Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Lisa Meets Annie (Or: The Chocolate Extravaganza Cake)

I want chocolate cake, he said...  Surprise me, he said..  So I ventured out to get a new, perfect chocolate cake recipe for my amazing hubby's birthday.  The wonderful Lisa from The Meaning Of Me was kind enough to share not only one but two of her family's favorite chocolate cake recipes. I used one of them, tweaked it a little (as I usually do, driving poor hubby insane), and added tons and tons of chocolate. The design I stole from Annie over at Annie's Eats, and of course was not nearly as skillful as she is (my cakes would ALWAYS be at the "Nailed it" sections of the Pinterest meme). Hubby still loved it (even though he did not recognize Jack Skellington - and I didn't want to push the issue), and it tasted wonderful.

Meet: the Chocolate Extravaganza Cake (i.e. chocolate cake with chocolate cream filling, chocolate sprinkles, and a double-chocolate frosting)

(c) Life, Unexpectedly

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Pre-heat the oven at 350°; line a round cake pan with baking paper and lightly grease the sides.
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time and mix in well.
Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl.
Add to sugar mixture, alternating with buttermilk.
Fill batter in prepared pan and bake at 350° for about 20 - 30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake cools, prepare the chocolate cream:

1 pack of non-cooking chocolate pudding mix
1 cup of whipping cream

Beat whipping cream. Prepare pudding according to instructions on the pack, using about 1/3 less milk. Fold in cream into the pudding.

Cut the top off the cake and slightly hollow out the middle. Spread cream on the cake and top with a generous layer of dark chocolate sprinkles. Put the top back.

Melt about 6-7 oz of dark chocolate and pour over the cake, letting excess chocolate run over the sides of the cake. Wait until the chocolate has cooled off and hardened. Then melt about 3 oz white chocolate and pour a circle on top of the dark chocolate. Decorate with black food coloring, melted dark chocolate, or dark chocolate sprinkles.


PS: Hubby mentioned that there could have been a little more chocolate. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, SIR!!!!   :-)

PPS: I have entered the Chocolate Bread recipe I've shared a while ago for the Great Denby Cake Off. Wish me luck!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time For A Change

I've always wanted to have long hair. Maybe it's a remnant from my childhood trauma. Never EVER ask me to share pictures of myself between the ages of 2 and 8!!  My mom had the idea that keeping my hair short will make it grow thicker (tip: it did not work!!).

Last year, I therefore decided to finally start the project "long hair" and started to let it grow out. Big mistake! I realized, I'm not the person for long hair and it will have to go. But first, I will need to find the perfect hair dresser for me. I usually just went to the inexpensive places to have my ends trimmed, or just cut off a few centimeters. But this time I want it done right. I want a cut that I love, not something that is alright.  To find out what I may like, I turned to my favorite time machine (aka Pinterest), and that's what I came up with:

Classic Short Bob Haircut for Thin Hair

Bob Haircuts For Fine Hair


Marion Cotillard Frisur

What do you think?  A little longer or a little shorter? Blonde or brown?  I'm still so undecided..

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (71)

Ten Things of Thankful

Does that sometimes happen to you: You get up in the morning, start your routine, check your appointments for the day, just to find out 10 minutes later that it is not Friday, as you thought but only Thursday.  It somehow threw off my entire day, and it wasn't even 8am yet. Luckily, I've caught myself again; just need to remember now to change the clock in the right direction tonight!

1. A wonderful long fall walk with the entire family. We walked all the way to the next town and had a snack at the bakery there. It was perfect t-shirt weather, but I could feel just the crispness of fall in the air. We have had a wonderful fall so far, and this is something to be thankful for as well.

2. Staying dry. This Wednesday, we had near constant cold rain all day long, and this was also the day Richard needed to car to get to his German class. Luckily for me, the rain stopped just when it was time for me to pick up Violet from kindergarten and we got home without getting soaked. And just as Lily was walking in the door coming home from school, the rain started again.

3. Spending about half an hour gazing into Calvin's biiiig baby eyes, holding his hand and touching his face. He had been asleep but woke up again and was in that really calm and alert state for a while. He almost drifted off a couple of time, but eventually became fuzzy, so I picked him up and cuddled him back to sleep.

