Cake For A Few

3 Apr

The enormous success of five minute chocolate mug cake is more due to the joy of having warm cake in five minutes, rather than the overwhelming deliciousness of microwave cake. It’s good, but it’s not that good. And also, it’s really high in fat and calories – higher than regular cake. My gluten-free version of mug cake costs 30 Weight Watchers Points Plus – nearly my whole day’s allotment. Regular cake with icing – 14 Points Plus.

So I’ll just make a regular cake. But the problem with regular cake is that you end up with sixteen servings of cake. This might not seem like a problem, but when it comes to cake, I am weak. Very, very weak.

My solution to the dilemma of wanting cake, but not 30 points worth of cake, and not 16 servings of cake, is to make little cakes. But not cupcakes, because those things are fiddly and more work than regular cake and always end up smooshed looking and they are hard to eat. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t eat a cupcake without getting frosting on my face.

So I made a regular sized batch of cake batter and baked it in bread loaf pans! It’s half the size of a regular cake! And cake bricks are easy to stack in the freezer! I think this is why the frozen cakes are squares and rectangles, by the way. Here’s some pictures:

Cake in the bread pans, about to go in the oven.

Once the cake was out of the oven and had cooled on the rack for a while, I put both little cakes in the fridge to continue cooling while I made the frosting.

Cake after it's cooled in the fridge for a bit.

Cake like this is supposed to have layers. So I very gently cut the cake into two layers with a serrated bread knife. This was a little tricky, because the cake is fragile and likes to break. But it ended up okay.

Cake that's cut in half and ready to be frosted.

And then I frosted the cake, and I was half done, because there was a second cake to frost. For the second cake, I put it on parchment paper (before I started frosting it), because I was going to freeze this cake for later.

Frosted cake on parchment, ready to go in the freezer.

After freezing the cake overnight, I folded up the paper around the cake and taped it, and then put the whole package in a freezer bag.

Cake that is now ready to be stacked in the freezer.

Hooray! A cake that is only eight servings, and another one for later! I haven’t had coconut cake for years (part of being gluten-free), and this one was pretty fantastic. I used the coconut cake recipe in Gluten-Free Baking Classics, which is my hands-down favorite gluten-free baking cookbook.


Daisy Models Her Easter Sweater

2 Apr
Daisy Models Her Easter Sweater

Daisy Models Her Easter Sweater

I think she likes it! The sweater is a little snug in the body and sleeves, but it will do since she’ll be wearing it in less than a week. I’m so pleased with the final product that I’m thinking about getting more yarn to make it in a larger size. The petals of the daisy buttons are a little fiddly and catch on the buttonholes. But they’re so cute that I don’t mind.

Easter Sweater Completed

31 Mar

I just finished knitting Daisy’s Easter sweater, and I am thrilled with how it turned out. It’s exactly what I wanted. The pattern is Summer Days by Elena Nodel. It’s knitted in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino, which is my idea of a perfect yarn – soft, well-wearing, perfect stitch definition, beautiful colors. The only problem is that it’s not cheap. Daisy is already in bed, so I don’t have any pictures of her modeling her new sweater yet – those will come tomorrow and on Easter.

Daisy's Easter Sweater

Daisy's Easter Sweater

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese “Salad”

30 Mar

I tried to make a roasted beet salad this evening, using this recipe from the Food Network. Notice that the level of expertise is labeled “Easy.” Instead of making roasted beets, I ended up with beautiful beet chips. I took them out 10 minutes early, but they were definitely chips.

But it turned out happily, because beet chips with goat cheese, lemon juice, and scallions tastes remarkably like potato chips and dip. I wonder if this how the recipe was supposed to turn out. Somehow, I doubt it.

Go Take A Nap

29 Mar

Yesterday I walked with Daisy in the carrier for about two hours. When we got home at 5pm, my back and legs were hurting, so I took two Advil and lay down for a few minutes. And then I woke up and it was 10pm. My kind husband took care of the baby’s bedtime routine and put her to bed and let me sleep. So I got ready for bed and went back to sleep, and then woke up at 8 this morning. That is 15 hours of sleep. Granted, I had to get up at midnight and 3 to feed and change the baby, like usual. But I haven’t slept like that in quite a while. It feels glorious.

I have two problems when it comes to sleep. First, when the baby is in bed (around 7), I feel like I have to make the very most of my baby-free time. And I stretch it until 11 or midnight. And with two or three night feedings, the next morning comes around way too quickly. Second, after I’ve fed and changed the baby, she goes back to sleep right away, but I lie in bed wide awake and waiting for her to need me again.

