Cake Pops!

Halloween Delights

Cake Pops are fun to make, fun to eat, and low-calorie because they are so tiny! You literally eat 2 tablespoons of cake! I discovered just how wonderful these bite-size delights were about 2 years ago and I have been perfecting them ever since. They are not quick treats to make, but fun to make none-the-less. You can make them for baby and bridal showers, graduations, birthdays, and all the major holidays. The chocolate candy coating comes in dozens of colors and some are even flavored. My favorites include Salted Caramel, Dark Cocoa, Key Lime, and the Orange. Have I tempted you yet? Here’s how to create your own confectionaries.

Step 1
First things first: buy a BabyCakes, cake pop maker! It looks a little cake-pop-cookerlike a waffle iron in that you place a tablespoon of batter in a well and as it cooks it rises into the top section that also has indentations. You can find these appliances at craft stores and even some large grocery stores. They come with foolproof recipes that include vanilla, chocolate, lemon poppy-seed, and even red velvet cake to name a few.

bakingBatches make from 24-36 to dip later.  You know, if you’re going to the trouble to get all the stuff out, you might as well prepare extra! I use a disposable frosting bag to drop a tablespoon of batter into each well. I have used just a regular old kitchen spoon too, but it was messier and took longer.

Step 2
In craft stores you will easily find Wilton brand candy discs for melting, but I haven’t had much luck with them, so I use candies by Merckens that I get from a specialty store called Do It With Icing. It melts well and tastes like real chocolate, not plastic. But if it’s easier for you, try the Wilton and see if you like it. You will also need to pick up lollipop sticks. They come in a couple of sizes—you choose. I prefer the shorter ones.
After the cchoco-discsake is done, remove from the little machine and cool a few minutes. Then dip the end of a stick into chocolate candy coating that has been melted. Push the stick into the pop and let it set—about 15 minutes. At this point you can freeze the cake pops and dip at a later date. You can freeze them with or with out the inserted stick.sticks

Step 3
Now comes the creative part! Basically you are going to melt your chocolate discs, dip the cake pop in the chocolate, decorate, and set them to dry. Not hard, but time-consuming.
The crucial part here is getting the chocolate melted correctly. I place chocolate colored discs into a hearty microwave safe mug and nuke it for 30 seconds at a time. Stir in between and repeat until creamy. There is a product called Paramount Crystals that when sprinkled into the heated candy discs makes for a creamier consistency. These little waxy flakes are oily and blenddipping with the chocolates giving you a consistency that will allow the coating to drip off the cake pop so you can decorate it. Frankly, I think this is a must especially if you use the Wilton candy melts. After you dip the pop, tap it on the side of the mug to let the excess drip off. Add some fun sprinkles or marble your colors. For easy cooling buy a drying

styrofoam ring (like you make a holiday wreath out of), and stand the pops upright to dry. You can use it over and over again.

I do these with both kids and adults and it is always fun. It’s a great party icebreaker or way to entertain kids for a holiday treat. If you individually wrap them they are great for bake sales and fundraisers.

Morning Walk


Mission Bay

I’m retired. I get to sleep in. But my Fitbit says I need 10,000 steps today, so I had better get up and get moving! Hope you have better luck getting up and moving in the morning!

I met some other retired friends from the teaching field and we took off for a nice 3 mile walk along the bay. I was stunned by the beauty that was ahead of me. The bay seemed like pure glass and the cloud cover created the perfect lighting to create a mirror image of the shoreline. I just had to stop a snap a shot. God’s glory is all around, but this just really hit me in the face as sheer perfection.

Thanks for the great walk!

Last Stop: Siena- Day 13

img_6298Final stop on the “Best of Italy Tour” with Trafalger (and a bit of Rick Steves’ thrown in) was Siena. We knew nothing about this city except that St. Catherine of Siena was my Patron Saint. It brought back childhood memories at the parochial school I attended and all the kids talked about who they were named after. I had no idea where Italy was or why my parents chose that particular saint. It is too bad that as an adult I never thought to ask, because it would have added meaning to this stop.

img_6287-2Once in Siena the four of us broke off from the group and headed down three terraced streets to the site where Catherine had a room and worshiped. Pretty much all I knew about her was that she played a role in moving the Popes Palace from Avignon, France back to Rome.

img_6284Today the  church, named for St. Catherine, serves as a local parish. There was a statue of her inside the courtyard and I couldn’t resist posing for a picture. I managed to buy a thimble with her name and picture on it to add to my thimble collection.



