Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Love of Cake is the Mother of (Some) Invention

My new oven (sort of)...

If someone had told me on July 29, 2019 -- the day before my building lost its gas service -- that 175 days later I would be baking a cake in my decades old crockpot, I would have looked at them in complete amazement. Not unlike most people I knew I  took my working stove completely for granted. Little did I dream when I went to bed on July 29 that my stove would soon become an expensive pot storage unit and I would not have cooked or baked with it for over five months. 

But my building is still waiting for the gas to be turned back on. I'm not exactly sure what all of the issues are, but like so many things that  depend on infinite paperwork, it is a slow process. As I've related before I've been able to get by with a multitude of small appliances. It's been (barely) adequate, but I've missed baking. Nothing seemed to take the place of an oven for baking. 

Several years ago I took up low carb baking. The options for buying sugarless baked goods, especially with a low carb baking blend are few. I realized that if I wanted cake or cookies I needed to start baking and I did. I found a lot of options and experimented with my own recipes. Some were successful and some less so, but they worked for me. However, satisfying my sweet tooth needed an oven, or so I thought. 

I'm not sure how I decided that I could bake in my crock pot. But on a cold and snowy Saturday, sniffling and coughing, the idea came to me. I googled crockpot cakes and there was a treasure trove of recipes. The recipes seemed to call for flour and sugar, which wasn't part of my baking, but I realized I could use a variation of  the Weight Watchers two ingredient dough -- self-rising flour and yogurt -- and "bake" it in the crockpot. I used my THM low carb baking blend, baking powder, Swerve brown sugar, an egg and yogurt. I know that baking is supposed to be a precise formula, but through my experiments I've learned that I can vary the ingredients and still have a good outcome. 

   My (third) crockpot cake

I still have to perfect getting it out of the crockpot, but please note the cake consistency, and yes, those are cake crumbs. In this morning's variation I used Kodiak protein pancake mix in place of the flour, cocoa powder and swerve for sweetener. It was fine, but I didn't factor in the bitterness of the cocoa powder and needed to add more sweetener. My favorite so far has been the lemon "cake" I made yesterday. I used sugar-free lemon pudding mix (half a box) and it was sweet and light. The outside "bakes" more quickly than the inside -- not unlike the oven. 

I doubt if I will be asked to participate in The Great British Bake Off, or any other competition, but I'm still as happy as I can be. To (somewhat) paraphrase Marie Antoinette, "Let me eat homemade cake." 

Thanks for reading through my baking saga. If anyone else has any tips for baking in a crockpot or  other small appliances, please share. I've just stocked up on yogurt and I'm eager to bake.

As ever, thanks for visiting and take good care!  

Monday, January 20, 2020

Today's the Day to (Officially) Appreciate a Penguin

Buttercupland appreciates penguins every day!

The general image of penguins is that of fuzzy animals tap dancing on ice, thanks to Happy Feet. But I learned that their habitats are not all ice and snow. These Gentoo Penguins  prefer ice-free areas and clearly, here in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) their environment is dry and grassy. 

Buttercup and the penguins, February 2017

Yes, I'm very windblown here, but my denim jacket and gloveless hands give you an idea of the temperature. The penguins and I were both very happy in the mild climate. I had already seen penguins in Patagonia, where it was a lot brisker and later in the trip, had a wonderful day in eighty degree weather in another site in Argentina. I may share those pictures on April 25, World Penguin Day. 

Very happily, I'm coughing much less. I'm not "all better," but definitely much better. I'm still tired, but I had a nice walk this afternoon and am beginning to suffer from cabin-fever. The latter is a sure sign of recovery. I did some serious decluttering, listed a few items on eBay and looking forward to blog visits later today. I may just be ready to return to Yoga tomorrow. 

I've had three good No-Spending Days. Both Saturday and yesterday were no snack days, for a savings of $10.00. I also saved $20.00, by using a coupon in found in my email for the New Times Travel Show this coming weekend. Today was a snack day. I treated myself to a latte at Dunkin Donuts. I enjoyed a sugar-free almond latte during the afternoon latte special, for the grand total of $2.16, and savings from my snack "allowance" of $2.84.   
My Savings Total for January, as of January 20: $114.79.

As ever, thanks for visiting and keep cozy!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Happy Birthday, New York Public Library

Happy 125th, New York Public Library (NYPL)

Buttercupland is delighted to join in the birthday celebration for one of the great institutions of the world, The New York Public Library. You may be doing research at one of the four research centers or borrowing books, movies or going to story hours at the 88 branch libraries throughout Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island. You may be one of the seventeen million patrons of the library, or you're a frequent visitor to the on-line catalog to borrow e-books. For all of us, it's difficult to imagine New York City without the landmark building at 42nd Street, pictured above, or the wonderful branch library system.

