Category Archives: Recipe

Boogers, Band Aids, and BVDs

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As most of you know, I am a preschool teacher.  This job is perfect for me because a) it does not involve sitting in a cubicle at a desk b) there are lots of snacks and c) we have nap time every afternoon from 1-2:30.  My job this year is to assist my lovely lead teacher, Andrew, while together we teach our class of Three Year Olds everything from letters and numbers, to manners, to how to say sorry, and explaining in a Very Patient Voice why even though it IS so much fun to watch a plastic lizard fly across the room, it’s not a safe thing to do when it lands on a friend and makes them cry.  It’s a very nuanced job, with lots of action.  I would not be wrong in stating that every week we have blood, sweat, and tears (sometimes theirs . . . sometimes mine).

Today started out cheerily with Music Class, everyone’s favorite.  During the ten minutes in which Jay taught us the Halloween song, Five Little Pumpkins, I was handed two boogers, two used band aids, and helped one poor friend whose BVDs had rolled over several times at the top (OUCH).  I chuckled thinking about how fun it would be to have a “Mary Cam” attached to my forehead so you could smile along with me when a small friend sings Juice Box Hero in the bathroom or another friend insists their shoes are on the correct feet—even when they are not.  I am in love with every one of my students and am excited to see how wise and caring they’ve become in just seven short weeks.

(This just in from Wikipedia: BVD is a brand of men’s underwear, which are commonly referred to as “BVDs.” The brand was founded in 1876 and named after the three founders of the New York City firm Bradley, Voorhees & Day (thus “B.V.D.”). The term came to be used, however incorrectly, for any underwear in the style popularized by BVD. The BVD brand, originally produced for men and women, is now produced solely for men by Fruit of the Loom.  I knew you’d want to know.)

In other news, I made the most delicious, mouth-watering stew over the weekend.  Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon (not easy to spell) was a cinch and is melt in your mouth.  I found the recipe online and made it easier by taking out the deglazing of the pan (is that EVER really necessary??).  I think this beef stew is company worthy.  Serve it with crusty bread and a big salad.  (Can anyone tell me why we can’t call them crock pots anymore???)

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

Get out your slow cooker.  In a large pan, cook five slices of bacon.  Using scissors, cut cooked bacon into small pieces and place them in the slow cooker.  Without cleaning the bacon pan, brown the beef for a few minutes so the beef chunks are browned on all sides.  Dump those into the slow cooker.  You are done with the pan.

Into the slow cooker, place the remaining items. Cook on medium for six hours, or until the beef is tender.  Bon Appetit!!!

  • 5 slices bacon
  • 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut to 2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup red cooking wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • small can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons thyme
  • 8 Medium Carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound potatoes, cleaned
  • 8 ounce fresh mushrooms, sliced

Cheers,

Mary

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Home, Then and Now

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It is 7:30 pm on Sunday night, and I am in the middle of cooking my mother’s famous lasagna recipe.  It involves making your own bechamel, and it is the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted.  I seem to remember that she found it in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which seems hard to believe, but you must remember that in the late 1960s and the early 1970s Julia Child was on tv encouraging housewives to venture away from meat loaf and pork chops.  I’m not going to share the lasagna recipe here because lately I’ve found it hard to amaze my dinner guests, which is not surprising when the NYT and Epicurious send us their best recipes on a daily basis.  Better, sometimes, to reach back in time and return to the classics.

Tonight I was so happy chopping onions and garlic and stirring pots and singing along with Florence Welch and then it occurred to me that WHOOPS I’d forgotten about the pasta. Our stove is awful and takes forever for a burner to heat, so now I am in a holding period waiting for the ziti to cook.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am making my mother’s famous lasagna recipe using ziti, simply because the lasagna noodles located on the top shelf (way in the back) were so petrified they quite possibly may have been purchased during Obama’s first term.  You see, our cupboards are very deep, and I am short and cannot see to the back.  And I’m lazy to fetch a chair to look into the bowels of my cupboards.  I hope I gain back some of your faith when I tell you I used fresh oregano from our backyard garden in the meat sauce.  That’s about all that’s left growing in this tremendous heat. That and a basil plant that has quadrupled in size during the few months since I bought it at Trader Joe’s.  I completely forgot it was there and am sad thinking about all the days when I could have had Caprese salads.

