I'm me. Wife, mother, follower of Christ, musician, artist. Hopeful entrepreneur, growing photographer, experimenting cook. Jill-of-all-trades, mistress of some. Join me as I document my adventures in life.
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Why not? After all, I'm the mom now. Plus, my tasty homemade cake is probably more nutritious than sugary cereals anyway.
This is the best chocolate cake recipe I've encountered anywhere. It is moist and flavorful and even friendly for people who have dairy and egg allergies.
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. ~Grease and four a 9"x13" pan or two 9" round pans. (To fill up the 9"x13" pan almost to the top you need to 1 1/2 times this recipe. Ready for some math?)
~Sift into a large mixing bowl: 2 1/4 cups four (add another 1/4 cup if you live at high altitude like I do) 1 1/2 cups sugar 4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (hint: 4 tablespoons=1/4 cup) 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
~Whisk into the dry ingredients until well combined: 1 1/2 cups water (or milk) 1 1/2 tablespoon vinegar (balsamic is my favorite kind to use) 7 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
~Pour into the prepared pans and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. ~Cool completely before frosting.
This frosting is irresistibly eat-it-with-a-spoon good. Well, it would be if it wasn't so rich that it becomes cloying by itself. Paired with the slight bitterness of the chocolate cake, though, it is, well, words fail to describe it.
~Mix in a saucepan:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup milk
~Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
~Boil it for 4-5 minutes without stirring.
~Transfer to a mixing bowl and cool to room temperature.
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar
~Beat until smooth and uniformly pale brown.
~Frost the cake.
(Really, folks, I wasn't joking when I said it's irresistible...)
Last week I bought a beginner's water-color set, and today I introduced Little Man to the wonderful art of painting. (Incidentally, much to my delight, the paint brush was actually a real, decent paintbrush and not one of those awful imitations with impossible, plastic bristles.) I showed him how to do the basics: dip, paint, rinse (the brush), repeat. He took to it like a duck takes to water.
Well, I should say Mum and Papa's new window treatments since she chose the fabric, and he invested in it. When their former living room window treatments were irreparably and unevenly bleached by the sun, they decided to let me make them some new curtains.
I was thrilled. After all, I love to design and sew curtains, and as usual, I had a dozen ideas for how their new curtains should look. I tried and hopelessly failed at coming up with a good way of combining them all into a complex master plan, and settled for something much simpler. It is a perfect compromise between my mom's lovely sense of elegant simplicity and desire for everything to be as efficient and easy as possible and my sense of making everything into an intricate piece of art. (Would you say that's accurate, Mum?)
The sheers are are a lovely, oh, so subtle plaid, which was a joy to work with. They help cut down the blinding afternoon glare. (Even with the help of the sheers, the glare made it almost impossible for me to get good photos).
The tab-top valance is made of exquisite damask fabric. The flower and leaf designs were all so pretty that I carefully cut the fabric into squares and rectangles that would showcase each of the designs and pieced them together in a string of perfect, carefully random prints (that's my artsy side coming out). There were, however, no loop-de-loops or buttons or ties (that's my mom's simple elegance influence coming out).
The whole? Well, I think it's classy and elegant and ties all the elements of their living room together. There's another window with the same style of curtains, but the above-mentioned glare made photos too impossible.
The sheers can be tied back on cloudy days to let in more light with simple ties made from the same material as the valances.
Last night I tried a new recipe from our Greatest Ever Pasta Cookbook. As often happens, I took significant liberties with the recipe, and the result was so tasty that I decided that I needed to document it here so that I can make it again. The above picture isn't the most beautiful as it was an afterthought, and I just snapped a photo of the pasta left over in the bottom of the pot, but you can get the idea.
~3 cups rotini
~1 cup broccoli florets, divided into small sprigs (That comes straight from the book; I like it.)
~1/4 cup butter (I felt like Julie as I used such a delightfully generous portion of butter.)
~2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips
~2 cloves of garlic, crushed
~1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)
~1 cup half-and-half
~3 1/2 oz fontina cheese with rind removed, chopped into small pieces (Since the fontina is such a splurge, I was thinking about trying to substitute sharp cheddar next time, but the fontina is so good that it's worth it once in a while.)
~salt and pepper to taste
~"Plunge the broccoli into a pan of boiling salted water. Bring back to the boil for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and refresh under cold running water. Shake well to remove the water and set aside to drain completely." (Once again, that was straight from the book 'cause it made me smile.)
~Put a large pan of water on to heat for boiling the pasta. Make sure you salt the pasta water too; it really does make a difference!
~Melt the butter in another large pan. Once it's melted add the chicken and garlic. Saute until the chicken is done. (The book says for 3 minutes, but I think I cooked it a little longer than that...you know, little helpers can sometimes be really distracting.)
~Pour the broth and half-and-half over the chicken and stir until well combined. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is slightly reduced. (About 7-10 minutes)
~Turn off the heat and stir in the fontina cheese. It should melt in a couple of minutes. Also add salt and pepper.
~Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, and drain it when it's done.
~Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce, and toss until the sauce evenly covers everything.
Yesterday was Brother's six month "birthday." I can't believe my littlest guy is already half a year old! Time has been going by all too quickly, and I'm stuck trying to enjoy moments that are here and gone at lightning speed; the cooing and giggles, the new skills and achievements, the cuddly moments and smiles.
