Fly on the Wall – Rated “R” for Rowdy


Fly on the Wall

Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post. Today 12 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes, and I’m one of them. Come on in and buzz around my house.fly1gifcropped

I LOVE May, for so many reasons. My favorite holiday is in May. Would you like to take a guess at what it is?

No, it’s not Cinco de Mayo, though I did enjoy a lovely huckleberry margarita with my enchiladas.

No, it’s not Mother’s Day, though I had a very nice day.

No, it’s not Memorial Day. Besides, that hasn’t even happened yet.

Give up?

in the green house naked gardening day


It is NAKED GARDENING DAY!  Last year I declined to participate. In all fairness, the weather was pretty crappy. This year I had no excuse, so…yeah…well, at least long enough for The Man to get some pics. He had great fun trying to get the least flattering angles (and positions) possible. Thanks, big guy.





There are much worse pics, but I’ll “draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene” and spare you. Oh, wait…one more! I made a dirt angel. And then soaked in a bath.dirt angel



On Mother’s DayThe Man made me breakfast. We had toast, fried eggs, and thin-sliced venison steaks. Delicious! And he didn’t leave much of a mess. I felt spoiled, especially since he reminds me that I am not his mother. Hmmm…sometimes I wonder.

When I told him the one thing I wanted for Mother’s Day was for him to pet our cat (He doesn’t like cats, and suffers because I insist on letting them in the house.) he looked at her and said: “She has venomous eyes.” Seriously? She has CAT EYES! She got insulted and wandered off. Maybe next year.

cats with snake tongues for fly on wall


My baby chicks aren’t exactly babies anymore. They’ve officially reached the gawky adolescent stage that we all remember so vividly. I let them loose in the greenhouse on a nice overcast day (so we wouldn’t have a lot of roasted game hens for dinner; it gets hot in there!) and didn’t think it through. Getting them from their little brooder box into a tub to haul out to the greenhouse was pretty easy, though they screamed like I was killing them. Getting them from the greenhouse back into the tub was a challenge. I think a few of them gave themselves concussions trying to escape through the greenhouse walls. No more outings for them! By this time next month they will be in the “Big Girl Coop”. Sigh…..they grow up so quickly.

Speaking of chickens:two stupid chickens


The Man takes great glee in pointing it out to me when I leave the oven on. He doesn’t merely turn it off, he barks loudly:
“Oven off?”
And though I hate to give him the satisfaction, I then have to admit I forgot. (I do this often.) So the other day we were having a very early dinner because I had to get good pictures of the meal for a column I was doing, and when he went back in the kitchen for a second helping, this is how the conversation went:

“Oven off?”
“I thought I DID turn it off!”
“It says 350”
I blinked, confused. Then I looked up at the clock.
“Um. That’s what time it is.”
Hah! Take THAT! He had the decency to look a little embarrassed. Fist pump! Small victories…

I was making homemade tomato sauce, an all-day project. I tasted it and said “yummm. I could just eat THIS for dinner.”
Him: if you add meat, cheese, and noodles, I could too.”
He loves his spaghetti.


My Rowdy Facebook page hit 4,000 likes this month. That was HUGE for me – very exciting! (If even 10% of those people actually read my blog I’d be in hog heaven, but I’m still glad to see them on my page.) I finally produced a cake I’d been dreaming about for months, just in the nick of time to celebrate the milestone. I’ve got to tell you, I put a lot of time and effort into that cake.

4000 likes horizontal

But here’s what kills me. Last Fall I did a simple Pumpkin Dump Cake, not thinking it would get much interest. I got thousands of views, and a whole lot of shares. The most I’ve ever gotten for anything. This cake? This cake I slaved over? Maybe 40 views altogether. So, take pity on me and at least go and see my Apple Blossom Cake. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but it would sure boost my morale to see it do better than the dump cake for just one day. Otherwise I’m going to start making more dump cakes. Every flavor known to man!!


Russ: “So here’s something. The word “plus”. P-L-U-S”

I nodded with a quizzical look on my face. He often asks me to confirm spellings, but this seemed awfully basic. Then he continued: “I guess if you remember that, you won’t spell “pus” wrong.”
Um…got it. Thank you.

This was actually not quite as random as it seemed. Someone on Facebook had asked her readers to give their most despised word. The word we could go our whole life without hearing again. I wrote “puss” (meaning “pus”) and then realized I’d misspelled it, so I was freaking out loudly as I scrambled to edit my comment. Obviously, he noticed. I don’t like either word, but “pus” is definitely the worst. I probably will remember how to spell it from now on.


