A tale of two cakes

Once upon a time, this was a cooking blog.  So here is a story about my most recent cake.

I have been toying around with the idea of getting some kind of a cake making business off the ground for a while now.  I have also been debating whether or not to pick up needle and thread again.  Its usually a tug of war, depending on my mood- cakes or dolls or maybe something new? But most days I just vaguely wonder how I ever had the time to run a small business on the side of everything else that is going on in my life.  And keeping up a blog? How does one do that?

At any rate, my attempts at cake making have pretty much boiled down to me experimenting with various recipes and methods and seeing if anyone out there wants one.  I have sold a few but not enough to make it worth my time at this point.

This past Saturday was one of my son’s birthdays and we were also invited to a dinner party that same night with some old friends.  My son was busy scouring pinterest for birthday cake ideas and I was also asked to bring a cake to the dinner party so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone- make a kid friendly cake and a fancy one that I could take pics of and see if I could drum up some interest.

The son decided on a ‘build your own’ Minecraft cake which I figured would be easy enough- minimal decorating and maximum visual impact.  Then I thought that since I would need to make a chocolate cake for that one (to represent dirt) I might as well make two and decorate the second with something other than grass green frosting.  blech.

Visions of chocolate ganache icing and truffle filled raspberries were dancing in my head as I made my way to the grocery store but when I arrived, there was not a raspberry to be found in the store.  Sightly disappointed, I glanced at the strawberries but they were few and very lack luster- more white than red.  What I did see surrounding me (and no wonder- it is officially fall now, even if it doesn’t feel like it) were pumpkins, nuts and spices.  I decided to change tack completely and come up with some Autumnal spicy, nutty delight.

But first I had to finish shopping for the Minecraft, which including visiting the jello aisle (red jello for lava and blue for water) and the cereal aisle (rice krispie treats for sand or some unknown mineral that my boys get excited about).  A big bag of marshmallows topped my cart and a traditional giant bottle of root beer rolled around in the bottom.  My teeth were already aching.  But the fancy spice cake was going to erase the sins of the plebeian jello/marshmallow/green, store-bought icing abomination.

It was fairly late on Friday afternoon before I got started and not a great time to start either.  The thermostat was holding steady at 94 degrees outside and my kitchen wasn’t far behind.  Undaunted, I soon had the chocolate cake beating, the water for jello boiling, marshmallows melting on the stove and was prepping the ingredients for spice cake when things started to unravel.

First, the baby woke up.  I heard her little toddling feet coming down the stairs and they were to me as the footsteps of doom.  I looked quickly around and got panicky.  The flour bin was wide open on the floor, a chocolate covered rubber spatula was well within reach. Two bowls filled with sticky red and blue food product were full to the brim and a short distance away from the bar stools that she is past mistress of climbing.

I lost focus as I began covering things up, shoving things out of the way and generally trying to cover my tracks.  I got her a drink of milk to try and distract her from investigating what mommy was up to and in the meantime, the whipped cream frosting that had been beating in the mixer got away from me.  A grainy, lumpy mass of coagulated dairy was the result.  No amount of straining, adding of more ingredients or googling for answers was able to save me from tossing half a pound of butter and a pint of heavy cream.

Whilst googling, it finally dawned on me that several of my children were asking if I was making s’mores for dessert.  I soon discovered that burning marshmallows for rice krispie treats smells pretty much the same as the traditional campfire delight, but they really don’t taste the same.

And so it went.  It was dinner time now and all baking had to be put on hiatus.  The hubby called from the store to see if I needed anything.  I asked him to buy more butter for a fresh batch of frosting.

By the time I had dinner done and kids fed, the dishes had reached alarming heights in the sink and I had used all my mixing bowls.  Half an hour later, dishes were done.  I wiped my brow and continued on.  I managed to get spice cakes in the oven, a fresh batch of marshmallows melted and stirred into the rice cereal and new frosting started.  This time I was going back to an old favorite recipe that I knew I couldn’t flub- a swiss meringue butter cream.  The butter was softening, the eggs were separated but alas, I was completely out of sugar.  I hadn’t even noticed how much sugar I had been going through.  There was nothing but a bit of brown sugar left so with a sigh of frustration, I threw it in and hoped for the best.

