Friday, May 27, 2011

Chocolate totally helps.

I know, I KNOW. This is not a Friday Wine Goodness post. Partly because I wrote one last week on my own blog, and also partly because this has been one weird week, people. Why not continue the trend?

Instead of wine, today I'm going to talk about chocolate. Specifically, how to make the easiest chocolate cake in the history of civilization.

No. I don't think that is an overstatement.

I like to bake, really I do, when I have time. I'm not terribly good at it, I'm better at cooking, because with cooking you can kind of just throw a bunch of random stuff together that sounds good, and it usually works out okay. But with baking, you have to measure, and measure means math, and "It was my understanding there would be no math" is pretty much my Life Statement.

But this, this is easy. Lucinda Scala Quinn, of my favorite recipe book Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys, includes this cake in her repertoire: Busy Day Chocolate Cake. If a renowned chef, caterer, and Friend of Martha makes an easy cake, well, so should you.

The entire recipe is posted here at, but I will put it here for all of you, too. (Warning: clicking around over at Martha's place can make you feel both exhilaratingly motivated and creative or a completely incapable failure. Is kind of a bipolar place.)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture and add vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

You guys, I don't even put frosting on this cake, it's so moist and yummy. Just plate it up with a scoop of ice cream and you're good to go.

And, while vegan cooking is not really part of my priority list, because it has no dairy this cake doesn't have to be refrigerated. It can just sit covered in plastic wrap on your counter for days, if it lasts that long.

So there you go. Yesterday I was feeling blue, disorganized, and creeped out by the weather. Today, I'm feeling better. Chocolate cake helps. So does wine, but I'll leave that for another day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm getting tired of the sirens.

So, I had this post all ready to go about how I don't have time to run all my errands and stay organized and be on top of everything in my life, really a very whiny post. And then today I spent over an hour in the basement of our school trying to calm the kids as a tornado whooshed nearby. Sometimes a little perspective is a good thing.

So, I'm going to direct you here, instead, to my regular blog, where I posted about today's tornado warning events. And the little reminders that a day like today gives you~each day is a blessing. Live it to the fullest.

Also hug somebody who needs it. Anybody.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


My oldest is now a Boy Scout. In February, he crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts, and he loves it. He's a very structured, reward-driven kid, and the click, click, click, ding! of Boy Scouts really appeals to him. Once you do these five things, you get this award. Do these ten things, you get this badge. It's goal oriented, organized, and he can't get enough.

On Monday night, he earned his Tenderfoot badge, at his first Boy Scout Court of Honor. It was a high occasion for our family, as my dad was very involved in scouting and my brother is an Eagle Scout. But my eight year old has a baseball game at the same time, so while I was at scouts, my husband was at baseball. I think my dad was surprised that they didn't skip the baseball game so that brother and daddy could see Drew get his Tenderfoot badge. It's a one time thing, baseball games are 12 to a season. But I can't tell them, or show them for that matter, that one boy's thing is more important than the other. Plus, my husband is an assistant coach for the team, he's not just cheering from the stands. He made a commitment to help for the season.

It wasn't this hard for my parents, I think, this balance of supporting their activities, because they had one boy and one girl, with very different interests and schedules. But I think with two kids the same sex and only two years apart, it's a lot harder to make sure they both know that we support them. I feel I have to work hard to make sure the balance is there. Maybe that's just me.

Who knows what will happen with my youngest and scouts. He's not as goal oriented or reward-driven. The phrase "we don't need no stinkin' badges" would apply to him.

But this one. This one is happy as a clam.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parenting for Dummies: How not to drop your child at baseball practice.

