I very much enjoyed not trying on swimsuits at the department store.

Disclaimer: Free Country gave Nichole a swimsuit for review purposes.
Free Country sells outdoorsy clothing like winter coats and board shorts, so I was somewhat surprised when I got an email from them earlier this summer asking whether I’d like to try out one of their swimsuits. I am a lot of things, but an outdoorsy beach babe is not one of them.

Just a few days before I got that email, though, we’d decided we wanted to give Dollywood Splash Country a try. And do you know what one generally wears to a waterpark? A swimsuit. So I said yes, and a few days later the items I’d chosen arrived. And I realized that I’d ordered the brown board skirt and a black-trimmed “tankini” top, because apparently I’m bad at making things match. (I’m betting the folks at Free Country would’ve helped to fix my mistake, but I didn’t even contact them about it. My desire to not spend any more time thinking about swimsuits won out over my desire to match.)

I didn’t have as much need for a swimsuit this year as I have in summers past, because it was relatively chilly when we were at my dad’s house this year. The suit got most of its wear in my backyard and at Splash Country, where probably the most flattering photo ever of me in a swimsuit was taken. But I was too cheap to pay the $15 they wanted for a print of it, so I can’t share it with you. Let’s pretend I did, though, and now you’re all like “Wow, that’s an amazing photo of you with your family in a wave pool! Your hair looks so good!” and then I’d say, “Yeah, thanks, I’d just gotten a haircut that morning,” and you’d say, “What? Why did you schedule a haircut on the day you were going to a waterpark? That’s poor planning,” and I would agree with you because it was poor planning but my hair did look great in that picture. I regret nothing.

Anyway: swimsuit. I love half of it.

Let’s talk about the half I didn’t love first: the tankini. The front of the tankini is on the low-cut side for my comfort level (which, to be fair, tends toward the culotte suit). I think the low-cut problem is exacerbated by a lack of support in what Poppy calls the “Mommy parts” region. I need a turtleneck top with steel girding, is what I’m saying, and this was not that. I did, however, really like the racer-back aspect. I think the sturdiness of the racer back may have saved me from a humiliating incident in the wave pool, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from worrying about spillage while I was wearing the tankini.

The board skirt, however, I love. It isn’t made of typical swimsuit material, from what I can tell, so it doesn’t get all clingy when it gets wet, and it dries very quickly. It also has a velcro closure on the front, which makes it easy to get in and out of when one needs to visit the lady’s room at the pool.

So: minus-5 points to tankinis and 10 points to board shorts!

In the market for a swimsuit? Free Country has a ton of them on sale right now. This would be a great time to stock up for next summer!

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A half-baked response to the Daring Bakers Challenge

August’s Daring Bakers Challenge had two components — a cake and one of two types of cookies — and I only completed one of them. It was worth it, though, and I’m pretty sure no one at Daring Bakers headquarters is keeping score.

Mawa Cake is popular in Irani bakeries in India. Making the “mawa” — which is just whole milk that’s cooked way, way down and tastes kind of weird on its own — required a good bit of time and attention, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward recipe. The mawa’s made like so:

Pour 4 cups of whole milk into a heavy-bottomed nonstick saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off and making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take an hour to an hour and a half. The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.

Once the milk it has reduced to about one-fourth, turn the heat to low and let it cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly until the milk solids — the mawa — take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely.

You can cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) until you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge, so let it come to room temperature before using it.

The Mawa Cake has a pretty mild flavor, and it went quite nicely macerated strawberries. I think I might’ve liked it with even more cardamom. The kids devoured it plain (minus the cashews, naturally), and my in-laws doctored the slices they took home with some peaches and, I believe, ice cream. It’s a versatile cake.

Mawa Cake
Recipe Type: dessert
Author: Daring Bakers Challenge
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed crumbled mawa
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tsp powdered cardamom
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cashews, to decorate
  1. Pre-heat oven to moderate 350 degrees. Beat the butter, crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl on high speed until soft and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed until well-incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and mix well.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed until well-blended.
  4. Grease and line only the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashews on top of the batter. Do not press the nuts down into the batter.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely.


Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies -– beautifully spiced and delicious!