Monday, August 22, 2016

Muffins – a baking quest

yummy muffin with blueberries inside and walnut garnish

This starts out as a quest to find eatable muffins that ARE NOT suffused with sugar and other sweetening agents, except for naturally sweetness occurring in the ingredients. It all started when "Doctor, Doctor" proclaimed that I was having a high blood sugar problem and diagnosed me as having Diabetes 2 (about 15 years ago). So slowly over time I changed my diet and drink to eliminate added sugar (in its various forms), added salts, and added fats.
My latest escapade in this quest was to find muffins that did not have a lot of refined products in them such as white sugar and white flour in them. Unfortunately it turns out that store muffins, baked on site or prepackaged were loaded with all the ingredients I did not want in my treats.


First I headed to the internet and did some searching for sugar free oatmeal muffins. Well I found that most of them substituted man-made sweeteners like Equal and Sweet & Low for the sugar. Yuck!
Then I found one that I was sure I could modify for my own uses and so the “Baker in me” was born.

With a recipe in hand I proceeded to attempt my first, no-sugar, naturally sweetened muffins. I'm sure that those of you that know baking are wondering what's the big deal. This, to my knowledge, is my first ever attempt at baking muffins.

Don’t they look just wonderfully delicious? The first batch was banana/oatmeal with whole blueberries and walnuts as a topping. The fully ripe bananas added sweetness along with the whole blueberries and two tablespoons of clover honey.

Here’s the basic recipe:

2 cups old fashioned oats
2 very ripe bananas large

2 tablespoons (tbsp) clover honey
2 large eggs

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup whole blueberries

1 teaspoon (tsp) aluminum free baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Here’s how I made them:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Uh, you may want to take anything in the oven out first. No need to preheat your frying pan or pot, besides you need the center rack free of obstacles so you can put your muffin pan there. J

2. I just happen to have a food processor and a blender but you can use either.
First I put the 2 cups of oatmeal in the food processor with the blending (steel) blade in place. Then I chop the oatmeal up until it looks like flour with a few bits here and there. Just a few minutes will do it. If you only have one machine, pour the powder out into a bowl to hold it while you do the wet ingredients.

3. In the blender I put the bananas, eggs, honey, yogurt, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla extract. Then I blended them all together until they looked like a smoothie. Finally I added the chopped up oats and blended them into the smoothie. Just a few seconds (5 or 10?) until everything is blended together into a nice batter.

4. Finally, add the whole blueberries. DO NOT BLEND! Just mix them into the batter with a spoon or spatula. You want them to stay whole. Set aside while you get your muffin pan ready.

5. Lightly butter up (or use a cooking spray) your muffin pan. I don’t bother to use paper liners but if you want to, consider spraying the insides of them.

6. Add the batter to the muffin pan cups. Fill them about ¾ full. Top with extra blueberries, nuts or both. I keep any extra batter to make soft cookies.
7. Bake for 20 minutes and give a few of the muffins the toothpick test. Insert a toothpick in the center and pull it out – clean is good, if there is wet batter bake for a few minutes (maybe 5) more.

8. Pull the pan out of the oven and set on a wire rack to keep the hot pan off your counter until the pan cools down. Then eat a muffin or two. ENJOY!

This is what happens if you fill the muffin cups to the top. The batter flows out and forms a mushroom top. These tops were really cooked too, almost crispy.

Soft Cookies

The extra batter I used to make a few soft cookies. They tasted just like the muffins just thinner. You can add something else to the leftover batter if you want. I added peanut butter to the last batch for a different taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and put the batter in cookie shaped ovals on a flat pan. I use a solid pizza pan.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, pull them from the oven, place the pan on a wire rack and let the pan and cookies cool down. Then enjoy one or two while you clean up.


