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Archive for September, 2011

Banana Nutella Cake

Cake Ingredients

3 Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

Make the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready three 8-inch round nonstick cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs and mix until well blended. With the mixer set to low, add a little bit of the flour mixture at a time, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla, mixing just until smooth. Use a spatula to gently fold in the mashed bananas.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the three cake pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Set the layers aside to cool completely in the pans before frosting the cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 Stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
To make the frosting, use a mixer to cream the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until fully combined and smooth. With the mixer set on the lowest speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, mixing until it is completely incorporated and the frosting is smooth.
Filling and Decoration
2 Cups Nutella (you’ll need two 13-ounce jars).
Frost each layer with Nutella (you won’t use it all) and stack them. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the top and sides. Using a piping bag with a 12 – or 14- mm tip, pipe five concentric circles of Nutella around the top of the cake, starting with a small one in the center and increasing the size of the circles as you work your way out. Run a butter knife from the center outward, across the top of the frosting, alternating with scores in teh opposite direction (outer circle to the center) until you have gone around the cake.
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Bathroom Renovation

In 2007, when we bought our house, one of the things I said was a must-do was a bathroom re-do. Well, we all know that bathroom renovations are often complicated, time consuming, inconvenient, and expensive!! Nonetheless, it was one of the only things that I really didn’t like about our house.

Initially, I painted it a nice warm and bright color, Periwinkle Dusk (you can find it at Home Depot in their Behr paint line). That helped ease my discomfort with the bathroom.

What was the problem with the room, the layout was ALL WRONG. The tub/shower combo was taking up so much space that it left room for an itty bitty sink and toilet. I knew if the layout was different, then there could be SO MUCH more room in there.

Our neighbor, Frank, is a contractor and he does AWESOME work! I came up with a layout for the bathroom and I asked Aaron if we could just ask Frank to give us a quote. Aaron agreed (I’m sure he now wishes he could take that back!). 🙂

The four things I knew would make this work or not were:

  1. Could he even do what I wanted done
  2. How long would it take
  3. Of course, how much it would cost
  4. Could Frank and his team do it during the middle of August while we are away
Frank came over and did a quick run through.
  1. He said he COULD do what I wanted, which actually kind of shocked me because the toilet needed to be moved over about 40 inches. So, number 1 – ✔
  2. He said it would only take 10 days….I was like, o.k. 2 weeks at least! But still, totally doable. Especially if we could arrange to have most of it done while we were away. So, number 2 – ✔
  3. This was the one I was most concerned about. While I’m not going to give you an exact amount, mainly to protect Frank, just know he gave us an AMAZING deal! Basically he was willing to just do the whole thing for the cost of materials. I was floored. So, number 3 – ✔
  4. Yes, they could do it the middle of August. Mind you, it was the middle of July when we got the green light. So, number 4 – ✔
Now, with all of this information, I was like “Aaron, we can’t pass this up. This is such a good deal.” But, I had to get my butt in gear and order all the things we would need.
Since I already had basically everything picked out, I just had to place all the orders and pray that everything would come in, in time.
Now, Frank said it would take 10 days, I was thinking “there’s no way.”
Well, we left on Saturday and his team started working. They don’t work on Sundays. I’ll have you know that by the following Saturday, when we were to return to DC, the bathroom was COMPLETE!!! It only took them 7 DAYS!!! Unbelievable!
Now for the reveal:
BEFORE
Old, flooring that’s crumbling. A floor that is slopped so much that we could’ve had a slip-n-slide party in there!
Our itty bitty sink with a lot of rust!
Our toilet. Notice the placement of it…and then where it moves to. Moving a toilet, from what I understand, is one of the most complicated things to do in a bathroom.
Please bathroom genie, bring me a new bathroom!
DURING THE RENOVATION
The bathroom…..exposed. This is showing how the toilet is being moved over.
Of course, in order to move the toilet, they had to cut a MAJOR hole in our kitchen ceiling. No biggie. We couldn’t even tell it had happened when we returned home!
Things are happening!
While I really enjoyed the Periwinkle Dusk, it was time for a change. You’ll notice that we went with exposed brick, which I LOVE! Exposed brick is definitely the thing to do in the city!
AFTER
Welcome to our new bathroom!
I really wanted the pedestal tub, even though I knew that it works best to have a pedestal tub if you can have a separate shower. Nonetheless, we went with this interesting design. It takes working out a few logistical details to make it work, but it is AWESOME!
This is how the curtain looks when you are taking a shower. It’s actually kind of cool.
I kept the periwinkle in the towels and the rugs. Love, love, love the exposed brick.
We now have an adult size vanity!!! So exciting.
Hope you enjoyed the tour. For those who have stayed as guests in our house, take note, you can now close and easily lock the door! Sometimes it’s the little things!

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My New ‘Do

Over the last 19 years I have been growing my hair. Up until that point, it was super short, like shave the back of my neck short.

I’ve had it various lengths over the last 19 years, but when I saw the above picture from Elijah’s Birthday party, I was like “something’s gotta give!” OR better yet, “Maybe it’s my turn to give.”