It is hard for me to frame “go get some rest” in a way that puts the focus on Daisy and not myself. The closest I can get to it is “I am a better mother when I am well rested.” That is so, so true. Because I am better at everything when I’m not dragging with fatigue. One early bedtime does not mean that I’ve paid off my sleep debt, however, so I’m going to try to head upstairs at 8:30 every night. Even though that means only an hour and a half of baby-free relaxation.

Passing The Time

28 Mar

Daisy is a very independent little girl, but she likes to have me in the same room with her while she plays. I’m not allowed to knit or read because she is very curious about yarn and books and wants to taste them, tangle the yarn, and tear the pages. It can get a little dull after several hours of sitting on the floor watching my little girl bang blocks together and crawl. One of the best ways I’ve found to relieve the tedium is to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

Here are some of my favorite podcasts:

This American Life is a public radio show that is also distributed as a podcast. Each week brings a new episode, and every episode has a different theme. The one-hour episode usually consists of several stories relating to the theme. There have been a couple of episodes where I would have been upset if an older child had been listening to it with me – the one that comes to mind is a story where a couple have a “relationship rumspringa” and compete to have more sexual partners than the other in the space of a month. So caveat listener.

The Freakonomics Podcast is another public radio show that is also distributed as a podcast. These are also released weekly, and are also about an hour long. The Freakonomics radio show started with the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – a New York Times best-seller authored by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Levitt is an economist fascinated by the riddles of every day life, and Dubner is an author and journalist. The podcast follows in much the same vein as the book and usually is quite entertaining.

At The Intersection of East and West is a podcast distributed by Ancient Faith Radio. It’s a recording of a Christian (or Eastern) Orthodox Church sunday school class for people curious about Orthodox Christianity, and it’s taught by Deacon Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, so he understands where enquiring Protestants are coming from. It’s a fascinating look at the history, philosophies, and teachings of the Orthodox Church, and he sometimes provides contrasts with the Roman Catholic Church and major Protestant denominations. For anyone curious about the Orthodox Church, this is a fantastic, scholarly resource.

As for audiobooks, I am currently listening to a series of books by Laurie R. King that starts with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. These novels feature Mary Russell, a brilliant young woman born in 1900, who at first is an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes before marrying him when she is 21 and he is in his sixties. It sounds crazier than it actually is, trust me. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories, then you will love the Mary Russell novels. All the wonderful, long-beloved characters are there, plus new characters that are simply delicious. I have just finished A Monstrous Regiment of Women and have just started A Letter of Mary, which are the second and third books in the series, respectively.

Another wonderful series are the Maisie Dobbs books, written by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs is another brilliant woman, born into a housemaid’s life before being discovered by her employer reading classical literature in the library at three in the morning. Rather than sacking her, the liberal-minded matron gets her a proper education and apprentices her to a detective. (Sound familiar?) These books provide incredible color and detail about life during and after World War I. If you like Downton Abbey, then you will love Maisie Dobbs.

Go Take A Walk

27 Mar

Taking regular walks is a habit I’ve formed shortly after Daisy was born. It started because Daisy loves to be outside and is at her happiest when we are walking together, either in the carrier or the stroller. At first, our walks were to Jim’s office to “pick him up” from work and walk home together. It was one of the nicest parts of my day – the three of us walking home, Daisy listening as Jim and I talked.

Now Daisy and I go for longer walks earlier in the day because it’s a great way to fill up that time in between naps. Last Thursday, she had a low fever, and wanted to be held and to move at the same time. So I popped her in the front carrier and we walked. For three hours. I think we walked about six miles total. When we got home, the baby’s fever was all gone and she was in a much better mood. I had a sore back and sore legs, but it was worth it.

I have the Omron HJ105 pedometer to track my steps and mileage and I’m very happy with it. One of my favorite features is the “aerobic steps” feature, which tracks both the number of steps and amount of time that your walking can be considered effective aerobic exercise. For steps to count as aerobic steps, you have to walk more than 60 steps per minute and walk for more than 10 minutes continuously. This is great for people on using the Weight Watchers program because you can use your number of aerobic steps to earn Points. My only problem with this pedometer is that it is hard to find batteries for it.

Many new mothers struggle with making time for exercising. I know that I certainly do. However, if I frame the walk as “Daisy really needs to go outside for a walk. It’s good for her and she enjoys it so much.” then I am lacing up my sneakers a few minutes later. My only consideration is how long of a walk we can take before we need to be home for nap time. And it makes me happy that I am setting the example that “In our family, we take regular walks.” Walking is such a good lifetime habit.