Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Homemade Twinkie

   Instead of fighting crowds at Wal-Mart, whip up your own batch of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and artificially colored Sno Balls. Then if the doors of the Hostess factory closes for good and the shelves that held Twinkies fill with dust, you can still enjoy your favorite treats without having to pay top dollar for them on eBay.
Another benefit to making your own homemade Hostess treats is the ability to swap out certain ingredients to make them healthier, if you so wish. Whether you are a Twinkie fan or a Sno Ball addict, these do it yourself dessert recipes will hit the spot Hostess once held in your heart.

Homemade Twinkies recipe


For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the filling:
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three mini loaf pans with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar with a handheld mixer until thick. Slowly add in all other ingredients and beat until fully combined. Divide the batter among the mini loaf pans, filling about 3/4 full. Bake cakes for at least an hour, or until golden brown. Cool in pans and then transfer to a wire cooling rack.
  3. While cakes cook, prepare filling by mixing shortening, sugar, vanilla and light cream with a hand mixer. Once mixed, slowly add in sugar and beat until combined. Fill a pastry bag with frosting and cut a small hole.
  4. Once cakes have cooled, carefully poke three holes in the bottom of the cakes. Pipe frosting into the holes until just filled. Cool for at least 20 minutes and enjoy!


    The French have a phrase--ide'e fixe-- meaning to be obsessed with an idea to the exclusion of everything else. There is probably no better explanation for the growing of giant---approximately one thousand pound--pumpkins. In fact, in some sense, growing giant pumpkins has become a "big business". Although growing giant vegetables isn't restricted to pumpkins, the pumpkin is iconic for what would be called "Paul Bunyan" gardening. At the peak time of growth, a giant pumpkin can grow thirty to forty pounds a day, which is more than a pound per hour!

The Ultimate Experience-the Giant Pumpkin

    One quote says, "To err is human, a pumpkin is Da' Vine". The most carefully chosen pumpkin seeds, though, won't grow a world-class pumpkin without considerable planing and investment. Seeds may now be bought online. An internet search reveals many willing providers and forums dedicated to doing just that. The correct choice must match the temperature requirements the temperature requirements of the variety one chooses to those of the climate. Other factors include soil properties, pruning technique's, fertilization, fungal supplementation, water chemistry and application method, and protection from the elements.

What is Required to Squeak Out Maximum Growth?

    Giant pumpkins should be started indoors well in advance of the outdoor season, with care in choosing pots, soil mix, and lighting. Pots must be large to avoid crowding of roots and only the strongest plants should be kept. Transplanting outdoors, moisture must be carefully controlled. A dry spell can dictate application of as much as a hundred gallons of water per plant. Pruning of tertiary vine branches prevent the plant's vitality from being sapped by multiple fruit. Sun canopies over the developing pumpkin prevent early fruit maturation and helps avoid cracking. Mycorrhizae fungus improves nutrient and moisture absorption considerably. Pests must be eliminated. Some suggest playing music to the potential winner-preferably classical.

I'm not Interested in Giant Pumpkins

    Although most of us will never till our land with the intent of growing a giant pumpkin, is there nothing iN the idea that appeals to your lighter side?


    The understanding and excitement of Juneteenth is growing at a phenomenal rate. Cities and States all across the U.S. and beyond are realizing the wonderful opportunity we have to come together in appreciation, reconciliation and commemoration. During Juneteenth we acknowledge the African American spirit and pay tribute to the roles and contributions which have enriched our society. The JUNETEENTH.com website provides a channel in which to connect and unite all whom share the vision of this celebration.
    Through the efforts of those at the grassroots level, to those on the state and national levels, Juneteenth celebrations are now held in most, if not all, 50 states. Over half have passed some form of legislation establishing Juneteenth as a Special Day of Recognition. Several other states have similar legislation pending. The recognition and honor of Juneteenth extends even beyond our borders. Expatriates, teachers, servicemen and others have continued their celebrations internationally.


    Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Juneteenth Flag

    Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory

General Order Number 3

    One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."

