Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Fave Christmas Music

I have always had a bit of an eclectic taste in music and that is even more so when it comes to Christmas music. I've never been a big fan of the choral or old traditional hymn versions of songs. For the most part, I prefer fairly mellow, easy listening holiday music with a generous dose of more modern standards that have been made popular by performers of the last 75 years. Like other music genres, there are certain singers and songs I avoid like the plague. There are also artists that I truly love!

Over the last few years, I've made a point of listening to a fair bit of seasonal music - and made lists of artists and songs that I liked. I thought I'd end up with enough to burn a couple of CD's but I was wrong! Turns out, that I liked more than I thought I did! I had enough for 7 CD's!

The next decision was to figure out the best way to truly enjoy the music of the holiday season. Luckily, I had a few options. The speakers on my desktop computer have very good sound so I could just put the playlist on shuffle. I could also transfer the list to my mp3 player. However, I chose to burn the entire collection to a Data CD. Pretty much any computer with a disk drive can play a data CD. Some DVD and CD players will also recognize the format. Last year, I treated myself to a Bose Wave III which, as most people know, has EXCELENT sound! Bose systems also recognize Data CD's!

This collection has a bit of everything! Instrumentals, groups, male and female artists. There is easy listening, pop, light rock, country, jazz, folk, swing, big band and a bit of blues. There are a few quirky or off the beaten track tunes that you may never have heard before. I've no doubt, you'll recognize most of the titles but not necessarily the versions I've chosen. Some are full of joy and others are a bit melancholy. Some are very mellow and some are quite upbeat - but they all blend together to create great background music for a gathering where you can actually talk to other people without shouting over the music! The collection is 151 songs from just over 70 artists and almost 8 hours long so more than enough to last for most gatherings. Yes, there are more than one version of certain songs but I felt they were different enough in style. Okay, I admit it - I just couldn't decide which version I liked best for some but I limited it to a max of three versions of any one song.

My taste in holiday music may not be the norm this time of year but the list below (alphabetical by title) is me - unique and eclectic!

Title (Length) Artist (Album)
The All-Purpose Christmas Carol (3:28) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Mood
Amazing Grace / Jesu Joy (3:33) Jim Brickman (A Christmas Celebration)
Angels (3:18) Jim Brickman (The Gift)
Angels We Have Heard On High (2:42) David Ian featuring Acacia (Vintage Christmas Wonderland)
Aspenglow (2:24) John Denver (Rocky Mountain Christmas)
Auld Lang Syne (2:08) Guy Lombardo (--)
Auld Lang Syne (3:52) Tom Ouimette
Ave Maria (2:17) Susie Ariolli (Christmas Dreaming)
Away In A Manger (2:17) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Card)

Baby It's Cold Outside (2:52) Bing Crosby (Gold Christmas Collection)
Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem (3:08) Emmylou Harris (Light Of The Stable)
Bittersweet (3:33) Jim Brickman (Winter Solstice)
Blessings (2:29) Jim Brickman (Peace)
Blue Christmas (3:31) Rod Stewart (Merry Christmas Baby)
Blue Christmas (3|00) Jill Barber (New Kind Of Light)
Brahms' Bethlehem Lullaby (2:45) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Present)
Brahms' Lullaby (3:14) Kenny G (Miracles: The Holiday Album)

