Saturday, December 19, 2009

Butterscotch Apple Cake (And A Picture)

Before I give you the cake recipe, I wanted to post a collage of pictures from the cottage we borrowed for the two months leading up to our move to Manteo. That cottage was a life saver, an energy saver and a sanity saver, all rolled up into one quaint, sweet package.

Having a place to call home when our own home was in such a state of flux was a balm for our road weary, transition weary souls. Thanks again, Marie and Bibber for blessing our family with such a lovely place to stay.

bib's collage

And now, the recipe!

Butterscotch Apple Cake

1 C vegetable oil

2 C sugar

2 eggs

2 C all purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. vanilla extract

3 C finely chopped, peeled apples

1 C chopped pecans

1 C butterscotch morsels

Garnish: caramel sauce and whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar.

2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

3. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Beat well.

4. Stir in vanilla, apples and pecans. (Mixture will be thick.)

5. Spread evenly in a greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle butterscotch chips over the top.

(I dare you to look at this picture without gaining five pounds.)


6. Bake for 55 minutes. Cool completely in pan. If desired, garnish with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Or else you can do like I do and warm each piece in the microwave briefly and top with the sauce and vanilla (or Heath bar) ice cream instead of the whipped cream.

The cake is moist, rich and downright delicious. It also travels and freezes well; you could divide the cake into batches of 4-6 pieces and freeze each batch separately. Then pull the cake out when you have unexpected company or the family is in the mood for a special dessert.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Manteo Loveliness. Questions and Answers.

One of the many things I like about Manteo is the fact that as you're driving along the main road through town (seeing hotels, churches, gas stations, and stores on all sides), suddenly you come upon scenery like this.

Now let me just reiterate that these pictures were not taken out on some distant country road. They are right smack dab in the middle of the main drag through town. The first time we drove through Manteo and I saw all that natural beauty I just knew Manteo had to be a special town.

And it is!

Today, life in the lovely town of Manteo will consist of home schooling followed by a frantic drive over to "civilization" this afternoon to do Christmas shopping. (When I say civilization, I mean that it takes at least 20-30 minutes to get to any of the major stores.)

And since our tree is not even out of the box and we have not wrapped even one present (Um. Could Christmas be only one week away?) Steve and I figured that it might be a good idea to disengage ourselves from the unpacking of the boxes and embark upon the purchasing of gifts. And the wrapping of gifts. And the putting up of the tree.

Actually, we are going to just partially put up the tree and wait to put the ornaments on when Nathan gets home Monday. But at least we can get it out of the box (yes, it's artificial) and plug it in. (Yes, it's pre-lit.)

And yes, we're a bit lazy in the sense that we do not hook up our team of horses, brave howling blizzards, fend off wild wolves, and forage through forests and fields in order to find the perfect fir.

However, I will tell you that Steve found the fortitude and courage to venture out into the after-Christmas melee
a few years back where he braved the traffic and crowds and courageously fended off two aggressive women who were desperately in love with "our" tree and its hugely discounted price. I think sometimes it would be easier to chop down a fir in the forest than it would be to survive those crazy, post-Christmas hordes of bargain hunters.

But I digress.

Before I sign off for the day, I'm going to answer a few questions that have come in lately. And then I shall be off to the happy craziness of the day!

Jenna asked, "Becky,I'm constantly struck by how happy and passionate about life your family is, and how well both of your kids are doing in a large variety of areas. With my own motherhood impending (we are adopting a 9 year old and should have her home within a month) I'd love to hear about the things you feel are important for raising kids such as yours who are happy, love both God and their family, and are just generally all around well adjusted and good people.

Our little girl has faced great hardship and neglect in her early years, and my biggest dream for her when she comes to live with us is that we can give her a sense of safety, family, and love.

Jenna, may I first say that what you are doing for this little girl is a gift beyond measure. You have chosen to walk a challenging road in order to bring hope and light into the life of a child who sounds as though she has been in some pretty hopeless situations. Sharing your love and your heart with this child will be the hardest, happiest thing you've ever done and I so admire you for this incredible commitment.

Having said that, I really don't feel like I am terribly qualified to give parenting advice since I've sort of muddled my way through the experience like most parents. There are no manuals that could ever prepare any of us for the challenges involved in this wonderful calling! Thank you, though, for your kind words regarding our family; we were honored by them.

You said in your question that your main goal for your new daughter is to give her a sense of "safety, family and love." I couldn't have said it any better myself! In fact, that was exactly how I was planning to answer when I first started reading your question: she needs unconditional love and unquestioned security.

You're already exactly on the right track and I'm not sure I could anything additional to that insight you already have. You also have the additional benefit of being uniquely called to mother this particular, specially chosen child and with that calling will come the extra equipping of wisdom, strength, and patience you will need for each situation as it arises.

I know that the other Smithellaneous readers who saw your question join me in wishing you all the best as you embark on this exciting new chapter in your family. We're all pulling for you and hope that you will keep us in touch with how things go.

Blessings to you and your family.


And on a less serious note . . .

Chris P. asked, "What is the paint color called that you used in Steve's office?"

Chris, all we know is that it came from Ace Hardware and was called D20-5 Bainbridge. It IS a pretty color, isn't it?


