Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our Favorite Cake

This cake has been THE FAVORITE CAKE in our family for since I was born.  It is the cake my brothers and I always wanted for our birthdays.  The recipe for Wacky Cake went into my third grade class cookbook, because it was our family's favorite.  It is easy and always turns out delicious.  I never use a cake mix because of this recipe.  It is the easiest dessert I make.  It is best with vanilla ice cream or a glass of cold milk.  Yummy!

Too bad this was the only piece left to take a picture of--I made 3 of these cakes this week!

Wacky Cake
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. cocoa powder

1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. oil
1 c. cold water

Mix dry ingredients together and then stir in liquids.  Mix well and pour into 9x13 inch pan. (Can use smaller pan for thicker cake, adjust baking time as needed.)  Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees, until toothpick in center comes out clean.

I double this recipe for a thick cake and increase the baking time to 30-40 min.

1 c. sugar
1/2 stick butter/margarine
1/4 c. milk
2 T. cocoa powder

Heat in sauce pan on top of stove.  Stir over medium high heat until boiling. When it reaches a boil that cannot be stirred down, time 1 minute, stirring continuously.  Then place pan in cold water in the sink to cool the icing.  Stir frequently until it begins to cool and thicken.  Pour over cake.  (No need to adjust for the bigger cake.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When spring comes...

I am going to take my dog for a walk outside and let her sniff wherever she wants

I am going to clean out my flowerbeds and smell the wonderful Earth

I am going to pick a bouquet of daffodils (and then daisies, a few weeks later)

I am going to pay someone else to wash my windows

I am going to hang the birdhouses back outside

I am going to sweep my front porch

and finally...

I am going to quit wearing these socks

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to You!

Today two really important people are celebrating birthdays!

Happy birthday to my mother, who is an inspiration to so many, including me.  She is continually an example of what it looks like to love others and spread seeds of kindness.  She's also the world's greatest grandma.

Happy birthday to my hubby, who is the love of my life, has been by my side through thick and thin, and is responsible for providing almost everything in my life that brings me joy.  He's also  a great dad to our four children.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monster Snow and Monster Cookies

Today we wanted to appreciate the snow plow drivers in our little town.  We have a lot of snow, and we're pretty sure the guys in charge of keeping the streets clear are sick of dealing with it.  It all started on December 9 with 15 inches, so it might be getting pretty old.

 If it were only the snow they had to deal with, it might not be too bad.  After all, Brandon, my teenage son, thinks driving a big truck and pushing all the snow around would be an awesome job.  It's the people they are likely getting sick of dealing with.  I can only imagine the complaining they've heard.

I know for a fact they've wiped out a number of mailboxes. I'm guessing they get to hear about that, besides listening to the people who think the streets should be in better shape.  Then there are the intersections with piles of snow so big you can barely see over them, and the driveways with openings so small you can only get a small car through.  Then we have the issue of having to re-scoop the end of our drives each time the snow plow passes.  It's hopeless... they will never keep everyone happy.
Fortunately, I haven't had many problems with the snow.  I have a kid who has always liked moving snow around, so he keeps our drive pretty clear.  Plus, I'm a hermit and just stay home as much as possible.  It makes it pretty easy to deal with all this, if you just stay home and bake things every time it snows. The perk of being a stay-at-home mom.

So today we made monster cookies for the four snow plow drivers in our town.  Here's a picture of what we delivered.

And here's the recipe:

Monster Cookies

1 stick butter flavored Crisco (1 cup)
6 eggs
2 1/3 c. brown sugar
2 c. white sugar
1/2 T. corn syrup
2 1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 T. vanilla
2 T. flour
4 t. baking soda
9 c. quick oats
1/2 lb. M&Ms
2 c. semi-sweet choc. chips

*In a large bowl, cream butter, eggs, sugars. Add syrup, peanut butter, vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.  Add remaining ingredients and mix.  Form into large balls with cookie or ice cream scoop.  Push dough flat and bake 12-15 min. at 350 degrees.  Makes approx. 4 dozen.  (If you want to freeze some, I recommend  baking the cookies and freezing them.  The dough gets dry when frozen.)

