MeeMaw’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

When Hubby and I got married and his family and my family converged to become Our Family, one of the things included in that merger was our old family recipes. This weekend, I got to try one of Hubs’ mom’s recipes.

He had mentioned that he wanted an orange chocolate chip cake for his birthday. I Googled and found Ina Gartner’s sumptuous recipe, only to discover that what Hubs meant was he wanted the cake his mom used to make.

So I called my sister-in-law and got the recipe. It’s a brownie type cake with no icing or glaze. It doesn’t need any. It’s very moist and oh-so-good!

Funny that in 30 years of marriage, this is the first I’m hearing of this cake. Wonder what else I’ve been missing?

Meemaw's Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

MeeMaw’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

Preheat oven to 250°F  (Yes 250°. You cook it low and slow.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Mix the above dry ingredients lightly together in bowl and set aside.

  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated orange peel (You’ll need two large oranges.)
  • 1 cup soured milk*
  • 1-12 oz bag chocolate chips (I like to use Nestlé’s semi-sweet Tollhouse chips.)

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugars with a fork. Beat in eggs until creamy. Mix in grated orange peel then soured milk. Add flour mixture slowly, stirring as you do. Don’t over-stir. This stuff is more like muffin batter than cake batter, so over-mixing might make it less fluffy. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a 13×9 cake pan that has been greased and floured. Bake for 50-65 minutes at 250°F until golden and done. (The recipe says 50 minutes, but at that point, mine was still pretty wet in the middle. 65 minutes was perfect for mine.)

Hubs says his mom used to make this as a Bundt cake. Sister-in-law said she tried it, but it didn’t work for her. I might try it next time, just to see.

Let me know if you make this and how you like it!

*Prepare soured milk by mixing 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of milk. Set aside for about 15 minutes to sour.

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It’s the Age-Old Question, Mac or PC?

MacBook Pro or Toshiba P840?

I need a new computer. I’ve had my Toshiba Satellite A100 since August of 2006. I “built” it myself on ToshibaDirect.com complete with a Sunset Copper lid. We have been very happy together for the past six years. And while it’s still a good computer, it’s time for a new one. It is getting slow and giving me messages that it can’t quite keep up with my demands anymore. The hard drive is small, and I need some room to stretch out without having to run get my back up drive all the time. And it is heavy and hot, and the batter has long been dead. I’m getting a little tired of having to untangle my legs from the cord when I want to get up.

As much as I love my little cooper baby, it’s time for a new laptop.

Back in 1992, when we got our first personal computer, after much experimenting with both Macs and PCs, we decided that Mac was a million times easier for us to use. Especially since our boys were five and two years old at the time. Our youngestcould climb up into the desk chair, turn on the Mac Performa 400, and with a couple of clicks he was playing Playhouse with ease. It’s amazing to me that today I have more computing power and storage space in my cell phone than that computer had with its 4 MB of RAM and 80 MB hard drive. I remember having to drive across Houston to the one place that sold Apple software, because programs were few and hard to find. But difficulties aside, we were a Mac family and proud of it.

During the homeschooling years, I fell in love with a curriculum called Switched-On Schoolhouse. It was only available PC and not for Macs. I tried installing Windows on our old Mac, but it just slowed the entire computer down. So we got a Compaq desktop and discovered the joys of being a PC family. A whole world of available and more affordable software opened up to us. We were hooked. We became a PC family.

As the times progressed and we found we each needed our own personal personal computer, we stuck with Windows based laptops. Trying to fill the computing needs of four people, we didn’t even give the more expensive Apple computers a second glance.

And then our youngest became a computer science major. And now half of us are back to Apple laptops.

The CS major knows a little more about computers than we do as consumers. He tells us how much better Macs are and why. And I know he’s right because I’ve read all the same arguments on smart people’s websites, and because he’s an intelligent kid who dives deep into any subject he’s interested in and learns it well. And he is an incredible at comparative shopping (it’s a family trait, on his dad’s side). So when his dad asked him for advice, it’s no wonder the man came home with a MacBook Pro.

So now it’s my turn to be a comparative shopper, and I’ve been studying and reading articles and listening to advice. It’s hard not to just follow that pied piper son of mine and buy the MacBook Pro, but I’ve got a few problems with it. The largest of which is price.

I’ve been putting money away since December in anticipation of this purchase. I’ve got a nice chunk of change saved, enough for either a Mac or a PC. But that doesn’t mean I need to spend it all. The MacBook Pro I want is $1299 to $1499, depending on which model I go with. The Toshiba P840 is $829. These prices are after I customize them with the upgrades I want in RAM, hard drive space, etc. That’s a difference of anywhere from $470 to $670. I could almost buy two Toshibas for the price of the Mac!

