Did you know? The most popular summer recipe is CAKE. I find this surprising…over ice-cream? Unless we’re talking this cake recipe. Then I totally get it.
I rarely create an original recipe, I taste-test. King Arthur Flour made this one, the Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake. As a devoted cake mix girl, it takes a lot for me to consider making a cake from scratch – especially one with three layers of different chocolate.
This one? Oh my heavens. It made me look real good.
Summer epiphany: when you’re actually home and demanding a SLOW summer, you have time to make a cake! And while time is still a precious commodity, some cakes demand to be made. THIS ONE.
Upon taking a bite, my husband, the critic of all food critics, pretty much melted into a puddle onto the floor. I’ll be making it again.
And with strawberries just coming into season, they are the perfect addition to this lusciousness.
King Arthur didn’t have strawberries in the original recipe – that’s my contribution. We like it! Also, I eliminated the optional espresso powder b/c I didn’t have it – still good! Would you like a bite? I suggest making the three different chocolates (not hard) the day before and assembling the day of – then you can relax and enjoy the cake of your labor…
Hurry up now! Before you lose your nerve…make this cake!
Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups chopped semisweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely ground.
- Add the egg and pulse just until the mixture is smooth.
- Heat the cream to just below a boil, with small bubbles forming around the edge of the saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl).
- Turn on the blender or processor, and slowly add the cream. Scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Add the vanilla and pulse to blend.
- Pour the pudding into a shallow bowl, and refrigerate it until chilled and thickened, 2 hours to overnight. I found that overnight works best. Still not setting? Stir in gelatin.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line them with 8″ parchment circles, if desired, and grease the parchment; this step will ensure your cake’s crumble-free turnout from the pan.
- To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Stir in the water; the batter will be thin.
- Pour the batter into the two prepared pans.
- Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool them for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.
- To make the icing: Combine the cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. Heat until the cream is steaming and showing small bubbles around the edge.
- Remove the chocolate/cream from the microwave or burner, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes completely smooth, with no lighter areas remaining visible.
- Refrigerate the icing for 30 minutes (I went longer). Beat the chilled icing briefly, until it thickens a bit and becomes spreadable.
- To assemble the cake: Cut the domed tops off both cake layers; these will become your crumb coating.
- Place one layer on a serving plate. For best presentation, lay strips of parchment around the edge of the plate before laying the cake on top; these will catch the inevitable icing drips, and can be removed once you’re done icing the cake.
- Top the cake with the filling, spreading it evenly to the edges.
- Center the second layer of cake atop the filling.
- Spread the icing over the top and onto the sides of the cake.
- Crumble the reserved cake, and gently press it onto the top and sides of the assembled cake.
- Serve immediately, or within a couple of hours. For longer storage, refrigerate. This cake is best served the same day it’s made, or within 24 hours. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage. You may also choose to freeze individual slices — for those times when you HAVE to have a piece of chocolate cake!
1. This Revlon blow dryer. It’s not hyperbole to say it’s changed by frustratingly-unruly hair life. I LOVE It. So fast and no frizz!
2. This root spray. The best part is watching Gregor’s face as I spray-paint my head. What are you doing? Found at Target (of course it was).
3. Garnier BB Cream. I’ve blogged about this before, but our relationship is going strong. With a hint of color and coverage, I ADORE this product. (Target)
4. Good quality Gardening Gloves and Mud Boots. It’s a real gardening game changer to have gloves and boots that fit and don’t give you blisters. Pay a little more and you’ll enjoy your chores more. Found in local stores & online!
5. Blister Gel Guard Band-Aids. Wow. For two kids who had bad blisters this week, these were fantastic! A boy could work all week and a girl could hike a mountain with me. Awesome product. Found everywhere!
6. The Bullet Journal. For years I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with finding the perfect calendar system. Clearly I have problems. I’ve slowly started the bullet system, ignoring the multitude of bullet journal talent out there. Nina gives some good tutorials and is metaphorically holding my hand through this trying time.
My calendar is not a “true” bullet journal as I’m using a regular notebook – but that’s the beauty of the system! You can use whatever you want with whatever notebook and pens you like. (I also have a pen problem.)
Boho Berry and her bullet journal obsession inspires and intimidates (see below). But the bullet journal is YOUR journal. Do it your way.
