Summer Writing Challenge: Day Two

Beautiful tropical beach with the word summer written on the san
How did you do with the first Summer Writing Prompt? Did you find time to create?

Before we get to today’s prompt, a programming note: The prompts are just that “Prompts”. They are to spark your creative stirrings and get you started. You don’t have to use the word literally in what you do. It is far more important THAT you WRITE than that you write PLANK. (“Plank” was yesterdays word btw.)

OK the prompt for Day Two is…


Yeah, I couldn't find any clip art for "Sincerity" so I made my own.  BAM.

Yeah, I couldn’t find any clip art for “Sincerity” so I made my own. BAM.

Summer Writing Challenge: Day One

Beautiful tropical beach with the word summer written on the san
Welcome back my friends to the annual ritaLOVEStoWRITE Summer WRITING Challenge. Each day for the month of July I’ll present you with a word prompt.

It is up to you how much or how little you wish to write for the day (Maggie and I have set our goal at 1 hour a day.)

You don’t have to WRITE. This can be a CREATIVE challenge.  You can use the prompts to set you off on other creative journeys if you like. Last year Emily W. took an artistic approach and did some great photo essays. I’m wondering if some of my chief friends could whip up some menu items based on our prompts?

And you can share (or not) by leaving a comment below or sending me an email at

Beautiful tropical beach with the word summer written on the sanOK here it is… Today’s prompt is…


So whether is it a plank like the exercise…

English: an exercise of abs

English: an exercise of abs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

or cedar plank you are going to cook your salmon on, or…

English: Wooden plank with nailed aluminum she...

English: Wooden plank with nailed aluminum sheet. Building facade close-up. Français : Planche avec une lame d’aluminium clouée dessus. Gros plan d’une facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the plank in a political platform… get nailing people, you’ve got a lot of creating to do.


Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(NOT my actual hand.)

Also: Quick reminder… don’t forget to keep up with “A Year of READING Dangerously” lots more books to get through on the 100 most banned and challenged book list. Please stop by and help us get through them all before Banned Book Week!

The Summer Writing Challenge is coming

Left hand writing the German word "Linksh...

Left hand writing the German word “Linkshänder” (left handed). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s right, the Summer Writing Challenge is almost here!

  • So sharpen your pencils…
  • Pull out our notebooks…
  • Charge your laptops…
  • Dust off those typewriters…

We are t-minus one day until we start the creative process.

English: An example of the hand-writing of Chr...

English: An example of the hand-writing of Christiane Vulpius. From: Hans Gerhard Gräf: Goethes Ehe in Briefen, Literarische Anstalt / Rütten & Loening, Frankfurt am Main 1922, p. 96 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hope you’ll join us for the journey.

English: my typewriter

English: my typewriter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MICROWAVEABLE Pecan Sandie Strawberry Shortcakes

“Summer” has hit with a vengeance here in Northern Baltimore County. The thermometer has been hovering in a hazy upper 80’s for several days. There was no way I was going to turn on the oven in my non – air conditioned kitchen to bake… but man… I really wanted to make some strawberry shortcake.

I thought about the microwave, but quickly dismissed the idea. Previous attempts at microwave baking had produced cakes that were both gummy and unappetizing.

Then in a fit of heat related insanity I convinced myself that “Maybe this time will be different!!!” And you know what? I was right!

So dear readers I bring you:

Pecan Sandie Shortcake 3

Photo Credit: Maggie


Pecan Sandie

Strawberry Shortcakes

(Microwave style)



  • 1/2 c melted Butter
  • 1/2 c Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 c Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Almond Milk
  • 1 teaspoon of Almond Extract
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Pecans
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Cooking Spray

Butter Cream Icing —

  • 1/4 c Butter
  • 3/4 c Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • Milk as desired for texture

Strawberries —

  • 1 cup of Strawberries cleaned and sliced


1. Prepare 5 large silicone muffin cups by spraying liberally with cooking spray. Set aside

2. Combine the melted Butter and the Sugar in a medium-sized bowl.

3. Add the Eggs and beat throughly.

4. Add the Flour, Baking Powder, Almond Milk and Almond Extract and beat or whisk until well combined and batter forms a bubble when it is folded upon itself.

5. Fold in the Pecans.

6. Divide the batter into the baking cups. They will be about 1/3rd filled. Give each one a little tap against the table to let out any air bubbles. Cover each with Plastic Wrap, but leave a little opening, so the steam can get out.