Carolling, Carolling (2:02) Nat King Cole (The Christmas Song)
The Carols Those Kids Used To Sing (2:45) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Wishes)
Christmas Bells (2:40) Border Brass (Tijuana Christmas)
Christmas Bells (3:16) Jill Barber (New Kind Of Light)
The Christmas Blues (2:58) Holly Cole (Christmas Blues)
Christmas Cannon (3:51) Transiberian Orchestra (--)
Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away (2:59) Eddie Arnold (--)
Christmas Country Style (1:59) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Present)
Christmas Dreaming (2:38) Harry Connick Jr (When My Heart Finds Christmas)
Christmas Dreaming (3:27) Susie Ariolli (Christmas Dreaming)
Christmas Is Leading Me Home (3:22) Haley Sales
Christmas Kiss (3:04) Meaghan Smith (It Snowed)
The Christmas Song (4:24) Diana Krall (Christmas Songs)
The Christmas Song (3:10) Nat King Cole (The Christmas Song)
The Christmas Song (3:18) World's Greatest Jazz Band (--)
Christmas Spirits (3:39) Alex Pangman & Her Allieycats (Christmas Gift)
Christmas Time Is Here (3:35) Diana Krall (Christmas Songs)
Christmas Times A-Coming (2:55) Emmylou Harris (Light Of The Stable)
Christmas To Me (4:12) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Card)
A Christmas To Remember (3:41) Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (Once Upon A Christmas)
The Christmas Waltz (2:45) Rosemary Clooney (White Christmas)
Christmas Wish (3:41) Tuck & Patti (Winter Solstice)
Christmas Without You (3:50) Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (Once Upon A Christmas)
Christmasland (2:24) Tony Bennett (Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album)
Church Bells Ringing / Christmas In The City (4:04) The Skydiggers (Angels)
Count Your Blessings (3:41) Diana Krall (Christmas Songs)

Deck The Hall (1:08) Nat King Cole (Christmas Songs)
Deck The Halls (2:56) Jim Brickman (Homecoming)

Early Snowfall (3:05) Jim Brickman (Peace)
Everybody's Waiting For The Man With The Bag (2:51) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Spirit)

The First Noel (2:25) Border Brass (Tijuana Christmas)
The First Noel (3:20) Jim Brickman (Christmas Collection)
Frosty The Snowman (2:21) Perry Como (Greatest Christmas Collection)
Frosty The Snowman (4:06) Glenn Miller (In The Christmas Mood)

The Gift (4:09) Peabo Bryson (Winter Solstice)
Go Safely Into The Night (3:08) The Ennis Sisters (It's Christmas)
Good King Wenceslas (2:30) Glenn Miller (In The Christmas Mood)
Greensleeves (3:29) Kenny G (Miracles: The Holiday Album)
Greensleeves (3:14) Coleman Hawkins (Christmas Songs)
Grown-Up Christmas Wish (3:41) Michael Buble (Let It Snow)

Happy Christmas (3:36) John Lennon (The Best Of John Lennon)
Happy Holiday (1:57) Peggy Lee (Christmas)
Have A Holly Jolly Christmas (2:16) Burl Ives (Have A Holly Jolly Christmas)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (4:19) Dianna Krall (Christmas Songs)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (3:57) Kenny G (Miracles: The Holiday Album)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (4:32) Rod Stewart (Merry Christmas Baby)
The Holly And The Ivy (4:20) Jim Brickman (Christmas Romance)

I Believe In Santa's Cause (2:57) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Card)
I Just Want A Prairie Christmas (4:12) Connie Kaldor (--)
I Never Spend A Christmas That I Don't Think Of You (2:41) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Card)
I Want You For Christmas (2:39) Alex Pangman & Her Allieycats (Christmas Gift)
I'd Like To Hitch A Ride With Santa Claus (2:18) Holly Cole (Christmas Blues)
I'd Like You For Christmas (2:16) Julie London (Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails)
If Every Day Was Like Christmas (2:54) Elvis Presley (--)
If I Don't Make It Home This Christmas (2:38) Megan Schroder (--)
I'll Be Here For Christmas (4:24) Meaghan Smith (New Kind Of Light)
I'll Be Home For Christmas (3:30) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Spirit)
I'll Be Home For Christmas (4:06) Jim Brickman (Christmas Romance)
I'll Be Home For Christmas (3:30) Rosemary Clooney (Let It Snow)
I'll Be Home With Bells On (2:42) Dolly Parton (--)
In The Bleak Mid Winter (2:42) Meaghan Smith (New Kind Of Light)
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (2:57) Dave Young (--)
It Just Wouldn't Be Christmas Without You (3:43) Connie Kaldor (--)
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (2:47) Bing Crosby (Christmas Carols)
It Snowed (3:44) Meaghan Smith (It Snowed)
It's A Marshmallow World (2:40) Dean Martin (--)
It's Christmas Everywhere (3:05) Paul Anka (--)
It's The Most Wonderful Time (2:25) Johnny Mathis (The Christmas Music Of Johnny Mathis)
I've Got The Blues For Christmas (3:44) Russell de Carle

