Birthday breakfast part deux

Before this day is over, I suppose I should finish the cake post I started last night. When we last met, we had all our ingredients prepped and ready for an early morning session in the kitchen. Thankfully my alarm went off, I got my shower, and armed with coffee, I started back in.

You’ll have to pardon the quality of these pictures as it was still dark outside. Get out your participants and your greased springform pan.

20130915-181621.jpg

Pour the small bowl of sour cream into the bowl of crumble and mix well. Then pour this into your springform and spread it so that the batter comes about two thirds up the sides of the pan.

20130915-181750.jpg

20130915-181804.jpg
Next comes the bowl of cream cheese. Plop it on top of the batter and spread until it is smooth.

20130915-181857.jpg

20130915-181906.jpg

And now your fruit filling. Remember, you can use just about any jam you want, but I have to put in a good word for lemon curd here. I just feel like it gets a bad rap because of its name. I don’t know who came up with the name lemon curd but there are definitely no curds or curdling involved, unless of course you make it wrong. It’s just a lovely silky, buttery, lemony custard. But enough about lemons, curdled or not. Use what you like and spread it on top of the cream cheese-about half a cup.

20130915-182441.jpg

20130915-182450.jpg
Now you get to use that cup of crumble you set aside. Sprinkle it evenly on the other layers.

20130915-182614.jpg
And of course, top with slivered almonds. Now it’s ready to slide into the oven, which I forgot to mention should have been preheated to 350 before I got in the shower. Oh, and pay no attention to the bottom of my oven.

20130915-182809.jpg
Give it about forty- five minutes to bake. It will give you time to go wake up your kids and tell them to get dressed about forty-five times. The edges should be nice and brown by then, but the middle will still feel jiggly because of the fruit filling. Pull it out and let it cool a bit or the filling will run all over the place. This will also give the sun time to get up so you can get some decent pictures.

20130915-183050.jpg
Remove the sides of the pan and dish it up with some nice fruit, or bacon if you need something healthy.

20130915-183246.jpg
Oh, and of course a cup of coffee.

Here’s a side view of the layers.

20130915-183335.jpg
So all in all, a good start to a good birthday.

Birthday Boy Breakfast Part 1

Well, the hubby’s birthday falls on a Sunday this year, tomorrow to be exact. I was trying to think of a fitting tribute for the man I love without getting all sentimental and mushy about how I am married to my best friend and how he is the best guy in the world etc. (which he is, of course) As I was pondering, one of the men who works for him at his current job site pulled up on his motorcycle and knocked on my back door. I had to tell him that the hubby wasn’t home, having taken the boys out for the evening. He introduced himself since we had never met and then said in one of those thick southern accents I still have a hard time interpreting sometimes,
“So you’re the one married to that guy, huh?”
“Umm, yes,” I said somewhat hesitatingly.
“He’s crazy, that guy”, he continued.
“Well, uh,…” I eloquently replied.
He went on-

“The first time I ever work for him, we were up in this tiny crawl space doin’ electrical. It was dark and hot and itchy and I just wanted to get the **** out of there.” (No apology for his language, by the way.) “I was working as fast as I could so, but I heard him askin’ me somethin’. He was tellin’ me to keep an eye out for crickets. ‘Crickets?’, I ask him. ‘Yeah, crickets,’ he tol’ me. He tol’ me he done caught a prayin’ mantis for his boys and he wanted to catch some crickets so he could feed the mantis and they could all watch how it catch it’s food. I thought he was crazy, ya know, but then I starts thinkin’ he must jus be crazy ’bout his boys to think of them like that when we was up in that ******* crawl space.”

Despite the earthiness of this narrative, by the end I was smiling and thanking him in my mind for giving me a very fitting tribute to my hubby, the man who hunts crickets to bring joy to his little boys. Then I came inside and decided to make him his favorite coffee cake for breakfast.

I am going to post this recipe in two stages, because I want to prep for it tonight, and bake it in the morning. I don’t know about you, but our house tends to get a little hectic on Sunday mornings as we try to get out the door to church, so whatever I can do Saturday night to prepare for the morning, I try to do. This isn’t the simplest cake in my arsenal, but it’s a special occasion! So here’s what we need to do tonight.

