Sunday, April 29, 2012

Baby Prep & Ava Update

I'm so sorry for the absence of communication in the last couple weeks. Maybe the lack of posts recently is sign of what's to come after the wee one arrives in just a few weeks, though I hope not. I'm back to that place where more writing or computer time isn't super high on my list because of all the writing I'm doing for school. And let me tell you, the coming week isn't going to let up at all. But next week will! I have one paper due on Thursday of this week and my big research proposal due a week from tomorrow. Then I'm free from the grips of this formal education until September. I'm aching to get to that place of free time and far less responsibility. I'll be able to get everything ready for the baby, spend more time with Ella, and nap every day if I feel like it. Wonderful. But it's still one week away.

Princess Ella at church this morning (no wonder she likes the kids' rooms!)

I did get to spend a little time on baby goodness today. Pete was on call at the hospital all day, so Ella helped me go through a bin of gender-neutral baby items and put a couple things up in what is eventually going to be the baby's room/workout room. It's just been the workout room till now, but I can't completely get rid of the equipment in there. Hello, post baby is a vital time for workout room accessibility, right? We'll figure out any challenges when the time comes, but for now we're going with it.

Ella was adorable with each item we took out of the baby bin. "Ooohhhhh, so cuuuuute!" she would say with every single piece. Even the plain, white Onsies drew the reaction. It makes me excited to see her  when the little one does arrive.

Ella & Ava putting on a living room concert on Saturday

I've had many people ask how Ava is doing following the surgery a week & a half ago to remove the tumor from her brain. The surgery itself didn't go quite as planned. The had hoped to do a biopsy on the tumor during the surgery and then proceed to remove the entire thing, but after the first biopsy results weren't clear, they stopped the surgery. Ava was in the hospital in Minneapolis for a few days after that and then returned to Duluth. This past Wednesday, they met with the doctors for the complete biopsy results where it was made known that the tumor is not cancerous. Praise the Lord! Though it is not cancerous, it is still in a very difficult location and may take multiple surgeries over the next few years or longer to completely remove or keep in check. Ava's family spent the remainder of the week and this past weekend in Duluth.

Saturday morning, Miss Ava joined us at our house for a little playdate with Ella. Though the girls loved playing together, coloring, and having snacks, Ava was much quieter than usual. I don't doubt that it has a lot to do with everything she's gone through in the last few weeks. She's also on medications that effect her mood. We cuddled on the couch reading books and looking at pictures of baby animals on Pinterest. She even asked if I wanted to see her "mark." That's what she calls the long incision behind her ear where they did the first surgery. I'm amazed that they didn't have to cut any of her hair, which covers the mark very well. What a brave little girl. She's already gone through so much with this.

And there is more to come. Tomorrow (Monday), Ava will be going through another surgery. The doctors will try to remove as much of the tumor as they safely can. Ava's mom, Janell, has asked specifically for prayer for the head doctor, Dr. Dan. Also, please be praying that the surgery will not negatively impact any of her motor functions and that she will heal quickly. Ava's third birthday is in 11 days. She's very excited, so please pray she will be well enough to celebrate on her big day.

It hurts my heart to know that Ella's best friend is going through something so incredibly difficult. I love watching the girls play and never imagined something like this would burst into their young lives. Ella knows that Ava has an "owie" on her head and asks to pray for her many times a day. She often asks where Ava is, what she's doing, and if she's feeling better. I'm always able to stay positive about such questions, except after Ava leaves our house. That's when it's the hardest for me. I know that Jesus is carrying Ava & her family through all of this, but why does it even have to exist? It makes me long for a time and a place where there will be no sickness or tears. We have that hope. Without it, I would be a crying lump on the floor. So thank you, Jesus.

I will continue to post updates on Ava's progress, but you can read what Janell has to say by visiting Ava's Caring Bridge page. Janell writes honestly and beautifully on the site nearly every day. Just click here and sign in with your email address.

cousin Maira, Ava, Ella & cousin Malena on Saturday

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. Every single one is heard.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ava's Surgery

Ella's friend Ava is currently in the middle of a full day of surgery to remove the tumor at the base of her brain. She started the day with an MRI at 5am and surgery began at 7:30. It's expected to take 10-12 hours to complete the whole thing. Please, please pray with us for a miracle. We truly believe that Jesus knows the ins and outs of his little Ava and has a very special plan and purpose for her.

butterfly kites!
Ella & Ava got to play a lot in the last week. It was such a joy to watch them run and laugh and dance together. On Saturday Pete & I had a picnic with Ella & Ava and then flew kites at the park. Such fun!