Jingle Bell Rock (2:13) Bobby Holms (Jingle Bell Rock)
Jingle Bells (1:56) Border Brass (Tijuana Christmas)
Jolly Old St Nicholas (2:31) Border Brass (Tijuana Christmas)
Joy Ride (3:13) Mark Snow (Winter Solstice)

Let It Snow (2:52) Rod Stewart (Merry Christmas Baby)
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (3:10) Kenny G (Faith: A Holiday Album)
Let's Share Christmas (3:57) John Pizzarelli (Let's Share Christmas)
Light Of The Stable (2:19) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Spirit(
Light Of The Stable (2:24) Emmylou Harris (Light Of The Stable)
Little Toy Trains (2:05) Roger Miller (Country Christmas)

Magic Forest (5:03) Ensemble (Winter Solstice)
The Man With The Bag (3:56) Alex Pangman & Her Allieycats (Christmas Gift)
Mary Had A Baby (4:42) Bruce Cockburn (Christmas)
My Favorite Things (3:21) Carole King (A Holiday Carole)

New Kind Of Light (3:24) Rose Cousins (New Kind Of Light)
New Year's Day (3:55) Carole King (A Holiday Carole)

O Christmas Tree (2:39) Kenny G (Faith: A Holiday Album)
O Little Town Of Bethlehem (3:17) Oscar Peterson (--)
Old Fashioned Christmas (2:33) Dick Van Dyke And The Vantastix (Put On A Happy Face)
Old Fashioned Christmas (2:49) Guy Lombardo (--)
Old Toy Trains (2:34) The Statler Brothers (Christmas Present)

Please Come Home For Christmas (3:00) The Eagles (Christmas Of Hope)
Please Come Home For Christmas (3:17) Holly Cole (Christmas Blues)
Pretty Paper (3:43) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Spirit)
Pretty Paper (2:47) Roy Orbison (Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas - Holiday Magic)

The Quiet Gift Of Love (2:58) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Spirit)

River (4:04) Joni Mitchell (Blue)
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree (2:05) Brenda Lee (Rockin' Little Christmas)
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (2:10) Burl Ives (Have A Holly Jolly Christmas)

Santa Baby (3:25) Eartha Kitt (Billborad Greatest Christmas Hits)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (2:48) Rod Stewart (Merry Christmas Baby)
Sending You A Little Christmas (4:06) Jim Brickman (Peace)
Silent Night (3:30) World's Greatest Jazz Band (--)
Silent Bells (3:04) Bing Crosby (Bing! His Legendary Years 1931 - 1957)
Silver Bells (3:10) Meaghan Smith (It Snowed)
Skating (2:57) George Winston (Winter Solstice)
Sleigh Ride (2:58) Ella Fitzgerald (Wishing You A Swinging Christmas)
Snow (2:43) Bing Crosby (White Christmas)
Snowbound For Christmas (3:20) Jackie Gleason (--)
Snowfall (2:50) Tony Bennett (Stars At Christmas - Volume 2)
Snowflake (3:12) Jim Brickman (Christmas Romance)
Song For A Winter's Night (3:02) Gordon Lightfoot (The Way I Feel)
Star Of Night (2:36) Jim Brickman (Christmas Celebration)
Starbright (Jim Brickman (The Gift)