    The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and

women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

Juneteenth Festivities and Food

    A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.
    Certain foods became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations such as strawberry soda-pop. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing, through which Juneteenth participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors - the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies. Hence, the barbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations.

    Food was abundant because everyone prepared a special dish. Meats such as lamb, pork and beef which not available everyday were brought on this special occasion. A true Juneteenth celebrations left visitors well satisfied and with enough conversation to last until the next
    Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs and is often still taken seriously, particularly by the direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition's roots. During slavery there were laws on the books in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved. During the initial days of the emancipation celebrations, there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers to adorn clothing taken from the plantations belonging to their former 'masters'.

Juneteenth and Society

    In the early years, little interest existed outside the African American community in participation in the celebrations. In some cases, there was outwardly exhibited resistance by barring the use of public property for the festivities. Most of the festivities found themselves out in rural areas around rivers and creeks that could provide for additional activities such as fishing, horseback riding and barbecues. Often the church grounds was the site for such activities. Eventually, as African Americans became land owners, land was donated and dedicated for these festivities. One of the earliest documented land purchases in the name of Juneteenth was organized by Rev. Jack Yates. This fund-raising effort yielded $1000 and the purchase of Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. In Mexia, the local Juneteenth organization purchased Booker T. Washington Park, which had become the Juneteenth celebration site in 1898. There are accounts of Juneteenth activities being interrupted and halted by white landowners demanding that their laborers return to work. However, it seems most allowed their workers the day off and some even made donations of food and money. For decades these annual celebrations flourished, growing continuously with each passing year. In Booker T. Washington Park, as many as 20,000 African Americans once flowed through during the course of a week, making the celebration one of the state’s largest.

Juneteenth Celebrations Decline

    Economic and cultural forces provided for a decline in Juneteenth activities and participants beginning in the early 1900’s. Classroom and textbook education in lieu of traditional home and family-taught practices stifled the interest of the youth due to less emphasis and detail on the activities of former slaves. Classroom text books proclaimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 as the date signaling the ending of slavery - and little or nothing on the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th.
    The Depression forced many people off the farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date. Thus, unless June 19th fell on a weekend or holiday, there were very few participants available. July 4th was the already established Independence holiday and a rise in patriotism steered more toward this celebration.


    The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, whom wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C.. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor. Many of these attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth celebrations in areas previously absent of such activity. In fact, two of the largest Juneteenth celebrations founded after this March are now held in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Texas Blazes the Trail

    On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.

Juneteenth In Modern Times

    Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to take their place along side older organizations - all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.
    Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

    The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed, brightens our future - and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth.


   A recent trend in media is the idea that children are scary or creepy. Girls seem to be particularly popular – from pale-faced, stringy-haired ghosts to demonically possessed victims, creepy girls are becoming a common feature in horror films and other genres. This list covers ten creepy girls who have appeared in films, TV and video games in the past thirty or so years, to frighten or fascinate audiences. Most can be terrifying but have a sense of sympathy to them, or some are just unstoppable creatures of evil wanting to rip the world apart.

10. Eli and Abby/Let the Right One In/Let Me In
Oskar Eli Owen Abby

   Swedish film Let the Right One In and its American remake Let Me In are a pair of delightful horror/romance films featuring a twelve-year old boy befriending and eventually loving a vampire girl, respectfully named Eli and Abby in the two films. While appearing young due to their immortality and are seemingly innocent, both girls need human blood to live, forcing their guardians to venture out and murder people. This is to be expected of vampires, but without blood, it is implied that the girls have a more bestial side to them. In both films, Eli and Abby are left without blood and are forced to attack people like animals and drain their blood by force. They also show an ability to move at lightning speed and scale buildings and trees easily.
   Two particular creepy scenes in both films involve Eli and Abby lapping up spilt blood like a dog when their friend cuts his finger, and when they enter the boy’s apartment uninvited and start bleeding from every orifice until he invites them in. In a surprising turn, it turns out in the novel the films are based on, Eli is in fact a boy who was castrated when he was turned into a vampire. However, this plot point was not passed over into the films.