There’s also the difference in speakers. My husband has the same MacBook Pro that I would get if I got the less expensive of the two. I tested it against my Toshiba’s Harman/Kardon speakers, and there was no comparison. The H/K speakers blew the Mac speakers away. I don’t often need to fill a room with the music coming from my computer, but when I do, I want to have great sound.

Then there’s the fact that the Mac doesn’t have two of the ports I use. My son assures me I can buy adapters. I checked them at Best Buy. They run about $25 each. Even more money.

When I have to replace something, like a computer, I love to get something new and different, not just the same thing updated. So the idea of getting a MacBook excites me! So much to explore! And I think I could work with my photos more efficiently, even just using the software that comes with it.

They say there aren’t as many programs out there for Mac as there are for PC, but other than updating Microsoft Office and Outlook, I don’t remember the last time I needed to buy a program for my computer. Even so, I love that you can buy programs for the Mac at the Apple App Store like you can for the iPhone and iPad. There’s some fun and useful programs on there. Toshiba has its own App Store. I looked into it. You don’t so much buy their apps as you rent them, or actually pay for a subscription. And you don’t download them onto your computer; they run out of the Cloud. Their apps are more expensive, and they don’t have near as many of them. I guess that kind of flies in the face of the old argument about not having as much software for Macs, doesn’t it?

I think I’d probably be happy with either computer. They each have their good and not so good points. I just need to pray about it some more, and figure out which one will make me more than happier. (Excuse the pun. It was just right there. I had to say it.)

 

A New Place to Call Home

Welcome to my new home on the web! Isn’t it nice? It’s roomier, in a better neighborhood, and I got to pick out my own address. And there’s more room to grow.

I started this blog on Tumblr, just to get it going in a familiar place. I wanted to make sure I was really going to do this before I made any kind of monetary investment, or learned a new format. I’m enjoying it quite a bit, so I thought it was time to change to something I can personalize a little more.

I love the design of this skin, so colorful, so retro! I’m all about retro. I love the colors and patterns of the 1950’s-70’s. When I went looking for a design, I was really looking for something a little cleaner, more open. So you might come here one day and find a new design and another the next day. Let’s just say I’m in the dressing room phase, trying on different outfits, looking for the one that suites me best.

I still have some moving in to do, like filling out the “About” page and starting a blog roll with links to those I read. But there’s time for that.

Another reason I changed to WordPress is that many readers were having a hard time leaving comments on the Tumblr blog. This should be easier. Just go to the bottom of the post and click “Leave a comment.” Try it! Leave lots of comments! Blogging’s more fun when you add your two cents.

So here we are. Remember the new address: MoreThanHappier.com!

Front Row Baby!

 

My best friend posted that on my Facebook page. It is a truth we’ve lived by for the last 11 years. Most my friends feel the same. If we can’t sit in the first row, we’ll begrudgingly take second or third row. It’s not that we’re snobs, and we’re certainly not groupies, but we are spoiled to it.

We like the front row for lots of reasons. Mostly because we like to be where the action is! My friends and I want to feel like that band is playing just for us. We like to be part of the party. I feel like that at church, too. I like to sit in the first few rows. If I am farther back, I get too distracted by the other people in the audience. Farther back feels like watching your favorite movie on an 11” TV instead of the big theater screen!

The other reason we like to sit in front is we are all mad concert photographers. Not professional, mind you. The only reason I take decent pictures is because I’ve been doing it a while now. I’ve picked up a few pointers, but mostly this one little trick. I have found if I take 500 pictures at a concert (Thank You God for digital photography!), 200 of them turn out good, 100 of them are really nice, about 30 of them are kind of awesome, and about 5 are what we call “money shots”. I don’t know why we call them that. None of us have ever sold a photo, although some of us have had photos used on other websites.

It’s always a thrill to see your photo on a music website, especially if they actually ask first and credit us without having to remind them. A good rule of thumb when right clicking and saving someone else’s photo is to save their name with the picture. Then if you ever post that photo anywhere, always ask the photographer’s permission and put something like photo by: Soandso Jones in the caption. The photographer will love you for it.

I’ve gone to concerts and sat stood in the front row without my camera. Boy, is that awkward. I don’t know what to do with my hands! Especially if I don’t know the words to the song. I’m so afraid the singer will look my way, and think I didn’t listen to the record enough to learn all the words.

I like to make the artist on the stage feel appreciated. I clap, sing, smile, dance, and show them that I’m having a great time. That’s why I don’t understand why people sit down at rock concerts. Rock music is meant to move you! These folks up on the stage are working hard. Look at them sweat! It’s not easy to get up there and pour your heart out to a different audience in a different city every night. Artists feed off of the energy of the audience. The more fun the audience is having, the more fun the band has, and the more fun the audience will have. It’s a circle of love!

