Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

I observe afternoon tea most days, a practice I adopted after visiting Scotland in 2014. What a special treat today to enjoy an elegant afternoon tea, with my mom, at the historic Phelps House in Carthage, Missouri.

Part of that town’s Christmas Home Tour, the fancy tea is offered at four different times, with tables set up on three floors in the house. Mom and I selected a 1:00 PM time slot, and seating on the main floor.

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

The Phelps House

This gorgeous restored home, owned now by Carthage Historic Preservation, was built in 1895 by Colonel William Phelps. The house is constructed from Carthage gray marble, in a mix of architectural styles including Classical Revival and Romanesque.

Phelps House features ten fireplaces, original hand-carved woodwork, painted wallpaper, a hand operated dumbwaiter, a heated coat closet, a third floor ballroom and a roof of Ludowici clay tile. Several of the rooms contain original furnishings. The rest of the house is furnished in donated pieces, appropriate to the late 1800s.

William Phelps arrived in Carthage in 1867, after graduating from Albany Law School in New York. He became one of the wealthiest and most respected men in southwest Missouri, prominent in state politics, and actively involved in Carthage industry.

After Colonel Phelps died in 1916, his daughter continued to live in the house until 1959, when she sold the house to St. Ann’s Catholic Church Parish. The house was used as a home for the nuns who taught at St. Ann’s School.

In 1982, the Phelps House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1988, Carthage Historic Preservation purchased the Phelps House from St. Ann’s and began the process of restoring the home to its former grandeur.

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

Fancy Afternoon Tea

Mom and I joined a merry crowd as we made our way indoors. Although both of us have toured Phelps House before and attended other events here, this was our first formal tea in the home. We were excited.

Large and small tables offered cozy seating throughout the main floor. More seating awaited upstairs. We sat in a corner, at Table 6, with place settings for two people. As others found their seats, a large tea pot on our table, full of hot water, allowing us to steep our first cups of tea!

A clear sugar bowl on the table contained assorted Harney & Sons teas in silk teabags. I chose a holiday blend for my first cup of tea. Mom sipped on cinnamon spice. The décor in the house reflected the season, and as we waited for our food, we enjoyed visiting and listening to Christmas melodies played beautifully on a piano.

The tiered serving tray delivered to our table featured a selection of savory and sweet morsels, for two. We particularly enjoyed a tiny smoked salmon tart and fresh scones served with strawberry and herbed butters. Mom and I both embrace a plant based lifestyle. However, for this afternoon tea, we chose to accept the fare offered, especially since the potions were tiny.

During our pleasant time together, we sipped on multiple cups of delicately spiced tea.

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

Touring the House

After we completed our afternoon tea, Mom and I ascended the stairs for a quick look at floors two and three. We counted five spacious bedrooms and a large bathroom on the second floor. Tables and chairs provided seating in several of those bedrooms.

On the third floor we peeked into several additional bedrooms, a sitting room and another full bathroom. A unique ballroom occupies most of this floor however. The ceiling is painted to resemble a starry night sky. How magical it would be, to dance in such a room! Today tables and chairs filled the dance floor, rather than couples twirling around the room.

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

Until the Next Time

We enjoyed our afternoon tea at Phelps House. The historic home provides a beautiful setting for a practice steeped in tradition. I feel like the Phelps family, known for generosity while they lived, approve this fine use of their home. And the money raised today as a result of the elegant tea goes toward preserving this treasure.

I’d so love to see Joplin or Carthage open a charming little tea house. Vegan options on the menu would be a plus. How fun to regularly take tea with other enthusiasts.

I’ll look forward to future afternoon teas at Phelps House. Hopefully more family members can join us. In the meantime, I’ll continue my own daily observance of this precious little ritual, with my herbal tea blends.

