Friday, December 7, 2018

Drawing the Line on Giving: Secret Subject Swap

Welcome a Secret Subject Swap. This month 8 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. Read through mine and at the bottom you’ll find links to all of today’s other Secret Subject participants.

Secret Subject Swap, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

My subject is: I joined several pay it forward groups in the last few months and donated to a few people. Have you (or would you) ever donated money to a stranger online? Why or why not? If you found out it was a scam, would it deter you in the future?
It was submitted by Jenniy of Climaxed.

There are two parts to my answer to this question. First let me just explain my situation. My husband is a Financial Advisor. It's a highly regulated field, as it should be. Protecting our money, and by extension our future, requires strict guidelines for those entrusted with it in terms of integrity, reputation, and actions.

I am acutely aware that anything that I do online could reflect on him, especially if it turns out to be a scam. Not just that, but there could be ramifications if it is well meaning but breaks (even innocently), for instance, tax laws. I'm just not going to put myself or my family in that kind of jeopardy. And I err on the side of caution so I not only do I never donate to people I don't know online, but I try to do absolutely nothing involving payment with people I don't know.

I'm not, of course, talking about dealing with reputable companies. But I've even taken it so far as, when joining (free) raffles in support of friends, instructing them to donate anything I win. 

That's not to say that I never give, but I do it in person or through established charities. I have favorite charitable causes to which I donate. They are ones whose causes have meaning to me in a personal way. Including but not limited to purchasing gifts for orphans at holiday time, donating blood and platelets, donating clothes and household appliances, paying it forward in coffee shops, cooking dinners for people in need and I frequently bake for charities.

Beautiful for the holidays or any time of the year, Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake will be a new family favorite. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #cake #Christmas

Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake
Beautiful for the holidays or any time of the year, Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake will be a new family favorite. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #cake #Christmas

The second part of my answer is that, in the circumstances delineated in this question, I would not participate even if I felt I could. I am a skeptical person by nature. I don't trust easily those who I just don't know, can't look in the face, have a conversation with or see in a situation that I trust.  

My son's Amazon account was recently hacked. Due to past purchases he had a credit card associated with that account as well as his debit card, his brother's debit card and my Master Card. It was a nightmare. Both my son and my bank caught it immediately so the hacker actually got nothing from us, but we all spent the day dealing with it. We had to call and email banks and retailers and credit card companies, cancel cards and close accounts, change passwords and email addresses. Fortunately we got everything canceled before any of the fraudulent purchases shipped.

The lengths that these scammers go to was surprising to me. They ordered items to be shipped to empty lots so they could then pick up the items from the shippers. They bombarded PurDude's email with newsletters. Apparently they sign up their target for thousands of free newsletters so any email confirming what turns out to be a fraudulent purchase gets lost in the hordes of mail. 

There are people out there who spend their time stealing from others. Can we identify them from an email? A website? An online call for help? Sometimes (no, I don't send my financial information to an "attorney" in {{insert any foreign country here}} so they ca send me millions of dollars. But often there is just no way of knowing who we're dealing with online. And my guess is that, like any other endeavor, those who are most successful at defrauding are very good at subterfuge. 

I don't blame people like Jenniy for believing, for wanting to see the good in people, for even being willing to take a loss or two along the way. I witnessed an online friend help another online friend (none of us have met) in a way that made a huge difference in the life of the recipient. In my own way I envy them, people who can take that kind of chance. After all, skepticism requires being constantly on alert in a way that being able to trust does not. But in the end, for a number of reasons, making monetary donations to strangers online is just not for me.  

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

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Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake

Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sat 
1 TBSP baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 oz red food coloring
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
12 candy canes, finely crushed (can substitute starlight mint hard candies)

1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
up to 1/4 cup milk

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
*Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and baking cocoa.
*In a separate large bowl beat the oil, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
*Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk, the other half of the dry ingredients and finally the rest of the buttermilk followed by 1 cup of the crushed candy canes. Set the remaining crushed candy canes aside for later.
*Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
*Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and remove from the pan. Cool completely.
*Cream together the butter and peppermint extract. Carefully blend in the powdered sugar. Then, 1 TBSP at a time, add in as much of the milk as you need to bring the frosting to a thick drizzle consistency. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy canes. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies for National Cookie Day

I'm just going to start with an admission. I had no plans to develop another cookie recipe this year. I just, one week ago, posted a cookie round up for the holidays called Cookies, Cookies, Cookies: 30 Recipes for the Holidays. I had chosen which cookies I'd be making this year for all of the occasions where I'd be providing them based on long time family favorites and new recipes that had been a hit over this past year.

And then I saw that today is National Cookie Day.

National Cookie Day | Graphic property of | #cookies

I certainly couldn't let that go by without celebrating. The truth is that cookies are amazingly versatile. I think that's because they're so easy to eat. It's not like a piece of cake where you need a plate, a knife, a difficult internal dispute as to what size to cut, a fork, and, when you're done, a visit to the dishwasher. No, with cookies it's just grab and go, a little nugget of yum. I have use cookies to make crusts, and used them in cakes and in pies. I even have been known to put cookies in cookie recipes. They're the treat of choice at all of those holiday cookie exchanges, we've taken them door to door in the neighborhood for the holidays and, of course, they can be either a snack or an addition to any dessert table.