1. I have used 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of the 2 large ripe bananas.

(Note: this is now my "go to" formula. I just can't seem to let the bananas sit around long enough to get real ripe - they get eaten way before that happens.)
2. Instead of blueberries, my last batch was made with semi-sweet dark chocolate chips (I could not find unsweetened chocolate at the store I went to). You can use just about any fruit you like. I chopped up an apple and added that to the batter with cinnamon - tasty!

Hope you enjoy the trials. At least you can eat your errors. I sure have.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lizard Dies - Weirdly Mummified

A lizard, a brown anole, stalked inside the Florida room at the back of the house. She crept among the stored furniture and boxes looking for a bug or two to dine on. Alas, poor lizard, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any bugs in the room had succumbed to the various sprays heaped on them and then vacuumed up and disposed of. Starvation loomed for her – I prayed I could catch her before that happened.

Every morning she would move to a window sill or to the top of a small table I had placed near a window so some seedlings would catch a bit of sun. Each time I noticed her I would slow all movements and creep in slow motion to where she was perched. Would I catch her this time or would she elude all my efforts?

Fast as Flash the action hero, she would jump and scamper into the pile of things waiting for me to unpack and move to a more permanent place in the house. I scampered also but only at my inadequate human speed and I would watch in frustration as she disappeared under the stacks of household goods and extra stuff.
This went on for a few more days. She would perch near a window and once I saw her I would move slowly in her direction. She would watch me approach and as I reached to try and capture Ms. Anole, she would jump and scamper into/under things where I could not follow.

lizard runs
hides under storage
failure to captivate

Then nothing! The vibrant little she anole was not to be seen. For two days I stayed alert looking for her, hoping that somehow I would be able to catch the little speeder. It was not to be. A few days later I moved the spare refrigerator to a new position (by that time I had unpacked and moved quite a few items out of the Florida room) and found the lizard – mummified.

refrigerator moved
lizard found
remains dried up

She had crawled under there and waited for death. Her body had dried up until all that was left behind was dried leather and bones. A pity as she looked much better as a live lizard than as a mummy. A proper burial is planned – perhaps next to a group of Silky Gold milkweed (the seedlings on the table). Sorry folks there will be no wake although if you wish you can make a donation to the Nature Conservancy Florida Chapter.

Chapter 2 - Another Lizard dies and mummifies - sunroom is a deathtrap!

I will admit that I have/had a lot of stuff piled up in the sunroom at the back of the house that needed to be moved, sorted out, designated useful or not. Heck, some of it was stuff we brought with us from Broward and some of it was stuff left behind by the previous owners. We (or I) just didn't have the time or desire at the time to figure all that out while getting important things done (like cutting the grass).
Reckon that is why I found another lizard dehydrated to mummification. Just reptile leather over bones just like the first one.
Do lizards have heart attacks?
I ask because this lizard was intact and looks like it is ready to scamper off. If it wasn't for the missing eyes I could imagine this little lizard moving from where I put it to another location all on its own. A lizard lich?
Well wouldn't that be interesting? A dead lizard on the move, scurrying from place to place - perhaps I will give it some eyes so it can see where it is going. It should help keep down the "bumps" in the night. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Skeletal Lizard

In a dark corner of my shed, I caught sight – out of the corner of my eye – of a small gleam of white. I wondered, “what could that possibly be,” sitting in the corner almost obscured by a heap of sand? Was it a pearl, a piece of jewelry, or perhaps even a ring of white gold? A closer look was warranted.

I removed the couple pieces of lumber that were leaning against the shed’s wall on that side and bent down for a closer look. Well, it wasn’t a precious jewel, although to the animal that owned it, it was a precious commodity. It wasn’t silver or gold, or any type of jewelry that fell forgotten in the corner. No it was a skeleton and not just any skeleton but that of a lizard gone dead.

Around the little skeleton was a pile of sand. I would guess that the lizard died and ants scavenged him for food. Just like hyenas would attack and devour a dead wildebeest in Africa, the ants swarmed the pile of meat left behind and stripped it all off the bones (except hyenas would probably take some bones with them to chew on) – leaving the skeleton mostly intact to sit in the shed’s corner until I found it.

