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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 07/19/12

Thursday, July 19, 2012

STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES!

   This most excellant recipe comes from www.doughmesstic.net . I hope you and a few close friends and family enjoy consuming some of these at your next get together.  Goodluck!


When I was in California for the Rose Bowl, we were bumped from our return flight home.
Bummer, I know. Trapped on the Left Coast an entire extra day, in a room at the Westin with a Heavenly Bed. The horror.
So, to liven up our depression, we hopped on a shuttle that took us to Manhattan Beach, the cutest little town I’ve seen yet in California. So sweet. And speaking of sweet, I happened upon a Cupcake Shop – Cupcake Couture.
It was tough deciding on their flavors, but eventually, I locked on to a Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake. Delicious! I knew right away it was something I wanted to recreate once I got home, and a few days ago I did just that.
Good thing.
At $4 a pop, I’d be broke if I didn’t figure out how to make ‘em myself. And so would you. So make them!




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Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

makes 20

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

  • 3 c. cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 Vanilla Bean, scraped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1¼ c. buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon
Preheat the oven to 340 degrees (I like a lower temp than 350, I get better results!). Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl with the butter. Beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes.
Add the sugar to the butter mixture, a few tablespoons at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and bourbon and beat for 1 additional minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another minute.
Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling around half to 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I have a special recipe I like to use, but honestly, it’s really long and quite complicated. Plus – it’s how I make a living, so I have to keep SOME things a secret, right? But – this recipe from the Food Network will more than suffice!



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Ingredients

  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract.



How to assemble:

Using a piping tip designed for filling, or, using the cone removal method, add a bit of strawberry jam to the inside of the cooled cupcakes. Top with a healthy amount of the cream cheese frosting.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs and stir well, Sprinkle the mixture on the frosting.
Halve some fresh strawberries and add one half to each cupcake.
Serve and enjoy!

TOP 10 UNUSUAL CEMETERIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD!




Benjamin Franklin once wrote in a letter to a friend: "in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes". When the inevitable happens, funeral rites, rituals, and ceremonies must be undertaken. Funeral customs are as old as civilization itself, and they vary from region to region.
In many cultures and religions, cemeteries (from the Greek koimeterion or Latin coemeterium, meaning sleeping place) are used for death ceremonies, burial, mourning and memorial. Unusual or historical cemeteries have also become popular tourist attractions....cemetery tourism, the "dark" side of tourism, is a growing phenomenon around the world.

Here is a list of the top 10 unusual and most visited cemeteries:




  • Cimetiere Des Chiens-Cimetiere des Chiens, a cemetery for dogs and other domestic animals, is said to be the world's oldest public pet cemetery. It is located in Asnieres-sur Seine, a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, France. Opened in 1899, Cimetiere des Chiens was a response to a French law stating that pet owners are not allowed to dump the dead bodies of their animals in the garbage or the Seine River. The most famous gravestone belongs to Rin Tin Tin, the legendary American dog that starred in various Hollywood movies.




  • Stull Cemetery (Highway to Hell?)-Located in Kansas, this cemetery has gained the reputation as one of the world's most haunted cemeteries. Some people even consider it to be one of the 7 gateways to Hell. There are so many legends, stories of witchcraft, ghosts and supernatural happenings surrounding it that even Pope John Paul II allegedly ordered his private jet not to fly over Stull while he was on the way to a public appearance in Colorado in 1995. The Pope considered Stull "unholy ground". But just how terrifying is this place? There aren't many places as controversial as Stull Cemetery. There is a tale that the devil's only half-human son is buried there with his mother. Perhaps that's why the devil himself has been visiting the Stull Cemetery at least once (some report twice) a year since 1850. However, Tracy Morris, author of the "Tranquility series of paranormal humor mysteries, asks a legitimate question: "Presumably, Mrs. Lucifer and little Luci Jr. would go to hell upon death, where the Prince of Darkness reigns supreme. So if they're in hell with him, why visit their graves at all?.....Maybe he just wanted s vacation"




  • Cross Bones Graveyard- Cross Bones Graveyard, traditionally called the Single Women's Graveyard, dates back to medieval times. It was the final resting place for prostitutes (locally known as the Winchester Geese) working in London's legalized brothels. Multicolor ribbons, charms, flowers, feathers, poems, pictures, and silk stocking decorate the iron fence of the graveyard. Tudor historian John Stow wrote in his 1603 Survey of London: "These single women were forbidden the rites of the church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from a Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground called the Single Woman's churchyard, appointed for them far from the parish church".