Afternoon Tea at Historic Phelps House

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Earlier today I shared the decorations and props that provided the marvelous backdrop for this year’s Family Halloween Party. (Check out The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I.) My sister Debbie, niece Ashley and her husband Jon amazed us all, once again, with décor that supported the 2018 theme carnevil.

The majority of the guests that arrived supported the theme as well, appearing in costumes as clowns, oddities, circus performers and presiding over us all, a ringmaster.

This post features the costumes of The Barnes Circus. Have a look!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Picking Costumes

We all know a year in advance, what the party’s theme is going to be. That allows ample time to make decisions about costumes and props. My family likes to be creative so we spend very little money dressing up, preferring to visit thrift stores, use what we already have, and make what we need. That’s part of the fun of coming up with a costume.

As each person chooses a character, he or she notifies Ashley or Debbie. They compile a list and keep everyone updated, so that we don’t have duplicate characters. I knew immediately what I wanted to be this year. In keeping with a circus or carnival theme, I chose to arrive as a fortune teller. My decision was made primarily because I had just bought a long bohemian style multicolor skirt, with tassels, that seemed perfect. Little did I know, when I chose my character last year, that it would have a strong influence on me, on the way to the Family Halloween Party.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesThe Ticket Taker and Greeter, Ethan Barnes.

Carnevil Costumes

It’s fun to tour the transformed house, when we arrive at the party, and it’s fun as well to see everyone in their costumes.

Meet the characters.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesOur very own Greatest Showman (and party planner), Ringmaster Ashley Barnes.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesMaster of Magic, but apparently not of sawing his assistant in two, The Great Laurent…Jon Barnes. I don’t say enough about this extraordinary young man. He creates many of the bigger props, adds lights and the mechanical elements, and serves as cook and bartender as well. He’s an all around good guy…husband, dad, son-in-law, and family member to the rest of us.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesThe Three Legged Man, Kaleb Barnes. Kaleb was inspired by the film, The Greatest Showman.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesInspired by American Horror Story, Debbie appeared as the character Mordrake, the man with two faces. Her costume creeped me out the most. Watching that face on the back of her head move as she turned or shifted was eerie!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesScott as the Menacing Clown and Nicole as the Contortionist. She is always so clever with her costumes. She appears contorted atop a table.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes The Snake Charmer, Pat, AKA Mom. She’s always creative with her costumes, coming up with great outfits without spending much, if anything, to create the look.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesLion Tamer, Linda, posing with Scott, Nicole, Lola, as Minnie Mouse, and Weston, who ditched his costume immediately.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesKnife Thrower Extraordinaire-ish, Nate, with his unlucky Assistant, Adriel, posing with The Tattoo Lady, Elissa.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesGreg as The Bearded Lady. Greg was a huge hit, gathering lots of laughs. Trying to do his make-up, I got so tickled that I couldn’t find his mouth to add lipstick. Kaleb offered help…’I think his mouth is where his mustache meets his beard.’ Side note: the gloves and all the jewelry belonged to Greg’s mom. She would have loved seeing this Bearded Lady!

I apologize for not getting photos of all the other guests that attended the party last night! Normally I get a pic of each attendee. I stepped into my character in a much deeper way than I originally intended to, which kept me busy having fun all evening.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Madame Cynvia

Earlier this year, after deciding on my character and costume, I decided it would be fun to learn to read oracle cards, and give actually readings at the party. I’m an intuitive…with the ability to sense and interact with Spirit. I thought reading cards would come naturally to me, and I was right, it did.

However, what began as a party activity quickly became so much more. From the right deck “choosing” me, to online classes appearing in my email inbox at precisely the right time, to learning the cards, it has all been an intriguing journey that has taught me new things and taught me more about my unique, quirky self.