7. ONE AT A TIME put a muffin cup in the Microwave and heat on HIGH for 60-70 seconds. I did this for the full 70 seconds and it worked perfectly. Remove the plastic wrap CAREFULLY ( remember the steam? ) and place upside down on a plate to cool.

8. Repeat for the other Shortcakes.



1. Melt the butter to soften it (but don’t completely melt it.)

2. Add the Powdered Sugar and Almond Extract. Mix til smooth.

3. Add Milk one tablespoon at a time until icing is smooth and spreadable.

4. Spread on the tops of the cooled Shortcakes.

5. Top with Strawberries, and add additional Strawberries between cakes.

6. TRY to wait until after dinner to eat this yummy dessert.


Here are all five shortcakes assembled on the cake dish. They taunted us all through dinner.

Here are all five shortcakes assembled on the cake dish. They taunted us all through dinner.


I got comments like “Restaurant worthy” and “5 stars” and “You can make this anytime!” for this little dessert. It was really good. The mini-cakes alone are terrific. They didn’t come out gummy or too moist. The cake consistency is just right. They really did taste like a cake version of a Pecan Sandie.


Absolutely worth a try.


Look inside that shortcake. Look at that delicious flakiness.

Look inside that shortcake. Look at that delicious flakiness.


This recipe was inspired by one on You should totes go visit them and see what they’ve got cooking.


[To my VEGAN readers — These obviously don’t fit the Vegan bill, but I’d be interested in how you think we might be able to adapt this recipe to something that would work your table.]

A Year of READING Dangerously: #50 The Kite Runner

Reading Dangerously Logo 2Dear next book I read,


I’m sorry. You poor thing, there is no way you are going to be as good as The Kite Runner. It isn’t your fault that I’ve picked you randomly from my pile after reading this amazing piece of fiction. I know I shouldn’t pre-judge, and I wish you good luck, but Honey, you just don’t stand a chance.


First paperback edition book cover

First paperback edition book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Kite Runner, Kaled Hosseini’s 2003 novel about Afghanistan, sits smack dab in the middle of our Banned Book List. It is the story of Amir, the privileged Aghani who acts as first person narrator. But it is also the story of Afghanistan and the country is certainly a major character in the novel.


The Kite Runner, which derives its name from the Afghan custom of kite fighting, focuses on the relationship between two boys of different social classes and religious backgrounds and the lasting effect that one boy’s moment of cowardice has on their lives. [120 Banned Books, pg 506]


The book is roughly in three parts:


  • Amir’s childhood in the idyllic streets of Kabul. It is here that he struggles to define his relationship with his closest companion, his friend / servant, Hussan.
  • his life as an adult — living as an expat in California. In America Amir comes to terms with is sometimes distant and demanding, but ultimately loving father, Baba.
  • and lastly his time back in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Amir returns to his homeland to aid Hassan’s son and to try to redeem himself.


The book was critically lauded:


  • Book Sense Bestseller List Sensation
  • Boeke Prize
  • Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award
  • ALA Notable Book
  • Alex Award
  • Borders Original Voices Award, 2003
  • San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, 2003
  • Literature to Life Award
  • Paperback – on the bestseller list for over 240 weeks (#1 for 4 of those weeks) [Book Facts,]

The censors largely ignored the novel until it was turned into a major motion picture in 2007.  In 2008 the book was challenged by several school districts in North Carolina and Florida.

This beautifully written book is not an easy book to read as it does contain difficult material, (including the rape scene of Hassan, a stoning scene at a football, and the horrors of life under the Taliban.) On our matrix of banned books The Kite Runner includes: Offensive Language, Smoking, Sexually Explicit material, and a lot of Violence. That said I can not recommend this book enough, and I can’t wait to read Kaled Hosseini’s other novels, A Thousand Splendid Suns and  And The Mountains Echoed.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)






A Year of READING Dangerously: #42 The Fighting Ground

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

The Fighting Ground is a vanilla piece of historical fiction by Avi. The action takes place over a roughly 24 hour period pf April 3 and April 4th , 1778. The American Revolutionary War is ripping up the New Jersey country side skirmish by skirmish and is beconing 13-year-old Johnathan away from his farm to fight.

Unexpectedly, the quiet is cut by the sound of a bell-an alarm ringing from the nearby tavern. Jonathan is sent to find out what the trouble is. What he finds in the next twenty-four hours, when he does fight and is taken prisoner by three Hessian soldiers, changes his understanding of war and life forever. The real war, he discovers, is being fought within himself. []

The Fighting GroundAlthough The Fighting Ground is hailed as “action packed” and is an award winning publication, I found it a bland read.