Once the egg whites were cooked, I began to whip them up.  And I whipped and I whipped and they just wouldn’t stiffen.  It was only then that I remembered how much meringue and humidity don’t like each other. And boy howdy was my kitchen humid. The steam coming from my ears at this point wasn’t helping much. So much butter was at stake!.  So I stubbornly cracked the whip over that poor kitchen aid for several minutes more until Oh Joy! the frosting started coming together.  The butter worked its magic, I guess, or maybe it was an inspired sprinkling of nutmeg towards the end that convinced those weary egg whites that life might be worth striving for after all.

The result was a glossy smooth, buttery pile of deliciousness that tasted all the better for the substituted brown sugar.  Who knew?!  By ten o clock I had all the cakes and various components of the birthday party sitting on the counter, kind of ready for the next day.

The next morning, everything had to be finished.  Wobbly jello, sticky rice krispies, and a super crumbly chocolate cake had to be cut into blocks for building. Grass frosting had to be applied where necessary.  I was on a stool, having just remembered to tack up a last second happy birthday banner when the birthday boy himself finally appeared.   There was a bag of balloons sitting on the table, unblown, which he noticed.  Thinking hard, I told him in as excited of a voice as I could muster that I was going to let him blow up his own birthday balloons this year.  He bought it.  He and his brothers spent the rest of the morning blowing up balloons and letting them go, laughing hysterically over the kind of gross noises they made while I got the rest of the party ready.

The rest of the day went fairly well.  Friends and cousins arrived, the cake was a big hit and I think everyone had a good time.  By the time the last guest had disappeared, I had about an hour to get the other cake ready.  I had wanted to garnish it with candied pecans but now wondered if it were worth the trouble.  But I had come this far and apparently I am a glutton for punishment.  I got out the pecans and the pan and had poured them all in. But perhaps you might remember, as I clearly had not, that I was still out of sugar.

A quick rummage in the pantry revealed a stash of some kind of unrefined ‘healthy’ sugar that the hubby had purchased at Whole Foods a while back.  I figured it would have to do. It melted immediately but would.not.stick to the pecans.   I gave up and stuck them to the cake with at least the essence of sweetness still clinging to their sides.  But I still felt that it needed something. Then, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered a batch of homemade toffee sauce that I had sitting in the fridge.

Toffee sauce is one of my favorite things in the world, consisting as it does of nothing but brown sugar, butter and whipping cream all melted together and I knew that it would taste fabulous with the spice cake. So I decided to top off my creation with a generous amount.  But since it is a good deal runnier than most glazes, I decided to make a crater in my icing and just pool it all there, surrounded by my wanna be-candied pecans.   Then, with minutes to spare, I had to drag all my kids out of their sugar comas from their first cake encounter of the day, scrub them up and herd them into the car.

At last we were off, the hubby driving and me with my long suffering cake in my lap.  But the hubby had forgotten to mention that our friends had moved.  The drive would not be a quick hop onto the freeway as I thought but a forty minute trek into the country.  Not only that, but it was on top of one of the nearby mountains and in order to reach it, we had to follow one of the curviest, hairpin-bendiest roads we have ever encountered.  And this cake was heavy and Nicky-the-ingenious-cake-baker had decided to top it off with a large pool of very runny butter sauce.   It was an adventure in physics as I battled the acceleration of the car and the turns in the road by tilting and turning that cake so that I wouldn’t end up with a lap full of gooey.

But we made it at last.  And the dinner was delicious.  But I won’t lie to you.  By the time dessert came, I was feeling pretty nervous. I was sure that something else would be wrong with that cake. But as I ran my knife down through the several layers and pulled out the first slice, all slathered with swiss meringue and dripping with toffee sauce, I knew we were going to be okay.

It was a good cake. A really good cake. An almost-worth-all-that-angst-and-labor kind of cake.   There was a sizable piece of it left at the end of the evening so I left half of it with our gracious hosts and wrapped the last remaining slice carefully

in plastic wrap and put it in the car.

It was promptly stepped on by a wayward child.  You could almost read the word ‘Crocs’ imprinted in the buttercream.

But you know what? The hubby and I ate it anyway.  For breakfast this morning. It was still good.


Homeschool tour!

I like the beginning of a new school year. I often mentally feel like it is more of a New Year’s celebration than the one in January. And after this crazy summer, I’m really looking forward to some settled routines and or course, starting my cooking job back up again! 