7. Watercolor paper. Brynne and I have had so much fun on Sunday mornings. We pull pictures off the internet and magazines to paint. Putting a drop of water on paper, followed by a drop of paint and watching it spread…so beautiful! I’m into birds these days. Clearly, you don’t have to be an expert, just paint!
It’s been especially fun to paint and send cards
8. Shutterfly puzzles and scrapbook. I’m just tickled pink at the possibilities! This one was free, minus shipping with one of their many weekend deals.
9. Seed and Sky. I’m obsessed. These necklaces are etsy hand-painted by a gal who grew up in my little New Hampshire town. They make a great graduation, birthday, or anytime gift. My aunt has the nest (my fave!), Brynne has the fox, Cope has the compass locket. I’m drooling over the hummingbird, the bunny, the succulents! I want all. Follow on Instagram for deals!
10. Skillshare. Want to learn a skill? Like painting or watercolor or or calligraphy or design or lettering or like, anything? Try it free for two months! My current favorite is teacher Louise De Masi who is teaching me and Brynne how to paint this fox:
Well, that was fun to share. What about you? Any favorite anythings?
Well, we did it.
I can say “we” because y’all know this day is a family affair.
This milestone – wow.
It is the toughest paradox of love: letting go and holding on.
I’m so proud of this girl. She has worked really really hard. She has hiked and sang and ran and studied. She has cried and laughed and prayed and LEARNED SO MUCH. She stumbled and fell and got up many many times. She sailed the ocean blue, was elected school leader, played Belle and freaked out over finance class (the drama runs deep :). I’m so grateful for it all.
I give thanks for a tremendous education, an amazing advisor who not only advised, but fed and loved her. I give thanks to the many fabulous teachers that not only noticed, but SAW her. Cope was born a “faculty brat,” raised on campus with 12 dorm boys until we moved off campus, and has always aspired to walk across this specific stage. The “bittersweet” cliche? Totally true.
This girl made me a mother and I’m in awe of her. There’s the other paradox: the child becomes the teacher.
Brene Brown says the etymology of the word “paradox” captures the heart of what it means to love. Greek origins joins the two words para (contrary to ) and dokein (opinion.) The Latin paradoxum means “seemingly absurd but true.”
Parenting captures that exactly – seemingly absurd but true!
It is seemingly absurd that we are here…but it’s also true. It’s seemingly absurd that my “baby girl” Cope (who was just wearing a onesie!) will not live under our shared roof this fall.
It’s seemingly absurd that I will survive this. But alas, that is true, too.
This day of graduation is a paradox of joy and grief. There is absolutely no control over either one. And I know very well that in life there is no joy without sadness. There is no sadness without experiencing that great joy.
Now excuse me while I go find my tissues. This is a happy day 🙂
“Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write…’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.'”
– Olga Masters
Happy Mother’s Day
To all the women doing the raising: you’re doing good work!
My one-word theme for the year, “Simplify” is staring at me from the wall. Personal progress is suspect.
I tell you, simplifying is hard. It means saying No to SO MANY THINGS.
I experienced further angst when reading this stove analogy by humorist David Sedaris on management: “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist…was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.
Oh dear. This is likely the reason I’ve never qualified for Boston. It’s the reason my great American novel is…well, where exactly is it? On the other hand, I’ve fought very hard for to keep the family fire burning. My friends probably feel very cold #sorry.
Is there any way to keep all four burners successfully lit? By trying to “do it all,” can we ever master anything? Logistically, getting those “10,000 hours” takes much longer. We become “jack of all trades, master of none.” For the select few, like elite athletes, master painters, novelists, and craftsman, cutting off select burners is essential.
But for the rest of us mere mortals? It seems those burners are constantly competing.
Over time I’ve become very aware of this simple fact: saying Yes to one thing means saying No to another.
It’s why my garden looked like this last summer:
I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of balance until one day, a few years ago, I thought, No, there should not be balance any longer – I’m throwing that out the window! I should choose the most important things in my life and pursue them with a single-mindedness. Everything else should fall to the wayside.
I struggle daily to find the focus. Every night I write out the next-day schedule. I have my “Top Three” priorities. I can tell you that “Write One Hour” is always on the list. Though I’ll be honest, it’s a pitiful five minutes.
