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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cakes, My Favorites

Just finished annual Birthday Week.  My husband and daughter have birthdays one day apart and we tend to celebrate all week long.  I thought it might be fun to post a few of my favorite birthday cakes.  My very favorites were pre-digital days, and I don't have them on my computer.....maybe someday I'll find, scan, and post them.

This year we did a Tie-Dye Cake.

And here's a Sunflower Peeps Cake my sweet girls and I made together - one of the rare times we just made a cake for no reason.

This year's cake for my chocolate lovin' Baby - really fun and SOOOO many things you could do with this.  Change up colors and candy bars to personalize.  I blogged about her party here.

I really love this Dora Cake too.  I found the original instructions from Nick Jr's website.  This link has a great sheetcake recipe, easy to cut for shaped cakes. I added the fruity pebbles shirt myself.  The pictures from this year have a bunch of wet cousins running around the backyard having a ball.  Makes me smile remembering.

I don't have a great picture of this cake, but this it's still a great EASY idea!  I ordered the stripes from Oriental Trading, they have some fun ones.....I just cut to fit and stuck the sugar paper to the icing. Wilton makes some called Sugar Sheets now.  You can buy them readily from Hobby Lobby or Walmart (we used them this year for the zebra stripes).

This one is an all-time favorite! For months before my baby's third birthday she would ask me EVERY DAY for a worm cake like the one Max makes on Max and Ruby.  I made a dome-shaped cake baked in a batter bowl and then iced and covered with crushed oreos.  This cake went straight onto a plastic tablecloth in the middle of the dining room table - complete with oreo dirt spread all over the tablecloth.  TIP - crushed oreos make good dirt, crushed cinnamon graham crackers make good sand. The rocks are halved coconut covered marshmallows. This one was fun.  One of the best parts of this cake was the fluffy pudding frosting, you can find the recipe here on allrecipes, perfect for a summer birthday.

And for my son's camping birthday a few years ago I made dirt cupcakes (same idea as the worm cake) - I put Swedish fish on top of some too.

A few years ago I found this wonderful recipe in a Southern Living magazine.  This completely from scratch Turtle Cake is completely wonderful.  It's lots of work, but so delicious and so beautiful.  This one is a great grown-up cake.

So there are a few of my favorites.  Maybe someday I'll pull out pics of my Pink Pony Cake and my Firetruck Cake....maybe.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Taco Soup

My dishwasher tells me when my life is too busy.  True.  This morning when I unloaded my dishwasher it was all spoons, coffee mugs, and glasses.  This means that the only dishes being dirtied at my house are for coffee, cereal, and water.  Sad stuff, that. 

This realization motivated me to make a wonderful meal for my family tonight.  I went to the grocery store, bought food, and made supper - Taco Soup in the crock pot.  Then I realized that busy week is not over.....I AM THE ONLY ONE EATING AT HOME TODAY.  I'm not making that up.  I made dinner for my absent family completely forgetting that they wouldn't be here.  [Aaarrgh, pirate sigh].

So, instead I took a picture of my soup and scarfed the whole thing down so I could write a blog post before I have to go pick up my busy kiddos.  Now this makes sense.  I'm smiling, I love this crazy life and it's been a wonderful, amazing week - and tomorrow is Friday.

I chose this yummy stuff because my friend Rachel was talking about it last night and I couldn't stop thinking of it AND it is rainy and cold-ish today for the first time since Spring.  If you've never heard of Taco Soup, give it a try.  This is fantastic stuff - kind of like chili but better.  Here's how I do mine:

Brown 2 pounds of hamburger meat with 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves of garlic.  Season with seasoned salt and pepper.  While you cook the meat pour 2 cans of Ranch Style beans, 2 cans of Ro-Tel tomatoes, 1 can of hominy, 1 small can of Niblet corn (or skip the hominy and add 1 regular sized can of corn), 1 bean can of water, 1 packet of Taco seasoning and 1 packet of dry Ranch dressing seasoning in a large crock-pot.  When the meat is finished browing, add it to the other ingredients and stir it all up.  Heat on high all afternoon or low all day (depending on how far ahead you've planned).  If you are really behind you can mix it all up on the stove top and simmer, but watch it closely - especially if you are like me and tend to scorch stuff. 
Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

Nothing is better than a recipe you can type onto your blog from memory.