*I use a Kitchen Aid electric mixer with a 6 qt. bowl (barely fits)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pancakes - good and bad, a house divided

Yesterday for Valentine's Day, I made my family pancakes for breakfast.

Because I was being a really good mom, I even made some heart shaped, which made them taste so much better than the plain round ones.  I also added mini chocolate chips to some of them, so that they would taste even better.  (I prefer no chocolate chips, personally.)

I was doing my best to generate interest in eating these pancakes, because these were BAD pancakes, not GOOD pancakes.  And my three youngest kids beg me to make GOOD pancakes all the time. My husband, oldest son, and I think BAD pancakes are to die for--they are so yummy!  The two guys beg me for BAD pancakes all the time.

Confused yet?  I think I am.

See... it's like this... at our house we have good pancakes (as in "taste-good-made-with-white-flour-pancakes") and we have bad pancakes (as in "good-for-you-made-with-oatmeal-pancakes").

So yesterday I said, "My kitchen is not a restaurant--I am not taking orders for breakfast. Today it's going to be bad pancakes." Which is what I wanted for breakfast, because they really are delicious (unless you're a punk kid who doesn't want oatmeal in your pancakes).

Everyone ate them up, despite the divided opinions about which kind to make, because just like Woody the elf says, everything tastes great with maple syrup.

So make both kinds for your family and decide for yourself.  I love both recipes.

Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes 
2 c. oats
2 c. buttermilk (or milk plus 2 T. vinegar)
2 eggs
1/4 c. oil

1/2 c. flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt

Feather Light Pancakes
2 c. flour
1 t. salt
4 T. baking powder
4 T. sugar
2 eggs
4 T. oil
2 c. milk

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Greatest Love Story of All

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

true love...
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."

Dear Lord, thank You for loving me.
Please help me... make me more like You, so that I can love others the way you do... every day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Two Great Books about Love

Two books about love that I highly recommend...

"The Love Dare" was written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick and is a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives. Each challenge is based on loving your spouse unconditionally. It was used by the couple in the movie "Fireproof."

"Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God," by Francis Chan, is about encountering God's love for us and, in return, developing a passionate love relationship with Him.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pictures of LOVE

I am so blessed to have this much love in my life. 

Made by Ellyn:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homemade Valentine Cards + Girls Stamping Night + Babies

Because I am a rubber stamper, I haven't purchased a card for years.  I have a file box with tabbed dividers for all different occasions, and I keep it stocked with cards that I've stamped.  Stamping cards is one of my favorite crafty things to do. 

Valentine's day is such a favorite time for card makers.  There is really no other occasion that calls for card giving quite like it, unless you count Christmas.  I do not make homemade Christmas cards, so early February is the time of year that I make the most cards.  Valentine's Day just seems to call for a more personal card, so a card made with my own hands is my favorite to give.

Here are some pictures of the Valentine's I made this year. 

Girls Stamping Night...
The high school girls in my older kids' Bible study also like to stamp cards. Every once in a while they come over on a Saturday night for a girls stamping night. They bring snacks and we get out all my tools and supplies. We bridge the age difference over cardstock, brads and punches. They love to get in touch with their artsy side, and I have another excuse to use all the supplies I have accumulated over 20 years of stamping. It's a great time.  They made a couple of cards and a couple of candy pouches.  Here's one of the cards:

The last time we had girls stamping night, two of the girls brought their babies from their child development class. Let me tell you...oh my, how times have changed. I carried around a bag of flour for child development when I was in high school. These girls had their 8 pound, electronic dolls that they carried in real infant car seats. The girls wore electronic scanning bracelets so that the babies "recognized" them. They had to tend to them for feedings with a bottle, holding, and diaper changes. The babies woke them up at all hours of the night and even had different types of audible cries (including an all out scream!). They had to be held with their heads supported or they would start crying. It was a hoot seeing them try to stamp while holding babies on their laps--just like a real mother who tries to merge taking care of her child with her other activities. Taking care of these life-like dolls is really giving the girls a good picture of what motherhood is like. They only had the babies for the weekend, and I'm pretty sure they were going to feel a sense of relief to not be responsible for their "baby" any longer.


