Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Husband-Catching Brownies

After writing about these brownies, I have been getting requests for the recipe, including my own sweet sister-in-law, Judy. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Stephen, and their beautiful daughters, MyKenzie, Melaney and Maggey. This one's for you, Judy!

This is the recipe that won the heart of my husband, Ken, before we even started dating! It's a cross between a brownie and a cake. So, I jokingly refer to them as 'Husband-Catching Brownies'! Even if you don't need a husband, these brownies are a real treat! I hope you enjoy them.

Honey Bear Brownies

1/3 cup margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey OR 1/4 cup Karo syrup
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts, optional

1. Cream margarine and sugar; blend in honey or syrup and vanilla. Add
eggs, one at a time; beat well after each. Combine dry ingredients. Add to
creamed mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread into greased 9 x 9 inch pan.

2. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Watch carefully as brownies will get too
brown on bottom.


Mississippi Mud Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbls. cocoa
2 Tbls. margarine
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbls. white syrup (like Karo)
cup confectioners sugar

1. Combine all ingredients in heavy saucepan EXCEPT confectioners sugar.
Boil for 3 minutes and stir constantly to keep from sticking.

2. Remove from heat and add confectioners sugar. You may use 1/2 to 3/4
cup. The more sugar you add, the quicker the frosting hardens, so work
fast! Spread on cooled brownies.

Comments: Use this as a wonderful frosting for Honey Bear Brownies. Tastes
like fudge!

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Cooking Tips:
1. If possible, use a glass or light-colored baking pan, as I've learned these brownies brown quickly on the bottom in my dark aluminum pans.
2. For best results, do not overbake.
3. May double recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 pan.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

'Honey Bear Brownies' and My Aunt Brenda

(My Aunt Brenda and Uncle Jack with their kids, Randy and Renee. This is an OLD photo - I think it was taken in 1987!)

I love my Aunt Brenda. My mom’s only sister, Brenda was a good bit younger than my mom. She used to babysit for me when I was a little girl. I think she told me I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time. She has told me on different occasions about babysitting for me and telling me it was time to go home from wherever she had taken me (I think she said it was the park), and I’d say, “Ok, Mommy. I mean - Brenda!” She just smiles when she tells me that story, like it’s a sweet memory for her.

And I have so many sweet memories of Brenda! She lives in Virginia, where I (mostly) grew up. I saw her recently, and although I had not seen her for four years (is that even possible?), it was like I had just seen her the previous day. Do you have family and friends like that? No matter how long it’s been since you’ve spoken or seen each other, you truly pick up like you’ve never been apart? It’s always like that with Brenda! We just connect instantly and I love that!

Brenda is so much like my own sweet mother that, in some ways, being with her is like being with my mom. She sounds like my mom (especially on the phone), laughs like my mom and at the same kind of things my mom laughed at... I love that because to me it’s like being given a very special gift. I lost my mother over 16 years ago. It seems like an eternity when I look at the years. Yet, I still feel so close to her, like she’s always with me, experiencing with me what I experience in many ways. So, being with Brenda is an extra special treat; in so many ways it’s like going home.

I was thinking a lot about Brenda yesterday, when I made “Honey Bear Brownies” for Matthew, who came home from college for the weekend. Brenda shared this recipe with me probably 30 years ago. I hadn’t made these brownies for years, yet they hold special memories in my family. You see, it was with these brownies that I snagged my husband, Ken! And while that is another story entirely, suffice it to say that my Aunt Brenda has supplied me with many of the incredible recipes that have become family and friend-favorites. Brenda is a wonderful cook, so any recipe she recommends automatically makes it to the “Save!” file! Even when I go through and discard recipes from my overflowing collections, I never throw away any Brenda shared with me! Some of them I’ve never even tried – well, not yet – but there is no way I could part with them!

I write on this blog about hospitality and my memories of times past. My memories of being at Brenda’s house are very special. Whenever she has known we were going to visit, she made wonderful, home-cooked meals that could stand up against any TV chef! I remember delicious meals with yummy casseroles and fresh garden produce. Brenda cans and freezes hundreds of containers of green beans and other items she and her husband, Jack, grow in their garden every year.

