Piping Meringues

Meringues are so easy to make. (Recipe and directions here.)

Meringues are made with egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar (optional).

We almost always have all the ingredients on hand — all 3 ingredients.

I made a quick trip to Michael’s where I purchased the bags. (They were not in stock at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.)

I was ready to make them one morning when I discovered I was out of pastry bags.  Even though the actual meringue has only 3 ingredients I usually like to pipe the shapes — whether tart shells or kisses — with a pastry bag and decorative tip.

The decorative tip and white plastic coupler fit inside the tip of the bag. (The metal tip could also be placed outside of the bag if changing the tip is desired.)
The screw ring of the coupler holds the decorative tip in place.

I bought 2 sizes of bags — 12-inch and 16-inch — and decided the larger bag would work better for a batch of meringue made with 4 egg whites which has a lot of volume.

Fill the bag with meringue using a rubber spatula.

After the bag is fitted with a tip I turned back the wide edge and balanced the bag, tip side down, in a tall glass. The bag is filled with meringue.

The full bag makes about 2 dozen 2.5 inch tart shells.

Fold the edges down and squeeze the meringue down toward the tip.

The centers don’t have to be too neat.

On parchment paper that is marked with 2.5-inch circles, pipe a blob in the middle of each circle and smooth with an offset spatula.

The little shells are baked for 1.5 hours at 225 degrees then stay in the oven after it is turned off for another 30 minutes.

Then pipe a wider rim around each center and bake.

Like a toothpaste tube, roll the bag toward the tip as it empties.

The bag will be almost empty. Throw the bag away and wash the tip and coupler.

What’s your favorite pastry?


Trip to Cuba: Excursion on Horseback — Rum and Coffee

Charlie and I, our wrangler William, and two other riders began our excursion through The Viñales Valley with a stop at the tobacco fields.

Sugar cane and coffee are grown in the same fields because coffee bushes need some shade to mature properly.

Combined sugar cane and coffee fields were next on the trip agenda.

Coffee beans are grown on bushes with shiny leaves.

Each stop along the way a guide was provided to tell us pertinent facts about the crops and  how they are processed.

Obviously coffee beans make coffee. Did you know sugar cane makes rum?

The guides are also supposed to sell us some of the finished products that can only be purchased on the plantations.

We were served a tiny sip of rum in a bamboo tasting cup of a brand, La Occidental Guayabita del Pinar, that is only available at the plantation.

While we succumbed to cigars we did not buy and rum nor coffee at this point in our journey.

This man went from table to table playing his Fender guitar and “singing”.

While we were waiting to be served a small tasting of rum a roving minstrel with a guitar serenaded us with a very aggressive song. A young lady in our party translated for us a suggestive love song of sorts.

This Fender guitar had an unusual stringing pattern.

When finished our musician laid a tip saucer on the table.

El Valle del Silencio

Then the five of us mounted up again to ride to the Valley of Silence where there was a small open-air cantina and a lake for swimming if one was so inclined.

Our silence was bombarded with a loud drunk who had evidently spent the day at the cantina and was now lying in the dirt yelling at the top of his lungs non-stop.

I think our wrangler thought I wouldn’t make it.

Since it was late in the day we did not swim.  The last leg of our journey, about 25 minutes, took us back to the stables.

We found a lot of inexpensive souvenirs at the market in Viñales.

We walked through town to return to our casa particulare stopping at the open-air market in the middle of town where we promised to return the next morning to make some souvenir purchases.

What’s your pleasure: rum, coffee, cigars?

Step 4: Prepare the Wall for Wallpaper

Still working in the pink bathroom the next step is to spackle the holes and dings in the wall so we can hang some beautiful wallpaper.

Bathroom wallpaper from the 1990s.
Mixing this drywall mud instead of using premixed allows control of the consistency.

Charlie mixed some powdered wall mud with water to make a slightly thin spackle.

Old drywall above bathroom tile needs to be skim-coated before wallpaper can be applied.

He applied it to the wall over the sink in the pink bathroom that was in bad shape after the mirror and old wallpaper had been removed.

Vinegar water is especially effective cleaning formerly papered walls.

