Monday, May 28, 2012

Sometimes, You Just Need to be Silly

   You all know those days, we all have them, when things just aren’t going the way they should.  The dogs are chewing up your kid’s toys.  Your kid is beating up the dogs.  Your husband just isn’t being much of a help.  The dishes are piling up, and you can’t seem to get a handle on it all.  Yeah, we all have those days.  
    Just yesterday I was having a day like that.  We had a three-day marathon in which each family member took a turn being sick.  By the end of it everything in the house needed to be cleaned, Monkey was tired of being ignored, and Daddy (being the last to get sick) was just too out-of-it to lend much of a hand.  I remember thinking it’d be a good idea to plug in a movie and relax, but for some reason, that old stand-by wasn’t helping much.  Monkey wasn’t sitting through it like normal.  She kept trying to climb all over her sick daddy or cling to my legs as I attempted to clean up our home.  All-in-all it was just turning into “one of those days”.  
   Thankfully, my sister had pinned this remarkable website the same day, and I remember reading it, thinking it may come in handy one day.  The woman who wrote it has great tips for “resetting your kids’ day”.  It only seemed logical after about the third tantrum of the day, in which Monkey threw her dinner on the floor for the dogs, that I should be desperate enough to give one of these tips a try.  I called a time-out and took a leaf out of this woman’s book by herding my little family (even J, who was feeling better at this point) into the living room, and began handing out their shoes.  J looked a little confused when I announced that everyone should put their shoes on their hands, get down on their knees, and crawl around the room.  At first I felt plain old silly (especially when I chanced a glance back at J who was being a good sport and playing along).  Then I began to laugh, and, seeing Monkey smiling for the first time that day, I began to understand the whole point in all this was to be plain old silly.  Sometimes you have to take a break from being “Mom” and “Dad” and “Kid”, get out of your assigned roles,  and just get down on the same level and enjoy yourselves, together.  You can’t always take yourself so seriously.  It’s okay to be a little silly; your kids need that.
    After about fifteen minutes of fun, I was able to lead my little girl upstairs and into the tub without any protests.  And, after leaving her with J, I was able to go about my chores with a smile on my face because I no longer felt guilty about putting housework before my kid.  I highly recommend checking out the other suggestions on the website as well.  I have a feeling I’ll be giving them all a try sooner or later.

   I must say the whole thing helped me to realize that I can do this whole stay-at-home-mom thing again.  I can handle what my daughter throws at me (literally, even, if that be the case).  It was a very empowering feeling that was still lingering today when I decided to get a jump start on tomorrow's crafts by making the glitter Monkey will be using.  

    It was so easy, and I even had the brilliant idea of putting it in these "up-cycled" seasoning jars.  So here's what you need:

1/2 cup salt (can be sea salt, table salt, or Kosher salt) 
food coloring

Mix salt (I preferred the Kosher salt because it had the bigger granules) and a few drops of your chosen food coloring in a bowl.  Spread over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Let cool, and transfer to containers.  (The great thing about using the parchment paper is you can roll it into a funnel so you have less of a mess when transferring the glitter to the containers.)

    Of course, I can't let you go without sharing a recipe, too.  Here's a recipe I recently discovered (on Pinterest, of course) that I just had to try.  It's for Buffalo Chicken Tacos, and they are wonderful!

Here's what you'll need:

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat flour.)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 TBS cornstarch
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup wing sauce (I used Texas Pete Mild Sauce.)
1 TBS oil
10 flour tortillas
Desired toppings, such as lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, avocado, additional wing sauce, ranch or blue cheese, green onions, and/or chopped onions.

Season chicken with black pepper.  In a medium bowl mix flour, cayenne pepper, cornstarch, and garlic powder.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Dredge chicken in flour mixture.  Add to Dutch oven, and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  You might want to do this in 2 batches so as to not "crowd the meat" (said in a very Julia Child-esque manner).  Once all your chicken is browned, toss in a medium bowl with the wing sauce, and serve over tortillas with desired toppings.  Makes 10 tacos.

