Sunday, February 12, 2012

{Skippy's Apricot Cake}

When I was a kid, my Mom used to sing the song, MacArthur's Park, to me at bedtime. It was a really strange song about cake being left out in the rain (a metaphor for love, I think), but I used to love to listen to her voice singing it. She got the solo in high school because she was the only one that could hit the really high note in the middle of the song. Dang, I love that about her.

Although my Mom can certainly sing about a cake, she never was a baker. That's my love. I've always adored how you can take a recipe of simple ingredients, stir them in the right order, and out pops this masterpiece you've created. Cakes, cookies, scones, muffins, bread. Almost everything tastes good right out of the oven. I love it all, especially if it is a family recipe passed down for generations and baked with love.

I have been devouring this cookbook, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, which walks you through whether you should buy it or make it homemade. I've made three batches of homemade yogurt that is to die for, but that's a topic for another blog. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a cake recipe tucked in the afterward section of this cookbook. It is a recipe her Mom loved to make growing up and the author found six, handwritten copies in her mother's recipe file. She says, "The cake is a wonder, the recipe a clearly wasn't the brainchild of my great-aunt Skippy, though in our family she got all the credit."

This cake is baking in my oven right now. It will be ready in exactly 10 minutes and then I am ready to try it for myself. I'm giddy. Family recipes do that to me. If you're the same, I'm jotting the recipe down below.

Skippy's Apricot Cake
1 box Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
1 cup canned apricot nectar, such as Kern's
3/4 cup neutral vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs

Glaze: 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Grease your Bundt pan or 9-inch tube pan. Stir together cake mix, nectar, oil, and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Just before baking time is up, mix together the glaze ingredients. When cakes comes out of oven, immediately turn it over onto a cooling rack positioned over a cookie sheet or large newspaper (anything that will spare you having to scrub your counter later). Pour the glaze on top of cake while it is hot out of the oven. The glaze will melt and flow down the sides of the cake and harden into an irresistible lemony glaze. As my mother wrote on each copy of her recipe: "Makes 12 large slices, 24 lady slices."

Happy baking, friends.

"MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark, all the sweet green icing flowing down. Someone left my cake out in the rain. I don't think that I can take it, 'cause it took so long to bake it, and I'll never have that recipe again. Oh, no."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

{Jaws, the Jumping Turtle}

I live in a crazy house. It's full of noise and mess and pure chaos. Those are just the good days, my friends. Mostly, it's a whirlwind. Boys, 5 (including the turtle). Girls, 1 (me).

Of all the boys, our African side-neck turtle, Jaws, is the most well behaved. He lives in a large tank in the kid's room, complete with lots of water to swim and big rocks to sun himself by his heat lamp. He is always smiling (well, it's also the type of turtle he is, but I like to think it's because he is really happy). He is safe behind the glass walls of his tank.

Not anymore. Jaws has been tank jumping, all the way down to the hard wooden floor. Twice this week in fact. He's survived both times, I'm elated to say, but I'm wondering how he finds the power to push through his lid and then take a flying leap. This last time, I started to wonder if maybe our house is just too much for the little guy. Could it be, well, too chaotic?

I felt that way tonight. I got home late from a work meeting to find things in usual disarray--dishes piled high, the dog chewing tiny soldiers, homework spread everywhere (but not done), dirty socks under the coffee table and on TOP of the kitchen table, and everybody needing help with something immediately. A hundred things in a hundred different directions. It's a struggle. A struggle for patience, for getting it all done. A struggle to slow down and enjoy it like everyone says you should. Mainly, I'm just struggling to stay on top of being a good mom. I feel like I'm failing. Miserably.

I snuck upstairs tonight, almost an hour before bedtime, because I couldn't take anymore. Yes, I did. I hid from my my own house. And although I didn't carry up the bottle of wine (which crossed my mind, believe me!), I did leave the "wild man" zoo downstairs for calm alone time. I sacrificed quality time with my kids for quiet time with myself. Slight guilt, but I can also feel the rational me starting to come back in to focus.

To make amends, I squeezed my kids extra tight at bedtime and smacked lots of kisses on their sweet faces. I hope, I really hope, my suffocating love can make up for all my mistakes, including hiding away tonight. Do you think there's lots of wiggle room in parenting for all the imperfection? Please let the answer be yes.

Oh, and the turtle? Well, I checked on him tonight before turning out their light. He wouldn't even look my way, the sneaky bastard. I know he's planning another escape, but I can hardly blame him, I guess. I know exactly how he feels in all this chaos.