I’ve noticed this stove burner thing play out in several different scenarios. If I immerse myself in total family activities/running errands/grocery shopping, “my work” (writing) suffers. If I stay at the computer all day long writing or getting ready to teach a class, I feel horrible for neglecting my children. Most times, “the work” takes the backseat. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the best choice.
Tough choices abound daily. For instance, I want a really clean and organized and perfectly decorated house, but I’ve consciously made the decision to not use my best mental hours to clean. Sometimes this is embarrassing (for every repair and mailman…)
I refuse to get any more chickens, rarely volunteer at school, and won’t make an extra trip to school when kids forget stuff (full disclosure: I still cave.) But darn it, it’s also the reason I can’t seem to get the pictures hung on the wall.
A Personal Manifesto to Keep the Burners Burning Bright:
1. Protect the things that are most important. That means we need TO KNOW what those things are. Make an actual list.
2. Pursue the MOST IMPORTANT things FIRST.
3. Practice the art of saying No. This is particularly hard for women. We like to save the day. But why? Are we trying to be helpful or are we trying to make ourselves feel good? “I’m sorry, I just can’t make that happen right now,” is a muscle that needs to be exercised! When we say NO to something, we are saying YES to something else – like time or family or a hobby – or A NAP!
Need help? How to Say NO Here. (ha!)
4. Remember: we choose our own level of busy. I remind myself of this when I see my name next to “feed dinner to 50 cast members.” I CHOSE to put my name there. (why, Amy, why???)
5. Make a decision and than own your choice. There needs be no battle between stay-at-home and working parents. We are all working parents. We are all doing our best to support and raise our families. Individual families require individual decisions. When it comes to one another, I think our only job on this earth is to love one another no matter what. Be confident in your choice. Haters be darned.
6. Stop being a people pleaser. Ugh, I’m such an obliger. Stop it. The End.
7. Learn to delegate. Did you know? In families, 40% of women are the main breadwinners, yet 70% of women still take on the majority of the household tasks. It seems to me that we women want and need help and we resent the fact that our families don’t help more, but if they try to help, they don’t do it the way we would do it. We feel badly when there’s resistance. “Oh no no no, let me get that for you. You sit there while I load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and kill myself from exhaustion…” puh-lease.
We handicap our children when we don’t let them help. They become literally help-less. My first college roommate left college after a week because independence was so scary. She was scared to walk to class. “Laundry is too overwhelming.” As I sadly said good-bye I remembered scrubbing our kitchen floor as a child and I was finally grateful that I was taught to clean, cook, and wash my own clothes. I wasn’t good at it for a long, long time, but it came. Let the children fail, work and struggle. It’s a gift.
8. Seek guidance through prayer. I believe there is a God who loves us, gives us gifts, and wants us to succeed. Seek Him first and we will know what burners to light.
One last story: the other day I was at a track meet for my daughter. I took a video of another child winning a race and sent it to her mother. Her mother was thankful but I sensed she felt guilty that she wasn’t there, that she had to apologize and explain. Was I making her feel guilty by sending a video? Was I making her feel that I was the better mother because I was the one there? I wanted her to know that I’m not always the one “THERE” either. Next week, I can’t be at the track meet. Another mother or father will take a video of my child running and will send it to me. I may feel guilt but I will fight it. That No means a Yes to someone or something else. And sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.
Time is precious. May we use it wisely.
Thoughts on a Tuesday…
I used to actually think that when my kids were older, life wouldn’t be so crazy – that life would be easier and might actually slow down…oh, silly rabbit.
Life is going by at warp speed. If our family isn’t incredibly intentional about scheduling time together, we are the ships passing in the night. How easy it is to lose sight of one another. How easy it is to drift.
Paige and I are still joined at the hip. Brynne is in middle school but is slowly weaning herself from my clutches (sob.)
But high school? It’s a whole new world – that often doesn’t include you. With all the wonderful activities, sports, clubs, student government, classes, musicals, and friend time, it’s more like a weekly wave. Weekends, especially Sundays, are sacred, but during the week, more often than not, I’m getting the younger girls to bed when the teens come home. We say hello, how was your day, sorry about the drama, do your homework, see you tomorrow.
In some ways it feels like high school is the beginning of the end – you send them off and just hope and pray you’ve taught them how to behave, keep their pants on, and be kind to others.
This is how I usually see Cope – bye, Mom!
