Monday, July 29, 2013

The cake

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was rather looking forward to making and eating my birthday cake this year.  And let me tell you, this recipe did not disappoint.  It was AWESOME!!

It was moist, rich, and chocolatey goodness.

I added a little less sugar and a touch more salt.  I baked it in a 13x9, rather than two circular pans, because I wanted no-fuss.  For the icing, I did a chocolate butter cream frosting.

As an added bonus, I can now check one more item off the food bucket list!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Birthday Week

This week is birthday week around these parts.  I am just about to be 37 and Audrey just turned 8!  I can't believe how time has gone.  Where did my 30s go? I know they are not completely behind me, but they aren't far off now...

For Audrey's birthday we will be having an "under the sea" party with the neighborhood kids.  However, that is on hold until we can get schedules to align.  For my birthday, I will be breaking from my usual yellow cake with chocolate frosting routine to try my hand at the "best chocolate cake ever" and I plan to make it super rich and dark just like *I* like it and top it with a chocolate butter cream frosting that Claire and I rather like on top of brownies (others in the house believe that is a bit of chocolate overkill, and I suspect those same people may think the same of my birthday cake).  I am really looking forward to it. I nearly never have a reason to cook a cake with just my taste/preferences in mind.  One more item to check off the food bucket list

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Female Role Models Shine in Blogs

Quitting work (for a bit) and becoming a full-time homemaker has made me really think about what is encompassed in the role of a homemaker.  I think it is or can be whatever you want to make it - that is just one of the reasons Rhonda refers to homemaking as a power career.

As I have been thinking about what I want this role to be for me, I am constantly inspired by the wonderful world of blogs.  The internet has opened a whole new world of female role models for me right in the comfort of my own living room.   I am able to learn new things and consider new ideas everyday thanks to the wonderful women who self-publish these great blogs.

Some of my current favorites:

These blogs are all written regularly by real women with real lives and their authenticity shows in their writing. They write about everyday things and share the stories and the details of their lives.  It is awesome to read about the cooking lessons for kids, how to properly hang laundry, or why work done in a home matters.  I love seeing pictures of gardens, kids, chickens, handmade decor, and food as it is being prepared.  Most of these wonderful women find their daily work interesting and so they write about it.  I'm so glad they share their thoughts and their stories.

These blogs seem to me to have a few common threads: authenticity, good pictures (but not too staged), regular postings, interesting and positive commentary about life, and a general personal contentment that shines through in their blogs.  As an added bonus, I find that most of these blogs tend to have very nice readers/commenters and I usually enjoy reading the comments and find new blogs to enjoy through the comments all the time.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


There are so many things to transition after having worked at the same firm for so long.  I had to buy several new electronic gadgets - a phone (which I still don't have and I am trying to keep my old number, but am not confident in that process) and a computer (Ryan's school computer is super old, so this new computer will be a family computer).

Even bigger than that - the complete transition in my head from the corporate rat race to a calmer and slower pace.  I realized today that I am now my own boss.  I own my time - how awesome is that!  I can plan my day with the girls however I want.  I can focus on the garden, or make a big batch of granola bars, or take the girls to the park, or none of the above.  It is awesome.  I feel so free!

The flip-side of freedom from that corporate job is freedom from a paycheck...  I have been much more mindful of how I spend money.  I am usually pretty good at recognizing where Ryan could clean up his spending ;), but less good at seeing how my own little justifications add up.  So that has been an interesting transition as well. It turns out that I find little ways to spend a few dollars here and there all the time, a magazine here, a new ball of yarn there. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013


Last weekend we took the girls to Leesylvania State Park.  I bought the annual pass because we live pretty close, it is well kept, and they have lots of programs for kids throughout the summer.  As an added bonus, it turns out the park  also has really nice and helpful park rangers.  When I went to the visitors center, they gave me several flyers about upcoming events and explained what a lot of them included.  Most of the kids activities are  free or $2, if it involves supplies of some sort.