I’m making this complicated lasagna recipe so Hubby will have comfort food when he comes home to an empty house each night during this coming week.  William and his friends are off camping up north in the cool mountains, and tomorrow I get on plane to see my aunts and uncles and cousins in my hometown in northern Illinois.  I have not been in three years and am so excited to see my family . . . and to see and feel and smell the town where I was born and where I lived until I was ten years old.

In my dreams I ride my bike down the streets of this little old town.  I go through the squeaky screen door to hug my grandmother and then at other times, I have coffee with my Aunt Linda and my cousin Bridget.  In my dreams, memories of my young self get tangled up with the reality of the older self I am now.  Because I am the oldest of three, I keep the childhood memories of this place for all of us.  I tell my brother about driving to Grandpa Koppen’s house when a tornado was coming, our mother shouting at us to roll down the windows, we will be there soon!  Our own basement was mud walls and big spiders, and grandma and grandpa were just up the street with a lovely finished basement complete with pool table and full bar.  I say to my siblings, don’t you remember when we lived on Grover Street and Aunt Linda and Uncle Bill and Matt and Bridget lived just twenty steps from our own front door?  Their dog, Arfrang, was so cute and was always jumping at their screen . . . and their spunky little cats, Amos and Andy, were so fun to chase and pet.  Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas at grandma and grandpa’s when we would sit at a fancy long table in the dining room?  Then after dinner the men would smoke and drink, and the women would do dishes and talk in the kitchen.  So much laughter, and I remember it all so fondly.  I try to keep this place of my youth alive for us because I am the oldest thus have the most stories, and this is the place where we were born.

I could share here many more childhood memories from my small town in Illinois, but a big storm is moving in, and I’d rather watch that through the window than continue driveling on here.  We have lightening and huge storm clouds and a rumbling of thunder in the distance.  We so rarely get weather here in the desert; this storm is a treat.   As always, thank you for reading my words.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Mercury in Retrograde

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What a crazy week it’s been!  Facebook friends advised, “Be kind to yourself because Mercury is in retrograde,” and wow, that is advice I certainly needed this week.

This is going to sound untrue, but I swear with my hand on a stack of Bastille albums: Monday night was the first time I’ve ever slept alone in our house.  REALLY!  Hubby is on a business trip to San Luis Potisi, Mexico and having a grand time being wined and dined by the locals (and also doing some business during the day, I presume).  He’s certainly gone on business trips before, but I always had our kids here with me.  This week William is at college, Eve is on vacation in Spain, and Patrick is in Tucson on business. It’s been very peaceful, and I’ve been happy to get those last steps on my step counter (I’ve been aiming for 15K each day) dancing to loud music in the kitchen without anyone raising an eyebrow to the noise or my terrible form.

I’m not really alone:  We’ve adopted Eve’s cat for the next six months while Eve is away for an out-of-town job, so I have four cats and one dog for company.  So much easier to live with pets than children, though their Spring Shedding certainly has caused much sneezing and vacuuming.  They are adorable, and the initial hissing and chasing has calmed down.  It’s only been a week; soon they will be BFF’s.

I took Ruby in for a teeth cleaning on Tuesday and got a call mid-day from the vet explaining that the bill would be doubled because she had two rotten teeth needing extracting.  She was a sad mess the first night, but after 24 hours, she was doing very well. I’m eager to look in her mouth, but I like having fingers so have not tried to peek (she is very growly when I want to examine her).  Why do we always end up with such expensive pets???  Ruby is such a good girl; she is worth every penny.

I had two fun days subbing at my school with lovely young teachers who never make me feel old and are always so welcoming.  The kids are adorable, hilarious, hate nap time, and wake up all warm and snuggly.  Best job ever.

