Sunday, September 16, 2012

Out of the darkness and into the light . . October 1995

I made a post a couple days ago about thoughts on 1 Peter 2:9 but didn't finish. I didn't finish because what was to come next was very personal . . . so if you don't like reading personal, touchy-feely, God-type stuff . . stop reading now!

Okay, so you're still with me. Anyway, I left off on a story that was probably the most important story of my life . . which happened in October 1995. I had an old friend recently ask me if there was a moment or experience when I knew I was "saved" . . that's what we former Baptists call it . . or just that I knew I had found what I was looking for in God, for those of you who aren't Baptists. The verse that I read discussed God calling us "out of the darkness and into His wonderful light" when we become Christians.

This is what I, and any other believer, has experienced . . . a time in life when God calls us "Out of the darkness and into His wonderful light." I believe each person's experience meeting God will be different, and God knows what each of us need to open our eyes to the darkness around us and come into His light. Like I mentioned in the last post, I wasn't reading my Bible and had only been to church a handful of times before the fall of 1995. However, I did make a committment to Christ at a young age and believe God was calling me to Himself since that time . .  .  .

Mark was still in college, finishing up his engineering degree. I had already graduated from the Landscape Architecture program at NDSU. We had gotten married in the spring and had our first son, Ashton, in late summer. We still lived up in Fargo, ND while Mark was finishing his education. I worked as a Landscape Designer at a local nursery and Mark worked as a custodian at the university. We just began attending a small Southern Baptist church next to the campus . . Temple Baptist with Durward (Dude) Garrett as the pastor.

Mark was asked to be a groomsman in one of his good friend's wedding. This wedding event was exciting to me, having just become a new mom with no time left for "partying" since Ashton was born. So we went back to my hometown, near where the wedding was. My mom and grandma graciously babysat Ashton while Mark and I attended the wedding festivities. I had been in contact with some of my hometown friends and they said they would be at a local bar close to where the reception was. I thought, "Perfect time to see some old friends and pound some brewsky's."

After the wedding and reception, Mark reluctantly agreed to go with me to the local bar to meet up with some friends. We got there and I was so excited to be away from motherhood and back in my old stomping ground .. there wasn't any other place I wanted to be at that point!

We were there for about fifteen minutes or so and I enjoyed listening to the band and reminiscing with some old friends. It was at that point that I looked around the bar and it was as if someone had literally turned the lights on in the room. I sat there taking it all in. I had never felt this way before. I saw people in conversations . . . married men and women talking intimately with eachother . . and not with their spouses. I heard an old friend make a crude sexual remark and follow it up with some cursing. I saw a girlfriend of mine brush up against a man other than her husband.

Keep in mind that none of this had EVER bothered me in the past. This was the type of place I liked to hang out. I probably would have been one of the first to throw back a shot and drop the f-bomb all in the same breath. But in that dark place (you know how the lights are dimmed late at night at bars) I saw God shed His light on things that I had never seen before . . . literally and figuratively.

I looked at Mark, and said, "Let's go. I don't feel like this is where God wants us to be." He agreed and we left.

I have never been the same since. I have certainly tried to find satisfaction in things like that  . . but every time, there is a voice within (what I've come to know as the Holy Spirit) that has told me, "This is not where you should be." Sometimes I ignore that voice, but it is there nonetheless, where it never was before.

I came home and told my mom and grandma what had happened to me that night. They looked at me oddly but were supportive at the same time. I lost most of my friends after this as they couldn't understand why I didn't want to participate in what we had always done together. I tried not to be judgmental. But I think my old friends felt judged just by my telling them how God was working in me and my wanting to be obedient to Him.

Don't get me wrong . . I am not perfect now, nor ever will be. And I am not a "Holier than Thou" type that condemns people for what they do. But I know what God wants for me and whenever I try to find my satifaction in things other than God (which I do often) He brings me back to the point of confession and finding my joy in Him and the things of Him. I am thankful for His patience with me!

Shortly after this time, Mark and I were baptized together and had Ashton dedicated and I remember coming across a verse in the Bible . . . John 14:15-17 . . "If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know Him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (NIV) I rememember thinking, "This is me. This is what has happened to me." This was a great confirmation of faith in that I had never read this before, but God said clearly what had happened in my life in this passage!

So that is my testimony. Kind of personal. But hopefully someone will enjoy reading it and can relate in some way!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Bake a Sheet Cake Evenly. . Without Sinking!

I made an awesome discovery over the summer. I was asked a couple months ago to make a half-sheet cake for a church event. Having never made that large of a sheet cake before, I thought to myself, "Oh crap. Every other sheet cake I make sinks in the middle!" But I said, "yes" anyway.

