See unique, painted rock critters and nativity sets at High Plains Critters and He is my Rock. For recipes, click here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Great Cake Recipe that Makes Good Eating - Easy, Quick, Chocolate Microwave Cake

I don't enjoy baking but my husband and I often get cravings for chocolate - especially in pastry form. While at the grocery store, we always stop at the day-old bakery rack to see if any chocolate doughnuts are available.

When there's nothing in the house, this great recipe for an easy, quick, chocolate, microwave cake makes a good substitute for store-bought baked goods and as an added plus, I know what ingredients have gone into the cake. I also like the fact that no eggs are required in this recipe and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. While the finished product does not look as pretty as a bakery cake, this recipe is a time saver and satisfies a craving for chocolate pastry.

Chocolate Microwave Cake


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water or cold brewed coffee
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

  2. Combine the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl.

  3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together the dry and liquid ingredients until well-blended.

  4. Pour into a lightly oiled 9-inch square glass or Pyrex pan or a microwave-safe tube pan.

  5. Microwave on high heat (use a turntable) for 6 to 8 minutes or until the cake tests done in center.

  6. Cool completely in pan. Store airtight.
Serves 6-8

To serve, cut in pieces and serve with chocolate pudding, or sauce over the pieces.

We like to make parfaits by cutting the cake into bite-size pieces and topping with vanilla yogurt, berries, and nuts.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Great Product that Makes Good Scents - Wickless Candle/Wax Warmer

My nose (and yours) is connected to a portion of the nervous system that controls emotions. That's why aromatherapy (the use of aroma to enhance a feeling of well-being) has an effect on mindset and emotions and explains why I become grumpy and blue when my house doesn't smell nice.

In my search for air serenity, I have tried:
  • aerosol sprays but I don't like to add contaminants to the atmosphere and the sprays don't last very long in a large space;
  • potpourri but the fragrance from dried out blossoms did not do it for me;
  • potpourri warmers but I almost set the house afire when the tealight flame was larger than I liked and I thoughtlessly applied water to extinguish it (duh). Additionally, I set the hot warming pot on a cool surface and it cracked (duh again);
  • to stay away from scented oil burners after my fiasco with the potpourri warmer;
  • scented candles but I don't like the risk of an open flame or the soot;
  • gel plug-ins but the plug-in gets caked and the aroma doesn't last long;
  • scented oil plug-ins but I didn't care for the limited scents nor the cost of the oil refills;
  • reed diffusers and thought this was the answer to my "a-room-a-therapy" quest.

Then a dear friend demonstrated the wickless candle/wax warmer she was using in place of scented candles.

The wickless candle/wax warmer is a system that uses a 15 to 25 watt lightbulb in a ceramic warmer to slowly melt a specially formulated wax cube. There is no wick, flame or soot to jeopardize house & home while the fragrant scent infuses the air. Additionally, the soft glow from the warmer imparts a serene ambience. Wax cubes can last from 20-80 hours and can be poured back into their package when you would like to experience another scent or create a different mood.

I've tried two of these systems (ScentSationals and Scentsy) and use a combination in my home. Scentsationals ( can be found at some Walmart Stores, all Hobby Lobby Stores and online. Scentsy ( can only be purchased through a Scentsy consultant.

Scentsationals are good because:
  • The warmers and waxes are less expensive than Scentsy (however, the selection of both scents and warmers is not as large as Scentsy);
  • I can purchase them at my local Hobby Lobby Store at a discount during a 50% off sale or with a 40% off coupon.

Scentsy is good because:
  • They offer a plug-in version of the warmer which is very convenient in those areas where space is limited. Medium and large warmers are also available;
  • Scentsy offers a greater and better-made selection of warmer styles;
  • Scentsy has more than 80 scents to choose from. (So many fragrances transported me to that serene place I was seeking that I found it difficult to prioritize the scents I wanted to use in my new, plug-in warmer because I wanted them all).

Now I can create that moment of relaxation I’ve been hankering for using a great product that makes good scents. When I need a quick aromatherapy pick-me-up, I just open a package of the fragrant wax cubes and take a sniff. Or when I have time for myself to sit and read a book, I flip the switch on my scented wax warmer, unwind, loosen up and enjoy the fragrant serenity that surrounds me.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Great Recipe - Sausage, Bean & Kale Soup

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/4 lbs. Italian sweet turkey sausage (squeezed from casings or bulk)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into small dice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cans white beans, drained
4 cups chopped kale
2 quarts chicken stock (vegetable stock is good, too)
salt & pepper
grated paremsan or romano cheese
  1. Heat medium soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sausage and brown.

  2. Add veggies, bay leaf and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Cook mixture 5 minutes to begin to soften the vegetables. Add kale and wilt.

  3. Add stock and cover pot. Raise heat and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes.

  4. Adjust seasonings and serve soup with grated cheese, for topping.
Servings: 10

Monday, December 13, 2004

eCovers Uncovered - Cover Factory is a Great Product!

Are you searching for e-book cover software? It isn’t easy is it? Cover Factory is a great product that I highly recommend because it met all of my criteria:

  • Flexible
  • Free demo
  • Functional
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Extensive user support
  • Text editing and drawing capability
  • Can create books, boxes, cds, reports, membership cards, ezines

Don’t be fooled by the look of the covers on Cover Factory’s website. I wasted a lot of time evaluating other programs because I thought (mistakenly) that the images on Cover Factory’s website didn’t appear professional.

Here's an e-book cover that I created with Cover Factory.

What’s my suggestion if you’re looking for an e-cover program?

First, decide what type of covers you want to create. Some programs only create boxes and books, others can handle boxes, books, e-zines, cds, DVDs, reports, and membership cards.

Next, decide if you want flexibility in the angle, shadow, and reflection of your e-cover. Some programs offer customizable choices, others offer inflexible yes/no choices.

Then, determine how creative you, personally, want to be. Most programs come with generic templates for fast cover creation. If you’re more creative, an e-cover program with more features will be give you more satisfaction.

While it’s not necessary to use a drawing program with Cover Factory, or any of the other programs I evaluated, using Real Draw Pro or Compact Draw (both shareware), in conjunction with an e-cover program can produce some stunning effects that e-cover software alone cannot handle.

Finally, download the free demos of various programs based on your personal criteria—cost, type of covers available, user-friendly, etc. If you’ve never used e-cover software, download the free demo version of eCover Studio first. It is the easiest to use and will familiarize you with the terminology/steps of most e-cover programs.

Other programs that I evaluated and considered unacceptable were:

eCover Studio ($97)—NO SUPPORT—Although I liked this program based on the demo version, I had serious questions about the legitimacy of the seller because my e-mail to the sales contact was returned “undeliverable” and all other e-mail attempts to contact the seller went unanswered.

eCover Generator ($97)—LITTLE FLEXIBILITY—I found this program could not vary the angle or shadows of my covers and text-editing could not be done. More importantly, even though an updated version is advertised, I was sold an older version and provided an upgrade only when I asked for it. For $97 I expected to get the latest version!

OPERATING ISSUES—All of these programs had demo versions. I found them difficult to use and/or encountered operating problems with Windows 98: Virtual Cover Creator ($89.99), eCover 3D ($69.95), eCover Engineer ($38), eCover Constructor ($49), and The eBook and Box Cover Creator ($59.95).

Download the free demo of Cover Factory and decide for yourself.