Back to Mercury being in retrograde:  Each day I’ve forced myself to drive the 20 minutes north to our house near ASU which we are prepping for sale.  All renters and Eve have moved out, yet they left behind a full household of belongings.  It’s overwhelming.  We’ve had ten different people live there over the course of 7 years, and each person left a little something or other that now I have to find a place for.  The walls need painting.  We need new carpet.  Tomorrow I will fill my car with paint cans and other haz mat items and take them to the Tempe Recycling Center.  I’m hoping students in the neighborhood will be happy to get free old couches and bookcases and chairs and a kitchen table, and OMG, I’m trying so hard to remain calm.  FIRST WORLD PROBLEM has been my mantra this past week.  Each day I’ve filled my car with boxes of stuff I think our daughter will still be able to use (pots and pans and silverware and room fans and lamps and her bed etc., etc.) because to buy all new is pricey.  Our garage is filled to the brim, as is Eve’s old room upstairs at our house.  I’m placing no blame on anyone, and I have no regrets. Stowing our college-aged kids away from our own home was good for them and for us. Out of sight and out of mind is one of my favorite mottos.  Please send me positive energy since I have a lot to do there before we can list our charming little built-in-1955 house for sale . . . and hopefully we will find a new owner who will love this house as much as we have.

With Hubby out of town, I’ve not cooked at all. He’s leaving Mexico at 4am tomorrow and arriving here at noon.  He’ll likely be hungry.  I always have leftovers or cold cuts and right now . . . nada!  I planned tonight to make a favorite recipe, chicken with red pepper cream sauce with pasta, but ACCKKKK, what I thought was an almost-full jar of marinated red peppers in the fridge was actually a jar of maraschino cherries.  I honestly considered it for a moment—sort of like sweet and sour chicken (?)–but YUCK.  I can’t let the poor guy arrive home with nothing in the fridge but approximately 100 bottles of condiments and no real food.  Eggs are always good, right?

It’s all good: I’m smiling after a fun happy hour with good friends this afternoon after work and am now listening to the soothing music of Brandi Carlile.  Tomorrow Hubby will be back from his business trip, and William will be home from Flagstaff to take his best girl to Prom.  Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

Skeeter Hawks

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Summer has come early to our town in the desert.  We’re ten degrees over the norm, which means temps in the 90s.  Ugh. When you live in a place where it’s pretty much unbearable to be outdoors for six months of the year, this early summer is terrible news. We’re sadly pulling from our gardens lettuces that have too quickly gone to seed, spinach that has turned bitter, and every day I’m picking nasturtium bouquets to leave at friends’ doors because the high temps makes them crumpled and brown and I don’t want them to go to waste.  We’re also experiencing an invasion of “skeeter hawks” which, though harmless, float about the bright lights in the kitchen and whip our house cats into a frenzy.  I find their long legs and slow flight graceful in a weird sort of way.

I’ve had two stressful weeks trying to clean up our rental house near ASU where our daughter lives with two friends. (I wrote angry posts about this, but deleted them.)  For the past few years, we’ve been busy with our own lives and also cognizant of giving the kids their space, so the list of stuff that needs cleaning and fixing over there is long.  Hubby would say to me on a Sunday morning, “I think I’ll go over to Eve’s and do some work,” and I would say, “I’m sure they are sleeping in and do not want you there.”  So the place is a mess.  We crunched the numbers and (hip hip hooray) have decided to sell this sweet house built in 1952.  After the tenants leave in late April, we likely have a month’s worth of work to do.  I hope someone will be thrilled to have this charming little house so close to campus.  Our family has sentimental attachments to this house which we’ve owned for seven years, but our goal is to make sure we sell to someone who will love it as much as we have. (The only thing I absolutely hate about the house is bright red, plastic-fronted kitchen cabinets from IKEA, which were installed by the architect who owned the place before we did.)

