Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Carl and Gus finally got their snow man. Gus asks every day, "Can we build a snow man? Is the snow too crunchy?" He gets a script in his head and sticks to it. "How's your back?" Or when Ron comes home from work, "How's yous day, Dad?" "How are Ken and Dave?" "Did Ken eat all the peanut M&Ms?" Every day. Like clock work. I love that kid.

I mostly built the snow man while they played with the Tonka diggers in the snow. They rescued the trucks from the snowed-under sand box. They were so excited when they learned that the trucks work in the snow too. Louise sat patiently in a sled while they played and I rolled big balls of snow around, looking desperately for areas in the yard that hadn't been trampled by boys or the dog. Carl made the snow man head and didn't have much patience for it, thus the size. Instead of a scarf and hat, we decided it needed an apron... a painting and art project apron.

For all the work I put into it, they kicked it down in about 14 seconds. Did they not want a snowman? Or are they just boys? The carrot lay in the yard afterwards, a sign of the snow life that briefly was. A sign of the fun afternoon on a crisp February day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Turtle Cake Tutorial

There's a fun cafe in St. Paul called Cafe Latte. It is THE best place to go for a nice soup and sandwich, salad too. Or even better, coffee and dessert. Located on Victoria and Grand, it is easy to find and usually easy to find a seat.

Their most famous cake is the Turtle Cake. If you like chocolate, pecans and caramel, then you're ready for this one. I made it for the first time for my sister-in-law Katie who had made it many times for other people, but no one had ever had it made for her. She turned the big 4-0 and was in town to celebrate with us.
Here's her cake.... Happy Birthday, Katie!

Cake Ingredients:
• 1 Egg. • 2/3 cup Vegetable oil. • 1 cup Buttermilk. • 2 cups Flour. • 1 3/4 cups Sugar. • 1/2 cup Good quality cocoa. • 1 tsp. Salt. • 1 tbsp. Baking soda. • 1 cup Hot coffee

• 1/2 cup Milk. • 1 cup Sugar. • 6 tbsp. Butter • 2 cups Good-quality semisweet chocolate chips. • 3/4 cup Caramel. • 1 1/2 cups Toasted pecans.

Prepare oven and pans: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cover each bottom with disk of parchment paper. It works well to trace the bottom of the pan with a pencil on the parchment paper, then cut out.

Prepare the ingredients. The recipe calls for a good-quality cocoa, but I only had Nestle. It still tasted great. (Notice the vintage canisters... they belonged to my grandparents. My mom remembers them from her childhood!)

I used this powdered buttermilk because it keeps for a long time in the fridge, always handy for a recipe at midnight or when I don't have a chance to pick up fresh buttermilk. If you use this, make sure you mix it VERY well, or you'll get little white floaties on top of your cake of buttermilk powder. (Not a pretty sight!)

To make cake: In bowl, combine egg, oil and buttermilk. In large separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

Gradually add wet ingredients to dry until well mixed.

Gradually add hot coffee. Pour yourself a cup too. Mmmmm. (I recently found an amazing new coffee at Costco-- Rwandan coffee. Comes in bean form in a big 3 pound bag. Cheap, strong and DE-LISH!)

Scrape batter into prepared pans.

To bake cake: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Let cake rest in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool. Note the parchment paper still on the bottom, waiting to be peeled off.

To make frosting: Mix sugar and milk in saucepan. Add butter. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips to pan. Using wire whisk, mix until smooth. If frosting is too thick or grainy, add 1 or 2 teaspoons hot coffee.

Spread 1/3 of the frosting on the first layer, top side of the cake down.

Here is the first layer with the frosting, 1/2 cup caramel and 1/4 cup chopped pecans. I like to leave a few of the pecans whole or large pieces.

Add next layer, again top-side down. Repeat frosting and sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecans and drizzle with 1/4 cup caramel. And final layer top-side up, frost carefully and finish with remaining pecans and caramel. The top looks best when you arrange the pecans in a pattern, leaving most or all of them whole.

We had no problem eating it. Hope you enjoy it too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Morning sunshine

Early morning sunshine, coming in the east window upstairs.

Breakfast at the kid table with my favorite mug of all time.

Breakfast shadow fun.

It was -12 degrees this morning at 7 am, with a -25 windchill. The only way to feel warm today was to sit in the sun's rays at breakfast, longing for the days when we can go outside and run, run, rrrrruuuunnnnnn again in the yard.

Just a little crafting going lately, mostly because I'm STILL cleaning the office and craft space. When it is done, I will post the before picture. I'm just annoyed at how long it is taking. But really, at the end of the day, chasing around these three kiddos, cleaning is often at the bottom of my list.

Here's the chicken purse, a birthday present for our 15 year old friend Heather.

Close up of the batik chicken. Haven't YOU always wanted a batik chicken? Thought so.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day at our house

Hearts for a few of our Valentines.

My oldest Valentine. Just weeks away from turning 5... how can that be?

My little Gus (Gustaf) plus the older neighbor Gus (August.)

A heart lunch for the boys.

And my smallest Valentine... following my footsteps in the kitchen.

Ahh, love.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy Things in the snow

The sledding train.
Everyone's attached.
Even Molly dog's frisbee got in on the fun.
And I got to pull. Such fun!

I've fallen in love with the idea of Happy Things. Thanks for the idea.

Here's my weekday happiness.

These boots were made for walkin'

These boys are going to be SO tall someday, they won't need the help of my boots.

In the mean time, these boots were made for playin'.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Grand Central Station

Train Yard, Grand Central Depot.
Collection of the New-York Historical Society

We watched the program on PBS tonight entitled "Grand Central: American Experience." Wow. What a show. Carl's eyes were fixated on the TV like I've never seen. We hurried home from dinner at a friend's house to catch it. It felt quite strange to hurry home for TV, as we aren't TV watchers, at all. Our TV lives in the basement and has TERRIBLE reception. Recently we acquired a small model from my grandpa who buys them at thrift stores and cleans them up. It lives in my closet now, except for moments such as tonight.

The show detailed the long and amazing history of Grand Central Station and how it affected traffic and the lives of New Yorkers. Having only been to NYC a hand full of times, I can't truly understand the relationship New Yorkers have with GCS, but it was a sight to behold when I arrived on an Amtrack train 10 years ago.

Carl (and Gus too) is fascinated by trains. He loves all the Thomas stuff, but also really digs real trains. Last week we visited the Jackson Street Round House (also called Minnesota Transportation Museum) and climbed in and out of the train cars, checked out the turn table, rode a caboose down the line and picknicked in a rail car. Such fun.

There's a place on the PBS site to watch it. I missed 15 minutes or so while putting Louise to bed-- I'll have to catch it later.