Birthday Celebrations


Last weekend we celebrated my Sweetie’s birthday. I had one idea for his cake, but he wasn’t to excited about it, so he gave me some ideas of what he would like. Basically some different cakes I’ve made for him other years. I decided to combine a couple of ideas into one… and add a new one.

I decided to take the “easy” route…haha! Every time I pick the easy choice, something goes wrong to make it stressful…and NOT easy!

I bought an Angel Food Cake, and made a Chocolate Malt Icing, (instead of making my Chocolate Malt Cake). I used my Sweetie’s aunt’s trusted Buttercream Icing recipe, and added cocoa powder and malt powder to it. Yummy!!










After a full morning of running slides for both services at church, we met up with family and heading out for steak at Tahoe Joe’s, topped off by a slice of their AMAZING Ski Jump Chocolate Ganache Cake! split 5 ways! Then home for gifts, a slide show of 1/3 of our European photos and this cake with Tillamook’s Udderly Chocolate ice cream (still known as Brown Cow to me). Ironically, I now eat Brown Cow maple yogurt, and I feel like a traitor, since they’re the reason Tillamook changed the name!!



Then I tried this adorable idea for Meringue Mushrooms from Criottes Pallette Culinaire. My Sweetie LOVES meringue! And this is where the troubles began! I should have just used my own recipe, but I didn’t feel like digging it out. Oh, but it would have saved me so much trouble and work. Meringue is a bit persnickety, but still easy, unless you use this recipe…and it’s a very muggy day.


They looked BEAUTIFUL! But they were too sticky to work with, so I put them in the oven overnight. The benefits of a gas oven that is always slightly warm.  They were dried out enough in the morning to work with, and I came up with a toothpick trick that helped. But when I packed everything up to transport to the in-law’s, their kitchen was so warm that the beautiful mushrooms melted so much I was only able to salvage 4 for decorating the cake. 4 is better than none!


Not a perfect result, but doable, and he was happy with the cake, but not the stress I encountered. He was even understanding when I said I just couldn’t bear to add anymore red to the mushroom tops, so they were sort of pink. Understanding husbands are great!


I also added sprinkles around the base of the cake to act as grass and daisies. There would have been mushrooms interspersed in the grass if more had survived. And I noticed afterward a couple of spots not quite covered by the icing…oops!



I scattered some pop rocks around because we were 70’s kids! My sister-in-law thought the cake reminded her of my phone case! :>

Here’s the yummy icing recipe:

Chocolate Malt Buttercream Icing

3 cups icing sugar

1/3 cup softened butter, unsalted is better

1-3 Tbl heated milk

(1 tsp vanilla, if you’re making a vanilla buttercream)

1 heaping Tbl cocoa powder

1 heaping Tbl malt powder

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and enjoy!

Happy Birthday Sweetie!!



Book Review: A Simple Change


Photo Credit: Bethany House

I recently became a book reviewer for Bethany House Publishers, yay! A book lover receiving free books and reviewing them? Sign me up!! I couldn’t have done this before I had a blog, so God’s perfect timing is once again, well…PERFECT. In a few weeks I even get to preview the brand new Beverly Lewis book. She’s my FAVORITE author!! Squee!!

Every month they send me an email with a few different books to choose from. Sometimes it’s hard to choose just one! :> But when I got the last one, I thought I’d picked one, only to see the BL one have my choice made for me. Then a follow up email said I could choose 2 this month! I’m getting them both!

This is like joining a book-of-the-month club where I choose the book. I may need more bookshelves for these new books. but I prefer physical books I can hold on my hand to e-books, although they are an option.

Now…to the book: A Simple Change by Judith Miller

I’ve read some of her books before, but don’t really remember how well I liked them, so this was starting fresh. Also, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the Amana Colonies. And that means I haven’t read her previous books on the topic, including the first in this series. They seem to have some similarities to Quakers.

The basic premise is, a young woman’s life is uprooted when her mother’s illness draws her parents back to their Middle Amana Colony for what may be her final days. They had previously left because they did not want to observe the practice of being separated for a year before they could be married. (I thought this part should have been explored a bit more. There wasn’t really much at all about this experience or how it affected their lives, leaving their families and everything they had known).  Their daughter Jancy must choose between the life she’s always known, including teaching at an orphanage and a possible marriage, and an unknown new life if she follows her parents to Middle Amana, either temporarily or permanently.

I loved Jancy’s devotion to her parents and the way she sees that some things are more important than what we want for ourselves. She never wavers in this! She’s very loyal, trustworthy and upstanding. I also liked the mystery aspect of the story. Beverly Lewis does this a lot, and I think it is one of the things people love about her books. The mystery and intrigue really bring depth to the story, and the “outsiders” help give opportunities to teach us about the ways of the colonies. Mysteries, as long as they aren’t TOO stressful, always bring excitement to a story and give our brains a workout.