Sometimes, when I get discouraged about how far we still have to go on our silly house, it is good for me to remember just how far we have come. And I am finding that very easy just now as we prepare to begin homeschooling again. 

Last year, as I ordered curriculum and made lesson plans, I was trying to decide between schooling in a trailer or schooling in a construction zone. It was a tough pick, but I finally decided on the trailer, mostly because there was less dust and more air conditioning. (why do we start school in August?). I probably don’t need to elucidate on how difficult schooling was in a trailer with three students, a four year old and a toddler.  You all have imaginations, right?   But we did it because we had to. And if there is one thing I have learned over the last year, it’s that you can do a lot more than you ever imagined possible when necessity demands it.  

We also did it so we could get to the point where I am now: trying decide which of the lovely and spacious rooms it would be best to do our schooling in. 

But really, I don’t have to limit myself to one small space this year.  James is starting a new adventure with Veritas Classical Schools which will help give him (and me) a little more challenge, structure and accountability in his homeschooling.  I can’t believe he’s in middle school already!  So I am giving him the whole upper platform in his bedroom for a place to study. 

Also, since he won the coin toss, he gets the awesome puzzle map on his wall. 

For my two middle boys (third and fourth grade) I am planning to teach a lot of subjects together.  So they get this nice, spacious corner in the upstairs landing.(thanks for the idea, Aunt Darcee!) I had a lot of fun putting this space together and am pretty excited for some of the curriculum we will be trying out is year.

And then there’s my kindergarten boy.  Heaven only knows how I am going to teach him anything since he “already knows everything, mom” but we are going to do our best. I’m hoping having his own personal space will get him excited.

I’m also thinking this adorable monogrammed backpack made by his grandma  and the world’s cutest little boy Alphabet Cards might help. I mean, aren’t these the cutest?!

At any rate, I’m super excited for school to begin this year and so thankful for how far God has brought us. Time is a strange thing.  In some ways, this year has been excruciatingly slow and painful. And in other ways, it has gone by faster than any before it. It’s good to look back and remember but now I am looking forward in hope- hope that those last hurdles before us will be overcome soon and hope that I might just be able to teach another kid how to read!  Wish us luck.

Summertime…..and the livin’ ain’t as easy as I’d like

Ah, summer, my least favorite season of all- at least down south.  It used to be my favorite time of the year, growing up in Washington, where you waited all year for the rain to stop and the glory of summer in the Norwest to begin.  But moving here, I’ve had to learn to deal with a whole new kind of summer- the hot, humid, noisy bug-filled kind.  Throw into the equation a windowless house with very limited AC and I knew we were in for a rough season.

But as we prepared to continue working on the house and sweating more than is usually desirable, life suddenly threw one of those unexpected hardships at us. Or as our pastor quoted on Sunday morning from P.G. Wodehouse- 

“and there, unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping some lead into the boxing glove.” 

I won’t bore you with all the details here. Suffice it to say, this summer has put us through the ringer several times and everything has been more than a a little topsy turvy.  I can’t say we are quite out of the woods yet, but I can very thankfully say that in the midst of much upheaval, several very bright things happened. 

God finally gave to my long suffering sister and her husband a beautiful baby girl. I got to be there for the birth and welcome little Jubilee into the world.  To help celebrate her birth, a good measure of my family came for a visit- even my mother. We got to celebrate her sixtieth birthday while she was here and it was good.  The hubby and I also celebrated fifteen years of wedded bliss with an epic evening out and dinner spread out in courses across three fabulous restaurants. Pretty great.

And since most clouds have silver linings, this particular cloud brought with it a burst of progress on the house that I didn’t expect to see for a long time.  Doors, trim work, back stairs, the beginnings of HVAC and a much more permanent kitchen set up, just to name a few.

 If you recall, a few posts back, I showed some pics of the temporary kitchen I had put together. Did this kitchen work? Yes. But was it built out of a hodgepodge of wobbly shelves and random furniture propped up by bricks and then covered with fabric? Absolutely.

We had purchased some beautiful ikea countertops several months back, but were saving up for the cabinetry to put them on, which meant I couldnt use the kitchen sink we had purchased as well. I was making do with the utility sink in my laundry room which was definitely a step up from the bathtub I had been using before.