Get out your stuff-

20130914-193131.jpg

We’re working with pretty basic ingredients here- flour, sugar, butter, sour cream, cream cheese. If you are wondering what’s in the pitcher, it’s whole wheat pastry flour I just ground in my vita-mix blender. I’m all about health here. Not really, but I have been playing around with different flours since I got the vita-mix for mother’s day, so I’m gonna try whole wheat this time. Usually I would just use all purpose flour for this recipe.

Step one, grease a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan and set it aside ’til morning.

Step two, in a large bowl combine 2 1/4 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 sticks of butter.

20130914-193919.jpg

Crumble it up with your fingers until it looks like this. Remember my apple crisp?

20130914-194031.jpg

Now remove one cup of this and set it in the fridge ’til morning.

20130914-194118.jpg
To the remainder in the bowl add
1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda, baking powder and salt.

20130914-200913.jpg
Set it in the fridge ’til morning. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Step three, mix together your wet ingredients in a small bowl-
1 egg, 3/4 cup of sour cream and a splash of almond extract.

20130914-194533.jpg
Confession. I have had this bottle of almond extract for eleven years. I use it very rarely, and a little goes a long way. But it still smells good so I keep using it. If you don’t have almond, vanilla works just fine. Set it in the fridge ’til morning.

Step four, the cream cheese layer. Here’s where it starts getting really good. Get a mixer out for this step. Trust me, it’s a lot easier. I had an aversion to using mixers for a long time, which I will explain in some future blog post perhaps, but for now go ahead and mix
8 oz. cream cheese, another egg and 1/4 cup of sugar until smooth.

20130914-194943.jpg Aaaaaand set it in the fridge ’til morning.
So here is what you have ready to go in the a.m. so you can whip that cake into the oven and still have time to curl your hair for church.

20130914-200027.jpg
The last two ingredients need no prep. I have some homemade lemon curd there in the tupperware. This is another one of those odd items that I almost always have on hand, because the hubby is not only French, he’s also half British. The original recipe calls for seedless raspberry jam, but I have used lots of different fruit spreads, and haven’t hit on a bad one yet. So lemon, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry- pick your poison. And you will need slivered almonds.
So now, stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of this fantastic birthday boy recipe!

Twinsies

Well, two more dolls and a bunny sold. I’m on a roll! Thanks for your support folks. These two girls are almost twins, except for their eye color- brown and blue. Do identical twins always have the same eye color? That’s something I’ve never thought of before.
Anyhow, I had two slightly different shades of lavender cotton, so I made them almost matching dresses with a big white ruffle on the bottom and green trim. They each have black felt shoes with tiny green buttons.

Here is brown eyed girl,

20130911-214342.jpg

20130911-214349.jpg

Here is blue

20130911-214447.jpg

20130911-214455.jpg

And here they are together!

20130911-214600.jpg

20130911-214608.jpg

As this new venture expands, I have lots of ideas rolling around in my head, but not enough time! I would like to do more doll clothes- hats, coats, you know, lots of cuteness. But first I want to do as many different varieties of hair, eye, skin color as I can, so people can pick and choose on my shop.
The funny thing is, I’m having the hardest time figuring out how to package them for shipping. I’d like to send them in a cute little box, but can’t find any with the right dimensions that aren’t really expensive, and I’m trying not to add to my expenses. Any ideas?

Bunny Love

Thought I would do a quick post on this since I just added it to my etsy shop. My sweet little nephew had some pretty scary surgery last week, so I thought I would take the opportunity to try my hand at stuffed animals and send him a little get well gift. I sent it in a box with cards from my boys. My oldest boy loves making cards, and he was intently working on some pictures, when he stopped to ask me a question.
“Hey mom, look. I drew a hospital bed, an oxygen mask and a stethoscope, but what else should I draw? Oh, I know. Should I draw a picture of a big knife?”
“Well son, maybe not a big knife. How ’bout we stick with some nice flowers or hearts or something.”

Anyways, thankfully the surgery went well and I liked how the gift turned out, so I am putting another one up for sale if anyone is interested.

Introducing the Cotton Jersey Rabbit.

20130910-110055.jpg

20130910-110100.jpg

He, or she I guess, is real soft and snuggly and stands about ten inches tall.

Choice

20130908-141107.jpg

I’d like to share something serious and very personal with you today, but I am nervous and afraid to address such a touchy topic. What, for lack of a better term, I feel compelled to write about is one of the most controversial topics I know of, and controversy and I don’t get along. If there is one thing that causes me to lose sleep, or to start getting ulcers, it’s controversy.

