Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Grandma's Duncan Heinz Coffee Cake

This is one of my favorite recipes! I don't think this was an original recipe but my Grandma passed it down to my mom who passed it down to me. Grandma almost always had this delicious coffee cake on hand.  It was a staple that everyone loves, which made it a perfect gift when someone was sick or grieving. 

I think of Grandma every time I make it.  Though we often cooked together, I can't remember if we ever made the coffee cake together.  Either way, the recipe is indelibly associated with her.  

Every Christmas I make a bunch of mini coffee cakes for my boss and other helpful administrative staff. Then I make a regular size coffee cake for my coworkers, which I bring to our afternoon meeting. Grandma was still living the first year I did this and got such a kick out of me carrying on a tradition.  The next Christmas, she had passed and my hospice coworkers had known her and cared for her at the end.  The coffee cake became a way of honoring her memory.

It helps that this coffee cake is a definite crowd pleaser. People actually cheer when they see me breaking it out every year! Also, your home will smell amazing while it's baking. The marbling of the filling is a nice touch- it's pretty to look at!

Grandma's Duncan Heinz Coffee Cake

1 pkg. Yellow Cake (Duncan Heinz is the best for flavor but another mix will do)
1 sm. pkg. Vanilla Instant Pudding
3/4 c. oil
3/4 c. water
1 t. vanilla
1 t. butter flavoring
4 eggs

Beat above ingredients together. Separately mix the filling in a bowl. If you want to have a really pronounced cinnamon/sugar flavor, you can make more filling and layer it thickly.

1/2 c. sugar
4 t. cinnamon
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Grease bread pan- either regular or you can use 4 small bread pans. Alternate layers, starting with cinnamon mix on the bottom, then cake, then filling, cake, etc. I usually end up with 3 layers. End with filling on the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


OK, I admit it. One Tree Hill is a guilty pleasure. In my defense, I never consistently watched the show until this year (and not since the first couple of seasons). I'm not admitting this so you can make fun of me but to let you know of a band featured on the show. (Lead singer Mike Grubbs appeared as a bartender who later sneaks into the recording studio and goes to town on the piano. Only on this show!) Wakey! Wakey!. Strange name, I know, but I am in love with the song "Brooklyn."

I hope I see you soon

Cause you’re fond of me and I am fond of you

These days I guess that’s all it takes

That and just a few mistakes

and I have made mistakes

Yes I have made mistakes today…

So tonight I’ll be your Brooklyn

So cool and yet so far away

Just tell me what you want for me to say

And if it brings you home…

I guess it’s safe to say

We both could use this fire escape

Cause I’ve been breathin’ ashes in

And I’ve been waiting for somethin’ to carry you away

Cause i have made mistakes today…

So I hope you travel safe

I hope you’re cool, I hope you find your way

It’s sad, but it is safe to say

We disagree on one to many things

And I have made mistakes today…

Paperdoll ponderings part 2

I'm reading Paperdoll in bits and pieces, letting it settle, allowing myself to ponder each section. Some parts are more applicable than others. Chapter 6 seems especially timely.

Lloyd writes:
"But there's another kind of paperdoll I'm guilty of becoming- a whole other kind of fake I slip on and off as easily as a cheap Halloween costume- and that's pretending I'm "fine" when my heart feels ripped into pieces. I convince myself that God doesn't care about my deepest places of hurt. I'm afraid to tell anybody how I feel, because 1) they won't get it, and 2) they'll just think I'm complaining. A paperdoll isn't just a metaphor for an infatuation with externals; its a tragic metaphor for a girl who looks fine but who is going to pieces deep down in her heart. Even churches have a way of becoming veritable theaters where we hide our true heart, or deep pain, behind a bright mask of "fine." Sometimes there is a tremendous amount of turmoil churning behind that paper smile. Like when we lose the people we love. Grief feels like an anchor pulling our hearts further down in our chest. It becomes hard for us to get up in the morning or go outside or think even weeks (or hours) ahead. I don't think it is ever fully possible to prepare for the emotional and physical response that grief can bring into a life."
She goes on to list other sources of turmoil, such as being diagnosed with a terminal disease, financial difficulties, moving to a new town, the effects of divorce, addiction, and abuse.
"We become beautiful paperdolls with frayed hearts, masking our pain from the world with another smile. In those moments, I even decide that if I pretend long enough, I'll start to find some semblance of inner peace. But that peace never comes from pretending. It only comes from the One who waited by the well. We get to bring the whole entire mess of our heart to Jesus, just as it is. We get to sort out the pieces there in His presence. We get to take comfort in His love. His offer to use is the same as His offer to Sam: living water. The kind that loves us unconditionally and covers every need." (p. 119-120)

That was a lot to read but take a moment go over the words again. Chances are they will resonate with you in one way or another.

I am often guilty of pretending that everything is fine. I am so used to being the one that everyone turns to for advise and comfort that I am at a loss when the shoe is on the other foot. I still feel the need to be "strong" when I am weak and vulnerable. My closest friends, including my mom, know that this is a weakness of mine and understand how to push through the wall I have erected. Other friends, acquaintances, even family at times, seem to not even notice anything is amiss- they're just glad that they can keep opening up to me in spite of my circumstances. This hit home especially shortly after my great-aunt had died and my grandma had been diagnosed with cancer. A coworker told me "you still look so sad." I was shocked because I felt I had good reason to look sad but I realized that she didn't want to acknowledge what I was going through, she just needed me to be there for her. I am better about knowing who to turn to in my times of need. When I do open up to my closest friends, I often feel I am just complaining about the same things. In fact in the last year I have been more intentional about dissecting whether I am complaining or processing. If I can take action, then I'm not complaining. If I'm rehashing the same sorry situation but am unwilling to make any change or my hands are tied, then I need to take a new look at my attitude.

Right now I'm processing a few things. We're nearing the 3rd Christmas without Aunt Teresa and Grandma. I feel Grandma's loss especially keenly right now as a close friend just loss her grandmother last week. She mentioned a few days before her grandma died how she was grieving that her grandma would not someday be at her wedding. How I related to this! Future wedding aside, life still feels so strange without my grandma. I probably think about her more now in my day to day life than I did while she was alive, in the way that we take our grandparents for granted. The very nature of my job probably leads to increased thoughts of Grandma, especially as I offer prebereavement and aftercare to children and teens losing parents or grandparents. It's hard to be in my line of work and not reflect on the similarities and differences with patients and families. And yet, this is not something I can share with many people. I dread telling people what I do for a living because the response is invariably how I'm a special person and they could never do that because they would cry all day. I end up feeling like I need to defend hospice (quality of life, people!) or undercut myself. I definitely put a mask on when talking about my job with strangers.

Job and grief aside, I am probably most concerned about my upcoming 30th birthday in less than a month. The past year I've been telling everyone that I'm choosing to embrace turning 30. That it's just a number. That I'll never look my age anyway. But as it draws nearer, I'm having a harder time sticking to my mantra. 30 seems so put together. If I'm lucky, that'll be a third of my life. Yes, I've done a lot in my 30 years that other people haven't. I recently found a "top 5 goals" list that I believe I put together during my senior year of college. I realized I have accomplished 4 out of the 5 goals in the past 7 years (Go to Ireland, become a healthcare social worker, get into a good grad school, become financially independent.) For some reason though, I hold on to the one goal that has not been realized- getting married. Why does one dream deferred carry more weight than all else that God has allowed me to do? I may look like my life is together but God and I both know that I am a mess in great need of His grace and strength. I know this next year will include a big test for me and I am excited and terrified at the same time. My prayer is that God would become bigger in my life, that I would become more like Christ each day, and that my heart would be burdened by the people and things on God's heart. Part of that is lifting the mask up and letting people in. And the other part is continual surrender to God and His perfect plan. Romans 8:28 has meant so much to me the past few years: "And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." It's enough to know the big picture and let God work out the details.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas albums

Last weekend was filled with wonderful Christmas music, both traditional and original. I've been a fan of Sleeping At Last from the beginning (a perk of being friends with the bass player) but it's been a few years since I've caught a show. I was very pleased when they announced a Christmas show in Naperville. My friends and I braved the cold and it was so worth it! Ben Thomas, of So Elated, was the opening act. Anyone who can turn Radiohead's "Creep" in to a Christmas song is worth paying attention to. I was captivated by the song "Zechariah and the Least Expected Places," which you can listen to on MySpace. Thomas played many songs from their Christmas album "The Bewildering Light" and of course I bought it after the show. But you, lucky reader, can download it for free by forwarding it to 5 friends. Completely worth it!

Sleeping At Last is also kindly offering their Christmas CD as a free download. Click here to listen and upload. "O Holy Night" has always been my favorite Christmas song. I was blown away by Ryan's rendition- his voice is perfect for this!

Over the Rhine is celebrating 20 years of making music together. They put on a regular Christmas show but last Saturday was the first one I've been to. Their Christmas music is amazing! (Of course, if you know anything about OTR, this is not surprising.) Linford and Karen's lyrics pierce my heart every time. The show flew by and before I knew it, they were back for an encore. I highly recommend "Snow Angels" or their other Christmas album. Sample lyrics: "Strings of lights above the bed, Curtains drawn and a glass of red, All I ever get for Christmas is blue." OTR helpfully post a record player on their website so you can listen for yourself. The video quality below is terrible but you must listen to "Snow Angels." Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poor Bears

Joe Schmitt was so disturbed by the Bears' abysmal playing that he tweaked the familiar fight song.

"Lie down, Chicago Bears,

snatch defeat from the jaws of victory;
Lie down, Chicago Bears,
let them score and you've lost your dignity.
We'll never forget the way you bored the nation
with your punt formation.
Lie down, Chicago Bears,
you've failed again to convert on third down.
Haven't had a man since Jim McMahon,
Chicago Bears, lie down."

If only it wasn't true.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bow-tique Gift Idea

Last time my best friend came to visit we headed to a posh kids boutique in a nearby town. She and our other friend/new mom pored over the headbands, tutus, and baby high many options, so little time before they'll outgrow it all. One thing that caught Tracy's eye especially was a plaque that allowed you to clip hairbows to the ribbons hanging from it. It was out of her price range but, as I looked at it, I thought "I could do that!" And so this year's Christmas gift for Anna and Katelyn was born.

It helps to have a dad as a carpenter. I found a decent piece of wood in his work shop, which he cut to my specification and then drilled holes for the hanger. He then coated it with a sealant so I could paint on top. (I would have done this myself but I was still in work clothes and he's just a great dad.) I let it dry overnight. Then I mixed acrylic paint to come up with a soft yellow for the base. Once that was dry, I painted "Anna's/Katelyn's Bow-tique" and then added filigree and flowers along the edges. I asked both mom's ahead of time for the room colors or what colors they preferred for their daughters to guide my flower and ribbon color choices. It didn't turn out quite as envisioned but I still like the final result.
After the paint was dry, I threaded ribbon through the top holes to form a hanger and triple knotted it. I then used wood glue to attach 15" ribbons. And voila...both of my favorite girls have a place to hang their hair bows. I also included 2 wave clips that they can use to hold headbands.