amazing birthday cake

blowing candleThis is not a food blog, but this was too fun not to document somewhere! My sister and I made this cake years ago. It requires many not-in-my-fridge ingredients, takes a lot of work and many hours of time, but tastes amazing in the end.

Last time we made it, after we let the cake chill for three hours, we unveiled our creation… and it had cracked right down the middle. I swore I would never do it again!

… but I should know to never say never… and today we made the cake again in honor of my birthday. Nothing like spending all day making your own birthday cake!

It was actually a very fun way to spend the day with my sister… and even my husband, Steve, helped some! So while we are waiting for the cake to chill so we can eat it, I am going to post some pictures of the process for you. I wish I could share some of the cake with you!

The recipe is called Esther’s Orange Marmalade Layer Cake, and it is found in Jan Karon’s Christmas story, Esther’s Gift.


Esther’s Gift is a short story of grace and generosity… and very fitting that I made the cake together with my sister, who has shown both grace and generosity in sharing her house with my husband and me while we are in transition.


The cake tasted better than we remembered! Second chances are a good thing! Today I am especially grateful for the gifts of life, family and love… and second chances.


Have you received an important second chance in your life?

Do you celebrate any special birthday traditions in your home?

broken hearts

free image courtesy of

One of my children broke my heart the other day. They made a poor choice that really disappointed me. I hurt for them and for the other people involved.

That was not the first time I hurt for one of my very normal, very imperfect children… and I am sure it won’t be the last time.

I’m confident that my children often have no idea how their choices and actions affect me as their mom. They certainly pay the major part the actual physical, emotional, and financial consequences, but there is a ripple effect from all they do.

As a parent, I carry part of their experience with me. I grieve the unfulfilled dreams and hopes I had for them. My heart aches for their loss. I cry for their pain. I pray for further growth and maturity. My soul yearns for their forgiveness and healing.


I have learned through my own mistakes over the years that grace is a precious gift to receive during times of pain. My children are usually completely aware of their error; they don’t need judgement, criticism or lectures. They do need to know that – whatever happens – I love them still.


I need grace too. I could beat myself up with self-doubts, guilt and second-guessing. Was there a lack in my parenting that somehow “caused” this? Did I not hug, teach or discipline enough? Although I already know that my parenting is not perfect, it was helpful when a friend reminded me that even God – the perfect Father – has imperfect, mistake-ridden, continually erring children. Our situations are very rarely simple cause and effect. Each one makes their own choices.


In the midst of the ups and downs of life, my (almost adult) children need me. Some times they need someone to listen; other times then need a long, strong hug. Some times they need practical help; some times they need me to “just” pray and give them time and space to work things out. Some times they need advice, counsel and the encouragement to reconcile, restore and choose better the next time.

…because there will be a next time. I would do almost anything to protect my children from pain. When they were very little, I could fool myself occasionally into thinking that I could control their environment and choices. I know better now.

The question is not IF my children will avoid poor choices and pain. Instead WHEN they are hurt and hurt others, the question is HOW will I respond?


How do you respond to your children’s (or others’) poor choices? What helps you respond well?