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Whirlwind days, going every which way, and a long weekend filled with friends and family, and a birthday for my love. Andy Paulson turned forty-six and had a very sweet birthday. I went old-school with the cake I made for him, and returned to my old classic, chocolate cake with butter-roux frosting. This time I made the cake in three 8"-round pans, and baked them for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. I doubled the frosting and piled it on. Highly recommend.

A Variation on Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa (I actually use Cacao Barry, which my sister turned me on to)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup steaming hot (brewed) coffee*

*Original recipe calls for boiling water but coffee brings out the chocolate flavor a bit without actually making it taste like coffee. I usually reheat whatever was leftover in coffee pot that morning.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (using cocoa powder so it disappears) two 9" round cake pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Carefully stir in boiling water and coffee (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans (see above).

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes (see above) or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

As I've posted before, the frosting for this cake is my mom's old recipe for something we in our family called "the milk and flour frosting." (I later learned this is called a "butter-roux" frosting.) When I first put it on the blog several years ago, I renamed it more romantically and called it Cloudburst Frosting because it is really light, fluffy, and not-too-sweet . This frosting also had a long history in our house of being very temperamental but it is totally worth it. We think we have it down now, but you have to do it exactly this way. You just do. Don't ask me why. We really do not know.

Cloudburst Frosting

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup WHOLE (it has to be whole) milk or half-and-half
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

In a small pan, gradually add the milk to the flour, whisking them together into a totally smooth mixture — you don't want any lumps here. Simmer (barely) until thick over low/medium heat, whisking constantly so you don't get any lumps. (Do not walk away from the stove for even a minute — trust me. If you do get lumps, just push it all through a sieve.) You want it to be the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and let it cool completely but NOT in the refrigerator (Mom says if you put it in the fridge it won't work). Let it cool for a few minutes, and then push a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface of the mixture (so a skin doesn't form) and let it sit on the counter for an hour or two or three until it's completely cool. (Update: My sister says it's totally fine to put this in the refrigerator, so . . . ) Cream together the butter and almond; add the confectioner's sugar and beat on high for several minutes until it is very fluffy. Add the milk/flour mixture and beat until it is super fluffy. The frosting will sometimes appear to separate when you add the milk/flour mixture, but just keep beating it on high until it whips up into smooth, fluffy clouds.

            After frosting the cake, chill before serving for maximum deliciousness. I like this cake very cold.

 

The news of the world and of our city in particular has been so troubling and heartbreaking it has brought me to tears several times this past week. Today Amelia and I went past the memorial at the transit center where two brave men lost their lives. It is absolutely covered in flowers and chalk-drawn messages of love. I send my prayers out to all of the fallen warriors and their families who have given everything to protect us. I truly appreciated all of your comments on my last post. I long for advice about how to live in these troubled times.

We planted our little vegetable garden in the parkway raised beds this past weekend. We don't really have enough in it yet, I don't think. The weather is all over the place — some days in the upper 90s and some days, like yesterday, absolutely freezing cold and raining. We planted the back-porch planters with veggies and herbs, too — tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, corn, basil, lemon verbena. These I'm hoping Amelia will take care of, as it will be easy for her to water them out there. She spends a lot of time on the back porch, so I think it will be fun. I had absolutely no plan with regard to anything that I bought — I just grabbed a bunch of veggie starts randomly and we put them all over the place, in front and back. This is not how I usually do things but hey, stuff's in the ground, at least. I feel like maybe some of it is not supposed to be together, but I've never really understood what that means or why certain veggies aren't supposed to be planted near one another. . . . Feel free to enlighten me, honestly. Is it like a nutrient thing or a pest thing or . . . ? I could Google this, I know.

I'm working on a Birkin sweater, a pattern for which you can only find in the second issue of  Laine magazine. This will be a size XL sweater knit in fingering-weight yarn, with lots of complicated colorwork (three colors per row in lots of cases) so it should keep me out of trouble for a good loooooooong while is what I'm thinking. . . .