And her desserts?! Wow! Brenda always has a terrific dessert – usually something I’ve never tried. What’s so amazing is that she has no qualms about making a brand new dessert for company. You know, the pros tell you that’s a ‘no-no’. I love it that Brenda tosses caution to the wind and tries something new for guests! No guts, no glory! Well, she always gets lots of praise, because her meals are always worth talking about – and obviously worth writing about, too!

I love you, Brenda! And I miss you. I wish you lived closer and that I could see you more often!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Telling It Like It Is....

(My cousin Lynn and I were photographed Easter Sunday. I suspect this photos was taken about 1967. Lynn, on the left, was about 6, and I was about 5.)

I admire my cousin Lynn. You may remember, she recently lost her husband, Rickey. She now has the sole responsibility of raising their two beautiful children, Seth and Brice. I have to say, Lynn handled the services for Rickey with grace and composure and somehow managed to get through those difficult days. Now, I’m sure she faces many different challenges as a mom and the primary caregiver.

And while I admire all of those things about her, that’s really not the purpose of my writing today. You see, Lynn has an amazing quality, nay, ability, that I sometimes wish I had. Lynn has the ability to say what she thinks. All the time. And…she has told me that she has never regretted anything she has said. See what I mean? I wish I could do that – sometimes.

I am sure that as a middle school principal the ability to tell it like it is comes in especially handy. The stories she tells about what those kids do and say leave me speechless. Not Lynn. Without missing a beat, and in no uncertain terms, she tells them what’s on her mind and then lays down the law!

Lynn and I grew up living close together for many of our growing up years. An only child herself and only 10 months my senior, I guess we were much like sisters and had the love-hate relationships that I’ve heard others talk about. In many ways being from the same extended family, we are similar. Our tastes in decorating, for example, are very similar. On different occasions we have discovered that we actually bought the same items without discussing it until afterwards. I remember buying bath towels and even new handles for kitchen cabinets that were identical. We got a real kick out of that, complimenting each other on our great taste!

But, we’re also very different. I’ve always tried to be tactful, to communicate without offending. I have always been proud of my ability to relate to a variety of people, even playing the role of mediator or peacemaker when needed. Perhaps that’s why I ended up in a career which focuses on public relations and marketing – areas where those qualities are real advantages.

Sometimes though, just sometimes, I’d like to speak my mind to the person who steps up to the store counter out of turn, in front of others who are waiting. In this case more often than not, I say nothing. Lynn would say something or die on the spot! I’d also like to tell our mail carrier in no uncertain terms that she, for the 5th time this month, gave us our neighbor’s mail - yet again. I mean, how difficult is it, for goodness’ sake?! I should say that I have mentioned it to her, just not with the full enthusiasm I’d like. And certainly not in the colorful way I can imagine Lynn addressing the situation….

Similarly, but on a different note, Lynn has a very honest relationship with the gal who does her hair. (Now, I am blessed with a terrific hair dresser who fits me in amazingly fast, no matter when I call. Her name is Deb and she is wonderful. I love her!) Lynn has a different approach. When she needed a hair appointment with a busy stylist a few months ago, she told me the gal asked what her week looked like, so they could try to schedule an appointment a few days out. Lynn said, “Well, I don’t know, but I tell everybody you do my hair.” The stylist replied, “Can you come today?” Too funny!! That’s Lynn for you. She calls it as she sees it!

I could tell you more, like how she stabbed me with a pencil when we were 3 or 4 because I sat in her rocking chair. Sharing was never big on Lynn’s list, and she wanted me to remember that apparently. Although I don’t remember it, she tells with clarity how she stabbed my arm and then pulled the pencil down, breaking skin all the way down my arm. She wanted me to remember not to use her chair, I guess.

There were other times, though, that I do remember, like when I visited her at her grandmother’s house (as I often did…I loved ‘Momaw Mary’ and claimed her as my own). I remember visiting them in that little house on the hill when we were tweeners. Lynn wanted me to know that she was still in control, I guess. I remember her taking a large pin – like a corsage pin or a hat pin, as I recall – and threatening to poke me with it. I told her I’d tell Momaw Mary on her and she said, “I’ll wait until she goes in the other room and I’ll stick you with this. Who do you think Momaw’s going to believe?” Evil, I tell you, pure evil! Well, not really. More like sisters, I suppose??

