Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jumbo Cranberry Lime Pound Cake Muffins

Hello friends and family and happy almost Halloween/Harvest/Fall Celebration or whatever you call it!

We have a couple kids in the Gorgas household that are getting really excited for costumes & candy: Chloë is going to be Princess Merida from the movie Brave, and Hunter who says he will not dress up but he will go get the candy anyway.  I told him to at least put his football helmet on! Jackson has a football game (which we will go to around half-time after the candy extravaganza) and I am guessing that Mitch will find a way to conquer the candy as well.

Of course, that all being said, my latest post has absolutely nothing to do with any of that but of course has to be something sweet.

So with no further ado, I give you: Jumbo Cranberry Lime Pound Cake Muffins!  I thought of these as I was finishing up some artwork. (Once a multitasker always a multitasker~ but aren't we all in today's world!)

I knew the boys & Chloë would be requesting a dessert later when they got home from school & football so I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone; actually maybe it's just 1 bird. (I love that I can say anything I want on here even if it makes absolutely no sense!)  I have had a fascination with the large, jumbo muffins forever...strange, I know. Also, I was daydreaming about ways to use fresh cranberries (which I didn't have) and it dawned on me that they can be rehydrated which I had never done, so I was curious.

Bottom line I love this recipe! I have played with it and many variations of it a lot.

I figured out the time needed to turn it into 12 jumbo muffins changing only a few ingredients to go with the recipe I was trying to make.  Here's a picture from my instagram a few months ago of the original recipe as muffins- Lemon Blueberry Poundcake Muffins.
I've made this recipe as Chocolate Chip with Peanut Butter frosting, Banana Nut with Marshmallow Frosting & Lemon Meringue with Lemon Mousse Frosting.  It seems to turn out great every time!

Here's what I did for the Cranberry Lime ones:

Preheat your oven to 350. Line your tins with 12 jumbo muffin liners. I bought mine at Micheals, but you can get them here too: Jumbo liners
Blend the first 3 ingredients on medium speed till well blended- about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until very well blended. It's never exactly as long as they say in the original recipe.
Add all the dry ingredients a little at a time until very well incorporated-about 4 minutes total.
Drain the rehydrated cranberries.
Squeeze as much water from them as you can so the flour sticks & the cranberries separate in the batter. 
Toss the rehydrated, drained, dried cranberries with 2 TBSP additional flour.
Add the greek yogurt, Lime juice, butter extract & vanilla extract,  Blend for 1 minute. 
Fold in the cranberries. Not the most beautiful picture but you get the gist.
Drop about 5 TBSP of batter into each liner-about ¾ full. Fill ½ full first & then go back and divide the remaining batter amongst them- they don't have to be perfect- there is no such thing as perfection! Cook for 23-25 min. I used a convection bake setting & mine were done at 23 min.
Mix up the glaze while you're waiting
Take out of the oven. Let cool a few minutes. Breathe in the sweetness...
Lift onto foil with a fork & drizzle glaze on them and let them cool.

I couldn't help myself & played around with a Christmas idea with these by using 1 drop of teal & one drop of yellow in the glaze & mixed.  I used a red candy 'DOT' in the middle.

Printable Recipe

Thanks for reading! Praying everyone has a safe, happy, blessed weekend!


Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Install a New Mailbox

There's an old saying that "necessity is the mother of invention." If this is true then, from my experience, one of necessity's other kids may be home improvement. As much as we'd like to do only the fun home projects that we plan out, oftentimes it's the unexpected projects which take priority--out of necessity. Such was the case with this year's mailbox replacement project at our place, a project borne unfortunately out of complete necessity last winter. I thought it might be worth sharing a little bit about our mailbox experience, just in case anyone reading this wakes up one morning to find yourself suddenly without a mailbox, as we did.

When we bought our home it was equipped with some really nice outdoor granite light posts and a matching granite mailbox post. These features were among the many outdoor landscaping and decor features the prior homeowners had incorporated which originally drew us to the home. So it was really disappointing to wake up one morning last winter, after one of the many heavy snowstorms we had, to find our nice granite mailbox post lying flat on its back in the snow.
It was pretty obvious (at least to me) that one of the town's highway plow trucks had hit the mailbox while plowing the night before, as the thick granite post was snapped cleanly in two at the very base and was lying exactly parallel to the direction of the road. My attempts, however, to convince our town's highway department of this (i.e., to convince them that they'd wrecked our mailbox) ended unfruitfully and ironically with a simple form letter received in our temporary replacement mailbox that read something to the effect of, "Sorry, despite all the facts and pictures your shared indicating otherwise, we took a look ourselves and concluded that whatever hit your mailbox was not one of our trucks."

So with an unwelcome new project now on my list, I set off on a two-step process to resolve: Step 1 would be to get us back to a functional mailbox in the frozen short term, and step 2 in the distant and warmer long term, would be to get us back to a permanent mailbox we like. The 2-step process was necessary because at the time the sub-zero temperatures and mountains of snow still on the ground required all plans for a permanent mailbox to wait until Spring. But it's worth noting here that if your mailbox gets wrecked in decent weather you could skip right to the permanent solution described below, which can be completed in 1-2 days.