So I took a trip to Michaels and looked around for a metal device I saw on the internet which was supposed to keep cakes from flopping. I couldn't find the device, so I asked the lady at the checkout if she knew what to use. She brought me right to what I needed.

She said that she only uses this tool and her cakes come out perfect everytime. She showed me Magi-Cake Strips.

Step One: Fully submerge baking strips in cold water and let sit for 10 minutes.
Step Two: Take out of water, scrape off excess water with fingers . . don't wring out, though. Place belts around exterior of pan and pin together.
Step Three: Bake cake, with baking strips secured to outside of pan, according to pan size and recipe. The Wilton Baking Chart is great for determining amounts, servings and baking times for various sized pans: The cakes have come out perfect everytime!

Thank you lady at Michaels!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts on 1 Peter 2:9

A few thoughts on this passage for whatever they're worth . . . "But you are a chosen race, a royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (NASB)

The phrase "we are a chosen race" . . in looking at the entire passage, the terms "chosen race" and "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" seem to be symbolic, not literal, as we are not literally a royal priesthood. I believe (and I could be wrong) that the term "chosen race" is not literal as well. I think that the reformists I have known would say this is yet another example of election (I could be wrong on that as well). However, I see the term "chosen race" to symbolize the Jewish race as they were God's "chosen" people to convey His truths in the Old Testament and bring forth the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We who have recieved Christ's transforming power in the Holy Spirit are now God's "chosen race" as, before Jesus came, were the Jewish people.

The phrase "we are a  . . . royal PRIESTHOOD" also appears to be symbolic. My study notes helped me understand this term to mean that we can now come before God on our own, without the mediation of a priest. In the Old Testament times, a priest acted as the mediator between God and man. Now we can go directly to God, as the priests did in Old Testament times. And we as Christians, have the responsibility to help bring others to God, as the priests did in the past.

Maybe I'm way off base on all that stuff, but I know I'm not on the next part of the passage where God says He has called us "out of the darkness and into His marvelous light." Before I was saved and had the Holy Spirit enter my life, I was in the darkness. I didn't know I was in the darkness, but I was in the darkness nevertheless. When God began calling me, in the summer of 1995, and I began calling on Him as well, I began to see that there was something more out there that I didn't have. I wasn't a Bible reader. I didn't have the Jehovah's coming to visit. Didn't hear any sermons. I just knew there was something more that I was missing, which I later came to understand that God was calling me . .  or I was knocking at the door and He was answering, whichever it was. I didn't fully understand the whole "lightness and darkness" thing until October of 1995.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gracie Cakes


Chocolate Double-layer cake with Buttercream Almond Frosting. Check out "Gracie Cakes" on facebook for cake prices and ordering information.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

Every year our lake association hires fighter planes to fly over the lake on Labor Day weekend. I think it's  pretty cool. But I forgot they were going to be here. I heard the engines on the first swoop over our house then called for everyone to go down to the lake to enjoy the show.

No one was in too big of a hurry to get off the couch or put whatever electonic device they were captivated by down to go see the planes over the lake. So the calling turned to yelling. Mark was the first to get up (I think he was just tired of listening to me because he never moves that quickly when I ask him to do something). I spent a good five minutes yelling and searching for my daughter to go outside, only to realize she was already out on the dock. Then the greatest hurdle of all was pulling away my youngest son from whatever highly entertaining activity he was engaged in . . and had most likely spent all summer doing.

After much more yelling, then coercing, then back to yelling again . . mixed in with some threatening, he finally came out of the house. His first words were, "Planes are stupid. This is dumb. Why do I have to be out here? I don't want to come out here." So what was supposed to be 15 minutes of good family fun enjoying the WWII vets and their display of aviation mastery, turned into a debacle of disgruntled family members. Better planning on my part needed next year . . Or I'll just enjoy the show by myself. Kudos to the fighter jet pilots, though. Great show .. the minute and a half I got to see anyway.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Snake Cake and Cake Recipe

How the Snake Cake Came into Existence

I have been making specialty cakes over the last few months and a friend asked me to make a "Snake Cake" for her son's birthday. I thought, "Sure, I can do that," thinking I would just have to carve a figure in the shape of an "S" out of a couple of sheet cakes and decorate it . . then she showed me the picture. The example she showed me was originally done by North Star Cakes in the UK and looked like a real snake . . kind of like a Boa Constrictor! I thought to
myself, "Yikes! How am I going to do this?" But I told her, "Yes, I will do it," with confidence.

