Geocaching 101: If You Hide It, We Will Hunt!

By Cammi Woodall

I hunt for Tupperware in the woods. How do you spend your weekends?

No, I am not careless or forgetful of where I put my belongings. My family and I are part of a growing group of ‘treasure hunters’ who participate in an exciting hobby called geocaching.

So what is geocaching? Well, it is basically what happens when nerds go outside to play. A person takes a container, hides it somewhere outside such as in the woods or in a city, marks the coordinates with their GPS, and logs that information onto a website. Our favorite is the free site geocaching.com. Indiana Jones wanna-be’s then log those coordinates into their GPS systems and head out to search. When you get to the correct coordinates, put your GPS on Pedestrian Mode and start to hunt! Once you find the cache, you sign a log book provided, and register your find on the website. Caches can be anywhere – city streets, local parks, scenic byways, bridges, cemeteries, even underwater! They can be tucked under rocks, in hollow logs, in magnetic holders on anything metal (like a tank – no joke!), or hanging from a tree branch. Harder caches can even require scuba gear or rappelling equipment.

Geocaching got its start in 2000 in Beaver Creek, Oregon. To test the accuracy of his GPS unit, a man named David Ulmer took a small plastic box and filled it with goodies like books and CD’s. He hid it alongside a popular nature trail and logged the plotted coordinates on his website. He invited readers to try and find his hidden stash to test the accuracy of their own units and his.

Within three days, two people had found it and responded back. They loved it! Slowly the activity caught on and was featured on an online tech magazine, in the New York Post, and on CNN. This media attention drew seekers from around the world. The website geocaching.com was born and the hunt was on!

But there were only 75 known caches in the world. Chances were a caching newbie was not close to one. So if you couldn’t find caches, why not hide one for someone else to find? Thus started the geo version of “Field of Dreams” – if you hide it, they will hunt. So they hid it and we hunted. We are still hunting. From its humble beginnings, geocaching.com has grown to over two million caches sought after by more than five million seekers. Caches have been placed on every continent, even Antarctica (my bucket list geocaching destination)! There is a good chance you are within walking distance of a cache right now, or at least a short drive.

You are in nature so be aware of dangers. So far we haven’t been chased by a large boulder “Temple of Doom” style, but we have encountered several snakes, dogs, ticks, and stinging bugs. My sister was chased by a buffalo once! Well, the buffalo was safely behind a fence a long distance away from her and she was never in any danger, but we still laugh about that. (My parents and I do, my sister not so much.)

Why Tupperware? Because it lives up to its reputation for keeping contents fresh! All caches are not stored in the iconic containers, but it is certainly popular. Caches are susceptible to weather, so you need good containers that will protect the contents. They can range in size from micro (a small metal tube half the size of your pinkie finger) to large (about the size of a five-gallon bucket). There are even a few caches the size of telephone booths.

I’ve had several people ask, “But what do you get?” Many people hear ‘cache’ and thinks ‘cash’. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. The treasure you find will be stickers, small toys, beads, pencils… anything that will fit in your cache container. The smallest containers will only have the logbook.

So what do you get? Well, you get the rush of searching for a lost container, the satisfaction of finding the capsule and signing your name with the others who came before you. You get the thrill of discovery as you visit new places. You get a sense of community when you meet fellow cachers also out for that elusive treasure. You get that thrill of competition when you find the cache before the people with you. You get time spent with family and friends.

My hearty recommendation is to try it at least once. Grab some bug spray, pack a picnic, pick some easy caches nearby, and start hunting! I just checked geocaching.com and there are 22 caches within ten miles of me. There were only 18 the last time I checked. Excuse me, but I need to grab my GPS and start looking for some Tupperware! Hope to see you out there!

