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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Every Southern Lady Should Know How to Make a Hummingbird Cake

So I'm just going to move past the fact that I haven't written a blog post in... *gulp* years! I have no excuse, other than I completely lost interest. But I'm back and super interested again. Or I'm not... but it's my blog and I can do what I want.

Some backstory, my husband's work is holding a silent dessert auction... who would be more qualified to make a tasty dessert than me? So our first choice was this tasty gem, which I have competed in Harvest Homecoming with, and I have done quite well with. Then B came home and told me that so many people had signed up to bring cheesecakes, that it felt unoriginal to make one as well. So I got to thinking, what would hopefully make a decent amount at a bake sale? What would be fairly unlikely that someone else would make? What do I want to eat? I've been thinking about maybe a carrot cake, or some other sort of spice cake. Then my mind settled on the tasty, delectable, moist HUMMINGBIRD CAKE!!! The centerpiece of any southern summer get together!

So here it is, my recipe for a perfect Hummingbird Cake!

Lacy's Super Amazing Hummingbird Cake
Serves 12

The Dry:
3 Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
-- 1 Cup chopped pecans for cake, and 1/3 Cup for garnish on top-- 

I know it's a drag, but you should really mix them all together and sift them together. It goes a really long way to making your cake super velvety. 

Toss 1 cup of your chopped pecans through your sifted ingredients. (This will help keep them suspended in your cake batter) Then, set them aside.

The Wet:
3 eggs
1 cup of oil
2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 small/medium bananas)
8 oz (by volume) of crushed pineapple

The easiest way to measure out the bananas, is to peel them and break them up into your measuring cup, then mash them in the cup with a fork. 

Put all the wet ingredients into a separate bowl from the dry ones. Mix well. This is your best opportunity to make sure that it's all incorporated. 

Now add the wet to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Try not to over mix. Just make sure everything is mixed well. If you mix more than necessary, it will make your cake tougher, and it won't rise as well.

Now portion the batter into 3 (yes, 3) well greased 8 or 9 inch cake pans, and throw those puppies into a 350 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. Honestly, I hate giving bake times. You really are just supposed to bake it until it's done, but most home cooks don't like to hear that. I urge you to start trying to cook like that, though, because it improves your overall competency in the kitchen. 

Your first sign that the cakes are done, will be once you smell it. It's best to keep your oven closed for as long as possible, so that your cake cooks as evenly and as fast as possible. Check it after about 20 minutes, by lightly pressing on the top of the cake. if it springs right back, it is most likely done. if the middle looks wetter than the rest of the cake, throw them back in for another 5 minutes

Once the cakes are done, pull them from the oven, and let them cool for about ten minutes in the pan. Then pull the cakes out of the pans and let cool on a wire cooling rack.

Once MOSTLY cooled (not completely), wrap in plastic wrap, separating layers with a piece of parchment paper or wax paper, and freeze. It's not a bad idea to bake a cake or so and keep in the freezer. They will keep in your normal freezer for up to a month, as long as they are well wrapped. Alternatively, they will keep in a deep freezer for 6 months.

While you are waiting for your cake to freeze up (at least 30 minutes), why not start on your icing?

Cream Cheese Icing
1 8oz package of cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound of confectioners sugar (by volume)
1 tsp vanilla (the clear kind, if you have it)

Put your cream cheese in your standing mixer and let it go with the paddle for about 5 minutes, until it's really whipped and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and a little of your powdered sugar (about a quarter cup at a time) and mix on low until well mixed. Continue to add a little powdered sugar and mix on low until all the powdered sugar is mixed in. If it's too thick, add a half tsp of milk, and if it's too thin, add a quarter cup of powdered sugar. 

When you go to ice your cake, pull your cake out of the freezer and use the icing at room temperature. The cold cake should really help the icing stay in place and go on smoothly. 

Once done with the icing, cover the top of the cake with pecans, and serve!

Another tip about this cake, it has a lot of sweetness to it, so i don't ice the sides. I just put a fairly thick layer of icing between the layers and on top, then garnish with the nuts, it really looks nice either way. Also, since it's 3 layers, the slices should be relatively thin. 

So try it out. Let me know in the comments what you think, and I'll let you know how much it sells for!

Monday, December 3, 2012

College VoxBox 2012... it has arrived!!!