Mother Nature recycled the dead lizard, allowing it to feed and nurture a whole colony of ants. Why did it die I wondered (not out loud, just in my head). Was it injured? Perhaps it died from old age or a disease. It wasn’t from being trapped in the shed. Believe me, there are outlets to the outside world available here and there.

little skeleton

hidden in darkest corner

stripped of flesh, ant food

A lizard there was
Bold beyond compare
Who entered a shed
And laid down dead
He fed the beetles
he fed the ants
And left his bones behind
Evidence of being

So I posed the little skeleton, trying to get the legs in the right orientation. I notice one paw was missing. Perhaps I lost it when I moved the skeleton lizard around, or could this have been the cause of death? Maybe something, or someone, or even an accident removed the paw and the poor thing bled out in the corner I found him in.
bones gleam white, picked clean
remain intact until found
mysterious death

Here’s what a live male lizard looks like when he is trying to attract a female to himself. Full of life, he strut’s his stuff and extends his dewlap. With a bit of luck, a female will run to him and they can find a secluded spot to mate. (Bad luck would be a black bird swooping down and taking him back to the nest for the bird’s nestlings to feed on.)
Lizards are predators. They eat meat, mostly bugs. A few flies, beetles, ants, even some roaches will make their hunger pains disappear. Like most animals, they need the 3 basics to survive: food, water and shelter. OK, OK, four basics – add a willing mate to procreate with.
Lizards are also prey. Snakes will gobble them up, birds will peck them to death and slide them down the gullet (or feed them to their voracious young), and bigger lizards will make a meal of smaller ones. It’s tough being a lizard.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lake Side Contemplation - Poetry

This morning I decided to go fishing. Since I like to catch small fish, I took some worms and my light weight fishing gear and headed over to the lake. Yep, actually walked to the lake – it’s that close. Once there I hooked up a worm (little thing barely fit on hook) and cast it out into the waters. I didn’t really expect much as there was a front moving in and the wind was blowing. Well my expectation was met – nary a bite did I get.

However, I did get to sit around for an hour or so and in that time I did contemplate my surroundings. So I took out my little notebook and sat on the bench on the pier and wrote a few things. The writings, in the form of haiku and poems, follow:

Ducks fly across sky

In formation synchronized

Twisted air ballet

Black bird swoops

Snaps up dragonfly

Morning snack

Strong southeastern wind

Flows across the lake waters

Cooling morning air

Wind pushes bobber

Line flies in the wind bowing

Poor day for fishing

Pleasant morning alone on the pier

Watching the wind rippled water

Small gator swims by

Looking for breakfast says I

We watch each other til he moves on

Only the wind moves the pole

An hour later I am gone

Fishing is over

Time to plan a garden

Hope you enjoyed some of the above. Feel free to share any of it.
Just note that it came from and thanks.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Unicorn Seashell Crafts

Unicorn wakes as the sun comes up and lights up the beach. A beach rose blooms between some coral rocks and perfumes the air as the sun heats it up.


Fantasy. It is just a word. A word that helps bring to life many a thought, and in this case a couple of seashell crafts using Unicorns as the main subjects.

Then again, who is to say that in a parallel universe that crosses paths with our Earth in the wilder areas of the land, that Unicorns are not the norm?


Unicorn mare and her foal lay down on a remote beach on the enchanted isle (Puerto Rico) as the sun sinks and evening approaches.

The Coqui (little tree frog) came down from the tree tops to provide musical notes to complete the evening hour.

(note: no animals were harmed while setting up these crafts. Unicorns are enameled porcelain and entirely man made. Frog is also of man made materials - possibly ceramic. Seashells and coral were picked up on a local beach - already empty of their original inhabitants.)


