walking and cooking

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Seth plays video games every day for a couple hours but his time doing it is controlled by his loving mother to a certain extent.  This morning, he asked if he could have “his time” at 9am and I said, “sure”.  But at 8 he had eaten breakfast, showered and dressed, and he didn’t know what else to do with himself so we went for a walk together.  Grace was awake but Sarah was still sound asleep.  (Seth is an early riser)

It always happens that the boys will pick up a stick and start battle on trees and such.  From Jacob to Seth, they were all the same in that regard (and still are).

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pretty pretty Indian Pipe flower.  The website (linked) adds: America’s eminent poet, Emily Dickinson, called the Indian pipe “the preferred flower of life.” In a letter to Mabel Todd, she confides, “I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering child, and unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.

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I told him how to pose on this fallen down birch tree and he was obliging enough to humor me, still with his weapon-of-a-stick in his hand.  He looks pleased.

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He even likes hitting the caps off wild mushrooms with his stick, he calls it mushroom golfing.

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This is that same fallen down birch tree, I wanted to see the wood where the tree broke and fell.  What a wonderful home for God’s smaller creatures.

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little things of interest on the forest floor…..

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He walked barefoot.

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There are even orange mushrooms.

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Big healthy ferns are squeezing in on the path, reminding me of childhood games and forts in the woods.

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Teeny tiny white mushrooms

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some mushrooms had red caps

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This one looked shy.

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mushrooms on a log

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This large mushroom was broken off and on the ground……Seth’s barefoot show how big it was.

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Seth spied these gorgeous Cardinal wildflowers before I did.  They bloom at this time of year on mossy rocks in the stream and I always delight in them.

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Almost home!

He was a good sport and I found myself thinking, “I do so enjoy walks with a child or two or five or seven, and my camera!”

Dinner Tonight:

Crock-Pot Gingered Beef
2 pounds round roast, trimmed
2 onions, sliced
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup ketchup
6 T. brown sugar
3 T. vinegar
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 cup beef broth
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef on all sides (I skipped this part).  Place sliced onion on the bottom of crock pot, place roast on top.  Mix remaining ingredients in bowl and whisk together.  Pour over roast.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or until meat is tender and can be shredded with a fork.  Pour cooking juices into a saucepan and simmer on the stove until reduced, about 10 minutes.  Serve over the top of the beef.

I haven’t made it in a while but in the notes I wrote “Yum, E approves.”  So I’m hoping he still approves tonight when he gets home from work and eats it for dinner.

Grace and I have been enjoying this today:

Black Bean and Rice Salad
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 onion, chopped, and 4 cloves of garlic, pressed, sautéed until translucent
3 cups rice
salt and pepper

Mix together in a big bowl and serve each portion with a spoon of salsa on top.

Both recipes from my ever-favorite cookbook Saving Dinner, by Leanne Ely

I’ve done lots of laundry (don’t you love hanging clothes outside on the line?) and still have some to fold, which I will do while the Waltons are on TV.  Seth and Sarah are outside playing.  I fell asleep reading a book on the couch with Seth next to me earlier and now Grace is in my spot, reading her book:  Messenger, by Lois Lowry.  She says it’s nice to read a book that doesn’t task the brain like some of the old classics she’s been reading.    I am reading Dead End in Norvelt, which is a Newbury award winner.  I’m almost done with it and it’s been delightful.  I love it.  Maybe you would, too.

 

PS, ANOTHER WALK WITH SETH that’s kinda making me cry right now.

 

 

 

caleb’s most favorite pancakes

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The boys found me writing in my journal, still in bed, when they woke up.  They also found our big beautiful (but very shy) black cat and to our surprise, he allowed himself to be loved……..

…..while petting the cat, Caleb cleared his throat and asked, “Mom could you make pancakes this morning?  The ones with cinnamon?”  

“You mean your favorite ones that you always ask me to make?”

“Yeah.”

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Spiced Pancakes

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large egg
1/1/4 cups buttermilk (I keep dry in the pantry and add it to milk)
2 tablespoons oil

Mix dry ingredients and in a separate bowl mix the wet, then pour wet into dry to combine.  Fry on griddle alongside sausage or bacon.  Serve with warmed maple syrup and, in my case, a sliced banana.  Yum!  Maybe they will be your favorites, now, too!

