Monday, August 31, 2009

By request

Several people asked after the recipe for Audrey's cake, so here it is. The first time I made it was a couple years ago, a sort of hybrid of about three different recipes, plus some tweaking all my own (like adding the zest to both cake and frosting).

Of course, I didn't have any yesterday but my taste-testers swear it's light, with just the right amount of tartness, and is super-moist... Mmmmmmmm... (and it's already gone, just 24 hours later!)

Audrey's Lemon Birthday Cake

1 18.25-oz. package yellow cake mix
1 4.3-oz. package instant lemon pudding mix
1¾ c water
3 egg whites (or two eggs)
Juice and zest of one lemon

½ c shortening
¼ c butter
¼ c milk
1 t vanilla extract
4-5 c confectioners' sugar
Juice and zest of one lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 10x15 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix together cake mix and pudding mix. Pour in water and egg whites. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and beat for 4 minutes. Pour batter into prepared 10x15 inch pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
4. With an electric mixer blend all frosting ingredients until mixed. Frost cooled cake. Store cake covered with plastic wrap in refrigerator.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I wanted to keep Audrey's birthday party low-key because let's face it, plying a two year-old with all the sugar in cake and ice cream is crazy enough without any additional over-stimulation. At the same time, it was important to me to celebrate how much it means and how grateful we are that she's here, with us, for this birthday. So this morning I helped her put on her favorite dress, then I made sure she had a good nap (even if it meant I had to rock her to sleep in order to seal the deal, which I did), and while she slept I whipped up a yummy lemon cake.

Even though she actually turns two tomorrow, we had a small party this evening with just family and a few close friends. My mom and baby sister Meredith drove over from Seattle for dinner and the party, and then Jim's folks and his youngest sister Anna were here, along with her husband her son. My dear friend Gretchen came, too, with her husband and two sweet boys, and snapped the fun shot of me gettin' some sugar from the birthday girl.

Happy birthday, dear Audrey. I'm so blessed to be your mother.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Picking up the spare

We started back to school last Wednesday, and just one week into first grade we're already hitting a bumpy patch. As challenging as it is, I'm glad I'm the one teaching Jimmy because we have the one-on-one time and the latitude with our curriculum to take as long as we need to work out the snags.

This afternoon we did a math lesson. I've been using Saxon Math, which I really like because it utilizes hands-on manipulatives and a variety of other tools that engage Jimmy's very tactile learning style. Along with whatever concept is being introduced, each lesson in the second grade workbook has a fact sheet, and each fact sheet has twenty-five problems, which the student has one minute to solve as many of as possible. Jimmy absolutely loathes the fact sheets because he hasn't been able to solve all the problems in a minute, and often doesn't even finish half of them.

I wish I could say it was my fault he's such a perfectionist, but I don't believe it's entirely a learned behavior. Too bad, because then there would be some hope that he could be de-programmed from my terrible example by exposure to a more effective role model, or possibly some day in the future when he's got enough money to throw at therapy. I do honestly think Jimmy came hardwired that way (like both his father and I did), and let's face it: with the two of us as parents, he didn't stand a chance in the genetic crap shoot. The good news is, while we're both still wrestling to overcome our own perfectionism, Jim and I are aware that we struggle with it, and are hoping we can talk openly with Jimmy about our own challenges as we try to guide him to find his own healthy ways to cope.

During this afternoon's obligatory fact sheet, Jimmy only finished eight out of twenty-five problems and promptly imploded. Math was our last subject, so I suggested we stop where we were and be done for the day, then corralled him over to the couch for a chat. I told him that I really understood how he was feeling, being angry about not doing a perfect job, and not wanting to even try again because he couldn't do as well as he wanted.

Jimmy responds well to analogies, so after he had calmed down, I told him about what a terrible bowler I am, and that I used to be really grouchy about bowling because I was so bad at it. I didn't want to belabor my point too much but I told him that for me, bowling a strike was like getting a math problem right, while throwing a gutter ball was like getting a problem wrong. He got excited about the bowling metaphor, because he's quite good at bowling, and said, "Well, next time we go bowling, I could help you, Mom."

I said, "That's great. The thing is, on your worksheet, you still bowled more strikes than gutter balls--you just didn't finish bowling every frame." He was quiet for a minute and then he said, "Yeah. And you know what picking up the spare is? That's when I get a problem wrong, and I go back and make it right."

I love homeschool. Because I always get schooled, too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

And the winner is...

...after a highly scientific selection process (me writing your names on scraps of paper and choosing one with my eyes closed)...


I'll get the relish in the mail this week; it will be winging its way to Munich soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Almost like it never happened

I snapped this last night before I went to bed. I've been meaning to take pictures of Audrey to keep track of how her healing has progressed, but it's been hard to catch her sitting still long enough to get a good shot.

