Friday, November 26, 2010

Chocolate Monograms and Chocolate Pie

Add a touch of elegance with chocolate monograms ...

Yesterday we had our favorite chocolate pie for dessert.  We are stuck in a rut but seems to be a rut we love ... we always have to have this same chocolate pie!  Here is the recipe:


1 1/2 cup sugar
1 small can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 1/2 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
9 inch pie shell

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour into unbaked pie shell.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let it set and cool before cutting.



A few years ago I made these chocolate monograms for parties.  They are simple and add such a personal touch to different desserts ... even a simple bowl of vanilla ice cream.

The only ingredient is semi-sweet chocolate, you can start out with 2 ounces and use more chocolate depending on how many you make.

The easiest way for me is to microwave the chocolate for 30 seconds, remove and stir.  Just add more seconds microwaving in between stirrings until it is a smooth yet thick enough consistency for piping.  Place waxed paper on a cookie sheet.  Pipe melted chocolate into monograms or other designs using pastry bag fitted with plain tip or do it the super easy way I do it:  I cut the tip end off of a sandwich bag, it works just fine for piping.  I place the cookie sheet with the piped monograms or designs in the freezer for a few minutes and they are ready to use.  

If you aren't satisfied with some of the monograms, you simply remelt the chocolate and start over.  White chocolate can be used, pretty on chocolate ice cream for contrast.  For the dinner parties we had,  I made several in advance and kept them refrigerated until right before serving. 

Other designs can be piped ... stars, hearts, butterflies, lace or anything imagined. Your guests will love them!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dr. Norman Baker, Here I Come!

Yes, admit one nervous adult.

My past two previous posts have told the tale of visiting the "Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks" as The Crescent Hotel is affectionately called. I signed up last Wednesday for the nightly ghost tour that was to begin at 8 PM.  (Clint passed on the tour)

Glen, our ghost tour guide.  He was excellent! 

We were to meet at what was called the faculty lounge on the 4th floor.  Our tour guide was Glen and there were seven of us on the tour.  Glen presented an introduction about the Crescent Hotel and some of its history. Glen said some of us would get orbs in our photos.  I didn't get any but Terri, one of the other guests, got several orbs in her photos. One in particular was a very large one near Glen, the very first photo she took on the tour.  In its 124 year history, the Crescent is most known for what took place during the three years from 1937 through 1940.  This dark time began with the arrival of a man driving a purple car... Dr. Norman Baker.  Where does one begin to describe this man?  He leased The Crescent Hotel for his hospital, he announced he had found a "cure" for cancer.  For three years the Crescent was a cancer hospital.

In 1908 The Crescent College and Conservatory
for Young Women opened at the Crescent Hotel.

The cancer treatment options mentioned on the following sign, "knife, radium, x-ray, serum", have not changed in 73 years!

In 1937 the Crescent was known as the
Baker Hospital in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. 

Our tour guide says 420 patients died at this "hospital".  Baker would have the patients write their families letters stating they were almost cured and needed more money for further treatments.  Dr. Baker also performed operations in settings such as parks and theatres. He would drill in patients heads, expose their brains and pour in his "cure" which consisted of ground watermelon seeds, brown corn silk and  spring water.  His days of being a vaudeville magician came in handy with these exhibitions and he drew large crowds.

Glen shown here  telling us about Theadora's room. 
This room gave me the creeps!

Dr. Baker was also involved in experimenting with organ transplants and saving body parts of the deceased patients and freezing them.  Legend also has it that Baker hid bodies in the hotel until night time and would then burn them in the hotel incinerator.  He attempted to keep the cancer deaths secret so the patients would not know they were not cured.  He has also been accused of hiring people to sit on the veranda, drinking cocktails and playing cards so passersby would be impressed.  Yes, this "health resort" gave the illusion of curing all our ills.  It is estimated Baker brought in over 4 million dollars.

Morris, a cat who had lived at the Crescent Hotel.
He lived 21 years and his ghost is now seen roaming the halls.

The body transplants he performed were done to spread the word of his "cure".  If a patient had a cancerous arm, Baker would amputate the arm and replace it with an arm from a cadaver.  Baker would send a photo of the patient with the "cured" arm to the patient's family or better yet, have the patient write the family and announce he/she had been cured!