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*******

“The Swedish artist Carl Larsson made the everyday life of his wife Karin and their seven children the subject of his most famous watercolors.  Instead of idealizing everything in its place, he painted what he saw; the dog asleep on the parlor floor, cast-off slippers, a rumpled sofa scattered with newspapers.  These are the frames of a home movie shot by a doting father and an artist who focused his lens on the comforts of the real and unadorned home.”  a perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life by mary randolph carter

 

pizza dough recipe

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By what magic does my mother make her fabulous pizza?  I’ve tried for years but curiously enough, it is only recently that I feel as though there is hope for me, her eldest daughter, to follow in her footsteps.

I texted her last week to tell her I was going to make it but it wouldn’t be as good as hers and she replied, “Maybe I’ll make it too” and I said, “Then we’ll be the same.” and she said, “In spirit” and I said, “What do you set your oven to?” and she replied, “475”…..”on the lower shelf so it gets crispy on the bottom.”

Hours later, I sent her a photo of the results.

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“That looks perfect,” she wrote.

The next day she sent me a photo of the bottom of her pizza crust and it looked exactly the same.54506716276__12E75B43-9D7E-4A62-A53D-E589479F86F1

This was the point of turning for me, from hesitant frustrated pizza maker, to confident and joyful.

I had given Seth, Sarah, and Michael each a lump of dough to make their own pizzas, too.  It was the first time Michael had made a pizza.  This was last week.  When he came over again yesterday I asked them all what they wanted for dinner and he requested pizza again.  In this way I knew it had been a good experience for him.  Unfortunately I had already made it the previous night.  Michael works at a boy’s home and is going to started cooking with the boys four times a month (on Saturdays).  He started writing up a meal plan and Pizza made with Actual Dough was on the list.

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Sarah bragged that she “Ate seven pieces”.

Seth said “My stomach’s extended.”

Sarah said, “My taste buds are out.”

David and Caleb were so jolly after a tummy full of pizza that they ran around the house trying to pull each other’s, and Seth’s, pants down.

I’ve tried several recipes for pizza dough but this is the one that makes my heart sing.

Shanda’s Pizza Dough Recipe

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 T. white sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups bread flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in olive oil, whole wheat flour, salt, and 4 cups of bread flour into the yeast mixture.  Mix in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  (I use a kitchen aid mixer).  Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  (I leave the dough in the kitchen aid mixer bowl).  Cover with a damp cloth and put in warm place to rise until doubled in volume; about 1 hour.

Deflate dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface  Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and form into rounds.  Cover the rounds and let them rest for about 10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 475.  Use a rolling pin (or hands) to roll dough into the desired shape, cover it with your favorite toppings.  Place on bottom rack in oven until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.
recipe source:  allrecipes.com

 

cherry bars

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The path to the chicken coop is getting easier to trudge.  With all the snow we had last week it became a little annoying to wade through it multiple times a day to check on things.  We still have snow everywhere but our footsteps have stomped away most of the snow on the way to the coop so it’s easier to walk although I do find myself getting grumpy at times.  “Why did we put it so far from the house?” “The snow is blinding me!”  “Oh I just got some in my shoe”  “I hate snow”  “Slip”  “Fall” “trip”.  I spent more time down there this morning simply because although the wind was blowing quite a bit, the sun was shining and there was an actual warmth.  I said hello to the rabbits and the chickens said hello to me.  I sat down on the feed bag and a chicken hopped on my lap.  One sat on the rabbit cage right behind me and softly pecked my hair.  They are curious birds.

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Invariably, we have a cat visitor or two, as well.  The chickens become nervous.

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They like to sink down into the hay to lay their egg and I always think to myself that they seem to enjoy the time spent waiting for it to arrive.  I watch them fuss and arrange the hay strand by strand and get as comfortable as possible.  If another hen comes too close, the one sitting makes an ugly caw  which means “Get away from me!”

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They do not fancy the snow and do not go far these days.  I prop the door open for fresh air and they hop in and out of the coop.

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A favorite egg laying spot.