9. Alessa Gillespie/Silent Hill
187547-240Px Alessa Large

   This poor psychic girl had a rough life living in Silent Hill. Pretty much born and raised by her mother to be a host for an evil god which Alessa would eventually give birth too. Through a traumatizing ritual to impregnate Alessa, she received severe burns, and part of her soul split away to be reborn as baby Cheryl Mason who would have a role to play in future events. Alessa was hidden away in the basement of the local hospital, forced to stay alive due to an incantation put on her by her mother. Wishing to cease to exist and stuck with a dormant unborn god inside her, Alessa’s life has been pretty miserable. Alessa’s suffering and hatred materializes as the shifting worlds of Silent Hill, complete with twisted, inhuman monsters that stalk the streets, representing different parts of Alessa’s psyche.
   In the 2006 film, Alessa was considered a demon by her crazy aunt Christabella and burnt alive to “purify” her. And it didn’t help that beforehand, she was bullied by her fellow students and raped by a janitor. Alessa was saved, but ended up in hospital with a charred body and a fury to match. She manifested her anger into Dark Alessa, a burnt, sinister and delightfully creepy incarnation of herself, who engulfed Silent Hill in darkness to punish those who had wronged her. Dark Alessa is a particularly creepy girl who wants nothing more than to exact revenge of her tormentors and dance in their blood. Alessa also frees her goodness as Sharon Da Silva, who is later lured back to Silent Hill to reunite with Dark Alessa. With help from Radha Mitchell’s character, Alessa is able to break into the church of the evil cult who condemned her to exact bloody vengeance upon them.

8. Wednesday Addams/The Addams Family

   The iconic daughter of the creepy and kooky Addams Family. In the television show, Wednesday was a friendly, sweet girl whose only oddity was to collect spiders. But her more familiar appearance is a pale-faced, gothic girl who never smiled, had a deadpan attitude, and was obsessed with physically harming or even killing her brother Pugsley. Maybe it was her own way of showing love for her brother. She has a collection of severed dolls heads, and her favorite doll was guillotined by Pugsley. Together, the two kids are quite sadistic, enjoying the misery of others and consider touring graveyards and torturing one another to be fun. Thankfully the Addams Family is a comedy, or Wednesday would have been sent off to the nearest mental hospital years ago, although the ironic thing is she would probably enjoy it.

7. Alma Wade/F.E.A.R.

   Alma is a key character in the F.E.A.R. games and the main antagonist and source of the supernatural goings on. While she is quite similar to Samara Morgan in terms of appearance and powers, Alma isn’t stuck in a videotape. In fact she is a constant presence in the video games, appearing to players throughout the games as a disturbing little girl whose face is hidden under black hair. Having powerful psychic powers, Alma can turn her surrounding environment into a warped, hallucinogenic nightmare and possess people. Alessa had a terrible childhood, developing psychic powers from an early age, and spent her life stuck in a laboratory as a lab rat. And then she was forced into a coma, impregnated twice to create super soldiers who become the series’ main hero and secondary antagonist, and she gave birth to both at the ages of 15 and 16, and she eventually died. That was until her psychic energy pretty much resurrected her as a vengeful spirit. And to make matters worse, in the second game she causes more mayhem, appearing as a naked adult woman and rapes Michael Becket to conceive a third child, although the pregnancy only brings her more pain.

