Auntie Ruth's Cinnamon Brownies

Cinnamon Brownies

I admit it.  I’m a brownie snob. I have no interest in brownies from a boxed mix because they lack personality and usually taste like chemicals.  But with that being said, there are four boxed mixes I love.  They are from a small business I owned in the 1990’s called Auntie Ruth’s. The brownies taste home-made because there are no preservatives, and to make the brownie mixes, you add melted butter and real eggs. Plus, my mixes included a flavorful frosting mix.  I never made money from the business, and eventually stopped production of the mixes. Since my recipes made ten batches of brownies, I only made them for special occasions after I stopped production.

A few years ago, I wanted to make my brownies and looked for the recipes. I couldn’t find them anywhere and think the recipes had been in a box I took to the shredder.  I had also saved them on an old floppy disc that is long gone.  It doesn’t really matter, I don’t have a computer that could open the disc.

I figured out the recipes as closely as my taste buds remember and am sharing one of my favorite flavors.  It’s a cinnamon brownie with my secret ingredient – a hint of white pepper which gives it a very complex taste.  The cinnamon taste comes through the frosting, so don’t leave it off.  My taste buds are watering just thinking about those buttery sweet chocolate  brownies with a bit of spice. They are so easy, you’ll wonder why you ever made brownies from a box.

Meet my Alamo Annie Brownies – guaranteed to make a brownie snob out of you, too.

Cinnamon Brownies
Prep time
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Total time
An easy to make melt in your mouth brownie with a fudge-like cinnamon frosting.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12 - 20 bars
  • Brownies:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs*
  • Frosting:
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sifted unsweetened cocoa
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  1. Brownies:
  2. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Grease an 8x8 or 9x9 square pan.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl, add to dry ingredients and stir well.
  6. Spread the mixture in the greased pan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool.
  9. Frosting:
  10. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  11. Add the butter and milk, stirring well.
  12. Frost the cooled brownies and cut into desired size. ( I am rarely that patient. I often frost the brownies while they are still warm.)
  13. * Two eggs produce a cake type brownie. If you prefer a fudge like brownie, use just one egg.


University of Washington Suzallo Library

Suzzallo Library

It’s no big secret that I love libraries. Just check out my History Spy Pinterest Board.  One of my favorite libraries is on the University of Washington campus.  Also, referred to as the Harry Potter library by recent patrons, the Suzzallo library is worth a special trip to the campus next time you find yourself in Seattle.  Bring a book or some research to do though, because as you enter, the ambiance makes you want to sit and study.

It opened in 1926 and named the Suzzallo Library in 1933 after the death of former university president, Henry Suzzallo, and considered the crown jewel of his administration. The architecture is an example of the Collegiate Gothic style.

As you walk up to this magnificent library, you see eighteen statues along with many coats of arms.  While studying the history of the library, I found that the statues depicted Moses, Louis Pasteur, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Justinian, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Goethe, Herodotus, Adam Smith, Homer, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Darwin, and Grotius – all chosen for their contributions to learning and culture.  The coats of arms are from many outstanding universities around the world in the early 1900s.

As you first enter the library, you’ll find the Grand staircase where you can see the worn marble treads from so many years of use by dedicated students. It ends in a beautiful room with a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows called the Grand Stair Hall, but my favorite part of the library and the part which invoked the Harry Potter name, is the adjacent Suzzallo Reading Room. Suzzallo envisioned a cathedral of learning, and it does have the look of a cathedral with a ceiling that’s 65 feet tall.  It has beautiful huge oak bookcases topped with hand carvings of native plants. Much of the light comes from the 35 foot tall leaded and stained glass windows. Other light comes from old brass lamps hanging from that enormous ceiling.  The students study silently in there, and I did not hear a noise above a faint whisper until a student stood up accidentally dropping a book.  All eyes immediately looked up from their studying assessing the source of that unwelcome disturbance.

Suzzallo Library Reading Room

Mysterious doors behind a locked glass wall.

There are rows of thick oak desks with quaint little lamps, and what really caught my interest was a glass wall with a locked oak door.  Behind the glass is a whole row of ornate wood doors  which have called out to me ever since to write a story about the mystery which lies behind those doors.  For those of you who have been to that library, have you ever noticed that intriguing area?

If you’ve been to the Suzzallo Library leave a comment on your favorite area, and if you never have been there, I hope you’ll take the time to visit next time you’re in the Seattle area.

New Snow and Sun in Spokane

Snow and Sunshine

I woke up to freshly fallen snow and a blue sunny sky this morning.   It put me in such a happy mood.  I don’t know why that particular combination is so pleasing to the eye, but the blue sky and white snow on bare trees and evergreens is so beautiful to me.  It gives me hope and energy. I’m even smiling as I write this. It’s true that we have had many recent dreary overcast days here in Spokane which makes today all that much more spectacular, but I think it’s more than that.  I’m sure there’s a good explanation for the joy resulting from blue skies and snow.  What do you think?

