Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Came and Went or The Marvelous Orange-Chocolate Cake Recipe

My bloggy birthday. It was on the 24th of this month. I missed it (which is okay since I have a lot of other important things crowding my brain right now). But still, it is rather momentous to have blogged for over a year now. When I look back at my first posts, I am amazed at how much my writing and photography have improved! Nothing beats practice to improve skills. : )
I have enjoyed having my own little spot to write, write, write and to share my various accomplishments and artistic endeavors. I have enjoyed broadening my perspective on the world through reading others' blogs. I have been amused, inspired, and encouraged as I have read what my fellow-bloggers have written. I have enjoyed making new bloggy-friends with whom I regularly exchange comments. I have managed to document and capture parts of this season of my life in a way that I never would have had I been merely journaling. Who would have guessed that entering the blog world would enrich my life so greatly?
In celebration of my one year blog birthday, I am going to share a wonderfully rich and delicious cake recipe my good friend Sarah Bryce developed and shared with me. Coincidentally, she and I both made it for our mothers' birthdays and we each got rave reviews.
Marbled Chocolate-Orange Cake
Sarah's recipe slightly edited by me
Maybe if she ever writes a cookbook as she suggested,
she will let me be her editor.
Wouldn't that be fun?
Chocolate batter:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 Tbsp. oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. flour (add an extra 2 tablespoons if you are at a high altitude.)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Beat butter, sugar, and egg together until smooth. Add vanilla, sour cream, oil, and orange juice. Mix until well combined. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
Orange batter:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp flour (Once again, add an extra two tablespoons if you live at a high altitude.)
1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat butter, sugar, and egg together until smooth. Add vanilla, sour cream, oil, and orange juice. Mix until well combined. Sift together flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Pour about half of the chocolate batter into each of the pans. Pour about half of the orange batter on top of the chocolate batter in each of the cake pans. (Sarah actually weighs the pans. But I was in a hurry and just eyeballed it, and it worked fine.) Swirl the two batters together slightly with a spatula to get a marbled effect. Avoid mixing the batters too much (remember that the batter at the center of the pan will be more mixed than what is on the top) or scraping the bottom of the pan.
Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Decadent Orange-chocolate Frosting
Really, it's so rich and good
that it makes the cake
almost seem
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
approximately 3 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Mix the sour cream, vanilla, and orange juice in a large bowl and set aside while melting the butter and chocolate chips in a double boiler. Let the chocolate mixture cool for a few minutes. Beat it in with the sour cream mixture. Beat in 3 cups of the powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar until the consistency reaches your definition of spreadable. : )
Spread some of the frosting between the cake layers and then use the rest to frost the cake. I realize that I'm not being very specific in my directions here, but Brother is getting fussy, and I'm trying to hurry. If you need more instructions than I've given you can Google it or look it up in your favorite cookbook.
After admiring it and taking pictures of the beautiful final product, serve and enjoy!
Incidentally, the lovely domed cake plate is one of my favorite things. My dad got it for me. : )

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Life rushes by so quickly
Often I find myself busy busy
Peering into the past
Trying to record, to document
Preparing for the future
Trying to be ready for the coming
Memories are priceless
Anticipation is good
But what of the present?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wall decor

I finally got something hung on one of my bedroom walls! I'm so excited. We are still working on fixing up, organizing, and decorating our house even though we moved into it well over a year ago. Refining the decor in our bedroom has been low on my priority list, though I have been keeping my eyes open for inexpensive wall hangings that would coordinate with our colors.
A few weeks ago, I had the happy idea of hanging three little wooden shelves in our bedroom that had hung in the dining room of our previous home but that I hadn't used yet in the new house. I decided to paint them the same dark red color as our bedroom's accent wall and hang them on one of the light brown walls. They look stunning.
I collected various red, brown, and green themed items that I had stashed here and there and arranged them on my "new" red shelves. A pine cone, a sea urchin, a smooth piece of driftwood. A perfect oval rock from Little Man, framed pressed flowers from Benjamin, and an oriental bowl from my great-grandma. A couple of candles, small vases from my collection, and a special gold-framed verse. A straw heart shaped basket, a tiny red apple, a miniature globe and a...
...big ruffled pillow?

No, not the pillow. Though Little Man who was very excited about the whole project seemed to think it would go perfectly.

By the way, I'm sorry about the not-so-good photo quality that doesn't show off the colors well. Our room seems to be impossible to get good photo lighting in. Believe me, I tried. After nearly fifty photos, I gave up.