Brother's new accomplishments include but are not limited to:
~Saying "ma-ma" or calling Little Man when he is sad.
~Eating carrot puree (he's tried other things, but carrots seem to be his favorite).
~Reaching for toys.
~Chewing on them once he has them.
~Spinning in circles when he's on his tummy.
~Getting into a push up position and holding it in an attempt to crawl.
~Rolling across the room to get where he wants to go.
~Being fascinated by textures and sounds.
~Dealing with teething (his first tooth came in last week!)
~Wanting to wrestle with his Daddy and brother.
~Graduating from sitting in the Bumbo chair to sitting propped up by the Boppy pillow.
~Sitting up in the grocery cart instead of reclining in his car seat.
~Wearing a tie for the first time.
~And standing holding onto someone's fingers.
I am enjoying each stage as it comes and goes and am eager to see where the next month takes us.
This year I decided to do something a little different for my celebration of Valentine's Day. I spread out the celebration over an entire week, trying to give a small gift to Benjamin each day instead of just one big gift. When he found out what I was up to, he liked the idea and surprised me throughout the week with several thoughtful gifts as well.
One day Benjamin gave me a pot of cheery daffodils. He didn't know it, but I had been admiring those very flowers at the store for a couple of weeks! I was delighted. Another day is was a box of tasty chocolates which we shared. Then it was a Starbucks travel mug that was so incredibly "me" along with caramel syrup for the lattes he loves to make. Then there was a slide show of photos of the two of us that played along with a romantic song. He also got me a perfect heart necklace on Etsy which arrived on Saturday just in time for me to enjoy wearing it all weekend. And last, but not least, was the amazing dinner he cooked for me on Saturday night. We started with bread and Johnny Carino-like dipping oil, then we ate salad, and then we had the amazing farfalle and shrimp in a spicy pink sauce that he created. We topped it off (after a break to let everything else settle) with a shared slice of strawberry cheesecake.
Every day of our "week of Valentines" I gave him a card in which I had written about something I appreciate about him. I enjoyed thinking of the things I like about him and trying (though I don't think I quite succeeded) to express them all. On some of the days I gave him a gift in addition to the card. One day I gave him the cut capo he's been admiring, and another day I gave him a new mug filled with goodies, wrapped in red cellophane, and tied with curly ribbon. On Sunday he was playing music in church, and when I left the first service I put one of his favorite treats in the car and tied red and white balloons to the antenna, which he found when he came home after the music for second service was done.
This was our sixth Valentine's Day together. I think they just keep getting better and better.
I can't believe how time has been flying by. Each day is full to the brim with goodness, and the weeks skim by one after the other in pleasant rhythm.
I also can't believe how long it has been since I came to this little spot to document my days; it's been almost a month! Once again, I find that if I was to try to catch up, I would give up in discouragement, so I'll just pick up in the here and now. I do, however, want to give a brief sketch of what has been filling our days.
The days have been surprisingly warm for winter in Montana, and we have missed much of the snow almost everyone else is oooing, ahing, or groaning over. We are thankful for the lengthening days of more sunshine. We've enjoyed several walks (with no sled in tow), and most of the residual snow is melting away. I'm even thinking about trying to take Little Man to the park later today.
Since I last wrote, Benjamin has gotten a new job! He is switching from working in IT at the Montana extension of a Texas-based medical equipment company to setting up and running the help desk at our local hospital. The long-term outlook at the hospital is better, and it seems that the whole environment is more friendly. After carefully considering it, to change just seemed like the best move. He starts his new position on Monday.
I have been working away at all my normal activities: washing laundry and trying to economize by drying it on lines downstairs near our wood stove (it seems like this has been taking a lot of time lately!), keeping the house reasonably clean, working on sewing and other projects, teaching and playing with the boys, cooking and coming up with little schemes to please Benjamin.
~I finished and mailed the Valentine cards for all the grandparents and aunts and uncles.
~I designed and sewed new window treatments for my parents' living room. (My mom got this absolutely gorgeous fabric that was pure joy to work with; I'm still wowed by the result of my efforts and that fabric.)
~I made and mailed my first Etsy sale! It was a custom order for one of my sister-in-law's friends who wanted a little apron for her daughter like the one I made for my niece. I was so excited.
~I made a simple, fleece baby blanket for some friends. I hosted a Pampered Chef party last night which was a success, and I'm excited to get some super-discounted new kitchen toys...ahem...I mean tools.
~I got started on the handbags that I want to sell and was demoralized by a bad though mendable mistake. I still have to work up the courage to work on them again, but that will come.
~I switched laptops and am still getting used to this new-to-me one. I'm still trying to work up the energy to mess with getting all my photo stuff going on it (one of the reasons I've been putting off blogging). I've also been trying to build my extensive file system bookmarked posts and sites back up. Sadly, I forgot to back all my links up when I switched computers.
~I got a new piano student who I have yet to teach because her piano books haven't shipped yet.
~Benjamin and I decided that I can learn to help him with his computer consulting side business, and I've just barely started learning about it. I'm excited that I can be a help to him with it.
~And now I'm getting back into blogging. It feels really good!
So, yeah, as you can see, my life has been chock-full of good business!