Last week while we were all standing around chatting at soccer practice, one of the moms noticed a boy sitting alone under the shade of a tree, crying. None of us knew him, or had even seen him before. She watched for a minute to see what he would do, or if anyone else moved toward him as if to claim him, but when nobody did, she approached him quietly. "Are you okay, buddy? Do you need some help?"
Turns out his mom had dropped him off for baseball practice, but at the wrong school. There wasn't even any baseball practice going on at this location, only soccer. He didn't have a phone, he didn't see his coach or any of his friends, and he was lost. A third grader, alone and with no idea what to do next.
So we called the number he knew for his mom, but got no answer. I called the baseball recreation league (it was still open,) thinking they would be able to pull up his record and maybe have some additional emergency contact numbers, a coach's name and number, or hell, just know at which school he was supposed to be, and one of us could have driven him there (where then the coach could have reached mom.) They indeed did pull up his record, but the only number listed was the same one he had given us, and the system couldn't pull up the team without knowing the name of the coach. (Don't get me started on how antiquated their database is if it's unable to be searched by multiple strings.)
At that point, the recreation league said they appreciated our help, but they had to call the police. So they did, and within just a few minutes two very nice officers were chatting with the boy and showing him around their cool car and cool gadgets and finally mom pulled up, apologetic and very upset, having received voice messages from my friend, the rec league, and finally, the police. All was good.

There's a couple of issues here. I could almost see, as hectic as all of our lives can be, how one could drop the wrong kid in the wrong place or at the wrong time - often practice locations change at the last minute around here due to muddy fields or rainout games or whatever. I have dropped my kids off at practice before, and then kept on going, with errands to run or another kid to deliver somewhere else. But I have never done so without laying an eyeball on the coach or at least another parent, an ADULT, that I know. This particular school is set up so that you cannot even see the baseball diamond from the parking lot, this woman had no idea whether there was someone there her kid knew, she just let him get out of the car on the fly, and then kept on going to the next thing, not planning to return until an hour and a half later, assuming everything would be fine. Secondly, she left a nine year old boy alone at the wrong school who didn't know his coaches name, couldn't name any other teammates, and didn't know his father's cellphone number, only moms.
If you're gonna be a Free-Range Parent, and I do consider myself one, you have to have a backup plan. You have to actually talk through some emergency management scenarios. It doesn't have to be a scary conversation, you're not trying to instill fear, you're trying to instill confidence. My kids know not only my cell phone number, but also their dad's. They know their grandparent's first and last names (who live locally and often help with dropping off and picking up.) They know the first and last names of their coaches, and several other kids and parents on each team they play on. My nine year old carries a phone in which is programmed every adult I could think of who would help him in a pinch. I have the cell phone numbers of all of their coaches, and about half the other moms on each team they play on. You have to be able to communicate.
But most of all, you have to have the right expectations. You have to know what your kid can handle, should some crazy emergency come up. What if the weather suddenly changed during a practice? (This is Kansas, after all.) What if you have to use the bathroom? What if another child gets hurt, or God forbid, what if the adult coach gets hurt and no other adults are around?
My point is I can't see my kids getting stuck in any of those crazy situations, but we talk about them just the same.
I could say I didn't judge that mom for her ditzy error, but I totally did. All of us standing there did. We could see how something like that could happen, but yet, we couldn't really imagine it happening, because you just can't be that lax, and not have a backup plan.
I say all this, as someone who lost a child at DisneyLand once, for what is still the five most terrifying moments of my entire life. My oldest was six at the time, got distracted by a dude on a unicycle, while the rest of us kept walking thinking he was right behind me. And then he looked up and we were gone.
Five panicked, backtracking minutes later my cellphone rang, a Colorado area code number I didn't recognize. It was a woman, a mom, who noticed my son looking around for someone to help him, and her Mommy Radar went off. He gave her my number, and I was still on the phone with her as my husband found them. We had told him, if something happens while we are here, you find someone with a uniform that says DisneyLand, or a namebadge, or a security officer. This woman spotted him and acted, just as my friend did up at soccer practice, as mommies do.

It takes a village, people, that's not a lie. But there's a big difference between Free Range Parenting and negligence, and sometimes that difference is being a space cadet with no plan. Don't just think your kid will know what to do in a crisis - know, because you've talked about it.