Step One: The temporary mailbox. This was pretty quick and easy. To get us back up and running, I made a trip to Home Depot and got a bag of fast-setting Quickrete and a pressure-treated 4x4 post. I mixed the concrete in a plastic 5-gallon bucket, then set and leveled the post in the bucket and let it dry. A tip on this...make sure you read and follow the Quickrete mixing and proportion instructions which vary slightly depending on the outside temperature, and also allow extra time for the concrete to dry if it's cold out. (Also, if you don't have any 5-gallon buckets on-hand you can get them for $3 at Home Depot).

After the post was fully set in the bucket of concrete I unbolted our mailbox from the fallen granite post and used wood screws to bolt it onto the new homemade 4x4 bucket post. Finally (while fully acknowledging that there's no way to make a mailbox stuck inside a bucket of concrete look aesthetically good) I spray painted both the post and bucket black and then set it in the snow right next to our granite post. Voila! Temporary mailbox up and running!
Step two: (Finally - our real mailbox!). After the snow had melted and the ground was thawed enough to dig in, I set out to install a permanent mailbox. We decided against another granite post and after searching around a bit Colette instead found a really nice-looking stone post mailbox which we both really liked and thought would be perfect.
From looking at the picture, I imagined this sort of mailbox would require sinking a wooden post into the ground and then laying rock around it (something I wasn't exactly excited to do but was determined to make happen). But then, after getting frustrated at every investigatory turn by the high cost of stone, none of which seemed to be the right style and size for what we needed anyway, I somehow stumbled on this replica stone mailbox post from Home Depot, made from glass fiber reinforced concrete designed to have the look and feel of natural stone. I was shocked at how real it looked in the picture and we decided to order it and give it a shot.

After the new replica stone post arrived I was even more impressed with the quaility and how real it looks, and I quickly found myself very thankful I would not be trying to piece together hundreds of individual stones around a wooden post to make something that would essentially look the same as this.

The first task in installing our new mailbox was to get rid of the old fallen granite post, which by the way we found out was unimaginably heavy and took 4 of us (myself and all 3 of our big boys) to haul off.
 The next step was to dig a deep hole right next to the spot where the granite post snapped in two. We dug our hole about 3 feet deep and about 2 feet wide.
Then we stuck an extra-long pressure-treated 4x4 (longer version of the post used for the temporary mailbox) into the hole and the mixed up and poured 4 bags of Quickcrete in the hole all around the post. As we were pouring the concrete in around the post we used a level on all 4 sides to make sure the post was setting straight up and down. The Quickcrete sets pretty quickly so it's really important that you check and re-check the post over and over as you go to make sure it remains level as the concrete hardens.
With the concrete fully set, we then marked and cut the cemented 4x4 post to the proper height to fit inside the new replica stone mailbox post that would go over it. Detering the proper post height is best done by simply setting the replica stone mailbox post over the top of the 4x4 post, then have one person hold the replica stone post at the desired height above the ground (we settled on about an inch above the cement to allow for dirt fill to be spread under and around the bottom of the post). While one person is holding the stone post at the desired height, the other person can mark the wooden 4x4 post and then you can remove the stone mailbox post and cut off the top of the 4x4 where you marked it.
imagine someone marking it ;)
Next, we cut a 2x4 to the proper length and screwed that onto the back of the 4x4 post. This was just to provide more thickness to the underlying wooden post to better fit the width of the opening inside the new replica stone mailbox post.

With the underlying wood post now at the proper height and thickness to secure the new replica stone mailbox post, we then measured, marked, and drilled holes into the replica stone post at the proper places to secure the mailbox support arm, which is included with the replica stone mailbox post.
Finding the right place for the holes is done by measuring the desired height from the ground to the bottom of the mailbox (we used standard postal service height specifications, which were included in the directions that came with the replica stone mailbox post) and then this becomes the spot for top of your mailbox support arm.

We held the suport arm in place at this height then just marked the screw holes with a sharpie and drilled holes through the faux stone using a masonary drill bit. With these holes drilled we next held the mailbox post and support arm in place together on the 4x4/2x4 wooden post, then marked and drilled corresponding guide holes into the wood post underneath. With the guide holes drilled, we were then able to screw the support arm and mailbox post into place right into the 4x4/2x4 post using the screws provided in the mailbox post kit.

For extra support we drilled a few holes through the back of the faux stone post and into the back of the 2x4/4x4 post underneath, and then screwed a few masonary screws into the back.

With the whole mailbox post now in place and secured, we then secured the post topper using clear adhesive/caulk, and then finally screwed our brand new mailbox onto the support arm.

(Note: we just located and purchased the mailbox we wanted online- there are a million different styles and colors to choose from).
All done! We love our new mailbox, which we are praying survives this winter intact! (But just in case, we saved our temporary bucket mailbox in our basement!)
…and that's the happy ending to our mailbox woes.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Dependent Heart

Well, hello again! it seems like it has been awhile, probably because it has-April I think!?  I intended to be a little more consistent with regular blog posts through the summer while the kids were out of school, but unfortunately that didn’t happen-we were too busy trying to squeeze as much fun as possible & deal with just our second broken bone of the the family. The fun was abundant, included taking Hunter & Mitch to football camp at ND...