The incredible thing about oracle cards is that it’s all about energy…and story. I let the person being read handle the deck of cards, shuffling and mixing them up, until they feel ready to randomly pull out a specific number of cards. Then I tell the story of the cards that were selected. It’s truly amazing how beautiful and accurate the stories are. I’m grateful for the whole experience, and the eight month journey that brought me to last night. I appreciate all those who pulled up a chair and sat with me…and shared their lives with me.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Group Photos & Extra Pics

Here are a few additional photos, depicting what a fun time we had.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesKaleb tossed his mustache. He said it kept getting in his mouth!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesMore of the attendees!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesFamily group shot.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesSisters pic. We missed our brother and sister-in-law last night! The Halloween Party is when we take our annual sibling photo.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesAnd then Debbie turned around. Creepy!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesMom and her girls.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesRoy arrived as a “member of the circus audience”! Greg’s hand mirror was his best friend all evening.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesAn extra foot makes a good pillow when it gets late.

The Family Halloween Party 2018 is in the books…and the blogs. I deeply appreciate my family for the time, money and effort that they put into this event.

The decorations will stay up until Halloween…and then the work begins afresh for Debbie, Ashley, Jon and the boys as they pack away a carnival. I know my family though. They will enjoy the rest of the holiday season…and their minds are busy conjuring up ideas for next year. By next spring they will be in creation mode again.

The Family Halloween Party for 2019 has a Classic Monsters theme. I’m already planning my costume…

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Last night was the Family Halloween Party…and yes capital letters are appropriate. This huge event is hosted by the oh so talented trio of my sister Debbie, my niece Ashley and her husband Jon. Those who don’t have fun with this October holiday may not understand the anticipation that my family has for this annual celebration. We do Halloween BIG. And the Oklahoma branch of the family goes even BIGGER. I’m talking about a total transformation of their house, not just a few pumpkins, candles and spooky creatures scattered about.

The theme this year was a carnevil one (darker twist on a carnival) and the Barnes House became the Barnes Circus, complete with red and white striped tenting, carnival food and games, and a freaky side show. The guests were encouraged to arrive in character.

Blog post Part I shares the highlights of the amazing décor. Later today Part II will feature costumes.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Welcome to the Barnes Carnevil Circus

Debbie, Ashley and Jon, and their sons Ethan and Kaleb, begin the creation process for their annual party in early spring. They have themes already planned through 2020, and a great deal of thought and creativity and hard work goes into the finished project.

Most of the props and decorations are hand made. Debbie and Ashley scout out thrift stores and clearance sales in big box stores to obtain the materials for their creations. And then those ordinary objects undergo remarkable changes. It’s repurposing, at an extremely high level!

Driving through the neighborhood yesterday, I saw a handful of houses modestly decorated for Halloween. Then, turning onto my family’s street, I see their house. It’s a car stopper for sure, with carnival music playing and lots of canned lighting placed for when darkness falls.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IOoops! The cannon misfired….

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IWalking into the circus, posters adorn the wall. Our faces were cleverly added. There’s Greg as Greer, The Bearded Lady!

Come One, Come All

Inside the house, the transformation was startling! Debbie, Ashley and Jon recreate with meticulous details and an eye for authenticity. Hours and hours and HOURS of work bring their theme to life.

Come with me for a tour.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IRed and white tenting covered every wall and ceiling of the main floor living areas. Watch out for the carnevil clowns! They were everywhere.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IAnother unfortunate mishap! The Great Laurent needs more practice.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IReal cotton candy and bags of popcorn on the walls, for the taking. And a buffet being laid out that included typical carnival food and veggie options. (Thanks guys!)

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Twisty’s Bar, for the over 21 crowd. Twisty is a character from American Horror Story.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IMadame Cynvia’s corner. Meet her in the next blog post.

To the Fun House Room

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IHall of funhouse mirrors…all hand made.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IWelcome! This room, that normally serves as a guest bedroom, had been completely emptied of furniture. Glow in the dark décor and props created a fun room indeed!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IDo you feel like you are being watched?

