so it seemed like the perfect thing to make. The basil was so fragrant that Dave was cutting the lawn and actually smelled it as he rode past the garden on his mower when I was picking it. The recipe is quick and easy to make, does not require a large amount of ingredients, and your kitchen will smell amazing as you are preparing it.
 Pesto Genovese


1 cup of loosely packed basil
1/3 cup of pistachio nuts
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of olive oil

Place basil, nuts and garlic in a food processor and process until well blended. Add the cheese and process the mixture again. Gradually add the olive oil and process until you are pleased with the consistency. Store in the refrigerator but have at room temperature to use.

This can be used as a sauce for pasta (just mix into warm pasta, do not warm the pesto itself), or as a spread on sandwiches. It can also be thinned with more oil and used as a salad dressing. It is not a recipe that can be preserved by canning, but you can make sure you have enough to last throughout the winter by freezing it.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe

     Summer is drawing to an end, the kids will be heading back to school, and more hectic schedules are about to begin. If you would like to squeeze in one last summer read that will make you feel like you're at the beach, I would like to suggest The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe. This is a story that takes place in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It is about the relationship between a mother and daughter, a romance, and some of life's most enduring lessons: "true love involves sacrifice, family is forever and the mistakes of the past can be forgiven". However, what I enjoyed even more about this story is the knowledge I gained about loggerhead sea turtles. Aside from the portion of the fictional story that provides information about the turtles, each chapter opens with just a short blurb about the life of these majestic and endangered creatures. The author lives in South Carolina, is a member of The Island Turtle Team, and is involved with the SC Aquarium, so she is able to provide interesting and accurate information on this topic.
     I first read this book several years ago when it was chosen as a selection by my friend Susan, for our book club at work to read. When the group met to discuss the story, Susan brought some information about sea turtles that she obtained when visiting South Carolina. I became even more intrigued about these creatures and finally understood more about the many turtle nests my family and I had seen roped off on the beach when vacationing is southern Florida. So whether you're in the mood for some "Southern Fiction", a romance, getting lost on the beaches of the Isle of Palms, or learning about the sea turtles, this story will not disappoint you. Both the characters of this story as well as the plight of the loggerheads will stay with you long after you read the last page and close the book.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sea Turtle Hatching

Displaying photo.JPGAfter our visit to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Dave and I continued to take our nightly walks on the beach and approached each nest to see if we could see any changes.We were really lucky this year as according to the markers on the nests, there were several that were due to hatch while we were at the resort. Still, we were well aware that having the chance to observe a hatching was not great, as there is no way to predict the actual date and time of a hatching and the whole process doesn't take very long. On Wednesday night however, the unlikely happened! Dave noticed what looked like a small hatchling on top of one nest. At first we thought it might be dead, and perhaps the hatching already occurred. We stood there quietly for a moment and upon closer inspection we thought we saw it move slightly. We waited a little longer, practically holding our breath. There was not a lot of moonlight on this particular evening so it was a little difficult to see, but a few moments later it appeared that the sand was starting to move. I quickly grabbed my cell phone and called Pam to say "I think we may have a hatching starting." She immediately squealed "We have a hatching!" to David and Lisa and the three of them came running down to the beach. As they raced across the sand David was quickly reminding the girls to be quiet and keep their cell phone lights off...basically reiterating everything we were told at the LMC earlier in the week.
     To our utter amazement, we were fortunate enough to observe a mass of baby sea turtles emerging from the nest. Two other women arrived around this time, and they too  were in awe at the scene unfolding before us. (Please excuse the quality of the photos...there was not a lot of moonlight and I've lightened and enhanced the photo as much as possible to try to show you what we saw)

     Pam and Lisa stayed at the edge of the water watching the hatchlings work so hard to scramble over the many footprints and indentations in the sand to make it to the ocean. David stood by the nest trying to watch for any turtles that were attracted to the lights on shore and possibly guided in the wrong direction, just as we had been instructed at the LMC. The rest of us just stood on the side and stared in wonder at how quickly the scene was unfolding.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Our visit to the Morikami Japanese Gardens

     We've stayed at Marriott's Ocean Pointe Resort several times before, and while there, we like to visit some of our favorite places as well as explore new attractions. My son David and his girlfriend Lisa are both juniors in college. Lisa has a double major in Special Education and History and David has a double major in Art and Education with a minor in Art History. They found a brochure describing the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and thought this would be a great place to add to our "must see" list. Lisa will be taking a Japanese Culture class in September and David is interested in growing Bonsai trees and art of various cultures. My daughter Pam will be a senior in high school this September, and took an elective in photography last year. She thought a visit to the center would offer the opportunity to utilize her new found photography skills (by the way, many of the photos on this blog can be credited to Pam). Dave and I enjoy gardening and are always interested is seeing what others create. It was unanimous...our family decision on a new place to explore was made.

The gardens were spectacular and the museum and art exhibition were really interesting. Morikami remains the nation's only museum dedicated to Japanese living culture, and it's 16 acres of gardens are recognized among the finest outside of Japan.