My girl dances and twirls, spinning from one thing to the next, riding bigger little-kid amusement-park rides by herself for the first time, pulling all of her bravery from somewhere deep inside her, waiting in line and getting on the rides by herself, waving to us from the tiny plane, the tiny car, the tiny speedboat, us standing on the sidelines filled with so much hope and joy and admiration. She inspires me beyond words in these moments. I can see all of her fear and all of her fearlessness in her face, can see her weighing the risk of participation with the anticipation of just how exciting it will be when that thing goes up in the air, or bounces around the track, or bangs up and down on its metal octopus arm, and she wants to go. She is serious and deliberate and even nervous, but she always moves forward, standing in line on her own, asking the other kids around her if someone will ride with her, racing to the purple car, changing her mind and going for another one, losing nerve a little bit and starting to cry when it all gets too bumpy, then pulling herself back together and smiling hugely on the final round. When she got off the speedboat (the scariest one) she raced into my arms and collapsed, all tension in every muscle gone and making this loud noise that seemed to come from her soul, like an enormously relieved sigh but one that wasn't only relieved but also amused at herself and proud of herself and also just purely delighted at the world. It is hard to describe the noise but Andy and I both knew exactly what it was (we talked about it as soon as she went to bed and we both thought it meant the exact same things). She made the noise for a long time and I held her in my arms for all of that time and could not see through my own quiet, proud, and, yeah, relieved tears. This child, this braveheart. On my shoulder, limp and heavy and soft. Big and small. These moments sneak up on me so. I never knew about them before motherhood. I can't imagine what they are called. What are these called? There have been a few of them now and they are the most moving, poignant experiences of parenthood, for me. I can't even really describe, and I don't think I'll ever forget, but I just wanted to write this so that I could remember it again right now.

80 comments

I love the way you are able to capture the precious, ephemeral moments of parenting. Also, your cloudburst frosting has become our house standard after I read about it here ages ago. Thanks!

Only you could perfectly recreate a moment like that. Precious beyond words. Bless us all.

Gorgeous images. Your blog is such a treat to the eyes!

M. Michael Payne says: May 31, 2017 at 06:47 PM

A grandma moment. I saw that image of Amelia in the mirror and thought, "Oh, look, there's another little girl in Mimi's class that looks just like Mimi" Duh! Then i laughed. It's been one of those days. I got a sliver in the bottom of my foot and Larry had to pull it out but I had to finish dinner first. Then like a horse being shod i balanced myself on the dining room chair and did the crossword puzzle while Larry dug around for sliver in my foot, the top of my foot draped over his knee. We have so much fun over here. He wondered if Andy had a kit he kept at home for such emergencies. ? A day outside knitting and tomorrow rain again. Your roses look absolutely fantastic. I've got more irises this year than last and my little Japanese tree is doing a wonderful job of producing it lovely white and pink leaves. It look so lovely over in the corner by the lilac. Happy wet Spring to you too! LOL

1. I HAVE to make that cake this weekend. It looks amazing.

2. Do let us know how your garden grows. I saw the bunny tail seeds and have tried to grow them myself but with no luck. Maybe I'll try again (next year).

3. The deal with planting vegetables next to each other or not is called companion planting and it has to do with both the nutrients in the soil (drawing different ones out so it's not completely depleted) and pest/disease control. Marigolds repel potato bugs, so you plant marigolds and potatoes together. Beans and onions do NOT go well together because they attract fungal disease or something like that. It's pretty interesting.

Such beautiful pictures! And where did you ever find such a cute swimsuit for Mimi?

Joan Lesmeister says: May 31, 2017 at 08:26 PM

All your pictures & words, so charming, so sweet! Thank you! And, Happy Birthday Andy!

Once again, you fill my thoughts and heart with beauty and hope... even more appreciated this week, when as you note, the news is so heartbreaking. I have such a store of fond Portland memories, including the daily excursions Maria and I made from the Hollywood Transit stop, when we stayed in that neighborhood, last summer. I took the warmth and gentleness of Portland to heart, and am no less in awe and respectful of the people that live there, kind, generous and, warm. My thoughts and prayers are with the good people, the hopeful and kind, of your city of roses, wishing all peace and comfort.

I enjoyed the images in this post.. kind of like spending the day with you.. I wondered what fair you were at.. Oaks Park? I also am having trouble with the concert tragedy and then the one on Max right here. If I'd been there, I might have died as I have a habit of stepping in when someone is being threatened. The two men who were lost were both so fine and so good and had so much to live for.. and the one who took them was so lost and so evil. I just don't understand how things like this can happen.. why. Just why. But all we can do is continue to spread love and positivity and hope good will triumph over evil. You're doing your part to bring happiness to us all who visit here. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

You can romantically call them cloudburst feelings. Or the less romantic milk and flour feelings, I'll let you decide. ♡

Paula Barnett says: May 31, 2017 at 08:56 PM

My boys have long since grown up, but reading your blog brings back memories of the time they were babies, I am glad you are enjoying every moment because each one is precious. Thank you for writing this blog with its wonderful photos and yummy recipes. I look forward to reading the new postings.