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Up, Up, Up the Stairs

Upstairs the carnevil circus theme continued.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IThis hypnotic disc that Jon made actually spun.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IMore scary clowns lurking upstairs.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part ICarnival style games were set up in the family room. The kids had a blast up here, winning prizes.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IEven the bathrooms get a makeover, set up to look like circus performers’ dressing rooms.

The Side Show

The office to the left of the entryway showcases the creativity of my family. The space became a side show room, full of oddities from around the world. Take a peek inside.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part ILighted cases displayed curiosities. Remember that the majority of props are hand crafted.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IAshley, who is a graphic artist, creates each sign and poster.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IAmazing attention to detail.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

 

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IA Scottish Fairy!

Family Fun

What a fun night we all had, at the Barnes Carnevil Circus. Family members mingled with the Barnes’ and Debbie’s friends and co-workers. The atmosphere was lively, and laughter filled the “big tent”.

The Family Halloween Party is one of the year’s highlights for me and a highly anticipated event. Although we all know the theme beforehand, we don’t get to see the finished project until we show up for the party. Ethan and Kaleb have become experts at giving tours to arriving guests. I so appreciate the generosity and creativity of my sister and her family. And I heartily applaud their hard work.

Watch for The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II later today, for a look at the characters that attended the party. You won’t be disappointed!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Jolabokaflod: Christmas Book Flood

I happened across this long, unfamiliar word a few days ago…Jolabokaflod. Because it appeared to be connected to Christmas, I looked it up. What I discovered is a charming Christmas Eve tradition, that involves gifting a book, to incorporate into my holidays this year.

Jolabokaflod Christmas Book Flood

What is Jolabokaflod?

This Icelandic custom, which translates to Christmas Book Flood, was born from necessity. During World War II foreign imports were restricted in Iceland, limiting the ability to exchange Christmas gifts. However, paper was cheap. Iceland didn’t have a large enough population to support a year-round publishing industry, so book publishers flooded the market with new titles in the final weeks of the year, just in time for Christmas.

Iceland, which publishes more books per capita than anywhere else in the world, ranks as the third most literate country, globally. They sell most of their books between September and November, in preparation for this holiday.

While giving books as gifts is not unique to Iceland, the tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading them is becoming a cultural phenomenon. Social media has helped to raise awareness about this cozy hygge-like celebration.

Jolabokaflod Christmas Book Flood

Celebrating Jolabokaflod

The concept of Jolabokaflod is simple. A book for each family member is wrapped and then they are exchanged on Christmas Eve. For the remainder of the evening, people read their books, traditionally while tucked into bed, and enjoying chocolate.

I love this idea!

When my children were young, Christmas Eve was not cozy or relaxing. I busied myself prepping the next day’s big meal and then stayed up all night wrapping gifts, after the kids were asleep. There are sweet memories of thinking about each person in my family as I wrapped his or her gifts. And some funny memories of all night movie marathons, popping in VHS tapes as I struggled to stay awake while wrapping presents.

But cozied up and calm? No. I typically felt stressed, frantic, and behind schedule. I’m excited to try out a new tradition, and to spend time curled up in bed, reading a new book, nibbling on a piece of healthy dark chocolate.

Jolabokaflod Christmas Book Flood

Ideas for Christmas Book Flood

Here are a few ideas for bringing this new tradition into the holiday season:

• This isn’t necessarily a time for expensive books. If your gift list is long, set a limit of $10 or less per book, and pick up paperbacks.

• Visit used book stores, shop online or take advantage of Black Friday sales at Barnes & Noble, Books A Million or indie book shops.

• Be mindful of those who don’t enjoy reading. I have at least one grandchild who isn’t a book fan. Get creative. Look for books around a favorite hobby or topic or a new interest. Shop for a graphic novel or comic book instead of a chapter book, for kids and teens.

• For family gatherings on Christmas Eve, have everyone bring one wrapped book, with a few descriptive words written on the gift tag. For example, “shifting attitudes for greater happiness”, “classic children’s story” or “historical novel set in 16th century France”. Place the packages on a table and allow each person to take turns selecting a book or trading a book with someone else.