4.  A beyond beautiful fall morning. There was very dense fog when I drove shopping with Calvin in the morning, and on the way back home, the first rays of sun pierced through the fog and illuminating the beautiful fall leaves. It was so magical. Of course, I did not have a camera with me, and even if I had, I'm not nearly skilled enough with it to capture a moment like that. So I simply enjoyed it for what it was.

5. Lily being confident enough to stand up for herself against the majority of the class and her teacher. With another friend, who is an atheist as well, she is standing up against the pressure, remains seated during morning prayer and refuses to sing religious songs. Two other atheist girls have sadly caved, one after being bullied by a christian kid in class. Hopefully, we will be able to be successful eventually and ban prayer and religious songs from the regular classes where they simply have no place.

6. A long, long nap with Calvin today. After a somewhat restless night with all three kids joining us in our bed at various times of the night, I went down again for a nap around 11ish, and didn't emerge again until 2:30.

7. Hubby playing another concert in early December. I can never get enough from watching him perform on stage!

8. Lily being on her fall break. She was so excited on Friday to have her first school holidays. On Thursday, she crafted a card for her teacher to wish her a fun fall holiday, it was so sweet. Still, Lily said that she was missing school already.

9. A very, very good friend confirming he's going to come visit us from the U.S. in early spring. He's hands-down Lily's favorite uncle, which is the reason why we're not telling her about his visit yet; but we know she'll be beyond excited!!

10. Enough food on our tables, a warm bed tonight, everyone in our family safe and sound. I am thankful for these every day, but with so many conflicts going on and wave after wave of refugees flooding into Germany, I felt that it was important to spell those out again.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why The Hate??

Soooo, there's a new Doctor. It happens, we all know that (at least those who have bothered to watch the show). For some reason (which I did not know about until yesterday), Peter Capaldi seems to polarize - and I don't get it.

I started to watch Doctor Who when it came back in 2005 - with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor. He was The Doctor for only one season and was then replaced by David Tennant. Not being used to the concept of the main person changing like that, it was hard for me (I cried a little inside), but I became attached to the new actor pretty quickly (my favorite Doctor so far, to be honest).

The next switch, to Matt Smith, was not too traumatic for me anymore, even though I missed David Tennant a little.  And quite honestly, I was looking forward to this new change to Peter Capaldi very much. It felt as if Matt Smith had played The Doctor for one season too long.

The first half hour or so of the new season's first episode I wasn't sure. I was a little annoyed with The Doctor's whining about his older appearance; I could imagine if I was as old as The Doctor, I would not care about looks any more. But then hubby made the point that with the shell, also the personality changes a little. And quite honestly, I came to really like Pater Capaldi's Doctor, being a little like a confused genious. And I certainly love his interaction with Clara.

So why do people hate Peter Capaldi, or who are the people who hate him?  Is the Matt Smith fan girl community running beserk?  The only group of people I could imagine going to such lengths (and making a "Keep Calm" meme about it) are fan girls, and this is not what Doctor Who is about, in my opinion. The Doctor is not meant to be a sex symbol; thus, having a Doctor who will be not followed by a bunch of hysteric girls feels a little refreshing to me.

I'm looking forward to see the rest of the season, and - of course - look forward to your opinion. Fellow Whovian Susannah:  What do you think now??

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Favorite Fall Recipes - Fall-Flavored Chocolate Bread

 UPDATE: I have submitted this recipe to the Great Denby Cake Off!! Wish me luck  :-)

This is so awesome, I want to eat it all the time. A while ago, I found this recipe for a double-chocolate banana bread, and loved it (like everything double-chocolate really). But to be honest, I have tons of banana bread recipes already, and with fall being in full swing, I am more into fall flavors these days. Which left me one afternoon with time on hand (i.e. Calvin napping and the girls enjoying their daily quiet time), some home-made apple sauce from my trip to the semi-public apple tree, and a sprinkle of creativity to create my fall-flavored chocolate bread.  Yum is all I can say!

(c) Life, Unexpectedly

1-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (if you use sweetened apple sauce, reduce sugar accordingly)
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 - 2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 heaping Tbs. cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate sprinkles

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour a loaf pan.
Mix applesauce, butter, sugar, and maple syrup; add egg and stir well.
Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamin, and salt ; mix in until just combined.
Mix in chocolate sprinkles.
Fill batter in prepared pan and bake at 350°F for about 20 - 25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes and remove the bread from the pan. Let it cool completely so you can cut it without the bread crumbling. Keeps wrapped up in wax paper or foil for up to 5 days (longer when you store it in the fridge).

