Morsels from the Tropics

Key Lime Tartlets, a tasty creation of mine.

Key Lime Pie is one of my favorites and specialties. If you’re lucky enough to find the key limes, don’t pass up the opportunity to use them. Regular limes don’t fill the bill.

A twist on the traditional Key Lime Pie is my Key Lime Tartlets. Take all the tropical goodness and put it in to little bites. Here I used clear plastic square cups and filled them for a buffet. These are nice to serve anytime and anywhere and they’re fun to eat.

Follow the no-bake recipe below. (I’ll share another awesome baked version later). Instead of the pie method, do this:

Mix graham cracker crumbs. Instead of pressing them into a pie pan, press a Tablespoon into a little cup (no need to bake). Refrigerate until chilled.

Fill with Key Lime filling. Refrigerate.

When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and a garnish of key lime.

So easy and exotic!

My Key Lime Tartlets on a dessert buffet. Photo of Margot.

Recipe: Best Key Lime Pie By Mom (Lois Garneau)

Because the Florida Keys had no refrigeration until the Overseas Highway opened in 1938, bakers had to use canned milk, so sweetened condensed milk became an essential element of Florida’s state pie.

Make a graham cracker crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Use crushed graham crackers and follow the recipe on the box. If your pie plate is large, increase the recipe by half. Cool crust before filling it.

For the filling, mix:

  • 1 can (14 oz.) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/3 cup Key Lime juice (use a citrus reamer to extract the juice) Or, use Nellie and Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice, found in some grocery or specialty stores.
  • 2 egg whites beaten until thick, fold into the above

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream or meringue topping.

Use the Key Lime rinds for decoration.

Photo by Cindy Dyer.


The Office: Mary Ann and the Beating

Spread the love…be hospitable.

We are a small staff but we have a cast of characters—protagonists, antagonists, heroes and villains, but all are hard-working, professional, dedicated and smart. One thing we all have in common is the love of parties. That’s why celebrating birthdays is pretty important to The Office cast. We jump at the chance to come together for a break, celebrate and eat something yummy. Our treats have run the gamut—margarita cupcakes, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, a flower arrangement made of fresh veggies, you name it. We tailor it to the honoree’s taste buds.

This is not Mary Ann, this is Ronnie, director of the Walk4Hearing. She is enjoying her birthday and Nancy’s Mary Ann Cake.

One of the most coveted birthday desserts is the Mary Ann Cake made by Nancy Macklin, director of marketing and events at the Hearing Loss Association of America. Boy, does she know how to put on an office birthday event! Her Mary Ann Cake is beautiful — and second, delicious. It’s made in a special cake pan, available from NordicWare  (fancy version),, and King Arthur Flour. The exact shape of the pan varies. The recipes vary and the spelling of its female namesake varies. My favorite is Nancy’s recipe—the memorable Almond Cream Mary Ann Cake, filled with mascarpone and topped with fresh berries.

Give the recipe a try. And remember, hospitality goes where you do, even to the office. Take your game on the road. Others will be glad you did. Spread the love, be hospitable!

This is not Mary Ann either, it is Nancy. Not only is she the best director of marketing and events in the world, she also makes a superb Mary Ann Cake.

Nancy’s Mary Ann Cake

The secret to this cake’s smoothness is all the beating.” — Nancy

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup of butter (two sticks), softened at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or as Nancy suggests, 3 teaspoons almond extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour pan.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

The Beating: With flat beater, beat butter on medium until smooth and creamy, one to two minutes. Reduce to low and gradually add sugar beating until blended. Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating until light and fluffy, three-to five minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla (or almond) extract.

Reduce beater to low and add flour mixture in three additions alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour, beating just until blended and no lumps of flour remain.
Pour into Mary Ann pan and bake for 32 minutes.

2 cups fresh berries
4 T sugar, divided
6 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Combine berries with 2 T granulated sugar. Set aside.

Using spatula, combine mascarpone, sour cream, vanilla and 2 T granulated sugar. Fold into the whipped cream.
Fill the cake shell with mascarpone mixture. Top with fresh berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Ironing Out the Kinks

Grab a good book, put your feet up, and enjoy a libation on the house from Kelley Hospitality while I iron out the kinks of my blog. It seems things are scrambling out of blog order and all the buttons, whistles and bells along the side (widgets) have gone A.W.O.L.

So, as I wait for help from WordPress, dear readers, relax. Kelley Hospitality endures.

P.S. The high today here in the Washington, D.C., area was 95 degrees!

Give a Penny, Get a Penny

Hospitality lessons start at home. It doesn’t matter what kind of home you have because making others feel glad they stopped by is what hospitality is all about.

Cardboard mobile home.

