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.