- If the batter seems too dry, just add a little milk, apple juice, or apple cider.
- Add an apple cut into small cubes to the batter to make it extra moist and to increase the apple-flavor.
- Melt a bar of dark chocolate and pour it over the cooled-off cake to make a nice chocolate frosting.
- Serve with whipped cream and a nice cup of cappuccino.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (70)

Ten Things of Thankful

This week was more quiet than last one, which definitely is a thing to be thankful about. Both girls are now signed up for dance class and Violet's been doing good progress in her speech therapy. I feel like we're finally getting settled in our routine. Only took me a few months  :-)

My ten things we're most thankful for this week:

1. Lily and Violet getting along better again. It's been a tough few weeks between them with Lily adjusting to elementary school and Violet becoming extremely attached to her, which, in turn, completely set off our Miss Freedom & Independent  Lily; almost daily, Violet had to be physically removed from Lily's room because she simply could not leave her alone. But today (Monday), for the first time in quite a while, I found them playing peacefully in Violet's room. Lily told me that Violet had invited her to listen to an audio play together, and "listening to it together is so much more fun than listening by myself".  It just melted my heart!!

2. One of Violet's friends giving me a beautiful fall leave as a gift when I picked Violet up from kindergarten today.

3. A new morning ritual for hubby and me. We sit down for a few minutes and share a cup of coffee before starting yet another crazy day. I really enjoy those moments with my love..

4. Mis-purchases. My sister was out to buy some apricot jam last week, grabbed a glass with yellowish content and happily went home where she realizes that she has bought orange marmelade. And because my lovely sister knows that I am the only person in the world who loves that stuff, she gave it to me. I've really, really enjoyed my breakfast the last few days  :-)

5. Having three more Atheist families in Lily's class, who - like us - are fighting for our kids' right to freedom from religion in class. We hope that we'll soon find a solution that does not include disregarding our daughters' constiutional rights and trying to exclude them from class activities.

6. My dear friend having found a wonderful and extremely capable lawyer to take action against the company she's worked for for over 15 years. Obviously, this company has decided to force all young mothers to resign, and in my friend's case, they have taken very, very dirty methods of bullying, libel, etc. She read the letter her lawyer has drafted to me tonight, and we're all confident that she will receive the compensation she deserves and damages for all the crap she had to go through in the last weeks.

7. Calvin getting his first vaccines and doing well afterwards. I'm so thankful that we live in a part of the world where we have so ready access to healthcare and all the necessary vaccines to keep our children safe and protect them from dangerous diseases.

8. Naps with the baby. He's such a cuddler, and on several occasions during the week we managed to snuggle up and nap for an hour or two.

9. Visits with friends. Violet, Calvin, and I visited my friend Jenny and her kids on Friday and had a great afternoon. Violet gifted her "Frozen"-dress that was too small for her to her friend Lizzi, who was so much in love with the dress. Love Violet for being such a generous little girl!

10. Lily's about reading!!  I have bought an early-reader's book for her and plan on giving it to her tomorrow. She can read a number of shorter words, but is still getting frustrated easily. She's definitely her mom's daughter  :-)  Maybe this new book will help her make that last little step to everything finally making sense to her. She's SO close!!

Have a wonderful new week, everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Calvin's Second Month

Last Saturday, Calvin had his 2-month birthday. No, we did not celebrate it, but noted in disbelieve that another month had passed in no time. He continues to put on weight, and I'm looking forward to his next appointment in late November to see how much exactly he has grown. The newborn outfits are safely retired now, some have been passed on already, which is a weird feeling. So far, all the clothes were packed up and stored for the next baby, but there is no need any more to store clothes for more babies as none are in the planning. Maybe this is why I am so savoring every moment with our little guy.

Here are his current stats and favorites:

Height: at his last well-baby visit in September he was almost 23in tall, but I'd assume that he probably has grown another one or two inches since then.
Weight: in September, he weighed in at 11lbs even. Now, I'd say probably about 13lbs. Looking at the size/weight chart in his well-baby booklet, he was still at the 50th percentile for weight, but went from 50th percentile to 75th percentile in height.
Clothes size: He's wearing a few 3-months onesies still but is transitioning to 6-months clothes now.
Number of teeth: none yet, but we had the feeling that he was starting to teeth a little.