   I love using the mild sauce because it's not too hot for Monkey, but J only has to add a bit more sauce to his to get it just as hot as he wants.  I also like to heat my tortillas up in a skillet over medium heat for about a minute so that it's nice and warm and pliable.  


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cheers to New Starts

   It's official!  I'm unemployed.

   I've been working for a while at a really nice company that was originally founded in Mobile before it branched out to Gulfport and Pensecola.  Due to recent changes, the owner decided it'd be best to close their doors on the Gulfport branch.  This means I'm out of a job, but I'm actually okay with this arrangement.  Well, more than okay actually, I'm excited!  With only XX amount of days left before J deploys again, I'm looking forward to some time at-home with him and my baby girl.

   I'm also looking forward to another new chapter in my life.  I will be returning to school in the fall.  I have been wanting to do this for a while, but the timing never seemed to work out.  Something always came up to get in the way. Yesterday, I went by the local community college to confirm that all of my financial aid is in order, and it looks like I'm all set to start school August 20!  I can't wait.  Being the nerd that I am, I've always loved school.  I excel in that atmosphere, so it will be good to be back in it.  It will also provide a good distraction while J's deployed.   Hopefully it will help the months pass by a little more quickly than last time.

   With all these new starts headed my way, I should have been out celebrating on this beautiful Spring day.  Instead, I was stuck at home sick while my husband and daughter were at the zoo with family.  Oh well, you can't have it all, right?

   I am feeling a little better now, so I think it'll be safe to share a drink recipe with y'all.

This Watermelon & Strawberry Lemonade was so good I almost drank the whole pitcher myself.

 You need:

8 cups cubed, seeded watermelon
1 cup strawberries, halved
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar (original poster called for 1 cup, but I found that was a bit too sweet)
2 cups water

In batches, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  This was so yummy; I'll certainly be making it again.

Cheers :-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

There's a First Time for Everything

    Today has been a very laid-back, enjoyable day.  I took the day off from work under the assumption that I'd be exhausted from the Gulfport Music Festival we attended this weekend.  That hypothesis was proved correct.  I got up long enough to get Monkey ready for daycare, and after she and her daddy left for daycare and work I passed out again.  I woke up some time later to a man standing over my bed, staring down at me.  Thank God it was just my husband, because apparently he had been there for some time before I even stirred.  Creeper!  Since then I've been busy getting things taken care of around the house.  Friday will be my last day at work.  The company I work for is shutting down their branch here and moving back to Mobile, so I'll be a stay-at-home mommy again for a bit.  I'm looking forward to it, and I almost jump started it a little early by keeping Monkey home with me today, but her favorite teacher at the daycare is already pouting every time I pick Monkey up, begging me to let her stay.  I think she might come after me if she's not allowed her last bit of time with my bitty girl.

   As I mentioned, I was out at the Music Festival this past weekend, and I had a ton of fun.  Thursday my sister, brother-in-law and godson came out and stayed the night.  My sister and brother-in-law joined us at the Festival Friday night for the country section.  We got to see Sunny Sweeney, Josh Thompson, Justin Moore, and Gary Allen.  I also decided to attempt drinking for the first time in my life.  I shot through my first three Mike's Hard Lemonades like they were nothing, but I slowed down on that fourth one since I was already buzzed. I eventually had to quit because that happy feeling didn't last quite long enough.  Needless to say, I think I'm a bad drunk so I'm going to go ahead and throw in the towel now.  My sister thought it was funny to make me look down while tipsy.  I don't think I've ever felt so tall and so afraid of heights in my life.  Regardless of my failed drinking attempt, I did enjoy the bands immensely.

Louisiana Saturday Night, only in Mississippi...on a Friday.

   Saturday my sister and her family had to return to their home, so my "baby bump" friend and I went together to see Vanilla Ice, Hinder, and Nelly.  My husband was gallant enough to watch not only our Monkey, but my friend's two girls as well, since her husband is overseas.  I think it was a good break for both of us, and we had a lot of fun.  Vanilla Ice was really good, especially considering I only knew two of his songs going into it.  Hinder was even better, sounding like a young Steven Tyler.  Our ears were numb by the time he finished, and my friend's baby bump was vibrating lol.