Twelve-year-old boys teeter between playful imps and young men. It’s a fun thing to watch. One moment they are talking like young adults and the next they are rolling like puppies in the grass, climbing trees and hanging on rope swings.

Such was the way a few days ago when four neighborhood boys, including our son, built a house out of a cardboard box. (How ironic the box is from a Martha Stewart outdoor furniture set.)

Our son said, “Want to see our house?”

How could I resist? The house tour began.

The Outside

Removable flag

It looks cobbled together carelessly with its spray-painted graffiti style, but there was a plan. The word “EPIC” means awesome, I am told. The protruded box on top of the house is supposed to be gold but they ran out of paint. A flag flies and many of the fine points of the house are constructed from brightly-colored Duct tape.

The Inside

Our son explains: “Here’s a sliding roof that leads to a periscope-type lookout place. The drawings on the wall are ours and everyone who worked on the house has his name spray painted in it.”

“Up here (and he points to the place where you can look out the top), is the give a penny, get a penny place.” (And there were several coins on the cardboard ledge.)

I asked, “What’s that?

“You know, like at 7-11 and stores like that, they say ‘give a penny, get a penny’…like if you take a penny or a dime to round out your bill, you put one back the next time. But, it doesn’t always work, because some people take but don’t give anything back.”

I replied, “You mean some people are takers and not givers?”

“Yeah,” he said solemnly.

Hospitality is to give more than you expect to receive. It comes from the heart. Can my husband and I teach this to our son? Or does he come by it naturally? Nature or nurture?

I don’t know the answer. I just know that I’m documenting this day and this house. I want to see if my son grows up to be the kind of man his father is – one who takes a wedge of cheese, serves it on a plate with whatever he has on hand, and makes you feel like he was waiting just for you.

The spy lookout place.

Boys’ artwork adorn interior walls.

I heard the boys are now planning for the demolition of the house. The fun never ends!

Home builders’ signatures



A reader posted a comment in response to my last blog titled “Homewrecker!!”
He asked, what are wellies?  So, here you are. And, I wouldn’t be without mine.

Thanks for reading and keep those questions coming.


It happened last night on my own front porch. I was slapped across the cheek by an angry female! I felt insulted and was red faced. But, I admit it, I was caught in the act and I’m guilty. [Warning! There are a lot of exclamation points in what you are about to read!]

I’ll start at the beginning. It was early evening, raining, and the June air was balmy. I put on my pink-polka-dot wellies and went outside to garden. This is my favorite time to pull the weeds out of the moist earth, deadhead the flowers and observe the verdant garden while a soft rain kisses my hair. I also like to take my ferns down from their hangers on the front porch and let them drink the rain like the rest of the garden.

As I climbed on my stool and grabbed the hook of the fern basket to bring it down— WHOPP! SLAP! WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE?

I disturbed Mrs. Birdie’s nest and she was mad! Her wing slapped my left check as she flew off in a rage.

I placed the basket on the ground and found her nest with three light blue eggs. Then I was upset. Will she come back? I’ve heard that if you move or disturb a bird’s nest the mother will not return. I ran to get my camera and, still shaking, I took some photos of the nest. I carefully returned the fern to its hanger, hoping Mother Finch would return to the place she left.

The little nest I disturbed!

I don’t know why, but I worried about this all night. I woke up this morning and even before my coffee, I went to the porch and stepped up on the stool to check on the eggs. WHOOSH!!! Mrs. Finch flew away again (this time without slapping me). Why do I have to be so curious? Why can’t I just leave this little family alone!?

At that moment, my neighbor Melanie walked by. I explained what happened, worrying that I scared off mother bird.

Melanie, the voice of reason, said: “Was the bird grayish with some red streaks?

“Uh huh,” I said anxiously.

“Oh, those are House Finches. I’ve been a grandmother to many of them. One year they built a nest in my Christmas wreath, that’s why it was still on my door in March. Contrary to what people think, they don’t have a keen sense of smell and will not be offended by your intrusion. She will be back and will lay more eggs. The father bird will even come back when the eggs hatch.”

I couldn’t help myself so I looked in the nest and there were now four eggs!

“Wow! I said, “She laid another egg since last night! How can these big eggs come out of such a small bird?”

Melanie replied, “They probably say the same about us.”

Bird Buffet

I looked up House Finches in my bird book and learned more about them. This species was only recently introduced to the Eastern United States in 1940. They are gregarious feeders and songbirds. So, that is who is waking me in the morning.

Roll out the welcome mat for your feathered friends with various feeders and flowers. We’ve had cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, you name it! They’ll entertain you for hours.

Once, two small blue birds perched above our door. My mom said that meant good luck to our home. She was right.

I’m waiting for you hummingbirds! I promise, I won’t bother you!