Friday, January 30, 2015

Valentine's Day Countdown

While scanning Pinterest, my favorite me-time activity, I came across this incredible idea for a Valentine Advent Calendar

Image retrieved from

Although this was my first encounter with the Happy Home Fairy, this will certainly not be my last.  What a great idea this is!  My kids are always asking how many more days until whatever special event is next.  Since my birthday (mid January) they have been hounding me about Valentine's Day.  This perfect little printable from the HHF is just the ticket.

The printable consists of 15 Bible verses about love... and one very corny but cute joke.  In her blog post, she details how the verses can be used.
Image retrieved from

I chose to use the verses for two purposes.

After printing and cutting out copies of the verses, I gathered my materials.
  • seasonally appropriate cardstock
  • heart stickers (dollar bin at Target)
  • tape
  • string
  • scissors

I cut out 14 hearts from the cardstock and affixed a verse to each heart.

I divided the pile of hearts and cut the sheet of stickers in two and gave one set to each of my kiddos.  They had fun decorating the hearts.

Once decorated, I suspended the hearts from our living room ceiling. 

The plan is to have the children select one heart to pull down from the ceiling each night, beginning Feb 1 and ending Feb 14.  We will use the heart during devotional time by reading the verse and discussing how it applies to our lives.  We will also reinforce counting with our youngest as he counts the remaining hearts each day. 

The second way we will use these verses is by cutting them out and passing a card along to each person at services the Sunday before Valentine's Day.  We may even add a chocolate heart.  How fun to share God's love with others!  I also look forward to the experience my children will have connecting with others in the congregation.

How will you make Valentine's Day special for your family and those around you?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Class Valentines

I love a good class valentine. As soon as the Valentines' Day goodies replace the Christmas items on store shelves, I begin my search for the kids' class valentines.

As much as I love a good cartoon character card, I am partial to the homemade valentine.  However, with all of the work demands, I may not always be as creative as I would like to be.  That sends me to Pinterest for ideas.

For my three-year-old son, we decided to do dinosaur valentines this year.  I found a delightful free printable here.  I got the plastic dino figures and the cellophane bags from the Target dollar bins.  I also chose to add a couple of Dove Heart candies.  I think they turned out very cute.

For my five-year-old daughter, I had more input.  She was very open to whatever we put together but required the outcome be cute.  While buying dinos at Target, we ran across these adorable little 20-page note pads.  I created the following printable and used double stick tape to affix each note pad to its card.  Since they work on their names in Kindergarten, she had the honor of writing her name on all 48 cards.  Lucky kid.

We can't wait to distribute these simple yet cute cards to their classes on February 13th!

Bye Week - Downton Night 3

So I am a little behind in sharing our culinary journey through Season 5 of Downton Abbey.  I was very sick with a terrible cold the weekend episode 3 was aired.  My husband, who did not want to miss out, went to Starbucks and brought back mini vanilla scones to enjoy with our tea.  What a guy!

The point of this post?  We don't always need to engage in a lot of prep and clean-up to enjoy a fun Downton viewing experience!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Espresso Gingerbread Cake And The Latest From Downton

There is a witness?!!  Oh, no!  Mrs. Hughes' stomach wasn't the only one that sank at the news.  Yikes!  I am sure Bates has a wonderful reason for being in London at the untimely but well-deserved departure of Mr. Green but still.  Don't send him to prison again!!!

Okay, my moment of anxiety is over.

But wait!  Will the farmer's wife become upset with Lady Edith?  Something is brewing.

And Mary!!  What are you thinking?!!  Will Tony stick around?  (But seriously, who wouldn't kill for that stunning coat?!)

Oh, Tom!!  Will you risk it all for that cooky teacher?!  While it is great you maintain your independent thought, you are past that polarizing philosophy. You have grown!  You build bridges rather than driving people apart.  I hope you don't lose this maturity because of her.

Julian Fellowes... you have got serious game.

I needed a little caffeine to stay sharp for this week's episode so I made an Espresso Gingerbread Cake as my accompanying nosh.  I followed this recipe from Fine Cooking. Check it out.