6. The Diclonius/Elfen Lied

   Elfen Lied is a heartbreaking, emotional and bloody manga and anime, focusing on a subspecies of humans called Diclonius, notable for having horns and psychic powers which materialize as deadly transparent tendrils called “vectors”. Most of the Diclonius are physically and mentally abused by a research centre which imprisons and tortures Diclonius, removing even their basic human rights on the basis that they are not even humans. As a result, most of the Diclonius are mentally unstable and violent, taking great pleasure in slaughtering humans. Lucy, the main heroine, suffers a lot in the series and makes a gruesome breakout of the research facility using her vectors to slaughter everyone in her path. During her escape, she is hit by a bullet which causes her to develop a second personality named Nyu, who is curious, child-like and has no memories of her other self. When she receives an injury, Lucy returns and resorts to her homicidal ways.
   Other Diclonius appear in the series. Nana, younger than Lucy, manages to maintain her sanity thanks to her attachment to scientist Kurama, but ends up getting into a fight with Lucy and has her limbs chopped off. Marika Kurama, Kurama’s biological daughter, is even worse than Lucy. Cute and in a wheelchair, Mariko is deceptively deadly. Trapped in a cramped container with no human contact aside from the voice of a scientist, Mariko is understandably quite psychotic for her young age and uses her twenty-six vectors to maliciously rip people apart for fun. She eventually reunites with her father who was responsible for locking her up, leading to an emotional encounter between father and daughter.

5. Samara Morgan/The Ring

   I was unsure whether or not to put Samara Morgan or Sadako Yamamura of The Ring films onto this list. I decided to go with Samara. The iconic stringy haired ghost girl from The Ring lingers in the minds of moviegoers, tossed down a well by her foster mother and rose again as a vengeful spirit haunting a cursed videotape which kills whoever watches it within seven days unless certain conditions are met. The film has audiences sympathize with Samara, until it becomes clear that she is willing to drag the whole world down to hell to make everyone know of her suffering in life and “never sleeps”.
   Sadako was good-intentioned and relatively gentle before she turned into a ghost, whilst Samara seemed to be homicidal even when she was an eight year old, willing to murder her parents’ beloved horses just to get their attention. And another creepy factor is that Samara actually torments those who watch her tape, causing them to suffer from realistic hallucinations and nightmares until she crawls out of the nearest TV to scare them to death. While can be speculated that Samara is simply a poor little girl wanting to be loved after being betrayed by three parents, she has a quality of creepiness to her that brings the former theory into question – she wants you to know her suffering and then she wants you dead.

4. Kayako Saeki/The Grudge
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   A step up from Samara and Sadako is Kayako Saeki, the terrifying antagonist of The Grudge/Ju-On series by Takashi Shimizu. While Samara has at least some degree of reason to do evil, Kayako is completely consumed by a blind, unending fury. Murdered by her husband Takeo after he discovered she loved their son’s teacher, Kayako, her son Toshio, Takeo himself and the family cat Mar were all killed and their combined rage resurrected them as vengeful ghosts in the form of a curse. Whoever steps into their haunted house becomes part of the curse and will be eventually killed by the ghosts to spread the curse. While in the American films, the curse only spread to those who enter the container of the curse, in the Japanese films the curse was spread from person to person and place to place, even by mere association.
   Anyway, the scariest aspect of The Grudge is Kayako herself. Since her ankle and neck were broken by her husband, Kayako can barely walk as a ghost and must crawl her way around, letting out a chilling death rattle with her black hair dangling over her face. She does have an extension of other powers, able to appear as a phantom made of hair, and materializes out of photos and popping up out of nowhere to drag her victims into an unknown oblivion; although in later films, it is revealed that the victims can turn into ghosts themselves to spread the curse. Kayako’s most iconic scene is crawling her way down a staircase to kill, crawling her way out of her own body bag. And the most disturbing thing is that she does this again and again, unable to end the curse and move on.

3. The Twins/The Shining

   The Shining is considered one of the greats of horror films, and it is no surprise, with Jack Nicholson’s performance and the numerous iconic images and lines of the film. The Grady twins who appear in the movie give a brief but memorable performance. Nicholson’s son Danny encounters the two girls whilst cycling around the corridors of the Overlook Hotel, standing in the middle of the corridor and invite Danny to play with them. The scene is intercut with shots of the twins lying on the ground in a pool of blood, having actually been hacked to pieces by their father would went mad and killed his family before taking his own life. It is rumored that the way the twins stand side by side is based on the Twins photo by Diane Arbus, although Stanley Kubrick denies this despite studying the works of Arbus including the photo.

