Wednesday, January 31


Should Christmas decorations be taken down by February 1? Any social blunders that I, I mean, someone might commit in not doing so? This is a totally hypothetical question that has no connection to what is or is not still showing in my apartment. No siree. There is nothing I saw in my apartment upon coming home from work today that made me think of this post.

Tuesday, January 30

A Quiz About Me

I invite you to take this quiz about me. More random stuff. The best score so far is Meg with 4/7 right. Five people have taken it including my aunt, brother and three friends. Beat Meg!! :-) No one has gotten #5 right yet.

update: Dad scored 100%! Yay Dad!
update again: 17 people have taken the quiz...I'm so honored! I know there are more out there! haha.

Norah Jones' new album came out today. You can listen to two of her songs, one here and one at amazon with a video. I love her jazzy but mellow voice and occasionally let myself think I can sing like her (when we all know the truth).

Random Facts

1. I used to want to own a Bed & Breakfast in Oregon. I have since become conflicted though with how that would fit with honoring the Lord and resting on the Sabbath.
2. I took a personality test for a job interview a couple years ago, and the result fit the profile of one who could be a CEO. The interviewer was intrigued and subsequently surprised when I said I had little desire to progress that far. He didn't quite believe me when I said I desired to raise children instead.
3. I have my driver's license and debit card number memorized.
4. I have never baked a ham (I'm not a huge fan of ham).
5. U2 is one of my favorite bands
6. I try without success to have conversations with my [parents'] dogs. They just had a glazed look in their eyes last night when I said that Mom, Dad and Adam were going to be finally coming home from Oregon. Oh, the excitment and anticipation they could have experienced!

What are some random facts about you?

Friday, January 26

Quiz #9 Answers

Hi Readers! The answers to the recent quiz are:

1. Umbrella with raindrops (yay for Lynne!)
2. The inside of a parasol (but not the mini drink kind). I'll give credit to the four who guessed the small ones that go in drinks
(Catherine, Maureen, Lynne & Frankie) since you couldn't tell how big it was from the picture.

My parents found a home in Oregon! It is being inspected today, and they will close on it a few days after they arrive in late February. They leave Pittsburgh around February 16 or 17. Praise God for His provision of a great home for them. I've been staying with the dogs this week while they have been out there finding a house.

I added a link under Useful Links for sermons by Andrew Quigley, the pastor of Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

Friday, January 19

Photo Quiz #9

I'm running out of ideas! My photo quizzes have become less frequent...but here is a new quiz!

Wednesday, January 17

German Chocolate Cake!

My family and I loved this cake! I have never been a fan of German Chocolate Cake, but I am now with this recipe! It's from America's Test Kitchen, and they exist to test recipes, methods, equipment and products to get the best of the best (as a result, they're detailed). Here is the recipe, and below is their write-up about how and why they came up with it. There is a free video of the kitchen making the cake on the show.

The Problem: Most German chocolate cake recipes are similar, if not identical, to the one on the German's Sweet Chocolate box. Our tasters found several shortcomings in this recipe. It produced a cake that was too sweet, with chocolate flavor that was too mild, and with a texture so listless that the filling and cake together formed a soggy, sweet mush. What's more, even the bakers in the test kitchen thought the recipe, which required separately whipped egg whites and using three baking pans (the cake has three layers), was too arduous.

The Goal: We wanted a cake that was less sweet and more chocolaty than the original, but we didn't want to sacrifice the overall blend of flavors and textures that makes German chocolate cake so appealing in the first place. We also wanted a cake that was easier to make, with a more streamlined technique than the original recipe allowed.

The Solution: The first order of business was to scale back the recipe by one-quarter, which allowed us to fit the batter into two cake pans, thereby producing a cake with four thinner layers rather than three thicker layers. After testing, we discovered that the texture of the cake actually improved when we used whole eggs instead of laboriously separating the eggs, beating the whites, and folding them into the batter. We increased chocolate flavor with a combination of cocoa powder and good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. By adjusting the level and proportions of the sugar (both brown and white) and butter in the cake and filling, as well as toasting the pecans, we finished the necessary adjustments to create a definitely easier-to-make cake, with better texture and flavor than the original.

Tuesday, January 16

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

I came home at lunch today to frost my dad's German Chocolate birthday cake. Of course I got out my evidenced here. I'll post the recipe if we like it when we have it for dessert tonight. For dinner, I am making Crunchy Shrimp with Toasted Couscous and Ginger-Orange Sauce, an amazing dish that is incredibly flavorful but not heavy.

Here is some nutty footage (about 3 min) of cars sliding and colliding in Portland, Oregon earlier today. My aunt's work was closed in Salem because of the weather.

Monday, January 15

Samoa About Me

My afternoon snack of fresh papaya with a sprinkle of lime juice sparked this post. Why? You'll see. This got long, by the way.