When I was young, I had a bad experience at school after I committed a trivial offense I was too afraid to admit to. The result was an austere teacher and punishment for the whole class for a week until the culprit ‘fessed up. I never did confess and was sick to my stomach for that whole week. For a long time after that, I would confess to many offenses that I had never committed, just to avoid any similar stressful situation.

But here I am facing that dread, hoping to accomplish I don’t know what, but feeling a need to write that I can’t ignore anymore. Ever since I started this blog and wrote briefly about the death of my daughter Hosanna, this topic has been nagging at me. I have been pushing it back, telling myself that nothing I have to say could be helpful for those who might be struggling with this issue.

I have been praying hard all morning, and mostly to avoid writing, I googled the words Pro-Choice Articles. I clicked on the first link. It was entitled Pro Choice as an Act of Love. I am timid to even put a link to the article for fear that the author might get wind of this and start slinging mud my way. I never could figure out how her abortion was an act of love, but it is not my intention to tear her article apart, or denounce her logic or reasoning. I mention it because it was so startlingly similar to my own story- just the flip side of the coin if I had made her choice. She was straight forward and graphic about her own harrowing ordeal in the hope of helping other women be confident in their choice of an abortion. I’m going to relate my own story from the other side.

About five months into my pregnancy with Hosanna, we were “dealt a bum hand” as the author of the above-mentioned article put it. It had been a strange pregnancy, following closely after the birth of my first son. They would have been fourteen months apart if she had lived. I felt great, and had already had a few doctor’s appointments where we had heard the heartbeat. I didn’t feel any worry, even though at five months, I was hardly showing at all. People were starting to comment on my good luck! How I carried my babies so discretely!

One day I went in to find out the sex of the baby without my hubby since he was so busy at work. The technician came in to do my ultrasound with a big grin on her face, but as she started taking pictures, the grin faded. She called another nurse in. They started printing reams of pictures and hurrying out of the room with them. I was really nervous by this time and asked the nurse if she could tell what sex it was. “It’s a girl,” she replied absently, and continued clicking and typing. Then she left me alone for quite a while. I sat there shaking on the table, wondering what was going on. Then my midwife came in with that look on her face. Something was terribly wrong with my baby, and we would need to do some further testing for diagnoses. I somehow made it out of the office, and drove to my hubby’s work where he was in a meeting. I walked in the door, and I must have looked terrible because the other man in the room excused himself as quickly as he could. Then I fell apart and the next several weeks are kind of a blur in my memory.

We went to the hospital for an amniocentesis. In my ignorance, I didn’t know what that was until they stuck a huge needle straight into my belly and took a sample of amniotic fluid. We would have the results in a week or so. When they came, the hospital called us in for a conference. The problem turned out to be a chromosomal disorder called triploidy. My daughter had three sets of chromosomes instead of two. The survival rate for such a diagnosis was zero percent. The blow was devastating enough, but what followed was perhaps as traumatic for me.

The man explaining things to us was a hospital counselor, and he had two folders on the table in front of him. He explained very clearly that there were cases where a triploidy baby had actually lived to be born and even survive a few months, but ultimately there would be no hope. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of carrying a baby full term only to lose it. We had already had an early miscarriage before our son was born and that was hard enough.

He then explained the possible complications to the mother if we continued with the pregnancy, and that word if broke through the fog of all the information he was giving us. I suddenly realized what the man was getting at. I didn’t know what to say. He never used the word abortion or termination, but I noticed his fingers drumming on one of the folders on the table. I had a sudden sickening feeling of what information was inside it and I had a moment’s horror, realizing that we were being given the option of killing our own baby. The room started spinning and then quietly but firmly, my husband held my hand and let the counselor know that termination was not an option for us.

The hateful folder disappeared under the table and the other folder was opened. Instead of a description of an abortion procedure, the assurance that the fetus was not really a child yet, and the hospital’s guarantee that it would take care of the waste discretely, it was a ready made speech about how we needed to celebrate this little life as long as we had it- that we should name her, begin funeral preparations and sign up for the “Empty Arms” support group. We even got a certificate from the hospital acknowledging her valuable but short existence.