2. Yuno Gasai/Future Diary

   A relatively new member of the creepy child family, Yuno Gasai is the lead heroine, if you want to call her that, of the manga Future Diary. The series focuses on Yukiteru Amano, a lonely kid whose cell phone is given the power to predict his future by the resident god of time and space Deus Ex Machina. However, it turns out Yuki and eleven other people are in a survival game where the last man standing will become Deus’ successor. Yuki’s closest ally is Yuno Gasai, who happens to be obsessively, madly in love with him and has been stalking him for a year.
   Yuno has two sides to her personality – a relatively normal, sweet side with a strong sense of loyalty and affection towards Yuki; and a psychotic, obsessive, murderous side that has zero empathy and considers anyone who even gets close to Yuki to be a potential threat. She wields knives and axes like a maniac, and seeing her interswitching between cute and psychotic is quite unnerving. Her personality is based on the Japanese character archetype called “Yandere”, a character who has an unhealthy romantic obsession, is violent and mentally unstable. Yuno has a tragic past like most of the characters on this list, and became attached to Yuki through a promise to go stargazing with him by becoming his eventual wife. Yuno’s violent tendencies and seeing how far she will go to protect Yuki make her a compelling character, and definitely one of the most disturbing characters to come from a manga.

1. Regan MacNeil/The Exorcist

   At the top of the list is Regan MacNeil, a cute, harmless twelve year old girl. Who is possessed by the devil, better known as the demon called Pazuzu. The Exorcist was one of the most terrifying, and back in the 1970s, controversial horror films. Regan is possessed by Pazuzu and it is up to Father Damien Karras and Father Lankester Merrin to exorcise the demon from her. Linda Blair does a fantastic job as the possessed Regan, although the voice of Pazuzu was done by radio star Mercedes McCambridge. Linda had quite a lot to deal with in the film, not only was she thrown around a lot in stunt work, but the iconic exorcism scenes were shot inside a freezer, with Linda only wearing a nighty
   Nevertheless, Regan is a marvelous horror villain even though it is Pazuzu who is in control, because everything she does is creepy and disturbing. Her body slowly undergoes a demonic transformation; she speaks in Latin and curses a lot; able to speak with the voices of the dead; telepathically throw stuff around; and spit out green vomit on characters. But those are just the tip of the scary stuff Regan does. She curses a lot as said before, telling her own mother to molest her and is a shocking scene, stabs herself in the privates with a bloody crucifix. The way she “spider walks” her way down the stairs on her back, and the awesome scene where she spins her head around a full 360 degrees. The exorcism scene is a moment of sheer chills, Regan putting up quite the fight against the two holy men, spitting slime in their face, tormenting Karras with the voice of his late mother, and even faking the release of Regan by floating up into the air and down again.


   This recipe comes from www.sophistimom.com.  Vanilla ice cream, brownies and chocolate, what a combination.  Make sure you have a glass of milk to go with it.

Last year, while developing a recipe for homemade Ho-Ho’s, I accidentally made something more like a thin brownie than a cake. Rather than just eat the mistake plain, the kids and I spread it with vanilla ice cream, and made ice cream sandwiches. They were chewy, even when the ice cream set.

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich Recipe

When Katie invited me to write this post for today, it was still cold and rainy here in the Rocky Mountains. But I knew by the time I would I post it, the weather would be warm enough for something cold and sweet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my imagination past the gloomy weather. It still had me daydreaming about macaroni and cheese and apple crisp rather than something you’d eat in the summer.
So I turned to my food magazines for a little help, as I often do. I found my inspiration while perusing an an old issue of Martha Stewart Living. She had a beautiful ice cream bar enrobed in dark chocolate on the cover of the May 1999 issue. Do you remember that? It was gorgeous.
And that became my starting point.
Martha’s ice cream bar had only one cookie layer, so I wanted to make it a little different—more like an ice cream sandwich. Then I remembered our impromptu brownie ice cream sandwiches from last year.