Thanksgiving (3:31) Jim Brickman (Homecoming)
There Is No Christmas Like An Old Fashioned Christmas (3:17) Perry Como
There Is No Place Like Home For The Holidays (2:58) Perry Como
This Christmas (3:55) Jeffery Osborne (Winter Solstice)
Two Thousand Miles (3:31) Holly Cole (Christmas Blues)

Warm December (1:57) Julie London (Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails)
We Need A Little Christmas (1:57) Johnny Mathis (The Christmas Music Of Johnny)
We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1:56) Border Brass (Tijuana Christmas)
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve (4:19) John Pizzarelli (Let's Share Christmas)
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve (3:02) The Chenille Sisters (In The Christmas Spirit)
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve (3:34) Ella Fitzgerald (Wishing You A Swinging Christmas)
What Child Is This (2:47) John Denver (Rocky Mountain Christmas)
When My Heart Finds Christmas (2:32) Harry Connick Jr (When My Heart Finds Christmas)
White Christmas (3:07) Bing Crosby (Greatest Hits)
Winter (5:00) Phil Perry (Winter Solstice)
Winter Solstice (1:56) The Wyrd Sisters (--)
Winter Wonderland (3:01) Louis Armstrong (Christmas Collection)
Winter Wonderland (2:53) Susie Arioli (Christmas Dreaming)
WinterskĂžL (2:02) Dan Fogelberg (First Christmas Morning)
Wonderful Christmas Time (3:48) Paul Mc Cartney

Yesterday's Rain (4:29) W G Snuffy Walden (Winter Solstice)
Merry Humbug!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Much Ado About A Red Cup

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week or so, you've no doubt heard that Starbucks new holiday cup for the 2015 season seems to be going over like a lump of coal. In the past, the coffee giant has offered a variety of designs to celebrate the festive season. This year, the design is a simple red cup with the chain's logo on it. No snowflakes, snowmen, trees or other holiday symbols.

For the record, I don't even drink coffee and can almost count on one hand the number of times I've even splurged or been treated to one of Starbucks other overpriced beverages. Truth is, I rarely go to "coffee shops" of any kind. I have more important, life sustaining things to spend my limited finances on. That being said, I know a number of people who make an almost daily pilgrimage to a Starbucks or a Tim Horton's for their java fix.

The loudest outcry against the simple design that Starbucks has introduced seems to be coming from those who are devout Christians. For some reason, they feel that this is corporate America and political correctness trying to ban their holiday traditions and religious freedoms.

Despite what many of the "offended" want to believe - let alone acknowledge - is that there is more than one religion and a number of those religions also have major celebrations that often overlap with the Christian observance of Christmas.

Regardless of your religious beliefs - or lack thereof - the holiday season is supposed to be about love, peace and giving.  Yet, many Christians have chosen to get their knickers in a knot over an apparent blocking of their religious beliefs. Even some Christmas traditionalists are crying foul over the lack of symbolism. People are screaming from the top of their lungs - and their social media pages - about the supposed slap in the face from Starbucks for removing "holiday symbols" from their coffee cups. They've deemed this a "War On Christmas".


Here's the deal people. IF you can afford the beverages at Starbucks you are better off financially than many people in this world. If you are offended that Starbucks is now offering a simple red cup that doesn't acknowledge your specific holiday beliefs and traditions then you need to find a way to be more accepting and tolerant of other religions and beliefs. Despite what you may want to believe, this time of year is a celebration for many religions. It ISN'T all about you and your beliefs.

Not to mention, that a red cup from a mega corporation that doesn't feature "your" particular holiday themes is a pretty minor thing to complain about in the grand scheme of life!

There are millions of people in this world who are homeless. Millions who are risking their lives fleeing from war torn countries. Millions who don't even have clean, safe water to drink.