Click to tweet: Geocaching 101: If You Hide It, We Will Hunt! Article at the Inspired Prompt blog. Have you tried geocaching? #geocache #amwriting

Writing prompt: Darla drew near the large oak that stood in the middle of the park. Had she finally found…

Aunt Marie’s Stack Cake

Aunt Marie's Stack Cake by Karen Jurgens

Aunt Marie’s Stack Cake

By Karen Jurgens

One of the most ongoing traditions in our family revolves around my great-aunt Marie’s Stack Cake. Cut from a magazine at least sixty years ago, the recipe has been a cherished addition to every Christmas meal since I can remember. My older daughter, Meg, has a birthday mid-December, and she begs to have this instead of a traditional birthday cake. Since it keeps perfectly for weeks, we enjoy it through the holidays along with our other Christmas desserts.

Click to Tweet: From Karen Jurgens via @inspiredprompt: Aunt Marie’s Stack Cake is an Icelandic #holiday tradition #food #recipe

So, what exactly is Stack Cake? Nicknamed as such by my family, the actual title is Vinarterta Prune Cake. Just as it sounds, it’s seven layers of delectable cake stacked together with a dried-fruit filling and dusted with powdered sugar. Its origins are from Iceland, and seeing as how we are crazy about this cake, it’s no surprise that our family has Viking ancestry!

Here is my family recipe:

Ingredients for filling:

2 lbs. dried prunes (may substitute other dried fruit such as apricots)
½ cup prune juice (may substitute wine or rum)
1 cup sugar
½ t. cardamom seed
1 t. vanilla
¼ t. salt

Method:

Cook prunes and juice slowly until tender, drain, and conserve the juice. (Pit prunes if using seeded ones.) Grind in a food processor until smooth or just mash for a chunkier filling. Return to heat, add back the juice, and cook fruit until the consistency of thick jam. Cool.

Ingredients for cake:

1 c. butter
1c. sugar
4 c. sifted flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
¼ c. milk

Method:

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in slightly beaten eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Alternate flour, salt, and baking powder with the milk, mixing until combined. Form 7 equal balls from the dough and chill for about an hour. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Using cake pans (8 inch) turned upside-down, pat out each ball of dough evenly to the edge of each pan. Bake 15-20 mins. or until the edges of cake are lightly browned. Allow layers to cool slightly before stacking with jam.

To finish:

On a serving plate, begin with one layer of cake. Spread with fruit filling. Alternate cake and filling, ending with a layer of cake. Dust the top layer with confectioners’ sugar. This cake keeps well for weeks and can also be frozen for months.

Click Here for more explanation and more pictures of the traditional cake.

Enjoy this Icelandic holiday treat!

Aunt Marie's Stack Cake by Karen Jurgens

Stack Cake is always on the dessert table at Christmas

Pop back by on Wednesday for Karen’s 3 Questions interview! And she’s giving away a free e-version of her latest release. See you there!

From My Grandmother’s Kitchen: No Elves in Nan Nan’s Kitchen

By Steve Connolly

Photo from Pixabay

The house at 106 Cadima Avenue in Coral Gables, my grandmother’s house, will be one of those addresses that stick in my memory banks forever.  As a kid, I was fortunate to spend time with her during my summer vacations from school.

My grandmother was known as Nan Nan to her 33 grandchildren. She was fondly given this name by my oldest cousin, Cathy Tracy Dickinson. I am not sure where she came up with such a moniker, but it stuck over many years.

A visit to Nan Nan’s house broke up the endless summer days of playing army with my buddies, shooting basketballs, or fighting with my brothers. With Nan Nan you were guaranteed to have an adventure. When I was very young, I remember her walking me to the park to do arts & crafts.  Later years we would walk several miles to downtown Coral Gables for a hot fudge sundae. For a real treat, we would hop a city bus to downtown Miami. We would explore parks, museums, libraries or go to a movie. Being the oldest of five (Peter waited until we moved to New Hampshire to be born) I enjoyed the personal time she spent with me.

