Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Discovering We Might Be Philatelists- Ronald Reagan & Civil War Inspired

What's a Philatelist?  According to Webster, a philatelist is a person who studies and collects stamps.  I would definitely not consider myself a stamp collector, but there are a couple stamps available now that could spur on a new hobby for our family.

A couple years ago, while cleaning out the file cabinet I noticed an obscure file folder labeled "Stamps."  In it I found a couple forgotten purchases.  Apparently, if the stamp features someone of interest, I might buy a sheet.  Look at what I found.

Elvis Stamps, 1992

James Dean Stamps, 1996

In the last 15-20 years my interests have dramatically changed.  James Dean still holds a special place in my memories as does Elvis, but  Ronald Reagan is now my kind of Hero.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth.  There were and continue to be a number of Centennial Celebrations being held at The Ronald Reagan Museum and Library, including a recent renovation.  We've been blessed to attend a number of the festivities.

My sweetheart and I at the Reagan Centennial Celebration
Centennial Celebration Concert For America

With Fred Thompson

Lee Greenwood singing

At the Birthday Celebration, Simi Valley is so beautiful!

Enjoying President Reagan's favorite Chocolate Cake

We also attended a leadership symposium with great biographers moderated by Tom Brokaw

With Tom Brokaw

Recently at Reagan Museum & Library the United States Post Office unveiled the second Ronald Reagan stamp issued.  The first stamp was issued in 2005 as a 37-cent stamp and reissued as a 39-cent stamp.  The centennial stamp commemorating the birth of our 40th President is a Forever Stamp.

We didn't make it to the stamp dedication ceremony in Simi Valley, however we did purchase the stamp sheet this week.  I think I'll need to find a nice frame to display this treasure.  Maybe I should work on having a notable history/Reagan room in the house.

On this stamp President Reagan is casually featured at his beloved ranch outside Santa Barbara.

Another educational and historical stamp sheet available through the USPS is the tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  I'm so glad we chose this year to study the Civil War and what a great item to collect as memorabilia.  The first in the series features stamps of The First Bull Run- July 21, 1861 and Fort Sumter- April 12-13, 1861.  The stamp sheet gives historical background and quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. Jackson and Frederick Douglas along with a traditional lament.

USPS Civil War Stamps- first in the series

I guess it's never to late to start up a new hobby.  Philatelists we may be!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Today in History: The Lincoln Memorial Dedication May 30, 1922

Not only is today Memorial Day, but it marks the anniversary of the day the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. 

President Warren G. Harding dedicated the memorial which took eight years to complete.

This past year we had the opportunity to visit the Lincoln Memorial for the first time.  As the kids and I walked up to the steps we paused.  Slowly we began to proceed up the many stairs.  As I walked, my eyes began to well up with tears and they spilled out over my cheeks.  The kids stopped, looked at me quizzically, and asked, "What's wrong, Mom?"  Words could not describe the enormity of what I felt at that moment.  President Lincoln was a brave and courageous man.  A man who helped heal and bring unity to a broken nation.  On the steps of that Memorial, many have also stood reflecting on Freedom, Integrity, and Virtue.  I will never forget that visit.  It is marked in my mind and on my heart.

A Cake-A-Day Week Comes To An End. See What I Found to Celebrate The Week

This has been such a great week making and posting delicious cake recipes.  I know my family has loved it along with many friends.  I'm kind of sad to end this little venture, but it'll be back for sure.  I really enjoyed the theme week.  We'll see what we come up with next.

Here's a recap on what was made this week.

Day 1: Oatmeal Cake
Oatmeal Cake
Day 2: German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake
Day 3: Pistachio Pudding Cake

Pistachio Pudding Cake
Day 4: Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake
Day 5: Rich Chocolate Layer Cake

Rich Chocolate Layer Cake
Day 6:  Art Smith's Hummingbird Cake

Art Smith's Hummingbird Cake
Day 7:  Root Beer Bundt Cake

Root Beer Bundt Cake
In honor of this great week, I found a GREAT wine to celebrate the end of this theme.

Layer Cake Shiraz

Here's to layered cakes, bundt cakes, tube cakes, sheet cakes, Birthday cakes, and cake balls! 