So I got this wonderful box full of stuff the other day, and I am just so excited to tell you guys about it. I previously talked about Influenster. It is a neat site that occasionally, depending on participation, sends out VoxBoxes (themed boxes of free stuff). The one I just received was college themed. It contained an awesome Pentech pen, tropical NECCO wafers, cute imPress press on nails, Sheets energy strips, and NYC eyeliner. Since "full-price" is pretty much the f word in our house, getting a box of free stuff rocks. I feel like a dork, but I think my favorite thing I got was my pen. It writes purple, which is right up my alley, because it is almost traditional, but just a little off. Anyway, here is a picture and a video of me opening it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interview with the Gypsy, herself!

Ok so here is the long awaited interview with the owner of The Opal Gypsy, Shanda Sillings-Roderick! Sorry it took me so long to post this. My computer was being worked on by Awesome Guy's best friend. And I am sooooooo glad to have it back! So here we go...

Me: Tell me about yourself
Shanda: Well, Let's see, I'm 42. I'm a mother of 4. My youngest one died 8 years ago, in a house fire (and I'll explain more about that later, but part of my business is going to help people who have been devastated and displaced from house fires.) I've got two daughters, almost 26 and 23, and my son is 13, and my youngest would have been 11. I was born in Louisville, raised in New Albany and I just got back here 2 years ago.
Me: Oh wow. Where did you go?
Shanda: Quite a few different places, Kansas, Illinois, and back to here. My background is in interior design and art.
Me: That is apparent. Well that's very interesting. Ok, now tell me about your business.
Shanda: It's called The Opal Gypsy. Opal was my grandmother, and I was her little gypsy, and from the time I could walk, she was always taking me to garage sales, flea markets, antiques stores, barns... and we would always find treasures. You know, "one man's junk is another man's treasure...?" and she would turn them into these remarkable, beautiful pieces. And that's how the name came about. And in her era, they reused everything, they didn't waste anything. They repurposed and recycled everything, because they had to to survive. Now it's in style to do it, it's the green movement, but our ancestors have been doing it since the beginning of time, because they had to, and so that was a huge influence. So I love to redo and repurpose furniture. It's always been my dream to own my own store.
Me: So what got you interested in actually owning a store, and not just having a presence on Etsy or places like that?
Shanda: I don't know. It's just sort of something I've always wanted to do, and my house was never big enough for me to store everything I found. And I just like the idea of having a store and being able to offer this to the people. And, also, to help local artists, and giving them a platform to sell.
Me: How did you get your start?
Shanda: I saw Dave Thrasher at the farmer's market and saw that the bookstore was going out of business, and I had been kind of looking, not actively, but putting it together in my head, and I saw they were moving out, of course, I wasn't ready yet, but I just couldn't pass up the great deal and the location.
Me: What a big risk. In your industry, the market is always changing...
Shanda: Yes, and I've always kind of had a good eye for what people want and what is going to sell, that's why I always try to keep new stuff coming in everyday. You just never know what the Gypsy is going to bring in... My vintage items have been selling like crazy.
Me: What did you start with?
Shanda: A storage shed full of stuff and vintage finds that I've been collecting over the years. I mean, I had to spend a little money getting clothes and some accessories in, but I've spent minimally. I bought a 5 gallon thing of mud and a couple gallons of paint and the rest is all repurposed. Like, that wall, it's recycled grocery bags. It's peg board, and it's ugly, so I wallpapered grocery bags to it. All this wood came from an old farm house. And I got spools from one of the local antique malls to use to hang clothes on. The only thing I really had to buy was this hanging system. We had to get brackets to make sure it was something really secure for clothes. Pretty much everything in here, I've either gotten really cheap at flea markets, or I made it myself. That's the whole purpose of my store is reusing. I wanted to make sure all of my fixtures and displays were reused. I didn't want to go out and buy brand new because it goes against the whole purpose of my store, and in honor of my grandmother and how she lived.
Me: Where do you see your business in the next year?
Shanda: I see it being very successful. People are still getting to know us. We are only 2 months old, and hopefully by next year I will be able to carry full lines of clothes. And Tom's shoes. I'm trying to find new companies that give back. I try to carry things that are moderately priced, and a lot of those places are more high-end. I have to consider my price point, and my market. I don't want to out price my customers.
Me: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Shanda: 5 years... I'd like to have a bigger building, but I've noticed sometimes when smaller businesses get too big too fast, they don't do as well. So, I'd like to keep it small, and maybe find what people like, and maybe offer some services. I'd like to have a closer storage unit, so I can have a surplus of furniture.
Me: What do you want for New Albany?
Shanda: It's going in the right direction. I'd like to see Main Street built up better, and I'd like to see State Street cleaned up. It's just so trashy. I'd like to see it built up in ownership. I'd like to see more people that care about what it looks like.
Me: What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
Shanda: Fashion designer or interior design.
Me: What, as a mom, is your favorite go to meal?
Shanda: Vegetable soup or grilled cheese. I use shredded cheese, not processed cheese.

