Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Mocha Cake

I wouldn't have thought anyone could beat my mom's chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, but when we were in North Carolina one of the ladies made this cake. The mild coffee flavor enhances the chocolate perfectly.

I came home and immediately made this cake for my family. 

This photo was taken right before I enjoyed the last piece. SO good.

Mocha Cake

1 ¾ c. flour
2 cup sugar
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan or two 9 inch round cake pans.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl. In another bowl combine all wet ingredients except coffee. Mix wet and dry ingredients together on low speed, then add coffee until just combined.

Pour batter in greased pan (or pans) and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pans for 30 minutes then gently remove and place on cooling racks till cooled completely.

Mocha Frosting

6 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 sticks butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder

Melt chocolate. Beat butter until fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla. On low speed gradually add the powdered sugar. Dissolve the coffee powder in a small amount of very hot tap water. Slowly add chocolate and coffee to butter mixture until blended. Spread immediately on cool cake.

Some of you might not like the idea of eating raw egg. Just let out the egg yolk. It will turn out fine without.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Off the Shelf

Most of the books I read are middle-grade fiction that I'm pre-reading for my children, but here are a few adult books that I read (and loved) this winter. 

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The Lake House by Kate Morton
read almost no adult fiction. I feel like I don't have time to read fiction when there is so much nonfiction that I want to read. Plus I tend to lose sleep when I'm reading a good fiction story. But occasionally, I like to pick up a well-written fiction. And The Lake House was worth it. 

This book begins in the 1920's when a child disappeared from a sea-side estate then jumps to 2003 when a detective is researching this cold case. The child's sisters are now elderly ladies who think they know what happened those many years ago, but soon they learn that there is much they didn't know. 

I love a detective story that keeps me guessing "who dun it " the whole way through. Morton is a master at characterization and each character seemed real to me. There is a very small amount of profanity and a mention of adultery in the book, but not in a sensual manner. 

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction
by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
I like to read a good writing book at least once a year. This book was written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author and his editor. The two of them worked together for decades, and I loved listening to their writing and editing process. Unlike many writing books, this one didn't contain questionable excerpts to wade through. Highly recommended for any writer.

Ed and I started this nonfiction audio on our trips to the city for his doctor appointments, but then we finished listening to them with the whole family and my boys couldn't get enough. 

I'm not even interested in space travel, but Rocket Men held my attention until the very end. This is a great example of nonfiction story-telling. It contained some profanity (direct quotes) that I wish the author would have omitted, but not bad enough that I couldn't let my children listen.

And an extra because I can't quit talking to my friends about this book...

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
I think this was my favorite book I read last year. It might have even landed on my top-ten books list. 

Okay for Now is listed as a middle-grade novel though I would recommend it for teens or older. Schmidt nails perfectly the voice of Doug, a struggling teen who has just moved to The Dump in a stupid town in northern New York. I rooted for Doug as he makes new friends and discovered hidden abilities. I finished the story in awe of how the author put me into the head of a troubled teenager in a dysfunctional home. 

Okay For Now is an example of how what the author doesn't tell you is as important as what he does tell you. I could give examples, but then I might give too much away. And I really want you to read this book. (There is a small amount of romance including a quick kiss.) 

This book would be perfect for anyone who works with troubled teens, especially teachers. It is set in 1969 (think the Space Race and Vietnam War) and masterfully combines John James Audubon's paintings. I finished this book with a longing that every book was written this well. Okay for Now is a sequel to Wednesday Wars, but can be read alone. But, if you enjoy one, you'll want to read them both.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I Know Whom I Have Believed

When your husband is told he has aggressive brain cancer, life changes. Plans change. Your dreams change from imagining growing old to hoping we can enjoy Christmas.

You begin to be thankful for a smile across the table, a warm hug, holding hands on a walk around the yard.

It has been almost two yeas since Ed was diagnosed with GBM. By some reports, only 5% of GBM patients survive two years. We are grateful God gave us many good months with Ed. But no amount of time will never feel like enough. It is hard to know that Ed's future life on earth is likely to be counted by months.