So now I'm off to round up kids and head into the weekend, but first I must change into my stretchy pants.....Enjoy!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Let's Roll

Let's Roll!  These were the last words of Todd Beamer, a hero of 9-11.  He, along with some other fearless passengers, fought the hijackers of United Flight 93 heading toward Washington DC on September 11, 2001. During the struggle, the plane tragically crashed in Pennsylvania. Everyone on board died, but many lives the terrorists had chosen for death were saved . As he talked on the phone with an Airphone operator sharing and receiving information he uttered his last words as he and fellow passengers began a counter attack..... "Let's Roll."

Lisa Beamer wrote a book about her life with Todd, their family, his life and death and how she coped when he was gone.  She titled the book Let's Roll after Todd's famous last words but I especially love the little sub-title;
                        Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage.

There are so many wonderful lessons in this book, but one especially has been amazing in my own life.  Toward the end of the book Lisa shares about accepting an invitation to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast the year after 9-11.  She shares about quoting this passage of Scripture from Isaiah 40:30-31;

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Then she shared her own perspective and wrote this;

"The difference between those who stumble and those who run is only the action of hoping in the Lord." 
Lisa Beamer, Let's Roll, p. 304

When I first read her book, I wrote that quote on a notecard to help me remember.  Currently it stays as a bookmark in my Bible.  For a long time it was pinned to a bulletin board behind my computer.  For a season it was lost.....only to be found at the perfect time during our adoption waiting months. I want to run and not stumble in my life and I love the reminder that hope is an action. This is such a comfort when I feel powerless and stuck in some painful limbo-land.

In an interview with Stone Phillips you can read here, Lisa says this when asked if she can forgive the  hijackers, "You know, bitterness and anger doesn’t get one very far in life. And I won’t allow it to seep in. I won’t allow someone else’s terrible actions to turn me into a person that I don’t want to be."

For me, as we remember and honor those who lost and lived through that time, I can think of no greater challenge than to take up the ACTION of hoping in the Lord, to refuse to let anger and bitterness even seep in to our lives. 

Whatever storm you face today; I hope that this reminder from a woman who walked with strength and poise through an emotional hurricane choosing hope encourages you to hang in there.....Let's Roll!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


My son just started high school.  Sniff. The end.

Not really, it’s going great.  I’m always astounded at the stress I put this kid through.  Being the oldest child is a challenge when your mom is a control freak.  We made it through the first few weeks and I’m feeling pretty proud of how low key I was.  I sent my husband to do all the neurotic things.  He makes it look like normal concern rather than mom paranoia.

I’ve worked with teenagers since I was one (a teenager, that is).  I love this age.  I love their idealism and energy.  I remember learning a lesson about raising teenagers several years ago when my big kids were still very little.  One of “my girls” (I still think of that group of high schoolers as “my girls” even though they are grown with families now) called me and asked if she could come see me and ask me about some things she was struggling with.  She wasn’t having some kind of crisis of faith or morality.  She has a wonderful mother who had carefully and rightly instructed her. I think she just needed to hear someone she trusted echo God’s voice in what she was being told by her parents.  As we talked and I shared my short (then) years’ experiences with her she mentioned that her mom was a little confused that she wanted to come talk to me, when I would probably give her the same advice…..

I totally get this.  I have swallowed extreme frustration hearing my kids repeat the same instruction I’ve given them (which they seemed to ignore) with new words given them by someone else as if this advice is genius and breakthrough.  This also happens with husbands but that is for a different post called never.

