Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Dear Professor's Birthday Cake

My Dear Professor's favorite cake is called Cake in the Pan. Don't ask me where the name came from. All I know is that a certain new bride accepted the "from scratch" recipe almost as solemnly as she uttered her wedding vows. It took me at least 10 years to master the secret of the icing--I think I copied the amount of milk down wrong!


It is a very rich combination of chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing. The secret to its gooey deliciousness is to pour the topping over the warm cake just before the fudge begins to harden.


Here's the recipe:

MeMom's Cake in a Pan

2 1/2 c sugar
1 c shortening
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1/3 c cocoa
1 c buttermilk
1 c boiling water.

Cream shortening with sugar, salt, eggs, soda. Add
cocoa. Add remaing ingredients, mixing in boling water
last. Pour into 9x13 inch pan and bake at 325*F for 45
minutes to an hour. (test by sticking a toothpick in the
middle. If the toothpick comes out clean, it is done.)

1/4 c cocoa
2 c sugar
2/3 c milk
1/2 c butter
1/4 tsp salt
tsp butter flavored vanilla

Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add sugar.
cocoa, salt. Add milk (I have used 1/4c to 1/3c
buttermilk or evaporated milk) Bring to a boil, stirring
constantly. Boil gently 2 minutes, or until it begins to
thicken. Remove from heat and beat in the vanilla.
Pour over warm cake.


I have used olive oil as the shortening, but if you want the full heart stopping, artery clogging effect, use butter instead. Need I even say there is no substitute for butter in the icing?

The ultimate flourish, of course, would be a dollop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream on the side, but that will have to wait until we're down in Texas next summer.

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Happy Birthday, Darlin'.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Leaning into Light

I noticed it early this evening. The fading sunlight lingered on the horizon just a moment. The dark of night held its breath a second longer.

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Before Christmas we were leaning into the dark. Now we, all of us, are leaning into the light. Our spinning blue orb's axis is tilting toward the sun.

Toward the sun and away from the darkness.  Toward the spring and away from the winter. 

Toward the Truth and away from the Lie.

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
This year the summer will come true this year, this year
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees this year,
nor want of rain destroy the peas
This year time's nature will no more defeat you
nor all its promised moments in their passing cheat you
This time they will not lead you round and back
to Autumn one year older by the well worn track
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell
we shall escape the circle and undo the spell
Often deceived yet open once again your heart
quick, quick, quick, quick,
the gates are drawn apart.

CS Lewis, "What the Bird Said Early in the Year"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Caught Up

(written October, 2009)

The leaves are falling as he takes his leave...our Wanderer, our Dreamer. The youngest of three, off to seek his fortune and future in the big city. His mother is conflicted...happy to see him go, sad to say goodbye. She holds her breath and her tears behind a smile, a wave.


An ending and a beginning.

The house seems quieter. Still. Her heart feels empty...and full. Her prayers are passionate. "Protect him", "Hold him", "Help him find his way."

A mother's hopes dash on the bow as he disappears from her sight. The launch is painful, but necessary.

We cannot control our children's futures. That is between them, their choices, and the God who pursues their hearts as He pursues ours. We can only love them and let them go.

May our wanderer choose well. . .and stop wandering long enough to be caught up in his Creator's everlasting arms.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Frozen North

This is why I call the particular area of the country in which we currently reside the Frozen North. While our friends and family in the sunny southwest (Texas!) are enjoying temps in the 60s and 70s, this is what we are experiencing at Iron Acres.


After a few days of moderate temperatures (20-40 degrees F) referred to as the annual January thaw, and a day of blinding sunshine, the snow seems to be receding.

But this can still be found on my car in the morning,



or on the ground bordering our driveway,


along the highway at high noon,




or on the roof of a neighbor's house,

hanging tight

a church,


or in the local park.



(That mound in the middle hides a fountain.)


Yes, I realize that there are places more northerly and frigid than western PA, but for a body born and raised in Houston, Texas, this is as cold as I ever want to get.

Anyone for popsicles?

Monday, January 18, 2010

From the hidden...the edge...the tear...

In silence and solitude it waits. . .there in the dark, in the hidden.


Time is an endless burden that grows heavier.

Longing and despair meet. Nothing.

Then, almost imperceptibly, a small tearing along the edges.