  • Le Mummie di Urbania- La Chiesa dei Morti, The Church of the Dead, is located in Urbania, Italy. Inside lies the Cemetery of the Mummies, which was built in 1833. This cemetery is famous for its strange phenomenon of natural mummification. According to specialists, the process is caused by a particular mold that has absorbed moisture form the corpses leading to the complete desiccation of the bodies.




  • Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery- In the 1990's, Yekanterinburg was known as "The crime capital of Russia". Many of the leaders of the Russian Mafia lived there and Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery was the final resting place for many of them. Very expensive tombs, black marble, precious stones, laser engraved images and life size granite gravestones are common here. The nicknames of the deceased mobsters are engraved along with some of the things they were known for: He was an expert in using knives.




  • Neptune Memorial Reef- The Neptune Memorial Reef (also known as the Atlantis Memorial Reef or the Atlantis Reef) is the world's first underwater mausoleum for cremated remains and the world's largest man made reef. Opened in 2007, off the coast of Miami Beach, the Neptune Memorial Reef is the perfect final resting place for those who loved the sea.





  • S?pan?a- Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. S?pan?a, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. What is so unusual about this cemetery? Well to begin with, the atypical design of the tombstones, which are painted by had in vivid colors, such as red, blue, green and yellow. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood, engraved with funny epitaphs, briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these person passed away, for example: "Under this heavy cross lies my poor mother in law. Is she had lived three more days, I would be lying here and she would be reading. Burn in hell, you dam taxi that came from Sibiu! As large as Romania is, you couldn't find another place to stop, but in front of my house to kill me"? S?pan?a is a unique cemetery and a major tourist attraction. The man behind this concept is a Romanian craftsman, Ioan Stan Patrias, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian's ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. S?pan?a preserves this positive attitude toward death and welcomes it with a smile.




  • The Bridge to Paradise- The Bridge to Paradise, in the Xcaret Nature and Cultural Park, is quite an intriguing Mexican cemetery. Its structure is based on the Gregorian calendar: the cemetery simulates a hill with 7 levels representing the days of the week and 365 colorful tombs on the outside depicting the days of the year. The main entrance is a stairway with 52 steps that represent the weeks of the year. Each grave is different form the others in design and building materials. One might look like a replica of a famous cathedral, while the next one looks like a sofa or a bed with headboard and pillows.



  • Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province- Hanging coffins is an ancient funeral custom found only in Asia: there are hanging coffins in China, the Philippine's, and Indonesia. Some coffins are cantilevered out on wooden stakes, while some lay on rock projections. Other coffins are simply place in caves. The hanging coffins of the Bo people in Gongxian, Sichuan Province, the Guyue people of Dragon Tiger Mountain and Guyue people of Wuyi Mountain are the most famous. The Wuyi Mountain coffins are the oldest; some are more than 3,750 years old. As bizarre as it may seem, it makes sense. Why bury a coffin three meters under the ground, if you want to go to heaven?




  • The Cemeteries of Giza and the Valley of the Kings- The Giza Plateau, the site of the mysterious Great Pyramid, the Sphinx and thousand of tombs, has attracted more tourists, archaeologists, historians, scientists and mathematicians than any other. The Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu or Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and biggest. One of he 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, it houses the body of Pharaoh Khufu and was built with more than 2 million stones over a period of 20 years. The complex and elaborate funeral customs of ancients Egyptians were believed to ensure immortality in the afterlife. The Valley of the Kings, a World Heritage Site, is known to contain more than 60 tombs and 120 chambers. It was the main burial place of major royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom. The fascinating tombs of Egyptian pharaohs are still being discovered to this day.

IL PALIO HORSE RACE FROM ITALY!





