It’s Texas Sheet Cake, Y’all!

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Well howdy!

After reading the book That’s Not Hay in My Hair this month, I’ve been so inspired by the great state of Texas. Coincidently, I’ve also been missing one of my sisters who lives in Texas, so reading that particular book gave me a feeling of visiting her homestead, so to speak.

Over the years that she and her family have lived in Texas, I have detected the faintest of Texan accents emerging from my sister, and I love it! I love hearing her sweet voice exclaim, “Hey!”, “Howdy!” or “y’all!” as if she were a Texas native. It makes me smile!

So, hey howdy! I’m in the mood for baking up a Texas Sheet Cake for y’all  — which fits very nicely into our patriotic desserts leading up to the 4th of July! Barbecue, Texas Sheet Cake, sparklers and fireworks — sounds like a great 4th to me!

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Texas Sheet Cake

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

for the cake:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup water

4 Tablespoons cocoa powder

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1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

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1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

***

-preheat oven to 350 degrees

-In medium-sized saucepan, bring butter, coconut oil, water and cocoa to a boil; remove from heat.

-In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and sugars. Add the butter/cocoa mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.

-Add in beaten eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

-Pour into a greased 13″ x 18″ sheet cake pan (or jelly roll pan).

-Bake for 13-14 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

for the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons milk (or vanilla almond milk)

1 cup pecans, crushed

extra crushed pecans for garnishing

-With a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add maple syrup and milk — mix until light and fluffy. Gently stir in pecans by hand.

-Immediately spread frosting over the warm cake — the frosting will melt and spread easily. Allow to cool, and top with additional crushed pecans, if desired.

This cake is incredibly moist and flavorful — the chocolate/pecan frosting gives it an extra measure of deliciousness with a subtle hint of maple.

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Enjoy and Happy 4th!

My First Blogiversary!

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With great JOY, today I’m celebrating the very 1st Blogiversary of Life Bellissima!

Wow! Has it really been one whole year? Although in some ways, it feels longer because of all the wonderful experiences I’ve had while blogging!

The very first on my list is all of you!

All the wonderful friends that I have met, laughed with, shared recipes and special memories with and come to love as treasured friends!

Whether baking in my kitchen, hiking up a mountain to look for the perfect Christmas tree, picking cherries on a warm, spring day, experiencing life in the country, recalling amusing stories about our chickens, bunnies, tabby cat, Marcie, or our family, I feel like you’ve been right along with us on our journey, and it’s been a beautiful, wonderful and inspiring first year!

I look forward to many more beautiful blogging years to come — thank you for your friendship, encouragement and kindness!

Now if only we could celebrate together with a big blogiversary cake! 😉

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That’s Not Hay in My Hair – Book Review

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Written by the talented young author, Juliette Turner, That’s Not Hay in My Hair is the endearing true story of a young girl and her mom who move from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the wide-open spaces of a 300-acre ranch in Texas.

Together, this delightful mom and daughter team experience the joys and adventures of ranch life — along with Longhorn cattle, horses, dogs and a cat! Beautifully-written, Ms. Turner draws you in from the very first page, weaving together a combination of laughter, tears and inspiration to the very last page. I had a difficult time putting this book down, and actually wished I could continue reading more about their life on the ranch. Her writing has me longing to take my family on a Texas vacation!

From kindly neighbors who live several miles away to visits from the author’s grandparents, I felt as though I had met them all and was visiting the great state of Texas with all its charm and hospitality!

The recommended age for readers is age 8-12, but I completely disagree — I believe readers of all ages, especially those who have a heart for animals, will thoroughly enjoy this book!

*In exchange for my honest review, I was given a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

*Photos courtesy of Google images

The author, Juliette, with her mom, Janine

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The Joy of Chickens

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It’s been almost two years since we came home with seven fluffy bundles in a small cardboard box. Little did we know what a wonderful experience it would be to welcome Chickaletta, Henrietta, Apple Bloom, Cinnamon, Ariel, Midge and Rosa to our family! We were excited, for sure, but little did we know how sweet and endearing chickens could be!

Naturally, I could start by saying that we love our chickens for the wonderful bounty of eggs they supply us with, and that would be 100% true! It’s still a delight to check the nesting box each day and find a beautiful arrangement of tan and brown-hued eggs.

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But the love doesn’t stop there — the girls, as we call them, bring so much joy! Their almost-animated expressions, whimsical antics and inquisitive nature make us smile and laugh each and every day! As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the hens might have their squabbles, but they always remain extremely loyal. If one gets separated while out foraging, she will call for her sisters, with growing intensity, until they are re-united.

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The hens greet us cheerfully each morning  — unless, of course, the weather is exceptionally cold and snowy, and with that I can completely sympathize. I love how they  answer and immediately come running to, “here, girls!”, “here, honey”, “here, chick chicks, and even “here, kitty kitty” when I’m calling our cat. When any one of us are outside, the chickens will gather around — content to spend time with us, sit next to us on a picnic blanket or follow us through the yard. They are especially delighted if we’ve brought them one of their favorite treats — oatmeal, fresh fruit or maybe a side dish of pasta.