Dr. Baker was no medical doctor at all.  As a matter of fact, Norman Baker had never set foot in a medical school.  He was finally arrested in 1940 for mail fraud and served four years in Leavenworth. 

Mug shot of Norman Baker.

Our tour guide showed us a photo from The New York Times that was of the yacht on which Norman Baker died.  The story goes that Baker was at sea, a glass bottle that held his only "painkiller" was accidentally broken and he died a painful and agonizing death from liver cancer.  "Karma"?, as our tour guide Glen suggested.

The freezer where "Dr." Baker stored body parts and bodies:

I was freaked out at this stage of the tour ...

Locker # 2, site of figure captured
by the TV show, Ghost Hunters.  This site
is right outside the morgue.

Photo from

This image was filmed by the TV show,  Ghost Hunters,
this was the figure right beside the locker # 2.

The hotel's laundry room, the place where Glen saw his first and
only ghost at the hotel.  A dark shadowy figure whizzed by where Glen is
standing in this photo and disappeared into the wall where the
calender is located.  This was witnessed by a tour group who thought
the event was staged.  One member asked Glen, "Can you do that again?"
The "table" in the morgue where "Dr." Baker performed
what-ever-he-did to the bodies of the cancer patients.

A bronze sculpture picturing Michael at the bottom (face can't be seen in this photo)
with Michael's mother calling him up to Heaven.  Michael, an young Irish brick mason,
possessed a special skill in a type of masonry called "dry stack".  He fell
to his death and landed in what is now room # 218 while working on
the construction of the hotel.  The stories abound on strange
phenomena associated with this room.

 The tour ended in the morgue with Glen communicating with the morgue "spirit" using an EMF detector.  This was done in total darkness. (deep breath!) I had no idea there was going to be any attempt at a conversation with one of these spirits. I have never done this sort of thing before.  What ever this "thing" is in the morgue, it let it be known it is a "he", he knew Dr. Baker, he does not like Dr. Baker, he knows there is a possum loose in the morgue and that there is a trap set for it, (I kid you not:-)) he did not die there and he does not like having people come there on tours.

Never before had I experienced such waves of goosebumps and cold chills!  I want to say I am a little less fearful of such things but still am not able to say it.  As Terri, her husband and I were walking down the long hallway after the tour, Glen is locking up the morgue and says something to us.  We stop and he is wanting us to "wait up" for him, Glen goes on to say he still gets creeped out by the morgue.  ;-)

P.S. The hotel guest who had the room across from us, room #202, is known as a room there with activity.  She did not know this when she booked the room.  I had found it on Google that day and
told her about it when the subject came up. She asked Glen and he confirmed what I had read.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Countdown to the Ghost Tour ...

A stunning ballroom and dining room, I read
Willie Nelson performed here to a standing room only crowd in 1982.

For those who have not read my previous post, The Crescent Hotel: Facing my Fears, this is a continuation of that post.  I felt there were so many interesting details, images and facts I simply could not do it all in one blog post.

A view of the backside of the hotel.

As I had mentioned before, Clint and I heard music from our hotel room, his idea was it sounded like a "mountain dulcimer" and I had thought it resembled a Victorian music box. When I walked out on the balcony to investigate, I knew the music had to be coming from a beautiful church down a steep hill, the property joining the hotel's. This beautiful music was heard at different times during our visit and just added to the hotel's ambiance.

St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church,
Eureka Springs, Arkansas ... behind the Crescent Hotel

Grabbing our cameras,  we headed to the back to explore, I walked down many steps and Clint stayed at the top and walked around.

This statue was right behind the hotel.

Clint wanted to show me something when I returned to the top, a memorial garden with a little water fountain and a plaque with an engraved name.  Clint recognized the name as the hotel owner, he had read of the purchase of the hotel and major preservation efforts of the couple who had purchased the Crescent Hotel in 1997.  We learned the man was killed a couple of years ago in a car accident in Iowa.  His wife was injured but today is still carrying on their mission.  They also had purchased two other businesses in Eureka Springs.

Such welcomed scenes ... I needed this!  This is not
to be found in Plano, TX.

Back in our room, I decided I would explore the lobby area with my camera.  It was a few hours before I was to begin the "Ghost Tour", I was going alone on this tour.  I had told Clint, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could meet another woman to "bond" with on the tour." :-)  I had no idea how quickly I would meet this woman or that I would even meet anyone.