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another curious cat visitor

He ended up with no where to go, so he had to back shuffle until he could jump back down.  It was cute because he stirred up dust along the way.

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Some of the hens melted down to the floor in the sleepy sunshine.  They stretched out their wings to soak in some healing rays.

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As soon as a hen was done, I took her egg and put it in my pocket.  (They would rather me let them eat them).  I have over a dozen saved in this way.  What to make?

How about Cherry Bars?

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1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 (21 oz) cans cherry pie filling

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the extracts.  Combine flour and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture just until combined.

Spread 3 cups batter into a greased 15 by 10 by 1 inch baking pan.  Spread with pie filling.  Drop the remaining batter by teaspoonfuls over filling.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until done.  Cool on a wire rack.  Combine *the glaze ingredients; drizzle over the top.  Cut into bars.  Yield: 5 dozen

*THE GLAZE
I cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 Tablespoons milk

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recipe source:  taste of home baking classics cookbook  pg 370

 

sweet boy & sweet cake

The other day a sweet boy who lives here came to me and said,  “Mom, when I was walking to Logan’s house I passed a construction worker on the side of the road picking up garbage,” he paused to self-consciously clear his throat and continued, “I stopped and told him he was doing a great job.”

“The reason why I said that to him was because Cody told me it was the little things like that which make a big difference in a person’s life.”

“When I was almost to Logan’s house, he drove by me in his truck and honked his horn and waved.”

We looked at each other and I saw in his loving eyes it was something that meant a lot to him.   You might say, although he has never been anything like Grinch, “his heart grew three sizes that day”.  His story touched my heart as well, and I’ve thought about it over and over this week.

It’s so strangely beautiful that when doing something for another person you not only bless that person but you also bless yourself.

In fact, this huge concept is something I use in my mothering bag of tricks.  If I notice that the children (some or all) are not getting along with each other I ask them to do “something” (make a sandwich, pick a flower, give a mug of tea) for that particular sibling they aren’t getting along with.  Maybe even give a hug or write a note.  It does wonders in creating smiles, melting hearts, and breaking the tension in the air.

 

******

Cherry Coffee Cake

We explored an old abandoned house last weekend and took away a few recipes cards which we found like garbage upon the messy floor…..this was one of the recipes.

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It is simple and, without any extract, the cake itself tastes nice and buttery.  The cherry pie filling could be switched out for any fruit filling and you could add a touch of cinnamon to the topping, too.  I bought a can of raspberry filling to try next, with maybe a 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract added to the cake.  Blueberries would be a nice variation, too, with lemon extract.

It bakes up as a thin cake, so it’s more of a snack (to eat with a mug of hot coffee).  The kids ate it in their hands like a brownie and they all liked it very much.

braided egg bread (life with purpose)

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23.

I know without a shadow of doubt that motherhood is my calling.
I remember as a teen all I wanted to be “when I grew up” was a mother.

Women can be and do so many things.  For me, for now, being a stay at home mom is what makes me feel the most content and satisfied.  For others, a feeling of utter contentment occurs as they perform their own particular gifts.  Although I am open and prayerful to doing more, (librarian?volunteer?photographer?dentist?) for now I have no other yearning or interest for anything else other than mothering these seven children of mine and tending our house and home.  Eventually these years will be over and I trust that God will lead me toward a new way of living.  I look forward to the future.

What was in my heart and soul as I mixed up bread dough with Sarah?
Joy that made me reach for the camera.  Love as I saw how big she was getting and yet she is still small enough to live in the moment.  Peace in the safety and security of knowing all my family was home.  The sun was shining, *all was well* (never taken for granted, because someone could skin a knee at any moment).  Gratitude to God for giving us our daily bread–bread for our stomachs AND our souls.

Making bread is a very humble pursuit.  Our ancestors baked bread daily and it became an endless chore for them.  It’s a treat for me, I bake bread when I want to, not because I need to, but the connection I feel with the ages makes the process satisfying.  Such humble ingredients; yeast, water, milk, butter, salt, and flour.

Whatever has happened before will happen again. Whatever has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 1:9

The Bible says truthfully there is nothing new under the sun.  Motherhood. Baking bread.  These things have always been and always will be, as long as the sun and moon endure.  But these humble acts are our prayer of praise to Him as He opens our hearts and makes them tender toward all our blessings.