Those feelings are called heart strings. They tie our lives and hearts together and can never be broken. Never.

Alicia, I love her haircut--so very perfect for her age, part little and part grown up. I have a daughter Amelia's age, nearly exactly, so am living the same things over here. And then my oldest child is nearly 16 and taller than my husband, and that sort of rips your heart to shreds, too. Parenting is not for the faint of heart, but is so very worth it. xxoo

J. Kelley says: May 31, 2017 at 09:59 PM

Hello!
I have a question about the cake recipe. I see hot water being used in the instructions but not in the list of ingredients. Would you please let me know how much boiling water to use?
Thank you very much!!
Judy

***Judy, good catch -- thank you. It should be just 1 c. hot coffee. I've fixed recipe and added explanation. Sorry about that! XO, a

Portland has been so much in my thoughts this week. All I can think is how very "Portland-like" those three heroes (two of whom died) are, confirmed when I heard each of their stories. Much more representative of Portland than this incident could ever be.

I just call those feelings the purest form of love.

To be fearful but yet brave enough to walk through that fear is a wonderful thing to be. It shows courage and strength of character that I hope will take Amelia far in life and allow her to be who ever she wants to be, filled to the brim with hard won confidence. Feel the fear and do it anyway! I love that you noticed.

I think parenting is about recognising and honouring those 'special' things in all our children. The things unique to them that make them who they are. All children have them and if we pay attention then we can bond and like and love our children all the more. It is not just traits that are 'just like me' that we should appreciate but also those things that are not like us, that teach us as well as amaze, delight or surprise us.

By softening the world around 'us', we can do our bit to make the world sweeter. I worked with a lady in her 80's who worked tirelessly for charity until her last days. What was different about her was that although she was far from being closed from the world, she was the least cynical person I knew. She was a tough person in many ways but her continued belief in goodness to prevail was something I hope I am learning from. We must all be the change we want to see and have faith that the majority of people want change for the general good of all. I do find it hard sometimes.

Google companion planting. Some things "help" each other out, like if you plant garlic around your roses it will keep some of the pests away from your roses. Others should not be planted near each other. As an example, I think it is fennel that other plants hate to have planted close. It's fascinating because when you rotate crops you help to improve the soil's nutrients and avoid depleting the soil of particular things. This is why we have the need for so much pest control....a field is planted with just corn year after year and it depletes the soil and increases the pest population. Gardens were meant to be varied-God is amazing in His creation like that!

Karoline says: June 01, 2017 at 04:40 AM

Dear Alicia,

I've been reading your blog for years, but have never posted a comment. Today you really moved me with the description of your beautiful girl and how brave she is. She very much resembles my oldest daughter of almost 4 years old. Those moments that you are experiencing and sneak up on you are what I call the Tinkerbell moments. Nothing but love, joy and safety. They are to be cherised because these are the moments when we really feel like parents and we feel most connected with are children. No words are needed, just feel the love. Big hug.

Lynn Marie says: June 01, 2017 at 05:10 AM

I loved it all today! I kept changing my mind on which picture was my favorite ☺. Thank you for your beautiful blog.

Thank you for the cake recipe. I have a soon to be 20 year old son with a birthday coming up, I think this will be his cake.

For gardening: My "go to book" every year is Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte. It is an easy read and reference book about which plants thrive when planted near one another and which will not produce or become prone to disease/pests because it doesn't like it's neighbor.

catalinakel says: June 01, 2017 at 06:04 AM

So good. Every bit of it.
And somehow knowing that there are folks
enjoying raising children despite the mess
we've got ourselves into makes things ok.
Thank you again for sharing your lives with us here.
It means so much.

The magic of parenthood is that these moments go on and on, through all the different stages of life. I see these moments in my young adult kids, too. This is what will save us, Alicia...all these young folks, melting into courage.
Namaste

I love your blog. Did you make the white pillow pictured in a few of the photos today? If so, could you please let me know where you found the pattern?

Your photos, windows on Portland life, bring me solace in these crazy times. Thank you! About interplanting, the book, Strawberries in November, Judith Goldsmith, is friendly, clear and reads more like a story. But, it's also for the CA Bay Area planting zones and is dated. No idea if it translates to your area but I still turn to it many years later.

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.