It feels a bit crazy to me that tomorrow she will have been home a whole week. Especially when the signs of her injuries are fading so fast. You can still see the shiner on her right eye, but it's a pale shadow of the spectacular swollen-shut black and purple it was a week ago. She still has some small bruises and marks from the IVs and blood draws, but they're practically gone. And that shiny pink spot on her forehead above her right eye is where she had a bloody scrape the size of a silver dollar, crowning off a goose egg the size of, well, a goose egg. The very last of the scab peeled off yesterday morning, and the swelling is almost completely gone.

What won't fade so quickly is the mark this has left on me, the enduring impression of thanks to everyone who has held Audrey in their hearts and prayers, and above all to my Heavenly Father, who is a God of miracles today and forever.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Relish giveaway extended

I'm extending the deadline a full week to midnight of August 23rd.

Because I feel like after all I've been blessed with over the past few days, I want to give (even just a little bit) to someone else.

And because I will probably need a whole week to pull myself together and figure out where I stashed the bubble wrap.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Audrey is home

Audrey was discharged from Harborview Medical Center shortly before 1 p.m. She's doing very well, but we'll be keeping her pretty quiet for the next three weeks, per the doctor's orders.

Thanks one and all for your prayers and support. The extension of faith and the love shown for Audrey from family, friends, and so many people we don't even know is deeply humbling, and means more than we can ever articulate. We pray that God will bless each of you for what you have done to help our family.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Update #2 on Audrey

Dear Family and Friends,

Audrey continues to make great progress; earlier this evening she graduated from the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to a regular pediatric wing. The swelling on her forehead and eyelid have gone down considerably, and her liver is healing well, too. The surgeons seem optimistic we will be able to take her home some time tomorrow. Jim came over to the hospital today, and is staying with Audrey tonight so I can sleep in a real bed at my mom's place.

Thank you again for your prayers and support. They mean so much to us and we have seen their power in a very tangible way, both as a strength to us, and healing for Audrey.

Jim, Katie, Jimmy and Audrey

Update on Audrey

Dear Family and Friends,

I finally got internet access this morning and wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support and prayers.

In case you haven’t heard many details, our daughter Audrey had an accident when we were playing at a friend’s home Tuesday morning. She fell from a second-story window about 12 feet onto a cement driveway. From what we could tell, she landed on her right side and hit her head hard, which resulted in a large bump above her right eye and some scrapes and bruises on her right elbow and fingers. She was conscious when we found her, just a minute after we heard her scream, and as far as I know, she didn’t ever lose consciousness. In the past I've joked about Audrey someday being our "sky-diving bungee jumper", but I never dreamed she'd start so soon--and without a parachute!

She sustained a small fracture in the skull above her right eye (which had only the tiniest amount of internal bleeding) and a contusion (rather than a laceration, as originally thought) to her liver, for which the internal bleeding has seemed to be well contained. The EMTs took us to the ER at KVCH in Ellensburg, and within a couple hours we were transferred by ambulance to Harborview in Seattle . The team of neurosurgeons who have consulted on her head injury have expressed the opinion that it should heal quickly and leave no permanent damage at all. The surgeons who are monitoring the condition of her liver are saying that she is progressing steadily and they are hopeful she will not require surgery but are being very cautious to watch her hematocrit (liver enzyme) levels for signs of any additional internal bleeding. I think I can speak for Jim, too, when I say we are just so grateful that her injuries weren’t any worse.

Audrey seems to be recovering extremely well; she’s been very brave, resilient and easygoing, considering how overwhelming this experience must be for her. Yesterday I could see progress on almost an hourly basis, from the time she woke me up when I overheard her chatting up the nurse. She spent the day reading stories, looking at books, remarking on what she saw out the window, and enjoying our visitors.

We are still at Harborview Hospital in Seattle, and based on what the surgeons told me this morning, I anticipate we will be here again tonight and probably going home tomorrow. We’ve had the best care possible from all the medical professionals who have helped Audrey: EMTs, nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff have without fail been skilled and compassionate, and we are so grateful for everything they’ve done.

Again, thank you for your outpouring of love and support. Our family has felt the calming and healing influence of the prayers on our behalf, lifting and strengthening us, even though many of you are far away. We are so grateful for each of you!

Jim, Katie, Jimmy and Audrey

Monday, August 10, 2009

Relish giveaway

I've never done a giveaway on my blog before, but it's always seemed like a fun idea when I've seen other bloggers do it. Since I'm up to my elbows in this yummy relish (which we tried today on hotdogs for lunch and it is just as tasty as I remember), I want to share some of the freshly home-canned lovin'.