I’m scratching my head as to why this one is on the banned book list. It is a book about war so there is some Violence. But that was about it.

Muffin Monday: VEGAN Fig Chocolate Muffins

A game of mancala and a glass of cold milk is the only thing that could possibly make these muffins any better than they already are. Just sayin'

A game of mancala and a glass of cold milk is the only thing that could possibly make these muffins any better than they already are. Just sayin’


  • 2 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1 cup diced figs (or dates)
  • 1/2 cup diced peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice or blended vegetable juice (e.g., V8)
  • Dark Chocolate Bar (I used 3 large squares of chocolate)
  • Sugar for the tops of the muffins
The chocolate kept its shape and made a nice little well of dark deliciousness. I used a bar that had 80% Cocoa so it was super dark and yummy.

The chocolate kept its shape and made a nice little well of dark deliciousness. I used a bar that had 80% Cocoa so it was super dark and yummy. You can also see bits of the fig in the pic. The muffin’s orange color comes from the Tomato Juice, which you can’t really taste at all.


1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease and flour muffin cups.
2) Whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the Flour, Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cardamon, Figs and Peanuts.
3) In a blender, whisk together the Vanilla, Vegetable Oil, and Tomato juice.
4) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; don’t over-mix, stir just until everything is moistened.
5) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each nearly full.
6) Sprinkle the tops with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired. (OF COURSE it is desired!)
7) Bake the muffins for 5 minutes
8) Cut the chocolate squares into quarters so you have 12 quarters and put one quarter into each of the partially baked muffins
9) Continue baking for 18 to 20 minutes, until they’ve domed nicely and they’re lightly browned around the edges. And they pass the toothpick test.
10) Remove the muffins from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

These are super yummy. The cardamon and fig combo is out of this world. And my tasters thought they were some of the best muffins they’d ever had. They aren’t too moist so I suspect they would travel pretty well, but, frankly, they were consumed too quickly to make it to the Post Office.
Yield: 12 muffins.

full Muffin

Looking for other Vegan Muffin recipes? Just type VEGAN in the search field to the left.

A Year of READING Dangerously: #15 The Bluest Eye

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

Toni Morrison‘s The Bluest Eye ranks #15 on the ALA’s list of most banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2010. It is written mostly from the wide-eyed perspective of nine-year-old Claudia MacTeer. The MacTeers, a strict but ultimately loving African American family, are barely scraping by in depression era Lorain, Ohio.  Claudia’s friend Pecola Breedlove’s  life is harder still.

Poor little Pecola has to deal with a mix of abuses at home. Her father drinks, her mother is distant and emotionally cruel. They both fight constantly, neither of them show any love toward Pecola or her brother Sammy. Sorrows heap on sorrows and abuse heaps on abuse. And Pecola is just young and innocent enough to think if she only had blue enough eyes (like Shirley Temple’s) all would be well in her deeply troubled world.


On our Banned Book Matrix The Bluest Eye comes in heavy with:

  • Violence
  • Racisim
  • Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking
  • Sexually Explicit


A Year of READING Dangerously: #7 Scary Stories

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

My apologies for taking so long to get back to this list. I have been reading (and doing) a few other things. I also have a few books FROM the list that I have read and need to review.

Today I’ll tackle  Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories (series).

Scary Stories cover

I read SCARY STORIES To Tell In the Dark. The first thing you should know about this book is that it isn’t very scary. The best stories in this anthology barely make sense. It seems too much to ask for them to actually frighten the reader.

Having read it through in about an hour (in the dark, as prescribed in the subtitle) I found myself thinking “Huh?” at the end of most of these short, weirdly written stories. Granted I’m not a pre-teen boy, and I wasn’t sitting around a campfire while reading the book. But I WAS ready to be just a little bit creeped out. And nothing on these pages came to even that low standard of fear.

You’d have to dig deep to find anything particularly offensive about these vanilla, bland, lame, tales but using out “banned” matrix… I’ll go with:

  • Occult Satanism  for the ghost story element and
  • Violence?

Mostly I’d just warn you to stay away because these stories are outdated, boring, and not well written.

(Hint: if you are relying on the stage direction of “jump out at your friends” for the climax of a scary story… it isn’t a scary enough story.)

WAIT! I just thought of something nice to say about the book… The illustrations were pretty creepy. So “Huzzah to the illustrator!”



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