• Don’t forget to pick out a book for yourself, and wrap it!

• Include a few pieces of chocolate with each book, using dark chocolate for the health conscious. Alternatively, a packet of hot chocolate mix could be added as well.

Most importantly, withdraw from busyness and to-do lists, with a new book. Burrow beneath a snuggly comforter or a fuzzy blanket and simply read. What a beautiful way to quiet the heart and mind, and prepare for a special, less stressful, Christmas Day.

Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.

I can’t wait!

Jolabokaflod Christmas Book Flood

National Vegetarian Month

October is National Vegetarian Month. According to Wikipedia, the purpose is to “bring awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. World Vegetarian Day initiates the month of October as Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends with November 1, World Vegan Day, as the end of that month of celebration.”

As I am practicing a 7 Day Raw Food Cleanse this week, I consider it serendipitous that I began the cleanse in the month of October. Although I’ve been plant based for a couple of years, eating raw fruits and veggies this week has raised my awareness of and gratitude for this health lifestyle.

I don’t often offer reasons for why this is a great lifestyle. Instead, I prefer to live my life as an example of one who has benefitted greatly from changing my diet, and answer questions when people ask. In honor of the month, and the week I am experiencing, and truly, in honor of the extraordinary healing I have received, consider the facts below about eating more fruits and veggies.

National Vegetarian Month

Defining Vegetarian

First let’s look at the definitions of three words that are frequently used interchangeably.

Vegetarian – a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.

Vegan – a person who does not eat or use any animal products.

Plant Based – a diet based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products.

Vegetarians avoid meat but may use other animal products. Vegans strictly avoid ALL animal products including honey and beeswax, leather, silk, wool and fur, and cosmetics containing animal products or that were tested on animals. Plant based eaters choose whole foods and avoid meat, dairy, eggs and fish but may use honey or wear clothing derived from animals.

The thing all three groups have in common is that they don’t eat meat.

I classify myself as plant based. I do use organic honey, although I probably wouldn’t if producing it killed the bees, but I avoid most other animal based products in all areas of my life.

National Vegetarian Month

Why Eliminate Meat?

From Forks Over Knives:

1. Reduces inflammation in the body, lowering risks of heart attacks, strokes and autoimmune diseases.

2. Lowers cholesterol.

3. Gives the body’s microbiome a makeover, which reduces the risks for obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

4. Positively changes how our genes work, slowing the aging process.

5. Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes. Animal fat, animal-based iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions.

6. Gives the body the right kind, and right amount, of protein, reducing risk for cancer. The average omnivore in the US gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, most of it from animal sources. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste, and animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer. On the other hand, the protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases.

7. Makes a huge impact on the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Animal agriculture is destructive to the planet. It is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading cause of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction, and species extinction. About 2,000 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef in the US. Oceans are rapidly becoming depleted of fish; by some estimates, oceans may be fishless by 2048. The current food system, based on meat and dairy production, also contributes to world hunger—the majority of crops grown worldwide go toward feeding livestock, not feeding people.

Equally important, animals raised for food are sentient beings who suffer, whether raised in industrial factory farms or in farms labeled “humane.” Eating a plant-based diet helps us lead a more compassionate life. After all, being healthy is not just about the food we eat; it’s also about our consciousness—our awareness of how our choices affect the planet and all of those with whom we share it.

National Vegetarian Month

Celebrating National Vegetarian Month

I get it. Change can be difficult. My switch to plant based was initially to shift my health. As my body healed, I became aware of the other benefits that extended beyond my own health.

Here are ways you can increase your fruit and veggie intake, even if you don’t feel ready to make big changes.

• Create a Meatless Monday and/or a Fresh Food Friday meal each week, experimenting with new foods, prepared in new ways. Plant based doesn’t mean boring salads. Far from it!

