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Thankful Thursday #116: birthday cake

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I was blessed to celebrate another birthday this week – my 33rd! So thankful to celebrate another birthday.  It may mean I’m older, but hopefully it means I’m wiser too.  And it also means I’ve almost lived long enough to see my life-long dream of having a baby fulfilled, so there was no sting at all affiliated with turning another year older.  :)

Every year, my only birthday plan is to eat a piece of cake.  If I can have a piece of cake on my birthday, I’m a happy girl.  I’ve only posted maybe 200 recipes for cake on my blog, so you might have noticed I’m a fan.  But my sister, Danielle, thought I needed an actual celebration, so she decided to throw a little pizza party for me at her shop.  Imagine my surprise to get gifts to boot!  I didn’t celebrate my birthday growing up, but I felt like a kid again, or what one probably feels like that celebrates their birthday. :)

Danielle is crackin’ me up how she is holding little Mariam to feed her! I was feeding her but needed a cake break, then I got schooled on how to feed babies, Danielle style. Dad, Dennis, Owen, and Margo’s middle daughter, Norah, are in the other room.

And I got my piece of cake too.  It’s a new tradition for Dennis to make my birthday cake because for me, that’s the ultimate gift and thankfully, while baking (or cooking) isn’t really his thing, he’s willing to do it for me every year that I ask (this year makes three cakes he’s made for me).  I picked out an easy one this year since he went a tad overboard last year (lol – see below the recipe).  He rocked it!

Coconut Orange Cake

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (18.25 oz) Duncan Hines Orange Supreme cake mix, plus ingredients called for on box
1 cup (3.5 oz) flaked, sweetened coconut

1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges, plus more for garnish if desired
1 (5.1 oz)large instant vanilla pudding mix (not prepared)
1 cup (3.5 oz) flaked, sweetened coconut
1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Brush Miracle Pan Release on the bottom and sides of two 8″ or 9″ cake pans, or grease and flour them; set aside.

Prepare the cake mix according to the package directions. After you’ve finished mixing the cake, stir in 1 cup of coconut. Bake according to cake mix instructions for the size of pans you’re using. After cooked through, remove from oven and turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Prepare frosting: In a large mixing bowl, mix the mandarin oranges with their juices with an electric mixer until crushed. Mix in the instant pudding mix and coconut and mix well. Fold in the whipped topping until combined.

Using a cake leveler or a long serrated knife, cut the tops off both of the cakes to get a flat surface. Take one of the cakes and place the cut side up on the cake plate. Add a layer of frosting. Place the 2nd layer cut side down on top of the frosting layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with mandarin orange slices if desired.  Chill in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Recipe source: Sweet Tea and Cornbread, as seen on Jam Hands

Love cake as much as I do?  Check out some of my past birthday cakes:

2010: Easy Coconut Layer Cake

2011: Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte

2012: Den’s Birthday Cake-tastrophy


Thankful Thursday #115: living a romance novel

I married a good man.  I thank God every day for him because I know there are a lot of bad ones out there that I could have ended up with, but instead I got one of the best, IMHO.

I’ve dedicated many Thankful Thursdays to him, and have mentioned how he is perfect to me, even in his imperfection, like how he isn’t really a romantic, but I consider our love to be true romance.  Real.  It wouldn’t work in a romance novel, but it works for us.

Well, now that I’m pregnant, I’m seeing another side of this good man.  A side that would totally fit in with the men in romance novels!  And I’m so loving it.  Truthfully, it’s one of the reasons that I’m enjoying being pregnant so much and am in no rush for Joshua to come.

From the beginning, he has been doing more to make sure that I don’t overexert myself.  He watches out for me in a protective way that I find so sweet, but don’t dare tell him I think so for fear of messing it up. LOL!  I’m weird like that.  I thank him for his kindness, but don’t tell him how he’s turned into a romance-novel character because then he might freak out and stop being all sweet and concerned.  OK, probably not, but I’m not going to push it by embarrassing him.

So here’s my new romance-novel husband.  He rubs my feet and back whenever I ask.  If I say I’m hungry when we’re out, his #1 mission in life becomes feeding me.  And not because I get all crazy, I really don’t go into the “I NEED FOOD NOW!” mode, he’s just awesome like that.  He makes sure I don’t carry anything too heavy and strains himself to carry the bulk of the weight of furniture and other things we’ve moved, so that I don’t have to. The bigger my tummy gets, the nicer he gets.  Maybe he is just grateful that he doesn’t have to grow the baby? lol!