Since then I’ve heard this described as the “voices” in our kids’ lives.  As I sat next to my teenage son eating Mexican food the other night, listening in as he talked and talked and talked to his youth minister across the table I remembered “my girl” from years ago. This is good stuff, because as he talks he also listens and I know he will be hearing true instruction and encouragement.  Instead of being threatened that my kids don’t bow in gratitude and hang on my every word (which is never going to happen and is probably why I talk to myself a lot), I should look up and be thankful that God is faithful to speak to my kids in lots of different ways which all echo HIS OWN VOICE!  That is the goal.  Instead of fussing at them for not listening to me, maybe I should just rejoice with them when they learn Truth and smile to the One who always sees and hears. 

Yes, I want to be faithfully instructing and sharing with my children.  It is a huge responsibility that is not to be pawned off onto others. BUT, neither is it meant to be completed by me. This passage should be a humble description of me as I venture for the first time into the high school parenting waters……
”There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” 
Philippians 1:6 Message

My kids need to be hearing this verse in my words to them and about them to others, in my hopeful and high expectations of their behavior, and my quick forgiveness of their mistakes.  Because in the end it’s all about God; He does, He is (to repeat a text from a precious friend recently).  So I will be diligent to instruct and be instructed, to protect my children from dangerous and lying voices, even while allowing other truthful voices to speak over them often and creatively.

This month I’ve been studying Psalm 107.  In verse 3, the people are praising God that He has “gathered them” from all directions where they have been scattered away from home and one another.  I learned that when He gathers them it is His action to “bring them together because they are attracted, not called.” 

This is good, really good and challenging, and irritating because my parenting technique is typically more about calling than attracting. 

So here’s what I’m learning; parenting isn’t about me doing a good job, it’s about God being free and abounding in our family because He is free and abounding in the secrecy and display of my own life.  Family is meant to be God reflective; full of echoes and glimpses that attract my children more powerfully than the voices of lies calling for their attention. 

“Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,
and the Voices of those who celebrate.

I will multiply them, and they shall not be few;
I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.

Their children shall be as they were of old,
and their congregation shall be established before me….”

Jeremiah 30:19-20

Friday, September 2, 2011

Oven Bacon

I really have some important things to blog about; I have this amazing lesson I've been learning about sharing your child's heart with other people worthy of the task and a doozy on marriage that I just learned preparing for a Marriage Conference we get to teach soon.

But alas, I am here to blog about bacon.  But I'm ok with that, bacon is pretty exciting and I just learned something wonderful that I've only heard talked about before. 

Bacon is good baked in the oven. 

My son is a baconaholic.  He loves the stuff and will endure eating almost anything that goes with it [enter my quest to find the perfect pancake years] to have bacon.  You know those last minute lessons you shout out to your kid when they stay over at a friend's house or go to camp or youth group breakfast the first time? One of ours is always, "start with only two slices of bacon, and eat something else too!" Really, I'm not even kidding.

So the other night I made breakfast for dinner and decided to try bacon in the oven because no one was home yet to stop me and making bacon is messy.  I found a recipe that works beautifully.


I sprinkled brown sugar and coarse ground pepper on a few slices (again, no one there to stop me) and they were fantastic.

Oven Bacon
  • 1 package center cut bacon (not sure that it matters, but Oscar Meyer center cut is a little bit leaner which makes the "swimming in grease" issue a little less of an ordeal).
  • Brown Sugar
  • Coarse Ground Pepper
Line a jellyroll pan (or a large shallow baking dish with sides - do not attempt this on a cookie sheet without sides) with foil (I was out so I used parchment paper).  Lay bacon on foil in a single layer.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and pepper, or leave plain.  Put bacon in a cold oven [COLD OVEN, people] - this part is important.  Close the door, turn the oven on to 400 degrees, set the timer for 20 minutes and walk away.

Delicious....and clean-"ish". 

By the way, you can find the fruit of my pancake search here, a wonderful family recipe that I had all along.