My friend and I during Hinder.

   As we were waiting for Nelly, it was getting later, so people were getting drunker, and that's when things got interesting.  At one point my friend noticed that the same guy had passed by three times and was staring at us in a way that was making her uncomfortable.  I was oblivious until she whispered, "Here he comes again," and I looked up in time to see these two big, country-looking men headed directly to us.  One looked a bit like Larry the Cable Guy, but taller and less chubby.  The other made such a small impression on me that all I can say is that he was a big as his friend and had brown hair. Larry the Cable Guy leaned in, pointed to where we were standing and asked if this was a good spot to hang out.  I shrugged and said, "If you can see", and turned back to the stage to see if Nelly was coming out soon.  Unfortunately we were about 15 minutes from any saving grace, so I was forced to turn back and respond when the other guy began to introduce himself.

"I'm Jeremiah, and this here's Larry."  he said in the most country drawl I had ever heard, and I'm a Louisiana-native living in Mississippi, so that's saying something.

I just nodded and pretended to be occupied with the stage, but my poor friend was a lot nicer than I was, so she introduced herself, and nudged me to do the same.  I finally did, and Jeremiah began to drawl out his intent.

"So are y'all here with y'all's boyfriends?"

"Nope," I responded, and I could see the hope welling up in Jeremiah's eyes, so I had to squash it.  "We're married, and our husbands are at home with the babies."

"Oh..."  He turned and relayed the message to his friends, and that's when my friend piped up, "Yep, there's a baby in the belly."

Larry pointed at her stomach and said, "It's not mine; I swear."  That made us all laugh, and relieved a bit of the awkwardness as the sauntered off.

   I guess I should interject that this was the first time I've ever been hit on like that.  I'm not very good at it, so I think it's a good thing I got married too young to really be a part of that crowd.

   Nelly came on stage not too long after that, and we enjoyed remembering all the old songs we knew in middle and high school.  He put on a really great show, and was pretty funny.  As he was wrapping up his show more and more people were leaving, and a group of about five guys that had been in front of us started to head out.  I had seen these guys glance our way a couple of times throughout the night, but really didn't think anything of it.  The first three guys walked past with a few glances and smiles, but the fourth, a man in his early forties, judging by the salt & pepper look he had going on, stopped dead in front of me, grabbed my hand and said something I couldn't make out in all the noise.

"W-what?" I stuttered out.

"You're mighty fine," the random man said, as he kissed my hand.

Caught off guard, embarrassed, and flattered I could only come up with one this to say, and that was a quick, "I'm married."

He just grinned, dropped my hand, and said, "You can be fine and be married," before moving on.  His buddy laughed and said, "We're all married," and left with a wink.

   Nothing had better ever happen to J, because I am really, really bad at being hit on.

   Shortly after that my friend and I headed home, only to be freaked out by some random guy who stopped next to my friend's car as we were getting into it.  Keep in mind that we were parked on the corner of a street in an area of town that wasn't too upscale, and the man didn't say anything that I could hear, but just stared until my friend and I got in the car and closed and locked the doors.  Yup, never going to a concert again without J.

   Sunday J and I went to see Gym Class Heroes, Cobra Starship, and Maroon 5.  By this point we were both running on fumes, but we were not disappointed.  Maroon 5 sounds just as good, if not better, in concert as they do on their albums.

