Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’

As I started this post, I was thinking about the Super Bowl and Beyonce’s “performance,” and wondering why one of the world’s most sought-after and well-paid entertainers would want to grind and gyrate like some pole dancer in a sleazy dive.  She can certainly dictate her own terms as to what, when and how she will perform. She doesn’t need to prostrate–or prostitute–herself to get the  job.

Ah, well–it’s a sad mystery and I guess it will remain that way.  If entertainers and the networks think that’s what the majority of their viewers and fans want, that says something pretty sad about all of us.  Rant over.  The Super Bowl was–as usual–a good excuse to hang out with friends, but the details of the game are already hazy and the entertainment wasn’t exactly memorable.

January blew by in a whirlwind of weather and frenzied activity around here.  Our weather ran hot and cold, tornadic and snowy…and that was just last week.  Weather notwithstanding, we have all had extra-curricular schedules that kept us from having much downtime, and the first 30-plus days of 2013 simply sped by.

The one calm spot in the midst of our helter-skelter schedule last week was the unexpected surprise of a weeknight dinner with all three of my children.  Oldest Son stopped by on Thursday just as I started preparing tortillas for tacos, and I got to hear brothers and their sister teasing and talking as they set the table, made iced tea, stirred the beans and prepared to tuck into the towering stack of sizzling hot tortillas.  I couldn’t help but think how many weeknight meals slipped by unnoticed when they were all living at home…and how I took them for granted.

The week ended on a high note, Phil did not see his shadow on Saturday morning, and neither did I.  My “boys” treated me to a dinner at the Melting Pot for my birthday that night, and we shared a lot of laughs over the steaming fondue pot, the perfect counterpoint to the deep freeze that  has come our way.   I’m hoping that winter finishes its business and gracefully gives way to spring a few weeks earlier than average.
February will be short, but I plan to make it sweet, too.  I’m getting my bake  this week with some sweet-and-salty peanut butter cookies (recipe on Friday) and maybe a king cake to celebrate one of the more family-friendly aspects of Mardi Gras.  I’m hopeful this is the month I will actually get my new lighting hung, and maybe make some headway on our closets. What’s on your to-do list over the next three weeks?

Happy Monday,


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Earlier this month, we celebrated Mr. Official’s birthday.  In our family, the birthday boy or girl gets to choose the kind of cake they want; he chose strawberry. By sheer coincidence I had found this strawberry cake recipe on Pinterest, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.  I considered following it to the letter, but I had a strawberry cake mix in the pantry.  I decided a white cake mix plus a box of jello  is not a lot different from a box of strawberry cake mix. So I simplified the recipe a bit.

The result was met with rave reviews from the family, and I have to say that adding pureed berries is worth the extra effort, transforming a standard cake-mix-cake into something more special and tasty.  I should have taken some pictures of the end result, but it did a quick vanishing act.  I might just have to make another one – just for photo purposes, of course!  Since today is Strawberry Day at least in California, I thought it was perfect timing to share this with you!

Strawberry Cake with Berry Creamy Frosting

1 strawberry cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and chopped (I used the blender to coarsely puree them)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9×13 pan. Mix cake according to package directions; adding strawberries along with liquid ingredients. Pour into pan and bake for 35-45 minutes (test for doneness at 35 minutes.)

Allow to cool before frosting.

Berry Creamy Frosting:
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Add butter and beat until well-incorporated.  Add berries, and blend until well-mixed.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time until mixture is of the desired consistency (you want it thick, but spreadable; it will stiffen up when you refrigerate the finished cake.)

Note:  I halved the frosting recipe from the link above and it generously covered this cake.  Also note the instructions for beating the cream cheese first; mine had small lumps of cream cheese even after several minutes of beating; this advice was passed on to me by some cooking friends when I asked them how to prevent that problem.

Spread the frosting over top of cake and cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.  Refrigerate any remaining cake.

Happy baking!

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Hanging up my hack license

Swimmer girl turns 16 today. We are very excited for her – but not as excited as she is, of course. Among all the other things that come with turning 16, she will soon have her driver’s license.

And for me, that means my taxi-driver days will finally draw to a close after more than a quarter-century of commission.   In those years, I have hauled my babies and toddlers and children and adolescents (and their friends) to every place they needed and wanted to go. I have put over 250,000 miles on four cars in the process.  We’ve eaten, spilled, upchucked; changed diapers and clothes; laughed, cried and argued and fussed in my mom-taxis.  We’ve had a few roadside breakdowns and a couple chats with policemen and troopers,  but thankfully no accidents with a baby or child on board.