I finally finished this quilt that I started last November. I call it the "Irish flag quilt." It's the last of the three Celtic inspired lap quilts that I made for my brother-in-law to sell for me when he vends at a Celtic festival. His plans keep getting put off, so I've been putting off finishing this quilt. Finally I got tired of having it hanging over me, waiting to be finished, and I tackled the job. (I dislike piecing backing and doing binding, even on a lap quilt.) But it's done. And I'm glad.

Doesn't it looks nice as it "poses" in my gliding rocking chair? I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today my firstborn is two. I can hardly believe how the time has flown. It seems that the days between that first time I held my tiny newborn son and today have passed by in a few blinks. Yet I have experienced so many precious moments as I watch him grow and learn. And I have grown so much as I care for and teach him. How could all of those priceless moments, experiences, and stages have fit into a mere two years? They have been full and wonderful.

Right now Little Man is
Delighting in anything BIG
Relishing loud noises
Beginning to talk up a storm
Being a little more affectionate
(though he still isn't cuddly,
he is giving more hugs
and the occasional kiss)
Remembering things I have forgotten
Reciting parts of his favorite books
Loving puzzles and bouncy balls
Making big snakes with play-doh
Jumping without quite lifting his feet
Shouting "RUN" as he dashes through the house
Finally really getting hair
Wearing 2T
Drinking from a real cup
Still working on using silverware
Always asking for more music
Playing shakers like a pro
Reviewing the alphabet
Seeing things from a unique perspective
(he keeps me on my toes
as I try to guess his thought process)
Talking to his grandparents on the phone
Asking to have notes from relatives read to him a jillion times
Loving his little brother
Admiring his Daddy and trying to be like him
Being a big boy helper to his Mama
I love him so much.

Happy Birthday to him.
I'm looking forward to many more.


I am an only child. A few months after Little Man was born, I realized that I was terrified that he would be an only child because in spite of all my childhood friends trying to tell me how wonderful it was to be an only child, I know the cold, hard truth of how lonely it really is. Thankfully I realized that I should not feed my fears and I turned in trust to God who knows what is best for me and my children.

Then when I was pregnant with Brother, I started feeling nervous about having more than one child. After all, I had seen my parents' example of how one raises an only child, but I had no idea how to manage more than one. I didn't need to worry about that either. Little Man made as nearly seamless a transition into big brotherhood as I think is possible, and I'm finding that God gives much wisdom as I invest in two boys at once.

I find such joy in watching my two boys interact. Little Man loves his little brother so much. He takes great delight in bringing blankets and pacifiers and in "helping" carry Brother's car seat. He wants to know where Brother is when he wakes up and has to kiss Brother every night. Little Man is gentle with Brother and is so sad when he accidentally hurts him. And Brother loves watching Little Man when he is awake and Little Man is playing near him. He moves his head as much as he can, following his big brother's movements. I hope that what is happening now is the foundation for a lifelong friendship. I suppose that's just one more thing I can trust God about.


Lately I've been listening to the sermons about forgiveness linked to in this post. I've been listening to them in bits and pieces as I've had time in between meeting my boys' needs. I still haven't listened to the third, but I'm looking forward to hearing in since the first two were both so convicting and encouraging. I highly recommend them if you have some extra time.

I've also been encouraged by something my mom has been doing on her blog lately. She's been writing responses inspired by Psalms that she is studying. This one is my favorite so far. I think I'd like to make it into a calligraphy to hang on my wall. It's on my list of someday projects.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One month old

Brother's one month birthday was on Tuesday. Time has flown! He just gets cuter every day even though most of what he does is eat and sleep. He has, however, been staying awake for longer periods of time during the day and sleeping more at night (last night he slept for four hours!). When he's awake, he likes kicking his legs (and arms, as Little Man says) and studying the world around him. It is such a joy to watch him grow.


It seems like something is always in Process. Projects, repairs, classes, meals, housework, growing... One of the most recent large projects around our house lately has been painting the exterior. I really can't claim much part in the Process. I did help pick out the colors. And I painted a very few feet of the foundation. Most of it has been my husband's doing, and he has done a beautiful job.