I was way more excited about checking out Adam Levine than J was.
      Now, since y'all have been troopers and read through this big long post (If you skimmed it just to get to the recipe, it's okay I forgive you.), and because I feel badly about not sharing a recipe with y'all last time, I can't leave without one this time.  So here's a quick recipe that I make all the time:

Paula Deen's Chocolate Banana Bread
From the September/October 2010 issue of her magazine

You'll need:
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups ripe, mashed bananas (about 4)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x5" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  In another large bowl, combine butter, eggs, bananas, yogurt, and vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  Fold flour mixture into butter mixture.  Stir in chocolate.  Bake 50 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil, and bake about 10 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center  comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Being a Navy Wife Means to Me

   I know that this is not something I blog about often, mainly because I use this blog to get away from reality for a while, but today I've been thinking a lot about my life and role as a Military spouse.  I've read all the cute sayings and heard all the mantras, and even repeated and shared a few of each, but I've never sat down and thought about what being a Navy wife means to me.  So here it goes:

To me, being a Navy wife means:

  • a lot of sleepless night, but the reward is the best sleep I've ever gotten the night he comes home.
  • being both mommy and daddy for at least six months out of the year, but getting to see my child's face light up when I say "Daddy's coming home" and again when he steps off that bus.
  • learning to let go of the little things.  After all, we only have so much time together.  Why not focus it on the important stuff?
  • knowing that every memory made together will be one that is played and replayed in my head over the length of time that he's gone.  So I had better make sure they're good ones.
  • giving more than I take.
  • learning patience.
  • learning how to bend.
  • trading things I wanted for a person I wanted more.
  • waking up every morning knowing that he'll be gone soon, and choosing to either push him away to make the separation easier or draw him closer while I still can.
  • saying "goodbye" to family only to learn that family doesn't just consist of those who share your blood.
  • learning that "home" really is wherever the Navy sends us.
  • writing a cheesy blog, and hoping the it will comfort some other military spouse who's been there too.

I saw this on Pinterest, and it just seemed to fit.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That's Not the Point

    You know, after you've been in a relationship with someone for any substantial amount of time, you begin to pick up on more of the little things about them.  The way they can only fall asleep when facing the edge of the bed.  The way they always drink their milk after their meal is gone.  Or the way they avoid confrontation like the plague, but not in the traditional manner of apologizing so that the argument ends.  No, that would be too simple.  Instead my darling J has to deflect any attempt at an argument by turning the conversation around on me.  For example, last night I got out of the shower to find J lying in bed next to our dog, Roux.  This is not uncommon, or even forbidden, if the dog hadn't been between the sheets, on my side of the bed, with her snout on my pillow, after she had just come in from the rain!  I immediately barked an order at her to get in her bed, which she was quick to obey.  That's when I rounded on J, demanding, "Why was the dog on my bed?"  Instead of an "I'm sorry", or even a "Well she looked cold!"  I get: "You can't be mad at the dog; she doesn't know any better."  See?  Still semi-related to the topic on hand, but not what I asked.  "You're right," I reply, "I should be mad at you.  Why was the dog in my bed?"

"You don't have to use that tone of voice."

Again, slightly on topic, but not the point!

"Oh, I'm sorry," I respond lowering my voice, "Why was the dirty dog in my bed?"

"She's not dirty, she has a bath every week."

"Ugh,"  I'm getting flustered, but I am determined to not have him shake me this time.  "She gets a bath every Thursday.  It's Wednesday.  Why was the dirty dog in my bed?"

"No; I bathed her Saturday."  J senses I've begun to catch onto his wily ways, but he refuses to abandon them.

"I don't care when you bathed the dog, it rained today, and you let her get in my bed, between my sheets, after she came in from the rain, and I just got out of the shower!  So I'll ask you again, why was the dog in my bed?"  I will not be blown off course!

"So are you really just angry that forgot to bathe her last Thursday?"

"NO!  I just want to know what in the world makes you think it's okay to let a filthy dog get into my bed while I'm in the shower getting clean!  Why was the dog in my bed?"

Seeing that his attempts at misdirection are failing, J takes the only course left to him, "LOOK! Flying monkeys!!!"

Head hanging, I simply return to the shower for a few more moments of peace and quiet.