I highly doubt that many of them would gripe about the type of cup their beverage was served in. They'd more likely just be grateful for the beverage within,

Expressing your religious views through your own decorations is entirely within your rights. Implying that your personal beliefs are more important than others is just selfish and inconsiderate.

Complaining because a company chooses to be more inclusive and tolerant of other peoples beliefs than what you are willing to acknowledge is just plain ignorant and intolerant on your part.

Luckily, for the majority of (Starbucks) complainers, you live in countries with countless options of where to get your beverages. If you want your overpriced beverages in a holiday themed cup then buy a thermal or reusable cup with the symbols on it and - if you must - parade it in front of all those who choose to be more tolerant and accepting of other peoples beliefs or those who have other beliefs.

Slowly sip your beverage while sitting atop your self-righteous high horse.

Then, try taking a careful step down from your pious perch and think about just how truly fortunate you are.

You have to make a choice. The taste of your beverage or how it is served. You have choices in beverages, where to obtain them and how they are served to you.

If you still feel the need to complain then perhaps you could try a different approach.

Buy your coffee somewhere else. There are any number of other places to buy your pricy drinks. Though not as pricy or as diverse in choices and varieties, you could buy a beverage at Dunkin' Donuts as they have introduced a holiday themed cup for this season with the word "Joy" on it.

What's that? Dunkin' isn't up to your standards? Then why not skip the big chains and support a local coffee shop? Some of those independent or local chains serve some rather fancy brews. Not to mention that supporting small businesses is good for the local economy.

Better yet, make it at home and carry a more environmentally friendly thermal mug. With all the varieties of coffees and coffee makers on the market, surely there must be at least one that could help sustain your caffeine fix!

Purchasing your beverages at another business or making it at home probably won't make a big difference to Starbucks bank account. However, the money you save will add up and can - no, should be used to help others less fortunate than yourself.

The money you save can be donated to a homeless shelter, a food bank, a toy drive for under privileged kids or any number of other worthy charities. No doubt they would be truly grateful to accept your donations.

BTW, your coffee cup protest may also create a side benefit! By not purchasing those expensive blends you may also cut back on a few calories! A regular cup of coffee - even with a bit of cream and sugar isn't nearly as high in calories as the specialty concoctions! That is, assuming you can also resist all the donuts, muffins, shortbread and other holiday treats that are often served alongside those beverages! A refillable bottle of water and some fresh fruit would save even more money and calories but that would probably be asking most of you for too much saving and giving!

As I said, the choice of how and where to obtain your beverages is up to you.

Personally, I don't believe there is a war on Christmas.

Declaring a war on anything is NOT the answer.

I believe that we need to find ways to work together. We need to find ways to bring cultures and religions together without killing each other in the process. We need to make a conscious effort to learn about other people's beliefs and cultures. We need to find ways to be more tolerant of our differences and more accepting of those who don't have the same beliefs.

Respect, understanding, acceptance, inclusiveness, tolerance and love should be our goals. It is the only way we will ever bring peace to this sorely troubled world.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fleeting Autumn Beauty

According to the calendar, we are almost halfway through Autumn but you'd never know it by looking at the trees around here!

Mother Nature rarely cuts us Canadian prairie folk a break when it comes to the fall beauty! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but it always seems that those in Eastern Canada and the North-Eastern United States get a longer more spectacular show of Autumn foliage  I've made no secret that Autumn is my favourite season but the picturesque beauty of it is far too short! Here on the Canadian prairies, we are lucky if the leaves stay on the trees more than a couple weeks after they start turning!

It just doesn't seem fair - especially when you consider how long and harsh our winters can be. There really should be a law that Mother Nature is not allowed to throw heavy rains or strong winds while the leaves are in full on fall glory!

Oh well, I guess that is supposed to make us more grateful for the fleeting beauty of the season - and for me it does! When the leaves are at their most colourful, I set aside almost anything else that needs doing to go out and enjoy as much of it as I can! Even when I am home, I find myself looking out the window just to admire the colourful treetops of my neighbourhood!