And for Pete's sake, answer your damn phone! Even if you don't know the number, when your kids are out of your sight, just answer it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are You Overrun With Shoes?

Ever since I was in college and worked at a shoe store I've had a love affair with shoes. Once I had kids, I transferred that love to buying them shoes instead of buying shoes for myself. They have smaller feet and their shoes look much cuter than mine.

Consequently, our entry was always strewn with shoes. It was always messy and sometimes impossible to find mates for each pair without a major excavation dig.

A couple of months ago, while shopping at IKEA, I noticed some black plastic shoe caddies that were designed to hang on the wall. They were UGLY. But I saw potential. They came in a pack of three, and I happen to have three kids. I bought them, brought them home and went shopping for paint.

I found some dark chocolate brown spray paint for plastic and asked my husband to paint the caddies. With the new brown exterior, they look much better and each of my kids has his or her own caddy to put all their shoes into when they come in from outside.

Our entry is much less cluttered!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Apples

My kids are well-aware of my love for photography. They've been the subjects of my compositions more often than they would like to be, but they put up with me anyway.

My (almost-7-year-old) son started using one of our old cameras several months ago, taking various shots of whatever seemed photo-worthy to him. He's spent hours carrying the camera around, mimicking some of the things he's heard me say or do.

A few weeks ago, I bought a background set, and my husband had bought me a light kit at Christmas time, so I had my little portrait studio set up so I could practice. The next night, my son had his little sister posing for him as he conducted his own photo shoot. He was telling her how to sit or stand and fussing with the lights while muttering to himself. (I have to say that I don't mutter to myself when I'm shooting, so at least we have a little different styles!)

Just last week I was setting up for a photo session when I needed to use the restroom. I left my camera on the floor and left little D (almost 3) in the room with it. When I returned, my camera had 48 new photos on the card.

This is my favorite of her self-portraits.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Lo those many years ago, when I was working in Seattle and thinking about having a baby, my dear friend Cindy gave me this article.  Every now and then, I pull it out, uncrinkle it, and read it again.  I got it out today so I could share it with my son's teacher, who will be having her first child any day now.  In honor of the lovely Mother's Day we just celebrated, I thought I'd share it with the rest of you, too.

Motherhood:  It Will Change Your Life
by Dale Hanson Bourke

Time is running out for my friend. We are sitting at lunch when she casually 
mentions that she and her husband are thinking
 of “starting a family.” What she means is that her 
biological clock has begun its countdown and she 
is considering the prospect of motherhood.

“We’re taking a survey,” she says, half jokingly. 
“Do you think I should have a baby?”

“It will change your life,” I say carefully.

“I know,” she says. “No more sleeping in on Saturdays, 
no more spontaneous vacations…”

But that is not what I mean at all.

I look at my friend, trying to decide what to tell her.  
I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth
 classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of
 childbirth heal, but that becoming a mother will leave
 her with an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever

I consider warning her that she will never read
 a newspaper again without asking “What if that had been my
 child?” That every plane crash, every fire will haunt her.  
That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will
 look at the mothers and wonder if anything could be worse
 than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit 
and think she should know that no matter how sophisticated 
she is, becoming a mother will immediately reduce her to the 
primitive level. That a slightly urgent call of “Mom!” will
 cause her to drop her best crystal without a moment’s

I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she
 has invested in her career, she will be professionally
 derailed by motherhood. She might successfully arrange for 
child care, but one day she will be waiting to go into an
 important business meeting, and she will think about her
 baby’s sweet smell.  She will have to use every ounce of
 discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure he 
is all right.

