Chocolate Chip Amaretto Cake

IMG_0884Hi there– Every Monday a whole raft of girl friends come through the front door.  They don’t knock, just come in, set their stuff down and make themselves at home.  We’ve been at it together for about 15 years now.  We’ve told all our stories and prayed with each other through crazy children, major illnesses, job upheavals, marital woes.  We’ve celebrated kid’s weddings, new grandkids, photo worthy vacations, new homes…  There’s pretty much not anything we can’t say to each other.

And when they come in, I like to give them cake. With a mug of tea.  It gets us going.  Here’s last Monday night’s cake of the week…


1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
5 eggs
2 tab. amaretto
1/4 cup cream (or whole milk)
2  1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unflavored yogurt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. amaretto
1/2 tsp. cream or milk


In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, oil, eggs, amaretto and cream.  Then whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally stir in the yogurt and chocolate chips.

Stir just until it’s all blended and spoon it into a bundt pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Set it into a 325 degree oven and bake about 1 hour — just until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool before you invert it out onto a plate.

Then whisk together the powdered sugar, amaretto and cream.  You can add  a couple more drops of milk if you need to, until it’s the right consistency to drizzle onto the cake.  Be careful– it’s so easy to add to much milk!

P.S. — The cake in the photos is just half a recipe, since I don’t have a real honest to goodness bundt pan, just this little mini one.  But the recipe is for a standard bundt pan, which I’ll bet most of you do have at hand.


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Chili Tilapia with Avocado Relish

Hi all– This is just another example of “everything tastes better with avocado.”  The spicy chili tilapia has just enough spice and the smooth avocado sets it off just fine.  With a bright salad and a hearty chunk of bread it’s a quick dinner on the table.  Hope you like it as much as we did…

1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tilapia filets
1 tab. olive oil
1 avocado, cut into small chunks
1 tab. red onion, chopped fine
1 tab. red pepper, chopped fine
garlic salt to taste

Mix the chili powder, salt and cumin together in a shallow dish.  Heat the oil in a pan.  Dredge the tilapia into the chili mixture on both sides and cook it in the hot pan for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the fish). Remove from the pan and keep it warm on a plate in a low oven.

Gently stir together the avocado, red onion, pepper and garlic salt in a bowl.  Set out the fish and top it with the avocado.  Serve up warm.

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Spring Break Chicago!

DSC02154Hey there– Back from the best kind of spring break– not balmy beaches and swimming pools, but blustery days out and about in Chicago.  Trekked back with a college friend, Jenon, to stay with my Lovable Laurel of the blue and purple hair.  It was grand!

P.S.– I apologize in advance for any “photo fatigue” you may endure here– so many pictures– I couldn’t narrow it down!  (just skim!)

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DSC01970     DSC01986Our first morning we headed downtown to study our way through the Art Institute.  The monumental building welcomed us in and we set off toward the European paintings with loads of happy anticipation–favorites:  architectural details along the Grand Staircase,  “Meekness” one of series from the Beatitudes by by Eustache Sueur (French), the American folk art collection and this more modern take on “The Annunciation” by George Hitchcock (American)

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11088556_10100959968986450_7808233584593343123_nIn the afternoon we scurried through the chill of Millennium Park (the Bean!) and across downtown, stopping midway for a restoring cup of hot tea.  Here’s our mandatory reflection in the bean photo– we’re the 3 jolly gals in the middle!

DSC02036     DSC02039We did a little grocery shopping at Eataly (Mario Batali’s super amazing Italian grocers/eating spot) and at the local Mariano’s for soup ingredients.  Grocery shopping–one of my favorite indoor sports!

DSC02050    DSC02052    DSC02055. We started the next day with a Swedish Ann Sather’s breakfast and then strolled next door to the Swedish American Museum– checking up on Jenon’s Scandinavian roots!

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Of course we squeezed a little shopping– to the Four Corners Print shop to pick up a Chicago skyline print for Laurel– and into the fanciest Walgreens installed in an old Chicago banking building.


DSC02106     DSC02109One soggy morning, we found ourselves in the (slightly drippy) Garfield Park Conservatory– an immense glasshouse, built in 1908 and chock full of lush vegetation, secret pathways and the brightest blooms.  Loved it!

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DSC02114     DSC02119One of my favorite stops was at the historic Romanesque Glessner House, built in 1886, by architect Henry Richardson.  It’s on Prairie Street, once home to Chicago’s elite, and is filled with original Arts & Crafts movement furnishings of the Glessner family.  So grand to pretend we were guests in this exquisite house–  ((last photo: Laurel and I examining Mrs. Glessner’s dressing table.)


