Monday, October 17, 2016: Five Blogs We Love

There’s a lot to look at and read out there on the Internet. Each Monday we’ll point you to some of the best content.

Life In & Around Martinsville-Henry County
Get to know this wonderful, less-traveled, part of Virginia.

17 Apart
Do-it-yourselfers Mary and Tim search for simple solutions to live life more sustainably.

This Old Art Room
Kristin talks about inspiring ideas she finds around the web and loves to incorporate art into life.

Lenses in Bloom
Allen Pearson offers photography and gardening pictures and tips.

Richmond Beermeister
Find out where to find all the newest and greatest beers in the River City.

It’s National Dessert Day


Today is National Dessert Day. What’s your favorite fall dessert?

Here are a couple of ours we wouldn’t mind enjoying right now. Sure there’s apple pie and pumpkin pie, and maybe even sweet potato pie. But why stop there? Try some of these.

Maple-Apple Upside-Down Cake
Food & Wine

1 cup pure maple syrup
3 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan. In a large saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over high heat, then simmer over low heat until very thick and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Pour the thickened syrup into the cake pan. Arrange the apples in the pan in 2 concentric circles, overlapping them slightly.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the dry and wet ingredients in 3 alternating batches until the batter is smooth; scrape down the side of the bowl.

Scrape the batter over the apples and spread it in an even layer. Bake the cake for 1 hour, until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack for 45 minutes.

Place a plate on top of the cake and invert the cake onto the plate; tap lightly to release the cake. Remove the pan. Let the cake cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve with crème fraîche.

Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

1/2 c. butter, melted, plus more for buttering pan
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting pan
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. pumpkin puree (unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-5″ loaf pan and dust with cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In another large bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, egg and egg yolk until smooth. Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir until combined, then fold in chocolate chips and pumpkin puree.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes.

Make ganache: Place chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat heavy cream just until it bubbles. Pour heavy cream over chocolate chips and let stand 2 minutes. Whisk until completely smooth and no clumps remain.

Pour ganache over pumpkin bread, smoothing top if desired, and serve.

Pecan and Chocolate Tart with Bourbon Whipped Creme Fraiche

1 Pâte Sucrée disk
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans plus
1 1/2-2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crème fraîche
2 teaspoons bourbon
Special equipment: An 11″-diameter fluted tart pan with a removable bottom

Roll out Pâte Sucrée disk on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/8″-thick round, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Transfer crust to tart pan; press onto bottom and up sides of pan. Trim dough flush with edge of pan. Chill for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Spread out chopped pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned and aromatic, 8-10 minutes.

Place butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Cook, swirling pan a few times, until butter browns and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Discard vanilla bean.

Whisk sugar, both corn syrups, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in warm brown butter, then eggs; whisk to blend. Spread chopped pecans in an even layer over prepared tart shell. Scatter chocolate over. Place pecan halves in concentric circles over chopped pecans and chocolate. Pour filling slowly and evenly over nuts.

Bake tart until filling is just set in center, 45-50 minutes.

Transfer tart to a wire rack; let cool for at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Tart can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Beat cream, crème fraîche, and bourbon until soft peaks form. DO AHEAD: Bourbon whipped crème fraîche can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill. Rewhisk before serving.

Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with bourbon whipped crème fraîche.

Well, that’s enough to get started. After all, it’s National Dessert Day, not Week.

What are some of your favorite fall dessert recipes?

Ten great movies for Halloween

If you love the fun of Halloween you can’t help but love some of the classic Halloween movies. No, we’re not talking about Jason, or Chucky or any of those. But the fun, somewhat more innocent movies that we all love. Or should.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of ten great movies for Halloween. They’re not all officially Halloween stories, but they all have some element of scary.

By no mean is this a list of “best of” movies. Just some favorites.

Young Frankenstein


An all-time movie favorite. It’s hysterically funny and oh how we miss Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle and, of course, the recently departed Gene Wilder.

Rocky Horror Picture Show


It’s campy. It’s bawdy. It’s a cult classic. Truth be told after the first 30-45 minutes (after the Time Warp), it can get a little boring. Still, it’s a favorite.

