Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Home-Work and The Recipe

This photo feels peaceful to me. Lilypads just have a serene calmness about them, don't you think? Recently, BB and I took a daytrip to San Antonio. We drove there to explore some vehicle possibilities for our family, and after our research and question asking and talking were done, we still had some time remaining, as our babysitters gave us all day away!

BB suggested we go to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Oh, wow. First of all, I just love it that he'd choose something like that, knowing how happy I am surrounded by flowers. Secondly, the fact that he enjoys that kind of outing with me is really special. We have a long history of time spent in gardens, actually - he proposed to me in the botanical gardens Back Home!

Lastly, we were both fried mentally after several hours at a car dealership. Like staring at each other blankly fried. So a quiet walk was just the thing. Good call, my man, good call.

I have to say, though, that the San Antonio Garden was the most impressive one I've ever visited. Never seen so many things in bloom all at once, and such variety of flower types and landscape planning. Just breathtaking. And if all that wasn't blessing enough, there was cloud cover, which made strolling about quite comfortable. San Antone can be quite the sauna, so we were extra thankful for the clouds.

The girls' theatre camp was fun and intense. The big three performed in Little Women, and LC was in The Secret Garden. It was a stretching and rewarding experience. I think we can all say, though, that we're glad it's done. Now school's really out!

I love it when the kids do little kid things, especially when they play together like this: AH, LC, and EG here.

We are looking ahead into the summer and into the rest of life and we are thinking. We are planning and praying and talking. It's the first time in so long that we've felt able to start being intentional about life. It's both overwhelming and exciting.

There are big, deep things: What is the purpose of my life? How do we best disciple our kids? And there are other important considerations such as how to manage our home and possessions and money and time?

The littles and I had a mini-picnic one day while the girls were at theatre camp. This was after we sat in a drive-through lane during my errands for way longer than the little ones thought was appropriate. I got them water and a cakepop at Starbucks and we had a sweet time in the back yard!

I think I've mentioned here that we have a vision for simplifying our life as much as possible. I gained a lot of ideas and inspiration from the book Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider. I have not even finished it. The first half was enough to get me going! The goal at our house is to do what I'm calling a harsh purge of the whole place. It's ambitious. I'm praying for strength from the Lord and looking for that right balance of persevering and resting when the process has become exhausting. Living reactively for years has resulted in a big stuff problem and we're all weary of the clutter and disorganization.

Each girl has a tub or box of special things I'd been saving from babyhood. I decided which things were really most precious to me and would survive more years of being boxed up. We took pictures of the rest and even though it was a bit emotional, I let many things go. This was MK's coming-home-from-the-hospital outfit.

The first phase of our home-work was to purge and empty two of the kids' bedrooms (the six kids are in three total bedrooms right now, and H is still in our bedroom), clean the carpets ourselves, do a deep clean of every inch of the rooms while they were empty, then purge the possessions again before moving the girls back into their new, fresh spaces. AH and EG switched rooms with LC and MK. Whew. It was a big job. The children were very helpful and hardworking and seem relieved to be reducing our volume of things.

MK had this large and comical collection of characters that she always wanted in bed with her when she was a toddler. We decided to repurpose these - let Mr. and Miss Dimple Wimple enjoy them for a while.

At present, we've been attacking our gameroom and dining room. We decided to make the dining room a more formal schoolroom/study area and that the gameroom's real purpose will be storing art supplies, games, and books, as well as being a place to work on art projects and Legos and such. The goal is to spend little to nothing, but rather to repurpose stuff we already have for storage and furniture needs.

We basically have two bags with us at all times in this process: a Get Rid Of bag and a Trash bag. You wouldn't believe the amount we've produced of both since starting on our home-work! It's both a bit shameful and very relieving all at once.

 I took their picture because they had the ribbons in their hair. They're standing in front of our wildflower bed, where all the photos from the last post originated. Sweet CA and CJ!

My prayer is that in all this work, which is certainly not overtly spiritual in nature, that Jesus will reveal Himself to us more and more, and that we will be like Him, grow like Him in the process.

It's very much a starting over for our family. A clean slate. A new season.

This is how our gameroom looks right now, as I sort our books, curriculums, audiobooks, and old schoolwork (most of that I've ditched, with the exception of a few special items from the big girls' past). There is definite order in this pile of chaos, but I've got to whip it into further shape, obviously.

All of this is also an exercise in perseverance and endurance, things I am sure the Lord wants to grow in my heart and life. When you live in survival mode, reactively, you don't work up endurance. Mine's low, but it's growing. It's good to be aware of these things and to be making changes.

Our next project will be the garage, Lord willing, before BB starts back to taking classes.

How about you? You've slogged through my long descriptions of projects and change. Do you have any summer goals or ambitions? What are you learning?

And last but not LEAST:

Italian Cream Cake
from Cook's Country

Toast the coconut and nuts in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Watch carefully and stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Ingredients - 

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 oz) cake flour (he used King Arthur cake flour...we were impressed)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 tbs unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
4 tbs vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 oz) sugar
5 large egg, room temperature
2 cups (8 oz) pecans, toasted and chopped

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups (9 oz) confectioners' sugar
1/2  cup cream of coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
16 oz cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened

1-For the cake: adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, then flour pans. Process coconut in food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Combine coconut, buttermilk, and vanilla in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and let sit until coconut is slightly softened, about 10 minutes; reserve.

2-Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, shortening, and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flower mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of reserved coconut-buttermilk mixture, scraping down bowl as needed. Add 3/4 cup pecans, and give batter a final stir by hand.

3-Scrape equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 28-32 minutes. Cook cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and cool completely, about 2 hours. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

4-For the frosting: using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. INcrease speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream of coconut, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add cream cheese, on piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5-When cakes are cooled, spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over 1 cake round. Top with second cake round and spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Press remaining pecans onto sides of cake. Serve.


  1. Love the photo of your lily pads and it reminds me of a quote that hopefully will make you smile.

    "No mud no lotus" attributed to Thich Nhat Hahn

    I remind myself of this regularly, there must be mud, even though the dirt of life seems so frustrating, the lotus that eventually blooms is worth it.

  2. Hey there, Merlin! I've missed "seeing" you and you've been on my mind lately!

    Great wisdom there: no mud no lotus. So true!

    I can apply it to the fact that it takes some chaos to get on top of our chaos, meaning that things have been a mess, but we have to make a mess to deal w/the mess! :-)

  3. So inspiring! Thank you for this. I love picturing you whipping the place into shape and I know there will be fresh energy released, so yes, I think this is very spiritual work :)

    THANKS for the cream cake recipe. hooooo boy.