A 124 year old hall!

Our room # 201, across from "infamous" room # 202.

I had just stepped outside our room and was locking the door.  We actually had real metal keys! ( How rare are those these days?) The door across from us in room 202 opens and a woman says, "Oh, someone has checked in across from us." She was on a cell phone and our short conversation went like this:

Cindy:  Your first experience here?
Hotel Guest:  Yes, how about you?
Cindy:  Yes, my first time, too.
Cindy:  Cindy
Terri:  Terri
Terri: Ghost Tour?
Cindy: Yes
Terry:  See you at eight.
Cindy:  Okay, see you at eight!  (smiling)

Wow, how easy was that!  I couldn't wait to tell Clint I had already met someone and had to call him right away as soon as I was in the lobby.

There was a beautiful little art galllery in the lobby, of course I headed there first. I enjoyed looking around there and talking with Betty Ruth who worked in the gallery.  (BTW, my mother's name is Betty Ruth :-) )

I also had the pleasure of meeting a furry creature in the lobby ...

He/she got up right after I snapped this picture and laid down
on the floor.  As soon as I walked away, he/she got right back in the chair.

Don't you love this water bowl?

There were two cats living there, I
failed to get a photo of the second cat.

Time is drawing near for the "Ghost Tour".   I am already getting sweaty palms ...

To be continued ...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Crescent Hotel: Facing my Fears!

Our room at the Crescent Hotel, across the
hall from room #202 which has "ghostly" events.

About ten days ago Clint and I planned a much needed little vacation.  When one's home has been on the market for six months, a few days away are in order.  Branson came to mind, we had never been there before and also spending one night in Eureka Springs. We like Eureka Springs and had been there several times.  I had remembered reading about The Crescent Hotel and the claims it was haunted.  We had driven by it and I had remembered thinking I could never spend the night in such a place.  I have had a phobia of haunted places, I am not sure why, maybe too many scary movies and tv shows as a child.  As Clint has written about, we did have some strange happenings at one of our other residences. This only served to increase my phobia.

We arrive safely at the magnificent Crescent Hotel,
affectionately referred to as "Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks".

I had actually joked about spending the night at the Crescent, joked about it because the last thing I needed was stress on a vacation.  A few days later Clint said he had made the reservations, printed them out and that they were on our kitchen table.  I could not believe my eyes, he had made a reservation at The Crescent Hotel!  Now I had to go and face my fears!

A side view of the hotel ... the purple chimneys are from
the days of  Dr. Norman Baker, purple being his favorite color.

We arrived early Thursday afternoon.  I took a deep breath and walked into the lobby.  There was a fire burning in the fireplace, old Christmas songs and hymns were playing and there was an art gallery near the lobby!  So far so good. I was feeling so relaxed at this point I was able to buy a ticket to the Ghost Tour that began at 8:00 that evening.  Clint passed on the tour.

The front desk area of the Crescent Hotel, notice the
roses painted on the inside of the safe's doors.

We got on the elevator and I thought "surely this elevator has been inspected recently".  (The hotel was built in 1886)  We were on the second floor and liked our room, it also had a small balcony and a wonderful view out back.

When was the last time you
saw one of these in an elevator?

Later that evening, it was beginning to get dusky dark outside when I heard some faint music, the first thing that came to  mind was it was from a Victorian music box.  Clint said it sounded like "mountain dulcimer" music.  It was increasing in volume as I walked out onto the balcony to investigate ...

Our balcony outside our room ...

To be continued ...

Clint wrote about his experience at the Crescent on his blog, Lyrics of Love and Lore.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Scenes from this week ...

This bird was doing some serious "calling" as I was walking the other morning.
He/she was perched very high in these trees.

Just a few scenes from this past few days.  Things have been hectic here, downright stressful at times but we are looking forward to this coming week ... and hopefully some new and good blog material is fixin' to happen!

We were greeted by this rose on our patio this week ... still
amazed that we have such beautiful roses.  (I do not possess a green thumb!)

Some strange cloud formations against some blue sky on Thursday.
Along the roof tops were briliant white clouds.

Grabbing my camera as I ran to the patio Friday, I just knew there were perfect conditions for
 a rainbow and there it was in all its glory!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Raising of the Steeple

Hooking up the top of the steeple for "liftoff" !