The Process started with scraping the old paint off and prepping the exterior. Believe me, it took a lot of time and effort! The old paint job was not done properly, and there was extensive damage.
After covering the windows with brown paper and masking tape, the next step was spraying the white trim with one coat of primer and two to three coats of white paint. This step probably took the longest since we had to wait for our local hardware store to get a shipment of paint.
Then after some more taping and papering of the trim, our house was a garish peptobismol pink. I knew the primer was going to be pink, but I was not prepared for just how shocking it really would look. I think we had some of our neighbors worried for the couple of hours before the final color went up. ; )
Whew, it looked so much better once the red started going up! Benjamin had to do three entire coats of red for it to look right.
Here is the almost finished new paint job! All Benjamin has left is a little bit of touch up, the top parts of the chimneys, and the deck. The deck will be another Process since it needs to be stripped and stained. I think it looks beautiful and like how the red accents the brownish-pink brick on the back half of our house.
(By the way, don't you just love our beautiful Big Sky?)

Bear cupcakes and birthday celebrations

Last Saturday we celebrated Little Man's birthday. The "party" was a little more than a week early so that we could have both sets of grandparents present. It was a simple party. The only guests were the four grandparents, and we had pizza (Little Man's current favorite for dinner) and salad for dinner followed by chocolate cupcakes (another of Little Man's favorites) and ice cream.

I had a lot of fun making what Little Man called "tiny bears" out of sugar paste to accent some of the cupcakes.

The rest of the cupcakes were decorated with what Little Man called "big bears" or were blue with sprinkles. They were very easy and fun to make.
Little Man had a lot of fun "biting ears" like his dad showed him when he finally got to eat his eagerly awaited cupcake.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I'm already starting to get back on track with working on and finishing projects. Partly because I enjoy making things and have a hard time when I'm not working on something and partly just because I "need" to finish some of the projects I have started!

I had sewn this baby boy quilt top together a while ago, and I was happy to be able to finish it this week. It's for a friend who had her baby just eleven days after I had Brother. I love the way this quilt turned out and will definitely be using this pattern again!

Here is a peek at the lap quilt I'm currently working on. Once again, I had sewn the quilt top together a while ago and am just now backing, binding, and tying it. There is no really urgent need to finish it, but I'm tired of having the project hanging over my head, so to speak.

Here is my list of projects that I "need" to finish:
~The quilt pictured above
~My parent's Christmas calligraphy calendar (to see more about it look here)
~Another calligraphy project a friend from church commissioned me to do for her. It's going to be amazing. I just have to get working on it!
~Keeping up to date on writing and mailing thank you cards for the gifts that Brother has received.
~Making bear cupcakes and for Little Man's small birthday party.
~Finishing another baby quilt for a friend whose baby is due in November.

Here is my additional list of less necessary projects:
~Sewing the fabric that I bought with the gift card that Benjamin got for me to our town's quilting shop into a beautiful tote bag.
~Remodelling a loved sweater that keeps getting shorter and fatter into a couch pillow.
~Painting decorative shelves red, hanging them in our room, and putting decorative things on them.
~And I think I had another one, but I don't remember it now. ; )

I'm hoping to get all of these projects done before December. Since I'm also hoping to be a great mom, a loving wife, a helpful friend, a respectable housewife, and a competent music teacher while getting a reasonable amount of sleep and maintaing my sanity, I am not going to stress if I don't get it all done. ; ) I do think I'm becoming more and more efficient even as I have more demands on my time, so I might make it. I'll try to keep you updated on my progress.

A Park Picnic

Today I packed a picnic lunch, loaded up my little guys, grabbed my camera, and walked to the nearby park. We had a delightful time enjoying the perfect end-of-summer warmth and sunshine.

The "little slide" is Little Man's favorite thing at the park right now. He can climb up to it (the steps are really quite huge, so it's a big accomplishment), get into position, slide down, and jump off at the bottom all by himself! He is getting so big. But he still likes help on the big steps. I was trying to encourage him to climb up them by himself today, when he said "Mommy do it." It was his way of telling me he still wanted help. I am definitely okay with that.

We found and enjoyed some of the first signs that Autumn is quickly approaching: beautiful golden leaves.

We enjoyed a leisurely and tasty lunch of sandwiches, carrots, and fruit with chocolate chips for dessert.

Little Man enjoyed being able to take unusual liberties like standing up on his "chair" during meal time.

Brother enjoyed a fresh-air nap through the majority of our expedition.

And last but not least, shortly before we left for home, Benjamin was able to meet us at the park. Little Man spotted him as he was coming and exclaimed, "Daddy's car!" We had a lovely time.