I want my friend to know that everyday routine decisions
 will no longer be routine. That a visit to McDonald’s and a 
five year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather
 than the women’s room will become a major dilemma. That
 right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming 
children, issues of independence and gender identity will be
 weighed against the prospect that danger may be lurking in 
the rest room.
I want her to know that however decisive she may be at the
 office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.  
Looking at my attractive friend, I want to assure her that
 eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but will
 never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so 
important, will be of less value to her once she has a child.
  That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, 
but will also begin to hope for more years, not so much to
 accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish his.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or stretch marks
 will become badges of honor.
My friend’s relationship with her husband will change, but 
not in the ways she thinks.  I wish she could understand how
 much more you can love a man who is always careful to powder
 the baby or who never hesitates to play with his son. I think
 she should know that she will fall in love with her husband
 again for reasons she would never have imagined.
I wish my modern friend could sense the bond she will feel
 with other women throughout history who have tried desperately
to stop war and prejudice and drunk driving.
I want to describe to my friend the exhilaration of seeing
 your son learn to hit a baseball. I want to capture for her 
the laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog for
 the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real
 that it hurts.

My friend’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have 
formed in my eyes.
“You’ll never regret it.” I finally say.

Friday, May 6, 2011

bathtub paints

Since I'm not a foodie!  I thought I'd mix it up and share a crafty friday with you. 

I saw this totally fun & easy project to do with your kiddos here.  Shaving cream bathtub paint.   Below is what you need & how to make it.

What you'll need:
foaming shaving cream
paint brushes

How to make it:
1. squirt some foaming shaving cream in each of the 6 compartments of your muffin tin
2. add food colouring to each one to make whatever colours you want - I did rainbow colours. Mix them up well.
3. give to your kiddo in the tub and let them have a blast!

Go here to read all about it & see photos.  I'm thinking we'll have to try this soon.  Enjoy your weekend!   

Thursday, May 5, 2011

hello, baby!

my oldest son received this book as a gift when his baby brother & sister were born almost 2 years ago.  (my oldest daughter got a sisters book) I love reading this to my kids and talking about the animals.

do you have this book?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

who are you?

i take all 4 kids (6yrs & 21month) to super target for grocery (& more) shopping with me during the week and all is well.  my older kids push the cart, help with the little kids, grab the items i need, my little kids walk next to me are helpful and if i'm not careful will put 10 of an item in my cart when i only need 1 or 2.  (they are just learning after all)

we typically finish our groceries and have time to look at toys and other stuff and assuming the cashier isn't using snail speed we leave happy and i feel like we accomplished all and i thank them all for being so good. for being who they normally are.

so why is it...when on the weekends we try to do the same but daddy is along do i forget my list & my children act up, all of a sudden no little kid wants to walk or ride in a cart, they want daddy to carry them or cry when he leaves their sight.  why does one of  my big kids want to ride in the cart then pout when i ask her to walk, or why does my other big kid ask every 2 seconds if they can look at toys, when he knows our routine.  why was i so embarrassed by these kids that i was saying i'll come back tomorrow and get the rest of our stuff, it's easier when i have them alone... i left with the feeling who are you and what have you done with my children?

sadly, i admit i found slight comfort in seeing an 8ish yr old boy tormenting his 6ish yr old sister in the produce area.

do your kids leave you wondering who they are when their routine is broken?

Monday, May 2, 2011


thank you all for your kind words on my struggling post. i keep reminding myself it's really juggling. juggling all the aspects of a family of 6.  juggling all the sickness that we are hoping has left us until never next year.  juggling the lack of sleep (since i stopped breast feeding last fall, i've only had a handful of nights that my once fabulous sleepers both slept thru the night) juggling the school routine when they only go 2 days a week or sometimes 3.  juggling living where i work / work where i live. juggling the addition of swim lessons and soon t-ball. juggling the thought of potty training later this summer or early fall.

i've started my new 3 day a week schedule, which is definitely a challenge to say the least.  but i so enjoy more time with my kids alone. now if only we'd actually have spring weather.  of course more days of just me brought this recent conversation with my sweet 6 yr old daughter while i was getting ready:

"mommy, when is grandma coming?"
"she's not coming today, it's mommy day!"
sad look comes over her face
"i thought you wanted more mommy days?"
"no, i wanted more grandma days"

this from the child who said she didn't like when i worked and wanted more time with me. sigh...i guess she's moved on.  kids gotta love them.