   But to give credit where credit is due, there are many wonderful things about J.  I can't think of any right now, but they're there. ;-P  Just kidding.  J is pretty handy to have around.  He has a knack of being able to fit just about anything into our little car.  Just yesterday he managed to fit an entire patio set in our tiny Saturn Ion.  He's also pretty good at getting down onto Monkey's level and entertaining her as if he were a kid himself.  She loves it!  Not to mention, he's a pretty handy garbage disposal.  Anything I cook, even if it's gross (which doesn't happen very often, if I do say so myself) he wolfs down with a grin and a comment about how it's better than galley food.  Yeah, I think I'll be keeping him around for a while longer.

   I'll also being keeping around this recipe I found for Paula Deen's Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta.  I really  loved it because it combined two of my favorite things: pasta and hamburger :-)  The best part is that it was adapted from a reader's recipe who asked Paula for ways to make the recipe healthier for her family.  So here it is:

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 (16 oz) packages 2% cheese, cubed
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp dry mustard
1 (14.5 oz) package multigrain penne pasta, cooked and kept warm
4 slice bacon, cooked and crumbled
2/3 cup sliced dill pickles
1 med tomato, chopped

Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.  Add ground beef and onion, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until beef is browned and crumbly.  Add cheese, milk, ketchup, and dry mustard, stirring until cheese melts.  Stir in cooked pasta, crumbled bacon, and pickles.  Transfer mixture to a serving dish, and sprinkle with tomato.  Serve immediately.

  And now, I'm going to have a picnic outside with my little family.  :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cake-Induced Insomnia

     Why am I up at 10:30 baking a cake?  Maybe it's because my darling husband is too delusional from his pain meds to be much company, and I needed a distraction. J came home today and told me that he was given an idea of when he may be deploying again.  Of course I can't share details or anything and nothing is ever definite, but just the thought of him leaving again has me wide awake.  When I should have been in bed over an hour ago, I find myself instead separating egg yolks from the whites.  I shouldn't be so anxious, since we've been through this whole charade many times over the past three years of his Navy career, but this time feels like it might be a bit harder than the last few.  The simple truth is that we've been spoiled.  J has been home since August, and that's the longest Monkey and I have been able to claim him since he joined the Navy.  It's been great having him here, but now I don't want to let him go, which makes having him here that much harder.  It's quite the conundrum.

     I guess if I could give anyone advice (including myself) on dealing with deployments, it'd be this:  Stay busy, and take it one day at a time.  I know, not the most original, but it's effective.  The hardest month of the deployment last time was the first month.  I didn't know many people here, and I was petrified of leaving the house.  So, I was bored out of my mind (even with a then two-year-old running around).  That led to too much time wondering about J, and what he was doing, and why he wasn't calling or emailing or writing.  That meant that when he did contact me, I was snippy because here I was waiting on him all day, and he couldn't even find time to write me an email that was at least half as long as the one I sent him!  (Those were not my finest moments, I'll admit.)  Luckily, I finally made a few friends, started venturing out, found a local library where I could volunteer, started going to church, and basically came up with my own little routine that kept me (and Monkey) busy.  I know that I'll find my groove again after J leaves, but that's not what worries me.  What worries me is that time right before and right after he leaves.  Right before I'm in danger of becoming distant, cold and resentful because I want to spend time with him, but I don't want to get too close because I feel I should prepare myself for the time he's gone.  Then when he leaves I get angry with myself for not making the most of every second.  It's a dangerous cycle, but one that I've found isn't too uncommon among my fellow military wives.
    I guess what I need to remember (and what many wives need to remember) is that we're not alone.  I've made many great friends that will be going through the same thing, with their husbands in the same place, leaving at the same time, so I have a support group here.  Plus I have big plans to keep me busy when the time comes, and I'm looking forward to those.  I'm just hoping that the time will pass slowly from now until he leaves, and then it can fly right by until he's home again.  Even though we all know that's not how that works.  Ah, well, and girl can dream, right?

    Well since I've forced you to sit through a bit of rambling, I guess I should share that cake recipe with you.  I've mentioned before that I subscribed to Paula Deen's magazine, but to be honest, the last couple of issues have been a bit of a let down.  I didn't see anything worth making from her February issue, and there was very little in this April issue that I wanted to try.  That is, except for this cake:

     I've been wanting to give it a try since I got my magazine in the mail two weeks ago, and let's just say it was worth the wait.