It's hard to imagine New York without a library system, but the NYPL is a relatively recent addition to the city. It was formed in 1895 by a merger of two existing research libraries. The building we in New York refer to as "The Library," the main branch was completed in 1911. President William Howard Taft presided over the dedication ceremonies.

The branch libraries were created thanks to a 5.2 million dollar donation from Andrew Carnegie. The Carnegie funds would pay for the buildings and the city would be responsible for the operating cost of the libraries. Our 88 libraries were a small part of the 2,509 Carnegie libraries that were built throughout the world. One of the legacies of the Carnegie donations is the "open stack" system in most libraries. One of my great pleasures at the library is browsing the stacks. The open-stack system was introduced to reduce costs, but it also provided the joys of independent choice.

  My branch library, St. Agnes branch began as a parish library for St. Agnes Chapel on
 West 91st St in 1893. It was expanded to a neighborhood library in 1894. In 1906 it moved to its present location on Amsterdam Avenue. 

Yes, we are a Carnegie Library!

A copy of Andrew Carnegie's letter to the New York Public Library, 1901

I hope you've enjoyed our library birthday celebration. I always enjoy library visits and I know I learned a lot from this one. I've worked in three libraries -- the Hartford Public Library, and the libraries at Mount Holyoke and Dartmouth  -- and this is the first time I knew about the introduction of open stacks. Always something new to learn!

Now I'm going to spend the rest of the evening enjoying my latest library book, "Takes One to Know One," by Susan Isaacs. I'll be back tomorrow with an update on No-Spending January. 

As ever, thanks for visiting and please keep cozy! It's chilly out there.  

Friday, January 17, 2020

Here's Looking at You Kid Pink Saturday

It's time for Pink Saturday

Because of my cold -- thankfully, "just" a cold -- I haven't been out taking many pictures and was at a loss for Pink Saturday this week. I decided to return to the 6,600+ pictures I've taken in the last five years and find a fun one. I present the multi-colored French bulldog, taken in a gift shop in an Atlantic City casino hotel in September.

When I looked at the picture tonight, Humphrey Bogart's line from "Casablanca" popped up in my mind, "Here's looking at you, kid." Not surprisingly, because I am a huge fan of Casablanca and can count the number of times I've seen it. Do you have favorite movies that you've seen many times and can just about recite all of the dialogue? I haven't seen it as many times, but "Steel Magnolias" is on that list. The third film that comes to mind is "Meet Me in St. Louis." Yes, I still cry at the end of all three of them.   

I used to be a tremendous movie-goer, but have cut down in the last ten years. I did get to the movies several times in the last few months and especially enjoyed "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," "Harriet" and "Judy."  Strong acting in all three films and I was happy to see that the stars in all three, Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo and Renee Zellweger, have been nominated for Oscars. 

What are some of the movies you've enjoyed most? Anything from 2019 that makes your favorites list? 

Today's purchases were groceries and cough drops, both permitted on the spending list. Because I'm not out and about as much in the last few days, I've been eating at home and haven't stopped for snacks while I'm out. I've upped my spending on groceries, but that is still less expensive than eating out. I'm still not a fan of the air fryer, but I made potato crisps tonight. It wasn't a nice salty bag of potato chips, but it cost about $.50 for the potatoes versus $2.00 for the bag of chips that caught my eye at the drugstore this afternoon. Potato savings: $1.50. 
My savings total as of January 17: $81.95 

Our next post pays tribute to one of the great institutions of New York. I hope you'll stop by to celebrate the 125th birthday of the New York Public Library. 

As ever, thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Holey (No) Smokes: Today Is National Bagel Day

Of course for some of us, every day is National Bagel Day 

I would be sorely remiss if I didn't commemorate the day of celebration for one of my favorite foods, the bagel. More carbs than I should eat at one sitting, but definitely one of my go-to treats. The bagel, largely unchanged from its origins in Seventeenth century Poland, has become an international food favorite. Though I'm not sure how the number was calculated I was fascinated to read that 354 million bagels were sold in 2018.  It wasn't until automation made the manufacture of the bagel less cumbersome that bagels began to be found in the frozen food section in just about every supermarket. I am fortunate that New York still has wonderful bagel shops and fresh and warm handmade bagels are still easily available. 

My favorite bagel, you ask? It's a tie between sesame and cinnamon raisin bagels. I prefer butter on my bagels, but in a pinch, cream cheese works for me, too. On the question of toasting bagels, I'm with the not-toasting group. In my reading for this post I learned that bagel connoisseurs do not toast bagels and some of the traditional bagel shops don't have toasters. The bagel shop on the next block does toast bagels and that appears -- from my observations of the last few days -- a popular choice.  
My beverage of choice to accompany my bagel, a cup of hot coffee, with a splash of half and half. 