Crazy Daisy loves water. I mean, this girl love love LOVES water. She goes nuts when I’m trying to water the garden. I have to keep stopping so I can aim the hose at her. She prefers it full blast, so she can open her mouth and drink it, making disgusting slurping and snorting sounds. I don’t know how she can do that (the water comes out fast), but she does. She’s easy to amuse, anyhow.

I spent about 3 hours of total frustration trying to load a video of her on here. I may be stubborn, but there are limits and I hit mine. So you just get a photo. Crazy Daisy Hose collage


The Man was cooking breakfast (yes, twice in one month!) and made a disgusted sound. He invited me to come in the kitchen and look at the gross egg he had just cracked open. I was busy and did NOT want to see a gross egg right before we ate, so I declined. He threw it away. Then another. And another! What the…I should have gone in there at that point, I guess. Later when I went to pull out the store bought eggs for a cake (older egg whites whip up better) there were some missing. He had thrown them away because the yolks were weird. They were pale, as store bought eggs are. We are so used to our orange colored yolks that he thought something was wrong with them! Yep…I think we officially just shed our “Coastie” status and should now be considered country folks. But if he starts calling me “Mother” he’s out on his ear.

The sun’s out and the chicken poop is warming up, little fly, so you might want to go buzz around outside for a while. Or better yet, try these fun blogs:

Baking In a Tornado
Just a Little Nutty
The Sadder But Wiser Girl
Spatulas on Parade
Stacy Sews and Schools
The Momisodes
Someone Else’s Genius
Battered Hope
Menopausal Mother
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
Sorry Kid, Your Mom Doesn’t Play Well With Others


Apple Blossom Cake

Apple Blossom Cake - The Rowdy Baker

My head is always swirling with little bits and pieces of recipes. Sometimes they come together into something I can work with, and sometimes no amount of brainstorming will make them turn into a cohesive recipe. For months now I’ve had an idea for a cake that’s been haunting me. I got out the colored pencils and put it down on paper (and I’m no artist) to exorcise the demons, but this cake demanded to be baked!

My original concept. Time was not a consideration, apparently.

My original concept. In a perfect world where free time is not a consideration…

If I sound a bubble off of level, you are very perceptive. I think this passion for baking has turned just a wee bit obsessive. Not “They’re coming to take me away, ha ha” obsessive…just a teensy weensie bit neurotic. Cool, huh?

I thought I would make this cake a couple of weeks before Easter in case anyone else was crazy enough to attempt it. I also imagined it with many different gum paste birds and cute little bees with slices of jelly beans for the wings. I had made a test bee, and loved it, but life and deadlines got in my way. I made the cake, but it was after Easter, and there were only two kinds of birds and NO bees. I’d run out of time and I’d eaten all of the jelly beans.

apple blossom cake from the rowdy baker

So much for my “Birds and Bees” cake. I did, however, manage to make pretty little apple blossoms out of gum paste. Oh, and my cookie branches turned out well, if you don’t count the ones that broke as I was moving the cake from counter to table. Several went crashing to the floor, blossoms and all. I may have had a few choice things to say about that, and swear I heard Austin Powers chastising me:

My concept was to make part of a tree, seen from a viewpoint high in the branches. So the frosting would be in glops (that’s a fancy-shmancy baking term I learned at Cordon Bleu somewhere) to represent clusters of leaves, and I would have branches coming out from all over the cake, loaded with nests, birds, and bees. I stayed fairly true to the original idea except I decided I should add a large trunk coming out of the middle. In retrospect, the cake would have been prettier without it.

Apple blossom cake vertical outside cropped

The branches were the hardest part of the cake. I used the recipe for Nonpareil Cookies, (without the last 3 ingredients, of course) and they held up pretty well, except when they were loaded with flowers and sticking out of the cake at an angle. The cake originally had several long, dainty branches coming from the sides where you see only stubby branches now. So go easy on the flowers unless the branch is upright, and make sure you bake them long enough. You want them hard and crunchy!

Roll the dough into “snakes”, narrower at one end, and snip with a scissors to create branches.