  Realizing, however, that it would probably be a while before cabinets would make an appearance, we decided to think outside the box and see what the piles of lumber under our house could provide. Within a few short days, we had some rudimentary supports built and the counters and sink installed.  What can I say? My hubby is a wiz with 2×4’s.

Next came a bit of shelving.

Of course, the raw wood was a little, well, raw looking so I pulled out a brush and a bucket of stain. Much better, no?

Since we had decided on this course for ‘cabinets’ we knew we would have to figure out a way to enclose them so we settled on curtains as the easiest and cheapest method.  I chose green fabrics since that was what I had in a box from a rummage sale a few years back.  I also found these super fun little clip rings that made installation waaaay easier.

I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out.  Sure, its unconventional, but since when have we ever been conventional- hah! Besides, those are the sturdiest shelves I have ever seen and there is so much storage space that I won’t even need upper cabinets. 

 To add to my storage and to help fill the enormous space in the middle of the room, the hubby managed to salvage this old Ikea island from a job site.  And wouldn’t ya know, the counter on top matched the rest of mine exactly. It was in pretty rough shape, as you can see- some broken shelves and missing screws.

So it was 2×4’s to the rescue again, to reinforce the bottom, hold the whole thing together and put it back into service.

And voila! I have a kitchen! A genuine, beautiful, fully-functioning kitchen!

  I’m a little overwhelmed at the sheer size of the space but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. And I’m just overwhelmed to have it at all.  I guess I really never thought we would get here. 

So I’m taking this moment to push from my mind the other hurdles still to be overcome in our lives and just enjoying it. We made a batch of cookies today, in spite of the sweltering heat and just seeing all my baking stuff in action again makes me wonder- do any of you locals need a cake? ‘Cause I’ve finally got a place to bake ’em.

Oh, my beloved Papa

About a month ago, if you remember, I went out west to visit my folks (who, by the way, have been married for forty years today!) and I went to check on my dad who is battling Alzheimers. I have been contemplating writing a blog post about that trip ever since I got back but it’s mostly a painful topic to write about and of course a rather personal one so I have put it off. But seeing as today is father’s day, I’d like to say a little something in his honor.
I went on that trip with dread in my heart, fearing that when I got there, we would have reached the point when he would no longer know me- that I would have to try to explain to my own father who I was. But as I walked cautiously into the house, it was instantly clear that he recognized me and there was even surprise and excitement on his face as he tried to figure out what was going on. He couldn’t quite remember my name, nor that a hug might be an appropriate form of greeting, but I took care of that for him.
It was a short visit- and an emotional one. He may have recognized me, but there was so much ground that he had lost since the last time I saw him. I had been warned, of course, but I wasn’t quite prepared to see my daddy unable to speak, unable to dress himself, to follow a game of baseball. I hated seeing him struggle to feed himself or even stumble over basic tasks like sitting himself down in a chair. And then once in that chair, it was painful to watch him sit hour upon hour with his hands on his knees, gazing into nothingness. Occasionally he would wake up to share a thought, but then, being unable to express himself clearly, would lapse into silence again. I knew he was sick, I had watched him declining from afar, but the last year and a half had taken a lot from him.
And yet, in spite of all the changes, dad was still dad. When I got there, the first thing I noticed was his ridiculously sun-tanned face- so brown and bronzed as to be almost orange. Dad the California boy has always been addicted to the sun, and clearly he hadn’t forgotten his love of sitting out in it, although perhaps he had forgotten a little bit how to go inside occassionally.
He also still loves a party and apparently my arrival meant a party, or at least a change from the normal. Everyone kept commenting on how perky and engaged he seemed to be all of a sudden, which made me a little sad since to me he seemed so distant and changed. But the last night I was there, his real old party spirit emerged. All of his children who could be there were there, mom pulled out all his old favorite music and he lit up from the inside out. There is a childlike, uninhibited quality to dad now which is actually quite endearing, once you can get past the fact that it is you father who is slowly reverting to infancy. He just stood there in the middle of the room managing to remember, at least in part, the lyrics to all his old faves- Stevie Wonder, Edgar Winter, Chicago- he was in a dancing mood that night too, trying to find the rhythm he used to have and even attempting to waltz me around the room a couple of times, laughing like a school boy. It made for some pretty awkward dancing, but also some pretty sweet memories.