Hosanna died a month later, and we went through the nightmare of inducing a still birth. The story of the pro-choice article was almost exactly what we experienced, except we were in a friendly hospital, not a cold abortion clinic: the labor inducing drugs, the terrible pain, and finally holding our child in our arms as we wept. We went home to bury our daughter and to be comforted by a gracious God, loving family and friends and our joyful one year old son. It took a while for the healing, and I still can’t go through an ultrasound without great trepidation, but God has granted us three wonderful boys after her loss.

What continues to haunt me is that there were two folders on the table that day, and that there are two folders set before every woman in such a situation. Many people have worked tirelessly to insure that when someone like me finds herself in such a situation, I might be given a choice to take matters into my own hands and end a life on my own terms. That when dealt a bum hand, I could, in theory, have handed the cards back and asked for a new set, just like that. There was no hope for my baby after all. Why waste so much time waiting for her to die, or preparing for all the possible complications, when you could get it all over with and start afresh with a better model? I imagine all of those women who are presented with that folder, being told it is a gift- a blessing to be able to take control of their own destiny. I can only say that this is a lie. This is no game, and you cannot hand back what you are dealt.

I’m not here to argue about whether or not a fetus is a child, or whether there is ever a situation that justifies an abortion. I’ve heard all the arguments, and as I said before, I don’t want to argue. I simply want to relate my own experience when presented with that dreadful choice. And it is a dreadful choice. The poor counselor was trying to do his job by offering it, but he couldn’t read both of those folders out loud to us. There is a reason he hemmed and hawed and skirted around the issue. He knew the contradiction was too ridiculous. I’m sure he was glad he didn’t have to spell it out for us. Do you want us to end this little life, or do you want us to help you nurture it as long as you can?

I consider myself blessed in my situation since in reality, there were never two choices for me. My beliefs made it impossible. I believe in a God who is the author of every life and I am so thankful I was allowed to leave that responsibility in His hands. I was not pressured or cajoled into taking ” advantage” of that hard earned right to choose that would have put such an impossible weight on my own shoulders. I don’t have to carry that burden with me, and I don’t think any woman should.
I have no arguments for those who have been raped, or whose lives might be threatened by carrying their child full term, or the myriad other situations that I hear so often brought forward. I simply want to say how I long and pray for those faced with such a terrible choice, to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and to know there is hope. I pray for those who have no strong husband, no supportive family, who feel they have no choice but to choose death. I weep for those who thought they wanted the responsibility of that choice but have found it to bring only despair and the never ending question, “What if?”

I feel totally inept as I write this. I wish I had answers and solutions for those faced with this choice as I was, or for those who have actually made it. But the only answer I can offer are the words that comforted me in the darkest hours- the words of the Lord of Life himself-

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

You say zucchini, I say courgette

I was prompted to share this recipe by a little facebook conversation I had last week. The conversation was started by my friend who was resigning herself to making more zucchini brownies with the surplus squash she had. My sister then chimed in, telling her that my hubby had a great zucchini soup recipe. We bantered back and forth about creative ways to use up extra garden bounty, including playing zucchini baseball, and then I sent her the recipe. I hadn’t thought about this soup in a while since our squash met the same mildewy fate as our tomatoes this year. Not one zuke did we get, but it’s a great recipe for using up some of those zucchini bats you may be fortunate enough to have laying around your kitchen counters.
But before I give you ingredients, I must tell you that it is the hubby’s recipe- one of the few he learned how to make in his youth in France. And now, since it is a french recipe, and since I am tired of trying to remember how to spell zucchini, I will tell you a little story about his soup a la courgette.

One of these days, I will tell the full and harrowing tale of my Big, Fat, French/American wedding, but today I will just give a little snippet about our rehearsal dinner. The hubby- well, let’s call him the fiancé in this story, was determined to have a big French sit down dinner for our wedding reception, involving several courses and only inviting close family and friends. This idea wasn’t working out very well since we had already invited over five hundred people to the wedding.

I managed to convince him to settle for the rehearsal dinner being several courses and only inviting close family and friends instead of the reception. It all sounded great until we started counting up those close to us. By the time we had whittled down the list to the bare minimum, we were left with about 125 people. I come from a big family.
Well, we planned doggedly on, but the cost of food started to look alarmingly high when confronted with all those courses. We tweaked and retweaked the menu to fit the budget, when he suddenly remembered his soup a la courgette. It was the middle of summer, people had gardens, and surely everyone would have a few courgettes to share. He wasn’t wrong.