Lunch at the Clinical Center

Our visits with Ed's doctors have confirmed our suspicion. Since this is the third progression of Ed's tumor, he has limited medical options. We can try more treatment, but it is doubtful that it will extend Ed's life by more than a few months. Please pray for us as we make decisions.

(Just a note, please don't send us information on an alternative medical treatment that you have read about online. I've spent untold hours researching brain cancer, so it is not likely you'll tell me anything new.)

In the meantime, we are enjoying glimpses of spring. Last week was lovely with warmer temperatures, and we all tried to soak in some sunshine.

Now the weather is cold again and spring feels a long way away.

I'm glad for a few forsythia branches that I brought into the house to force into bloom. They give me hope that spring is coming soon.

My sister gave us her piano since our old piano had some broken keys. We are enjoying making music again.

A new piano prompted a reorganization of some other furniture, which gave us room for a new...well....I'll save that for another post.

A song that has been playing through my head recently is based on 2 Timothy 1. This chapter has so many great verses. Here is a few excerpts.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord... 
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus...
Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel...
For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:7-12)

I Know Whom I Have Believed
by David W. Whittle

  1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace
    To me He hath made known,
    Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
    Redeemed me for His own.
    • Refrain:
      But “I know Whom I have believed,
      And am persuaded that He is able
      To keep that which I’ve committed
      Unto Him against that day.”
  2. I know not how this saving faith
    To me He did impart,
    Nor how believing in His Word
    Wrought peace within my heart.
  3. I know not how the Spirit moves,
    Convincing men of sin,
    Revealing Jesus through the Word,
    Creating faith in Him.
  4. I know not what of good or ill
    May be reserved for me,
    Of weary ways or golden days,
    Before His face I see.
  5. I know not when my Lord may come,
    At night or noonday fair,
    Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
    Or meet Him in the air.

You can listen to the hymn below. (If reading by email, click over to the blog.)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

See The Conqueror

Several of you have asked if we have support.

We do. We feel supported in both practical ways and through prayers and encouragement.

I'll give this week as an example. We have revival meetings at our church this week. My family set up a schedule (without me asking) for someone to stay with Ed each evening so the rest of us could attend church.

Several people brought meals this week, in fact, we were given so many meals that some had to be frozen. Since November, my freezer has never run out of meals. For months I have cooked only when I felt like it. If I feel busy or Ed had a appointment, I go to the freezer and decide if I'm hungry for soup, lasagna, or chicken/rice casserole. Meals might be the way that Mennonites show love best. For a  mom going through a stressful time, having meals prepared is a huge blessing.

Sometimes I feel almost guilty. I have friends who are going through difficult times. They need support as much as I do, maybe more. But since their needs are quieter, they are not the getting meals, cards, and gifts of cash that we are.

I'm glad not everyone has bold needs like a husband with brain cancer. But I hope that I can be one who supports others who have pain that no one talks about at prayer meeting.

This week our family's needs felt large. Since Ed has been declining, his doctor decided to push up his MRI. Because of a cancellation, we were able to get his MRI quickly. The MRI showed that Ed's tumor is now growing in a new area of his brain.

I wasn't shocked; Ed's symptoms had to be caused by something. But I had held onto hope that there would be a different cause. Something easily fixable. Now that hope is gone.

This is the third time we've received news of tumor progression. In some ways it gets harder each time since Ed's options for treatment are dwindling. Glioblastoma tends to adapt and morph into new forms. Ed's specific form of GBM is super aggressive. We are so thankful that treatment has given Ed more time than the average, but we sure wish the statistics were not stacked against him.

Which is why I was grateful for the services this week. Revival week is always busy, and because of appointments we were not able to go every night. But each of the services were a blessing. To hear the Word of God, to hear the Truth applied to our everyday lives, and to be reminded of Hope in Jesus is soul strengthening.

I find myself being drawn to hymns that remind me of God's glory. The first night we sang See The Conqueror Mounts in Triumph. These words tell of Christ's power over sin and the grave.