I decided this past Sunday (9/11/11) to get it all cut off. And today, I did! I was really hoping I could donate my hair to Locks of Love, but I wasn’t sure of all the ins and outs of that.

I’ve been wanting to get a cut for a while that is called a “swing bob.” I think Victoria Beckham made it popular. It’s a bob cut where the front is longer than the back. Of course, with curly hair it’s a little more difficult to pull this look off, but I was bound and determined.

So, without thinking about it too much, I made an appointment with a salon here that specializes in curly hair! A-MA-ZING!

Before I left, Aaron wanted to take some “before” pictures. I was really thankful Aaron was on board with it. After I showed him the picture from Elijah’s party, he was like, “yeah, it’s time for an update.” Which is the polite way of saying, “your hair is too long and not very stylish!”

BEFORE

I didn’t really plan on it, but I have the same dress on that I wore to Elijah’s party.

When I showed up to Fiddleheads, the salon, and told the stylist what I wanted to do, she said you can totally donate your hair. So, we started our time together binding my hair up. Then, in about 3 seconds, she cut it all off, all 10.5 inches.

It was SO exciting. Then she went at it, cutting it dry, like any good curly hair stylist would! And Vicky, my new stylist, gave me the look I’ve been wanting for a while. It felt SO GOOD!

When I left Fiddleheads, I couldn’t wait to call Aaron and tell him how excited I was. When I got home, he took these “after” photos.

AFTER

What can I say, I LOVE IT!  It’s just so much fun!

And on top of it all, I get to donate my hair. It is all packaged up and ready to mail to Locks of Love, which is an awesome organization!

What a great day!

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Labor Day in the park

As a family we love to go to the various parks in and around DC.

This past Labor Day we decided to go to Haynes Point. It’s got two great playgrounds (to keep things interesting). It’s flat (for Elijah’s new bike riding adventures). It’s surrounded by water (which makes me happy).

It was a great time! Here are a few pictures of Natalie and I enjoying the beautiful day!

She loves this position! The Bjorn is one of her favorite things!

Such a happy baby, when she’s not in pain! I can’t believe she’s 4.5 months old!

He adoption will be finalized on Monday, Oct. 3rd at 2PM. Please pray that everything goes well.

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First Day of Preschool

This year we played the lottery…and won!

Indeed, we played the public charter school lottery and Elijah got into our 1st preschool choice, Appletree Public Charter School (our second choice overall – E.L. Haynes was our ultimate first choice because it is one of the best Charter Schools in DC and it is Preschool through High School)….and it’s FREE!!!

Elijah has done fantastic! He had a rough first two days, which I guess is to be expected, but he LOVES school and has done fantastic.

Here we are just out front of our house. Our neighbors who attend our church and love Elijah, came over to throw Elijah a First Day of School party, with balloons and all! Then they stayed behind with Natalie so that Aaron and I could take Elijah to school with just the three of us.

The school is only 4 blocks from our house, on our same street. So, most days we walk to school.

We were examining the schedule so that we could see what Elijah would be doing during the day!

Then it was time for Mommy to leave….there were definitely tears. Once we left, Elijah lost his breakfast. It was one of three incidents he would have that day. Therefore when we picked him up….

…he was wearing an adult size shirt because he’d already gone through the two changes of clothes that I sent! Kind of hilarious!

To commemorate Elijah’s first day of school, we decided to take him to his favorite restaurant – Chick-fil-a! This is an “I’m satisfied” picture after we’d already eaten.

Natalie was also pretty excited about going to Chick-fil-a. She’s realized if she’s going to be in this family, she must LOVE Chick-fil-a too!

Justin’s part of our family as well, so we brought him along for the celebration! Elijah loves Justin!

This is a common image as we are seen leaving school each day. Elijah’s wearing his Thomas the Train backpack (thanks Aunt Emily) and Natalie, which you can’t see, is in the Bjorn. Elijah talks the entire way home about his day, leaving out no details! (and we thought he’d never start talking! 🙂

I feel extremely blessed to have such a wonderful family!

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Elijah’s Third Birthday

This year we celebrated Elijah’s third Birthday, on his actual Birthday, Tuesday, August 30th. Aaron wanted to throw the party at the community center park. Our church uses this park and space a lot for outreach type events. Elijah and I use this space as a place to play in lieu of a backyard.

So, here we go on a Tuesday evening, 6PM, the second week of school. We invited several from our church who have some kind of relationship to Elijah and we invited his whole preschool class. We had a decent crowd with several kids, 4 from his class came plus one of his teachers! He hasn’t stopped talking about it.

Thomas the Train was the theme. I spent the day making over 50 cupcakes for the party (thank goodness Jess Renya Worthington was around to help). It was a Thomas the Train extravaganza!

Elijah loves party hats and insisted we have party hats for his Birthday celebration!

We had to get a little creative as to where to hang stuff

I was pleased by the diversity of our group. Of course that’s the nature of the city, but it’s easy to surround yourself with people who look just like you!