Meaning can be found in relation to Him, thus making life here tolerable, even delightful, and making ultimate existence possible, through Jesus Christ. All those things that make life here so weary and boring can have new meaning, when you understand who God is, what Christ did and you connect yourself to the genuineness of being a child of God.”  ~Warren Berkley

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“Crack it a little harder and use BOTH your thumbs to open the egg– like a door!”

She did it with enthusiasm for each time.

We admired the deep yellow of our good eggs.

“That one is a lighter yellow.” she noticed.

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She loves the feel of sinking her hand into cool, soft, flour.

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Surrounded by smiles and color.

Making homemade bread.

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Mainly she wanted, more than anything, to eat the dough.

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She absolutely loves bread dough.

I love her.

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Letting it rise in a big big bowl.  Learning about patience.

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David wandered through to tell me that he found a special way to wash his hair in order to make it grow faster (he wants long hair).  You use eggs.  Rub them in the hair and let it stay in it for an hour.  Then rinse and condition with coconut oil.

This information solved The Mystery of why the coconut oil kept appearing out of the kitchen cupboard.  I enthusiastically felt his hair and it was amazingly soft.

He also said that rubbing your scalp induces faster hair growth.

Motherhood.  Full of gripping facts and experiences.

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Goldilocks! said the nineteen year old as he walked by.

Braids!  said the sixteen year old as she walked by.

Art in the kitchen.

Children underfoot.

Teens in the other room laughing, talking, making music.

Gratitude in my heart.

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Painting with egg.

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It’s finally done, dance!

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….slicing, buttering, placing it in their hands, watching them come back for more….

Home is the art of life….Home is where we feel at ease, where we belong, where we create surroundings that reflect our tastes and pleasures…making a home is a form of creativity open to everyone.  ~Terence Conrah

Take steps to practice joy in your daily life, and it will expand naturally.  Let joy fill your heart, and your heart will gladden your health.  Dr. Mao Shing Ni

“I practiced joy that day as I baked bread.  The children were with me, we used up eggs, the smell was wonderful, the braids of dough were fun to form, they baked up large and golden, and the taste was fantastic.  It was a  joy to slice, butter, serve and give to my loved ones.  Feeding others is a gift to the giver.”

Braided Egg Bread from allrecipes.com

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (if you buy in bulk this is 4 1/2 tsp of yeast)
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 cups hot milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup water
5 eggs
11 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I didn’t have these)
Proof yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl.
Combine hot milk, sugar, butter, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Cool to 110 degrees.
In small bowl, slightly beat 5 eggs, then add to cooled milk mixture. Add milk mixture to yeast mixture. Add 2 cups flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour until it forms a stiff dough. Knead on a floured board for 10 minutes (5 minutes with a bread hook). Place in a large glass or plastic bowl lightly greased. Turn dough over to grease both sides. Cover and let rise in a warm, dark place until doubled in volume, approximately 60 minutes.
Punch down, cover, and let rise again until double, approximately 30 minutes.
Punch again, and form into three parts. Form each part into a 20-inch roll. Braid rolls on a large, greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled.
Lightly beat remaining egg and brush loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for about 55 minutes until nicely browned. May be made into two regular sized loaves. Reduce baking time slightly.

recipe source:  allrecipes.com

the story of a birthday, with recipes

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On the morning of December 31, Jacob woke up and smiled.  It was his nineteenth birthday and he was looking forward to being home all day long as the center of attention, with lots of family and friends saying Happy Birthday over and over, and generally making merriment in his honor.  As the first of seven children, he always felt his very best in a crowd.

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His sweet girlfriend was the first to arrive.  The day was sunny and pretty.

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Emily and Jacob spent time together until she had to go to work.

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Meanwhile, in the kitchen, I was very busy making meatballs out of 10 pounds of hamburger.

M E A T B A L L S

I have opinions about meatballs.  The ones found in the frozen food section of the grocery store are miles away from being as tasty as homemade.  The only ones I have found pre-made that I will pay good money for are a brand that costco sells in the refrigerator section.  They are sold in bags of sauce and they are very good.  But I haven’t been able to find them lately and also they are a bit more expensive than homemade.