If you’re a young mom reading this, I can promise you this:  the years and miles will fly by. Your taste in music will adapt to theirs, and vice-versa.   We have explored the full extent of the radio dial, tuning in and out of country, jazz, hip-hop, Christian and dabbled in rap and alternative.  Classic rock is our shared language.  We’ve belted out southern rock together, argued over who-sang-that-song, and deciphered lyrics more times than I can count.   Looking back, I think we were blessed to not have built-in DVD players and portable DS players at our disposal.  Yes, we had our share of backseat territory disputes and petty squabbles borne out of boredom.  But in the close confines of the car, you have a captive audience – just unplug them from the electronics occasionally and you might be surprised by what they confide in you on an otherwise silent ride.

I have cemented my relationship with my adolescent children just by sitting in the driver’s seat – many deep, heart- and soul-searching conversations with each child have taken place in the car, and most of them started out as nothing more than a ride home from school or church, or a quick jaunt to town, just mom and kid. 

So enjoy your taxi driver status while it lasts – because it doesn’t last forever.

Happy -and safe – travels,

P.S. – Happy birthday, baby girl.  One pink velvet cake coming up!

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After all three birthday cakes were consumed (a big thank you to Mr. Official’s co-workers who helped us with that last hurdle) and the special cake plates and servers were put away, I had one remaining loose end:  take middle child back to the store to swap out some shorts he got.  Bad me, I bought soccer shorts instead of basketball shorts.  Who knew?

While he was looking for satisfactory replacements, I wandered around the home section and what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature….no, not a sleigh or any tiny reindeer.  Christmas has taken over Hobby Lobby already, but not at Marshall’s – at least not yet.

It was even better than that.

It was….
a miniature cake pan!

Meet the baby pan

This pan is almost 8 inches tall but only 3 3/4 inches across, compared to the typical cake pan, which is 2 inches tall and 8 inches wide.  Almost completely reverse proportions.  See why I was so excited?

See how tall and small it is?



Keep reading…maybe you’ll catch the cake pan fever.

When I saw it, I snatched it off the shelf before anyone else could.  (And I had some women eye-balling it as I strolled by.  Sorry ladies – I saw it first.)

This is quite possibly the cutest cake pan ever.  And it was a whopping $5.99.

The bottom comes out, but it’s not a springform cheesecake pan – I have a set of those, of course… 

The cheesecake trio

What a fun time I can have now, trying my hand at some old-fashioned chiffon cakes and other recipes that need the taller shape.


And I can test a small batch of batter without worrying about who’s going to eat all that cake, like I do with my big ol’ angelfood tube pan.

I bet I know what you’re thinking.

Because I’m thinking it too.

Given that this is only a sampling of my collection of cake pans, and does not count all the square and rectangle, metal and glass cake and jelly roll pans, or my (rather extensive) collection of cupcake tins and silicon liners (big and small, I got ’em all), I think I need to find a Baker’s Anonymous meeting and go introduce myself.

“Hi, my name is Terry and I really like to bake.”

Yeah, I’ll get right on that – just as soon as I decide if I’ve got a submission-worthy recipe for this:

Oh and yes, in case you’re wondering…the birthday boy found some shorts that will come down to his knees.  Everyone came home happy.

Happy caking,

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Dana Carvey in Master of Disguises

Turtle cake is:

a. an enigma,
b. a conundrum,
c. a non sequitur,
d.  all of the above.

Let’s go with d: Turtle cake is not shaped like a turtle.  It isn’t even tinted green.  It was not created by nor served at the Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles. (Like Dana Carvey, it may not even be turtley enough for the Turtle Club.  Uhhh, you’d have to see the movie to get the line, and it’s about the only memorable line in the movie so I’m not recommending a viewing.) 

Turtle meat is not an ingredient in the cake and absolutely no turtles were harmed in the making of this cake.

Who really knows why the Hoopers thought calling a chocolate/caramel/pecan candy a “turtle” would make it appealing.  But strangely enough, their plan worked out well and most any confection that combines these three ingredients is now bestowed with the name “turtle” in its title.

What I do know is that turtle cake is decadent and delicious.   It’s kind of like German chocolate cake with more gooey-ness and no coconut.  And it’s fairly easy to make, as cakes go.  Our first exposure came from – you guessed it – an Oklahoma friend – -the same one who gave me this delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe .

And Middle Child wanted a turtle cake for his birthday last week.

But this is also a story of rescuing this poor cake from the jaws of disaster.  It started off innocently:  just cake mix, eggs, oil and water, plus the filling (caramels and evaporated milk.)

About an hour later, I pulled the finished cake from the oven and sprinkled milk chocolate chips over it, hoping to shortcut the frosting step since Swimmer Girl was going to be late for a dentist appointment otherwise.