About four weeks ago, I told you the house next door would be going up for sale due to divorce.  I hesitate to talk it up too much to anyone I know because we may not be the best neighbors.  Hubby’s method of relaxing after a long day of work is to watch tv; mine is to dance or sing to music in the backyard.  I swear I never play music very loudly, but hay fever has adjusted my voice to a definitely nasal tone.  Add in the bouts of sneezing that can last up to 15 minutes, which sometimes causes Ruby the Wonder Spaniel to bark incessantly, and Cosmo our Elderly Siamese to yowl.  In the big picture, I firmly believe dancing in the back yard is better than taking a daily mood-enhancing pill, something I’ve never done.  Plus the dancing is good exercise.

Excuse me for a moment.  I must go look at the sunset.

FIVE MINUTES LATER:

Oh my word–that was amazing.  The clouds looked like a long swath of fuzzy pink cotton candy . . . and then the colors deepened and it looked more like a scarlet wool blanket. Now I can see thought the front window that it is violet/gray overhead, with scarlet down at the horizon.  Well done, Mother Nature. Well done.

Life is strange.  For the first time in many years, I find myself with too much free time.  I thought of the word “tumbling” the other day, and it’s an appropriate word to describe my days in which I find myself wandering from room to room, finding something to clean or put away, then responding to my phone or emails, then tumbling upstairs for laundry, then tumbling outside to run an errand or two.  For awhile I had friends lined up to walk with most days, but lately people have been busy with Spring Break vacations, and I feel a bit neglected.  I use the word tumbling because I feel a profound sense of being off-center, with maybe a bit of dizziness;  a definite blurriness of focus.  Close your eyes and remember being a child doing a somersault.  Yes, that’s it.  Tumbling.

I’ve been reading too much (most recently Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, then Vivan Howard’s ten-pound tribute to her hometown in NC with lots of recipes, Deep Run Roots), and watching too much tv (Rectify‘s amazing latest season on Netflix, and rewatching for the millionth time the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls), and cooking too much (I made this carrot cake recipe in muffin form for breakfast and for dinner, and we enjoyed the Creamy Mustard Chicken recipe from the New  York Times, which I can’t access now because I’ve used up my freebies for the month.).

Yesterday I spent the day with my brother and sister-in-law.  They are good listeners, but Paul always says, “Mary, you need more stimulation than anyone I’ve ever met.” I know I’m not good at being alone.  I know I’m a bit spastic.  I’m trying so hard to relax into early retirement or a break from working–whatever we want to call it–to find peace in the quiet of my world.  Now that I think about it, I’m much like those early summer skeeter hawks, floating about without much purpose, simply enjoying family, books, garden, pets, and the fabulous desert sunsets.

Cheers,

Mary

Small Miracles

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January was such a traumatic month for everyone, whether you are red or blue, so it’s truly a small miracle that life is feeling more normal in this first week of February.  The weather is FABULOUS . . . though Spring has certainly come too soon. Our poor fireplace hosted only three nights of cheery fires, and I can hear my sweaters crying lonely, woolly tears as I walk by my dresser each morning.  Only a few of them made it out into the world during this very warm winter here in Tempe, Arizona.

The warm weather has brought out the birds.  I’m hearing doves cooing each morning, and yesterday Ruby and I surprised a long-legged white crane hanging out in our front yard.  It ran a few steps, then took flight, its long wings flapping over the greenbelt, likely headed back to the canal where we usually see them. I was awe struck by its beauty. Later in the day, a loud flock of ducks flew over head, making Ruby and I smile. The weather has been kind to our garden; the mesclun (mixed lettuces) needs daily harvesting. and we eat the bitter greens each day in salads and on sandwiches. YUM!

I subbed at the front desk at my wonderful school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week.  I was excited to be at the helm; the power of the front desk!  Debbie left me only the barest of tasks: greeting people, answering the phones, and taking care of student meds and boo boos.  We had fewer boo boos than normal, so I sent messages of gratitude to the Universe for an easy week . . . and for not making an absolute boob of myself in this important role. I had a great time and am grateful for the experience.