Since their Bible study leader also had her sweet baby in tow, we all had baby fever.  My daughter got out her collectible doll and we took a picture of all the gals and their babies.  (The real baby is the one on the left, being held by one of the high school girls.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another snow day...

Outside my window this morning:

The stack of snow on the bench is all fresh snow.  We got hammered again.  School was dismissed at noon yesterday and cancelled today.  The temperature is below zero this morning and very high winds are expected by noon today.  We have kept most of the snow on the ground from all the previous snow storms of the winter, but the deck railings and bench had been blown clear of snow.  It is very still so far today, but I'm pretty sure this afternoon will look quite different.
This would have been a great winter to crawl in a cave and hibernate.  Wait...that's practically what I've done.  Stay home, make crafty things and bake fattening things. 
(I'm pretty sure we're not eating enough vegetables this winter.  I keep running out of flour, sugar and butter.)

Speaking of fattening things...
Here's my friend Kendra's recipe for baked french toast.  Yummy for lunch on a cold snowy day. 

Baked French Toast
12 slices bread
1 stick butter
1/2 - 2/3 c. brown sugar
8 eggs
1/2 c. milk
In a 9x13 inch pan, melt butter and brown sugar.  Layer bread on top of butter/sugar mixture.  Beat eggs and milk together. Pour over bread. Chill overnight and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

Monday, February 8, 2010


In my opinion, my four children look nothing alike.  Sometimes people say they think the girls look alike, but I just can't see it.  Today my girls decided to be twins.  They used clothing and hair styles to pull it off.  What do you think?  See a family resemblance?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

If you've got some of these in the house...

then you need to make some of these (one of my top 3 best muffin recipes):

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2 eggs
1/4 c. honey (or  subst. 1/3 c. sugar + 1 T. liquid)
1 c. mashed bananas

then add:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. quick oats, uncooked

Mix the first 5 ingredients together by hand or in electric mixer. (I make a dbl. recipe and use my mixer.)
Then add the dry ingredients and mix just until the ingredients are combined.
Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  Makes 12 med-sized muffins.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How do I love thee?

See those stacks of letters tied with ribbon in the blog header above?  They are love letters.  Byron and I wrote them to each other the year we were engaged. There is another box of them besides what's pictured.  If you read them and think they sound "high schoolish" it's because they do. They also sound like two people in love.  <3 

We started writing those dear letters when I was 17 and Byron was 18.  And yes...that was the year we were engaged--my senior year of high school and his freshman year of college.  My senior year, I wore an engagement ring instead of a class ring. I bought a wedding dress instead of a prom dress.  I sent out wedding invitations along with my graduation announcements.  I made my mother insane. 

I was the oldest child and the only girl in my family.  My parents had never done a graduation, a wedding, or college plans before--and we did them all at the same time.  Byron and I got married two weeks after my high school graduation.  June 8, 1986.  We were so excited to be married! 

it all started like this...
Byron and I met when we were seated alphabetically in psychology class my junior year.  But before we met, I had heard all about him. My aunt had suggested him to my mother as someone she thought I should meet.  A friend's mom had suggested him to my mother as someone she thought I should meet.  My younger brother had met him on the cross country team and thought he was a great guy. He talked about him every night at the supper table.  But I wasn't looking for a boyfriend, so I paid no attention to any of it. 

As we were seated together in class, we became good friends.  We were both typical "firstborn" children--good students, responsible, respectful, etc. We weren't in any activities together though, which explains why we had never met. Our high school had over 500 kids.  I was in all the music and drama stuff; Byron was in sports and academic stuff.  Byron ask me to the homecoming dance while we were supposed to be paying attention to psychology.  As a matter of fact, we talked a lot during that class.  So much so, that sometimes Mr. Jackson would interupt our whispering to say, "Byron and Angie, you're going to want to hear this part, because it's going to be on the test."  Mr. Jackson knew us and liked us and we did well in his class, so he let us get away with talking all the time. (I'll bet he didn't realize that we'd soon be married.  He found out the next school year though, when I started wearing a diamond on my left hand. We loved Mr. Jackson and he even attended our wedding.) 