Favorite food: mommy's milk
Favorite toy: He loves his activity gym and a little tumbling ducky that I got as a hand-me-down from a very good friend when Lily was born.
Favorite book: he loves to listen when I read fairy tales to his sisters. And since they mostly choose the fairy tales from a girls' story book, I'd say he loves those.
Favorite outfit / piece of clothing: he still doesn't care. My favorite clothes for him are a striped fleece hooded sweater with bear ears on the hood and a hat with bear ears. Yes, I love those  :-)

Likes: cuddling, singing, getting his little toes tickled, getting warmed by the space heater, looking at toys dangling over his head, being adored by his sisters.
Dislikes: bathing, changing his clothes, having a tummy ache, mommy cooking/baking/doing homework with Lily (basically mommy doing anything that does not involve doting on baby Calvin).

Happy 2-months birthday, my little guy. And please stop growing already!!

Calvin at 2 months

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Countdown To The Holidays

Yes, it's true. The Winter Holidays (however you may call it) is approaching again. I started shopping early this year, wrapping m first presents during our visit with the in-laws in the U.S. in May. Luckily, I've not been in the holiday mood since early summer, like last year. I am just about getting started with the true fall mood, looking forward to Thanksgiving and the first German holiday bread (aka Stollen) on Sunday after Thanksgiving. Why do I love the second half of the year more than the first? Holiday flavors, weekends cuddling on the couch, a house warmed by cookies baking in the oven, first colorful then white landscapes, cocooning and listening to what's inside, spending lots of time with family and friends. This is why!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (69)

Ten Things of Thankful

What a busy week! So many appointments to remember,  but also a lot of quality time to spend with my wonderful family and friends. I am tired and exhausted, but feel so very, very thankful to have all of them in my life.

The special thankfuls this week:

1. Violet for the rescue Monday morning. Lily had lost her sweater, but Violet found it and also reminded her big sister (and me) that Lily still needed her glasses just as she was leaving. What only would I do without our little girl??

2. Home-made organic apple sauce. While being out with Lily to pick elderberries for elderberry jam (total fiasco by the way), I found an apple tree growing outside a fence; I spontaneously declared the tree public property and picked a bunch to take home as well. Yesterday, I finally turned them all into apple sauce. No sugar, no preservatives, no additives, just plain old apple sauce. Yum!

3. Cream of rice with home-made apple sauce for breakfast - just remembering that I forgot to add the cinnamon..

4. Getting to watch Calvin discovering his feet. He was beyond-words adorable watching them wiggle and giving me the biggest, sweetest baby smiles I can imagine.  Such a special moment - or twenty minutes.

5. Dates with my lads. Hubby and Calvin first took me out for breakfast before heading to the hardware store Friday morning, and in the evening, we had a movie date at home with delicious dessert.

6. Getting to watch Violet during her first dance class. It was still a little difficult for her to follow the steps, but I'm sure in no time this class will help her to gain more awareness for her body and movement. Plus: the approval for her early intervention therapy came in the mail today. Starting next week, she's going to see an occupational therapist and the early intervention therapist in addition to the speech therapist. Sounds like a lot, but we've experienced with Lily that this comprehensive approach is really generating fast improvements.

7. A wonderful Sunday afternoon with friends. We shared a delicious lunch and took dessert out to the park where the kids played soccer and we adults enjoyed some good conversation. The sky was pretty overcast at first but later in the afternoon, we had beautiful sunshine. Violet's conclusion at the end of the day:  Mami, I'm absolutely exhausted, but so, so happy!  I'd call this a perfect weekend!

8.  A lovely cup of chai latte at the end of the day. With a side of dark cookie chocolate.

9. A very supportive HR department. Without a prompt from my side, they sent me all the paperwork to apply for the child care refund my work pays at the end of each year. Yay for more paperwork!

10.Hubby finally having found a school that supports him receiving his benefits he has earned while serving in the military for 8 years, having his health ruined during that time and being intentionally given false information that hurt our family on his way out. If everything goes as planned, I'll be married to a college boy soon  :-)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maternity Leave Musings

Today was officially my last day of maternity leave. Until mid-November I'm taking vacation time and will enter parental leave afterward.

