Happiness is...15

I've always preferred odd numbers over even.  Fifteen years!

I've learned to like even numbers nearly as well, though, thanks to us two walking down here together with our eight.  Key lime pie, my Heart.


Blah, Said Toad

I haven't felt like writing on here for a while and still don't, really.  Life is full and good, and hard and heavy, and good, and I'm sick and not sleeping well and still haven't become Tom Toles, which is a shame. The world could use a good Randolph Itch revival.

We're tearing down our Inter Net tomorrow, so I've spent a large chunk of today with a glue stick, pasting these snapshots on as fast as I could.  We'll probably weave it back into our home in the future, but for now, a reprieve.

I'll keep up with email and may post a bit here and there from the library, but I make no promises. Seems the last time I promised library blogging, I didn't follow through very well at all. Until we meet again in this space, be it a week, a month, or beyond, be well.


(Dramatic exit.)

Cadence Octavia on the Grass

Snapshots of a baby in a ring of flowers, brought to you by Debbie's leftover wedding bouquets. (I felt a little like Anne Geddes while doing this, but I have no regrets.  Do I sound defensive? I'm not defensive!)

Umbrellas in the Tall Grass

I can't imagine why Zeke and Piper have both contracted Lyme disease this summer.  Ticks, ahoy!

Wedding Day

You may remember that this beautiful girl was due to get hitched in July.  Well, she did!  The day was a true feast for the spirit. What a joy and honor to stand witness to the sacrament with so many others, ringing around two clearly united by the Father's hand.

Annika was upset when she looked on the camera and found that the person (me) who took a handful of cupcake pictures took only one picture of the rehearsal (one-handed while I nursed Cadence) and one picture of the wedding (also one-handed while I stood in the barn and nursed Cadence). Lame. Lame. Lame.

My excuses are many.

For the rehearsal, my excuse: it was cupcake day.

For the wedding, my excuse: all worn out with the worry of trying to sing without my voice cracking (thank you, hot tea and sister Sarah's suggestion of a tuning app to lower the key), but an excuse even better, knowing that professional people were taking pictures from every last angle. An excuse even best, I was enjoying it all too much for snapshots!

 I can't wait to see more pictures, though. When I see them, I'll pass some along, for sure.  The day was too beautiful to keep close.

The flawless rehearsal snapshot--

Men with Beards All in a Row.

The flawless wedding snapshot--

Forget the Bearded Men in a Row and Look at Those Lovebirds!

More to come later, I hope...

Sweet Tooth x 300

So now you know that Deborah is a Mrs.!  What you don't know is that she and Rundy invited 300 people to the wedding and then worked their proverbial tails off in preparation, and that their work blossomed into a beautiful day.

Debbie and Rundy worked non-stop in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and many people who love them contributed to make the day unfold smoothly, without undue stress crowding out rightful joy.  Debbie bought some buckets of sunflowers, and lots of people gathered wildflowers, but Rundy's mom grew the bulk of the flowers for the wedding bouquets, centerpieces, corsages, and boutonnieres in her gorgeous flowerbeds.  Titi and Becky (and Cadie & Cassie) arranged the flowers, Cassie did the girls' hair, and Evan and Justin were Chief Kitchen Magicians, because even the food was a homegrown affair.  Rundy's family took over preparing coleslaw, baked beans, and meat for 300 (!), mom and Wendy made fruit salad for 300 (helped along by 2 church friends), others pitched in with vegetable trays, drinks duty, and everything behind the scenes, and since I wasn't doing anything, I offered to make the wedding cupcakes.

I'm a procrastinator by nature, but I knew this was a big enough job that I'd have to break out organizational skills ahead of time to make it happen, so I researched recipes, sourced ingredients, and made a baking plan a few weeks in advance. (Pat me on the back, please. This may never happen again.)

I made 432 cupcakes in three flavors and four kinds of frosting in the two days before the wedding, decorated them in time for the rehearsal dinner, and it was only insomnia that shortened my sleep.  I was in bed by ten o'clock!  What is this world coming to?!

If you find yourself in the position of making 400+ cupcakes in a short amount of time-- because, hey, you never know-- here are a few tips.

1. This post gave me the brilliant idea of pre-mixing all the dry ingredients in handy double-batch sizes ahead of time, which is what convinced me I could make the cupcakes without dying in the process.

2.  This website was invaluable!  I used it to convert 12- and 24-cupcake batches to the total amount of cupcakes needed of each flavor, which made it much easier to total all the required cups and pounds of ingredients needed.

3. I added tons of stabilizers-- corn starch and dry meringue powder, as well as (blecch) some vegetable shortening in place of butter-- to the frostings so they wouldn't melt in case of high heat and humidity (which ended up not being an issue).

4. Have 4 muffin pans handy, so that you can prepare a batch on the counter while another's in the oven, and there's a constant rotation. No-brainer.

5. For transporting cupcakes, large under-the-bed shoeboxes are great.  I used ten bins that held 40 cupcakes each, and then two smaller under-the-bed boxes that held 25 each.  I don't remember where I came across this tip, but use shelf liner inside the bins to keep the cupcakes from sliding into each other during transport.  I didn't have much shelf liner on hand, so I cut it into narrow strips to place under each row of cupcakes, and it was mostly successful.  Fully lining the bins would have been even better, though.

6. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Make sure you have a Mildred to help you add decoration to the cupcakes as you frost them, otherwise you'll never make it to the rehearsal dinner.  Having a 3 month old baby who sucks her thumb instead of crying when she's hungry is also handy, though you may end up forgetting to feed her more than twice for the day because you're consumed with cupcakes.  Be prepared for the wash of guilt that will come in the aftermath.

Here is a funny picture.  I wasn't a jerk to my children while making the cupcakes (an act of God, surely), but I could tell I was starting to get edgy a few times, because Millie would discreetly switch the music pouring from the speaker to this.  HA!  And it worked, too.

I have no pictures of prep. work, but I snapped a hasty picture of each kind of cupcake as I made them. When Millie asked why, my honest answer was because I was afraid they were all going to get smushed in transport, and I wanted Debbie to see how pretty they looked before they were ruined.

Chocolate with buttercream frosting:

Chocolate with peanut butter frosting:

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting:

Vanilla with peanut butter frosting:

 Vanilla with chocolate:

Several of you asked for recipes at the wedding. I can't remember who wanted which recipe, so here are links to them all. I didn't try out any of the recipes ahead of time, but I chose cupcake recipes that boasted moistness and that gained it from less expensive oil instead of Greek yogurt. For frosting recipes, I was looking for stability without a total loss of taste.

Vanilla cupcakes:
*Instead of using pricey cake flour to make light cupcakes, as the recipe calls for, I simply substituted 2 tbsp. of cornstarch for an equal amount of flour in each cup (i.e. one cup flour - 2 tbsp. flour + 2 tbsp. cornstarch).

Chocolate cupcakes:
These were attractive to me because they contained no eggs or butter! My fridge was stuffed to the gills with ingredients already, so I was happy to not have to find room for more.

Carrot cupcakse:
I increased the spices, to taste, especially the cinnamon, and I added more carrots per batch, also. (I think at least five cups of shredded carrots per 24-cupcake batch instead of three.)

**For all the frostings, I used heavy cream in place of milk and whipped the frostings for a while.

Vanilla Buttercream (stabilized):
Oops. Wilton has taken the recipe I used off their site in the last two weeks.  This recipe is similar, only the one I used didn't have whipped cream powder in it.  In addition to the cornstarch the recipe calls for, I also added dry meringue powder and more vanilla, to taste. I wouldn't recommend this recipe for taste-- it was more like storebought frosting-- but it's supposed to remain stable in high heat and humidity, which is why I used it.

Chocolate Buttercream:
Yummy. I added cornstarch in addition to the meringue powder for stability, but the chocolate flavor was pronounced enough that you couldn't even tell they'd been added. I added a bit more baking cocoa than the recipe called for, too, perhaps 1/2 cup per batch.

 Cream Cheese Frosting:
A standard, yummy recipe, but it began melting as soon as I pulled it out of the fridge to frost the cupcakes. I added meringue powder, cornstarch, and a ton more powdered sugar until it held its shape a little better, and it still tasted good.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
 Added cornstarch and meringue powder to the recipe, but the flavor was still excellent. I also added more powdered sugar for stability, but I don't know if I needed to. The frosting ended up being quite substantial, perhaps too much so. (It was stiff enough that my hand ached piping it out, so, yeah, probably too much..)

Get Used to It

There's just something about a helpless baby on a blanket on the floor.  She doesn't even know that legs are for running away yet!

All smiles.

And the perfect end to any interaction-- a thumb in the mouth.

Chasing the Chickens

And looking awfully cute doing so.

Baby on Wooden Planks!

I thought I'd spice up the baby-on-a-blanket-on-the-floor posts by...get this...taking away the blanket.  Wild, I know.

My friend Rebecca is a girl of many talents, and she made this gorgeous sundress for Cadence. Gifts like this give me the urge to learn to crochet or knit, but, really, why bother if I have talented friends who do it for me?   It is perfect, all spring and ocean hues.  I snapped these pictures after we arrived home from church because this blue-eyed beauty demanded more pictures of her lying on her back.

I love how the dress looks with the button in front, even though I figure it's probably meant to be in the back.  Next time she wears it, I'll take a picture of it with the button in back, Rebecca, so you can see it both ways. :)

So pretty, babe and dress both.

Summer Mysteries

Guess which berries are ripe for the picking?

Blackcap moustaches always give it away.


It was a year ago that I last painted a doodle, so it was long overdue(dle).  What better excuse than the first birthday of the sweetest dragon baby?

A small gift for little Flora Tanager:

And another for her wise sister Sigrid Sparrow:

But truth be told, both gifts were mostly for their mother, a true soul and good friend.

This is the rough sketch I made before putting paint to paper.  I accidentally drew six fingers on that right hand.  The best part is that I didn't notice until I'd finished painting the whole thing and then had to try to erase it and cover my six-fingered tracks.  What talent!