• Look up recipes on Pinterest for inspiration. In the search bar type Plant Based Recipes or Vegan Meals.

• Instead of starting the day with a heavy breakfast or sugary cereals, try a fruit smoothie. Combine bananas with fresh or frozen fruit or greens and just enough water to make the smoothie pourable.

• Replace a soda, or two, with herbal teas or a fresh juice. Run your favorite fruits and veggies through a juicer and enjoy.

• Take a plant based cooking class, online or in person, and learn new ways to prepare nutritious meals.

• Plant a garden and benefit from growing your own food.

• Go grocery shopping with a friend and challenge each other to shop from the produce section only. Brainstorm together and come up with meals to create from the abundance there.

National Vegetarian Month

It’s About Life

The best way for me to celebrate National Vegetarian Month, other than taking excellent care of my health and wellbeing, is to make a positive impact on others. An opportunity appeared this afternoon, to discuss the benefits of a plant based lifestyle with a young man working in a grocery store. He studied my shopping cart and then curious, asked me good questions about why I eat the way I do.

How long have you been plant based? Why did you change your diet? Was it difficult? What about the holidays? Do you skip the turkey?

We had a wonderful conversation. His openness allowed me to be open. I wasn’t trying to force him to change. He wasn’t trying to defend his choices or ridicule mine. We simply discussed what it means to be plant based, and the impact animal agriculture is having. And we chatted about health and how crucial food is to keeping our bodies running smoothly, or not.

I appreciated him. And I am grateful for this whole month set aside to increase awareness of what it means, to individuals, to animals, to the planet, to be vegetarian, vegan or plant based.

Giving up sugar, dairy, eggs and meat isn’t a death sentence. It’s a life sentence. Long may we all live, in the greatest possible health.

National Vegetarian Month

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

I love that every day of the year, there are unique holidays to celebrate. I hope to have a Year of Celebrations in the future, whenever the Divine says “go for it”. In the meantime, I occasionally choose one of these lesser known special days to enjoy. Today is Cupcake Day, always celebrated the third Monday in August. I passed over this holiday initially, however, an idea bloomed in my head and I went for it. This is my Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style!

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

Wacky Cake

When I was a child, my mom used to make a wacky cake, a delicious chocolate confection made without eggs, hence the “wacky” part. For my purposes, egg free was perfect!

I found a wacky cake recipe that was easy to adapt for a plant based eater such as myself.

Vegan Wacky Cake

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (I used gluten free oat flour)

1 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop 12 cupcake papers into a cupcake baking pan.

Mix gluten free flour, coconut sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder in a large bowl, stirring until well combined. Make three wells in the dry mixture. Add olive oil to one well, apple cider vinegar to another, and vanilla to the third. Pour cold water over the top of everything. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, hand mix batter until mixture is smooth and slightly bubbly.

Immediately pour batter into cupcake papers, dividing evenly among the 12 compartments. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Top with whipped coconut cream, unsweetened dried fruit, fresh fruit or nuts.

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

The batter visually reminded me so much of Mom’s wacky cake. I sampled it by swiping a finger along the edge of the bowl, and it tasted like her cake. The kitchen smelled wonderful as the cupcakes baked while I cleaned up. I ended up baking my cupcakes for 24 minutes.

Refined sugar is not on my diet. Coconut sugar, which resembles unrefined brown sugar, or pure maple syrup or raw honey are the only sweeteners I use. So no frosting allowed for these wacky cupcakes. Instead, I topped my mini cakes with unsweetened shredded coconut and wild blueberries, thawed.

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

Taste Test

The cupcakes cooled and the wild blueberries thawed while I dined on a simple veggie meal. Then it was time to sample the wacky cupcakes. They smelled wonderful! But how would they taste?

These little treasures were perfect…tender, full of chocolate flavor, and not too sweet. The shredded coconut and wild blueberries made an excellent topping. Next time I create these I want to try making my own whipped coconut cream for a topping.