Chocolate Covered Ice Cream Sandwich

To make them easier to dip in chocolate, I inserted wooden Dixie cup spoons, and turned them on end to set. The chill of the ice cream makes the chocolate set fast, perhaps faster than I would have liked, but it was perfect for my kids who had been begging me for the ice cream sandwiches since the moment I made the brownie layers.

Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches


For the Brownies:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa, plus more for pan
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
pinch of kosher salt

For the Ice Cream Sandwiches:

1 quart vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
2 pounds chocolate chips
1 teaspoon oil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a quarter sheet pan (a small jelly roll pan), or a 13x9inch pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom, spread with butter, and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. When the mixture is creamy, and all lumps are gone, add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla.
With the mixer on low, add in flour and salt. Mix until just combined. Spread into prepared pan and bake until shiny on the top, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.
Remove brownie from the pan, and cut in half. Spread ice cream on one half, and top with the other half. Freeze for 2-4 hours, until firm.
Cut the large ice cream sandwich into smaller sandwiches. Insert wooden popsicle sticks, and freeze for another hour.
Melt the chocolate chips with the oil in the microwave in 30 second intervals, until chocolate is smooth. Dip each ice cream sandwich in the chocolate, and let set on a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap in parchment paper and freeze until ready to serve.



   There are a number of hypotheses on the origin of the word kupała. One of them derives the name from the Vistula Venetis who were most probably absorbed by the neighbouring Slavs. Their language was said to exhibit a certain similarity to Latin (compare the word Kupała and the Roman word Cupido). Another theory refers to the Indo-European kump, which denoted a community or group (that is where contemporary Polish words like kupa (heap) or skupić (to converge) come from). It was to stress the community or social nature of these rituals. Another hypothesis is connected with the alleged Slavonic deity of love and fertility — Kupała. Finally, the last refers to the Russian word form of kąpać (to bathe). The association of Midsummer Night rituals with bathing is most probably quite late; in the Middle Ages church officials decided to assimilate immoral pagan customs, having failed to suppress them. That was when John the Baptist was announced the patron of Midsummer Day. In the Christian tradition it is connected with the ceremony of baptism which, particularly in eastern rites, happens through the ritual of bathing. Initially there were attempts to celebrate Midsummer Night at the time of Pentecost. These failed, however, and finally St. John’s Eve was established on 23rd June (closer to the actual date of solstice, which usually happens on the night between 21st and 22nd June).
   Another name for Midsummer Night, Sobótka (or Sobótki) is also linked with the attempts of Christianity to eradicate pagan traditions. The word itself, coined by the church officials and carrying negative connotations, refers to Sabbath, a gathering of witches and demons. Despite the efforts of the clergy, the tradition of Midsummer Night managed to live on, although its form has changed and it has been covered with a layer of Christian beliefs and symbols. After the period between the12th and 15th centuries, when it was forgotten, it was revived in the second half of the 16th century (Pieśń Świętojańska o Sobótce by Jan Kochanowski was written in this period).

   What was the way to celebrate Kupalnocka? Firstly, it was a cheerful event. The rituals as celebrated were to ensure good health to each participant and abundant harvest to their entire community. Fire was an important element of the celebrations; bonfires were made for dancing around. Jumping over the flames was to purify the participants and defend them from evil spirits and illnesses. Young girls wove garlands of flowers, put lit candles inside and let them float on the water with the current. On the basis of observations made on the floating garlands each girl’s fortune was told: either a soon-to be wedding or spinsterhood. Bachelors tried to recover these from the water; it provided a way of matchmaking. It is connected with a very interesting aspect of Midsummer Night. Historical sources indicate that in pre-Christian times the holiday was of an orgiastic character and could have been a specific type of sexual initiation rite. It was called the feast of love and the Catholic church fought against it. As early as the times of the post-Christianisation of Poland it was one of the few occasions for the young of both sexes and an excuse to be able to walk to the forest together, without causing a scandal among the community. During these walks they searched together for the legendary fern blossom (the crock of gold), which is another habit associated with Midsummer Night. One of many theories says that the magic blossom of happiness could have been associated with the Slavonic god of thunder. In folk beliefs it is also called perunowy kwiat (thunder blossom); storms and thunder helped it thrive. Yet, much evidence points to the fact that the fern blossom legend was culturally imported from non-Slavonic territories; the legend can be encountered also in France and Germany.

