March 27, 2014

Salted Caramel Cake Recipe

Hi! Just wanted to share my favorite new cake recipe...the salted caramel vanilla cake. I know there are many similar recipes out there. Basically I picked my favorite aspects of each recipe and added a few changes to make things easier for me.

It's the perfect cake for all your upcoming spring festivities. YUM.

It's pretty straightforward, even for a kitchen klutz like me. Well, I did screw up my first trial run, but that won't happen to you. I'll make sure of it.

This recipe is for a two layer round cake. I was inspired by these two recipes but modified them to make it easier-- I am too lazy to make white cake from scratch so I used vanilla box cakes(Betty Crocker). Here are your basic ingredients:

I screwed up my first trial because my cake was too thin/short for all that caramel sauce. The cakes was drenched in caramel. Whoops.  Just make your cake a little thicker/taller by adding a little more batter to your pans(buy two boxes of cake mix rather than 1). As a bonus,  you can use any remaining batter for cupcakes!

Super simple recipe for caramel sauce. 

Set caramel sauce aside. Best at room temp.

Frosting recipe:

Bottom layer with holes and caramel sauce:

Bottom layer frosted, sprinkled with sea salt.

Second layer cake added to first layer. Drizzled top with caramel.

Frost top layer and add Twix. Then drizzle more caramel in zig-zag pattern.

I added a banner for a special friend's bday.

Little flags for cupcakes.

Just hit the spot perfectly.

March 3, 2014

Making Room, Part Deux

cont. from Making Room

After countless night of debating the room placement, John proposed an idea. It was the LAST place on earth I wanted, but I instantly knew it was our only option:

He suggested cutting our family room in half{almost}, by installing 2 walls to close off the area by my yellow wallpaper.

Now. You must know something. When we were looking for our first home 11 years ago, the main reason I selected this floor plan was because I liked the open family room.

Another thing. I dislike walls. My dream home would consist of a gritty old warehouse with zero walls. With a few bedrooms lined up in back, ha.

And now John wanted to cut our family room almost in half? And add...walls? Ack! Unthinkable.

That night I went to bed feeling very unsettled, my thoughts boomerang-ing all over the place. In all of this, God was working. You see, He saw something that I didn't--that I was holding on too tight to my earthly possessions. And that night, my eyes were opened to the truth. People everywhere have MUCH smaller houses than I do. How could I be so spoiled? Blerg. Stupid materialism. I didn't want to be like that anymore.

You could say I had a total change of heart that night. I was ready to get on board with John's idea.  John was giving me the GREEN LIGHT to add a room so we could adopt...I'd be crazy not to take his offer and RUN with it.

And I knew the second I saw the child, any room debates would seem ridiculous in comparison. Kid trumps house a million times over.

I fell asleep with a huge smile on my face. I woke up the next morning, in shock over my decision. But for the life of me, I could not wipe that smile off my face.

I was discussing this with my neighbor Patty and she said "We weren't mean to be deep oaks planted here on earth, but rather tumbleweeds, blowing here and there scattering seeds of the gospel. And using our homes as a tool to bless others". Wise words.

The next few weeks were a flurry of calls to prospective builders. Excitement was in the air!

Until I got my first formal estimate.

It was thousands more than anticipated. Like quadruple the amount I expected. It felt like a punch to the gut. I wanted to cry.

When I told John, he sighed "Well, it will take us a while to save up for that!"

"Can't we take out a loan?", I pleaded.

But John just wasn't comfortable with borrowing such a large amount.

A few weeks later, I decided to get another estimate. My friend Carrie recommended her builder, Jeremy Gustafson--the man who changed everything.

It was December. I was sipping cider at small group when my cell phone rang, with Jeremy's estimate. It was less than half the price of the first estimate, praise the Lord! We were back in business! Best.Christmas.Ever.

Construction began early February. In 2 weeks, my house went from this

to this

to this

to this

I thought I would feel completely claustrophobic once the drywall went up but...surprise...I kind of like it! Jeremy was MOST awesome. He always stayed after to make sure each job was done just right and that everything was clean and tidy. Plus he was super sweet and kind, especially to my wild boys running around.