Tonight, however, I could not have wished for a better treat to celebrate this special day, in my own way.

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style!

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

International Cat Day

Today is one of those unique holidays that I could not pass up. I don’t quite qualify as a crazy cat lady, since I only have three felines, however these sweet fur babies bring amusement and joy into my life. Rilynn, Angel and Shy Boy have no idea that today celebrations them. They behave as if every day is Cat Day!

International Cat Day

International Cat Day was created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It is always celebrated on August 8.

In case you don’t already know how amazing cats are, here are 10 interesting facts about felines:

1. Cats can drink sea water. Their kidneys can filter out the salt and use the water to hydrate their bodies. However, cats do not have a sweet tooth and cannot taste anything sweet. That doesn’t mean they won’t eat something sweet. I had a cat who loved powdered sugar donuts.

2. There are 88 million pet cats in the US, making them the most popular pet in the country. There are around 500 million domestic cats in the world.

3. A female cat is called a “molly” and they are mostly right handed. Male cats are called “toms” and favor the left paw.

4. Cats’ entire natural vocal range is not audible to human beings, and they tend to evolve their voice to communicate their feelings to us within our hearing range. They can make over 100 different sounds, which is 10 times more than dogs. My cat Angel is the most vocal of my three cats and has a wide range of sounds that she makes.

International Cat DayAngel is the most social cat of my three. She visits all the neighbors.

International Cat Day

5. A cat named Stubbs was the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, for 15 years. Another cat also ran for the position in a Mexico city in 2013.

6. Cats can jump up to five times their own height in a single bound and run at speeds of over 30 miles an hour.

7. A cat rubs against people to mark out its territory with scent glands around its face and it also licks itself to get a person’s scent off.

8. The world’s oldest cat was found  in a 9,500-year-old grave on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus . It is said that when a pet cat died in Egypt, family members would mourn by shaving off their eyebrows. Also, smuggling a cat out of ancient Egypt was punishable by death.

International Cat DayShy Boy often sleeps in a praying pose. He is a worrier.

International Cat Day

9. A posh kitty named Blackie became the wealthiest cat ever in May 1988 when its owner, Ben Rea, a millionaire antiques dealer in the UK, left the feline $12.5 million. That’s pretty good luck for a black cat.

10. Kittens tend to sleep a lot because their bodies release growth hormones only when they are asleep. By the time an average cat is 9 years old, it would have been awake for about three years of its life.

My rescue cats, siblings from the same litter who were born in the wild, have very distinctive personalities.

The black and white male, Shy Boy, is the largest of the trio and also the most timid. He is afraid of loud noises, strangers, ceiling fans in motion and the trash truck that goes by every Thursday. He has very specific habits and routines that he follows and he can be very needy. Shy Boy enjoys sitting on my lap and being cuddled.

Angel is the female with the gorgeous gray coat. She is extremely vocal and communicates by answering questions with a trilling sound. She asks questions too. The neighbors enjoy Angel’s visits and inquire about her if they don’t see her for a couple of days. She enjoys curling up on a lap as well and loves soft blankets.

International Cat DayRilynn loves to be outside and in the garden.

Rilynn is the smallest of the siblings, and the bravest and most fierce. This black and white kitty, who looks like she dipped her chin and nose into an ink pot, loves the garden and enjoys exploring. She is curious and stubborn and while she likes attention, she is the least likely to curl up on a lap. Rilynn takes it upon herself to patrol the borders of the yard and woe to any strange cat who tries to enter.

These cats came into my life five years ago as a wild litter who had not had human contact. I brought them into my house with the intention of taming them and then finding them good homes. They had other intentions and here with me they have stayed. This is their home, and I’m okay with that. I love these cats.

Happy International Cat Day Rilynn, Angel and Shy Boy. I’m glad you chose me to be your human.

International Cat Day