DSC02147     DSC02146And we spent a fishy afternoon gaping at all the creatures in the Shedd aquarium.  Personal favorites– the sea turtle and the otters.

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DSC02192     DSC02176Next stop, the Lincoln Park Zoo.  One of those beautiful older zoos–the lion house is a classic.   And it’s free.  That just feels like a friendly thing to do– welcoming people in to say hi to the animals without even standing in line for a ticket.


And finally we topped off our trip at the Chicago History Museum– It’s one of my favorite stops in a new city– to get a real sense of the place.  They had exhibits from Fort Dearborn, the Chicago Fire, and architecture and pop culture.  Big fun. Here is the Water Tower that escaped the Chicago Fire and Laurel pointing out her neighborhood on the map.

DSC01938     DSC02237And, of course, there was plenty of eating involved– Laurel and John know how to pick the most intriguing places to sit down to a meal.  (and I do have to include the scrumptious Nicoise  salad tuna melt).  But I’ll save most of all that eating that for another post…

Thanks bunches Jenon and Laurel for all the fine times out and about in Chicago.  xoxo!



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Apple Custard Cake

DSC01558APPLE CUSTARD CAKE– This is a recipe adapted from Dorie Granspan’s  famous Paris kitchen.  She says it’s a recipe she keeps in her pocket to make on the spur of the moment.  All ingredients you probably have on hand and it’s creamy and custardy– just the best kind of old fashioned cake.

3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla
6 tab. whole milk (or half & half)
2 tab. butter, melted
powdered sugar to shift on top as you serve it

In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and salt for 2 minutes until it turns a pale yellow.  Stir in the vanilla, milk and butter.  Then whisk in the flour and baking powder.

Fold in the apples until every slice is coated with batter and then turn it all out into a 9″ or 10″ cake or tart pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  It will be bumpy and lumpy.  Just smooth it out the best you can.

Bake it up at 400 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until it’s beautifully golden on top.  Dust it with powdered sugar through a sieve just as you’re ready to serve it.  It’s delicious still warm and always better with a mound of whipped cream at it’s side.

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Hello there–


Hi Blog Friends–
I don’t know if you’ve noticed I’ve absent around here.   It’s been a complicated month, but I think we’re out of the woods–a medical blip, so many surgeries and people to care for.  It’s been a good chance to stop and think through how to spend my days.

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”      – John Burroughs

We have a friend, John,  who decided to count his days.  Literally, he figured the lifetime average age for men and counted how many days he had potentially left to live.  He filled a large jar with pebbles the matched the number of his remaining days, and then each morning he takes out a pebble to remind himself to use his days well.  You might think it sounds morbid, but I love the idea– a real reminder to value each day and to use it wisely.

I’ve been thinking about days.  At this point in life, there is so so much I want to do still.   And there are a long list of people that I want to take care of, quilts to sew up for the family, a garden to tend, meals to share with friends, books to read, times to sit quiet before God…

So I’m happily back to blogging, keeping my little online scrapbook, but will do it just about once or twice a week.  Hopefully that will help me fill my days well, like our friend John.

I love what my favorite blogger Shannon Martin wrote about why she blogs:

“It was to remember. To memorialize the days that might all bleed into each other, if I let them. It was to make sense of what my heart thinks.”  

P.S.  Shannon’s a young mom who blogs about family, faith and “hot boots.” You can find her incredible, worthwhile blog at Flower Patch Farm Girl

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Back in Ojai!

Sun setting off the back porch in at Micah and Jodi house

Hello friends–  So happy to say that Jodi and the 3 grand-girls are back from China!!  Been missing them all 4!  So today we trundled up to Ojai for welcome home hugs and a little birthday cake for Jodi.  Loved the sweet time together.

Out and about in Ojai– trying out the new Sushi restaurant in town–a grand-girl favorite.

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And back home there was some awesome double rainbow watching and a little soggy puddle jumping.  Things are never dull with the grand-girls back– Love those lively, lovable  girls.

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Faith in Things Unseen

Hi all– Been thinking so much about faith in these days–with so many friends facing difficult times, and seeing God’s goodness to them through it. It makes faith all the more precious, even more sustaining.

So I looked in the front fly leaf of my old Bible.  This is what I have written there….

st-augustine1“Faith is living for what you do not see–the reward of faith is seeing what you believe.”  
— St Augustine (340-403 A.D.)  Early Christian theologian, bishop and writer.

“Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the assurance of things unseen.”  Hebrews 11:11

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen in temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  I Corinthians 4:18

The older I am, the more real and true and dear these thoughts are to me.  My faith is is in that I can not see, but in it, I have a real and true hope.  So thankful.

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