One night I went to Walmart late to refill our 5 gallon water jugs and he was so tired I told him to stay home and go to bed.  He didn’t like to, but he was just totally depleted and told me to wake him up when I got home so he could carry the jugs inside.  I told him not to be silly, that I could do it, but he insisted, saying he didn’t like me lifting the jugs even long enough to put them in the cart after refilling.  Because I knew he was worried, I accepted help from the sacker to bring my groceries to the car for the first time in my life.  I didn’t let him put the sacks of groceries in the trunk since I could do that myself, but told him my husband would appreciate if he put the water jugs in for me.  I was kind of proud of myself for stepping down where I knew I should, but wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t known how much Dennis wanted me to do it.  I guess we make a good team. :)

So my good man is spoiling me even more than he did before and I don’t know how I’m going to recover once things are back to normal and he doesn’t have a reason to be all super concerned about me any more!  LOL!  But I’m sure at that point, our new baby will distract me enough to make the transition easier.  For now, I really am enjoying living in my own little romance novel, and am always, always grateful for my man.

Thankful Thursday #114: not enough time

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While leading us in a closing prayer on Sunday evening, brother Deon said, “If we took the time to thank you for every blessing you’ve given us, we wouldn’t have time for anything else.”  Wow.  That really resonated and I heard a couple “Mmm hmm’s” and “amens” to that.  I’m more on the quiet side during worship, but I gave an internal “Amen.”  We all have our daily complaints, which we often take time to ponder and vocalize, but what if we wrote down or thanked God for every single thing we have to be thankful for?  Would we have time for anything else?

Something to think about.  I know I wouldn’t!  Here’s just a few of the things on my list right now.

Jesus, our home church & family in Christ. I would be so lost without them.

Clean air & water.

Books, music, and art.

Reliable transportation and cell phones.


A job, enough money, and food.

The bestest husband and fur baby of all time.


That there hasn’t been a war on our home turf since 1865.

For the miracle of new life growing in my womb.

More than enough clothes & shoes.

The abundant rain this summer, which has covered the dried up riverbed-Hallelujah!

Air conditioning and fans!

Computers and internet access.

Friends in real life and online, who constantly cheer me.

Trees, flowers, grass, mountains, valleys, and rivers.  Nature is just wonderful.

Fingernail polish, especially with sparklies.

Family who sticks with me through thick and thin.

So many material things that we’ve had to get rid of a lot of them to make room for baby!

The postal service, which I haven’t utilized nearly enough lately.

A home that keeps us safe from intruders, pests, and mother nature.

The men and women who give up their own freedom for the sake of ours by serving in the military.

Enough food in the pantry and freezer to get us through a couple lean weeks as we are spending more to get ready for baby.

Modern medicine, which has allowed me to live 12 years (who knows, maybe 32 years!) beyond what I would have without it.

Thank you Stephanie H., for the baby clothes, maternity clothes, and much-needed advice.

Thank you Tracy and Jenna for always taking the time to answer my questions, give advice, and so much support.

Thank you Stephanie T., for the baby clothes, mini diaper bag, and paying for a maternity photo shoot for me in October.  I don’t have enough thank you’s to give for that!

Thank you Donna for filling in for my Mom, who I haven’t seen in two months and miss terribly (she switched with Dad to care for Grandma in Joplin and might not return until Grandma passes away).  Also for the physical gifts you’ve given us in preparation for Joshua, which are just over-the-top.

Thank you Kevin for being so supportive in word, thought, and deed.

Thank you readers for your constant support of my blog and of this baby!

Thankful Thursday #113: brown paper packages & the happy

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve gotten into a semi-habit of posting every weekday except Tuesday, sharing two recipes in addition to my pregnancy updates and Thankful Thursdays (when I do them).  This is another busy week, however, with six dozen cupcakes to make, so this will likely be my only other post this week.  I do have some great recipes to share and hopefully can do that next week!

But I do have a Thankful Thursday this week.  Joshua has been getting some mail lately, and we’ve been having a lot of fun opening it since he is still in womb jail for another three months and his scissors privileges won’t be awarded for another five years or so. I think we’re enjoying his gifts even more than he will, though! :)

Joshua got this adorable outfit from his Grandma Miller.  She sent it after she found out we were having a boy and wrote a short note that said, “I couldn’t resist!”  Aww!