As I wrote most of this post, I was minutes away from trying to buy tickets to see one of my favorite bands, NEEDTOBREATHE. (That’s not me shouting. That’s how they spell it.) I was a nervous wreck! I checked my blood pressure and pulse, and they were each up 10 points! I love buying tickets, and I hate it. It’s like riding a roller coaster, thrilling and terrifying at the same time! All the while we are screaming, and laughing, and feeling sick, and praying.

And really, I have no business going to this show. It’s in Longview, Texas, and the day after this show my husband and I have tickets to MUTEMATH (they like their name shouted, too) in San Antonio! That means we have to get up the next day, drive six hours, stand in line for another couple of hours hoping to get in there before everyone else, and then stand up all night, because it’s a GA (general admission) show! I mean seriously. Is that anyway for a couple of 51 year olds to act? Of course it is! (Note to self: Pack Geritol and Starbucks gift cards, lots of them.)

But it’s worth it. Whether it’s just me and the hubs, or me and my friends, or any combination thereof, we always have such amazing times at concerts.

So how did I do with the ticket buying? FRONT ROW BABY! It’s going to be an awesome, awesome weekend seeing two of my very favorite bands back-to-back with my hubby and friends!

Consuming Fires and Their Place in Our Lives

(Breaking Good? Part 2)

Anyway, what I really wanted to say when I got lost in telling you about bonding with our kids over Breaking Bad was how things stick with us and sometimes consume us.

It has become our habit to watch Breaking Bad on Sunday afternoons. We usually watch three to five episodes, two and a half to four hours at a time.

The first time we did this was a couple of Sundays ago. After watching five episodes of Breaking Bad we couldn’t stop talking about it. For two or three days, and in my dreams, that’s all I could think about. “I’ll bet they’ll…” “Oh, I get why they…” “That pink bear was all over the place. I wonder if it means anything.” “What would I do…” And on and on and on.

Then a thought occurred to me. How can we make church do that? How can we make people think about God constantly, and be that preoccupied with questions and a need for Him? What could the church do differently that would make believers and nonbelievers alike run home after service and Google parts of what they just heard to learn more, to have after-church lunches that last hours because the participants are so lost in discussion, every Sunday?

Or not even church. Our small group time, or just our study time, our alone time with God. Anything!

I want to spend three to five hours, one day a week, with God, learning about Him. I want to give Him my full, focused, undistracted, uninterrupted attention. I want that time to be so deep and involving that it’s all I can think about for days. I want it to make me questions and search my mind and my heart and His word and the internet for answers. I want to talk to others about it and have them be on the same page as I am, and as blown away by His awesomeness as I am!

But it seems a lot harder than doing the same thing with Breaking Bad.

Why? Why is it so easy to get so involved with a TV show that is about a guy in a situation I will never, ever be in, doing things I will never, ever do? Shouldn’t it be easier to get deeply involved with a God who knows me personally? With His book that is a love letter written to me and has the answer to every situation I will ever be in?

Maybe it’s because I grew up knowing and loving God. Being a Christian is not new to me. It’s not some shiny Christmas package I’ve just discovered in the back of Mom’s closet that drives me wild with curiosity, which is kinda how I feel about this show. I’m used to Christianity. It’s always been a part of who I am.

I guess it’s like eating chocolate cake for the very first time. You would perceive the taste, smell, texture, the lusciousness of each bite of that cake a lot differently than you would if you were someone who had cake after dinner every night. If you are a Christian, you remember what it was like when you first gave your life to Jesus. I was so excited, so turned on, it was all I wanted to talk about for the first few months. Now it still excites me just as much, but I’ve calmed down, learned to live with it.

And there it is. Light bulb!

When I first started writing this, I had no idea where I was going with it. It just bothered me that it’s so easy to get so deeply involved with a TV show or movie or book. We’ll look up things about it on the internet, follow the stars on Twitter, join Facebook groups, try to get others to watch it, anything to get more involved with it. And it’s only meant to be entertainment, not a lifestyle.

Christianity is meant to be a lifestyle.

Our interest and involvement in entertainment can burn bright and hot, but when it does, it burns out quickly. We could not sustain such involvement at such a heat for long. We get excited about things, and they are all we talk about, but sooner or later the excitement of the newness fades. Some are long lasting interests. These we learn to incorporate into our lives. They take their place on the shelf with the rest of our interests. Life goes on, enriched but not dominated by this interest.