That said, some of the explaining of their rules and ways still seemed a bit clunky and over-explained.  I feel like her writing style is similar to Wanda Brunstetter’s, which I’ve finally figured out is just not my personality style. A bit too stiff and overexplain-y for me, but still my second favorite Amish author, after Beverly Lewis, who writes in EXACTLY my style. I like books to read the way real people talk to each other, not as if we’re being taught something. It’s fiction, not non-fiction.

I was also disappointed that there wasn’t a Gospel message in the book, and nothing that helped people see the difference between a works-based religion as we see here, and a true, born again Christianity as the Bible teaches. This is a HUGE problem for me.  How can I root for Jancy to stay in the colonies when no one reads or studies the Bible or shows any evidence of following Christ? They don’t even have Bibles in the colonies in a language the people can read. I expect, and should expect, a Christian novel to have a clear message about what it means to repent of our sins, follow Christ and live a Godly life!

A good storyline and interesting characters, although we needed to know more about the parent’s past. I enjoyed the book and would read others by her and about this religion, but sharing the gospel and dispelling confusion about what Christianity is, is too important to ignore.  I care  too much about people and their eternal lives to ignore it.

“Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Acts 2:38

Happy Reading!!


Ireland: Day 6 – The Wedding!


Our 6th day was spent at the WEDDING, the reason we planned this fabulous trip!! Isn’t the bride just LOVELY?!! And the proud Mum and Dada right by her side. :>

Buckle up, Irish weddings are LONG! I kept warning Steve and Leta that it was going to be a long, but fun day!

Sweet flowers on the ends of the pews made by the sister of the bride:


It’s a wedding, time for a hat:


Brother-in-law on Irish flute and niece on harp:




More awww:


The party, lifelong friend and sister of the the bride:


I adore the look on mum’s face here. I am blessed to be treated like family by these people:



Becoming one:


We all scramble for photos of the new bride and groom:


My lookalike:


Giving instructions for the next stage of the celebrations:


Whoo Hoo! It’s reunion time!


Off to the farm for tea:


Proof that my hair did not fair well while I was there. Oh well, they look great:


Friends, together again:


The Girley gang (from the town of Girley):


Together 18 years later. It meant so much to me that they all kept saying to me, “Welcome home!” Exactly!


What could she be thinking?


Everyone loves a sweets bar:


A stack of Bodhrans  for the Causey Farm business they run:


We were the only ones around for the getaway (to the hotel):



I didn’t get any great photos at the hotel reception…



We were so privileged to be a part of this joyous day with our dear friends! When the bride invited us soon after becoming engaged a year earlier, we were determined to make the trip happen! It was great motivation to plan another visit after 12 years!

Such a fun day…even if we did leave “early” after 13 1/2 hours!! It was only 2:30 in the morning, after all.  ;>

And…the Instagram view:









A fun time was had by all!

Recipe Exchange: Breakfast Shepherd’s Pie


I didn’t intend to put Modest Mondays and the Old Fashioned Recipe Exchange on hold this long, but after our European trip, I’ve had a lot to catch up on, and MANY photos to share.

But I decided to throw in a recipe this week. I’ve missed them!!! Although, it looks like Little House on the Prairie isn’t doing the Recipe Exchange. At least right now, I’ll have to look into that…

I have a LOVE of breakfast food. And if a meal can include hash browns, all the better! Mmmmm! The beauty of this recipe is that everything is ALWAYS ready to eat at the same time! It looks better if you leave the as they fall like in the above photo. But I don’t like them uncooked in any way, so I swirled them around, and covered them so everything would be completely cooked through. You can make them to your own preference, that’s one of the joys of cooking!!




Breakfast Shepherd’s Pie:


4  bacon strips, cooked and chopped (I buy it already cooked)

1/2 package (10 ounces)  shredded hashbrown potatoes

5 eggs

1 Tbl butter



1/2 cup  shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Melt butter in skillet and add hashbrowns. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and allow to cook uncovered on medium heat until the bottom is brown and crispy. About 10 minutes.
  2. Turn potatoes. With the back of a spoon, make 5 evenly spaced wells in the potato mixture. Sprinkle with the bacon and cheese and more salt and pepper, if desired. Break one egg into each well, break yolks and swirl with whites. (Sometimes the yolks break on their own like the second time I made it).
  3. Cook, covered, on medium-low for 10 or 15 minutes or until eggs are set and potatoes are tender and crispy on the bottom.

Enjoy a new breakfast idea!!

