Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interracial Marriages

Over the last week or so, I've been researching a topic that might tick some people off (if they're ticked off, oh well). I've been looking for data on interracial marriages in North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Last week, someone decided to question and criticize why I had married someone who was not from the Caribbean and someone who was not black. That prompted me to start looking for some solid facts about interracial marriage in the United States. From there, I decided to compare it with data from Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.

So here's what I found. In much of the United States, interracial marriages were illegal until 1967. Yes, you read that correctly. Until June 1967, it was illegal in many states to marry someone of a different race. I'm not going to go into the whole Supreme Court case but I think it's shocking that had I lived only fifty years ago, I would have been unable to marry Mr Caramel. Since then, there has been a steady increase of interracial marriages. According to the US Census data, interracial marriages accounted for 8.4 % of all marriages in 2010 and 15.1% of the new marriages that year. Statistically, Caucasians were the least likely to marry someone of another race (9.4% of white people married someone from another race). Asians were the most likely to marry someone else (27.7%). There are wonderfully enthusiastic articles that are cheery about the fact that the approval rates for interracial marriages are at an all time high. Apparently, 87% of Americans approve of interracial marriages and 60% would approve of it if someone in their own family married someone from another race.

Now isn't that just lovely? According to a 2015 estimate, the United States has a population of just over 320 million people. So, by my calculations, there are over 4 million people who do not approve of interracial marriage under any circumstance and 128 million people who would not be happy if their family member married someone of a different race. Isn't that cheery? Shouldn't we be happy with these statistics? While I was doing research for this post, I came across so many different websites that spewed ignorance and hate and purported that interracial marriage went against the Bible (it doesn't!), that it was unnatural (errr.... what?) or that it was 'racial genocide' (I don't even have words). Let's look at some more recent specific examples. In 2010 (just 5 years ago), a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. And in 2011, a Baptist Church in Kentucky voted to bar mixed-race couples from joining the church.

Needless to say, that I was quite shocked by these findings. I decided to widen my search and see what the situation is like in other countries. In Canada, 92% of people approve of interracial marriages. In France, 11.8% of all marriages are interracial (3.4% higher than the U.S.). In Northern Europe (Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland), interracial marriages account for 11% - 25% of all marriages.

But it was when I turned to the statistics from England and the Caribbean that a light bulb really went on. In England, there were never any laws against interracial marriages and records of such marriages predate the 17th century. To me, the stunning and inspiring fact was that England does not even look at race or ethnicity when examining data for marriages. The same holds true in St Vincent, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, these countries examine the ethnic makeup of their populations but they don't consider it an important variable in marriage data.

To me, therein lies the problem. Why should it even matter what are the races of persons getting married? Do we measure their heights? Their weights? Their favorite colors? Or how about what kinds of cars they drive? No. That's absurd you might say. Why? Because those things have no bearing whatsoever on the marriage. So why does race? Because for way too many people, the differences in skin color are so important that we have to question and record it.

So let's get back to Mr Caramel and I. We're different. He likes the color red. He's 5' 8". He likes to play computer games. He's happier with an Excel spreadsheet than with a pot or pan. My favorite color is pink. I'm vertically challenged. I like reading historical fiction. And I like to dance and sing badly while I bake. Oh yeah, his complexion is more like vanilla ice-cream and he's Southern American while I more resemble chocolate and I'm from the Caribbean. But we love God and each other and that's more important than any of our differences.

Maybe one day, race would be so trivial that people would wonder why it even mattered. Maybe one day, future generations would wonder why we were so petty and shallow as to care what race someone mattered. Maybe that's overly optimistic. But 50 or 60 years ago it was overly optimistic to think that persons of different races could even hope to get married. And to the narrow-minded person who scornfully asked why I would marry a white American, I say that it's so simple. Because I fell in love with his heart, not his skin.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fishing for Quadrilaterals

My students are currently learning about quadrilaterals in Math. I don't know about you but it can be hard to keep all of them straight: rhombus, trapezoid, parallelogram. So I decided to make it fun. After we spent one math lesson introducing them, we went fishing. And I decided to share it since I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who's trying to make quadrilaterals fun.

You'll need a dowel for each child (I used 12 inch one), yarn, magnets, paperclips and cutouts of a variety of quadrilaterals. I printed and laminated sheets of quadrilaterals. Just do a search and you'll find a lot of them. I like the colored ones because I think they're more fun. Then I cut them out and put a paper clip on each one. For the fishing rods I let my pipsqueaks decorate them. Then I tied a length of yarn to one end and attached a magnet to the end of the yarn.

Of course there are several ways to play this game, but here's the way I did it. I would give the name of a quadrilateral or a clue for a quadrilateral (e.g. all four sides are the same length) and my students would have to 'fish' for that quadrilateral. Anything else gets thrown back.