In our walk with God, we do have times of deep immersion. I’ve gone on retreats or done Bible studies that totally enveloped me. He was all I wanted to occupy myself with, and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, we can’t live like this on a daily basis. While we may have the desire, we just don’t have the time. There’s an old saying, “If we’re too heavenly minded, we’ll be no earthly good.” If we were too completely absorbed with any one thing, be it God, a TV show, a hobby, or whatever, after a while our friends would start to fade away, and no one except those as obsessed as we are would want to listen to us or even be around us. We’d lose our jobs. Our homes would be an unsanitary mess. It’s just not how our lives were meant to be. Even Jesus took time to just hang out with His friends.

So yes, I think we need to have times where we are completely occupied by our pursuit of God, but He put us here to live a daily life full of a variety of things. It’s okay to look up from the Bible and take in everything around us, and enjoy a little bit of whatever He puts in our path, be it good friends, family, food, music, or even television shows…with relish…as long as we remember to put Him first. We just need to keep ourselves in check and not go overboard with our little obsessions.

No problem there. This is the last season of Breaking Bad. 😉

Breaking Good?

Every summer A comes home from college and says, “You have to watch this show!” It’s usually some show we have heard of or seen previews for, but doesn’t appeal to us for one reason or another. But A can be very insistent, so the hubs and I usually relent and watch a few episodes with him.

I believe in giving most things a chance. I want our kids to know we value their opinion, and although we don’t always agree, we’ll listen or watch and weigh their suggestions, if it seems reasonable.

To be honest, the biggest reason we watch any of these shows is that it gives us extra family time with our boys who aren’t boys anymore, but men. It gives us a common ground with them. And we’re so glad they share the things they are interested in with us, no matter what it is!

Most of the shows A has gotten us into are shows we could take or leave if the kids weren’t watching with us. I can’t remember the last time I watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother or Arrested Development on my own. Not that they aren’t good, but not my favorites. Of course, I never watched Spider-Man or Sesame Street without them, either. (Although, Hubs and I did watch an episode of Beast Wars the other night on Netflix. Love the characters on that show!)

I didn’t know that the child-parent television habits would continue into their adulthood, but I’m glad they have.

We don’t always say yes to the shows they try to get us to watch. I watched three episodes of Dexter, and that was more than enough for me. I can’t watch a show when I don’t like the characters. And it’s kind of hard to root for the serial-killing main character in that one. Although, I do love Michael C. Hall’s ominous Dexter voice-overs on the Dodge commercials.

This summer, the show A got us into is Breaking Bad. Then he went back to Austin. Hubs and I would have been fine with dropping it right then, but J and his girlfriend Andi wanted to watch it with us. So this is some of our family fun, weekly marathons of Breaking Bad on Netflix. We look forward to it and miss it if we haven’t done it in a week!

I described Breaking Bad to my mom as a show about a middle-aged, very square high school chemistry teacher (who could have been so much more) who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He wants to find some way to make some quick cash to pay his medical bills and take care of his family after he’s gone. His family consists of a teenaged son with Cerebral Palsy, a wife who is very pregnant with a “surprise” baby girl, a kleptomaniac busy-body sister-in-law, and her husband who is a machismo DEA agent. With our main character, Mr. White’s science background, and through a chance event involving a former student, Jesse, he decides he’s going to provide for his family’s financial needs by making and selling meth. Yep. Illegal drugs. So together he and Jesse (who is a small-time drug dealer himself) delve deeper and deeper into the drug trade, picking up pointers and hardening themselves to the side effects of the business along the way. It’s one of those climbing the ladder of success stories, except instead of up, the ladder our main character is climbing decidedly down into a deep, dark pit.

My mom said, “That sounds terrible! And depressing! Why would anyone want to watch that?”

Exactly! But somehow we do. And somehow it’s not.

I love shows that uplift me, make me happy about what’s going on, not that bring me down. I don’t care for dark entertainment at all. But this show doesn’t give me that depressed, dirty, scratchy in my soul feeling that I expected when we first started watching. It’s a very well written character study. It’s serious entertainment that makes you think, not my usual fluff fare. So it’s not bad, just different for me.

And knowing me like I do, I shouldn’t like it, but for one thing. In a show about chemistry, that in and of itself is the shining factor of the show. It’s what makes us want to come back each week. Bryan Cranston (Mr. White) and Aaron Paul (Jesse) play off each other so well and have that chemistry that every show needs to make it. It makes their alliance believable, and provides unexpected laughs…big laughs, and endearing moments that keep me coming back episode after episode.

So yes, this show is a little dark, and can be pretty violent, and is not the kind of show I would normally choose to watch. But I do like it, and it does provide a family bond, something we all enjoy doing together. So we watch it together and enjoy it quite a lot.

I guess it could be worse. If we’d have had daughters instead of sons, we’d be watching the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of Someplace.

Anyway, this isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about. This is just laying the ground work for what I really wanted to say, but after 900 words, I think I ought to give you a break and let that go until another time.