Tag Archives: birthday

Everyday Life: Weeks 22-28

Here’s a little glimpse at the last 7 weeks (now how did I let THAT happen?):

Everyday Life: Weeks 22-28

May 29th made one year since we got Percy! Here she is on her adoption day anniversary.

Salmon tacos are one of my favorite types of fish taco.

I planted these pink poppies in our backyard last year, where they’d be fenced in and folks passing by our house couldn’t steal them like so many folks do with the orange poppies we’ve had growing in our front yard forever.

Pitaya bowl for dinner one night!

I turned 32 in June. This was my birthday breakfast – glazed yeasted doughnuts are my favorite.

We also went out for Mexican food. (Margarita, fish tacos AND nachos for me…and to share with the husband.)

Loved my birthday gifts… lots of fabulous cookbooks, an Instant Pot, a meyer lemon tree, a fig tree, some other not-photographed goodies. My brother and sister in law also sent the dog a present for my birthday, haha!

The day after my birthday, we hosted a sleepover birthday party for Silas (whose birthday is three days after mine). Craig set up a whole “DJ” area so Silas could play whatever music he wanted (or have a rap battle with his friends…).

Still my favorite pizza place in town! (Silas and I like to order delivery when my husband has other engagements, ha!)

The garden is a-growin’!

Ramen dinner date with the husband!

Percy having a little lavender soak in the tub!

Silas’s baseball team won the Little League Championship game.

Followed by him making the All-Stars team, extending baseball season for another month.

She’s the best.

Caprese sammiches for dinner one night, as per request!

This little guy (baby pigeons outgrow their parents before learning to fly!) fell out of his nest.

My husband deemed him “my Chicken.”

Percy’s first REAL swim in the lake (with both kids).

‘Tis the season for grilling things and I’m excited to experiment!

A little exploring not too far from our house on the 4th of July.

We took a trip to the Bay Area. Guess who likes being a lap puppy instead of riding in the back seat (even when she’s got the entire area to herself!)?

Little Percy also really, really, enjoys staying in hotels.

This sweet corn pizza from Hen House in Oakland was a delicious lunch decision! It was topped with sweet corn, scallions, garlic cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino cheeses, plus a pimentón oil.

My mom and stepdad came out for a visit! I’ve been trying to talk them into doing so for 10 years. It was a really fun weekend of having them here, but certainly flew by.

As a kid, most of our family pictures were often just of myself, my sister, or my brothers –some conglomeration of all 4 of us. There was the occasional photo of my dad in there, or with us. Rarely did we ever have a picture of my mom. She was usually the one behind the camera. (Mamarazzi as I’ve named her.) Now, I often find myself in the same position. I spend a lot of time taking photos rather than being the subject of any photographs. I do appreciate this picture though — it’s perhaps the single photo of my mom and I together in one place, since I was about 19 years old.

Vegetarian chick’n and waffles!

Garden Cat.

Silas asked to make dinner for us and Nana last week. He made caprese grilled cheese sandwiches, a fruit salad and monkey bread for dessert.

I got Percy a lifejacket since she doesn’t particularly love the water, but will get in anyway if convinced. She seemed more confident with it on and swam more than she usually does.

We took a trip down to the coast yesterday. Decided to camp in the back of our truck. It was surprisingly comfortable and even better, we backed right up to the beach where all we heard at night was the ocean.

Sunset last night.

Beach Babe.

We stopped in Crescent City for chowder and fresh blackened black ling cod tacos before heading back to Ashland.

We also took the scenic route through the redwoods on the way back.

I saw a banana slug for the first time ever.

Bedtime cuddle puddle!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the summer!

Moist Yellow Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing and Chocolate Buttercream Filling

While I certainly don’t consider myself the best cake maker, or baker, for that matter, I like attempting homemade cakes rather than store-bought mixes a few times throughout the year: kids’ birthdays and my husband’s birthday. Perhaps a special occasion here or there throughout the year.

A couple days before his seventh birthday, I asked Silas what kind of cake he wanted? I thought he’d request a layered rainbow cake:

Photo by Pip & Ebby

Being right at the onset of summer, a nice strawberry cake with whipped strawberry frosting:

Photo by The Intrepid Baker

Back to kid-oriented, maybe a funfetti cake I remember loving as a child, myself:

Photo by Kokocook

Oreo ice cream cake? What kind of kid wouldn’t want an ice cream cake?

Photo by TheKitchn

But, no. As usual, Silas is full of surprises. When asked what kind of birthday cake he wanted, without hesitation, he said “I want an LSU cake. Yellow cake with purple frosting. And yellow. And it has to say LSU on it.” While I researched the internet for LSU cake ideas, most were fondant-topped. I have never made fondant and in such a short amount of time, didn’t want to mess with it. So instead I found a good yellow cake recipe. Then good frosting ideas. And the outcome? “Julie, thank you… it’s exactly what I was thinking it would be.”

I used the following yellow cake recipe, which came out very moist with a light crumb. It wasn’t “fluffy” as I had imagined, but it was still tasty. The vanilla butter cream is very light, and the chocolate buttercream… it’s based off of Joy the Baker’s recipe, but for this cake I also added mini chocolate chips.