There was a lot of giggling, a few unfounded claims of 'you're cheating' but most importantly, they were using the correct names for the shapes and recognizing which shape they were supposed to be 'fishing' for. They had fun. They were learning. In my books, that's a win!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Easy Cheery Cherry Brandy Cake

Tomorrow, Mr Caramel and I are having two wonderful friends over for dinner. I was part of the Honors Fellowship at Belmont Abbey College and I made some wonderful, wonderful friends who are more like a quirky family than anything else. Anyway, I'm having two of them over and of course, I need to cook up all kinds of yummy stuff. In preparation I decided to make my easy (in other words, middle of a long work week) version of my cheery cherry brandy cake. Before you ask, it's cheery because of how much alcohol is in it. The easy part comes in because I am not afraid of using a cake mix when I'm pressed for time and dressing it up. (I do have a from-scratch version of this cake that tastes slightly different. I'll post it when I get around to it.) This time around I made a 13" by 9" rectangle cake but this recipe also makes simply scrumptious cupcakes.

Anyway, enough of my chatting, here's my recipe.


1 box of white cake mix (I like the ones with pudding in the mix)
10 oz bottle of Maraschino cherries
1/4 cup water
about 1/4 cup of brandy
eggs as called for in the cake mix directions
oil as called for in the cake mix directions
1 tsp cherry extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees for dark or non-stick pans or 350 degrees for regular pans. Spray cake tin with cooking spray, or line cupcake cups.
  2. Drain cherries. Reserve liquid. Chop cherries.
  3. Add water to the liquid you drained from the cherries. Add enough brandy to bring the liquid to one cup (about 1/4 cup).
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix, liquid, eggs, oil and cherry extract. Using an electric mixer, mix on medium speed for about 2 - 3 minutes or until well combined.
  5. Add cherries and fold in.
  6. Pour batter into cake tin and bake according to the directions on the cake mix box.
Ingredients for Topping

1 can of cherry frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup brandy (yes, I did say 1/4 cup)
Maraschino cherries (optional)

Using an electric mixer combine all the ingredients and mix until smooth. Add more brandy if the frosting is too thick or more powdered sugar if it's too runny (only add a little at a time). Spread on cool cake or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Feel free to decorate with cherries.

It's been a long week and it's close to my bedtime so I just spread the frosting (yes, the cake is still in the pan) and added some sprinkles. 

Even though it's super easy and quick it is really, really tasty and it tastes like you've slaved on it for hours. The only hard part - trying not to eat too much. Tell me how this works for you and I promise to share the fancier version of this recipe soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Caramel Spice Breakfast Muffins

Mr Caramel and I got invited to join some dear friends of ours for brunch after Mass tomorrow. Besides the fact that they are wonderful company, I'm so happy for the invite because it gives me an excuse to make something yummy. I got the inspiration for Caramel Spice Muffins from the Betty Crocker website but I've tweaked it, added just a little alcohol (of course) and made it my own. So of course, I had to share it.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup caramel topping
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp cream sherry
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg


1/2 cup melted butter (or some spray butter)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
caramel topping

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 16 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Beat butter, sugar, caramel topping, eggs, milk and cream sherry on low speed. (The mixture will look really strange at this point, but don't worry.)
  3. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. (The mixture will still look really strange. But trust yourself, don't dump your batter.)
  4. Fill muffin cups to about 2/3 full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, mix sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a small bowl. 
  6. Remove muffins from pan. Roll in melted butter, or spray with spray butter. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Drizzle with caramel topping.
Tip: If you don't have pumpkin pie spice you can combine 4 tbsp cinnamon, 4 tsp nutmeg, 4 tsp ground ginger and 3 tsp allspice. 

These muffins are very, very tasty and just might be one of my favorites. Try them and let me know what you think.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Easter Egg Crafts

Even if you're Catholic and celebrating 40 days of Easter, the time for Easter eggs has passed. They've been decorated and the dye cleaned up - hopefully. What do you do with the Easter eggs that you've painstakingly decorated? Maybe you've eaten a few of them, but more than likely they get tossed out. This year, I finally decided to work smarter, not harder. I decided to buy artificial eggs for my students to dye. They were pretty cheap at Walmart ($1.29 per dozen to be precise). This saved me from boiling dozens of eggs - not something I consider to be fun. I didn't have to worry about them cracking and most importantly, they wouldn't end up in the trash as they could be used for further crafts.

I've decided to share the crafts which my students and I did using those left-over eggs. Do I need to say that you can't do these crafts with real eggs? I do? Ok. Don't do these crafts with real eggs. Anyway, they were really easy (if I can do it, anyone can), they were super cute and really affordable.

Spring Wreath

The first craft which we did was a spring wreath. The equipment needed: a wire wreath frame (I used a 12 inch one), a hot glue gun, a bow (like one that you'd pop onto a gift) and some artificial grass. All of these can be found in a craft store or the craft aisle.