Sooo... we began dating the fall of my junior year.  After the first few dates, I didn't consider us anything other than friends.  I didn't want want us to be viewed as a couple.  But by the Christmas dance, I had been shot by Cupid's arrow.  Byron kissed me for the first time after that dance. My little brother Jason, who had just turned five, saw the whole thing happen, even though we had tried to get rid of him.  He screamed at Byron: "You're under the rest, you're under the rest!" and shot him with his cap gun. (translation: you're under arrest)

We were officially a couple--Byron had sent me flowers at school and we had shared our first kiss.

Our list of typical dates seems rather short and somewhat atypical for high school kids:
  • hanging out at each other's houses--Byron ate supper at his house and then drove to my house for a second supper and then spent the evening.  I don't think he even gained a pound eating two suppers.
  • attending school dances--including prom my junior year, but not my senior year
  • going to church--I played keyboard for a Christian singing group and we traveled on the weekends to perform at different churches.  Byron often came along with us to help out.
  • track meets--me watching, him running (Not sure that counts as a date, but in our marriage today going to a track meet is one of our most common dates. Sad but true.)
Byron knew he was going to Iowa State University to study electrical engineering. I was pretty sure I wanted to study music...somewhere...maybe even Iowa State University.  By the time Byron graduated and summer vacation arrived, we were spending a lot of time together and were officially "serious" in our relationship.
We were also beginning to talk about m-a-r-r-i-a-g-e.  We were in l-o-v-e.

Then August came. Byron left for college in August.  Ames, Iowa was three hours away.  It seemed like the other side of the world.  We racked up hundreds of dollars worth of phone bills and sent lots and lots of letters to each other.  We talked on the phone on Saturday nights.  He'd call me for an hour, then I'd call him for an hour.  I usually had a $90 phone bill. I paid for it with babysitting jobs, teaching piano lessons, and my piano playing gigs.  We couldn't stand the thought of being apart for our college years. We started talking about marriage even more seriously.

We never contemplated putting our relationship on hold.  As a matter of fact, Byron started looking into married housing options on campus.  He came home for the first time in late September and we had a heart-to-heart talk with all four of our parents around my family's supper table.  Our dads crunched numbers to see if we could afford to get married.  (What they didn't know was that the United States government would be more than happy to loan and grant a couple of poor, married, college students a bunch of money to go to school.  And that because they were married, the income of their parents would be irrelevant.)  The numbers sounded bleak.  We didn't even know what to figure for an income for ourselves since we were both currently unemployed students.  I knew our wedding plans were doomed.  We were too practical and responsible to make marrriage plans that seemed unwise.  I quietly went to my bedroom to hide my tears and disappointment, while everyone else talked around the table.  Byron found me there and announced that he thought we should "go for it!"  I could hardly get my mind wrapped around it.  Our parents decided to give us the go ahead too.  I've never asked them...I wonder if they thought we would never make it to the point of getting married. We were really young afterall. But we weren't typical teenagers. We were mature, responsible, and good Christian kids.  I think all the adults in our lives gave us their blessing and knew we would go through with it.  We were getting MARRIED !!!

In October, Byron got us on the waiting list for married housing on campus.  I applied and was accepted to Iowa State University. (This ended up costing us thousands of dollars in out of state tuition.  If I had applied after our wedding, I could have paid tuition as a resident of Iowa.  We had no idea.)  I also had my 18th birthday. We bought wedding rings over Thanksgiving break and I started wearing the engagement ring.  We continued to write letters and make phone calls, and Byron drove back home about once a month.  We sat and talked for hours when he was home.  My little brother Jason was often on the couch with us--between us if he had his way.

After the first of the year, we picked our wedding date and reserved the church. I started shopping for a wedding dress, while some of my friends started thinking about prom dresses.  I dropped an economics class and added a home economics class for my last semester of high school. That simple act spoke volumes about where my mind was.  I was ready to be a wife, and not interested in studying very much!
We continued making wedding plans. The moms and I picked the patterns and fabrics for dresses for the bridesmaids and flower girls, which the moms would be sewing.  We registered for gifts and ordered invitations--graduation and wedding, flowers, etc.  My best friend Amy and I picked the music. This wedding was really going to happen.  It didn't even seem strange to be doing all of this during the end of my senior year.