We are all excited about the new room (Blue couch is not staying here).

There is another door to exit to the bathroom.

But I realize that to the adopted child, this room is just an insignificant consolation prize. This child will have gone through so much loss to have gotten here. Loss of parents. Their culture. Extended family. Familiarity. Everything. I picture Twain standing forlornly with his blankie(or any of my boys) in this position and feel sick.

One night before bed, John urgently told me "We need to be praying for this child. It could be out there, somewhere". And then he prayed the sweetest prayer and tears rolled down my cheeks onto my pillow. His prayer showed me he was really invested.

Kiononia told us, "You are signing up for heartbreak. We expect you to get attached". During the "foster phase", the child can be returned to their birth parents.

Despite this I can't help but feel optimistic. It's just my nature. I know it will be hard but I'm hoping that in the end, we will hold in our arms the child God picked for us.

 p.s. Next week someone from Koinonia is coming for my first home inspection! Eeek!

February 27, 2014

Making Room... our hearts and our home in hopes of adopting a child.

Since November, we have been pursuing adoption, if the Lord wills.

I'm not sure exactly why I've been so hesitant to blog about our adoption journey, until now. I think I didn't want to throw it all out there online, in case it didn't happen. I guess it ultimately boils down to this:

Control. Or lack thereof.

There are just so many factors about adoption that are completely out of my control.  But guess what? I've learned this week that control is just an illusion. Nothing is "for sure" in this life.

I don't have all the answers and I have no idea how this adoption thing is all going to pan out. But I do know that we are hoping and trying...and that it's in God's hands.

We are going through a local organization called Koinonia to "foster-to-adopt" and have already completed orientation, two {amazing}training sessions...a CPR class...filled out more paperwork than I thought was humanly possible(like, did you know that your animals need their rabies shot records in order to adopt?). We are about to start the "home-study" part of the process very soon. Not quite sure of the timeline but we are plugging along.

But let me back up and tell you how this all came about.
I've always wanted to adopt. Or at least I've always said so. But there came a point when my words started ringing empty in my ears. It was time to take a step toward making this a reality. It's been my motto in life, that if you feel led to do something, it's better to try and go down in a blaze of glory than to risk nothing, for fear of failure. (Of course above this, there is God's will and leading).

****revised! I TOTALLY think it's still great to say you want to adopt...even if you can't right now or ever for that matter . From even my own short experience of this process I am acutely aware that are many many hard factors which make people unable to adopt even if it were their hearts deep desire. Just wanted to clarify that:)****

Twain(my youngest) is 4 going on 5. The timing just seemed right.

Last summer, I started calling agencies and gathering information.

I live in a 3-bedroom house(This is actually kind of crucial).
And have 4 boys. Two boys in the 1st room and 2 boys in the 2nd room. John and I share the master, obviously.

According to CA state law I would need an additional bedroom to adopt a child(only 2 kids allowed per room).
Or I would have to move to a different house with 4 bedrooms.
We just weren't in the position to move.
John predicted that adding a bedroom to our house would cost $35,000 or more.
Money we certainly did not have. Things looked dismal.
Doors were starting to shut.
I was supremely disappointed.

But something inside me refused to give up hope. There had to be some way. Money seemed like such a lame obstacle(though a very real and overwhelming aspect).

Weeks and weeks passed.

I distinctly remember sitting across from John at CPK one evening for dinner. I told him, "I reallllllly want to adopt! Let's find a way!"

John kind of smiled and said "I want to go back to school."

Wah-wah-waaaah went the sad trombone.

Obviously we were NOT on the same page with major life decisions. John wanted to continue teaching high school go back to college for a degree in geology, of all things. I was like, really?

But as his wife, I just didn't feel it would be right for me to nag and push my weight around trying to get my own way.

And my heart just sank, because I knew the right thing to do... and didn't really want to do it.