"The Shishi Odoshi or 'Deer Chaser' consists of a swinging bamboo arm that collects water and once filled, strikes a rock basin below. The distinct sound of bamboo striking stone is meant to startle animals that have wandered into the garden". We could certainly use one of these in our gardens at home to scare off the critters that try to steal our veggies, eat our berries, or destroy our flowers!  A safe, pesticide free deterrent.

There are no signs in Roji-en, the Garden of the Drops of Dews, to identify the various plants, trees, and flowers. The reason is that the garden is a Japanese garden, not a botanical one. The brochure states that "The visitor's experience is meant to be a restorative one, free from the potential distraction of signs and labels beyond the bare minimum to guide guests through the garden." There is a library on the premises for visitors who want to know more about the various plant species in the Roji-en.

The bamboo grove was very interesting to see, and just as the brochure instructed, we "listened for the unmistakable sound of bamboo stalks knocking against each other in the breeze".

Hoti, the resident god of happiness, is an unexpected surprise that greets visitors along the way.

Our day at  the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens was certainly an enjoyable one, and it is definitely a place we would consider visiting again and would recommend to others.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our Family Vacation To Florida and The Loggerhead Marinelife Center

     When I started this blog, I wanted it to be about creating a cozy home and the importance of building memories with those around you. While some of my favorite family moments occurred in our home, there is no doubt that over the years we've created many memories on vacation as well. This year is turning out to be no exception. We are currently at our time share on Singer Island in southeast Florida. We've stayed at this resort many times before and it is truly one of our favorites. Each time we come here, we like to visit a different attraction in the area, but we also make it a point to revisit some of our favorites. On Monday, we did just that, and went to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) in Juno Beach, Florida. We've been to this center several times before and it never ceases to amaze us.
  When we first started coming to Marriott's Ocean Pointe Resort, we noticed Displaying photo.JPGa sign
about sea turtles as well as several areas that were taped off
on the beach because they were sites of nests. Nests with an orange stick in them meant that they had already hatched.
     I really didn't know much about turtles at that time. Then one of my friends and colleagues at work, Susan, decided to start a book club. We would read a book a month and then all meet at lunch one day to discuss it. One of the selections Susan suggested was The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe (I'm going to talk about this wonderful book in another post). The book was amazing and I learned about the plight of sea turtles in the process. Susan and her husband vacation in South Carolina each summer, where this story takes place, and it just happens to be where the author is from. Susan brought additional information she obtained about sea turtles to the book club meeting where we discussed this story. I have to admit, my interest in this majestic creature was peaked.
The following summer when we visited the resort, I found a brochure for the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, and suggested to my family that we make a visit. It was incredible! The Center is located adjacent to one of the most heavily nested sea turtle beaches in the world. It's mission is to promote conservation of Florida's coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. They do research and collect data on sea turtles and they are also home to the Gordon & Patricia Gray Veterinary Hospital that is permitted to treat the threatened and endangered species. Each year between 70-80 sea turtles and more than 1,000 hatchlings are cared for by the center's hospital staff and trained volunteers. The goal for each patient is to be released back to its ocean home. Admission to the center is free (though they do appreciate donations), and there is something for all ages to enjoy. This year there were many recovering turtles and quite a few hatchlings being cared for by the staff.
     Each time we visit the center we are amazed at the wonderful volunteers that are present and they are always available to answer questions and enthusiastically share their knowledge.
Last year when we vacationed on Florida's west coast, we were lucky enough to come across a turtle volunteer on one of our morning walks, whose job it was to dig up a nest that had hatched, and record specific findings such as how many hatched eggs were found as well as any unhatched eggs. She was so kind and willing to take the time to explain what she was doing as long as no one disturbed her work. This year we had some great conversations with several of the volunteer staff at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. One woman was originally from our home state of New Jersey and told us how she has seen parts of a hatching but never had the luck or privilege of observing one from beginning to end. We could relate, as two years ago, while on vacation we were walking on the beach and noted a commotion and quite a few people around one of the nests.We arrived in time to see several baby hatchlings running from the nest to the ocean. We felt blessed to get to see this natural wonder as the babies made their way out into the sea.
     We spoke with another volunteer about some differences we had noted when we vacationed at various resorts. While each place had signs up about lights and the confusion and danger they can bring to hatchlings, it seemed like different places enforced the "lights out" rule differently. When sea turtles hatch, they need to run from the nest to the ocean quickly. One of the things that helps guide the baby turtles in the right direction is the moonlight over the ocean. However over the years, man has inadvertently created  another danger for the turtles. As homes, hotels, resorts and stores emerged along the coasts, the lights from these buildings create a glow that can confuse the babies and cause them to run in the wrong direction, away from the sea. Some places have very strict "lights out" policies and the rules are strictly enforced, while others have the policy but seem to leave it up to individuals to uphold the rules and expectation. The turtle volunteer explained that the enforcement can vary by county or municipality. This caused us to wonder, as we had noted a lot of hotels that had rooms facing the ocean with lights on during our walk on the beach the previous night.
     We left the Loggerhead Marinelife Center with more knowledge, some great photos, a renewed respect for all the volunteers, but most of all more family memories to add to our collection and chapters of our life. We couldn't wait for our continued nightly walks on the beach where we intended to stop and observe each nest and maybe be lucky enough to see a hatching.    