Are there places you have traveled to that you don't particularly wish to return to but are glad you went anyway? Is that sentence even grammatically correct? There is really only one thing on that list of mine - American Samoa (map), in the South Pacific. I would love to return to all the other places (Italy, Scotland, San Antonio, CO, Oregon, etc). Well, maybe I am thinking more of big places. I'm not burning to visit Philly again. I also don't really want to return to trafficy Detriot. So forget the question, let's talk about Samoa. It's pronounced SAH-mo-ah. I am so glad I went yet would return only for a day or so to drive around the island and have another time to be really, really far away.

I never heard of Samoa before I was sent there for work at my old job in 2003. I was a rookie auditor with a small local CPA firm and got a decent break from the bitter cold of winter in Pittsburgh to travel a total of 24 hours and thousands of miles (I'll insert the miles later because Google maps says "We could not calculate driving directions between allison park, pennsylvania and american samoa." DUH. It's over water. I thought it would at least tell me how many miles it was). American Samoa is a US territory that was acquired in 1900 for Naval use because of the deep harbor that nearly cuts the main island in two. We audited the whole government of Samoa, but I wasn't regularly on the job and only took two trips. Others with whom I worked went several times a year. I was there for three weeks for my first trip in January 2003 and stayed in an awesome B&B owned by a Samoan woman and her husband who was from New Zealand. He was into sailing and taught me that at sea level, the farthest point visible on the horizon of the ocean is 12 miles away. The Fijian housekeeper showed me how to eat papaya (there's the link to papaya!), avocado, and I ate my breakfast on the balcony with an amazing view from high up and with lizards of some sort that skittered on the walls and ceilings. It was a picture-perfect retreat with ocean breezes and the knowledge that you were verrrrrrrrry far out in the Pacific Ocean. The B&B was the second of three best parts. But during the day, I worked in a stuffy government building with AC that didn't work. Sometimes the Starkist cannery smells wafted in just the right direction (90% of Starkist tuna is canned in the historical and incredibly deep harbor of Pago Pago, American Samoa). One week into my second trip, I was very ready to go home and never return. I had seen the beauty of the island and didn't care for the work.

The first best part was the raw beauty of the 77 sq. mile island, nearly 7,500 miles from home (just remembered the mileage) and about 2,200 miles from Hawaii.
We worked until 6 and the sun went down a half hour there was no time exept the weekend to explore the island. But explore, I did! I was the only woman, so I had a car to myself whilst the men shared a car (we stayed in different locations). I drove on nearly every rode I could have on one Saturday, and the south, east and west parts of the island are the only parts accessible by car. The north side would be similar to the island in Jurassic Park (minus dinosaurs) - seeming uninhabited and completely exotic and tropical with many things hidden beneath all those trees. You see, there was one place I reached that was high enough to see the ocean on the other side of the island, and all I could see was ocean and green mountains covered in jungle. It was quite a moment to consider what land that was directly south of the island...Antarctica...many, many miles). I wonder if Megan feels that way when looking south from the coast of Australia. A different part of the heavens were visible too, with stars I couldn't see from home.

There are memories I have that are only from this place and while I was really lonely being there (not only was I far away...I knew I was far away...I felt it) it was a treasure to see this part of creation and God's handiwork. There was a beach of black, round rocks. The waves would crash over them and as the waves receded, the rocks would crackle as they settled. The sound surrounded me, and it was phenominal.

The habited side had its first KFC built while I was there, across from the McDonald's. The culture is slow and Polynesian. There are stray dogs and chickens e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. People burry their deceased family members in tombs above ground, and if someone new moves in, they may have a tomb belonging to someone else in their yard! The islands themselves seem to be old volcanos that simply JUT out of the ocean from far below the surface. The road around the island weaves back and forth on this tiny ledge of land, and the cliffs above are steep and dense with trees.

The third best part was my 18-hour layover in Hawaii, particularly on my second trip. I traveled back alone and arrived in Honolulu just before sunrise. I had all day until sunset and I drove around the island in my rental, saw pineapple fields and a more populated exotic, beautiful island. The weather was so incredibly refreshing after the humidity of Samoa. Wow, was it it nice. I can still remember how the Hawaiian breezes felt.

Eating papaya takes me back there. It's pretty cool. And the above are only some of the memories of a total of 5 weeks of my life.

Sunday, January 14

Take This Quiz....

...even if you are not from Pittsburgh...just for fun! Post your answer! (Please and thank you)

My friend Meg sent it to me, and she was 100% Pittsburgh! (Hi Meg!!)

You are 89% Pittsburgh.

Great job! There's nooooo doubt about it. You're from Da Burgh. You deserve a reward, so go have an Ahrn City or two. And GO STILLERS!

How Pittsburgh Are You?

Thursday, January 11

Snow On The Car

My aunt sent me this's great!!

Tuesday, January 9

Goof on the phone (me)

Do you ever say something automatically in response to something you thought was said but really wasn't? Like 'you're welcome' when the other person didn't say thank you? I don't mean in the sense of saying it to fish for a thank just wasn't the setting or conversation where they said or needed to say thanks.