In retrospect, it was a bit of an insane idea, holding a multi-coursed rehearsal dinner for 125 people in my parents back yard the night before our huge wedding, but we were young. And the soup at least, was easy and cheap. The fiancé made it himself, in the biggest pot my parents owned. We had an army of young cousins who were volunteered by their mothers to be waiters.

The first hiccup came when the day turned out to be ridiculously cold for the middle of July. It wasn’t raining, but it was overcast and so chilly that when people started arriving that evening, we had to go hunting through the house for every available coat and sweater we could find. People started in on the appetizers, but the soup was the first real course, so we started serving it up in preparation. But as I mentioned, it was a cold night and much as my waitering cousins hurried, the soup was growing stone cold. This wasn’t a huge problem since the soup could be served hot or cold, so we continued on. It wasn’t long however, before we realized that we were going to fall short by quite a bit. It was too late to make more, so I ran to the fridge and pulled out some cream. At first we just added a bit to stretch it, but as there was no end in sight to 125 bowls, we just started dumping it in. The last ten bowls or so were pretty much just cream.
When the last of the soup was served, we finally sat down. It was only then that I realized the evening was not only chilly, but exceedingly windy. All the tables were set up in my parents backyard which is overshadowed by two large evergreen trees. The wonderful soup a la courgette had morphed into bowls of cold cream with pine needle garnish.

We had to throw away a lot of soup that night, but it really is a great recipe and so easy! So now I will finally share it with you. I can’t believe I had to buy courgettes in summertime, but I got green and yellow, just for fun. And the rest of the ingredients are pretty basic-

20130906-173039.jpg

Chop up two onions and about six cloves of garlic and start sautéing them in a bit of butter or oil until softened. If you are friends with me on facebook, you’ll know I bought 8 pounds of butter yesterday, so I went with butter tonight.

20130906-173239.jpg

While those are cooking, chop up your courgettes. As for amounts, I usually just fill up the pot if I can- they cook down a lot. Say goodbye to giant, counter-filling zukes!

20130906-173513.jpg

Cover the pot and let them cook at about medium for twenty minutes or so, stirring occasionally. While they cook, sit down and sew a couple of limbs onto a few dolls if you’re really trying to multi task.

20130906-173713.jpg
Once they are really soft, pour in enough chicken broth to cover the veggies.

20130906-173828.jpg
Then the secret ingredient- cream cheese! I usually just throw a whole 8 ounce box in, but all I had was a 12 ounce tub, so I used about two thirds of it.

20130906-174150.jpg
Add salt and pepper, and now it’s time to blend. The hubby enjoys pureed soup so much that he bought me this wonderful immersion blender years ago. I use it all the time, and it’s great for blending hot soups, but you can easily blend this in a couple of batches in any old blender.

20130906-174528.jpg
Just blend until smooth, adjust seasonings as you go and avoid stepping on your baby and his plastic cup castle.

20130906-174713.jpg
Serve hot (or cold, as the case may be) with a nice crusty bread. But try to avoid the pine needle garnish.

20130906-174951.jpg

His ‘n Hers

Well folks, here’s another custom order. I had a request for a light-brown haired doll with green eyes, so here she is, with green dress to match. I had so much fun with the green eyes. I would love to do another one, although next I think I will try one with red hair. The dress is a little different this time- a higher collar with a bow and different button detail. It’s fun designing dresses! She has brown shoes to match her buttons and hair ribbon.

20130904-141737.jpg

20130904-141744.jpg

20130904-141756.jpg

20130904-141802.jpg

After she was done, I decided to listen to my sons and try a little something for them. No, it’s not a pirate doll, but I thought it was time for an attempt at a boy doll. He turned out to be a little newsboy. I was inspired by the hat I guess. I am putting him up for sale, but if no one buys him, he will probably be a Christmas gift for someone around here. Speaking of Christmas, I have this dream of selling enough stuff to get us six plane tickets to my folk’s house for the holidays. Hmmmm, that would be an awful lot of sewing……

20130904-142138.jpg

20130904-142151.jpg

20130904-142157.jpg

Here’s a couple of shots of them together, laughin’ it up, and having a good old time during our photoshoot.

20130904-142411.jpg

20130904-142416.jpg

Like I said, greeny is already sold, but I am happy to duplicate!