Something that can wait no more pushes toward the light.

As it pushes, the tear grows. 


Color appears.  Then more waiting. 

The color grows, a form begins to take shape.


A glimpse of  what is to come.


The waiting is over.


Beauty emerges from the hidden...the dark... the longing... the despair...the edges...the tear.



With a full heart I offer my thanks to God for

54. the waiting alone in the dark      
55. the tearing along the edges
56. the painful pushing
57. the form that appears
58. the beauty that is revealed
59. the Christmas cactus that blooms in the dark of winter
60. contemplation
61. His strength in my weakness
62. unexpected gifts
63. unexpected joy
64.  hidden life
65.  simple things

holy experience

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gratitude Journal: #41-53


I try to journal regularly, emphasis on the word try.  I am not always successful.  There are large gaps in time.  But the words that do make it to paper are treasured.  Snapshots of who I was, who I am becoming.

Reminders of God's grace.


Notes from books I've read.  Words that transform my thinking and my heart...


and bridge the gaps to where I am now.  Encouragers.  I am grateful for

time spent journaling,

thoughts of God and God life,


still being able to read my writing, most of the time!

the sustenance of life giving words from wise men and women in books,

"to grow in grace means to utilize more and more grace to live by until everything we do is assisted by grace." Dallas Willard

and in blogs: Jezamama, Ann

a beautiful sampler stitched by the prayerful and loving hands of a friend,

searching for truth with my Dear Professor in late night conversations,

a Father God who actively seeks my heart, even when I hide in distraction,

the camera lens that urges me to see God's beauty in hidden places,


a shoveled sidewalk,

a cold morning with an ice free windshield,

snow that blankets the bare ground with white brilliance,


the promise of life in the silence of winter.

I look forward to chronicling God's one thousand gifts (and more!) in this new year.  Number them with me and others here.

The Mystery of the Missing Toilet Paper, with apologies to Jezamama

 When I was in 4th grade, the prevailing achievement, at least for us girls, was to read every volume in the Nancy Drew mystery series.  I thrilled at each adventure that found Nancy at the mercy of a riddle, from The Secret of the Old Clock(the very first book) to The Clue in the Old Stagecoach.(the last one I read, not the last of the series.)

There were more, and all sorts of contemporary spin offs, but I loved the old dust jacketed blue books about a fearless young girl whose curiosity and concern led her through danger and dilemma to success and solution.  All done without a hint of impropriety.

And so, when my dear friend Jezamama recently posted about the mysterious disappearance of a rather large quantity of toilet paper, I dusted off my old Nancy Drew magnifying glass, hopped in our blue Taurus (sadly, they no longer make roadsters) and was on the case.

Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I finally located the perp.  Actually, I stumbled upon it quite accidentally.  We were in North Carolina celebrating Christmas with our family and the Sprittles when I cast my glance upon the stairs where I espied this:


We immediately rounded up all the usual suspects.   Baby Blues (aka Colonel Mustard) was the first to be excused.  How could HE do anything that heinous?  Just look at those baby blues, that dirty face, that soulful stare...

baby blues

Next, we questioned Boo, but he had an alibi.  He had been sitting at the kitchen table with me, eating Christmas cookies.


 Boo does love his Christmas cookies!

That led us to (dun dun duh!) the real culprit, Bee.  Under the weight of all 16 layers of Lipsmackers,  her mouth struggled to deny the deed.  And she asked for her lawyer.


But the evidence was overwhelming.  Besides, only a guilty 3 year old asks for a lawyer.


And it was HER doll.  Her fingerprints were all over the crime scene.

So this grandmother offers her apologies to Jezamama for the missing toilet paper.

And a Scott tissue coupon or two.

I can't help but feel that somewhere, in River Heights, an aging, octogenarian girl sleuth is smiling.  Happy 80th, Nancy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Never Wear White

There is an old rule handed down through generations. 

A rule unquestioningly obeyed by those who fear the wrath of fashion mavens.

Never wear white after Labor Day.

But,  no one told the clouds


or the frozen streams of  January.

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No one told the snowflakes

or the hay bales, lonely and forgotten in the field

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No one told the roads

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or the trees

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Which leads me to believe...

that perhaps there are some rules...

some silly, man made rules...

that are made to be broken...


At least by God.