See the Conqueror Mounts In Triumph

By Christopher Wordsworth
Hymns of the Church #260

See, the Conqueror mounts in triumph; See the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds, His chariot, To His heavenly palace gate.
Hark! the choirs of angel voices Joyful alleluias sing,
And the portals high are lifted To receive their heavenly King.

Who is this that comes in glory, With the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies, He has gained the victory.

He who on the cross did suffer, He who from the grave arose,
He has vanquished sin and Satan, He by death has spoiled His foes.

He has raised our human nature In the clouds to God’s right hand;
There we sit in heavenly places, There with Him in glory stand:

Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in Thine ascension We by faith behold our own.

Glory be to God the Father, glory be to God the Son,
Dying, risen, ascending for us, Who the heavenly realm has won;

Glory to the Holy Spirit, To one God in persons Three;
Glory both in earth and heaven, Glory, endless glory, be.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

No Separation

Despite my fear of sounding cliche, I'll say that I can hardly believe we are in March already. It doesn't feel much like spring with the snow that has been falling the past week. I appreciate the beauty, but I long for daffodils.

Beginning a new month makes me do the math. It will soon be two years since Ed was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. It is almost exactly one year since Ed's second brain surgery and our optimism of new treatment options. Four months have passed since Ed was doing so poorly last November. Our wonderful Christmas is now over two months past. 

Right now, our days are hard. Ed cognitive function continues to decline. Every week he is more tired, more confused, and more unbalanced. Every-day life and Ed's care take more time and energy as we try to keep him safe. 

The children and I try to include Ed in our family life. He can't play a game with the older children, but he can toss a ball to the younger ones. He can't read stories to the children, but he enjoys listening to their schoolwork. He can still enjoy singing and laughing around the table. 

We are asked often why Ed is feeling worse. We don't know. It could be that his tumor is growing and putting pressure on his brain. (I'm dreading his next MRI.)  Maybe he is experiencing side affects from radiation or having affects from his medication changes. His doctors and therapists are trying to figure out ways to help him feel better. 

Even though Ed is doing worse, I'm doing better emotionally than last November. This may be because I've gotten rid of some other life stress, but it also may be that I'm more emotionally prepared and accepting of Ed's health decline. 

Or maybe it is simply that so many of you are praying for us. I feel so humbled by your love when I get an email that one of you woke up at 4 a.m. and prayed for me. You all have sent gifts, casseroles, cards, and so much love. 

Last week this Blessing Box appeared at my door - a whole collection of handmade body products and a packet of verse cards.

I know how easy it is to pray for someone for a while, but when a situation lasts for months and years, other prayer requests push to the front of my mind. Thank you for still remembering us.

Unlike last fall when I could barely concentrate beyond the next minute and meals felt burdensome, I've been flipping through cooking magazines and trying new recipes. It is a joy to awaken this side of me again.

I've also tackled some home projects like repainting our kitchen cabinets. They are badly showing the years of wear. My boys tore out an awkward corner of the cabinets, and my dad helped build a new shelf and doors to make the space more usable. Yesterday my sister spent a couple hours helping clean and paint the doors and already the kitchen looks so much brighter.

I don't usually enjoy podcasts unless they are super-edited since I weary of the conversational pauses. I'd rather just read a well-edited book or skim a blog post for information. But since I have more time on the road, I've started listening to Dana White's podcast  "A Slob Come Clean." My house hasn't looked too bad in the stress of the last months, thanks to habits and my children's help. But I feel like the house is starting to ravel around the edges. Dana White's perspective on de-cluttering and cleaning has been the inspiration I've needed.

But sometimes worry that I'm throwing myself into projects - de-cluttering, new recipes, fun books, editing projects - to avoid thinking. It probably is part of my coping strategy - focus on what I can change since what I want to change, I can't. But I don't want to deny my present circumstances in an unhealthy way.

Sometimes I envy Ed's complete peace. From the very first, he had confidence that whether in life or death, sickness or health, God was caring for us and all would be well. It may be a gift from God that his cognitive decline means that it doesn't bother him that he needs so much help. I'm glad that he just expects life to go on, the taxes to get paid, the children to be cared for, without his input. On the days when the burden feels heavy, I remember verses like these.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 37-39


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