    "Piazza del Campo" is still used today for the well known Palio horse race which is one of the most famous popular Italian manifestations. It takes place every year on July 2 and August 16. The Palio is run to celebrate the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary near the old houses that belonged to Provenzano Salvani. The holy apparition was therefore called "Madonna di Provenzano" in whose honour the very first Palio was run on August 16, 1656. The Palio was run for the first time in 1701 in honour of the "Madonna dell'Assunta" the patroness and Advocate of Siena through all the tragic events since she protected the Sienese militia at the famous battle of Monteaperti on September 4, 1260, against the Florentines.
   The Palio is a historical secular tradition strictly connected with the origin of the Contradas of Siena (districts into which the town is divided). The Contradas are spectacular agonistic institutions each having their own government, oratory, coat of arms, appellations, sometimes titles of nobility, emblems and colours, official representatives, festivities, patron Saints, with protectors, delimited territories and population which consist of all those people who were born or live within the topographic limits of the district, according to the proclamation issued by Violante Beatrice of Bavaria on January 7, 1730, at that time, Governess of the town.






    Originally, there were about fifty-nine "Contrade"; now only seventeen remain, ten of which take part in the historical pageant and in the race at each Palio (seven by right and three drawn by lots).
    Here is a list of their names, emblems and colours grouped into "Terzi" or "Terzieri" (in olden times the town was divided into three sections called: "Terziere di Città", "Terziere di San Martino" and "Terziere di Camollia").









Terziere di Città
AQUILA (Eagle) a double-headed eagle with imperial symbols. Yellow with black and blue bands.
CHIOCCIOLA (Snail) a snail. Yellow and red with blue bands.
ONDA (Wave) a swimming dolphin wearing a crown. White and blue.
PANTERA (Panther) a rampant panther. Red and blue with white bands.
SELVA (Forest) a rhinoceros bearing a huge tree hung with hunting implements. Green and orange-yellow with white bands.
TARTUCA (Tortoise) a tortoise. Yellow and blue.

Terziere di San Martino
CIVETTA (Owl) an owl. Black and red with white bands.
LEOCORN0 (Unicorn) a unicorn. White and orange-yellow with blue bands.
NICCHIO (Shell) a seashell. Blue with yellow and red bands.
TORRE (Tower) an elephant with a tower on its back. Dark bordeaux red with white and blue bands.
VALDIMONTONE or simply MONTONE (Ram) a rampant ram. White and yellow with red bands.






Terziere di Camollia
BRUCO (Caterpillar)- a caterpillar. Yellow and green with blue bands.
DRAGO (Dragon)- a flying dragon. Red and green with yellow bands.
GIRAFFA (Giraffe)- a giraffe. White and red.
ISTRICE (Porcupine)- a porcupine. White, red, black and blue bands.
LUPA (She-Wolf)-the Roman She-Wolf suckling the twins. Black and white with orange-yellow bands.
OCA (Goose)- a crowned goose with the cross of Savoia round its neck. White and green with red bands.
    The "Contrade" first appeared in the middle of the 15th century to celebrate certain solemn events. They were represented by special wooden devices shaped like animals, such as, for instance, a giraffe, a dragon, a porcupine, a she-wolf, a caterpillar, a goose etc. - worked from inside by the youngsters of the districts they represented. They were called after the animals themselves.








    Very soon these associations began to organize shows of their own, such as: bull hunting (suppressed in 1590), buffalo races (only until 1650), donkey races and a game called "Giuoco delle Pugna".
    In ancient times (besides the usual horse-races which took place in many towns of Italy to celebrate certain particular religious and civil events) the Sienese played other kinds of games, such as: Mazzascudo (mace and shield) because the players bore maces and shields; the Giorgiani in honour of San Giorgio (battles with blunt weapons); Elmora detto dei cestarelli because the players wore certain funny baskets (cestarelli) on their heads; le Pugna (punching) abolished in 1324 because the players started throwing stones at one another, then weapons and sticks were used and a real battle ensued. To re-establish order the Bishop was compelled to descend into the square with a train of priests and monks. "La pallonata", a game played between the "Terzi" of the town. A huge ball was thrown from the top of the "Mangia" tower by the youngsters of one of the "Terzi" into the field of their opponents. This game was played on January 13, 1555 for Biagio di Montluc, the French Marshall.