I took several walks this Autumn as well as enjoying my apartment view! I'd like to share some of these views with you today.

This year, the leaves were just starting to turn in mid September, but there was a bit more colour by the end of the month. On September 25, I took a walk in Assiniboine Park.
Over the next week or so there were a few nights with a bit of frost and the leaves were in full out beauty by early October! Alas, they were also starting to fall!

I took a walk out Wellington Crescent to Munson Park on October 2.
Sunrises, are always a bit out of view from my apartment, but there are mornings that the reflective light is just too lovely not to take some pictures! This seems to be especially true in Autumn!
On October 9, one of my gal pals and I took a walk through Assiniboine Forrest. Despite living in Winnipeg for many years, neither of us had ever been there before! It was a cool, partly cloudy morning but we thoroughly enjoyed the crisp air and the spectacular beauty of the urban forest!  There are numerous trails through the forest, with a few markers along the various paths. Intersecting paths are marked with maps, but there are also a few small painted markers on tree branches to tell you which path you are on. Our walk was mostly on the pink and green trails, though the light blue and yellow do align with them in places. 
Then came a major rainy, windy Thanksgiving Monday (October 12) and it was all but over for the majority of the colourful leaves. Soggy leaves covered the ground and nearly naked trees were everywhere!
Such is the nature of the changing seasons here on the prairies! So, I enjoy the beauty while it is here. When the outside weather isn't cooperating or the beauty is past, I focus on preparing for the coming months. Thanks to above normal temps, I managed to hold off on many of those fall chores till after Thanksgiving. Since then, I've switched out the down blanket for the down duvet on my bed. The summer clothes have been moved to the back of the closet. Summer jackets have been packed away and the heavier ones now hang by the front door. Gloves, scarves and even the boots are at the ready, but hopefully won't be needed for a while yet. The freezer has been defrosted and an inventory taken of it and the pantry. There have been numerous errands and shopping trips to restock the pantry and freezer for the winter months. I've also been gathering my supplies for holiday baking which will be started in the next few days.

Time moves all too fast come September. One day the leaves are green and we are still in summer clothes. In what seems like a heartbeat the leaves have turned and are falling to the ground. The weather gets nippier, the days get shorter and we pull out the heavier clothing and turn on the heat. We pull out our cookbooks and turn on our stoves to fill our homes with the scents of the bountiful harvest.

It is now the beginning of November. The clocks have been set back an hour and we have entered that sometimes bleak inbetween season. For some, there is the anticipation of outdoor winter activities, but for many of us there is the sense of impending partial hibernation and indoor activities.

To each their own.

For me, I will treasure the beauty that was - no matter how short. I will enjoy the pictures and the memories of times shared. In the coming weeks there will be plenty of holiday baking to keep me busy. There will always be recipes to play with. There are books to be read. Movies and videos to be watched. Writing to be done. Winter's naps to be savoured.

Thank you Mother Nature for the fleeting beauty that is our prairie autumn.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

PB Apple Spice Cake

Apples are in great supply come autumn. I'll gladly eat apples any time of the year, but I also love finding and creating recipes with apples!

Today, I thought I'd share a cake recipe that is perfect for fall or any time you want a delicious treat!

A month or so ago, I had some apples that needed to be used up, so I went looking for an apple cake recipe. Of course, a Google search showed that there are an endless number of variations to choose from! I read through at least 30 recipes before narrowing it down to an apple spice cake.

I found a recipe on All Recipes for an Apple Spice Cake that intrigued me. The directions indicated that you were to combine the baking soda with warm water and add to liquid ingredients rather than the traditional method of adding the baking soda to the dry ingredients. I read through many of the comments and also did some research into the reasoning for this, but was unable to determine a definitive answer. None of my baker friends had ever heard of this method either.