But you see, stuff has to get done. Like work applications, scholarships, scouting merit badges, emails sent, college visits, and on and on. And you, as the parent, can’t or shouldn’t do the job. What to do? Remind? Nag? Talk about it incessantly until you see action? It’s exhausting for all parties, and tremendously annoying.
Let’s just say that none of these tactics were helping our relationship.
Note: the time to remind the kids about something isn’t while they’re exiting the vehicle (um, me.)
“Don’t forget to…”
“Yep, Mom, I got it.”
But, hmm. Do they?
But ho – here’s a strategy that’s working REALLY WELL! (an idea from the fabulous Happier podcast featuring Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.)
A weekly one-hour appointment with the teens. It’s obvious, right? Well, it’s also genius.
At first, the idea was met with skepticism. Cope said, “Uh, honestly mom? I don’t think I have an hour a week for you.” Good thing she laughed after she said it. But she was right – we were having a hard time finding an hour to even have a conversation.
But she penciled me in, and that week we refined some essays, responded to college emails, and got those scholarships sent off. Done. So much relief! And you know what? It was FUN. I also got juicy tidbits of high school life (buzzword: “bralette.”) WIN.
Experimenting with the boy was harder because what we really needed to work on were merit badges and HE DOES NOT WANT TO DO THEM. Me neither.
“Are you ready for our scouting date?” I said in my overly cheerful annoying voice. However, I know the way to the boy’s heart: MEAT.
It’s the habit of pairing. If boy associates meat and yummy food and positive attention from mom, he’s more likely to cooperate. Total success. We only went half an hour and we got the job done.
On my calendar I now have a weekly note to self: schedule Cope and Nelson hour.
The great thing is they aren’t resisting it. (shhh…I think they might secretly enjoy spending time with me 🙂 )
- Schedule a weekly meeting.
- Try to be consistent with time and day, but even if it changes, set the appointment before you adjourn so it’s not one and done.
- Try REALLY HARD not to nag about scheduled matters during the week. Save it for your date.
Your meeting doesn’t even need to be for things you HAVE TO DO. It could be a walk together or a pedicure, but as time is teaching me: these final moments with our kids under the same roof is Precious Time.
My boy and I didn’t get our hour in this weekend because I was sick and he had homework, but right before we said good-bye this morning he said, “I think we can do our hour tonight.” Oh good, I said, happily surprised. “Maybe you could defrost some meat?”
Check. Hey, whatever it takes, buddy, ’cause I sure do love you.
(Marriage? It also works wonders!)
Let me know how this goes, dear readers. Successes? Failures? Already doing it? I’d love to hear.
While Easter Sunday is what we ultimately celebrate, I came across this quote that made me pause and consider this day, Good Friday: “We must never forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer, who gave his life that all men might live . . . This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us.” -Gordan B. Hinckley
Really loving mormon.org this week. So many sad, happy, redeeming, and powerful stories and videos on life and the need for a Savior.
Happy Good Friday, friends! Today’s heartache is what makes the rising so good.
This is one of the most popular recipes ever published by the New York Times, courtesy of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, who designed this bread as a minimalist technique for anyone who wants to bake a fantastic loaf of bread.
Let me tell you – it’s fantastic. And works every single time.
It is SO good and SO easy to make that I’ve made enough loaves to open a small bakery. Except we gobble it up too quickly to sell.
Three ingredients + water and stirred with a spoon. After that? TIME to let the magic (science, really) happen: The secret to great bread? Let time do the work.
I like to do this in the morning or at night and than leave it alone for a day or two. Takes 5-10 minutes.
This recipe guarantees: soft and airy on the inside and chewy delicious on the outside.
Three ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. Stir.
That’s it. The dough will be wet and shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap for12-18 hours. Here is where the science comes in. Your dough needs to rest for a long time to allow the gluten to become long elastic molecules – the reason for no kneading.
You’re going to bake using a covered dutch oven (or cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic.)
A covered dutch oven? Yes, this crust needs a lid to bake. The Professor gifted me with this beauty and I absolutely adore it. You can cook soups and stew on the stove and bake puffed pancakes and bread in the oven; it’s my most favorite kitchen item!
Unlike the New York Times recipe, I use parchment paper. The advantage is you simply lift up the paper (with the bread on it) and place in pre-heated dutch oven.