Double Click Images to Enlarge

Yesterday Clint and I went to Christ United Methodist Church to view the raising and placement of the steeple on the new sanctuary.  We joined this Plano, TX, church a few months after we moved here.  We were there at 1:00 PM but the event was postponed because of blustery winds. 

The lifting of the steeple was postponed
Tuesday because of blustery Texas winds.

The raising was rescheduled to 8:00 AM this morning.  We arrived not long after 7:30 AM and found what we thought was the best viewing location. It truly was a special event.  I was able to sign the cross along with other members before the cross was erected last atop the steeple.

The steeple was connected to the base.

Notice the man with the hardhat inside the steeple,
this gives you an idea of the scale!

Joining the steeple with its base.

The steeple and base are lifted by the crane.

Workers are attempting to align the steeple to the steel framework.

There was some wind to contend with ...

Notice the worker at the base of the steeple,
he had crawled out of the hole as I was making the photo!

Workers being lifted for additional work ...

Finishing touches on the cross ...

Glory to God in the Highest

Luke 2:14

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Great Smoky Mountains

Photo copyright by Knoxville News Sentinel.

Recently I was struck by this photograph I saw in The Knoxville News Sentinel's online version.  I love this photo of a yearling black bear eating a carrot. I long for the haunting beauty of the Smoky Moutains and can hardly wait to move back to this area. I also had to smile at a memory of long ago and a family trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  My dad bought us souvenirs, stuffed black bears for my sister and me.  Knowing my brother, he probably got a toy cap gun. This was back in the 1960s when it was okay to have a cap gun.

My sister, Patti, had chosen a stuffed toy bear with a problem unbeknownst to her at the time, it was one mixed up bear! It had it's tail sewn on for one of its ears.  Yes, that means one of its ears was sewn on for its tail!  See, I told you it was one mixed up bear which just made it more special. I found this photo online that is the same black souvenir bear but more than likely the one in this photo had its parts in place!

A stuffed black bear with all its parts in place!

Yes, I know ..... it's a slooooow day in Cindy's bloggerland world.  :-)

Monday, November 8, 2010

His and Hers Most Memorable Meals

A dinner party at the Ellisons'  ... celebration time!!!

Last evening Clint and I were discussing some blog topics and came up with a "His and Hers Most Memorable Meals" blog.  We came up with four categories:  Most Memorable Restaurant Meal, Most Memorable Home Meal, Best Restaurant Meal and Best Home Meal. We decided to do our own respective blogs without knowledge of the other's favorites until we read each other's blog.

1)   Most memorable restaurant meal for me was on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center in Chicago.  The Signature Room is a beautiful restaurant atop the center with elegant wood designs and an art deco interior. There is a magnificient mural on the walls, I regret I don't have a photograph of it.

I can't remember what we had for dinner 
but will always remember this view ...

This is the view  of the Navy Piet we could see best 96 stories atop the John Hancock Center.

2)   Most memorable home "meal" for me was the surprise birthday party Clint planned for me in 2008.  He picked me up from work on the day of this event and was acting rather strangely with a strange phone call and driving a different route home.  (He didn't want me to see the cars parked in front of our house)  It was a highlight of my life ... shock was more like it.  Imagine coming through your garage, laundry room and opening your kitchen door to 50+ people with loud noise makers!!!

Bill and Andra

Susan's beautiful melon bowl of fruit!

3)   Best restaurant meal I have had would have to be at Compari's Italian Restaurant here in Plano, TX.  The Red Snapper Portofino is the most delicious dinner that I can remember having in ANY restaurant. The menu describes this dish as "lightly breaded fillet of red snapper sauteed in lemon butter sauce with pine nuts and mushrooms over baby spinach, served with pasta."  I could not find any photos that would do this dish justice I chose an illustration of a red snapper fish:

4)   Best home meal would have to be breakfast, the kind of breakfast we have usually when we have family or company.  Illustrating this meal is a photo I took at a brunch I hosted in 2006.  My favorite breakfast foods are quiche lorraine, hashbrown casserole, cheese grits and fresh fruit.

Some of my favorite foods were served at this
ladies brunch I hosted in 2006 such as quiche, hashbrown casserole, cheese grits
and fresh fruit kabobs.

Well, it's now time to compare notes, check out Clint's blog and see if he and I shared some of the same favorites.  ♥