We got in tons of beach time...

Hunter started a new school & was in summer school 1/2 the summer & Mitch attended another football camp (that he paid for himself!!) and had an accident at the end of camp & ended up breaking his wrist.

He wasn’t even playing football when he got hurt- he was just doing a drill...but as we all know these things unfortunately do happen & thank God the cast is off and he’s back to his favorite sport: FOOTBALL!

 All 3 boys started football practice in August- and ***poof*** the summer of 2014 came to a close. Its like saying goodbye to 4 people: age 17 Jackson, age 14 Hunter, age 12 Mitchell, and age 5 Chloë. Now i am reminding myself to look forward to the new people I will meet next summer. A little older, hopefully a little wiser, and hopefully someone will want to clean their room- stuff like that...

Just like you always hear, “As your kids grow older time goes faster.” As that happens I can’t help but to look back & remember and be so thankful to God for getting us through SO many things that range from silly to severe. For giving me a peace in my heart when I couldn’t find it myself & for setting my mind on lovely things when I was in the midst of changing 100 diapers a day.

I think of when I was in my 20’s and had three little boys
I miss these little guys
 and found myself in my little kitchen with my hands raised up to God asking Him to help me with my lack of patience & lack of energy...When all the kids were sick at the same time or when they "found" the water button on the fridge & flooded the floor (goodness gracious where was I) & I spent “nap-time” mopping up a flooded kitchen floor when I needed a nap too & dreaming of my late night trips to the grocery store ALONE.

Then there were times that really challenged Dave and I to turn to God with everything we had because there was no other way. You know how you feel when one of your kids is hurt! I know I feel like a crazy woman that would do anything I possible could to help my child. Well, on quite a few occasions we had the opportunity to 'lose it’ BUT instead we didn't because Jesus calmed us with His Word.

Like when Hunter was born & we found out he had a heart murmur. For the first 6 years of his life he had to be hooked up to tons of cords & monitored every 6 months to a year to see if the tiny hole in his precious, sweet, little heart had closed. He had to take antibiotics before every dental visit & I was frequently combating worry because he was SO active & played hard...he was walking at 9 months because he was ready to GO! I found myself calling out to Jesus on so many occasions during this time period. I can tell you the truth that it didn’t result in an instant miracle but it did help me have a hopeful, encouraged heart during it. God did eventually close the hole in Hunter’s heart at the age of 6 & we are so thankful!

We also had a scare with Mitch when he was a baby. He had what we thought was a lazy eye. We ended up taking him into an eye doctor who confirmed this & performed a surgery on his sweet little year old eye to help correct it. After the surgery the eye was almost completely misaligned.

I can’t even tell you how upset, angry (at the dr. & myself), fearful, and ready to fight I was. It turns out that he was misdiagnosed and Mitchell actually had Duane Syndrome.  To make a long scary story short, the doctor performed the surgery to put his eye back in place like it originally was and we corrected Mitchell’s vision with patching. We spent many years encouraging Mitch to wear his patch when he didn’t want to & having his vision tested yearly. Doctors have told us that if it were not for the patching Mitch did he potentially would not be able to pass his drivers license test because of poor vision. I am so thankful to God for correcting Mitchell’s vision & for leading us to the right doctors & for giving us persistence with Mitch because anyone who knows Mitch knows he is one TOUGH cookie-a true fighter!

We also have an amazing testimony with Chloe as a baby. At 2 weeks old we found out she had a Hemangioma on her eye. What I thought looked like a tiny speck quickly grew to a large puffy mass the size of a dime-causing fear that her eye would close & she would lose vision. We were having a very difficult time finding a doctor who had any solution beyond just "let it run its course." This time was scary for us because we were so concerned it could cover her eye and she could lose her vision, and then if and when it cleared we might then have to go through more of the intense eye doctor appointments that we had to do with Mitch, and just the thought of all the struggles this would cause for Chloë... After many phone calls & late nights googling we finally found an amazing doctor in New York City--Dr. Waner--who performed a laser surgery on Chloë to remove the tumor.
Chloë after her laser treatment
Then Dr. Waner's partner in Boston, Dr. Fay, was able to follow up Chloë’s lasers in Boston. I remember throwing my hands up in air and thanking God for these doctors & for them treating all these children with hemangiomas of all kinds and severities. It was such a huge relief & answer to prayer. On many of our trips down to New York we met many families that were dealing with this illness to a much larger extent-it can be crippling.

For these things and so many more- I am thankful that in times of hopelessness, fear, worry, doubt, I have someone who I can depend on. His Name is Jesus.

These are some scriptures that have calmed my heart & given me a peace & hope:

Hope: For I know the plans I have for you. declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

Battles/Troubles: The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14 NIV

Fear: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

Peace: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

How to think: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NLT

Strength & Power: But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

*If you don’t know Jesus & would like to, ask Him into your heart by saying the follow prayer...

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins. Save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your death on the cross as payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Thank you for strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will always. In Jesus’ name!