But cookies also represent so many things in my life (I can see you now, rolling your eyes and thinking "get a life", but bear with me). When I dropped PurDude off at college hundreds of miles away, I brought 9 dozen cookies. They served (pun intended) as a "hello". When the boys were growing up they had tons of friends over pretty much on a daily basis, and I always had fresh baked cookies around. They served as a "you're welcome here". When a local group culminates their food drive in an all day distribution event, I send the volunteers 9 - 12 dozen cookies. They serve as a "thank you." And when we went up to Purdue for graduation, I again brought 9 dozen cookies as he said "good-bye" to his college friends.

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies are filled with melted crème de menthe baking chips and rolled up. Slice and bake or make ahead and bake up to 2 days later. Perfect for the holidays. | Recipe developed by | #bake #cookies

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies

So yes, I'm celebrating National Cookie Day with a new recipe. It just so happens that College Boy was around when I went to work in the kitchen so he was the inspiration. His favorite pairing in chocolate and mint and he absolutely loves Andes creme de menthe candies so I went with a mint cookie studded with melted Andes baking chips. These slice and bake cookies are easy to prepare ahead, refrigerate and then bake when needed. This time of year especially, those are the kinds of recipes that work best for me. I hope they do for you too.

Before you go, check out some National Cookie Day posts by some of my blog friends:
Dawn of Spatulas on Parade shares Lemon Meringue Cookies for National Cookie Day.
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Let it Go
Diane of On the Border shares Cook-eeee!

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp mint extract
OPT: green food coloring
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups creme de menthe baking chips

*Cream butter, margarine and sugars. Beat in the eggs and the mint extract (and food coloring if using). Finally beat in the flour, baking powder and salt.
*Divide dough into 2 fairly equal size pieces, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate an hour.
*Melt the mint baking chips in the microwave until smooth when stirred.
*Roll out each dough segment (separately) between 2 pieces of wax paper each to about 9 X 11 inches. Remove top wax paper and, working very quickly, spread the melted mint baking chips over the dough and, using the wax paper to help you, start with the long side and roll up into logs.
*NOTE: These will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days if you want to make ahead and then bake later.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put parchment paper onto baking sheets.
*Slice logs into approximately 1/4 inch slices. Bake for about 13 - 15 minutes, until they just barely start to brown. Let sit on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes before removing to cool completely.

Friday, November 30, 2018

X Marks the Spot Funny Friday

Today’s post is this month’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.

Funny Friday:a multi-blogger challenge, one picture, five Captions,  | | #MyGraphics

Here's today's picture. It was submitted by Dawn of Cognitive Script.

Funny Friday, a multi blogger picture captioning challenge | Picture submitted by Dawn of Cognitive Script | Featured on | #funny #laugh

1.Wife: Get into the next lane, where the "X" is.
Husband: You're not supposed to go there.
Wife: Of course you are, don't you know, "X" marks the spot.

2. Cop: License and registration, please.
New driver (almost in tears): What did I do?
Cop: Didn't you see the "X"? You can't drive in this lane.
New driver: But this lane is for me, look at my license, my name is Xander.

3. Little second grader (after a tough day at school): Mom, no one's in the next line, go in that one.
Mom: No honey, see the "X"? It's against the rules to go there when there's a red "X".
The little girl thinks about that for a few minutes.
Little girl: Mom, can we stop at the paint store?
Mom: Why?
Little girl: I need some red paint for school tomorrow.
Mom: You have a project you didn't tell me about?
Little girl: No. I'm gonna paint a red "X" on the school.
Mom: What?
Little girl: So it's against the rules to go there.

4. Woman to her boyfriend: Go in the lane with the "X" you said, be a little daring you said, no one's going to catch you, you said. 
Woman to her boyfriend (now screaming): You pay the ticket, that's what I say.

5. Little boy to his mom: Why is there an "X" there?
Mom: Because you can't drive in that lane.
Little boy: Why?
Mom: Because it's unsafe.
Little boy: Why?
Mom: They need that lane for something else.
Little boy: Why?
Mom: Ummm, ahhh, in case a plane needs to land.

Later on, husband to wife: You didn't tell Junior that planes land on the highway, did you?
Wife: Maybe.
Husband: What? Why?
Wife: That. That's the reason.
Husband: What?
Wife: Not "what", "why". All the "why"s. I'm only human and sometimes it's just too much pressure, the never ending "why"s.  

 And now for something yummy: 

Apple Cider Cream Chicken, a flavorful, easy, hearty dinner. Sliced chicken cooked in a creamy sauce made with apple cider, then tossed in tricolor rotini. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner

Apple Cider Cream Chicken

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

The Bergham Chronicles
Cognitive Script 

Baking In A Tornado signature/logo | | #MyGraphics

Apple Cider Cream Chicken        

Printable Recipe

2 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
3/4 cup apple cider
1/4 tsp allspice
salt and pepper
2 TBSP apple bourbon
1/3 cup heavy cream
10 oz tricolor rotini pasta
1/2 cup shaved parmesan 

*Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, green onions and mushrooms. Cook and stir until soft.
*Add the chicken to the skillet. Cook and stir until cooked.
*While the chicken is cooking, in a large pot, prepare the rotini to al dente. Drain, return to the pot and set aside.
*Add the apple cider, allspice, salt and pepper to taste, and apple bourbon to the skillet with the chicken. Bring to a boil. Add the heavy cream, return to a boil, then reduce heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, stirring now and then.
*Add the ingredients of the skillet to the pot with the pasta. Toss and stir until the rotini is coated. Serve with the parmesan.