Make a comment on this post sometime before midnight of Sunday August 16th, and I'll randomly select someone to receive one pint of juicy zucchini goodness. Winner to be announced Monday August 17th.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Nana's zucchini relish

One summer when I was a teenager, my Nana (or maybe it was my mom, using Nana's recipe) put up several quarts of zucchini relish. I remember running down to the dark hall shelves in the basement, grabbing a jar, then popping it open to have on burgers, hotdogs, even in tuna salad. Looking back, I'm surprised I liked it as much as I did, as I've never been a big fan of sweet pickles or relishes—but this stuff was delicious.

A few years before she passed away, Jim and I were up visiting Nana at her home on San Juan Island, and I remembered to ask her for the recipe, since I had recently started canning. She rummaged around but couldn't find it. A few months later I got a note in the mail in her typically brief style, which had the recipe attached.

I've never had zucchini plants of my own, but each year when one friend or another offloads some of her bounteous harvest, I dig around for Nana's recipe, with about as much luck as she had trying to find it when I asked. It usually turns up some time in the winter or spring, when canning season is long gone, and I tuck it in a spot I'm sure I will remember for next year.

So this summer, when my friend Gretchen gave me a couple enormous zucchini, I started trying to find the recipe again. It took me a few days, but I finally found it. (And yes, I've already forgotten where I had it stashed.) Here it is, transcribed for clarification, and easy cutting and pasting:

Nana's Zucchini Relish

7-8 medium zucchini (washed)
4 large onions
3 large stalks celery
1/2 cup pickling salt
3 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
2-1/2 teaspoons celery seed
2-1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
2-1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1) Cut vegetables into 1/4 inch cubes. Add pickling salt, cover and let stand in refrigerator overnight. Drain in colander. Rinse under cold running water to remove salt.

2) In large kettle, combine sugar, vinegar and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for two minutes. Add vegetables. Remove kettle from heat, let stand for 2 hours (I actually cooked the mixture for 20 minutes and skipped letting it stand, which seemed to work just as well and saved some time.) Return liquid to boil and simmer 5 minutes.

3) Spoon relish into clean jars and seal with lids in a water bath. Process for 10 minutes. Makes about 4 pints.

The plan was for me and Gretchen to get together and make relish at her place, but we didn't manage to connect, and I went ahead and made the relish tonight so I could use those gargantuan zucchinis before they went south. Gretchen, if you're reading this, now that I've test-driven the recipe, we should definitely get together and make some more.

I used my nana's recipe as the basis, with a few alterations. Her recipe called for 7-8 medium zucchini, but since I had two very large zucchini, I approximated by using 10 cups of ground zucchini and 2 cups ground yellow summer squash. I used the grinder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, which worked fine on the zucchini and squash, and saved me some prep time. For some extra color, I added red and green bell peppers (one of each). I had mediocre results using the grinder on the peppers, and it didn't work well at all for the onions or celery so I chopped them by hand. I also added two tablespoons of cornstarch to help the relish set up.

I found the recipe with these modifications actually made about 9 pints. GOOD.

Ah, Nana, I miss you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Died and gone to heaven

For the past two days we've been in Seattle for a mini-vacay. Most of the places we went were specifically for the kids: the Children's Museum at Seattle Center; Ivar's on the waterfront, so they could feed fries to the seagulls. Yesterday we visited the Seattle Art Museum, which currently has a small exhibit of Andrew Wyeth paintings. And while I could lie and say this was for the purpose of exposing Jimmy and Audrey to art, well... that's simply not true.

Jim was the one who suggested it; he knows how much I love Wyeth, and that I haven't seen any of his paintings since the summer after my senior year in high school when I visited the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, with my Nana. We went through the exhibit once all together, and then Jim very sweetly offered to corral the kids off to the children's play area so I could go back for a second, longer look at the paintings.

It would be the height of presumption to compare my poetry to Wyeth's paintings, but as I was looking through the exhibit, it felt like a physical manifestation of the way I like to write: framing portraits of places I've been, people I love with as much realism and detail as I can. It was like being in a religious shrine for me, and I could have easily spent the entire afternoon drinking in the stark magnificence of just those seven paintings. But oh, what paintings:

If I had to pick favorites (which is difficult), I loved Braids and Cape Coat best. It was all about the details for me: how Wyeth painted light on the texture of a gray sweater in Braids by using so many different colors other than just shades of gray. How the edges of the watercolor paper for Cape Coat were torn and spindled, and the painting bled off the very edges, yet the brush strokes around the face, the buttons on the coat, were so crisp and sharp. I love how all his paintings somehow manage to juxtapose movement with stillness, capture passion lurking below the surface of something quiet. Love it.

Then, as I was leaving the exhibit, my eye returned to the photo of Wyeth at the entrance, and a quote printed on the wall next to it. And I admit I whipped out my camera and snapped a very illegal photo (just of the quote) because I didn't have a pen and paper to write it down:

Really, I think one's art goes only as far and as deep as your love goes. I don't paint these hills around Chadds Ford because they are better than the hills somewhere else. It's that I was born here, lived here—things have meaning for me.

Saturday, August 01, 2009