Meredith and Audrey walking over the turtle pond bridge at Leesylvania State Park - June 2013
Occasionally, I make Audrey try new things in spite of her protests. This is how Audrey ended up in a fishing tournament on yesterday.  The park rangers told me it was an activity to promote fishing for kids and that you did not need equipment or experience.  They said that lots of fishing volunteers are there to show kids how to fish or to teach them a few tricks of the trade if they already know how.  I thought that sounded perfect for Audrey.  I think the rangers may have glossed over the tournament part of the activity (or I just did not hear that part).
Audrey fishing for the first time - July 2013
Audrey and I showed up for "kids fishing" and were surprised to learn that we were actually signing her up for a fishing tournament.  The volunteer (turned out to be just one that day for all the kids - dear soul) helped us pick out a pole and put a worm on the hook.  Other parents were a little more prepared and brought chairs to sit back and watch.  I just sat on the dock with Audrey.  Which was actually quite nice.  We chatted and just hung out - she had a fishing pole and I had some knitting.

Audrey with her first catch - a 1 ounce White Perch
Audrey caught just one fish that day, a little one ounce White Perch.  The volunteer weighed him and freed him from the line and then we threw the fish back in.  We were right near the volunteer station, so we got to see all the different types of fish that the others caught.  The biggest catch was a 3 pound catfish and was caught by a little boy who's grandfather had bet him $5 that he wouldn't catch a fish his first time - instead he won first place (and $5 from grandpa)!  In addition to catfish, we also saw a snakehead fish, a bass, an eel, and a couple other white perch.

Audrey with her 2nd place fishing trophy! The fish on top of the trophy is bigger than the one she caught to win it.
At the end of the time limit, the kids all gathered under the volunteer tent for the awards ceremony.  The volunteer asked the kids what they had learned and gave them a little speech about fishing.  All of the kids got goody bags (including a frisbee and fishing and park paraphernalia) and they gave out trophies for 1st and 2nd place in each age category.

It was a really fun activity. I loved the relaxation of just sitting there chatting with little Audrey.  Audrey really enjoyed herself as well.  I was surprised that she was not at all squeamish about putting the worm on the hook and did it herself the second time. It was a great way to spend a morning.

It got me thinking about community activities.  Parks, libraries, rec centers - they put together some really good programs and they are usually cheap if not free.  This one was free (after the park admission fee) and it taught Audrey a new skill and was fun.  Now that I am going to be with the girls for the rest of the summer, we will definitely be taking advantage of more of these community activities. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Audrey and I went for a 7 mile bike ride yesterday morning. We got back and I had a headache and sore throat and I was so achey it hurt to move. I rarely get sick so I thought I was just sore from our ride and that the other symptoms were attributable to poor hydration.

I woke up this morning even more achey and sore and my throat was crazy painful. Slowly it occurred to me that I might be sick. I took my temp - 102.8! At which point I gave in to feeling crummy and set myself up on the couch to watch Monarch of the Glen and rest for the day. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Use it up - chicken/spinach crepes

The other day for dinner, Audrey asked for crepes - so crepes, bacon, and fruit it was.  However, we did not need all the crepe batter.  I cooked the extra crepes up and let them cool down between sheets of parchment paper and put them in the fridge.

A few days earlier I had made sauteed garlic spinach.  We get the organic spinach from Costco and each bag is usually enough for two side dishes.  However, when I opened this particular bag, I noticed a few pieces starting to wilt, so I washed and cooked the whole bag and saved the other half in the fridge.

Last week we had smoked salmon with a bit of cream cheese, so we had an open container that needed using up.

I added a bit of sauteed onions and shredded chicken to the leftover spinach and cream cheese, rolled the mixture into crepes, and topped it with a couple slices of Swiss cheese.  Viola - chicken and spinach crepes!

I love it when I actually get to use up all the extra little ingredients that I could have thrown away, but instead we got an extra, wholesome, and delicious meal.  It doesn't always work out.  Sometimes, my good intentions end up becoming science experiments in the back of the fridge.  Which is just all the more reason to appreciate when it does come together so well.