     Now, there are two versions of this cake, and I plan on sharing both recipes.  I made the lighter version, and I'm glad because I may just eat the whole thing myself.  As for the original recipe, I'll probably save that for a night when we have company over.

  Here's the "A-Bit-Lighter Cherries and Berries Cake" recipe (by Paula Deen):

You'll probably want to do the filling first, as it will need to chill for 4 hours or more before use.
(Makes about 1 cup.)
2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBS cold water
3 TBS cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, 1/2 cup water, and sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until strawberries soften.  In a small bowl, whisk together 3 TBS cold water and cornstarch until smooth.  Add to strawberry mixture and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until mixture is very thick.  Remove from heat, and let stand for 30 minutes.  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before using.

For the cake, you'll need:

14 egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups confectioners' suger, divided
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cups cake flour (I used all purpose)
1 1/2 (2.6-oz) packages whipped dairy topping+1 1/2 cups cold milk
(I cheated and used Cool Whip)
Strawberry Filling (recipe above)
Fresh berries to garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 3 (9") cake pans with parchment paper circles.  In a large bowl, combine egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.  Beat at high speed with a mixer until foamy.  With mixer running, gradually add 1 cup of confectioners' sugar, 1 TBS at a time; beat until stiff peaks form.  Add almond extract.  Into a small bowl, sift together cake flour and remaining 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar.  Gently fold into into egg with mixture.  Spoon batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Invert cake pans onto a cooling rack, and cool cakes in pans for 30 minutes.  Gently run a knife around edges to release sides.  Remove cakes from pans.  In a large bowl, combine whipped dairy topping (3 envelops) and cold milk, and beat at medium-high sped for 5-6 minutes or until stiff peaks form. (Or skip that last step and use Cool Whip ;-) Spread Strawberry Filling over 2 cake layers.  Spread 1 cup whipped dairy topping over Strawberry Filling on bottom cake layer.  Top with second cake layer, Strawberry Filling side up.  Spread 1 cup whipped dairy topping over filling.  Top with remaining cake layer.  Frost top and sides of cake with remaining whipped dairy topping.  Garnish with fresh berries and cherries, if desired.  Store cake, covered, in refrigerator.

Now for the non-healthy version!

Cherries and Berries Cake

This one also has a filling that should be made ahead of time.

Raspberry Filling
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)
2 (6 oz) packages frozen raspberries, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
6 TBS water, divided
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
3 TBS cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, 3 TBS water, and lemon juice.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 7-8 minutes or until raspberries break down.  In a small bowl, combine remaining 3 TBS water and cornstarch, stirring until smooth.  Add to raspberry mixture, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until mixture is very thick.  Cool for 30 minutes. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to two days.

For the cake you'll need:

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
5 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Raspberry Filling (recipe above)
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray 3 (9") round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray.  IN a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla at medium speed with a mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition.  Spoon batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.  Spread Raspberry Filling evenly between layers.  Spread Cream Cheese Frosting over top and sides of cake.  Garnish with fresh berries and cherries, if desired.  Store cake, covered, in refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(Makes about 5 cups)

1 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 TBS vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners's sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla at medium speed with a mixer until smooth.  Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until combined.

I can't wait to try that second recipe, especially after how much I enjoyed the "lighter" version.  I think this recipe alone made up to the last couple of disappointing magazine issues.  Well I'm out for the night.  I think the cake did that job of distracting me :-)

Disclaimer:  After reading this, J said I made him sound like a druggie and asked that I clarify.  He doesn't partake in recreational drug use; he was merely high on pain meds.

Disclaimer, part II:  J said that the last disclaimer didn't clear anything up.  I swear that man is never happy.  Fine!  J was prescribed muscle relaxers after pulling a muscle in his back.  And he was a total fruit loop for the 12 hours after he took the meds.  I think I may need to borrow a couple of those things.   O.o