Our last dinner with the big group was
a wonderful family style Italian meal. As usual we sat with new and old friends and shared favorite memories from the trip.

Here are some cool facts about our trip. We drove over 1,183 miles over 12 days. We walked approximately  185, 680 steps which meant we walked about 82 miles! No wonder we ate like kings and queens, had gelato everyday and didn’t gain any weight. What a wonderful trip. Sure hope we can travel with our dear friends again and share new travel adventures! We are so blessed to be able to take the time to see the world. Retirement is wonderful!

Tuscany Region-Pisa & Florence – Day 12

We hopped on the bus bright and eaimg_5997rly as we had several places to see. Our first stop was Pisa. It was not what we expected; it was better! It really was leaning at a pretty steep pitch and neither of us wanted to hike up (or pay the Euro’s). The tower has 7 tiers. The first 3 floors began to sink shortly after being built because they were so heavy. In the early days Pisa was an important port city, so the surrounding soil tended to be soft and not the best for supporting a marble structure such as a tall tower. Building stopped for a while until another architect came along and added 3 more marble stories. You can imagine that it began to tilt even more! By the time the bell tower was added a total of 300 years had gone by since the original building began. We could not believe the detail and ornateness of the tower. You needed to see it up close to appreciate its true beauty. They say it is structurally safe now, but we figured we’d pass despite the amazing views there must have been from the top. Walking the perimeter was fine for us!

Off in the distance we could see mountains that looked to be snow-covered, but in reality they were huge marble mountains! No wonder Italy has magnificent marble structures everywhere.

From Pisa we headed to the great city of Florence. The drive was so pretty as we passed green rolling hills with rows and rows of vineyards. Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to many famous artists, scienimg_6129tists, poets, and of course, Pinocchio! img_6348During the Renaissance it was the wealthiest and most politically influential city of the region.

Inside the mall

Walking the streets was a wonderful treat. These pictures were taken inside one of the famous shopping areas. Museums, cathedrals, fountains, and monuments were in abundance. So much culture and history everywhere we looked!

Since Florence is also known for its leather  we went to a leather factory. I will admit, we purchased a few little leather items. We had no intention of making such purchases, but when in Italy… Too bad leather goods aren’t as inexpensive as all the gelato we consumed!

Santa Croce

img_6160We also went to Santa Croce, the church where Michelangelo, da Vinci, Marconi, and dozens other famous men were buried. It was almost like an indoor cemetery. What a beautiful church. Simimg_6169ple compared with other Duomo’s we’d seen, and almost like another museum. The marble carvings and tributes to the deceased were tasteful and very elegant.




Our final stop in the city was Galleria dell ‘Accademia where the famous statue of David was on display. It was incredible to think that Michelangelo created such a magnificent statue out of one huge slab of marble. Can you imagine what thoughts must have gone through his mind each time he struck his chisel on the brick of marble? Like the Pieta in Rome, the statue of David was something I never thought I would get to see in person. What an amazing site!

img_6055We ended the evening with a magnificent prime rib dinner at a local restaurant. We had some great wine and champagne along with a brief tour of the underground wine seller of years gone by. We brought some wine home so we can continue to enjoy Tuscan wines. img_6046Exhausted by yet another long day of walking and overloading of the senses, we fell asleep the minute we hit the pillows. According to my Fitbit, we managed to put in exactly 19,000 steps that day! It felt like it too!!

Lakes Maggiore & Como – Day 11

We arrived late on October 9th just in time to see the magic of dusk settling over the city below. Our room was quaint with a view of Lake Maggioreimg_5767 that was spectacular. We ate a quick dinner and headed to bed after an exhausting day.

