Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

My 2-year-old niece, Kadence, squealed with delight when she saw her mommy's strawberry-topped birthday cake, then pointed at the chocolate drizzles and asked, "Tangles?" This is definitely a chocolate cake worth getting wrapped up in: chocolate buttercream icing is topped with fresh, hulled strawberries. Overnight in the refrigerator, the strawberry juices seep into the cake and make it so moist! And drizzles of dark and white chocolate just take it over the top. I made similar cupcakes for my sister-in-law Shana when Kadence was born, so it seemed fitting to make this cake now with the Birthday Mommy expecting her second baby girl in just a few weeks. Pregnant women and new mommies both deserve a little royal treatment, don't you think? 
I hope you enjoyed a blessed holiday weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sitting Pretty: Bench Makeover


One of my spring projects has been making over a little bench my in-laws passed to us this year.



I love the graceful lines and carved details of this piece. Re-caning the damaged seat was an option, but with a houseful of children the more practical choice at this stage of life was to add an upholstered cushion. Perhaps one day I will restore the caned seat, but for now I am quite pleased with the results of my bench re-do.


Here is the new bench, sitting pretty with a bouquet of fresh peonies.

Paint color, Farrow & Ball's All-White; foam and batting, Hobby Lobby; fabric, Hancock Fabrics; decorative trim, Hobby Lobby; peonies, Fresh Market. Painting directions: Cindy's Romantic Home.

I'm holding out hope that our busy weekend schedule -- brimming with baseball, ballet and more -- will allow us at least a moment to sit back and smell the peonies. And when we do, we'll be sitting pretty on our newly-upholstered bench.

(I'm linking this post to Show-and-Tell Friday at My Romantic Home.)

Join me next week for details on the girls' spring ballet recital!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lemon Chicken

Susan Branch cookbooks are among my favorites. Her lovely illustrations and clever quotations make reading them enjoyable, and the recipes I have tried so far have been delicious. Her lemon chicken recipe from Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen is a family favorite. We enjoyed it recently with green beans and mashed potatoes. This meal would be delicious served with Paula Deen's pink lemonade cupcakes for dessert.


Lemon Chicken
Melt-in-your-mouth goodness from Susan Branch's cookbook Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen.

3 whole chicken breasts, boned, skinned and halved
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Wash and dry chicken breasts. Pound them flat with a mallet. Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet. Put the flour in a plastic bag and drop the breasts in to coat. Regulate the heat to moderately high, and put the chicken breasts in the skillet. Cook approximately 3 minutes on each side. When they are done, salt and pepper them and put them on an oven-proof dish and into a 250 degree oven to keep warm while you make the sauce. (Serves 6)

The Sauce: Add 4 tablespoons butter to the chicken skillet and melt, scraping up brown bits in the pan. Remove from heat; add 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, and the juice from 1/2 lemon. Pour hot sauce over breasts and serve. (Note: I forgot to remove the pan from heat before adding the parsley, so the herb does not look as fresh and bright in the photos. The dish still tasted delicious, though.)

"My house is very tiny and I wanted a place for my guests to feel comfortable, so out in the backyard I built a little 'shed' exactly the size of two king beds -- half of it is bed, and the other half is chairs, a table, etc. It's whitewashed -- dried flowers hang from the rafters -- no electricity, but lots of candles and windows. Very cozy and romantic."

-- Susan Branch in Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Emma Giggles


Eternally Grateful
Five-year-old Emma has become quite adept at expressing her gratitude to God in her nightly prayers: "Thank you for our home; thank you for our family; thank you for our teachers; thank you for our toys; thank you for our sins ... ."

Keeping It Light
Emma and her preschool friend Alysssa were playing nearby recently when they noticed me working on my Relay for Life cupcake display. The colorful stained glass window graphic I was framing caught their eye, so I read the girls the quote in the center of the picture: "People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the light is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within."
Sensing the opportunity for a teachable moment, I asked the girls if they knew what that quote meant. Exchanging confused looks, Emma and Alyssa shook their heads no.
I explained that we can have light inside us and asked them if they knew where the light would come from. Again, they were perplexed, so I gave them a hint: "Who does the Bible say is the Light of the World?"
Alyssa brightened and offered tentatively, "God?"
I nodded, encouraging the girls, "Jesus. Jesus is the Light."
At this, Emma wrinkled her face in dismay, shocked at what she had just heard: "The light in us is Cheez-Its?"

Broken Up About It
My sweet girl Emma is so affectionate. "Oh, Mommy," she said recently as she clasped my hand, "I love you in pieces."

"Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it." -- Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, May 16, 2011

Relay for Life: Stained Glass Cupcakes

"People are like stained glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the light is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within."

-- Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

This quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross inspired the cupcakes pictured above: rich chocolate fudge cake topped with creamy chocolate buttercream icing, chocolate windows and homemade hard candy glass. I made these stained glass cupcakes for Wetumpka's recent Relay for Life cupcake competition (notice the cancer ribbons drizzled into the chocolate window frames).

This was our first year to be at Relay for Life at night when the lights were dimmed for the luminary ceremony. It was so moving to walk quietly around the lighted path, side by side with so many people whose lives have been touched by cancer. When the football stadium lights went down, 5-year-old Emma reached up to me and cried, "Meme." Later she asked me -- with fresh tears on her cheeks -- "Can someone come back from heaven from you missing them so much?"

Despite our tears for my mother, who passed away in September, we were grateful to participate in this year's Relay. It is gratifying to know that perhaps in some small way our efforts will help keep other families from having to miss their loved ones.

(And, I have to say, being named Cupcake Grand Champion ended the night with a sweet surprise.)

Stop in tomorrow for some light moments with Emma sure to make you smile.   

Friday, May 6, 2011

Teacher Gifts 2011

We're chalking up another great schoolyear to having wonderful teachers. And just in time for Mother's Day, today we are surprising them with flowers.

Each year I look for a unique container that teachers can put to use long after the flowers have wilted. This year I chose clear glass canisters accented with chalkboard labels -- a steal at World Market. (They come with chalk, so the children labeled their teachers' canisters before taping the chalk to the lid.) I filled each canister with a bouquet of tulips and finished off the arrangement with a gift tag. I love the versatility of these canisters and hope each teacher will find a perfect spot for one at home or at school.

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." -- William A. Ward


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Emma in the Garden

Sunday afternoon Emma and I took a stroll through Jasmine Hill Gardens in Wetumpka to take some photographs for her 5-year-old portrait. Thank you to my talented friend Cathy Stearns for letting us borrow one of her beautiful handmade heirloom dresses for the event. Here are some of our favorite moments from the day.


The owner of the gardens delighted Emma with this flower with a sweet surprise inside; can you see the little bunny?

"In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful." -- Abram L. Urban

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