To make your own Unicorn seashell crafts your first hurdle will be to find some miniature unicorns. There was a time when some gift shops and craft stores carried them but I haven't seen any in a store for quite some time. Perhaps you can do a search on the internet. Gel candle stores, Amazon or even Ebay may be places to try.

The round wood bases can be picked up in craft stores or Amazon. Stain them in a color you like if you wish or leave them plain. If left plain you may want to cover the naked wood with a clear coat of polyurethane.

Take a walk on the beach for seashells and sand. The seashells representing the sun are scallop seashells. You can also buy the seashells, coral, accessories and sand from various stores (including some items from Amazon - isn't that amazing).

I like to use standard white glue for these crafts. Takes a while to set but once set it works real well. (Make sure it is NOT  the washable kiddy (school?) glue).

Then use your imagination to set up a little scenario in which the Unicorns are the center of attention.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Flower - a poem - nature poem

Sun’s warmth
Parts the petals
Flower of life
Slowly opening
To the beat
Of earth’s pulse

Smell the fragrance
Flower releases
pollinators arrive
Moved by hunger
Enter flower gently
taste the sweet nectar

Feel the tremor
In the petals
Movement ruffled
Waters of life
Gush forth
Filling the cup

Waters ebb
Tremors gently cease
Petals relax
Flower closes
Pulls itself shut
Mission accomplished

Monday, March 7, 2016

Featherlight - a poem

One day as I sat listening to the album Featherlight by Hillary Stagg (I sometimes use it as background for meditation attempts), some words made their desire known in my head to be written down. I share them with you in the following spiritual poem. Perhaps the words will inspire your thoughts, perhaps they will bring calm your soul or perhaps they will inflame your ire. Read the poem and see what's your reaction.


Sing to the wind,
free the mind,
of each day’s woe.
bring peace,
prepare the soul,
for a voyage beyond,
the corporeal.

Let each note,
gently sooth,
the day’s ravages.
Bring harmony,
sweet muse,
to settle the mind,
and ease transition.

Stroke a song,
calm the spirit,
ease daily turmoil.
Halt riotous thoughts,
let serenity in,
bring the soul,
to a higher plane.

Sing a song,
pure and gentle,
bring ease to troubled mind.
At day’s end
heart slows,
breath deepens,
sandman prepares to enter.

You can check out the album and play samples on Amazon (note: I am an affiliate). While there you can look at other Hillary Stagg albums.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Historic Hillsboro Lighthouse

Where is the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse?

Florida! Yep, this lighthouse is one of many that grace the Atlantic side of the Florida coast. It sits near the north end of South Florida between the cities of Hillsboro Beach and Pompano Beach. At its feet lies the Hillsboro Inlet (Hillsboro Inlet - Hillsboro Lighthouse - coincidence you think?) a major connection waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the inter-coastal waterway.

Boats of all shapes, sizes, and types ply these waters - going out to play on the Atlantic or returning after hours of fun to relax within the calmer waters of the inter-coastal canal. Everything from small run-abouts to luxury yachts

Fishermen and tourists also come to the inlet to relax and take in the pretty scene with the Lighthouse on the north shore at the seaward entrance to the inlet. They go to the same park I did on the Pompano side of the inlet near the A1A bridge. It was from there that I took the photos with this article.

Besides providing a reference point, especially at night of course, for the inlet into the quieter waters of the inter-coastal waterway, the lighthouse also marks the northern limit of the Florida reef. This reef, an underwater coral formation, extends south along the coast of Florida.

History of the Hillsboro Lighthouse

This lighthouse was commissioned back in the early 1900’s to provide safe passage for ships and boats navigating the waters off the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Back in 1901 Congress was talked into authorizing the construction of a lighthouse in the area since there was nothing else to mark the place. The area between Jupiter and Miami was one long dark stretch of coast.