I have seen many people asking online how to replicate the snake cake. The original creator of the cake didn't want to share her secret . .  which I can understand as that is her primary business. I am sure she has a much better technique to making the cake and better baking supplies! But I will share what I did to make the cake for anyone who wants to give it a try.

Supplies Needed:

2 Bunt cake pans
2 Square 11" Wilton cake pans
Wilton 8" Separator Plate - Scalloped Round
Wilton cake base support tubes
Wilton Trim 'Turn Cake Turntable
Food coloring
Material with corrugated snake-skin pattern
Paint brushes
Cake, frosting & fondant ingredients


Baking the Snake Cake:

1. Step 1: Make your cakes
I looked for several months for a recipe that would replicate a Super Target or Coborns cake. With many failed attempts, I stumbled upon this recipe . . it is just like a store bought cake, super easy to make and everyone loves it!
The recipe is as follows for two bunt cake pans: Important to use bunt cake pans when creating the Snake Cake. When making the Snake Cake, one batch of this recipe will make enough cake mixture for a square base cake. I use two 11" square pans.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray pans with Pam (flour/oil mixture). I prefer using Wilton brand cake pans as they cook much more evenly and come out of the pan cleanly.
  • 1 box of Duncan Hines white cake mix
  • 1 cup cake or regular flour
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla
  • 2 eggs
*If you are making a chocolate cake, use chocolate cake mix and add 1/2 cup cocoa (depending on how dark you want the cake) and some extra milk and sugar.

  • This is a super easy recipe that comes out like a store bought cake every time! 
  • Mix dry ingredients then mix in all other ingredients. You can even mix them all together at the same time if you are in a hurry and it will turn out great! 
  • Bake at 350 for about 22 minutes. Check with toothpick to see if center is done. Wilton pans work the best and cook most thoroughly. 
  • Mix will make 3 - 8" round pans, 2 - 11" square pans or 36 cupcakes.
  • Double the recipe to make a half sheet cake. 

Preparing the Snake Cake:

Step 2: Freeze the Cakes

Cover the cakes with foil, but leave some room open for condensation to escape with foil not too tight. Then put into freezer. If you have the time, let the cakes freeze overnight. Otherwise, let cakes freeze for at least a couple hours.

The reasons for freezing are twofold: First, freezing will hold moisture in better. Second, the cake can be carved and frosted while it's frozen, but not as easily while it is soft.

Step 3: Making the Frosting

Buttercream frosting recipe:

  • 2 Sticks salted sweetcream butter (softened)
  • 2 lbs of C&H powdered sugar ( I only use C&H brand as I have found other brands such as Crystal and generic brands are generally grainy)
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla (measure to your liking)
  • 2 tsp. pure almond (measure to your liking)
  • 2 -8 tbsp. heavy whipping cream ..  for a more whipped frosting, use more whipping cream.
Beat butter and flavorings together, then add powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream. Frosting will thicken upon adding more powdered sugar. Make sure to add more flavoring if you add more
sugar. Set aside in a covered bowl.

Step 4: Making the Fondant

   I use a recipe I found on, except without the glycerine. The recipe is as 
  • 1 tbsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 lbs. of powdered sugar
  Sprinkle gelatin over water in a microwavable bowl. Let sit for 2 minutes. Put in microwave for 30 
  second. Mix in almond and corn syrup until it is a clear mixture. Put in microwave for a few more 
  seconds if it is not a clear or nearly clear mixture. Pour 3/4 of the 2 lb bag of powdered sugar into a  
  bowl with a hole in middle. Pour mixture into hole in the middle of the sugar and mix together with 
  a wooden spoon. After mixture becomes more solid, you can knead on a powdered surface and 
  knead the rest of the 2 lb. bag into mixture, until it is a pliable, non-sticky mass. Use shortening on  
  hands if necessary. To color, knead food coloring into fondant mixture . . you may need to add 
  more powdered sugar to keep from being too sticky. Set aside in a covered bowl. You can also freeze the   fondant and it will keep for a couple months if well wrapped.

Now the Fun Begins!

Step 5: Playing with Fondant . . Making the Snake Head

Find an image of what you want your cake to look like . . I would suggest a real snake picture. Take your fondant, uncolored, and model it into a snake head .. this will take some time. I did all my practicing and playing with fondant the night before to make sure I had it right. The snake head will store in the refridgerator if covered. If you are finding that the fondant is too pliable, knead in more powdered sugar. I used red and brown food coloring to make eyes. I carved out an eye socket, rolled up a ball for the eye and inserted into socket. Any carving tool can be used to make the inserts for nose and whatever other orifices a snake has. Carve a snakeskin pattern on the top of the snake head. Make sure you include the neck of the snake that will blend into the body. When snake head is to your liking, mix some food coloring with water in a small bowl. Brush over the head of snake with paint brush . . leave some white spots.