I didn't have time to take my own pictures because I've been kind of busy, and wanted to hurry up and post this because I felt so bad for taking so long. But I DID steal some from their Facebook page.
Here is some lovely turquoise jewelry. I love the way the earrings are displayed!

These clocks are made by a local artist here in New Albany. The one on the bottom is called a "flitter bug". Both clocks are made from reused vintage or antique items.

I am a huge fan of locally made soaps! 
These owl necklaces are just too cute

Pashmina scarves in a variety of colors.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Live and Love Local!

       Ok, so I don't know if you have noticed, but I am crazy about this fair city that I live in. It is really starting to grow into a very neat place. I am going to start a series once a week where I interview a local independent business owner. Partially because I want to share some local lovin', and because I want to draw people here to shop and eat, and because I intend to show that these people are just normal people that had a dream, or noticed that their neighborhood didn't have a shop that sold this or that, or saw a need for this or that type of restaurant, and finally, I want to encourage and inspire you to discover the little gems in your own community.

       Next Tuesday I will be interviewing the always lovely, Shanda Sillings-Roderick. She owns a nifty little shop that just opened up across the street from my work,called The Opal Gypsy. If you click on the name of her business, it will take you directly to her facebook page. In her shop you will find an eclectic mix of handcrafted furniture, local honey, handmade soaps, fun clothes and shoes, and plenty of funky jewelry. I can't wait to share with you guys!

Product Review: Salon Grafix Conditioning Cleanser

I have oily hair. It drives me nuts. I also have dry ends, I assume because I use a straightener. I saw all those commercials for WEN, but I don't shop from home shopping networks or infomercials. Plus, it seems very expensive. But I noticed in my local Walgreen's a few brands that are fairly mainstream putting out similar products. The deal is, you use one product that is supposed to replace your shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, and detaingler. You supposedly never have to shampoo your hair again.

The one I decided on was called Salon Grafix Healthy Hair Nourishment: Conditioning Cleanser. I was skeptical at first, because putting anything that resembled a conditioner anywhere near my roots seemed like a perfect storm for dirty looking hair later on. I recently colored my hair red, also, and red has a tendency to fade quickly. Most of us have noticed an influx of products sans parabens and sulfates, so I guess I was jumping on that bandwagon as well.

Here is the description from the product's website:
Our lather-free Conditioning Cleanser is a true hair care miracle that cleanses your hair without stripping the natural oils it needs to stay healthy, shiny and full of body. It is a single step hair care regimen that will replace your shampoo, daily conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-in conditioner and detangler, all in one product.

I would say that it pretty much lived up to it's claim. I do shampoo once every 2 weeks, just to be sure that any residual dirt,oil, and product are definitely gone. But, that's mostly for my own peace of mind. After a good cut and a day or so of using this stuff, most of the dryness is gone, and my hair doesn't appear oily at the end of the day. I am definitely not going back to shampooing every day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A neat way to get educated quickly for the upcoming election

       So this year in particular has flown by (for me, at least). Halloween snuck up on me. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night Tuesday to run and find my costume box and rummage through it to find something to wear for Wednesday. So the next thing to worry about is Thanksgiving, of course!

       Nope. It's elections. I think it is paramount to vote. I am a young woman, and I know women fought too hard and for too long for me to just blow off my right to vote. There was just one problem, I had no clue who or what to vote for. I won't vote if I'm not educated, and I won't not vote. So, since this year has been moving so quickly for me, I have neglected to get educated. The election is next week, and last week I couldn't tell Mitt Romney from my local barber. I needed to study up on local and national politics, and fast! So, like any self respecting 20-something that wants to know something, I turned to my buddy, Google (he knows everything). I typed "who should I vote for?" into my search field. And up came the most awesome thing. It's called Project Vote Smart. I love it. Basically, it asks you what you think about abortion, marriage equality, budget, economy, and more. You answer the questions and it tells you how much each candidate agrees with your personal views and priorities. At any time you can click on a candidate and see how they have voted, and a summary of their public record. I love it. It helps me make an informed decision. But it is not just for the Presidential Election, it also does the same thing for the Congressional candidates.

       Just wanted to let everyone that, like me, haven't been able to keep up with all the banter and smear campaigns. This seems like a great way to make an unbiased decision, and not get confused by the hype and propaganda. You can check it out by clicking on the link above. Let me know in the comments what you think!