Forming chocolate cookie branches

Forming chocolate cookie branches

Lots of branches

Lots of branches

I have a thing about making everything on my cakes edible. I wouldn’t want to pull a toothpick or a piece of floral wire out of my mouth mid-bite! This can be challenging at times. Gum paste is almost perfect – it is edible and dries like porcelain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste very good. But…it was my best option for flowers.

Shaping gum paste apple blossoms

Shaping gum paste apple blossoms

I took a lot of photos of the apple blossoms in progress, but they are nowhere to be found. My best guess is that I didn’t have the SD card in my camera at the time. Sigh. There are really good tutorials for flowers online, but it isn’t that hard, really! I cut them out with gum paste cutters (like little cookie cutters), used a round tool to thin and shape them a bit, and then put some yellow royal icing in the middle of each one. Some were left open in full-bloom; on others I pressed the petals toward the center to look like a bud.

Gum paste is fun to work with, but it dries very quickly when you’re working. The trick is to only work with a little at a time and to keep the rest of the dough in a tightly sealed plastic bag. Then let the flowers dry thoroughly before using them. Overnight is best! If flavor and texture is important, you could also use candy clay. Wiltons candy melts work well for this. Here’s how you make it: Wiltons Candy Clay

Leaves were cut with gum paste cutters also, and bent into different shapes. Attach leaves and flowers to the chocolate cookie branches using royal icing or melted chocolate and let them set until firm before sticking them into the cake.

Leftover apple blossoms

Leftover apple blossoms

So…you’ve made your branches, flowers, and leaves. The nests were made from meringue and the birds were made from gum paste. Here’s the link for the nests from Mom Foodie. You could skip the gum paste birds and just make meringue ones as shown in her post.

All that’s left is the cake and icing. I used buttercream frosting, and LOTS of it! Those thick green branches really go through the frosting. However much you think you might need, double it! I won’t bother with the recipe for buttercream – I’m sure you have a favorite recipe – but I must mention that I added the grated peel from a couple of limes, a little of the lime juice, and some green food coloring.

That leaves us with the cake itself. I made two batches, which gave me three layers (with one leftover cake to put in the freezer) and baked them in deep 9-inch cake pans. Seriously, any cake will do. If you have a favorite cake recipe, by all means use it! I wanted a little lemon flavor, so here’s what I came up with:

Lightly Lemon Cake
Makes two 9-inch layers
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening (or coconut oil), room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • grated lemon peel from 2 lemons
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup milk
  • yellow food coloring if desired
  • 5 egg whites
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the grated lemon peel and mix well.
  5. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk, lemon juice, and milk.
  6. To the large bowl with the shortening and sugar mixture, alternately add the dry ingredients and milk mixture, beginning with the flour and ending with the milk mixture, adding about a third of each at a time.
  7. Beat for one minute at medium speed.
  8. In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into cake mixture.
  9. Divide between the cake pans. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack and then turn out of the pan to finish cooling completely.

I used the smooth side out, of course.

My “Big Bubba” pastry tip. I used the smooth side out, of course.

Whew. I think that’s it!  I just iced the cake with a thin coat of frosting and let it sit until firm, then used a huge tip (Wilton #789) to glop on the green frosting. I think a metal spatula would have worked well too – just slap it on like plaster!  The rest is up to you. Just let your artistic side take over and decorate your heart out.
Apple blossom cake cut vertical

My next post will be something simple. Honest.

Mother’s Favorite Dish: Crab Bake Royale

collage for may finalFor the month of May, eight bloggers and I are posting “Mother’s Favorite Dish”. There were a couple of ways this could be interpreted: a dish my mom loved to eat or a dish my mom loved to make. I agonized over this, because I truly couldn’t remember what my mother loved to eat.

I know that she liked raspberries and cream, but that wouldn’t make a very good recipe. She liked anything with butter on it. GOBS of butter. When she was a little girl, visiting a friend of the family with her mother and father, she was asked what she would like to eat. Her answer was: “I’d like some butter with some bread under it.” That was my mom.

She didn’t have a sweet tooth at all (probably the reason I learned to bake for myself) so desserts weren’t an option. I guess as a typically narcissistic child/teenager I just didn’t pay attention to what Mom ate!  And sadly, she’s no longer here to ask.

I would just have to think this one through, because it was important to me that I came up with the right answer. Hmmmmm.

cookbook photo

My mom was a young housewife in the 1950’s, inundated with advertising that created rigid standards for young women. Spotless homes, starched aprons, pearls and heels. If you’re old enough to remember “Leave it to Beaver” you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Did we ever see June wearing anything but a dress and pearls?