Step 6: Prepare the Base Cake

Take square cakes out of freezer. Carefully cut off 1/4" of cake edge around both cakes. Make sure your cutting is straight. Stack cakes to make sure they are the same size . . if not, cut edges accordingly . . should be a nice square when stacked. Place buttercream frosting on first cake top and stack second cake on top. Then frost both cakes with colored frosting of choice . . I used brown buttercream.

Step 7: Preparing the Snake Cake Body:

Carve your frozen cakes into a "snake body." Take bunt cakes out of freezer and place upside down on top of eachother . . in the shape of a donut . .  with buttercream frosting in between cakes. It is important cakes are thoroughly frozen, or they will fall apart when being carved and frosted. Place donut-shaped "snake body" on a Wilton round plastic platter. I put the cake onto a round cookie sheet and placed it on a Wilton rotating cake decorator base. The proceed to carve the two bunt cakes into what looks like the body of a boa constrictor. You will need a sharp knive to do this. Gently shave around edges toward the bottom of the cake to make the coils of the body. This will take some careful examination of the original picture and shape of the body. Make sure to save some of the shavings of the cake to "cut and fill" where needed. I filled in the top of the cake with the extra shavings from the bottom of the cake.

When cake body is close to picture or original cake, spread 1/4" buttercream frosting onto body.

Step 8: Playing with Fondant: Making the Snake Skin!

This gets a little tricky. Find some sort of material (ie . . straw cowboy hat, purse, handbag, etc.) that you can press onto the fondant after it is rolled out, to make the "snake skin." I used my son's straw cowboy hat . . shhh (don't tell him).

Roll out the fondant on a non-stick surface (I used shortening on my cutting board) to about 1/8" - 1/4" thick. Disinfect whatever material you are using to make a snake pattern with with a spray disinfectant ..  then rinse thoroughly! Press material onto fondant to make the fondant look like snake skin. Take a flat utensil and loosen up bottom of fondant from surface before moving. Lift fondant off counter and place on the "snake body." It is easier to lift fondant off in square sections, than using the whole sheet of fondant. Put fondant on top of frosted "snake body."

Cover entire "snake body" with "snake skin" fondant.

Smooth seams of fondant together with a little bit of water and a smooth butterknife. Cut off extra fondant around base.

Place "snake head"  on top of the center of the "snake body." Look carefully at the skin pattern of the original picture of the snake and do your best to replicate with soft paint brush and food-colored water. Be careful not to rub off snake-skin pattern with paint brush. When paint has dried, coat entire snake with canola oil with a soft, clean paint brush.
Create support for "snake body" in cake base . . the cake will be very heavy and collapse the bottom cake unless supported. Take the bottom of the "snake body" support . . the Wilton cake base . . and press imprints onto the bottom cake so you know where to place cake support tubes. I use Wilton cake support tubes and cut them to depth of cake, then insert unpright into cake. Place "snake body" that is already placed on plastic support platter, onto the tubes inserted into the base cake.

Step 9: Final Touches

Decorate base of cake to your preference. I chose to decorate base with a green, grass-like design. Here are some different angles of the cake should you decide to use this one as a model.

Bring to your Birthday Boy . . or Girl . . and Serve up!

 If interested in ordering a "Snake Cake" check out "Gracie Cakes" on Facebook and send a message.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thoughts on 2 Peter 1 . ..

I have one word highlighted from the passage that I read today . .LOVE . . this is the one quality that God gave me when I became a Christian, that I had never truly felt for my father (earthly father) before. He just gave it to me . . and in abundance I might add! It wasn't something I had to work hard to get and feel for my father . . it was just there once I gave my life over to Christ. Shortly after my conversion, I got in contact with my father, who was in prison, for the first time since I was a teenager. He shared with me that he recently found out he had cancer . . he was only 44 years old. Looking back, it seems that God had worked in the timing of our reconnection.

The rest of the attributes such as goodnessm knowledge, self-control, perseverness, godliness and brotherly kindness, I didn't highlight . . I guess because they are things I fail miserably with on a daily basis. They are something that God doesn't just give us, we have to work at them! I can blame my busy schedule, life-changing events, etc. for lack of having these attributes, but it comes down to laziness and sin keeping me going in every other direction but where I need to be.

Please read this passage and let me know what you think of it.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you posess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. . . Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.