Well, the first time I made the cake, I followed that step - as well as making some other ingredient changes and the cake was DELISH! However, I also wanted to see if it really mattered that you add the baking soda with the water to the liquids. The second time I made the cake, I added the baking soda in the traditional way and found no difference in the end result. Therefore, I have eliminated the extra step for this recipe.

So, what else did I do differently?
- Rather than using all white flour, I did a 50/50 mix of all purpose and whole wheat flour.
- A bit of nutmeg was added to the spice combination.
- The all white sugar was replaced by a 50/50 mix of white and golden (light brown) sugars
- I switched out most of the margarine in favour of a combination of peanut butter and a just bit of margarine.
- Instead of the water that went with the baking soda in the original recipe, I chose to add some milk - and upped the quantity a bit to make the batter a bit less stiff and more moist in the finished cake.
- Raisins were omitted and roasted peanuts were added.
- Naturally, I added chocolate chips!
- I also chose to omit sprinkling icing sugar on the finished cake. The cake is sweet enough without any type of garnish or frosting.

In the end, I turned a basic Apple Spice Cake into a Peanut Butter, Apple Spice Cake WITH Chocolate Chips! After all, apples, peanut butter and chocolate make an amazing taste combination that is REALLY hard to resist!!

My taste testers loved this and said I could make this for them ANYTIME!!

PB Apple Spice Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon      
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg      
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt    
3 medium or 2 large apples - peeled, cored and chopped (about 2 - 2 1/4 cups)    
1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup block margarine, softened to room temp
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter     
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar   
4 large eggs, at room temp         
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a Bundt pan with a non stick spray such as Pam. Set aside..

Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.

Peel, core and chop the apples. You should have between 2 and 2 1/4 cups when finished.

Combine the peanuts, chocolate chips and chopped apple. Set aside.
Cream together margarine, peanut butter and sugars. Mix in eggs, milk and vanilla.

Stir in all but about 2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture into the margarine/sugars/eggs mixture, mixing to combine thoroughly. Batter will be quite thick.
Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons flour mixture to the apples/peanuts/chips mixture and stir just to coat. (This will help prevent clumping of these ingredients.) Add the mixture to the batter and stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick test comes out clean (With my oven it took about 65 minutes). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes then carefully turn the cake onto plate. Continue to cool the cake (on the plate) on a wire rack till cooled.
Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired but it really isn't needed.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

More Summer Views

September has arrived and summer is quickly drawing to a close. We've had some insanely hot and humid days (and nights!)here in Winnipeg. We've had some torrential like rainfalls. We've had hazy skies. We've had days that were cooler than normal and days that were right on seasonal norms. In other words, this summer had a bit of almost everything!

As someone who doesn't like the heat, I'm happy to see the hot and humid days leave but with the end of summer weather, it also means that my direct window views of the sunsets are quickly drawing to a close for another year.

On July 19, I shared a number of collages of the beautiful sky views that I see from my window. Today, I've decided to share even more of my gorgeous summer view!

There has been ominous looking skies, stormy weather, a bit of lightening, haze, more spectacular sunsets and I even managed to catch a colourful sunrise,

Here then, is a collection of photos from the last 7 weeks!

I didn't do the greatest job of stitching these two pics together but the clouds were very dark. Thankfully, this didn't turn out to be as bad as it looked: 
We did get some stormy weather including heavy rains
Lightening is NOT easy to capture in a single pic, but I did manage to do it a couple of times!
There has been more haze from forest fires to the north and the west
One morning, I was actually awake early enough and coherent enough to even grab the camera for a couple pics of the sunrise!
But, as always, my favourites are the spectacular sunsets! 
This was an evening that I just had to do two versions of. One from a distance and one with zoom.
This is another one that I did two versions of. One from a distance and one with zoom.
One more that I just had to do two versions of. One from a distance and one with zoom

As you can no doubt tell, I LOVE my summer views! I hope your summer views have also been spectacular!