But, there have been lots of wonderful times, too. I remember literally hundreds and hundreds of long-distance phone calls through the years. She has a quick wit and she’s so funny. She always makes me laugh. Through the years there have been times when we’ve been close and other times, well, not so much. I’ve always said that Lynn is probably as close as a sister as I’ll ever have. Is this the way sisters behave, this love-hate thing?

Please understand: I know Lynn has to have issues with me, too! When we used to shop together on occasion, she would fuss about how long it took me to make a decision about a purchase. Now she was right - I did have to see everything in a 50-mile radius before deciding sometimes. I remember shopping with her when I was looking for a wicker hamper for our bathroom in North Carolina 20 + years ago. She made some comment about me being the only person she knew who took a month to decide on a clothes hamper (in my defense, we used that hamper for years and I think it might still be holding something in storage somewhere in our basement or storage unit!). Ok, so she was right. There, I said it.

I also remember different times when she has called and asked. “How is your life? Wonderful, I suppose?” My 'PR answer' to what’s going on in my life – whether positive or not perhaps – is not something she can relate to. I think that’s why I admire her but I am also fascinated with her. You see, I think Lynn is my alter-ego! That being said, I guess I am her alter ego. Now I can tell you, she would be more frightened by that than I am! Not being the person who tells it like it is - without tact or caution - would hamper her personality. And isn’t her tell-it-the-way-it-is personality the reason why I love her the way she is?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Share Your Memories With Me

I want to hear from YOU!!

Do you know people who have the gift of hospitality? What kinds of things do they do to make you feel welcome, at home, loved? Is it a look, a touch, specific things they do? Why do you feel this person has the gift of hospitality?

How about when you were younger - lots younger, like 8 or 10. Do you have special memories of someone from days gone by? Maybe that person has since passed away or maybe you're fortunate enough that he or she is still in your life. What specifically did that person do that made you feel special?

As you think about this, keep in mind the senses.

See -I suppose it goes without saying, but do you have visual memories that hold a special plate in your heart? Was it a smile or a look from someone?
Taste - this is an obvious one, too, but what tastes do you recall?
Smell - similarly, were there pleasant aromas wafting from a kitchen in your memories?
Touch - do you remember the fabric that covered a couch or the smooth cotton of a handmade quilt on the bed?
Hear - and finally, what sounds do you remember? Was the radio always on (if so, what songs do you remember?), did someone play the piano or other musical instrument?

I'm anxious to hear from you, my readers. You may leave a message here, email me at: brower@zoominternet.net or friend me on Facebook.

I will be posting answers in the not-too-distant future. Please share your memories with me!

Family Weekend at Miami University

I know it's been a long time since I posted. It's been a busy time! Here are photos from Family Weekend at Miami, which we just attended.

It was wonderful to see Matthew! Visiting him at Miami on 'his turf' was a real treat! He gave us a tour of the new Farmer's School of Business (Miami's pride and joy!) and other buildings where he has classes. He's obviously comfortable at MU and is adjusting well. Ah, music to parents' ears!!

This photo was taken outside the residence hall where Matthew lives.

We attended the Bill Cosby show at Millet Hall. Ken got us great seats on the floor, just a few rows back from the stage.

Bill Cosby put on a great show. He talked about college life in his own special way and also did his "dentist" routine. Hilarious!

We can't believe how mature Matthew has become. Here he's photographed with President Hodge, Miami University's President. Matthew saw him before the Cosby show started and wanted to go over to introduce himself. Of course, I had to capture the moment with a photo.

We also got to see Trent, our other son who attends Miami. These are Trent's biological parents, Jim and Carol. Of course, we claim him as our own, but we understand he wants to spend time with his other parents, too. We still got to spend time with him, as he attended the Cosby show with us.

Matthew and Trent with 2 new friends. From the left: Trent, Xiang Cheng, David and Matthew. They all live in Tappan, the residence hall for honors students.

These were taken at the Bed & Breakfast, where we stayed in Richmond, Indiana. Miami is really close to the Indiana state line.

It was a wonderful weekend - the most fun I've had - ever, maybe! Thank you, Matthew, for your hospitality and for showing us a great time! Love you!