To CAKE!!!  Cheers!

Day 7, A Cake-A-Day: Rootbeer Bundt Cake (A.K.A. Insanely Amazing Chocolate Cake!!)

The name of this cake is misleading.  The recipe was described as having a "pronounced" root beer flavor.  I was expecting something root beer-ish, like a root beer float.  I can't describe this cake as having a "pronounced" root beer taste.  In fact, I didn't really taste the root beer at all, but what I did taste was an incredibly delectable, moist, semi-dense rich chocolate cake.  If you're a fan of scrumptious chocolate cakes, this is a cake for you!

First off, I'd like to mention this cake is from a wonderful cookbook titled Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  Matt and Renato own a bakery called Baked in Brooklyn, New York.  I had the opportunity to meet Matt and Renato last year.  They were delightful men with fresh ideas in baking.  One day I hope to visit their bakery for a firsthand experience.

Here I am with Matt and Renato
Baked- The freshly baked cookbook
 Root beer Bundt Cake


2 cups root beer (do not use diet)
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously butter inside of a bundt pan, dust with flour.  Set aside.

Pan is buttered and dusted
In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and cool.

Butter, cocoa, and root beer

Cocoa mixture with sugars- let cool
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Dry ingredients, whisked
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined.  Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture.  The batter will be slightly lumpy, do not over beat, it will give the cake a rubbery tough texture.

The eggs whisked.  Notice the cute new bowl from Crate and Barrel?  Love it!
Lumpy batter
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a small sharp knife inserted in cake comes out clean.  Note: rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.  Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

The cake, ready for the oven

Finished baking

You can just see how moist this cake is!

Ready for frosting

Frosting coming up...

2 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao) melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (I always use unsalted butter), softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup root beer
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth.  Use a spatula to spread the fudge frosting over the crown of the bundt in a thick layer.  Let the frosting set before serving, with ice cream on the side.

I'd like to introduce you to my new Cuisinart.  My faithful Cuisinart Custom 11 has served me well for the last 18.5 years, but she needs to rest.  It's time for the younger generation to take over.
Tastes even better than it looks

Speechless...so good!

Serve with ice cream and a little chocolate sauce.  Enjoy!

Memorial Day- Let Us Not Forget

The Flag at Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Day has been recognized in the United States since 1866, when Henry Welles, from Waterloo, New York suggested store owners, like himself, close their shops for one day to honor local soldiers killed in the Civil War. 

Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan had a similar idea in May of 1868.  He honored the dead and the soldiers who had survived the war.  Leading a procession of veterans through the town, General Logan went to the cemetery where they decorated the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flags.  This day was known as Decoration Day.

Retired Major General Logan proclaimed,

"The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."
Following the Civil War, many cities in the North and South set a day to honor the soldiers and decorate their graves with flags and flowers.  Cities such as Waterloo, New York; Columbus, Mississippi; Richmond, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois;  Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and others initiated these early memorials.

In 1882, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day honoring soldiers from previous wars also. 

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day, the last Monday in May a federal holiday.

The Thursday before Memorial Day there is a tradition known as "Flags-in."  At Arlington National Cemetery, the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place flags at more than 250,000 gravestones.  The gravestones and flags are patrolled for 24-hours a day to make sure each flag remains standing.  At 3:00 pm local time, all Americans are asked to pause in remembrance for a moment.

As part of our homeschooling adventures we were able to field trip to Washington D.C. this past year.  I stood in awe, in tears many times as I looked upon the memorials.  I am humbled by the service of our military.  To them I am forever grateful!

May you honor those who willingly served our country and fought for the cause of freedom.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Changing of the Guard- an humbling emotional experience

Arlington National Cemetery
 While in Washington D.C we were able to view an Honor Flight ceremony at the World War II Memorial.  According to statistics, approximately 1,000 World War II veterans are lost daily.  These veterans are Heroes!  I'm so glad there is an organization that gives them the honor due.

World War II Memorial

Looking into the faces of these heroes was an experience that is hard to describe in words.  I'm so grateful.

World War II Memorial

Honor Flight Ceremony

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Freedom Is Not Free
Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial