February 24, 2014

the couch

We are home.

After nearly a week of sighing longingly over its photo on craigslist, we have viewed the couch in person.  We have sat on the couch.  We have asked probing questions about the couch.  We have smelled the couch and checked its hidden seams for evidence of infestation.

We have purchased the couch.  We have loaded it into a borrowed truck and muscled it into our living room (necessitating the removal of certain door hardware to do so).

And now we are staying up WAY past our bedtimes, trying to get used to the couch.

It is mammoth.

We like it, I hasten to add - although the cushions do seem to tilt forward in a most unwelcoming fashion.  We are hoping to break them in (and we know we're good at that, since our thorough success is the primary reason we're getting rid of our old couch) and help them form new habits.

But ... it's mammoth.

And it's not alone.  It came ("oh, joy!" we thought) with a matching mammoth chair and ottoman, both of which completely redefine the word "overstuffed."

It didn't look big in its old house.  (Of course, there was nothing else in the room to lend a sense of scale, whereas here it has plenty of normal-sized furniture to dwarf.)

I was eager for a new couch.  I just ... didn't realize that it would look like it was trespassing.  How long will this last?  Can I get used to it faster by going in and out of the room several times - say, oh, four dozen?  Or will it take days ... ?  Months?

And yet, I like it.

I just feel sorry for the recliner.  It used to dominate the room.  Now it cowers in the corner, reduced in size like a great-grandmother, shrunken with age.

[pictures, added for Queenie:]



(note the recliner, reduced in the background, and the mammoth matching chair,
together with its ottoman taking up three times the floor space of its predecessor)
(note also the primary use of the ottoman as a Lego table)

February 21, 2014

a mighty fortress is our God

text by Martin Luther; translated by Frederick H. Hedge

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate:
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
One little word can fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God's truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

February 20, 2014

orange marmalade triple brownie torte

Sugar recently turned twelve, and to celebrate, we invented a cake as sweet and original as she is.  It got so many raves that I thought I'd share it with you .... the recipe, that is, since the cake itself is now just crumbs and a happy memory.


First, work up an appetite.  You're going to need it, along with a high tolerance for sweet things!

Next, set out four large eggs to come to room temperature.  (Or, if you're in a hurry - not that I'm ever in a hurry for brownies or anything - cover them with warmish water to bring them to room temperature.)

Melt 3/4 cup butter in a small saucepan, and stir into it 3/4 cup cocoa (Wilbur's is best, if you can get it).  Remove from heat and allow to cool at least somewhat.

Rub the sides of three 9" round cake pans with shortening, cut out parchment paper (wax paper will do in a pinch) in circles to fit inside the bottoms, and turn the oven on to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Into a large bowl, break the four eggs and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt.  Beat until eggs are frothy and lemon-colored.  Gradually cream 2 cups of raw sugar and 1 tsp. of real vanilla into the beaten eggs.  Quickly fold in the butter-and-cocoa, then a cup of whole wheat flour and a half cup of chocolate chips (or more chocolate chips, if you have a death-by-chocolate wish), just till evenly blended.

Scrape it into the three cake pans somewhat evenly (I didn't spread the batter out, and so got uneven sides) and bake 10-15 minutes, or until the edges begin to look just a bit dry, and the center is no longer wet.  Cool in the pans on cooling racks.

Now make the icing!

[Caveat:  I kind of wing it on icing.  Sometimes - say, for instance, this time - I've forgotten to buy a new bag of confectioners' sugar, so I have to adjust the recipe a bit for the amount I have.  Or maybe I want the orange-flavored buttercream icing but I think cream cheese would taste good, too, so ... I tinker.  And then I don't always remember what all I added, or how much.  So the recipe I give you is an approximation, at best.]

Cream a couple of tablespoons of butter with a few ounces of cream cheese and a tablespoon of orange juice.  Add confectioners' sugar (say, 2-3 cups) until the consistency is right.  Then, freelance!  I added about 20 drops of sweet orange oil, and the chopped zest* of one orange.  We wanted an orange tint to the icing, too, so added a few drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of red.

Taste test, to see if you need to add more sweet orange oil (probably - can't get enough of that), or orange juice, or zest, or who knows - maybe vanilla?

Now, take your cooled brownie layers.  Spread marmalade on the biggest one for your bottom layer. Actually, learn from my mistake, and spread the marmalade on all three layers.  Next spread a layer of icing over the marmalade - yes, it will be messy, and no, it won't necessarily look pretty.  Doesn't matter.  You and your lucky guests will be so enraptured by the flavor that no one will notice messy icing incidents.  Ice all three layers before stacking.  That's what I didn't do, and ended up with a slightly leaning tower of brownie, as a result.  If you marmalade and ice them all on solid ground, you can stack them up the way you want, and (I'm guessing) they are more likely to stay in place!

And voila!  You have created your Orange Marmalade Triple Brownie Torte!  Slice thinly (although the zest and the chocolate chips can make that tricky), because not everyone can finish a standard-size slice.

Brownie Layers
4 large eggs
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups raw sugar
1 tsp. real vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips


cream cheese
orange juice
confectioners' sugar
sweet orange oil
orange zest
food coloring

* I don't own a zester.  Well, actually, I might have one somewhere in that drawer, but I don't use it.  I guess I'm not fancy enough to figure out how it works, or maybe I just bought a lemon.  ;)  I use my vegetable peeler, instead, and then chop it.  So, no cute spirals of zest for me, boo-hoo.  If you know how to do that, I think they'd look nice on top, maybe with some chocolate chips sprinkled artfully about.

** Those are not peas on Sugar's cake.  They look just like peas, but they're actually fondant balls.  She thought it would look festive to make little green balls and put them around the edge, and I blush to confess that it did not occur to her mother, either, that they would look just like peas.  It wasn't until they were on, and presented for admiration to Spice and Nice, that these helpful sisters pointed out how just like peas small green balls can look.  Some tears were shed, but all three girls really like fondant (notice that I am not included in that list), so the "peas" stayed.

February 12, 2014

O Love that wilt not let me go ...

  1. O Love that wilt not let me go,
    I rest my weary soul in thee;
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    That in thine ocean depths its flow
    May richer, fuller be.
  2. O light that foll’west all my way,
    I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
    My heart restores its borrowed ray,
    That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
    May brighter, fairer be.
  3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
    I cannot close my heart to thee;
    I trace the rainbow through the rain,
    And feel the promise is not vain,
    That morn shall tearless be.
  4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.

George Mattheson, 1882

February 7, 2014

ice storm

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be, nearer my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs, Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

~Sarah Adams, 1841

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