Ella & Ava
 I'll keep you posted on Ava's progress following the surgery. In the meantime, please, please, please pray.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Photo Friday: Making of the Globe Cake

Two weeks ago I made a cake unlike any I've made before. It was a globe cake for a 90th birthday celebration and the first round cake I've created. I think it consisted of five layers of cake with raspberry buttercream between each. Then I covered the entire thing in buttercream.

Next, I rolled out the fondant, which I wanted to look a bit like water. Fondant comes in a block, which I then dye with special food dye gel and roll flat.

Once the blue fondant was on the cake, I needed to place the continents. This was the most time consuming part. I pinned the papers into place and drew outlines to get an idea of exactly how they would fit in the end.

After I had the continent outlines on paper, I cut them into green fondant, attaching them temporarily with pins and then permanently with water.

Finally, I added all the little details. I made an airplane for the top and a banner to fly behind it. I also painted and highlighted the continents.

This was one fun cake to make!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pleading for Prayer

My dear friends,

Today I'm pleading for your prayers. I've mentioned Ella's friend, Ava, many times in the past and have posted pictures of the two of them playing, making cake, washing dishes, and coloring together. Last fall, Ava came to our house to play every Tuesday and Ella spent every Wednesday at Ava's. The girls adore one another. Please join with Ella in praying for her amazingly sweet little friend.

It was discovered through an MRI last Thursday morning that Ava has a tumor growing at the base of her brain. It is in a very difficult place to reach through surgery, so all options are being investigated before moving forward. Ava and her mom, dad, and baby brother are in Minneapolis all week for meetings and tests and a possible surgery later in the week. This is a very scary time for all of them, as it's hard to know where all of this will lead. They continue to trust in Jesus and his direction in their lives, but it doesn't make this an easy road to travel.

My heart breaks for Jeff & Janell, Ava's parents. Janell is a dear friend of mine. As a mother, I can't imagine what this is like for her. I've cried thinking of the fear of the unknown that they are facing. And I'm so very thankful for a heavenly Father who brings comfort in such circumstances, even when we don't even know how to ask for his peace.

We visited Ava & Janell on Friday so the girls could play and be distracted from the scariness surrounding all of this. When it was nearing time to leave, we told the girls we wanted to take a picture. This is what we got.

Ava & Ella
Two year-olds express love so purely.

Please, please pray with us for complete healing in Ava's entire body.

the 2 & 3 year old praying for Ava at church this weekend
If you'd like to follow Ava's Caring Bridge page, you can find it here.

Monday, April 9, 2012


We celebrated Easter yesterday by joining Jake (who led worship), my parents, and Becky and her girls for church at West Side Vineyard in West Duluth before relaxing the rest of the day at Becky's. The three little girls were adorable in their Easter dresses but spent most of the day high on jelly beans and Peeps. We completed the afternoon with an egg hunt in Becky's living room since it was a bit windy out for the girls. This was the second year Ella's done the egg hunt. I'm quite sure it will become a yearly tradition.

Malena & Ella beginning the sugar rush before we left church.
Jake pointed this out. Clearly, we're in Minnesota where no one dares to take the last of anything. Apparently this lonely little donut spent the entire service waiting to be eaten. I saw many people eye the chocolate goodness, but it just wouldn't have been good manners to take it.

the lone donut
Malena "tickling" her newest cousin
Ella & Malena jammin' with Uncle Jake
the kids' table!
the start of the egg hunt
Ella's bag of plastic eggs
little Maira even found one
egg hunt treasures
eating all they had found
Ella sporting Malena's bunny ears
a singing & dancing Malena...full of sugar

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Recipe: Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Looking for a last minute piece of deliciousness to add to your Easter brunch menu? This lovely coffee cake recipe is by far the best I've found. It's incredibly moist, unlike many coffee cakes I've sampled, and gets rave reviews anywhere it's served. And the left overs are just as scrumptious. Yum!