And dad is still funny. That whole last night, he kept trying to remember funny stories and anecdotes and was even sharp enough for us to play a guessing game with him. Something would trigger a memory and he would ask,
“Do you remember?” and then were off with the twenty questions, trying to figure the memory out for him. More often than not, we would fail, but he has gotten to the point where he is less and less frustrated by his inability to communicate. He knew that the memory was funny, whether we pinpointed it or not, and he would laugh anyway. Dad really was a funny man and as I’ve been thinking about him this week, I did some of my own remembering. This is a story from my college days that no doubt was prompted by the endless remodeling projects in my life.
I think it was after my freshman year. I was twenty years old and had come home for the summer, bringing my boyfriend with me to stay all three months- that Frenchman that my family still didn’t know too well but who was hinting around at maybe marrying me some day. But that’s another story.
My mom and dad had recently decided to renovate the upstairs bathroom and I mean a complete overhaul. I can’t remember all the details- I’m pretty sure my uncle started the job and my brother in law was helping as well, but Steve (perhaps wanting to impress his girlfriend’s parents, who can say?) offered to jump in and do a lot of the work- for free. My parents agreed, and so the work progressed after a fashion. But predictably, it didn’t progress quite as quickly as they might have hoped.


The whole situation made me rather nervous because I felt like an important part of my life might be hanging in the balance over this bathroom remodel. I felt like it needed to be a success, if you know what I mean.

There were other things going on that summer, of course. Both Steve and I were music majors, as well as another hometown friend and I can’t remember exactly why- no doubt prompted by the noble desire to share with our loved ones all the amazing things we had learned that year in college, but we three decided to give a big recital at our home church.
It was a mixed bag as far as recitals go- a violin sonata here, an organ fugue there and as for me, I pulled out the big guns. I sang some Puccinni. I was new to being a soprano- all my life I had only sung alto, or even tenor, so I kinda wanted to surprise my friends and relations with my new found upper range. But I wasn’t too cocky yet so I chose O Mio Babbino Caro, which sounds impressive but really only soars to an A flat. High Cs were (and still are) quite out of my league.
We printed out a nice program and I included a translation for my various songs and arias that weren’t in English, including O Mio Babinno. I chose the song for the aforementioned reason and because it is popular and beautiful. I didn’t really pay attention to the text at all, but this overly dramatic Italian song goes something like this-

Oh my beloved papa,
I love him! I love him!
I want to go to Porta Rossa
To buy my wedding ring.

Oh yes, I truly love him
and if you still say no,
I’ll go to the Ponte Vecchio
and throw myself into the river Arno!

I am anguished and tormented
So much so I want to die.
Papa please!
Papa have pity!

I don’t really remember how well the recital went- that was a long time ago, but I do remember after the concert, dad had gotten me some flowers and gave me a big hug. I could tell he had gotten a little teary-eyed during the event (no unusal occurence, daddy always was a big softie) but behind the tears he also had an amused twinkle in his eye as he handed me his crumpled program and walked away.

Under the words to Puccinni he had written,

Good grief honey. Enough, already. No need to jump in any rivers- I guess you can marry him. But can he at least finish my bathroom first?”

That was my dad then. And that is who he still is now, underneath all the sickness and forgetfulness, frustration and confusion. He is an unforgettable personality that might be fading a little now, but will carry right on over into eternity and there be renewed. Perfectly happy, perfectly funny, perfectly a joy to be around.

I can’t wait for that day.

So long, farewell, Auf widersehen, good riddance

So yesterday marked the end of an era in our little family.  The blot on our landscape that has been making our neighborhood classier for more than a year has finally gone.  The trailer has departed.

It was rather an emotional experience for me to see it go- not a lot of regret, mind you, but a lot of relief and happiness accompanied by much retrospection over the year past.

Last summer was probably the worst summer of my life.  I wrote what I could about it here, but there were many other things that happened during those miserably hot months that I wasn’t able to share on a blog. And as I watched that old camper disappear down the road, I felt as if it were taking all the strain of those months with it. 