Monkey butt! hehe

If you’ve been reading a while, you might recall me referring to my “foodie mama.”  Marina is my foodie mama because she has been an inspiration to me ever since we met online back in 2008, and she is the reason I started entering my baked goods into the fair. She’s won hundreds of ribbons! (Check out some of her recipes, many ribbon-winners, that I’ve shared here.)  Anyway, she’s going to be a foodie Grandma now, and she sent this package to her newest grandson:

Included in the many gifts for Joshua was some foodie stuff for me, including a   signed copy of her cookbook (yayyyy!), homemade vanilla, lemon sugar, and vanilla sugar.  I’ve already used the vanilla and it’s so good – I’ll be sharing one of the recipes I used it in soon.  The package also contained a “Family” picture frame, a book of positive quotes (I need this on the days when I’m feeling particularly fat or worried about the future), ADORABLE dinosaur baby slippers (look at them! Couldn’t you DIE?), onesies with matching hats, a pack of bibs, baby washcloths, and pacifiers!

Our friends Jack and Santana sent us what is sure to be a lifesaver.  Getting gifts from parents is great because honestly, I never would have thought to buy or ask for a toy bar that attaches to a car seat/carrier, but when I saw it I was like “Duh! Of course we need that!”  Also, every kid needs a set of plastic keys, and I love that they sent a beautiful book to add to our son’s library since I plan to read to him every day.

Then I got the surprise of my life when I was leaving for work last Friday and found this waiting on the porch:

Someone had fun shopping our baby registry!  Two big things we needed are now in our grubby little hands – a stroller and a pack of these fabulous user-friendly reusable cloth diapers with snaps that expand to fit your baby from 7-35 lbs:

Thank you so much, Jenna!!  Sometimes I just can’t believe God loves me enough to give me people like you. <3

I have to say that being pregnant is so much fun, because people get more happy for you than almost for anything else.  Especially when it was a long time coming!  It’s been a while since I graduated or was engaged, but unless my memory is worse than I imagine, people weren’t as excited about that as they are about this baby.  I have never seen so many smiles as when I announced I was pregnant. Something about new life…it gets you happy.

I’m so happy, you’re so happy, and then people buy stuff because they want to help, and it makes the happy even bigger.  It’s just a really happy thing all around.  And I’m thankful.  Not just for the stuff, but for the happy that Joshua is bringing to everyone.  Thanks for being happy for us. :)

Thankful Thursday #112: my husband becoming a father

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Though it’s not a secret, I’ve not shared before that Dennis took a long time to decide he was ready to become a Dad.  Yes, we were trying for ten years, but it wasn’t until we were seven years in that he confessed he didn’t feel ready to be a Dad.  My happiness (and he knew becoming a Mom was what I wanted more than anything) was more important to him than his own comfort level, so he just went along with it for that long, wanting me to be a Mom more than he didn’t want to be a Dad.  He even prayed for it, just for me!  And he never would have confessed if I hadn’t forced it – finally realizing that his going along didn’t necessarily mean he was with me 100%, I asked, and he didn’t lie.  This was both upsetting (we share everything! I couldn’t believe he didn’t tell me, and how could I have never asked?) and touching.  On the plus side, learning this did dampen my own desire for a child (for a couple years, anyway) so that I wasn’t even disappointed any more when it didn’t happen.

Last year, my desire for a child started to burn in earnest again, and thank God, it was also at this time Dennis finally told me that he was ready to become a Dad.  And how funny is it that only a year later, he’s becoming one?  Have you ever heard someone say that God’s timing is perfect?  Well…there you go.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

For a man who spent 44 years not sure if he was cut out for children, he’s adapting well to the imminent prospect of one.  Everyone keeps asking, “Is Dennis excited?”  That’s hard to answer because although he doesn’t fit my female definition of excited (jumping up and down and squealing), I do believe he is excited in his Dennis way.

Dennis and Owen standing in Big Brutus’ shovel (he’s the biggest electric shovel in the world!)

After the first sonogram when our baby still looked like a sea creature, at bedtime Dennis kissed me and said, “I love you.  And I love the baby too.”  That melted my heart.

After the third sonogram (he missed the second), later that night while walking Jessie, he said, “Cool, we’re all having a baby and stuff,” with a big smile, and did this forward swooping movement with his arms, bending his legs, that he does when he’s really happy and excited (it kind of looks like he’s doing a “I’m so cool in my leather jacket” movement, pushing his arms out to straighten the sleeves.  All that’s missing is him swooping a comb through his hair-lol).  This is about as close to my female definition of excited as Dennis gets and it really made me happy to hear and see it.