Jesse Wilcox Smith~ On His Knee


Living Proverbs 31


Ireland: Day 5 – Visit at Drewstown


One of my favorite days happened on our 5th day, because I got to have a nice, long visit with my friend Susie. Yay! She also brought her little boy, David with her, and Steve and Leta entertained him so we could visit for a while, before they headed off to Newgrange (which I had already seen) and we went for a walk around the lovely lake. This trip began with friends in mind, and I knew I would gladly give up some sight seeing for some special visiting time. I knew there would be time for both, and I couldn’t wait to see my old friends!

Here’s are a couple of scenes captured by cousin Leta while I visited with his mum:


She said, “I loved listening to his rain song with his Irish accent.” ;>







So we had a lovely day of visiting, and Steve and Leta got to meet her before heading off on their own adventure. Susie and David came over to the flat we were staying in at Drewstown and we had tea, then walked around the lovely lake through the woods. David had a blast exploring EVERYTHING along the way! :> Drewstown House began in 1745 as a manor house, then became an orphanage, then a school and now a Christian camp. The current director grew up in the orphanage and school, and became the director a few months before I arrived in 1994. It’s a peaceful, beautiful spot in the countryside of County Meath.




Here’s one of the gates to the Walled Garden, or as the kids liked to call it, the Secret Garden. It’s really just a walled in field, but seems magical from the outside. :>



Someone photobombed my photo!





The house:


The resident swans:


The house behind a tree curtain:




Meanwhile…over at Newgrange:

(Oops, I accidentally posted this photo yesterday). Look at that green!!



Even burial grounds are filled with interesting architecture in the old world!





Here’s another one by Leta:







So much fun being in one of my favorite places and visiting with an old friend!!

Ireland: Day 4 – Bray and Glendalough


FINALLY! Another Ireland post! Today, I’m talking about my favorite Irish beach town and beautiful Glendalough, green and gorgeous! The above photo is from the lovely, carsick Wicklow mountains drive. So much GREEN!

First stop, Dublin for a rental car, as the van we were borrowing broke down. Then we head south to the lovely Bray for a cool and breezy beach visit.



Interesting scroll work:


Isn’t it beautiful?


So much interesting architecture:






I LOVE fun fences like this:



It was hazy, but I loved this cross on the hill:


Next we ate at Poppy’s:

The next 4 are iphone photos:











More Poppy’s fun:


The display of food:


Shepherd’s pie for me:


And…across the street:


Why, hello Leta!


So cute:



Now off to Glendalough in the Wicklow mountains:



4 more iPhone photos:














Back to real camera:









And the same exit with my phone:





I’ve changed!


I find flowers wherever I go:



Another Hollywood in the Wicklow mountains:




My mother’s maiden name showed up several times:


So much Irish beauty!

A Shady Date at Cerro Alto

DSCN7650I ADORE tree tunnels! I’m far behind on blogging posts, but here’s a glimpse of our wonderful shady date last Sunday! People kept telling us about the Cerro Alto campground for shady walks and hikes, and we finally decided it was time to see for ourselves! It cost us $5 to get in, but it was so great to walk as much as you want without it having to be in the sun. I didn’t even mind that there were also patches of sun, because there was plenty of shade. It’s really hard to find shady places to walk here, and I only know of two other spots, so this was a great find! And I wasn’t allergic to the pine trees and their wonderful scent!! IMG_1633 Our day started with a great church service. Then we met up with my visiting father-in-law for lunch at the Wee Shack. Then we were off on our date!! IMG_1636 I loved this use of big rocks for decorating the campground! IMG_1640 This was a lot greener in real life! DSCN7625 Reminds me of my favorite twilight-time views! DSCN7635 A pretty leaf curtain! The colors were already changing. I think we’ll have to go back in a month or so for some Autumn colors, something I’ve really missed since we moved here! DSCN7624 DSCN7618 This was so much greener than it seems here! I just sat and drank it in for a few minutes. I can’t wait to see this place in March, our rainy month!! DSCN7643 This one was for my Sweetie! He loves wildlife! ;> DSCN7648 I LOVE stone walls! DSCN7610 A twisty, odd, cool looking tree! DSCN7613 One of the trails. Reminds me of some of our favorite trails in Oregon! DSCN7653 My Sweetie on the trail bridge! IMG_1658 I think this may be our first “selfie” photo! IMG_1656 A frosty mug of yummy refreshment! As I’ve said before, we think it’s important to date each other regularly. It’s something we committed to early on, and we do! It may not end up happening EVERY week, but most weeks we do take time out to spend together, because we recognize how important a healthy marriage is!   Thank you for the date idea Sweetie!



Living Proverbs 31