    Of all these games only the Palio has survived. The preparations for this parade are slow and methodic like a liturgical procedure. Four days before the day of the Palio trials take place in the "Campo" square which is turned into a race track. A thick layer of earth is spread on the ground and a row of mattresses is placed against the walls at the dangerous corner of San Martino to protect the jokeys in case they fall.
    The whole square is amazingly fit for such manifestations because its shape is that of a mediaeval Roman amphitheatre closed at the base by the straight line of the Palazzo Pubblico. Besides being semi-circular this peculiar square is also funnel-shaped like the theatres of the imperial age. Eleven streets run into it, though it is extremely difficult to percieve them from the middle of the square. All around the track, perched up against








the walls of the houses, seats are arranged one behind and above the other like bleachers. Windows, balconies and loggias, too, are made ready for the visitors; 33,000 seats in all, but they are far from sufficient and are always sold out long before the day of the performance. In the centre of the square there is room for about 28,000 people to stand, but this is not enough either and the roofs, the turrets and the cornices of the old houses looking on to the square are also crowded. There are people everywhere, even in the most unlikely places.
    On both the appointed days every year the "Contrade" - that is to say all the Sienese population - compete for a prize which is but a hand painted silk banner (pallium). Each "Contrada" is represented by a group of young men called "Comparsa" arranged as follows: one drummer, two flag-bearers, with their flags, one "Duce", two grooms, one page carrying a flag with two pages at his sides carrying the emblems of the "Contrada", the race-horse called barbero with a jockey called "barbaresco", last the jokey who is to run the race on a parade horse called "soprallasso" followed by a groom.







    The historical parade is a lively display of rich medieval costumes which date back to the time period from 1430 to 1480; their colours are as bright as one may fancy. The procession goes winding its way round the "Campo" square in the following order: the flag-bearer of the Commune on horseback bearing the standard of Siena (the black and white Balzana) followed by his groom, a group of drummers, a group of trumpeters and musicians called "musici di Palazzo" playing the march composed for the Palio by Pietro Formichi in 1875 on their bugles, the Captains, the representatives of the "Podestà" (called podesterie), the flag-bearers with the standards of the "Terzieri" of the town and of the lands belonging to the Commune called "Masse", the flag-bearers of the Corporations of the Arts and Crafts, the captain of the peopIe (Capitano del popolo) on horseback and a group of flag-bearers with the flags of the old Sienese Republic.








    Next come the representatives of the "Contrade" called "comparse". The first ten are those which are to run in the palio horse race; they are followed by a row of young pages bearing festoons of laurel leaves and then by the seven "Contrade" that do not run (they have no "barbero" and no jockey).
    Next comes the captain of Justice (Capitano di Giustizia) riding a horse and then the representatives of the seven "Contrade" that no longer exist: Cock, Lion, Beam, Oak, Sword, Viper. Last comes the triumphal chariot (carroccio) drawn by huge oxen. In the chariot are seated the four "Provveditori di Biccherna" (administrative authority who in times of yore used to superintend public representations, along with the oriflamme of the Commune, the Palio to be awarded to the victor, and a group of trumpeters.






    When this magnificent pageant has slowly gone round the square, all the representatives go to sit on a platform raised just for the purpose beneath the windows of the "Palazzo Pubblico". When they have all been seated ther, they look like a strange army after some brilliant victory, or a train of heroes or of poets ready to enter Paradise. As soon as everything is quiet, the flag-bearers from all of the "Contrade" perform together with their flags in what is most commonally known as "gioco delle bandiere". They throw them high up into the air and catch them again before they touch the ground; it is a splendid, most decorative display of colours accompanied by the beating of drums, the sound of bugles and trumpets and the chimes of the big bell on top of the "Mangia" tower; the little bell on the chariot, known in Siena as "Martinella", is also very busy ringing.






    All of this is but a prelude, a time of anxiety and expectation. When at last the horses appear and the race starts, the crowd becomes delirious. The jockeys goad their horses round the square three times and the people shout as if the town were about to fall.
    The spirit of Siena is in the very colours of her "Contrade" and in all the manifestations connected with each of them. First of all, the benediction of the horses and jockeys, each in the church of their own "Contrada", early in the afternoon just before the Palio. It is this spirit that animates the whole manifestation and contributes such enthusiasm and pathos to the scene.






This traditional popular manifestation lasts four days (from June 29 to July 2 and from August 13 to 16) and finishes in the streets of the victorious "Contrada" where the people celebrate the happy event in a most joyous way. Winner pays all.
Whoever happens to be in Siena during these exciting days can, but join in the enthusiasm of the people for the Palio and, of course, the final victory. Visitors, in fact, often go roaming through the winding streets of the ancient town sympathizing with the "Contrada" in which they are living; they do their best to understand the alliances and rivalries between the contradas and temporarily become fervent "contradaioli" (as the inhabitants of each Contrada are called) having much at heart the health of the race horse and of the jockey.