Then the clincher.  He out-parented me earlier this week when he was talking about going to the gun range on Saturday.  I’ve never been, but I’ve shot two guns since pregnant, once at his parents house and once at my Uncle’s (both in my first trimester), so I thought maybe I would go with him.  He said, “What about the baby?  Didn’t you say he can hear now?  How will the gun shots affect him?”  I replied automatically, processing my own answer only during and after I was saying it.  “They would surprise and possibly scare him,” I said, thinking of the many articles I’ve read saying that loud noises will surprise our baby now, and he will react to them.  I was stunned I hadn’t thought of this myself, as I tend to be the one that over-thinks things.  Dennis’ first concern had been for Joshua, and this was both startling and completely wonderful.  He’s already a great Dad. :)

As a side note, I decided not to go with him to the range.  I know I can’t protect Joshua from every surprise and scare, but realizing beforehand how the gunshots might affect him would make me really ill at ease, and I know I’d interpret his every movement as proof that he was freaking out in utero.  I’ll just feel better keeping him away from firing bullets until he’s a little older-lol.

Watching the evolution of my husband becoming a father is so wonderful and miraculous after so many years of him not feeling he was Dad material.  (I always knew he was Dad material, of course.  His nephews adored him as kiddos and he was the life of the party when his whole family got together, teaching the little ones how to juggle.)  I’m just so grateful that God has given us this blessing at the perfect time, and that Dennis is transitioning so well.  Pretty sure that seeing him hold his son for the first time is going to completely melt my heart.  <3

Thankful Thursday #111: forget envy

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Earlier this week a Mom expecting her second child ordered beehive cupcakes for her gender reveal party.  Yes, just like the ones I pictured in my own gender reveal.  I told her that her timing was uncanny, that I had planned the exact same thing, with the “What will it bee?” theme, except I wasn’t having a party, and was revealing through my blog.  It was so neat to have the extra motivation to perfect the honey cake recipe I’ll be submitting to the fair this year!

She wanted the cupcakes delivered and told me their property was gated, so I was semi-prepared when I pulled up to it.  It turns out the property was so expansive, you couldn’t even see the home from the gate!  I called her to be let in and the gates slowly opened for me.

As I followed the path she indicted, turning left at a lake, I was in awe and a little bit of shock.  There are people this rich in my area?

She was very nice, gave me a tip on top of the extra she paid for delivery, and we chatted for a bit.  She told me they planned to eventually build their “real” home behind the one they were currently living in.  The one they were living in had to be the size of at least ten of mine.

After dropping the cupcakes off, I thought about her baby on the way, and how much easier it was for her than me to be having a child.  Lots of space, money to buy whatever they might need, and more.  I thought about how Jessie would love running around so much acreage. And how we could never give either of our children (yes, Jessie’s the older sister-lol) what that family could give theirs.

Feeling some envy was pretty tempting, but this quote came to mind: “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” ~ Charles Kingsley.

I have so much to be enthusiastic about, praise God.  I have everything I need, and a lot of things I want.  I have a gift (baking) that hopefully will allow me to work from home once the baby comes since my job is going away, and it is pretty neat to be able to make money doing something you truly enjoy.  Best of all, God has given me the ultimate desire of my heart, a child.  I’m growing a baby, people.  Incredible.

I don’t have a lot, but I have more than enough.  I’m sure people in needier countries would marvel at my small home, income, full shoe rack, and clean water the same way I marveled at the expansive estate I visited.  Once the baby comes there will be many trials and hardships, but I trust that God will provide and I know we’ll always have enough.  We may not be wealthy, but we can give Joshua the most important things, namely love, and in abundance.

Life is good, and I am happy.  Forget envy, I have too much to be enthusiastic about. :)

Thankful Thursday #110: Becky’s back!

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Just a quick Thankful Thursday today.  So remember how I wrecked my car and got two tickets for expired tags and all the drama of it not being in my name so we couldn’t get it legal until we got the duplicate car title in the mail since the original was nowhere to be found? Well I’m happy to report that Becky was NOT totaled, the insurance paid for the repairs, she’s now fixed, we got the title in the mail and my Dad signed her over to me since I paid for it months ago, we paid the taxes and got a new tag, and I am just so relieved and happy to be driving a car that starts and has air conditioning again!  I was driving Baby until we could get all this done and wow, I do love that crazy messed up car but she has become even more unreliable (I know, how is that even possible, right?) and she stranded both me and Dennis on several occasions since we reclaimed her from Danielle, who had borrowed her until she could save enough to buy a new car.  I am totally OK with giving her back to Dani now – lol!

So a big YAY for a legal, working car!  Yaaaaay!!!!

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