Today reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas carols not because the words speak of sunshine and snow, but because it was a day much like today when my friend, Mary Ann, first sang this song for me when we were in college.  I never had heard it before, and it quickly became one of my favorites. The poem is by the English poet Christina Rossetti written sometime before 1872 in response to a request from a magazine for a Christmas poem and set to music in the early 1900’s. I’ve put the first and last verses in bold print to represent the words Mary Ann sang.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter 
  Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, 
  Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him, 
  Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
  I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
  I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, 
  Give my heart.

I’m not much of a piano player, but I play this song. In fact, it’s the only Christmas song I play.  Come to think of it, it’s the only song I can play except for Bach’s Minuet in G.  Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?  In the comments I’d love to hear which Christmas carol is your favorite and why, or why you think snow and sunshine is such a mood lifter.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

St. John’s Cathedral – Spokane, Washington

The cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is one of Spokane, Washington’s architectural jewels. Located on Grand Boulevard above the hospitals, St. John’s towers majestically over the neighboring landscape on Spokane’s south hill, and is visible from many parts of the city including I-90.  An Episcopal cathedral, it’s the Spokane Diocese which includes Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle.

The massive stone exterior is only a hint of the grandeur of what lies inside.  The first time I walked into the cathedral, my eyes were immediately drawn up to the beautiful stone detail and lace work tracery in the upper stained glass windows and the huge California redwood beams supporting the tall ceiling. The stained glass windows are breathtaking on the inside, especially on a sunny day.  Beautiful symbolic details are throughout the interior. In addition, thousands of pipes from the famous Skinner organ are in eye-catching groups in the cathedral.  There also is a carillon with forty-nine cast bells with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighing 5,000 pounds has the nickname, Big John. The carillon can be heard daily in nearby areas, and in the summer people enjoy picnics on the cathedral lawns while listening to the concerts.

Construction for St. John’s started in 1925 and is the only cathedral this side of the Mississippi designed in the style of a thirteenth century English gothic cathedral. It also has French influenced detail and is the brainchild of Spokane’s famous architect, Harold Whitehouse, who also was a member of the congregation. Donors are still needed to finish the last of the massive stained glass windows.

In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, when literacy was low, stained glass windows and mosaics told Bible stories as well as local history. In that same tradition, even though literacy is much higher, stained glass windows still tell the same stories. If you go on a tour of St. John’s, you will learn the meanings of the windows depicting  biblical stories and local history.

The northwest pillar by the organ has a fascinating  cornerstone containing inserted stones – one each from the Mount of Olives, the ancient Glastonbury Abbey in the United Kingdom, the first Episcopal church in Jamestown, Virginia, and the former All Saints Cathedral in Spokane.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - Cornerstone


In addition to volunteers offering tours,  there are many concerts throughout the year hosted by the cathedral.  One of my favorite Christmas memories was attending a Christmas Eve service at St. John’s and experiencing the beauty of the organ and choir in the majestic cathedral setting. The atmosphere was enchanting, and I felt as if transported to Europe.

Have you been to St. John’s?  What is your favorite memory?

Pumpkin Pie Spice No Bake Oatmeal Cookies


Pumpkin Pie Spice No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies

Recipes for oatmeal no-bake cookies have been found in cookbooks since the time of the Depression when ingredients were scarce.  They’ve been called by many names such as Depression cookies, Preacher cookies, Cow Pies, Boil cookies, and Oatmeal Fudge.  The recipes are all very similar and call for boiling a mixture of sugar, milk, cocoa and a fat such as butter for a minute or so, and then taking it off the heat and adding vanilla, oatmeal and often peanut butter.

I remember eating this cookie my entire life, and it was one of the first ones I learned how to make.  Yesterday, I decided to make them for a lunch with friends. I pulled out my trusty old family recipe and at the same time saw a jar of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter on my counter.  That got the wheels turning in my head, and I wondered if I could replace the peanut-butter with the cookie butter and just leave out the cocoa.  The cookies were a huge hit and disappeared rapidly.

I can’t wait for those if you who live near a Trader Joe’s to try these and let me know what you think.  They are so creamy and reminiscent of pumpkin pie.

By the way, after they were all scooped out and starting to dry on the waxed paper, I grated nutmeg on the tops and drizzled dark chocolate on them.  This was a fantastic inspiration and made them amazing!


Pumpkin Pie Spice No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies

Pumpkin Pie flavor in cookie form – Brilliant!