I knew that God could not honor my desire to adopt by "pushing" when the time wasn't right. So I decided I would have to sit back patiently...and wait. Was it going to be years of waiting? I did not know.

It just felt like another door slamming in my face, but at least I felt at peace.

So more weeks passed.

Leaves turned orange and fell to the ground. John started his geology classes and I started homeschooling Ollie. I was expecting a ton of work, exhaustion, super late nights and stress, for John.
But none of that happened. In fact, things were strangely smooth.

One night I overheard John ask the boys, "Do you guys want another sibling?"

I was pretty surprised by his question to the boys, but just held my breath and kept my mouth shut.

And then another night he asked them again. And again. This time, "Do you boys want a sister?"

"We want a girl dog", giggle giggle! And Ollie might have mentioned wanting another cat/sister(wink).

I'm not sure what changed but John was suddenly very open to the idea of adopting.

There was still the obstacle of the additional {4th} bedroom, though.

I was in my front yard discussing my hopes and dreams with my neighbor and she was like "Davi. Just get an estimate. And put that number in your back pocket for a rainy day".

An estimate. Hm. I could do that.

It seemed obvious to me that the additional room should go on my front porch. (That is where the builders had suggested placing a "bonus room", on our floor plan, 11 years ago when our house was first built).

But this would be costly, as it would require changing the roofline.

In the meanwhile, I started brain-storming cheaper ways of squeezing an extra bedroom in my house.
I suggested converting our big master closet into a bedroom.
John said no.
I suggested cutting our master bedroom into 2 rooms.
John said "No, I need my space". As he leaned back with his arms behind his head.
I threw my hands up in the air. Such a prince, lol. My husband is one of 3 boys and refused to wear hand-me-downs as a kid. It's funny because if you knew him now, he's super unspoiled and practical. 
I suggested re-locating John and myself into one of the kid bedrooms, and converting our master bedroom into 2 rooms for all 4 boys to share.
"No. No. No. Davi", John says, shaking his head. I cannot tell you how many late nights we spent *debating* possible room arrangements.

And then John suggested something quite odd, in my honest opinion. Something I wasn't too sure about. But it was very interesting all the same.

To be continued...

January 31, 2014

on why i won't tail your car.

Ummm hi. I supposed I ought to be ashamed of myself for my unexplained leave of absence.

Quotes posted on my facebook page from my sisters: "So I checked out your blog today. Cobwebs and tumble weeds blowing by...just saying."

and "Yea, I think I heard a lone wolf howl sadly when I checked it earlier. Nobody even howled back."

and "So, no pressure, but your blog is lonely. FYI."

Gotta love sisters!

I just needed a break after blogging 6 years straight. Sorry I didn't say "Hey, I'm taking a break!"...But at the time, I really didn't mean to stop and it felt so drastic to say anything, so I just went into denial and stuck my head in the sand and vanished.

Popping my head back out though and thankfully blogger didn't require a new magic password.

Took a road trip up to mama's house yesterday to help her recover from surgery.

Did a little schooling by the fire, which warmed my heart.

Mom took a beautiful walk outside with us. So proud of her.

Yesterday we sat on her bed and she told me a thing or two that really hit me.

She had listened to a talk by Joni Eareckson Tada that morning, and wanted to tell me about it.

I kinda braced myself and held my breath...Joni is intense.

For those of you unfamiliar with Joni, she dived into water that was too shallow and broke her neck...and is now a parapalegic. When she was younger, she tried to kill herself a few times, because she couldn't handle being paralyzed. She prayed "Lord, if I can't die, please help me live" and that was the turning point in her life, for the better. 

People often ask her "Aren't you so excited to get to heaven and walk?"

At one point in her life she would have said "YES".  She had even pursued healing.

But now? Things have changed. She feels she HAS received healing...but a deeper sort of healing that only few attain. She is grateful for her trials, which have squeezed all her sin and pride out of her, to bring that deeper bring her to the point where she can honestly say, that when she gets to heaven, she doesn't even care about walking. All she wants to do in heaven is have a heart that brings God glory.