This morning I had a walking date with my old friend Ann and my new friend Diane.  We walked three miles along the canal, catching up on each other’s lives and attempting to solve the problems of the world.  I felt so blessed to be in the company of these very intelligent, thoughtful, kind women. The two of them have been friends for 30 years.  I have been friends with Ann for 17 years, and friends with Diane for only a year and a half. We laughed as we walked on this sunny morning, saying hello to other people walking and dodging men on fast bicycles who yelled at us to get out of their way, “Bicycle on the left!” and “Coming through!”

For lunch I met my friend Amy (we met the first day of 7th grade) at Fired Pie. Facebook told me it is National Pizza Day, however, I did not order pizza but instead my beloved Buffalo Chicken Ceaser Salad.  Amy and I also attempted to solve the problems of the world, then talked about her recently published YA book, Die For You.  It’s so good; I urge you to read it as soon as you can!

After lunch I checked in with our remodeling company.  Six years ago we bought a small house near ASU—a place to stow our surly, unruly college-aged children. It’s been a blessing and a curse.  We love not living with 19 year olds, but every property needs attention  . . .and college students do not have the same idea of cleanliness that we do. Our oldest son lived there for three years while he went to college, and now our daughter lives there with friends.  She recently brought it to our attention that her bathroom shower wall was soggy, so we were forced to do a bathroom remodel. It’s so stressful! I love our renovation company, Bathrooms Plus Kitchens, and am excited to view the completed bathroom tomorrow. Of course they found mold AND asbestos which bumped up the cost, but that’s no one’s fault.  We bought the house when prices were low so it all evens out in the end. It’s totally worth the cost to not have to live with young adults and their terrible schedules, angst, and drama!

In other news, today I baked a new cookie recipe from Ina Garten–DELICIOUSNESS. They are Oatmeal Chocolate Dried Cranberry cookies, and I have a big plate of them ready to take to school tomorrow since I am subbing in the Early Threes class.  Bake yourself a batch for the weekend.  They are perfect when heated in the microwave for a few minutes and enjoyed with a hot cup o’ joe.  Happy Friday, everyone!

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

Hashtags on a Wednesday

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At 4pm on Monday, I realized my dress was inside out . . . and had been all day while I went to lunch with friends and ran about fifty errands.  The white tag was clearly visible on the side of my black dress. I hope I gave someone a laugh.  I felt ridiculous.  #needsomeonetodressme  #alwaysblonde

Everyone here in Tempe is talking about how hot it is.  While it truly is warm with our temps near 120 each day, it’s still a dry heat.  Once monsoon arrives in mid-July, then it will be REALLY hot.  So while everyone else is bitching and moaning, I’m getting my garage and yard in order for when the REAL heat arrives next month.  #arizonagirl #lovesummer

The mockingbirds are back.  I’ve posted at least 20 times in this blog about how much these evil varmints torment my soul and deprive me of sleep each summer.  I was happy to hear one fly kamikaze-style into one our windows early this morning.  Those danged birds perch in the silver dollar eucalyptus that William parks under in the driveway. His car is completely poop splattered. It’s disgusting.  In an effort to deter said birds, I placed a fake hawk on one of the higher branches . . . but they pooped on that, too.  A few minutes ago, I tied two music cds to a string and threw them into some branches.  I’m hoping the reflections will scare them, but if they aren’t afraid of that, maybe they’ll be frightened by the two scary cds I chose: Slayer’s South of Heaven and Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe.  This music used to belong to my brother; I would never listen to such shite. #tokillamockingbird  #heartmybrother

Yesterday Eve came over to hang out.  We went to Costco to put in a prescription, and when we found out they were out of the med we were seeking, I said to my daughter, “This is good news because there’s a really cute pharmacist at Fry’s.”  He’s very young, but he has these big brown eyes and thick curly hair and any way, I just find him really atractive. Minutes later we were standing in Miguel’s line and, being careful that nobody was looking, I mouthed these words to Eve, “cute pharmacist” with a eye roll toward the window where he stood.  We got our prescription, began to walk away and were only THREE STEPS from the pharmacy window when Eve asks me in a really loud voice, “Now Mom, WHICH one of those guys is it that you think is so cute?”  I gasped in horror and heard the pharmacists laughing.  OMG. Looks like I will be finding a new pharmacy.  #mymeandaughter  #farewellmiguel    #oldbutnotdead