Little Shop of Horrors


The plant is scary enough, not to mention everyone’s childhood dentist.



Worth it simply for the Banana Boat Song.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown


It’s not Halloween without this. Sure it was a television special and not a movie. But it’s pure Halloween gold.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Any of the Harry Potter movies could be on a favorite Halloween list. They’re filled with witches and wizard and all kinds of creatures. We chose this one because of the Death Day Party.



Spiders! Do we have to say anything else?

Sweeney Todd


How could you not love a movie with Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and the amazing Helena Bonham Carter. Truth be told, the stage version is far superior, but this is an awesome movie.



Included for “Night on the Bald Mountain.”

The Birds


Leave it to Alfred Hitchcock to make birds seem scary. It’s creepy in a fascinating, can’t take your eyes away kind of way. With Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy.

Have some favorite Halloween movies? Tell us in the comments.

This post is based on an original 2013 post from The Write Side of My Brain.

Halloween Traditions


Halloween is believed to have originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires and put on costumes to fend off ghosts. Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a day to honor all saints and martyrs in the eighth century. Known as All Saints Day, some of the traditions of Samhain were incorporated into the day. The night before was known as All Hallows’ Eve which evolved into Halloween.

Here’s how some of today’s traditions began.

Jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland where they were made with turnips, not pumpkins. They’re based on a legend of a man named Stingy Jack who trapped the Devil and made him promise Jack would never go to Hell. But Jack died and found heaven didn’t want him either and he was condemned to wander the earth. Jack carried around in a turnip a lump of burning coal given to him by the Devil. People soon carved faces into gourds of their own to ward off evil spirits like Jack.

The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain marked the beginning of a new year. Bonfires were built to ward off the ghosts.

There are lots of ideas about where this tradition came from. The Celtic people would leave out food to satisfy the ghosts. In Scotland children and poor adults would go to homes in search of food in exchange for offering prayers said for the dead. In German-American communities children would dress in costumes and call on their neighbors to see if the adults could guess their identities. Children were rewarded with food or treats if no one could guess their identity.

Bobbing for Apples
Bobbing for Apples dates all the way back to ancient Rome and a festival in honor of Pamona, the goddess of agriculture and abundance.

Those are just a few of today’s Halloween traditions. What are your favorite customs and traditions?


It’s officially autumn and here in Central Virginia post Matthew leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping. A great time for soup, right? We thought about posting a few of our favorite recipes, but then thought why limit the list?

Here are some great sites with tasty recipies for fall soups.

The 59 Most Delish Fall Soups
Cold, stormy night? There’s a soup for that.

32 Cozy, Warming Soups to Make This Fall
Bon Appétit

Fall Soups and Stews Recipes
Allrecipes has more than 120 trusted fall soup and stew recipes complete with ratings, reviews and cooking tips.

18 Hearty Fall Soups
Nothing’s more comforting on a chilly day than a bowl of soup

10 Fall Soups That Will Warm Your Insides
Slurp your way through fall with these creative soup recipes.

Hungry yet?

October 10, 2016: Five Blogs We Love

There’s a lot to look at and read out there on the Internet.  Each Monday we’ll point you to some of the best content.

Mere Inkling
A devoted fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien writes about writing, Christianity, History, and humor.

The Insatiable Traveler
Awesome photography celebrating the world one photo, one story, at a time.

Comics and the Cross
Paul offers the ramblings of an American Scotsman and his Love for God and Comic Books.

The Boardinghouse Series
Robert Palmer writes a continuing series of short stories.

In Our Fam
Erin Mahone writes about the joys, and trials, of motherhood, handling the challenges with humor, love and total honesty.




It’s World Smile Day

The first Friday of October is celebrated as World Smile Day. Probably because we all tend to smile a little more on Fridays.

It was initiated by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist known for creating the Smiley Face in 1963. The first World Smile Day was held in 1999 and has continued every year. When Ball died in 2001 the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation was created to honor his name and memory. The Foundation carries on the work of “improving this world, one smile at a time.”

So, smile today.

It won’t cost you anything but you might get something in return.