On my way out the door, I instructed the Birthday Boy to GENTLY smear the chocolate chips when they softened.  Key word:  GENTLY.  He called me and said the chips were not smearing.  I advised him to microwave it for 30 seconds and try again.  Key words:  30 SECONDS. No. more. 
This is what I came home to find.
It actually looked worse in real-life.  Like crusty moon craters.
 Fortunately, this cake is forgiving and will adapt to a soaked-in glaze frosting. So I carefully scraped off the chocolate mess down to the cake.
Poor thing had looked like it had third-degree burns all over the top.

And placed said mess in the double boiler with some cocoa, butter, milk and powdered sugar.  Heated to boiling while vigorously whisking it to something fairly smooth, then poured it back over the cake to achieve a fudgy glaze.

Thank heaven (and mom!) for double boilers!

What lesson did I learn? Do not entrust my male family members with frosting the cake.  They do many, MANY things well, but making confectioneries are not their forte.

Happy birthday, birthday boy!

I also learned that turtle cake is just as delicious as I remembered.

Turtle Cake

Cake Ingredients:
1 box German chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 1/3 cups water

Filling Ingredients:
1 package caramels, unwrapped
4 ounces evaporated milk
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Have 9×13 pan greased and ready.  Preheat oven to 350.  Mix cake ingredients together at low speed for 30 seconds, then at medium speed for two minutes.  Pour half of cake batter into pan and bake for 20 minutes.

While the bottom of the cake is baking, melt caramels and milk in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.  As soon as cake springs back to touch, pour caramel mixture over the top, sprinkle with chips and then top with remaining cake batter. Continue baking for 20-25 minutes or until top layer is done.  Frosting is optional.  (Gilding the lily and all that.)

Note:  in my rendition, I saved the chips for the top of the cake.  When salvaging it, I made a glaze similar to the boiled frosting I use on chocolate sheet cake.

Happy baking and rescuing,

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This week, time ran through my fingers like sand – the tighter I tried to hold onto it, the faster it went.  The remainder of our summer vacation is now measured in days, not weeks.

Swimmer Girl was home for a week between church camp and a mission campaign trip.  She heads out tomorrow with steel-toed work shoes, bug spray and sun screen, Ibuprofen and lots of scrunchies (because it’s going to be hot and messy and showers will be few and far between), and a confirmation that her tetanus booster is up-to-date.

We celebrated middle child’s birthday a day late on Thursday night and we’ll celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday and oldest child’s birthday with a combined cookout meal tonight.  (Two more cakes, coming up!)

Not many (okay, none, nada, not any) loose ends were actually tied off this week. But look what came in the mail on Thursday.

The fabric for the chair cushions!  Fabric.com is awesome – they were less than half the price of everybody else for this fabric, and I got free shipping. 

No more excuses – I have the new foam cushions and the fabric and I’m pretty sure the staple gun works just like it always has.  Now to find an hour or two to rip off the old fabric and padding, and re-do them. 

Happy Saturday!

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This is another recipe from another Oklahoma friend. (Good friends and good cooks, all of them!) Dana made this for a progressive dinner at the holidays many years ago, and it was love at first bite.  I have lost her original recipe but not the memory of what it tasted like, and I’ve tried many times to re-create it – this comes pretty close, I think. Or maybe it’s totally different and she’ll see this and l send me the real recipe and then I can make them both. Either way, we all win, right?

Sorta-like-Dana’s Cheesecake Bars

Crust Ingredients:
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup slightly softened butter
1 cup flour, sifted
1/3 cup finely chopped nuts (I like pecans, but walnuts are good too)

Filling Ingredients:
3, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (you can substitute some or all low-fat or no-fat cream cheese)
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
8 tablespoons buttermilk  (or 7 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half or milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper (you can serve from the pan, but this makes it easy to lift them out and cut them into squares for serving.)

In a bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add flour and work in well.  Add chopped nuts and blend; press into bottom of pan and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

For filling, beat cream cheese and slowly add sugar until it’s blended in. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla and buttermilk or cream/milk and lemon juice and mix well.  Pour over crust and bake for 25 minutes – do not overbake; you want the filling to remain creamy and moist.  Let cool completely and cut into squares.  Makes 18 cookie-size servings or 36 bite-size squares.

I like serving these with slightly sweetened fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or cherries), or set out a DIY topping bar with an array of sauces (chocolate and caramel are good), plus fruit and whipped toppings.

P.S. – A very happy 23rd birthday to our middle child.  One turtle cake coming up just for you! (Maybe I’ll post the recipe to it one day soon, too!)

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