First we glued the bow to what would become the top of our wreath. I know they have that little sticky patch, but trust me and put some glue. Then we liberally spread glue on the wire rims of the wreath and stuck down the artificial glue. This is what it looked like at this point:
Then, using more hot glue, we stuck down our Easter eggs. We started on one side, near to the bow, and kept sticking on eggs until we got to the other side of the bow. In all, we used 16 eggs. Then my students added extra grass wherever they thought needed it. Finally, they gave it a 'hair cut' (they loved this part) to just tidy up their wreath and cut off any straggly blades of grass. 

This was the final product: 

 I think it looks pretty neat, if I do say so myself. My students were quite proud of themselves.

Bird's Nest Craft

After doing the wreath, we still had 8 eggs left over. So we decided to make mini bird's nest. This was a really easy craft to do with simply adorable results.

For this one I picked up two 6 inch miniature twig wreaths and two little bird figurines and two 6 inch white foam discs. I got all of these in the craft aisle for just about $18. (In case you haven't caught on by now, I have two students, thus the need for two of everything.)

First, we trimmed the foam discs to fit as the base of our nests. Then my students had a blast painting them brown and different shades of green to look 'natural'. We fit the wreaths over the bases. Then my students went to town gluing on the grass that we had left over from our previous craft. They jut about covered the bases and then added a few pieces onto the twig wreaths. My students chose not to stick down the eggs as they wanted to be able to play with their nests and move the eggs around. If you're planning on using these nests just as decorations, you might want to attach the eggs. Finally, they perched the birds on the nests.

And there you go. Both these crafts cost just about $25. We had lots of fun making them and I didn't have to feel guilty about throwing out eggs that we worked so hard to decorate. So keep them in mind for next year or take advantage of those post-Easter clearance sales and make something cute for spring.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

For anyone who does not know what hot cross buns are (my sympathies to you), they are simply delicious semi-sweet buns, traditionally baked for Good Friday.

Mini History Lesson: Hot cross buns have a very long history. They are usually made with raisins or currants, with a cross on top. Queen Elizabeth I tried to outlaw them (don't ask me why). Hot cross buns were only permitted at burials, Good Friday and Christmas. King James I also tried to ban these delicious buns. Although this makes no sense, it led to them being more popular around the time of Good Friday and Easter. Hot cross buns remain popular in the UK, the Caribbean, New Zealand, India and Canada. Legend has it that if you share hot cross buns with someone, it will ensure your friendship in the upcoming year.

Ok, that's the end of the history lesson. When I was growing up, my mom always made enough hot cross buns for the feeding of the five thousand. As long as it was Good Friday, my mom was baking hot cross buns. When I asked why she made so many, she said that there would always be people to eat them. And she was right. Everyone got some, from the parish priest to the beggar outside the church. Neither my sister or I liked raisins so she made them without. They were the only things that we ate on Good Friday. Looking back, I'm not sure that they should have counted as fasting or penance on Good Friday because they were SO GOOD!! Now that I have my own home, I am still baking hot cross buns (without raisins). While I don't make enough for five thousand, I am happy that I have loved ones to share with. 

This is not a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming. This is not something you can whip up an hour before eating. You have been warned! Now, without further delay, my recipe (makes about 25 buns):

  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 9 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 large eggs
Scald milk and butter (in other words, heat but do not boil). Let cool for a few minutes then pour into a large bowl. Add sugar and salt. Stir.

In separate bowl, combine flour and yeast. Stir 6 cups of the flour mixture into the milk mixture. Add beaten egg. Mix in the remaining flour. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5-8 minutes. The dough will be somewhat sticky. Lightly coat a bowl with cooking spray and put dough into it. Cover with a towel and let it rise for about 1 hour. (Work on your patience meanwhile.)

Punch down dough (fun part) and divide it into 2 balls. Let it rest for 10 minutes. While your dough is resting, gather ingredients for the filling:
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Optional: about 2/3 cup of raisins
Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Turn your dough onto a floured surface and flatten. Sprinkle with the sugar and spices and some raisins (if you're using them). Fold the dough over onto itself, as though closing a book. Flatten it again. Repeat this about 3 or 4 times. You do not have to use all of the spices and raisins. Pinch off golf-ball sized pieces of dough and form into balls. Place two inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover them with a towel again and go back to working on your patience for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. After your dough is finished resting, you can go ahead and pop them into the oven or you can use a clean pair of scissors to make two perpendicular cuts (a cross) on the top of each bun before you bake them.

Bake for about 12-13 minutes. 

While the buns are baking, combine about 1/2 cup hot water with about 1 cup granulated sugar. Stir in the sugar gradually until no more sugar can dissolve. When the buns are finished baking, and still hot, brush on your sugar-water to make a nice gooey glaze.

You can end here and enjoy your hot cross buns while they're warm or work on your patience some more, in order to add an icing cross. Or you can do what I do, have one while they're hot and then let the others cool.

To make the icing, combine about 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 egg white and a splash of milk. Add more powdered sugar if needed to make the icing thick.When the buns are completely cool, (I repeat, completely cool), pipe a cross on each bun. If the buns are not cool, the icing will run. 

Finally, after hours of patience, go ahead and eat your hot cross buns. Don't forget to share them with your friends. 

Happy Easter!