image found here

Ingredients you'll need:
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
 Then here's what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent leaking. (It's important to wrap it well all across the bottom. You might also want to put a cookie sheet on an oven rack under the cake pan to catch any drips.) Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then pour into bottom of springform pan. Sprinkle with cranberries and pecans. (I make mine without the pecans.)
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and carefully remove pan. Serve warm. 
You can certainly use other fruit besides cranberries, but I've found it to have the best flavor. I use whole cranberries that I bought in Bayfield and froze, which wouldn't be all that different than using the whole ones found in the frozen fruit section at your grocery store. I haven't tried using dried cranberries, but if you do want to go that direction, make sure you let them soak in a bowl of really hot water for about 15 minutes first so they get nice and plump.

Not sure what a springform pan is? The first time I came across one for a recipe back in college, I had to call my grandma to get an explanation, so don't feel bad. It's a round pan with a latch on the side that makes it easy to release a cake. (Available at Target or Michaels or anywhere else you can buy regular cake pans.) They are often used when making cheese cakes. If you don't have one, experiment with something else. Even if it falls apart while you're getting it ready to serve, it will still taste amazing. Yes, I know such things from experience.

a springform pan

And that is that! Let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy!

Recipe originally found here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Photo Friday: Mama/Ella Date

Today Ella & I went to Canal Park for a little lunch date and just happened to arrive just before a ship came through the canal. We both love to see the ships. Then we sat at Caribou and ate lunch. Ella kepts saying 'We're at the coffee shop,' and was pretty proud. It was a perfect Friday outing together.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Yellow Kitchen Update

I'm taking a deep breath, relaxing in the sunshine streaming through the window, and finally posting again. It's been a very busy couple of weeks. So busy, in fact, that I didn't feel like I could justify taking the time to sit and write a post, though I thought about it often. I got a little off balance for a short while and fell behind with my school work. I wasn't quite sure where to put my focus - class work, baking, house cleaning, baby prep, etc. Fortunately, I'm now stepping beyond that. I think it all came down to a day at the end of last week when Pete got home early from work, which freed me to spend hours and hours at Barnes and Noble and the UMD library. (No appropriate study locations stay open later than 10 in Duluth - besides Perkins, which I often visit - so I gave in and went to the library. Even though I'm again a UMD student, I hadn't actually studied there since my undergrad days back in 2005.) It was enough to get me all caught up on things! Ah, such joy.

a Little Einstein rocket cake I made on Saturday
What I've really wanted to write about are the updates with my newly formed baking business The Little Yellow Kitchen. It's been almost a year (in May) since I started dreaming about what it might be like to sell a few cupcakes here and there. I had no idea who would actually pay for these things other than a few of the nurses who work with Pete. Surprisingly, though, I've become quite busy! I finally decided last fall to try my hand at turning this little endeavor into a real business. I applied as a business through the state and opened a business bank account. Then I started looking for a certified kitchen to work out of since it's not legal in Minnesota to sell products out of your own kitchen. That was the hard part. There are very few kitchens that are open for use by a long-term business, even if it's as small as mine. (Honestly, I didn't look all that hard for a few months while I fought the first trimester yuckiness and a new semester of classes.) I'm happy to now report, however, that things are moving very quickly!

red velvet cake with blue almond frosting
The latest updates are pretty exciting. I'm now fully insured (whew!) and am working with a kitchen downtown to write a lease for use of their kitchen for at least the next year. The fun part about the kitchen is that it is located in The Encounter building where Pete and I met for the very first time nearly seven years ago. The church we were attending meets in the building, which is owned by Youth for Christ. So not only do I have amazing memories there, but I love knowing that my rent will be going to a really great cause. As soon as the lease is signed, I can get licensed! According to the gentleman with the Department of Agriculture here in town, it will be a very fast process. Yay yay yay!

In the meantime, orders for summer weddings are really picking up. I've had a few fun evenings with brides and their fiances or mothers while we discuss what they envision for their wedding and try cake samples from my menu. The thing that I have to remember is that I'll have another wee one at that time. Oddly enough, I keep forgetting! No orders in June. The first will be my cousin's on our five year anniversary in July!

Your prayers are really appreciated as I try to get everything in line for my license in the next week. I know bumps can happen, but I'm praying that this will be smooth sailing.


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