1/2 cup dark unsulphured molasses
1/2 cup brewed strong coffee or espresso
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon dark rum (or substitute with rum flavoring)
1 1/2 tablespoons brewed espresso

Place rack into middle of oven.  Preheat to 350F.  Butter and flour a 10 cup bundt pan.  In a small bowl, mix molasses and coffee together and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, espresso powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves). In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute).  Add sugar and continue beating another 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing until combined and stopping to scrape the bowl between each addition.

 With mixer on low, alternate adding flour and coffee mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour.

Scrape the bowl and mix one last time on medium, until batter is smooth. The fragrance of this batter is simply intoxicating!

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread out the top until evenly dispersed.  Just lovely.

Bake about 40 minutes, or until an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean.  My entire family crept around the kitchen during baking time due to the warm, holiday spice scent permeating the house.  This cake would be perfect at Christmas.

Set pan on rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Invert cake onto the rack and cool to just warm.

Prepare glaze by mixing ingredients well so there are no lumps.  Place cake onto a plate and drizzle the glaze, allowing the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.  (Note:  If you have children, you may wish to skip glazing the entire cake and glaze by the slice.  This is what I needed to do so there is no photo of a fully glazed cake.)

This is a delicious spice cake.  For those who may not enjoy gingerbread, the coffee and espresso do a nice job of mellowing the strong molasses flavor.  Serve it with a little dab of whipped cream and maybe a slice of fresh pear. 

Give this Espresso Gingerbread Cake a try for your Downton viewing next week.  But even if you don't, be certain to tune in to see if this lovely connection between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes continues to flourish.  Wasn't his comment about his not liking being on different sides just perfect?  Swoon...

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Downton Season 5 begins TONIGHT!

No one is more excited than I am about the new season of Downton Abbey airing on PBS tonight.  I have adored this beautiful program from the very beginning and have enjoyed seeing its popularity grow.  After a year-long hibernation I am beyond ready to feast my eyes on gorgeous costumes and sets, feast my ears on beautiful accents and witty comments, and feast my taste buds on a variety of British and period foods while viewing each carefully crafted episode.

I initially questioned whether or not I wanted to bake for Downton night.  I even posted my conundrum on social media and there were a number of people who let me know I couldn't skip out... I had to continue my journey into trying recipes enjoyed on the other side of the pond.  I quickly began Googling recipes and came across a great cache of new culinary territory begging to be explored.  I am sure Daisy would be glad I am giving it another go.

To prepare for episode one, I came across a Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake posted in Fine Cooking.  I have never made a pound cake but rather liked the idea of beginning simply. Also, I received fresh California lemons from some members of the church and wanted to use them in something special.  The two are also Downton fans and are currently vacationing in London. They plan to catch up on the program when they return and were delighted to learn how their lemons would be put to use.

Here is my take on the Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake.


1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 C buttermilk
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbsp confectioner's sugar


Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) together in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until it becomes pale. Add sugar and beat until fluffy.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add eggs one at a time. Mix until well incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture and blend until just combined.

Add half of the liquid mixture (buttermilk, lemon juice from 1/2 lemon, vanilla) and mix until just combined.

Add 1/2 of the remaining dry and mix as before, followed by the remaining liquid and mixing as before.  Finally, add the last 1/2 of dry and mix until just blended.  Add lemon zest and mix into the batter by hand.

Scrape the batter into a prepared 8x5 inch loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees F for 50 to 55 minutes.  The cake should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out with a few crumbs clinging to it.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  As it cools, prepare the glaze by thoroughly mixing the juice of 1 lemon with powdered sugar.

After 10 minutes, carefully remove the cake from the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze onto the warm cake.

Continue cooling completely on the wire rack.  Serve with whipped cream, berries or even ice cream.  The result is a lovely moist cake with a sweet yet tart glaze.  A perfect not-to-sweet accompaniment to a cup of piping hot tea.  Time for Downton!