Pumpkin Pie Spice No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A melt-in-your-mouth luscious cousin of the ever popular Chocolate No-Bake cookie, these Pumpkin Pie Spice No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies will remind you of Pumpkin Pie, Spice, and everything nice!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12-40 cookies
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup milk of your choice (I used Almond milk)
  • ¾ cup Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
  • 3½ cups oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • Optional : ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup melted chocolate (I used dark)
  1. In a medium saucepan add the butter, sugars, milk and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. Heat to a rolling boil and then boil one minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Take off heat and quickly add pumpkin pie spice cookie butter and oatmeal.
  4. Stir well and immediately drop by spoonfuls on wax paper.
  5. Make the cookies whatever size appeals to you. I used a small scoop. You can also press the mixture in a buttered 9x13 pan and cut into squares when cool.
  6. If desired, grate nutmeg over the cookie tops, then drizzle cookies with melted chocolate.
  7. Cool until dry - about ½ hour. If needed, put them into a refrigerator to speed up the process.
  8. Enjoy!


Pumpkin Pie Spice No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies

Sleep – Finally!

Niacinamide for sleep

I woke up this morning after having such a great night’s sleep, so I wanted to let others know what has finally worked for me in my quest to find that elusive rest that gets harder and harder to find. I’ve had a sleeping problem for years, in fact, I had to quit teaching because my lack of sleep was causing me to not be able to deal efficiently with stress which in turn caused health problems.  I would finally fall asleep around 4:00 am only to have my alarm go off at 6:00am.  This would happen three or four nights a week. Ugh! Even after I stopped teaching, I had trouble sleeping.  Some nights I wouldn’t sleep at all, and then the day would be wasted because I couldn’t function well with sleep deprivation.

I didn’t feel comfortable using prescription drugs, but tried over-the-counter sleep aids as well as natural cures. The over-the-counter sleep aids worked a little, but my mind was very foggy the next morning, plus I found out they aren’t very good the brain.  The natural cures from essential oils or herbs in capsule form brought some relief, but never consistent results.  I made sure I got adequate levels of vitamin D, but still wasn’t sleeping well.

I added a magnesium supplement and had good results, but then as I was discussing sleep with a friend – a common topic with my age group – she mentioned that she started using niacinamide instead of her prescription sleeping pills and had great results.  Even though I thought I was getting good results with magnesium, I figured I would also give niacinamide a try.  After it built up in my system, which took about a week, I started sleeping like a baby.  I had forgotten how wonderful it was to wake up rested after a deep sleep.  I am so grateful. Every so often now, even with magnesium and niacinamide, I have a hard time sleeping and realize it’s because my stomach is upset from something I ate, but that’s a whole other topic.

I am not a health professional and am not making any health claims.  I just wanted to let others know what finally helped me. Niacin is vitamin B3 and will cause hot flushes, so I use the form called niacinamide which is non-flushing.   As with any supplement, be sure to do your research before taking it. People with some medical conditions shouldn’t use it.

If you try niacinamide, let me know if it brings you the same sleep relief I am experiencing.  I know that our bodies are different and what works for some people won’t work for others, but the sleep problems are real.  What works for you?

Gum Wall - Seattle, Washington

Bye Bye Gum Wall

Gum Wall - Seattle. WA

The iconic gum wall next to Pike Place Market, a disgustingly cool gum composition, is now history because apparently the sugar in the gum ate away at the bricks.  For years happy tourists and locals alike added their chewed up gum to the wall, many of them taking pictures next to their proud addition to the iconic gum artwork.

But don’t be downcast, don’t cancel your travel plans to visit Seattle because officials tell us gum can be added again to the famous wall now that steam has cleaned off the 20 year accumulation.  I think a plan is in order this time.  Artists could copy famous paintings on the bricks, then the gum chewers could put their gum on the designated places in the wall that match the color they’re chewing.  It could become a famous gum mosaic.  A Van Gogh fan myself, I would like to see Starry, Starry Night reproduced in gum. It could be a whole new business for an enterprising shop in Pike Place to sell gum in the specific colors needed to complete the gum mosaic masterpieces. It could be a great ongoing fundraiser for many organizations including The Society for Brick Preservation.  Okay, I just made that name up,  I’m not aware of that society yet, but it might be out there somewhere. The newly formed School of Mosaic Gum Art could be in charge of making the outlines of the giant-sized interactive color book . Student assignments could include periodic policing of the artwork to move errant placed gum colors to their proper locations in the pictures.

The possibilities for making the new gum wall even more famous than before are endless.  Maybe this is the perfect time to buy stock in a gum company.  Or maybe, I should start a gum company making unique, artistic gum colors with a sugar substitute that doesn’t destroy the brick.  I would call it Van Gogh Art Gum.  I can see it now – beautiful gum mosaic masterpieces imitated all over the world.  The demand for Van Gogh gum would skyrocket and fund my retirement.

Chew on gum lovers and artists, chew on.