I remember my grandmother as the school librarian at a small Christian School.  I’m told Nan Nan started teaching there as the Home Economics instructor. Later at the age of sixty, she continued her education and became the school’s librarian. Being a Home Ec teacher I often wondered if this is why she was a fantastic cook. I have known only one other Home Ec teacher in my life, Mrs. Bernice Kyte, and she, too, was an excellent cook.

My Nan Nan was famous for her cookies. Visiting her house, the first thing we kids would do is check in the bottom cupboard to see if there were any cookies in her original Tupperware container. And you know, we were never disappointed. Nan Nan had several cookie recipes that we loved as kids. One was her Chocolate Chip cookies and another was her Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies. For years I have tried to duplicate her Chocolate Chip cookies without success. She must have kept something secret as I have her original recipe and have never successfully made them good as she did. One of her many cooking shortcuts must have been an unwritten instruction in her recipe. Someday I may resolve this mystery!

Click to tweet: My Nan Nan was famous for her cookies. #holidays @InspiredPrompt

However, I have mastered her Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies recipe. I know they are good as my wife often forbids me to make them. She claims they are addictive. I must disagree with her as I can limit myself to ten or twelve of them a day! I hope you enjoy them. Make sure and pay attention to the little tricks Nan Nan taught me about making these cookies.

Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies (must be her original name)

  • 1-1/2 Cups of Sugar
  • 2-1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon of Salt
  • 14 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter softened to room temperature (or squishy)
  • 3 teaspoons of Vanilla
  • 2 Large Eggs plus the Egg White of One Egg
  • ¼ teaspoon of Nutmeg

 It is best to start off by having all your ingredients measured out – this way you can double check and prevent missing something. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees after you evenly space the racks in the center of the oven.

  1. Next, sift into a separate bowl all the dry ingredients (except the nutmeg).
  2. With an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat till light and fluffy
  3. Mix in the egg products one at a time beating until fully combined. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Slowly mix in the flour to the egg/sugar mixture – about ½ cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary (You may need to chill the dough depending on your eggs).
  5. Roll the dough into one-inch size balls. Then roll them in a mixture of sugar and nutmeg (I always measure by eye – personal taste can dictate this – for Christmas use colored sugar)
  6. Put onto cookie sheets – I find aluminum sheets work the best.
  7. Start one sheet on the lower oven rack and bake 5 minutes. After 5 minutes move it to the top rack. When the 5 minutes is up, check to make sure the cookies are slightly browned around the bottom edges.  Time may have to be adjusted according to your oven.
  8. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack – I start mine out flat then stack them after a few minutes to let them fully cool.
  9. Wash your sheets in cool water between batches – Careful not to burn yourself.

My grandmother lived just shy of her 101st birthday.  She was an incredible person whom I think of most days.  In my house of five boys and one girl, it was required that we all learned to cook. Thinking of the skills I have developed over the years I find the majority are from things my grandmother taught me.  And by the way, my grandmother’s daughter, my Mom is a great cook too!

My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes

I love the title for this month’s blog post. I had different relationships with both of my grandmothers. They each taught me so much in the precious time I had with them. After our family moved from the city, I used to spend a few weeks each summer with my Grandma Milem.

She lived in a cul-de-sac with other homes filled with folks much like herself; elderly, with grown children. There were very few kids my age living, or visiting in that semi-circle of homes; so I ended up spending a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa. This is the place where I learned to sew, embroider, and watch Grandma cook. A favorite family memory: she loved to whistle while she worked.

There was always fresh produce on Grandma’s table. Tomatoes sliced on a plate, cucumbers bathed in vinegar, or swimming in sour cream with dill, and onion stalks with their greenery spilling out of the top of a glass of water. She taught my mother how to can the benefits from our garden, her bread and butter pickles were the best! We had jars and jars of corn, green beans and tomatoes. Grandma would take zucchini home and come back to visit with loaves of zucchini bread!

I have fond memories of holiday gatherings. Wonderful smells would fill the house. There were no store bought pies here, no sir. Everything was made by hand, and if you went home hungry it was your fault.