Giving a party was serious business; a husband’s job could depend on the gracious hostessing abilities of the “little woman.”  These were the years of cocktail parties, hors d’oeuvres, and aspic coated everything. Talk about pressure!

Mom was a very good cook. A very good basic cook. She was a left-brained kind of gal – the one you’d go to if you needed something organized. Efficient, capable, but for the most part not creative. She followed recipes exactly, just like her mother did, so all of her “best” dishes turned out perfectly each time.

She was the queen of roasts and gravies, something I’ve never mastered. And oh, Lord, did she have the whole lime jello thing down pat. Ugh. We entertained often, and company dinners were usually roasts and jello. Pretty predictable.

Crab Bake Royale

But…the one casserole that I remember helping Mom make was a “company casserole”. In other words, it was expensive, and not an everyday treat. I found the recipe recently in one of her old recipe boxes, and am proud to pass it on to you. I agree…it’s not something I’d make often. I figure it cost me about $16 to make this dish – a little pricey for my budget. But it really is good! I am going to give you the recipe exactly as it was written, but I do have some suggestions for improvement:

  1.  Use fresh crab and shrimp. Seriously. If you can’t afford that, make something else! Where we live, there really is no fresh or even frozen crab available. I turned my nose up at snow crab (though later I regretted that), refused to even consider “Krab”, and even checked out canned crab as a last resort, but it was from overseas and I just couldn’t make myself buy it. I grew up in Seattle and the farthest our crab ever traveled was from Alaska.  So I went to the last grocery store in the area and they had refrigerated crab from the Philippines in little tubs. I was desperate and bought it, but was sorry later. The flavor was very fishy. Fresh crab would have made ALL the difference. Go for dungeness if you can get it.
  2. Garlic. I think this would really be good with a little fresh minced garlic. Not necessary, but yummy.
  3. I used the buttered breadcrumbs for the topping, and they were very good, but I’m a big fan of Panko and would probably just use that next time.

Here’s the recipe:

Crab Bake Royale
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This is a very rich casserole, so this should be plenty for 6 people. Serve it with a big salad and crusty french rolls!
  • 1 can (7½ oz.) crab meat, or 1 package (6 oz) frozen
  • 1 can (4½ oz.) shrimp
  • 4 sliced hard-cooked eggs
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup sliced ripe olives
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • dash pepper
  • ½ cup buttered crumbs and parsley for garnish
  1. Drain and slice canned crab, reserving whole leg piece for garnish if desired. or, defrost, drain and slice frozen crab.
  2. Drain shrimp.
  3. Combine crab and shrimp with remaining ingredients, except buttered crumbs and parsley.
  4. Place mixture in shallow, buttered, baking dish. Sprinkle buttered crumbs on top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes.
  5. Garnish with crab leg and parsley. Makes 6 medium size servings.
  6. Note: don't use too big of a casserole dish because the mixture should be at least 2" deep.)



Getting soft bread crumbs from day-old French bread.

Getting soft bread crumbs from day-old French bread.

Combine and place in casserole. I used a deep pie pan.

Combine and place in casserole. I used a deep pie pan.

I hope you’ll enjoy this casserole from the past. It’s just as rich and hot and appealing as it was in the ’60s!

You can consider yourself lucky, because originally I was going to include her favorite jello salad. It had lime Jello, walnuts, shredded cheddar cheese, and pear halves. Seriously. To this day I can NOT eat canned pears. Slimy, grainy things. Fortunately, I didn’t put the ingredients on my shopping list, because I was positive I wouldn’t forget them. Hah! What would Freud say???

Here are links to the bloggers who have already posted their special dishes, and dates for those yet to come. Please come back and follow along with us!

May 6, Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach from Baking In a Tornado

May 7, Berry Tart from Crumbs in my Mustachio

May 8, Peggy’s Hummingbird Cake from Tampa Cake Girl

May 9, my Crab Bake Royale

May 13, Caramelized Onion, Tomato & Goat Cheese Focaccia from Hun, What’s for Dinner?

May 14, Banana Cream Jelly Roll from An Affair From the Heart

May 15, White Wine and Fontina French Onion Soup from Cooking from a Stay at Home Mom

May 16, Aunt Bee’s Recipes

That’s it for May, but I hope you’ll come back next month when we crack out the Red, White, and Blue!!