October 10th, we woke up early and set out for an excursion to Isle Isimg_5841abela where the Borromeo family have their home or rather, Palace. The 18-year-old princess still lives here.  Most impressive were the terraced gardens. Besides incredible topiaries, flowers, anddsc00763  fountains, there were a dozen or more white peacocks roaming around!

Besides the lake, we could see the Swiss Alps off in the distance. Dan and I have been to the Alps for skiing, so it made this stay that much more memorable.


From Isle Isabela we headed for Lake Como. This area was very slow-paced, tastefully built, and clean. Seriously, no trash anywhere!


We saw another beautiful church dedicated to Mary the Immaculate. I would love to live here! If only I spoke Italian…

In the evening we attended a very special dinner on Isle Madre. It was a good thing we walked over 15,00 steps that day, because dinner was delicious and served family style, which meant a never ending bowl coming our way!

Verona & Milan – Day 10

We had no idea what to expect in Verona or Milan, so we were pleasantly surprised with both. As we drove to Verona, we passed many vineyards and green hilly areas that once upon a time supplied Venice with all its wood and building materials. We learned that Moscato wine is local to the region and had an opportunity to taste some in the coming days. Verona is also known for musical theater and opera in both indoor and outdoor settings.

img_5646Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona. We walked into a courtyard where Juliet leaned out her balcony window to hear her beloved Romeo below. There was even a bronze statue of her in the courtyard. There are specialimg_5687ty candies named after the famous couple: Romeo’s Kiss which was made of chocolate and
almonds and Juliet’s Kiss which was made of vanilla and almonds. Our guide was kind enough to purchase each of us one! Next stop, Milan

Milan is where today’s stock market is located and money iimg_5705s minted for Italy. It is also known as the fashion center of the country. We walked through a huge indoor mall/shopping district that was built about the time our country was born! Beautiful arches with glass panels adorned the ceiling. All the shops were high-end, designer boutiques like Versace, Luis Vuitton, Prada, Armani, Farragamo, etc. It was exceptionally crowded and filled with lots of energy. We’ve never seen such expensive stores all in one place before.

The neximg_5719t stop on the tour was to a neo-gothic Duomo name in honor of Mary. Hanging inside was supposedly a nail used to crucify Christ. It was one of the most ornate churches Dan and I had ever been in. Outside the Duomo were dozens of 3D marble scenes depicting stories from the Bible. We made a game of walking the perimeter of this massive building trying to figure out what Biblical story was being told. It was sort of our own little scavenger hunt and Biblical knowledge game rolled into one. Our friends we traveled with from home brought Milano cookies  and we ate them as we walked. Seemed quite appropriate!img_5738

The day was coming to a close after 12,037 steps and we loaded onto the bus once more to travel to the Lake District to explore Lake Maggorio and Lake Como. Here we come, George Clooney!

Venice 2 – Day 9

We began the day by taking a walking tour of St. Mark’s Basilica. It was designed to incorporate a combination of both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Greek traditions. St. Mark’s relics are buried in the Basilica. In many ways it was as elegant as the Sistine Chapel. It was interesting to note that the artwork was not hand painted, but rather intricate mosaic tiles and 24-carat gold leaf tiles. Could have spent a great deal of time here, but there was so much to see, that we had to move along.


Venice is known for its delicate glass beads and lace work. They were traded for goods back in the 1500’s when Venice was a huge trading port. We had the opportunity to go into a Murano glass factory, which was a real treat.

img_5526A master glass blower worked his magic and created a bowl as well as a beautiful horse sculpture. I am a thimble collector and I was determined to find a Murano thimble on this adventure to Italy. Sure enough they had one! Cost a pretty penny or should I say Euro, but well worth it.img_5528

From here we boarded another boat and headed for the island of Burano, known for its lace. This island was much different than the larger Venice, as it was tranquil and very colorful. Each house was painted a different color with a cloth over the front door to let air in. Many connecting bridges and leaning towers completed the experience. We purchased some beautiful lace bookmarks.

dsc00744Our day ended with an amazing sunset and 12, 704 step.