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I love watching the chickens forage out in the yard free-range and seeing their excitement when they find something particularly wonderful! Like clock work, they will come waddling back as the sun begins to set — perhaps after spending time in the grape vines  or near the fruit trees. They are undoubtedly very full and content as they walk back to the coop like best friends, hopping onto their perch as they settle down with their soft murmurs and whistles.

And seeing their contentment, their joy in the simplicity of a warm spring day or a cool summer evening, their delight in a cluster of grapes or a bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana in turn brings me much joy!

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Signs of Spring

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From blossoming fruit trees to buzzing honey bees, the signs of spring are everywhere …

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The beauty of God’s creation abounds … what a wonderful season to experience, enjoy and explore!

Swinging into Spring

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I hope you are all enjoying swinging into spring!

I apologize for not posting sooner — I’ve missed you all so much and am enjoying getting caught up on my blog reading! I’ve been so inspired with all of your beautiful spring photos and delicious recipes!

We had a lovely week of spring break, and the great outdoors was calling! Sun-filled days, fresh air with a hint of floral bloom and trying out some fabulous recipes that I am so excited to share!

I even heard a lawn mower running! *happy sigh*

Spring break came and went so very quickly! Then came some very strong winds which must have been carrying a cold bug directly to our house. I am happy to report that we are feeling much better, and yesterday the winds calmed to a pleasant breeze once again.

Today I looked at the calendar — March 31. Where has the month flown? 

I suppose with the arrival of sunnier days, preparations for Easter and a nice break from school, time flies when you’re having fun!

I hope you all enjoyed a beautiful and blessed Easter! I am so excited to be back on the blog — I have so much to share with you all!

I’m posting a favorite photo from Easter — I am very sure the hens loved hiding the brightly colored eggs with me, and they seemed as excited as the girls to search for them!

Rainbow Sky

We have been enjoying refreshing rain showers today — as it was getting close to sunset, the rain gracefully stopped, the birds came out to sing and a full rainbow appeared in the sky.

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Meet Marcie – Part One

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It has dawned on me that I’ve introduced you to our chickens and rabbits, but haven’t properly introduced you to our sweet tabby cat, Marcie.

You simply must meet Marcie — she is part of the family and a true friend who has been by our sides for nearly fifteen years! I know I’m partial, but she is seriously one of the sweetest cats I have ever known, and she came to us as such a sweet blessing during a particularly stressful time.

Many years ago,  Jonathan and I purchased our first home — a 100-year-old historical house in the center of town. We were in our “new home owner bliss” phase — how wonderful and exciting it will be to work on our home! It certainly was, however, it was also much more than we had prepared for!

A few minor repairs and touch-ups such as coats of paint, tearing out the old carpeting to restore the original hardwood flooring, (how hard could that possibly be under seven or eight very old layers of carpet and linoleum?), new curtains, some updated light fixtures and of course a charming new doorbell, and it would be as good as new! *sigh*

Reality set in quickly. Probably within the week? The whole house experience could be a book all by itself. I could make a very long list of all that needed to be done before we could actually live there (namely a bare-wire electrical system and no insulation), but I don’t want to come across as complaining. It was definitely a learning experience, and after an arduous amount of hard work, we had a lovely little home. Jonathan and I spent most (all) of our free time working on the house, and because we did not have a large budget, Jonathan and my Dad did all of the major repairs.

So what does Marcie have to do with all of this?

On one particular day, I was with Jonathan at the house feeling slightly overwhelmed. Did I say slightly? That was a typo. It should read extremely. Feeling emotionally drained, I sat down in the living room on a small chair.

I began to hear the faintest sounds and almost immediately knew I was hearing a kitten! But where? I called for Jonathan, and we realized the soft little me-ews were coming from under the house. We went outside, and Jonathan heroically crawled under the house to rescue the teeny, tiny tabby. Jonathan had a flashlight with him, and as he crawled towards Marcie, he often recalls how she crawled towards the light.

We are quite sure she was the runt of the litter, and being so little, she needed to be bottle-fed often. But now with our frequent visits to the house, we had a new member of the family to greet us, cheer us and start making our house feel like a home.

… to be continued!

 

 

 

A Winter Walk

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Last week, we welcomed another snow storm which left us with several inches of fresh white powder. The girls were delighted, immediately grabbing their gear to build a snow man and take in an afternoon of sledding.

The chickens on the other hand — well, if you’ve been reading this blog recently, you’re well aware of how our chickens react to the snow. However, they did seem a little braver after this last storm and welcomed the straw that we scattered on the ground for them!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, our eldest daughter loves photography.

I smiled as she grabbed her camera and headed out the door to capture the essence of a winter day.

I thought you might enjoy a few of her photos …

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