By the time I became a teenager, Grandpa had passed away and their home had been sold. Grandma called herself a vagabond; she lived from place to place. Mostly with her grown children in different parts of the country. She would visit us in southern California for a couple of months, she would then divide the rest of the year between Arizona, South Carolina, or Ohio.

In 1999, we were all called to my Uncle’s home in Ohio to say our good-byes. Hospice had advised that Grandma would be leaving us soon. A memory from that time, so precious to me  was when my Uncle’s home lost power, and there was no air conditioning. My cousins and I took newspaper and made fans. Then we went into the bedroom where Grandma rested and fanned her while singing hymns. If you listened real close you could hear her humming along.

When asking my cousins which recipe they remembered most from Grandma’s Kitchen our memories varied.  But we all think of her as a constant reminder of our childhood, and her great cooking abilities. I just found out recently that one of my cousins had  snagged her recipe box! Oh what a treasure! She then proceeded to send me a picture of all of those recipes. So, per her request, I am happily sharing Grandma Milem’s pancake recipe.

 

Grandma Milem’s Pancakes

1 Egg
1 1/4 cup Buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup of Baking soda
1 1/4 Cups of Flour
1 tsp. Sugar
2 Tbs. Soft shortening
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt

Mix the dry ingredients together well. The shortening should be soft like butter at room temperature. Add shortening, and  buttermilk; stir well. Let batter rest for a minute or two before pouring on hot griddle.

Click to Tweet: My Grandma’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes #holiday #memories .@InspiredPrompts

From My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie

By Jennifer Hallmark

Mamaw’s chocolate pie. Rich, creamy filling in a flaky crust with no meringue or whipped topping. No, sir. Mamaw didn’t like meringue. My dad’s parents spent a lot of their life in Arizona before moving back to Alabama to retire. My brother, Jesse Lee Dison III, and I enjoyed visiting my dad’s parents during our teen-age years, a time to get out of the house.

When Mamaw passed in 2010, my brother, living in Alaska, could not make the trip. But he had a way to honor our grandmother. He wrote a tribute which he had me place in a stand-up photo frame and asked my mom to bake a chocolate pie. We set them in the funeral parlor, a fitting acknowledgement of her love and cooking skills…

Here’s what Jesse wrote:

Since I could not attend I wanted to have something there that meant a lot to me when I think of Mamaw.  Now chocolate pie may seem like an odd thing, but every time we would get together that was one thing that I knew she would have and what I looked forward to.  Without the whipped cream! Whenever I see a chocolate pie, it reminds me of her and I know that they won’t be as good as hers. Just a very special memory to me.

Most of my memories of her would range from her being mean, not letting me answer the phone when my girlfriend was calling (had to climb through a window to grab the phone), to her relationship with Papaw.  I truly believe that strong family trees start at the roots and you learn from what you watch while growing up.  Mamaw and Papaw had that relationship where you know they loved each other and it was passed on although not out loud, but through watching and being around them.

Being in Alaska has been hard since it is so far away.  Holidays are hard because I miss being there with all the family.  When Mamaw would yell “Jesse” and Papaw, my dad and I would holler “yes” at the same time. She would get so mad.  I know when I would call to talk to her and hear everyone in the background it would bring back good memories.  To know that all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have and are raising close strong families in today’s society is a testament to how great Mamaw and Papaw were.

I am saddened by Mamaw’s passing but I know she is where she wants to be now, with my dad and Papaw.  And someday we will all be together.

And I know we will. Here’s her pie recipe. You can always add meringue or whipped topping, of course. 🙂

Click to tweet: Just in time for the holidays. Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie. #InspiredPrompt #food

Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie

3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Blend together sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in a boiler. Add milk. Cook over low heat. Stir constantly util the mixture has thickened. Add a small amount of hot mixture to beaten egg yolks, stirring well. Add to mixture. Cook until it is a thick consistency. Add vanilla and butter or margarine. Pour into baked pie shell. Let cool…