   The festivity in the Czech, Russian or Balkan territories was celebrated in a similar way to Slavonic Poland; the most important elements were still fire, jumps over the bonfire and collective fun. The echoes of past rituals connected with Midsummer Night have survived until our times, and not only in the Slavonic countries. It was no different in Scandinavian countries. In Switzerland the festival of summer solstice Midsommar is officially celebrated on the weekend closest to 24th June. There are rollicking festivities taking place all around the country, with bonfires and dancing. It is similar in Latvia, where the local Līgo (23rd June) and Jāņi (24th June) also called Jāņu Nakts (St John’s Night) are a form of national festival. Like in other parts of Europe, bonfires are a must; the Latvian special custom is to eat caraway seed cheese and drink beer, considered as a divine drink in pre-Christian times. Lately, besides the remnants of Midsummer Night in the folk cultures of European nations, we can encounter another interesting phenomenon: attempts to revive the original celebrations by ever-growing groups of Neopagans coming from various remote parts of the continent.
   Again it turns out that Polacy nie gęsi, też swój język mają (Poles, unlike geese, have their own language) and cudze chwalicie, swego nie znacie (they should cherish their own traditions because they are as worthy as the traditions of others). Maybe, instead of celebrating the Anglo-Saxon St Valentine’s Day on a cold February day, we should be bringing back our love feast on a beautiful night of June and, like our ancestors, have fun by the light of the fire?

Garlands (Polish ‘wianki’)

    Kupalnocka has been most popular for its long-held tradition of laying garlands on water. Telling one’s fortune from a garland, the symbol of maidenhood, was probably a separate tradition, not really connected with Midsummer Night; it was meant only for bachelors and bachelorettes as it concerned marriage and anticipated love. On that magic night marriageable girls wove garlands and lay them on river waters; thus their fortune was told: whether they were to be married soon or become spinsters. Initially the garlands were made of hay with interwoven fresh flowers; the hay was set on fire before the garland was put on the water. In later days girls wove garlands of herbs and wild flowers and put a candle inside. A Midsummer bouquet was to be made of the seven magic plants: mugwort, sundew, burdock, rue, mullein and Saint-John’s wort. They were to keep evil spirits away, protect the maker from illnesses and guarantee a good marriage.
   If a garland was floating evenly on the water and the candle was burning brightly, or if the garland was recovered by the maker’s beloved, her fortune was favourable. If the garland was going round in circles, kept floating near the river bank, became tangled in water plants or sank, it augured love complications, misery, bad luck, the end of love, or even death. For young people this night was sometimes the only chance to choose one’s partner freely, without go-betweens or having to obey one’s parents’ will. Nowadays it is just a game and hardly anybody treats it as fortune telling.

The Fern Blossom

   Paproć w każdym lesie tylko jedna zakwita, a to w takim zakątku, tak ukryta, że nadzwyczajnego trzeba szczęścia, aby na nią trafić (There is only one fern to blossom in a single forest; it is hidden in such a nook that you need to be exceptionally lucky to find it), as was written by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski in his novel Kwiat paproci (The Fern Blossom). Midsummer Night, the shortest night of the whole year, is full of secrets and magic. No wonder that the magic fern blossom, according to legend, blooms on that very night. It is to show the way to great treasure, attract good luck, wealth and the ability to influence the feelings of others. Only a young, truthful, hard-working, virtuous and courageous person can find this magic plant: thunder, winds, earthquakes happen and devilish laughter can be heard when, at about midnight, the fern blossoms. Therefore the magic power of the blossom can only be poured over a true daredevil.
What is the fern blossom like? Unfortunately, that is something nobody knows. Tales include very interesting but divergent descriptions: the blossom is blue or gold; it shines with unusual light; it has five petals; it looks like a star or even… like a cheerful golden eye.
   Midsummer Night is the time of courtship. Therefore, the search for the blossom was often taken up by lovers, expressing their love to each other in a tender embrace. The quest for the fern blossom was only an excuse to walk in the forest with their dearest person… Now it is sufficient to pick a sprig of fern and carry it around in one’s wallet. It is said to attract good luck.