I’ll warn you ahead of time: this cake is NOT light on the butter or sugar, but it’s very moist and surprisingly not overly hurt-your-teeth sweet. If you want to use different fillings or frostings, have at it! :)


Moist Yellow Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing and Chocolate Buttercream Filling

Moist Yellow Cake

recipe from Smitten Kitchen 

4 cups plus 2 tbsp. cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, shaken


Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Prepare two 9-inch pans for baking. Butter the bottom of each pan then line with parchment paper. (I trace the bottom of the pan onto the parchment, then cut it slightly smaller. Then cut a long, rectangular strip of parchment paper for the sides, about 3 inches thick, if the pan is 2-inches deep.) Brush the parchment paper lightly with oil or shortening, then very lightly dust with flour.

In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together over medium speed until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with each new addition. Add the buttermilk in at low speed, until just combined. (The mixture will look curdled, which is okay!) Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, a third at a time, until just incorporated.

Place half the batter in each pan (I like to weigh each pan to keep things even while baking). Bang the pan on your countertop a few times to get rid of air bubbles trapped in the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is golden in color and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack (flat-side up for one, flat-side down for the other), discard the parchment paper, and then cool completely before frosting (1-1½ hours).


Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (lighter, for frosting the whole cake) 

3 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. milk


In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar over low speed. The mixture will be pretty thick, but at this point add in the vanilla and milk. If you’re adding any coloring, this is the time to do it. Beat until light and fluffy.


Vanilla Decorating Frosting (for writing and decoration accenting)

1 stick butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla


In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar over low speed. The mixture will be pretty thick, but at this point add in the vanilla and milk. If you’re adding any coloring, this is the time to do it. If you want to make multiple colors, separate some of the frosting into different bowls at this point then add your colors as desired. Beat until the color is well incorporated. Use as desired.


 Chocolate Buttercream Filling

6 tbsp. butter, room temperature
¼ cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. milk
¼ cup heavy cream


Cream the butter, cocoa powder, and salt together in your stand mixer. The mixture will be extremely thick. After scraping down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and milk alternately with the powdered sugar. As the sugar begins to incorporate, increase the speed to medium/ medium-high to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth.  Turn the speed down to medium-low, pouring the heavy cream in a steady but slow stream, until the frosting reaches a light, fluffy consistency.

Assemble the cake:

Use a cake stand, make shift cake stand, or as a last resort simply assemble on a large dinner plate. Place one of the cakes on the base, rounded side down. Use a serrated knife to create an even, flat surface. Spoon the chocolate buttercream filling onto the cake, then use a spatula to evenly distribute the buttercream. Place the second cake gently on top of the chocolate buttercream, then gently press the cake down slightly.

Spread the vanilla buttercream (whatever color you decided to use) on the sides of the cake, working from the top towards the bottom, rotating the cake as you go. Wipe the spatula as necessary before dipping into the buttercream, to keep it coated with frosting without lots of crumbs.

To frost the cake top, put a generous spoonful of frosting in the center, then spread it outwards to all the edges. Gently spread with a spatula, also turning the cake as you spread the frosting.

Use the decorating frosting however you desire.

Store the cake in the refrigerator for up to three days. (I think it’s best served at room temperature, though!)

Silas Henry’s Chocolate Cake and Buttercream Amazingness

I am a master at making sunken-middle floppy homemade cakes. Fortunately, the following cake came out not just rich, moist, and fluffy… It looked like it was supposed to!

I hadn’t made buttercream frosting prior to this recipe. Honestly, most of my experiences with the stuff has come from over-frosted store-bought cakes that I don’t enjoy eating. This recipe, however, was phenomenally good… I altered the original recipe just slightly, not wanting to buy Ovaltine simply for one batch of frosting.

Rich Chocolate Cake


2½ cups packed brown sugar
¾ cup + 2 tbsp. butter, softened
3 eggs
1¾ tsp. vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup + 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
2½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup + 2 tbsp. boiling water


Preheat your oven to 350° F. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans then dust lightly with flour. * Note

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs to the creamed butter/sugar mixture, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Sifting the dry ingredients is sometimes recommended, but I’m a busy girl and sometimes I just don’t feel like taking the time. For this particular cake, it didn’t seem to matter!

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the sour cream to your butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until well combined. The batter will be semi-thick at this point.

Stir the boiling water into the other mixture. This will thin out the batter quite a bit. While I was worried at first, this actually turned out deliciously okay!

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean or with minimal crumbs attached.

Cool completely before frosting.

* Note: This is actually enough batter for two 9-inch round cakes, or two 8-inch round cakes and at least 6 regular sized cupcakes.

The World’s Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Recipe originally taken from Joy the Baker.

3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + ½ cup dutch cocoa powder (unsweetened)
¾ tsp. sea salt
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream


Cream together the butter, 1-cup of the cocoa powder, and salt. The mixture will be quite thick.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the powdered sugar about ½ a cup at a time. Turn your mixer down to low speed and alternately add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.

As the sugar becomes incorporated into the butter, increase the speed of your mixer to high and beat the frosting until smooth.

In another small bowl, stir together the heavy cream and remaining ½ cup of cocoa powder.

Turn the mixer down to medium speed and pour the cream into your frosting, slowly and steadily, until the frosting reaches your preferred consistency. You may not need all of the cream mixture.