I made a delicious concoction last night called cilantro chimichurri.  Traditionally, chimichurri is made with parsley, but I used cilantro instead and it was flavorful and fresh and a spicy accompaniment for our grilled chicken.  I put these ingredients into my one cup food processor and before you could say, “garlic breath!” it was ready.  Blend these things together until your concoction is smooth:  one bunch cilantro with stems trimmed, 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, two green onions, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, salt to taste. #yummyspicygoodness

Cheers,

Mary

Have Frank’s, Will Travel

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Having a three-day weekend just days after a week of Spring Break seemed downright sinful!  Friday evening we had dinner (party of 7!) at Zipps, where I’m absolutely in love with their buffalo chicken hot wings, fries, and cold pints of Hess IPA  (I know, my appetite is like a college-aged boy’s).  Seriously.  On recent Friday nights, I’ve been a black hole for french fries and beer.  There isn’t any left for anyone else, sorry Tempe!  And chickens, save yourselves!  I’ll be eyeing your wings for my next meal! (Have Frank’s Sauce, will travel.)

Bright and early Saturday, we were at the community garden.  What a freakin’ mess.  You leave a garden unwatched for three weeks and crazy stuff will happen.  Because of our ridiculously high temps in the 90s in February, all of my lettuces either wilted or went to seed.  I could have cried.  Adieu, my dear arugula!  Sweet dreams, crisp mesclun! Apparently sunflowers reseed themselves each year—who knew?  Sunflowers had sprouted to a height of two feet, no lie.  Amazing. I pulled out most of them because they were covered in little black bugs. The good news?  Sweet peas were blooming, smelling like spring.  It felt great to dig in the dirt, admire the other gardener’s plots, and make a new friend who I’ve seen for years but never met in her job as a librarian at our Sunset Branch library down on the corner. So nice to talk gardening, books, libraries, and philosophy with you,  Trish!

After gardening we finished up the Most Dreaded of All Tasks:  Taxes.  I added up our donations and the sum of all costs at our rental property near ASU, while Hubby located and tallied all our W2s, the 409s, and the WD40s (ha).  We threw it into an envelope with a hope that we won’t be in a twizzler when the accountant looks it over.  *crossed fingers*

We had a very low-key Easter Sunday with Eve and William present for a late lunch of Spaghetti Carbonara with sides of sour dough bread, asparagus, salad, and apple cake. When our children were little, we would attend church with my in-laws and do a fancy restaurant brunch, but personally I’m happy to be done with that tradition.  It was so exhausting!   Easter was never a occasion in my childhood home. My Catholic cousins got fancy dresses and Easter egg hunts, but I got none of that since my parents were not religious.  At best, we’d join the rest of the family at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for late afternoon Easter dinner.   When we became parents, Hubby and I made Easter egg hunts in the greenbelt near our house for our children . . .  until they were too old to want to participate.  I have hopes to recreate that event with grandchildren someday.

This year’s relaxing, beautiful  Easter Sunday with our kids was a gift. We played with the pets, chatted about every little thing, and ate too much chocolate from our Easter baskets.  (And yes, even though our kids are all grown up, we still give the Easter baskets.) We watched with interest a large swarm of bees swarm and leave and return and do their “bee thing” in the corner of our back yard all afternoon. For years we’ve had bees visit us, sometimes staying long enough to make honey that pours out of our fence, and other years, staying briefly before moving on to greener pastures.   And we at this Apple Cake.

Apple Cake

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Plus:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1 cup of the sugar until blended.  Add the eggs and mix again.  Add sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth.  On top of butter mixture, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  With the mixer on low, slowly mix just until combined.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan.  Top with half of the apples, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining apples on top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.
Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Cheers,
Mary