Then he wiped down the entire wall with a solution of white vinegar and water to remove any old wallpaper debris and glue.

The round window in the pink bathroom is original to the house.

In the meanwhile Sug painted the bird’s eye window trim.  This is the original round window in the house which we duplicated in the newly-built bathrooms.

This fixture has been hanging for about 18 years and could use a good cleaning.

Before I begin to hang the wallpaper I need to take down the 4-bulb lighting fixture that hangs over the sink.  Removing it will make a neater job rather than trying to paper around the fixture.

Are you able to hookup/disconnect electrical devices?

Irish Tea Party Menu

I’ve recently handed out invitations to the ladies in my Bible study for a St. Patrick’s Day tea party.  (The alternative was a $30 per person party at a nearby herb farm.)

I like to suggest a common theme: in the past I’ve encouraged tiaras and hats.

A tea party starts with tea so I’ve decided to serve two types, both decaffeinated :

Irish tea is usually strong.

an herbal tea and decaffeinated Irish breakfast tea.

I’m going to use some mismatched but pretty china from my collection.

I plan to serve some tried and true food in addition to adding a few new to me items.

On the savory side:

  • corned beef on oat bread,

    Corned beef and cornichons on oat bread
  • chicken salad sandwiches,

    Cucumber on white bread, egg salad on whole wheat, chicken salad on rolls
  • egg salad  smoked salmon sandwiches,
  • cucumber sandwiches.

On the dolce side:

  • petit fours (if I can find them),
  • lemon curd in meringue shells aka Pavlovas,

    Pavlovas with lemon curd and berry coulee.
  • puff pastry mini fruit tarts.
I'll be using many food items from Trader Joe's.
I’ll be using many food items from Trader Joe’s.

In addition I’ll probably have some pretzel thins for a taste of salty/crunchy and some chocolate-covered-caramel candy.

Charlie usually plays butler and maestro at our tea parties and even does the washing up.

I know Sug and I can set up this tea party in the morning and serve it in the afternoon. Charlie will be our dedicated waiter and lead us in an Irish song sing-along.

Are you planning any Spring Flings?

List, 2018: March Plans

I received a notice from WordPress today congratulating me on 7 years of blogging. I’m going to try to keep it going until our projects are finished. March is  an unpredictable month — sometimes it’s cold and dreary and other times it’s warm and sunny. This March has come in like a lion with gale force winds.


We’re still working on the pink bathroom and thus far have replaced the broken tiles.

Many steps took us to this finished wall.
The ceiling is painted white and the old wallpaper has been removed.

We still need to paper the walls, hang a new mirror, etc.


After the bathroom is underway I’m heading to the back bedroom where we’ve been storing all sorts of papers and projects.

The treetops Bedroom is sunny in the morning.

That room is our main guest room.  Since I did not even get started in February, I’m hoping to make a dent in March.


On the 17th of the month I’m hosting a tea for my Thursday night Bible study.

These corned beef tea sandwiches look like something we should try.

As usual Sug will be my right-hand helper and Charlie will serve and entertain us with an Irish sing-along.


Both Charlie and Sug have birthdays in March one day apart. I have to think of something special for us to do besides cleaning up and working on the house.

Wait until I tell you the name I have planned.

On the 10th we’re supposed to go on a short road trip to see my new puppy who will be one month old. I can’t actually take him home until he is two months old but I’m excited to take a look at him in person.

Exterior Outsourcing 

Last month Sug’s carpenter came to the house to do some work for us.  He repaired a wall and started to install the round window trim. He did not finish either job so he must return.

One of two round windows was trimmed last month. The job is ongoing.

We have a really big job for him to do out on our upper deck. Sug also has a deck job for him. Hope he’s not too busy to help us.


I wish I could make some progress in this area.

Can you believe it’s already March?

Trip to Cuba: Excursion on Horseback — Tobacco

The Viñales Valley, National Monument since 1979, was the first cultural landscape recognized by UNESCO throughout the Americas, declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and National Park in 2001

Viñales Valley

“Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.”  Lonely Planet Travel Guide

This was our door-to-door taxi in Viñales.