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flow Blue Milk Paint and White Wax

     I've been a fan of the Miss Mustardseed blog for quite a while. Marian, ("Miss Mustard Seed") runs a business that focuses on painting and refinishing furniture and also has  lines of Milk Paint and German Glass Glitter products. I admire her "decorating on a budget" style, and the way she brings new life to vintage pieces. I've been intrigued by her milk paint line since she introduced it, but when I found a local shop, Vintage Hip Decor, that is a retailer for her products, I couldn't help but try it (and not long after that, the shop was coincidentally featured on the Miss Mustardseed Milk Paint blog in a "Retailer Spotlight" post). Let's just say I've become hooked on this paint medium. I've already completed several projects in various colors because I just want to try them all! Eventually I will share all the projects with you, but today I will start with one of the smaller pieces that I painted with "Flow Blue" and finished with the "MMS" white wax. I have a large furniture project in mind for the future (that will require my husband's help), but before I start it I wanted to be sure I choose just the right color. Knowing I wanted to use a blue tone, I decided to try several variances of the color on smaller wooden pieces with different finishes to determine which color I want to utilize for the future project.
     I had this small wooden display basket for a long time. It was a plain light color wood and had a thin coat of varnish on it.
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     The beauty of milk paint is that you don't need to prep or prime the piece you are working on; you can just paint over it. The magic is that it will adhere in some places and "chip" in others, giving the piece a vintage feel. If you don't want the paint to chip, Miss Mustard Seed offers a bonding agent that you can add to the paint and it will prevent it from chipping. The paint comes in powder form and gets mixed with one part powder to one part water, using more powder if you want a thicker paint and more water if you want to use it as a stain. On this piece, I chose to paint two coats of Flow Blue, consisting of the 1:1 powder to water ratio. I also added the bonding agent to the mixture for a look that was not chipped. Next, I decided to use the MMS white wax as a finish which gave it a white washed look. I love how it turned out and can't wait to share some other milk paint projects with you!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Vegetable Garden

     When we first purchased our home in 1991, the previous owners had utilized the side yard for the garden and we did the same thing when we moved in. Years later in 2002, we ended up adding an addition to our house and lost that location for our vegetable garden. As we contemplated various sites for our new garden, my husband suggested a spot that already had the grass removed and a bed of mulch. He was suggesting the spot where our children's swing set was located. Being a sentimentalist, my initial response was to oppose this idea. After all, this was their play was their swing set! However, the reality was that our children were growing up, and they and their friends had outgrown it and were no longer using it. So, I had to face the reality that this was a new chapter in our life and they were no longer young kids. It made sense for the swing set to go and our new garden to be started.After all, we had the memories and photos of them playing on the swings when they were younger.  
     In the years that followed, my husband eventually expanded the size of the garden, and truth be told, he would still like to make it even larger. Gardening is one of his hobbies and is actually something we all enjoy doing as a family. I'll share more on the specifics of our vegetable garden in future posts as well as things that have worked well for us and some that have not. I'll also be sharing some recipes that utilize our home grown veggies along the way. But for now here is a peek at our garden and the basket in front of the gate represents today's yield.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Butterfly Garden

     Over the years we have added various plants to the landscape of our yard. Some of my favorite ones have been the flowering plants that encourage butterflies and hummingbirds to visit. Not only do they add color and fragrance to our garden but they provide nectar for our beautiful flying guests as well. It seems that our lilies, butterfly bush, and cone flowers are the plants that seem to have attracted the most visitors.

     This summer, our flowers have brought an abundance of Tiger Yellow Swallowtail butterflies, and often there would be as many as four or five on the butterfly bush at once. They are identified by their black stripes. However, the females have a characteristic blue band on the bottom of their wings.
Tiger Yellow Swallowtail


Snowberry Clearwing Sphingidae

     For the first time this year, we have noticed a new guest enjoying the sweet food of our plants. The body of this insect resembles a bumble bee but the pattern of it's movements and the speed at which it flutters it's wings resembles a hummingbird. It turns out that this creature is actually a moth which belongs to the Sphingidae family.

Giant Swallowtail

     This butterfly looks like it is a combination of a yellow and black swallowtail since the top of it's wings are black and the bottom is yellow. It is the largest butterfly in the United States and Canada.

Friday, August 8, 2014


     Welcome to Seasonal Chapters, my new blog about  creating a cozy home in all seasons and during each chapter of life. My goal is to have it serve as a place for sharing crafts and DIY projects, recipes, gardening tips, favorite books and some special moments along the way. I truly believe it's important to notice and treasure the little moments in each day as they ultimately become the cherished memories of your life.