Of course, we aren’t out of the woods yet- the house still has a ways to go and you never know what’s coming next, but when I think back to a year ago, well, you get the picture.  The trailer served its purpose as a lifeboat- the thing that kept us afloat during turbulent times and for that we are grateful- and grateful to generous friends who lent it to us freely. Without it, we would not be where we are today.  But you better believe we all watched eagerly through the windows as they hooked it up and cheered loudly as it passed out of our lives.

It was an adventure getting it out of our twisty, turny, hilly back yard. And idiot that I am, I planted our little garden way too close to the front of it, so the truck could barely squeeze in there. I was afraid they were going to have to run over all my tomatoes.

But they just managed to avoid it. There was a tree or two in the way so we had to take a minute to saw off some protruding branches.

Then there was just the fun of inching down the curved driveway and avoiding the fence.  Let’s just say I was glad I wasnt driving the truck.

I was a little afraid that they just wouldn’t be able to get it out and that we would be stuck with it forever. 

But it’s gone- gone back from whence it came, leaving nothing but an enormous, ugly scar in our back yard. 

I’m trying not to draw too many comparisons from that scar to my own emotional scarring after living a whole year in that tiny place- except to remember that scars heal. Not only that, but scars can serve as reminders of the difficult times that God has brought us through and assurance that he will continue to be faithful no matter what comes.

One miraculous week

I thought about splitting this blogpost into two entries or even three but after some careful musing, I decided to cram it all into one so that maybe you can get the same overwhelmed, amazed-at-the-suddenly-rapid-progress feeling I have experienced this past week or so.

I got back from my trip to Washington last Saturday and spent the weekend more or less passed out from exhaustion on my bed, not even able to muster up the energy to notice if any work had been done around the house. And even when I had gotten a little bit of energy back, I couldn’t see much difference than before my trip.  Still no kitchen to speak of, no functioning bathroom and of course, no windows, although some progress had been made there. And of course there was unpacking to do, laundry to be washed, grocery shopping to catch up on- when momma leaves for a week, there is always plenty of catching up to do. 

But I was wrong in my first surmise.  Things had been done around the house.  Plans had been made, parts been ordered and delivery dates for certain, important appliances had been set.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know and not without a lot of preliminary work, I am sure.  And so, somehow, this week decided to be the week where several things fell into place and allowed us to take a big jump forward in settling in.

Monday morning, the hubby told me that I should probably start cleaning out the trailer and moving everything that hadn’t been moved yet up to the house.  I was reticent to do so, since it seemed like tempting fate to presume that we might be finally be done with the trailer at last. Surely something would come up to hinder progress yet again, I thought, and if there were actually any real wood anywhere in the trailer, I would have been knocking it every few minutes as I scrubbed windows, emptied out cupboards and bleached the minuscule shower curtain.  Would it be possible, really, to say farewell so soon to my least favorite bathroom and kitchen in the world? While I pondered these questions, work really was going forward on better ones. It was usually late at night, after the poor, exhausted hubby got home from work, but slowly the bathroom went from looking like this 

To this

Of course, this is a temporary fix for the bathroom.  (And when I say temporary, I mean it will probably stay this way for the next ten years or so) We planned on tiling the majority of it, but tile in such large quantities started to add up rather alarmingly, so we had to settle for this hideous looking green, gooey, waterproof membrane rolled onto the walls and floor.

But it looks better on the walls than in the bucket, it does the job it needs to and I would take this bathroom over the trailer one every day.  My babies inaugurated the room by bathing in it tonight and I won’t tell you how excited I am for my shower tomorrow morning lest you think me ridiculous.

And then, there is my kitchen.  This is also going to be a temporary fix until we can save up enough money for cabinetry etc., but it is more than passable for the time being. What we had set up before (to try and avoid running down to the trailer and back and forth for every meal) was really atrocious- a lopsided old table with a microwave, a toaster oven and coffee making supplies piled pell mell on top.  This is what it looked like after I had been gone for a week. Don’t look, mother.

This side of the kitchen is where my good countertops and kitchen sink will eventually go, so I decided to get rid of the awful table and get creative using the other side of the kitchen for the time being.  But in order to move my kitchen stuff out of the trailer and out of storage and into circulation again, I needed some kind of shelving. I have a nice pantry but no built in shelves and not a lot in reserve to be purchasing shelving.  Luckily, my basement and porch are brimming over with scrap wood and even a few odd bits of furniture that came with the house. 