Charlie and I took a 3 and a half hour horse ride through Viñales National Park for a fee of 25 CUC ($25) each which included being picked up at our casa particulare in a horse-drawn taxi. The tour was arranged by our hostess the day we arrived in Viñales.

Unlike the mule ride on the rim of the Grand Canyon we were on and off these horses 3 times.

Our tour started at William’s stables. He assigned a horse to each of us — we were 4 plus William who was our guide and wrangler.

There are restored vintage cars all over Cuba.

Our first stop was a tobacco plantation where we saw men cutting the plant in preparation for drying.  It was explained to us how the tobacco grows and is readied to become the famed Cuban cigars — Cohibas, Monte Cristos, or Romeo y Juliets.

Our guide at the tobacco field spoke great English and explained everything about growing, harvesting, and using tobacco.

It is dried in barns then rehydrated in an herbal bath to make it pliable enough to roll.

Charlie is trying a Monte Cristo cigar at the plantation in Viñales.

Each of us was given the opportunity to smoke.  I declined but Charlie was happy to give it a try after our tobacco expert dipped the end that goes in the mouth in honey.

The veins are removed from tobacco used in cigars and sent to cigarette factories.

Our presenter showed us how he takes the vein, the part that holds most of the nicotine,  out of the tobacco leaf.

The trimmed leaves are rolled into a natural cigar.

Charlie smoked his cigar as we watched the creation of a hand-rolled cigar.

All Cuban cigars are handmade.

As the cigar-maker stacked the leaves he also rolled them.

The final leaf is glued together with honey.

Then he trimmed a leaf to become the outer wrapper. At this point the cigar was firmly wrapped but limp due to the rehydrating of the leaves.  It will be dried again before it is sold.

We purchased this banana-leaf humidor filled with enough Cohibas to share with friends.

Ninety percent of the tobacco grown on this farm goes to the Cuban government.  We were allowed to buy and bring back to the U.S. unmarked Cohibas from the farm in a natural humidor.

To be continued .  .  .

Do you have a trip planned?

List, 2018: February Progress

February is my favorite month probably because my birthday happens near the end of the month.

My son made me a 5-layer cake.

I had a great birthday whereby people made me some of my favorite cakes: Tres Leches and yellow cake with buttercream icing.


We worked on the pink bathroom and thus far have repaired the broken tiles.

Many steps took us to this finished wall.
The ceiling is painted white and the old wallpaper has been removed.

While we were away Sug painted the ceiling and removed the old wall paper.

The shower curtain rod needs a good cleaning and maybe some spray paint before being reinstalled.

Charlie took down the shower curtain rod to facilitate the wallpapering.

Anthropologie wallpaper for our pink bathroom.

We still need to paper the walls, hang a new mirror, etc.


After the bathroom is underway I’m heading to the back bedroom where we’ve been storing all sorts of papers and projects.

The treetops Bedroom is sunny in the morning.

That room is our main guest room.  Unfortunately I did not even get started back there in February.  Maybe March.


Charlie told me he is finishing the baseboard trim — “No matter what I say.”

This section of baseboard in the bedroom needs shoe molding.

The only thing I told Charlie about the trim is that the wood is being stored outside and will need some time inside to acclimate before being cut and installed as baseboard.  Unfortunately no progress was made on this project except that Sug painted all the formerly installed baseboard on the first floor.


We traveled to Cuba at the beginning of February.  Both the weather and the people were warm and lovely.

We adventured to Havana, Cuba and a side trip to Viñales for 6 days early in February.

Check out some of our Cuban posts by searching “Trip to Cuba”.

Exterior Outsourcing 

Top priority on our return from Cuba was to finalize our tax paperwork and send it to the accountant.  I did not finish by February 14th as I had hoped but I did get it to the accountant by the 20th and our return is almost finished.


I was planning to return to the gym in the morning starting sometime in February. Didn’t happen.  Then I was planning to start March 1st but I have caught a cold and feel I shouldn’t try to exercise while I’m under the weather. I’m keeping my gym membership as an inducement to get back to it.

If you could cut back on one responsibility what would it be?