Water and Fire

   Water and fire, the two opposing forces governing nature, were worshiped during Midsummer Night. On that night the two opposites joined together: fire with water, light with dark, man with woman and the thunder in the sky with the land.
   The most important rituals were connected on the one hand with the setting of fire (the ritual of spark striking, burning bonfires, burning candles), on the other hand with immersion in water (the ever-present symbol of bath and the scene the river bank).
   On Misummer Night sobótki were burned in forest clearings. It is thought that the name (first recorded in 13th century) may have originated from the name of the holy mount of Ślęża called sobótka due to the ritual light burning on it. References to ritual dances by women around the fire also come from the 13th century. During Midsummer Night various herbs were put into the fire, e.g. mugwort, Saint-John’s wort, elder, burdock, pimpinella, leaves and twigs of hazel. The smoke of burned herbs was to protect oneself from witches, bad spells and all evil.
   This night also imbued water with special qualities. According to folk beliefs, it was only on St John’s Day (24th June) that you could take a bath safely, especially if the water was “thundered,” i.e. if there were thunderstorms and midsummer rains before. Immersion in water made the human body stronger, healthier and beautiful. The bath ensured mutual love, successful marriage and happy motherhood. Therefore one of the meanings of the name Kupalnocka might have originated from the words kupało and kupała, which meant bath in the language of the eastern Slavs.

   According to some legends the union of fire with water, repeated in Midsummer customs, was associated with a rite whereby a priest presented the joining of opposites: fire burning in water. This was done by tricky manipulations of torches burning over the water.

Evil Spirits

   Various spells were broken on Midsummer Night: houses were protected with sharp tools (they say witches hate that); women tied mugwort around their waists to protect them from black magic, spells and all evil. Mugwort was also hung on house, shed and barn doors; it was worn sewn into clothes or thrown into Midsummer bonfires. It was in bad taste to leave a sobótka; someone doing this was suspected of being a witch or a witcher. People believed that nixes, lamias, kelpies, demons and devils were especially active on that magic night. In the Middle Ages the church recalled John the Baptist; holy water was to chase away bad spirits.

Dance and Revelry

   No norms or limitations were observed in ancient times during pagan rituals. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead and demons possess the bodies of young people and increase their readiness to love, breed and give birth. Kupalnocka could easily become a time of orgies: when dancing, singing and heavy-drinking young men often kidnapped the girls they had chosen before and took them into the forest; traditionally the custom allowed for free lovemaking. According to legend, virgins were advised against taking part in Midsummer rituals. They were warned not to approach bonfires burning in adoration of Kupała. In Christian times the rituals were connected with the cult of John the Baptist and gradually softened (also by the intervention of the church).

Wianki in Krakow

   In Krakow and its vicinity Midsummer Night was celebrated as in other regions of Poland; the custom of bonfire burning was more connected with Pentecost, most probably because church officials wanted to adapt the customs of that magic night to the Christian tradition. After the great fire of Krakow in 1850, when 10% of the city area was damaged (160 houses, 4 churches, 3 monasteries and 2 palaces) it was forbidden to set bonfires within the built-up urban area. Midsummer celebrations were moved to the riverside of the Vistula and were controlled by the police and fire brigade; with time the Midsummer celebrations were conjoined with the tradition of garlands. Nowadays the Midsummer tradition has been revived in new forms: concerts, firework shows and presentations of ancient pagan rituals.