Even though I had some issues adjusting to this new life at home, I think I'm finally arriving in this new role of stay-at-home-mom, and I absolutely love being able to spend so much time with my family.

Calvin in mid-September
This morning, while hubby was out for his German class and the girls in school and kindergarten, I enjoyed a little mid-morning nap with Calvin, and after we woke up, he discovered his feet!!  I watched the little guy being excited about those two little wiggling thingies at the very end of his legs for a good twenty minutes, giving me some of the biggest, most heart-warming toothless smiles you could possibly imagine.

My conclusion on this first-time experience for me: I will never be a stay-at-home-mom. I love being home right now, but I know that it would never truly fulfill me. I am thankful that legislation here in Germany allows me to take tons of time off to take care of our baby and our family as a whole, but I am also thankful that my job is waiting for me when I return - part-time for now - in March. I am glad that legislation also protects families and give me the right to cut hours (or potentially even stay at home completely) for up to 3 years, which we are definitely taking advantage of, as I will be working part-time only until September 2016!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Share Your Best

I'm in a little bit of a dilemma. Super-hubby's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and he wants a chocolate cake for his birthday. Not the German's Chocolate Cake I've made all but one year for his birthday (last year he wanted a pumpkin cheese cake), but something new.  But I don't know anything new, and I don't have time to try something new.  So if you have THE recipe for an awesome chocolate birthday cake for my wonderful man, please share  :-)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (68) - Late Edition

Ten Things of Thankful

Yes,  I managed to be late enough so I cannot be participate in the link-up any more. But that doesn'T keep me from being thankful anyways  :-)  I was working on a larger project last week(end) and was pretty busy, so not much of me has been seen around anywhere but Trados.

Here are last week's thankfuls:

1. Early fall morning walks. I'm taking Violet to kindergarten some mornings, and you wouldn't believe how beautiful it is. The fog lingering before the sun is burning it away, leaving tiny dew drops on the spider webs that look like silver-thread art everywhere. I so wished I'd had a camera with me, but then again I wouldn't have been able to enjoy these moments as I did.

2. A beautiful early fall after a fairly crappy late summer. Can you believe that Calvin didn't get to wear those cute outfits I got for him in the States even once? And he was born in early August, there should have been a few days appropriate for shorts and t-shirts! But since mid-September, most days have been sunny and balmy, with brisk mornings and nights, but still. I enjoy being able to go and collect chestnuts with the girls for some crafts, have fun a the playground, walk in town, and to and from school. Can't beat a fall like that!

3. Friends from so many different countries, with so many different backgrounds, and places in life. It never gets boring, and I'm truly very, very thankful for every single one of them.

4. The paperwork I'm cursing these days. Why am I thankful for that? Because it means that I can be home and enjoy spending time with the family. A few weeks ago I have sent out our application for parental benefits and now received their feed-back that there were still documents missing, even though I have sent everything I had at the time. So I'm doing some more scanning, some more emailing with our personnel department, and some more waiting for the benefits to be approved.

5. Morning naps with a very cuddly baby boy.

6. Sharing the gift of language. I've started a story hour for expat kids in our local library and read children's books in German to them. Last Saturday was the first story time, and it was such a success. Looking forward to some more reading this coming weekend!

7. Enjoying peace and quiet when we have it. As most of you may know, we're currently living on a building site. But while most of the building of the houses around us wasn't bad, the construction on the street has been a real pain. Tons and tons of dirt has been carried into our house, and the tools they are using are LOUD!!!!  We could feel the vibration through the floor most days last week, so we did enjoy the hours of peace and quiet even more.

8. Apple goodness. Yes, they are ripe, and when I saw this nice apple tree standing just OUTSIDE a fence the other day, Lily and I filled a little bucket up. So we're having home-made apple sauce (heavenly on rice pudding), apple pie, apple streusel, you name it. Everything is totally organic and best of all FREE  :-)

9. Getting to go to hubby's concert this Saturday. It was a children's concert, so naturally, the girls loved it, and Calvin was just the best baby listening to the music.

10. People who do not forget I exist just because I'm out of work / off the net / hiding in the bathroom for a while.

Have a great week everyone!