Baby loaves. Which cook more like a four-leaf clover. Package it up all pretty if you like. Deliver warm. And you’ll have friends for life.
The New York Times No-Knead Bread*
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 5/8 cups water (5/8 is just barely shy of 2/3 cup!)
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (warm or cold,) and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- Dough is ready when doubled and bubbly. Heat oven to 450. Place dutch oven in the oven.
- Lightly flour a work surface or parchment paper. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your fingers, work dough into a ball and onto the floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Let rest about 30 minutes (OR longer – NYT lets it rest for 2 hours!) When dough is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
- Remove hot pot from oven. Carefully pick up parchment paper and place in heated dutch oven. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10ish minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
- Eat and realize that life is beautiful because of warm bread.
*tweaks from astackofdishes
I’m becoming more intentional about what goes on the walls of our home. Of all the sensory receptors in the body, 70% are in the eyes. Fascinating, no? We see a lot of images everyday, and what we see stays with us.
We didn’t have a lot of extra for decorating when I was a kid, but my mother made a real effort to put up interesting art. I remember eating breakfast as a little girl and staring up at a poster of the urinary system 🙂 My mom put up anatomy posters, Monet, ancestors, and framed Minerva Tiechert. I am so appreciative of that now.
What’s on our walls? Here are a few amateur shots from around the house:
Flowers painted by great grandmother, Alice Fogg Family photos Love is spoken in our home at all times, day and night. there is never any fighting 🙂 This Christ print is by Greg Olson, one of my favorite painters. We received this for our wedding (almost 20 years ago!) We see it every time we enter or leave the house, and every time we enter the living room. Poor Jesus has been through a lot in our house. The glass was shattered after Nelson kicked a soccer ball into it, the frame cracked after a dry winter, it’s been tipped over by careless dusters, and often gets covered in black soot from the fire. Nevertheless, after replacements and loving care, the print is going strong.This hard-workin’ laundry mama reminds me how I adore washing and folding multiple loads of laundry a day. She and I always have a smile on our face while performing this service for our family (just ask the kids! 🙂 )
I like to use inspiring pages from a youth Christian magazine, The New Era (’cause Cosmo hasn’t really led us toward the light). Love, love, love their monthly message. I tape these up onto the bathroom mirror. We ponder goodness while brushing teeth.
But besides this, and my children’s artwork, I’ve been longing for meaningful art to ponder and get lost in.
This past summer, when my heart was heavy, I gravitated toward paintings of strong women.
When I saw this, I HAD TO HAVE it:
She Will Find What is Lost by Brian Kershisnik now hangs in our living room. What has she lost? A person? Hope? Faith? She’s lost something that has impacted her happiness. But all is not lost. Heavenly angels surround her, strengthening and reminding her that she is not alone. I think the beauty is not that she has lost something, but that “she will find what is lost.” Read more HERE, by artist.
She Became Herself With Tears by Caitlin Connolly. Cope says this is a depressing piece, but oh, I love it so much. The colors, the title, everything. I stalked artist Caitlin Connolly on instagram for a full month, waiting for a holiday sale, snagging print #2 of a limited edition of 30. It really felt like the first significant piece of artwork on our wall.
Mothers Teaching by Caitlin Connolly. I love this one, too, which now hangs in my bedroom. I want so many of her prints, but must exercise restraint. Her paintings of strong women really speak to me.
Artists I’m really loving right now…(I even know some of them!)
Good artwork, especially original, isn’t easy. But is shouldn’t be, right? The time it takes to find the right mat and frame and hanger easily overwhelms me. And if you want someone else to frame it, well that’s time and effort and money, too.
But. I’m upping my game, vowing to do better. Art is an important investment for a family and home. It makes homes more interesting, less stale, more beautiful. It’s a conversation starter, it supports our artists, and makes our hearts pitter patter with happiness over that special, unique, carefully chosen piece.
As the chaos of the world swirls around us, I’ve felt a greater need to make home a refuge – and you certainly don’t need great artwork on the walls to do that – but I do want us to be surrounded by beauty and color and inspired artists who seem to have an eye and heart and paintbrush turned toward heaven. Bring the heaven in.
“Do a visual tour of your home with spiritual eyes. Is there love? Is your family room a place to gather as a family? Regardless of circumstances, home should be where family wants to be.” -nestingwithgrace
What’s on your walls? Any favorite artists?