We got married on a Sunday. Our wedding was beautiful and attended by so many of our dear family members and friends (and teachers, too). I remember loving every minute of it! After the simple reception of cake and punch, we drove to our new apartment on the campus of Iowa State University, in Ames, Iowa...on the other side of the world, to spend our wedding night.  No honeymoon for us, we were poor.  (We were also terribly practical, and I needed to register for summer classes the next day.)  Moving to Ames was like a great adventure/honeymoon anyway. We began our married life at 18 and 19, as college students at ISU, we became adults together, and we lived happily every after... (most of the time anyway).

This summer we will celebrate 24 years of married life.  If we had waited to get married, maybe things would have been easier.  Maybe not. We might have understood relationships better. We would have had more time to learn how to be a good husband/wife to each other.  We would have known ourselves better and been more mature. Instead, we had to figure it out as we went along.  What we did know at our young age was that we were in it for the long haul. When we said our vows, we knew God's plan for us didn't include bailing out if things got rough.  And things have been rough. It's been bumpy and smooth, happy and sad, but I have no regrets. I would do it all over again.

I have loved being married to Byron for 23 1/2 years and counting. And I look forward to the rest of the years we have to be married. Sometimes he still writes me love notes. I hope he writes me one for Valentine's Day. (I wrote that because I know he reads my blog. I love you honey!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

January RoundUp

The following is a "roundup" of January memories.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
On our trip to Colorado, I read two books:  "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle and "Each Little Bird that Sings" by Deborah Wiles.  I started "Pride and Prejudice" but didn't make it very far.
My Bible study mom's group is reading "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God" by Francis Chan.  I have only read two chapters and I LOVE it.

What movies, television shows, plays, etc. did I watch this month?
For a family movie night we rented "Paul Blart Mall Cop" and "Julie and Julia".  I really enjoyed each of them.
In Colorado, the older two kids and I went to a show by The Punch Brothers and Chris Thile--which was AMAZING. I think I was smiling for the entire show.  We never expected to get to see Chris Thile, so having the opportunity to go in Colorado was a real treat and surprise.

What fun things did I do with family and/or friends?
Ellyn's Bible study girls came over for a stamping/scrapbooking night.
The family ski trip to Colorado is a highlight for January.  It was our fourth time to go and we always have a great time.
We went to the Iowa State Universtiyy women's basketball game against KU.
Byron and I chaperoned the winter formal dance that our two teenagers were attending.  It was fun to see all the kids in their dressy clothes.  We chaperoned with two other couples that we like to hang out with, so it was a fun evening for us too.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
My niece's birthday is in January.  We gave her a bag made by sewing empty Kool-aid pouches together.  Meggan did almost all the sewing, and I was really proud of her.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
This month I took a five-year-old pair of leather boots that I never wear anymore to a shoe repair shop.  I had the tops cut off to make them into low boots, so that I would like them more.  It cost $12, which is a steal compared to buying a new pair.  I also had a pair of shoes dyed chocolate brown, which sort of felt like getting a new pair of shoes.  I was tired of the old color.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
I just had a spot cut off of my arm and sent in for a biopsy.  It looked exactly like the spot of skin cancer that I had removed in 2006.  I haven't gotten word yet from the lab.

What were my accomplishments this month?
I re-did a wall of family pictures in my family room downstairs--I like looking at the updated pics of family members.
I learned how to post my Picasa web albums to my blog.
I learned how to make a blog header using my own pictures,
While we were in Colorado, I made a new mini scrapbook of current pictures of the family.
Meggan and I deep cleaned her bedroom. Yay! We cleared out a lot of junk and toys.  She wants a bedroom makeover for her birthday in June.
I finally got around to sewing some new camera strap covers.

What were my disappointments this month?
Although I love snow days and having everyone home from work and school.  I am disappointed that the kids currently have 5 days to add on to the end of the school year.  The snow storms/blizzards made January a slower and more relaxed month than some, since so many events were cancelled and we just stayed home more.  I enjoyed this aspect very much.