Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

We had a jam-packed Labor Day weekend.  We kicked it off with an evening bike ride after Clara's bath on Friday night.  I love her in her little footie pajamas.

Saturday Paul worked hard on getting the hallway closet installed and cleaning out the garage.  It is SO nice to have the new closet in because it meant I could finally clean out the office that has been a cluttered mess for months now.  We still don't have doors on the closet (because Lowes and Home Depot don't carry the specific doors we want in stock and we have to order them) so I can't fill the lower shelves of the hall closet unless I want to deal with picking everything up and reshelving it every time Clara pulls it out.  Sooo, there is a little bit that still needs to be done there, but not much. 

I spent Saturday cursing myself for my choice of Halloween costume because the particular piece of the costume I was working on was making me a little crazy.  I finally gave up and told Paul that I am never, ever sewing Halloween costumes ever again. 

Sunday I taught the Gospel Doctrine class for the first time during Sunday School and got all choked up talking about the parents of the 2,000 stripling warriors sending their sons off to war with the best teaching they could to follow their prophet and leader and how that is what parents have to do today - teach their kids as best they can before sending them out into the world knowing what those kids are going to be up against.  I was embarassed for getting a little emotional, but I actually enjoyed giving the lesson and learned a lot from those war chapters that I hadn't gleaned from them before.

In the late afternoon, after Paul and Clara had taken 2+ hour naps, we drove to Santa Cruz for a walk along the coastal cliffs.  There were some beautiful waves crashing into the rocks and sending up huge plumes of ocean spray.  It was a perfect 61 degrees and we were glad we had brought sweaters and jackets.  There were tons of surfers and sailboats to watch too, which I always love.

Monday Paul worked on another house project - installing trim around the front door - that has been on his list for a while now.  I picked up my accursed sewing project again and spent the morning picking out seams and re-pinning and re-stitching fabric correctly trying to get it to lay properly and fit my body the way it was supposed to.  I was so glad to finally get that piece of my costume done and then to put away the sewing machine, needles, and thread and clean up for our little Labor Day BBQ that we decided last minute to throw for some of the new couples in our ward. 

There has been a huge influx of new people moving into our ward and we are trying to be better about being social so it was fun to have so many new friends over for dinner.  We just grilled burgers and hot dogs and everybody else brought side dishes and desserts.  I think we had something like 14 adults and about that many kids too.  There was lots of good "getting to know you" conversation about educations, mission experiences, how people met and where they are from, etc.  The newliest wed couple just got married back in May and moved here from Provo and I think that Paul and I might have been married second longest out of everybody there (since for some reason I am thinking that the Rowlands got married six months before we did). 

So many babies.  And I love these ladies.

Paul did an excellent job manning the grill.
Clara went all patriotic.  Is that appropriate for Labor Day?

This little guy is soooo sweet and cuddly.  I got to hold him for quite a while and he fell asleep against my shoulder and I confess that I just love him.

The steps and the sliding screen door were a big hit with the toddler crowd.  We might need to do something about this step because it actually is a bigger drop than it probably should be and Paul and I have to watch Clara like a hawk to make sure she doesn't attempt the vertical distance on her own.

Clara loved having a party in our backyard.  She played and played with all the kids, crawling through the fabric tunnels that we set up on the grass, riding in the car (this little guy was so sweet to push her around and around and around), and running back and forth.  Clara is also a little mooch and would grab any sippy cup she could get her hands on or eat watermelon off of plates or out of the many small offering hands who were willing to share.  The funniest though was when Clara noticed that somebody had set a plate of chocolate cake on the concrete - I had my back turned in conversation at the time and when I glanced around Clara was sitting there holding a fork and devouring - absolutely devouring - the slice of cake making "mmmmm" sounds. 

It was amazing cake though, if I do say so myself.  The cake was from the "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey" cookbook and the chocolate buttercream frosting was from a recipe I found online.  Sorry to keep posting recipes on this blog (I don't know if they make the blog boring or not) but I often find myself wondering about past succesful foods I have made and not knowing where I found the recipe and this blog is my one consistent place for finding a record of my life so I will probably continue to post food-related things here and there.

Devil's Food Cake (slightly modified from the recipe in "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey")

1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 ounces semisweet or bitter-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 1 semisweet square and 3 unsweetened squares because I didn't want an overly sweet chocolate cake and there is already a lot of sugar in this cake)
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (or about 10 seconds in the microwave)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups cake flour (or just 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup of cornstarch - or just use regular flour and the cake will turn out delicious either way)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.  I should have cut out circles of parchment paper to go in the bottom of my cake pans but didn't out of laziness and regretted it because my cakes stuck a little. 

Combine cocoa powder and chocolate in a large bowl.  Pour in the boiling water and stir until the chocolate is melted, then stir in the vanilla.  Let the mixture cool a little bit before stirring in the buttermilk. 

In another bowl, beat the butter and oil together.  Add the sugars and beat until creamy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  (Important step, in my opinion - don't skip.)

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add half of the flour mixture to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture, beating on low spead just until combined.  Beat in half of the chocolate-buttermilk mixture until combined, then the rest of the flour mixture, then the other half of the chocolate-buttermilk mixture, scraping sides of the bowl in between alternate wet and dry mixtures. 

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans, then bake 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine took around 28-29 minutes and I would recommend watching them closely because with homemade cake you absolutely do not want to overcook it or it will turn out dry.  Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (from http://savorysweetlife.com)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (but NOT MELTED!  Seriously, 10-12 seconds in the microwave is enough)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt (if using salted butter, I would reduce this to 1/4 tsp salt)
2 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp almond extract
4 Tbsp milk or cream (I used whole milk because we had some on hand)

Cream butter for a few minutes using an electric mixer, then add powdered sugar and cocoa powder and turn mixer back on on the lowest speed to combine.  Then increase mixer speed to medium and add salt, vanilla or almond extract and milk or cream.  For a softer frosting, increase the milk by small increments (I ultimately probably used more like 4 1/2 Tbsp because I was worried that if the frosting wasn't soft enough my cake would crumble too much when I went to frost it).  Beat frosting for three minutes, then frost cooled cake.  Make enough to very generously frost a two-layer cake. 

Incidentally, there is another cholate frosting recipe from the same website that I would like to try:  http://savorysweetlife.com/2009/08/simply-glorious-chocolate-ganache-recipe-3-ways/.

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