I didn’t like making meatballs until I thought to myself,  “I DO like making cookies and they are the same exact concept”.  Big bowl, dump in ingredients, mix, and form into balls on cookie sheets.  Bake at 350.  EASY!

Here is a basic recipe, but the sky is the limit with meatballs.  Simple is best.

4 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
4 slices fresh bread, town into bread crumbs
1/2 finely minced onion
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup tomato juice

Mix together, form into balls, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until done.

At this point you may cool them and freeze for later, or use them in your favorite recipe.

For Jacob’s party I put them in a crock pot, poured sauce over and turned the dial to “warm”.  I prepared buttered noodles and kept them in casserole dishes in the empty oven to store until dinner.

A note about sauce.  I do buy prepared sauce and keep it in the pantry but lately I’ve been cutting the saltiness of it by adding a big (28 oz) can of plain whole tomatoes to the pot.  To me this has a fresher taste and is more “tomatoey” rather than “processed spaghetti sauce”.    A plain, simple, but high quality sauce is nice for simmering meatballs because the meatballs flavor the sauce deliciously.

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The house began to fill with teenagers.  Jacob is blessed to have great friends in his life and also a birthday that falls on a great party day—New Year’s Eve—and for the last few years the day has turned into an all night celebration for them (not me.  I hate staying up late.)

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With Ethan and a couple other boys on the wrestling team, we try to have lots of fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge at all times.  And it’s good for all of us to eat them.

Caleb’s mom won the “best dip” award (no prize, just the title) by sending along a a couple bags of waffle fries for us to bake and then serve with this dip:

1 tub of sour cream
diced chives (a couple handfuls)
a pack of bacon cooked and diced
a cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together and chill for at least an hour and then top with a little more chives and bacon.  Serve with waffle fries.

amazing…so so good

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Our old couch is now down in the basement along with a TV and the game systems.  So this year it became the kid’s favorite hang out place.  I just had to control my curiosity and not go down to see what they were doing constantly.

Just once in a while.  And it’s always interesting.  Who would have expected seeing Ethan with a tower of dog biscuits on his head?

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This is the face of someone whose heart was saying all day long, “How can my darling baby boy be 19 years old?”

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Rich is always trying to get kids to do sit ups and push ups with him.

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TIME TO EAT!  but first a birthday blessing……

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directly followed by a little bit of wrestling

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not sorry Tessa….you’re beautiful even with your tongue sticking out….

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LOVE LOVE LOVE these SMILES!

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Emily came back as soon as she was done with work.  She couldn’t wait to dive into the meatballs because I had only let her have one of them that morning.

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even more wrestling

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They were watching a football game together.  (Caleb is a huge football fan).

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Eventually it was presents and cake time.

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This was Seth about to almost put his dog in the flames.  *sigh* thank goodness Emily was there to intercept.   Blowing out the candles couldn’t happen fast enough, in my opinion.  I think Parker the dog was nervous, too.  He helps me keep things under control.

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Moist Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee, room temperature
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the oil, coffee and milk; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat 2 minutes longer.

Pour into a greased 9 by 13, or for a layer cake, two greased and floured 9 inch round baking pans.  Bake at 325 for 25-30 minus or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

1 cup butter, softened
8 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of completely cooled cake (note: this is plenty of frosting to top two 9 by thirteen cakes kept in the pans, which is what I did for the party).

(I doubled this recipe for two 9 by thirteens)

recipe source:  taste of home baking classics cookbook

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Thank you to Emily and Ethan and his girlfriend Tessa for serving out the cake and ice cream.

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Jacob had a wonderful birthday and it was fun to see him enjoy himself.  One of my favorite things about him is his ready laugh.

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That’s frosting on those pants.

By the next morning, after a night of doing who knows what, the teens were all watching Sesame Street of all things.  We ate breakfast prepared by Emily at about 8:30 and then people began to either 1) leave or 2) crash all over the couches to sleep.

Jacob had a lot of changes in the last year and we look forward to seeing him continue growing and learning throughout this next one, too.  His last year of being a teenager.

Time flies.  And we are having fun.