I’m pretty sure Elijah ate about 15 pieces of pizza. Every time I turned around he was eating more! Good thing we ordered 12 pizzas!

Here’s a sampling of the cupcakes I made. I was going to get really creative and make more authentic Thomas the Train cupcakes and then I realized that attempting would be completely out of control….so, I opted for Thomas the Train Cupcake rings in each cupcake.

Once again, getting creative with where we hung things, Aaron climbed up and hung the Pinata from the water fountain in the park.

It worked great! Elijah was super excited to take a big stick and hit something….only one problem.

We quickly learned that we had not put the candy in the correct location. See, up until about 2 hours before the party, we thought the pinata already had candy in it. Aaron had to quickly run to Target, get some candy and stuffed it in the only place he saw. Apparently that was the wrong place. So….

Aaron had to offer some pretty big help, by basically pouring the candy out for all the kids.

Another situation that I just wasn’t prepared for, which after doing urban ministry in Boston for 5 years, I totally should have been prepared for, was all the unsupervised kids who hang out at the community center after school crashing attending our party. Again, I was thankful I made so many cupcakes and had ordered 12 pizzas, every last crumb was gone. Several children in the picture above are kids who basically invited themselves to the party. Gotta hand it to them, at least they’re assertive! 🙂

While this picture depicts me have a fun, carefree time at the party, it was a bit overwhelming. Especially managing all the neighborhood kids that I didn’t expect.

However, all in all everyone had a great time! I couldn’t believe all the positive responses I received.

More than anything, Elijah had a BLAST and hasn’t stopped talking about his Birthday party. He loved every minute of it!

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Remembering 9/11 – ten years later

It was 5:30AM on a Tuesday morning. My roommate and her fiance’ drove me to San Francisco International Airport. I was headed to Richmond, VA for some interviews to do a 2 year missionary stint in Paris, France. The interviews were more a formality….I knew I was headed to France in a few short months.

On the ride to the airport, we were listening to Alice 97.3 (my roommate Sandra, reminded me of this in her blog post remembering the day). All I remember about the radio is that the DJ had just said a plane flew into the World Trade Center in NYC. We all thought it was just a small two seater plane that didn’t know how to navigate the NYC skyline. I asked Shorel, Sandra’s fiance’ to please change the station because I didn’t want to hear about planes crashing before I was getting ready to fly. So, Shorel switched to classical music.

When we pulled up at the airport, security was hurrying people along. I had to rush and get my bags and quickly say goodbye to Sandra. When I walked in there were lines of people everywhere and it was silent. It was surreal. I joined everyone else and got in line to check in.

When I got to the ticket counter, I asked the agent what we were supposed to do.

She said, “All flights have been grounded today, so we are booking flights for tomorrow.”

I asked, “what is happening?”

She said, “Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and we just had a plane go down in Pennsylvania.”

I said, “Are these commercial planes?”

She said, “Yes”

I said, “Are they being….”

She mouthed the words, “HIJACKED

I said, “Oh my gosh! I don’t want to fly tomorrow or the next day.”

She went ahead and booked my flight anyway.

After I left the desk, I looked for a pay phone (didn’t own a cell phone yet). No pay phones were available. There were lines for use of the phones. I decided I might have a greater chance if I went to baggage claim. Indeed. There were several pay phones available.

I decided to call home. My dad answered the phone. He told me what was happening and told me that the mission agency called, the interviews had been cancelled. He told me just to go back to the seminary. And so, I did.

I got on a bus back to school, which was usually quite sparse.  Today it was packed. I sat next to next to a nice man from Philly. He was trying to get back home to his 5 week old daughter. He was a musician and we bonded. He even gave me a copy of his band’s CD, John Faye Power Trip. Coincidentally, we were getting off at the same stop, so his friend offered me a ride up the hill to my school. I was grateful for the kindness of strangers.

When I got to school, people came running towards me. They were all so worried about me not knowing if my flight had already left before the days’ events began. We all stayed glued to the TV that morning, Classes were cancelled for the day.

Of course it was a somber for everyone. I remember going to the grocery store and feeling like everyone I encountered that day had had a similar experience. That cancelled flight and the day’s events changed the course of my life forever.

On Thursday of that week I received a call from John Ramirez, Director of College Ministry in New England. He asked me if I had made any decisions about my future beyond seminary. I told him of my week and how my plans had changed. He wanted to bring me up to New England for an interview and to check out the opportunities he had for me there….less than a month later, I was on a plane to Boston to see about a future as a campus minister in New England.

Most of you know how the story ended. I served for two years in Worcester, MA as a campus minister. It was during this time that I met Aaron and we then got married.

9/11 changed my life forever. I never fulfilled the calling to serve in Europe, and I may never have that chance. However, I do know that God has me exactly where he wants me and I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful children all because my path was changed.

Interestingly enough, I thought I might try and look up John Faye today on Facebook. Sure enough, ten years later, I found him! We are now facebook friends and have reminisced about that day together.

Thankful that God can take tragedy and make something good out of it!

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