It sorta went like this:

Me: That would work fine to shift 8 hours into the next pay period
Shop manager: Ok, I'll put the hours for January 31 into Feburary, sounds good
Me: You're welcome

I did that recently and have also in the past said "Good" when greeting someone on the phone in return where I assumed they said 'How are you' but didn't really listen and have register that they didn't ask the question. What fun is life if you don't have opportunities to feel like a goof? Do you have any tales to tell?

Let's Mix It Up

Happy and sad times. The good news is that my parents sold their house after 5 months of having it on the market. Well, it's more than good news, it's great news and a wonderful answer to prayer! It's great because they have been obedient to God though they have desired to move to Oregon for 30+ years. God has opened the door for that to happen. The sad news is I will miss them and Adam and the dogs! A lot! I have lived near my family all my life and we've been through a lot together, especially last year. They are also selling the house in which I grew up. I currently live about 4 miles away. After they move, it'll be about 2,600 miles.

God leads His people at the perfect time, always, and I rest in that though I know it's ok to be sad at the same time. Yet I'm also so happy that they are seeing a desire realized. It gets me excited for holidays spent out there and being able to go to Oregon more in general and with that, seeing my aunt and grandma more. It's a beautiful state as well. This change marks the beginning of a new time in our lives and we will make new memories in their new house. I hope the dogs remember me (I think they will).

Events coming up that will be extra fun (but also sad) include the premier of "24" and my dad's birthday, all in consecutive days next week. I'm going to make his birthday dinner and birthday cake, and we'll celebrate at my place. I haven't decided what I'm making yet since I still need input from him (hi Dad!).

Thursday, January 4

Coffee Cake

I added a recipe to the side dishes link on the left for Breakfast Coffee Cake which is baking right now for the youth retreat this weekend (hence no picture). I made it for a camping trip last summer, and it went over pretty well. This time, I doubled it again (into a 9x13) and am leaving off the icing since there is enough sugar. A reviewer said it was good even without it. The icing isn't super "stable" to remain on the cake and not run into puddles if the cake isn't nice and level (which mine wasn't last time, it dipped in one area) of if you can't serve it while still warm.


This display of God's handiwork would have been incredible to see in person! The video is pretty cool but couldn't compare to watching it in the sky above that night.

Tuesday, January 2

I'm Back

I am all better and was also in Colorado for five days, related to work. I stayed longer for play and was snowed in some as well! Pics below.

Monday, January 1

German Chocolate Cake

When you assemble the cake, the filling should be cool or cold (or room temperature, at the very warmest). To be time-efficient, first make the filling, then use the refrigeration time to prepare, bake, and cool the cakes. The toasted pecans are stirred into the filling just before assembly to keep them from becoming soft and soggy.

From America's Test Kitchen

Serves 12 to 16

4 egg yolks
1 can evaporated milk (12 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (6 1/2 ounces), toasted on baking sheet in 350-degree oven until fragrant and browned, about 8 minutes

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa , sifted
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for dusting cake pans
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (about 4 3/4 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs , room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream , room temperature

See Illustrations Below: Assembling the German Chocolate Cake

1. FOR THE FILLING: Whisk yolks in medium saucepan; gradually whisk in evaporated milk. Add sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is boiling, frothy, and slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl, whisk in vanilla, then stir in coconut. Cool until just warm, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool or cold, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (Pecans are stirred in just before cake assembly.)

2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate and cocoa in small bowl; pour boiling water over and let stand to melt chocolate, about 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth; set aside until cooled to room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, spray two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high straight-sided cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Sift flour and baking soda into medium bowl or onto sheet of parchment or waxed paper.

4. In bowl of standing mixer, beat butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula halfway through. With mixer running at medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl halfway through. Beat in vanilla; increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer running at low speed, add chocolate, then increase speed to medium and beat until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl once (batter may appear broken). With mixer running at low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. After final flour addition, beat on low until just combined, then stir batter by hand with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl, to ensure that batter is homogenous (batter will be thick). Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; spread batter to edges of pans with rubber spatula and smooth surfaces.

5. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard paper rounds. Cool cakes to room temperature before filling, about 1 hour. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.)

6. TO ASSEMBLE: Stir toasted pecans into chilled filling. Set one cake on serving platter or cardboard round cut slightly smaller than cake, and second cake on work surface (or leave on wire rack). With serrated knife held so that blade is parallel with work surface, use sawing motion to cut each cake into two even layers. Starting with first cake, carefully lift off top layer and set aside. Using icing spatula, distribute about 1 cup filling evenly on cake, spreading filling to very edge of cake and leveling surface. Carefully place upper cake layer on top of filling; repeat using remaining filling and cake layers. If necessary, dust crumbs off platter; serve or refrigerate cake, covered loosely with foil, up to 4 hours (if refrigerated longer than 2 hours, let cake stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes before serving).