What's your bagel pick? Plain, sesame, poppy, cinnamon raisin or everything? Or perhaps another tasty variety? Butter or cream cheese? Plain or toasted? Beverage of choice? If you're not a bagel fan, no worry! National buttermilk biscuit day is May 14.

Amazingly, (No-Spending) January is half over. I did buy generic cough medicine -- definitely not in the spending column -- for my cough and a roll of paper towels. I ate lunch at home after grocery shopping and Weight Watchers and my only other expense was $2.49 for a bag of cheese puffs. Monday my expense was $2.06 for a Big Gulp after my quick visit to Trader Joe and yesterday, January 14, I'm pleased to report was a no-snack day. 
My savings total as of January 15: $70.45. 

As ever, thanks for visiting. Take care and enjoy a bagel! 

Monday, January 13, 2020

To Spend Or Not to Spend: It's Not a Question

The plants I didn't buy at Trader Joe's (via Waterlogue)

It's January 13th and No-Spending January has become a new way of life, at least for January. I've become more thoughtful about all spending, whether it's groceries, cleaning supplies or stops for snacks. I've still gone out for lunch with a friend and bought my snacks when I've wanted to. I spend a lot less time looking at the seemingly hundreds of emails with sale announcements. I also don't pop into stores just to look around. The only exception to this has been bookstores, where I can easily browse without buying. I was tempted by cute finger puppets (which I absolutely didn't need) at a bookstore I visited in Vermont. I walked away from the finger puppets and I am counting the savings at $3.95.

Last week went really well. I allotted myself a budget of $10/day for lunch and coffee at both airports. I spent $9.30 at JFK on the way to Vermont and $10.25 in Burlington on the way back to New York. My airport savings was .$45. I bought gum for the trip at the drugstore in Vermont. There was a 2/1 special and I received a $2.00 coupon for future purchases. 

Snacks are my challenge this January. Three out of seven days last week were no-snack days. I found myself buying coffee the other afternoons. I realized that almost every time I needed somewhere to sit indoors between appointments/events. When the weather is better I often sit outside, but that's not viable in the winter. However, for the four days I bought coffee I only spent $10.29, out of a possible amount of $35.00. Snack savings for the win of $24.71.  

My savings total as of January 12: $60.00

This post was going to include a discussion of not buying plants at Trader Joe's this afternoon, but I bought nothing once I saw the line snaking around the store. I was willing to wait in line, but this looked like at least a half hour wait, and I'm being very optimistic. 

Against my better judgement I went to Trader Joe's later in the afternoon because my day -- and the day of just about half of New York City -- was turned upside down by  a gigantic water main break near Lincoln Center. My subway line wasn't running, buses were detoured and my Y, a block away, was closed for most of the day. I've still got the last remnants of my cold, so I decided not to go to water aerobics, but planned to go to Monday Yoga, and make a total return to my exercise schedule. My return to exercise will have to wait until tomorrow, and I have no excuse to skip it.   

Any reports on No-Spending January? 

Thanks for the many thoughtful comments on my Blogaversary. Blogging wouldn't be any fun and I surely wouldn't still be blogging without the great community of friends I've met in BlogLand. 

As ever, thanks for visiting and have a great week.     

Sunday, January 12, 2020

It's my Blogaversary...

And there are no Blog Party supplies anywhere!

We'll go with a unicorn theme to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the not-so mythical Buttercupland. 

On Monday, January 12, 2009 Buttercupland was created. Either I was going to become an overnight blogging sensation or I'd be a former blogger by the end of February 2009. Neither happened. I didn't become an overnight blogging sensation, but I'm not a former blogger, either. Surprisingly -- to me -- Buttercupland is going strong and last month was one of the best months ever. 

For the last few years, for no particular reason, my blogging enthusiasm has waned. But for no particular reason I can determine I got a second wind in December and not only posted more, but commented a lot more. I think I erroneously believed that blogging was waning and there were few new blogs and new friends to discover. Ha! We have proved them wrong.  Many thanks to new followers and to those who have been part of Buttercupland for a long, long time. So grateful that you are all part of this journey.  

My thoughts from my first blogaversary post in 2010:

 When I started the blog I had no expectations. My goal was to "see myself and the world in a happier and more upbeat way." And unlike any number of things I've tried I've succeeded in this, at least in my perception of myself. I'm not too upbeat about the world in general, but there are a lot of people across the globe who help me see the world in a little more upbeat way. Thank you all so much. 

As ever, thanks for visiting and thanks for being part of Buttercupland.