Wow, what?! How does someone even get to that point to have such a good attitude. I just sat there stunned and inspired. Mom and I sat on her bed, crying {and laughing} that we were crying.

Meet Rufio, their crazed goat.

As I drove home that night up a windy road, a truck pulled in front of me, going 2 miles an hour.

Now, I am not an aggressive driver, but this was just too much annoyance for even me to bear.

I started to tail him. Just a little. I was feeling a little rushed and stressed and wanted to make it over the pass before it snowed, and this was just too much. HURRY UP TRUCK!

And then I thought of Joni. And how all she desired was a heart that brought HIM glory.

Was my heart bringing God glory right now?

No. I was being selfish and worried.

All of a sudden, my feisty rage drained right out of me. I prayed silently "Lord please help me love this man, who is doing his best to drive. Please help me trust you to get home, despite the weather conditions".

And then I thought of a broken relationship that had been grieving me for some time. And I realized that my heart was not bringing glory to God in that either. I realized I had been holding on to hurt feelings and pride...stubborn pride...because things hadn't gone the way I wanted it to, so therefore I wasn't going to let things go{completely} in my heart of hearts.

And all of a sudden, I felt all that pride drain completely out of me. Because I would rather have my heart bring God glory than hold onto a stupid grudge.

And I was left sitting in my car, feeling empty and drained of everything...there was nothing left to me. Yet I never felt so whole. And feeling optimistic and hopeful that God can bring deeper healing to the most stubborn of hearts. 

November 1, 2013


This year for Halloween, I thought it would be fun to dress up as hobbits.

My parents read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings(LOTR) to me when I was a kid. I remember playing with my their Lincoln Log homes...while my parents took turns reading. So I just grew up with this stuff.

I got most of their clothes at the Goodwill or Salvation army, with the exception of 2 vests I had to buy. And I just had to make the capes. 

The capes were a little tricky at first because I am lame and do not understand online tutorials at all.  They seemed so vague and/or complicated to me. Plus, I just don't really sew clothes. So I just did the best I could to follow this tutorial. However, I did not understand her method for the hood, so I just traced one of our hoodies at home and sewed it to the cape. Very simple. One day when I have time, I would love to post a simple, clear tutorial for the inexperienced seamstresses out there like me;)

Ollie is cracking me up these days. We have been learning to read(using a book my sister recommended, called Learning to Read in 100 Easy Lessons). I love love love this book. So simple to follow and it builds up sounds so gradually...Ollie doesn't even realize he's learning to read. When Ollie was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder, we were told that kids with his condition are likely to have trouble learning to read, write and do arithmatic. You know. Basically EVERYTHING in grade school. So I'm just excited that we are using a reading curriculum that doesn't stress us out.

Anyway, I bought some Bob books a while back and decided Ollie should practice with them. After I congratulated him on reading his first Bob book, he looked thoroughly unimpressed and muttered, "but it's not The Hobbit". In time, little halfling, in time.

Hairy feet were a MUST, according to my mama.

I first tried to make hairy feet from yarn, but they were a dismal failure. John said I needed tufts of rabbit fur. So I bought some mulit-colored fur at Joanns and cut it up and hot glued it onto flesh-colored felt. And held the felt in place with their sandal straps. The felt kept slipping around, so I'd recommend attaching it with elastic or something.

Hobbits fleeing the Shire.

One Ring to rule them all...

Joining my halflings in Rivendale.

Remember my jumpsuit? Well, now it's a dress. I just seam-ripped the legs and quickly re-stitched the appropriate sides to make it into a dress. It only took like 10 minutes or so. Nothing fancy. And then I hemmed it.

Bought them "satchels" for their candy at the Goodwill for a few bucks.

Sam and Frodo

Quarreling over the Ring. Ut oh.

At the White City, Minas Tirith.

A hobbit bows to no one--except the One true Lord:) I am training my hobbits to love Jesus.
We had WAY TOO MUCH fun this year. My 3 younger boys just begged to put their costumes back on. So we might be hobbits for a while longer. I hope you had a Happy Halloween!