Monday, April 21, 2014

Star Wars and The Bible

Life is Good: and humbling

Well, there are those days...every once in a while...when you think, "Hmm. Maybe I am not doing such a bad job with these kids after all. Maybe I am not totally screwing them up." Like this morning, as I was playing with our 2 1/2 year old, I realized that he was reenacting the "Parable of the Good Samaritan" from the bible using his Calico Critters pandas and a couple of Playmobil dragons. I stepped back, sighed with relief and then, yes, patted myself on the back.

And then, an alien named "Obie Kamobie" and a dinosaur named "Luke Skywalcare" asked them to go to the "soccer ball planet" with them. And my patting on the back was... done.

These kids fill me up in so many ways. The joy I get from each and every discovery and adventure is priceless. We may be reading to them often from The Beginner's Bible and our new fave, The Storybook Bible, but the credit goes all to them. They are sweet, silly, loving, imaginative, thoughtful, and more. God created them that way and gave me the glorious responsibility as their usher and sidekick. I am just happy that they are bringing me along for the ride. Even if it now includes bible characters in Star Wars adventures!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Best Eggless Egg-Free Carrot Cake

Life is Good: we have a fresh start

Happy Easter! HE is risen! We'll be celebrating with church and surely gobs and gobs of Easter egg hunts. Plastic, because of allergies, of course.

We just aren't able to travel to see our family right now, so we are celebrating the holiday in the Twin Cities. The mother of some dear friends of ours invited us to their celebration and we were so, so touched by the hospitality. But, unfortunately, they planned on having the traditional hard-boiled eggs at their luncheon. Both of our little people are allergic and so we had to decline the invitation.

I had planned to bring dessert to the lunch, so I went ahead and made it for us. Grant thinks holidays are an excuse to indulge anyway! ; )

I made this eggless carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a "homemade Krackel" bird's nest of chocolate & Rice Krispies cereal. I've used this carrot cake recipe a hundred times or more. I am so grateful to have found it soon after we discovered our big kid's egg allergy. I was inspired to decorate the cake by a couple of things I found on Pinterest. It didn't turn out exactly how I had envisioned it. Oh, come on. Let's be honest. I am just never going to be a professional cake decorator! However, our kids lovvvvvvvved it. And that was enough for me. Maybe you can take inspiration from my cake and make it better? Here's how I did it:

1. Bake and frost the cake.

Egg-free Vegan Carrot Cake 
Yields (2) round cakes (for a two-layer cake)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I use organic)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups carrots, grated
1 1/4 cup crushed pineapple, plus all juice from the can
1. In a small bowl, mix baking powder and applesauce into a foamy mixture, set aside. (This will mimic beaten eggs.)
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
3. Add oil, carrots, pineapple, juice, and applesauce mixture.
4. Mix well with a spoon. Do not use a mixer as this will "toughen up" the batter too much.
5. Spoon batter equally into two cake pans.
6. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (All ovens vary, so watch your cakes carefully after about 17 minutes.)
7. Once cooled, frost if desired. If you use my frosting recipe below, these will no longer be vegan.

Cream Cheese Frosting (not vegan)
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
water, optional
1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
2. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
3. Slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness. 
NOTE: you might need to add a teaspoon or two of water to your frosting if your frosting has a "gritty" taste from the sugar not being incorporated well.

2. Make a "bird's nest topper".

Homemade Krackel Bird's Nest Cake Topper (not vegan)

1 bag of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup of Rice Krispies cereal (add a few spoonfuls more if you like more crunch)
1. Melt 1/2 bag of chocolate chips in a bowl in your microwave. All ovens differ, but it took my microwave about 1 minute and 20 seconds to melt them.
2. Pour cereal into melted chocolate and stir to blend.
3. Line a cereal-sized bowl (smaller than soup bowls) with waxed paper. (I ran out of waxed paper and had to channel MacGyver. I used a plastic ziploc baggie. I cut it open and then draped it over the bowl.)
4. Pour melted chocolate/cereal mixture into the lined bowl. Smooth the mixture up around the sides of the bowl. Make the borders uneven to mimic a real, imperfect nest.
5. In another bowl, melt 1/4 of the bag of chocolate chips.
6. On a separate piece of waxed paper, make irregular "sticks" of chocolate. 
7. Allow to dry 6-12 hours.
8. Pull waxed paper out of the bowl and gently remove from the "nest". Set aside.
9. Melt the rest of the bag of chocolate chips.
10. Pull "sticks" off of waxed paper and with the tip of a spoon, use melted chocolate to "glue" the "sticks" to the outside of the nest to make it look more realistic.
11. Allow to dry completely.
12. Place on top of cream cheese-frosted cake.
13. Place mini eggs (plastic, chocolate, foil-covered, etc) inside of the nest.
14. Serve and enjoy!

3. Laugh at yourself and be glad that you don't have to make your living decorating cakes!

Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Make Mondays Better

Life is Good: when we approach the day with the best of intentions

Do rainy days and Mondays always get you down? The best way to start the week off right is gently. I love that quote from John Watson: "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."* Indeed, if Monday is rough for you, it is for that guy who cut you off on the highway or that hipster who handed you your coffee without a smile and everyone else in between. Instead of rushing to anger or annoyance, if we would first stop and consider that the "offense" made toward us might not be personal and could be manifesting from a trial or tribulation that person is going through, everyone will feel better. If our assumption is that everyone is dealing with something (as Watson said)...if we treat everyone with gentleness and doubt we will have less blood boiling and that person who didn't hold the elevator for you just might hold the elevator for the next person.

I love so many verses from Ephesians in the bible. I feel like there are so many empowering words there. Here's a great one to start the week:

 *You may have seen it attributed to Plato, but they are not his words.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Forgive and Make Room for Happiness

Life is Good: keep it that way

I continue to be on my little study of Forgiveness. I'm finding that it helps me remember what the Lenten season is really about...Jesus' last days on this earth and the price he paid so that we could be forgiven for our sins. Forgiveness is such a big subject and there are so many layers to it. Anyone could spend years and years trying to fully understand the meaning of it all.

Often, when speaking of Forgiveness, some kind of hurt has been felt. Have you ever felt like forgiving someone is like losing a battle? Or showing forgiveness diminishes the hurt you have endured? When we choose to forgive, it is for us as much as for them. Choosing to forgive reminds us that we are not without flaws and it frees us to move on. We shirk the hurt and make room for happiness.

It's not a hyperbole to say that when we choose to forgive, we choose love over hate. And to forgive does not necessarily mean to forget, though the word, " forgive" is at least the beginning of the word, "forget".

Is there a hurt in your heart that needs healed? Today, I urge you to free yourself of it. Your heart will feel lighter. And have more room for happiness.