A lot of ships hugged the coast in those days to avoid the Gulf Stream which would have pushed them north. If they got too close to shore they could run into the Florida reef or end up in shallow waters and on sandbars. Finally, sometime around 1906 the lighthouse was put into place. Most of it was built in Detroit (that would be in Michigan, USA) and shipped to the site to be erected.

Access to the lighthouse has been blocked by development, as many a Florida treasured beach has been, so the only way to get to the lighthouse is by boat. To tour the lighthouse you need a special invitation from the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society. This society is very active in both preserving the lighthouse and soliciting funds for upkeep and improvements.

The lighthouse and grounds are owned and administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. The cottages which were originally used by the lighthouse keepers are now used as rest and recreation havens for current and retired Coast Guard members and their families.

A Few Facts about the Hillsboro Lighthouse

The lighthouse is 172 feet tall.

It takes 145 steps to reach the top where the light is.

It shoots a flash of light out to sea every 20 seconds.

It has the distinction of having the most powerful beam in the world, shining about 28 miles out to sea.

It is painted in black and white.

It is one of three surviving towers of this design.

In 2003 a U.S. postage stamp was issued using the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse.

More Info

For more information visit these links:

Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society - dedicated to keeping this lighthouse going.

Wikipedia - an information powerhouse?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Seashell Craft Decorative Plaque

Red crab and fish complement the seashells

Do you have a stash of seashells laying around? Why don't you try a seashell craft that uses the seashells, some sand, and perhaps some accessories to make a decorative plaque for your walls. You can match them with some beach themed photos and make a nice grouping on a wall or two. (I have heard bathrooms have appropriately sized walls.)

In this article I am presenting nine plaques I crafted and gave away as gifts (I may have even sold one here and there) to give you an idea as to what is possible. These particular group of plaques are designed on wood frames meant to hold 5 x 7" photos. They hang by the twine that has been threaded through a couple of holes at the top.

The one above and the following two have the original length twine which let the plaques hang 5 to 6 inches below the nail. I took the twine off and rethreaded it so it hung from the back of the frame instead of the front. I believe I bought these at Michael's craft store. You can also try your local craft store or craft stores on the internet.

Little red crab hangs out the seashells

I usually get my seashells from beachcombing expeditions to the local beaches. So I collect a lot of different types of seashells, most of which I have no idea what they are called. They also have imperfections from being tossed around in the ocean waters after the animal that called them home ceased to be.

The above photo also shows a bit of sea fan (long, dark thing) which I also picked up on the beach. The accessories, meaning the fish, crabs, or pearls, I bought from a candle supply store. They are usually used to decorate gel candles. If you want to use some of these types of accessories do a search and see what you can find.

Black fish swims by while red crab hides under shell

To hold everything together I used Elmer's standard white glue (you can use any glue which does not wash off). Once this glue sets and hardens it's there for good. It also allows for repositioning items if you are not happy with the original placement.

I usually place all the seashells where I want them first and glue them in place after the dry run. Once the glue sets, I'll paint the wood that is showing with glue and sprinkle sand over the wet glue. Then it's wait for the glue to dry up. Just let the plaque lay there for a few hours.

This plaque uses faux pearls

After everything dries up, pour off the excess sand by tilting the frame to one side. If you used paper under the wall craft you can easily pour the excess sand back into your container.

Now give it a coat of polyurethane, high gloss, gloss, or semi-gloss. Using a spray can would be the easiest. This coating will bring out colors in the seashells and sand (also coral, sea fan, or other non-glassy items). It will also protect your seashell craft from the elements.

Red crab under coral

If you want to add pearls, fish, crabs or other glassy decorative touches to your craft do it now that you're done with the polyurethane coat. Otherwise they may lose their luster. Try it - you'll see what I mean.

red crab stares at marble

another red crab and marble

red crab heading toward marble

crab peeks out at pearl

So there they are. A few examples of what you can do with a bit of sand and some seashells to make yourself a decorative wall plaque.