This particular hutch had been sitting on my porch for at least a dozen years- seriously.  It was unbelievably filthy and I wasn’t sure it was even salvageable, but I thought I might as well try.

I didn’t take any photos of the in between stages, but after a ton of sanding and painting and patchwork and a tasteful yard or two of fabric to cover up the less fixable areas, the  boys and I succeeded in shoving it into the pantry where it fit perfectly and I had something quite usable.  

That, along with my favorite technique of stacking board and bricks to make shelves, and my pantry was in business.  It’s a cute little room, but rather difficult to get a good picture of.

I did something similar with another old hutch,although this one was in much better shape and hadn’t been sitting outside for the last decade.  I just spruced it up with a cute piece of fabric and now my “red” collection is housed there.  

I like red and decided it would be my accent color, which was easy to do since most everything I already owned in my kitchen was red.  

This was the other side of the kitchen- a blank canvas, if you will.

I had a few more random pieces of shelving (one of which definitely needed to be covered with a tasteful curtain), a good solid piece of wooden countertop and my trusty old kitchen island that I rearranged twenty times over until I found an arrangement that worked and would give me at least some counter space.

As soon as I had finished that, my beautiful, fifty dollar Craig’s list fridge was delivered and finally filled that space that has been mocking me with its emptiness for so long.  Oh the delight!

And then, this morning, best of all mornings, some dear people delivered a stove- a completely free gift that, like so many items now in our house, were apparently just looking for a good home. So this is my “temporary” kitchen. 

We are very, very blessed.

It seemed fitting, somehow, that the first meal I cooked in this room should involve bacon.

So now, everything we need to function in our house has been installed- errrrr, everything but the kitchen sink. That’s still in a box. But she’s a beaut, no?

And of course, the windows and the heat and air and a hundred other little things that would allow us to call this place finished. But oh, we are so much closer to that goal than we were even a week ago. 

 We are looking at a hooootttt summer ahead of us but we are facing it with hope, joy, thankfulness and a fully functioning bathroom.

What a difference a year makes

So a year and a day ago I posted this.  I was just rereading it, remembering as if  it were only yesterday what it was like having just moved into the trailer and then getting attacked by that awful stomach bug. And even thou we aren’t technically done using the trailer and a stomach bug today would still be just as unwelcome as ever, I am amazed at how far we have come from that bleak and miserable birthday.  

There is so much value in looking back over a year, not only seeing how far God has brought you, but realizing that all miseries must come to an end sometime, whether it’s a 24 hour illness or a difficult living situation or you name it.  Of course, it is also helpful to remember the bright spots in the dark times- a helpful sister, loving children, unexpected humor in the midst of it all. It reminds me that most of life is like that- a mixed bag of struggle and joy and hilarity.

This last week, I did something crazy and jumped on an airplane with my baby girl to come and see my folks out in Washington. It was about as spontaneous a thing as I have ever done- the boys were done with school, my church job wrapped up for the season, and something told me I needed to go see my daddy before he wouldn’t know me any more.  And grandma needed to see her granddaughter as well.  

It’s always painful, heading back home, knowing that things are difficult and knowing there isn’t really a lot you can do to help.  But daddy recognized me immediately.  He was so surprised and excited- he couldn’t quite remember my name, nor even how to give me a hug, but he knew me just the same.  There is pain in life, but it often makes the joys just that much sweeter. 

I came out ostensibly to be a help, but taking a breather from my own crazy life has been more helpful for myself than I imagined. My family surprised me with a little birthday trip to one of my favorite places and we spent a few days just quietly looking at the waves.   I had some rare, sweet, one on one time with my daughter

And she has gotten that special time with grandma and cousins I crave for my children so often.

Then, this morning, not only did I not wake up miserably sick, but the gloomy forecast that had been predicted for my entire stay decided not to go through with it and instead, blinded us all with a glory of sunshine.

My jet lagged baby decided to sleep until almost seven AM, which may not seem like much but it sure beats four.

And even though it was mostly shrouded in a haze, my favorite mountain managed to pop out and say hello.

I’d say it made for a pretty good day.  

I’ve been spoiled, really.  Life may have thrown me a few curveballs and will probably continue to do so, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to take a brave swing at them when your fellow team members are an unbelievably fabulous group of sisters, parents, husband, children and friends. 

Who could ask for a better gift than that?