Anon asked, "The two rugs in his office look identical Which one is smaller?"

In the picture with the blue wall, the rug is a 5x7. In the other pictures with the green wall, the rug is the next size up. (Whatever that size is--I can never remember.)

Catherine said, "How about a recipe for that apple/butterscotch combo? Sounds interesting."

I'll be posting that (yummy) recipe soon.


NSB Mom asked, "How do you like Manteo? I spent some time in Buxton a few years back."

We are lovin' Manteo! (And Buxton is a cool place too; we did a couple concerts there "back in the day.")

Mrs Pam said, I love all the Christmas decorations in your church. Do you have an altar or chancel area or just a stage? We don't decorate for Christmas in the Episcopal Church until after the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Our church doesn't have a chancel area, or really an "official" altar area like there are in most Episcopal churches. However, the area around the edge of the platform is many times used when people come forward to pray. And yes, I also love those beautiful decorations!

Mrs. Pam also asked, "How exciting for Megan! Does she plan to teach children who are deaf, or did she learn sign language for another reason?"

Meagan doesn't really know sign language; she just learns the signs for the songs that she performs. As I've said before, I could watch her do those songs all day long; they are truly lovely.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chased By A Giant Slug

For the past few weeks, I've noticed that there has been a "slug trail" on the rug at the bottom of our garage stairs that lead up to the kitchen door. Every time I'd walk on that rug, I'd shudder just a little because I'm not overly fond of slugs and the thought that one was lurking somewhere in the garage did not bring peace, happiness or serenity to my little, ol' slug-hatin' heart.

Well, Monday night I had to go out into the garage for something. I put my foot on the first step into the garage, looked down and there on the stairs. Was. The. Slug.

I stared.

I shrieked.

I threw my hands up in the air and fluttered them wildly.

I jumped up and down.

I shrieked again.

And then I turned and ran back into the house.

My gym mates would have never even recognized me. The slow moving, forty-something woman on the treadmill who plodded along beside them week after week had been miraculously transformed into a gold medal runner.

I flung myself through the kitchen. I screeched around the corner. I sprinted down the hall. I hit the stairs at warp speed squared, all the while imagining that the slug had suddenly grown into a nine-foot creature and was, at that very moment, racing behind me through the house, breathing down my neck and plotting (in his little slug brain) my imminent capture and eventual demise.

I thundered up the stairs, feet pounding in horror, heart beating in terror, mind bursting with the dreaded "slug news" that I would have to share with my unsuspecting family.

I flew around the corner of the bedroom where Steve was seated placidly in a comfortable chair, calmly reading a book. He had obviously heard me coming (who could miss the sound of all that gasping and galloping?) and stared at me in some curiosity, waiting for me to catch my breath and find the words that would best express the magnitude of the situation to his husbandly ears.

I was finally able to gasp out the hideous, horrible, horrendous news.

"Steve! There. Is. A. Slug!" (I almost added, "And it's chasing me up the stairs" but I wisely opted not to.)

Steve stared at me and I stared at him and then I repeated myself in even more hysterical fashion. "A slug! Downstairs! In the garage! Do something!"

Now obviously Steve knew this wasn't an emergency. This was not a nine-foot rattlesnake curled up in the living room, nor a rabid raccoon racing through the dining room. This was a slug.

Slugs, by their very nature, are sluggish. Slow moving. Non panic-inducing.

However, Steve has been married to me for a long time and he is smart and wise enough to know that anything that causes me to sprint and thunder around the house deserves his immediate attention. (Sprinting and thundering are not on my usual list of daily activities.)

So he mustered up some alacrity and some sense of urgency (so that I would be impressed by his great husbandly concern) and diligently plodded downstairs to deal with this threat to Homeland National Security, not to mention Smith Wife Happiness.

I stayed upstairs in the bedroom, wringing my hands and hoping against hope that the slug had not by that time, grown to fifteen feet, attacked Steve and carried him away to the dreaded Kingdom of the Slugs.

Then the thought occurred to me that I should go and share the news with Sarah so that she would be prepared to run for her life should the slug escape from Steve and come running after her as well.

She listened calmly to my ranting, watched curiously the flinging of my hands in the air and gave me the most sympathetic look she could muster in the face of this extreme non-emergency.

A few minutes later, my own personal Sir Galahad returned from his mission. He did not thunder or sprint or wring his hands. He merely stated with the greatest of masculine calm, "Dear, the slug is now outside."

I shrieked, "You TOUCHED it? You got NEAR it? You saw it up CLOSE?"

Another round of hand wringing and hand flinging followed at the very thought of having actual contact with the terrorizing creature. I finally sat down in a chair in the bedroom and started to take DEEP breaths.

By this time, Sarah had joined Steve in the room and they gathered around me, trying to express their great sympathy and compassion in the best way they could, while all the while attempting to keep themselves from giggling out loud at my unaccustomed display of drama.

When Steve finally realized that I was going to survive the trauma and was becoming a little more calm he said, "I bet you went through all these theatrics just so that you could have a new blog story to write."

Sarah burst out laughing and said, "Yeah, Mom! You just wanted something to write about on the site!"

I put on my most offended face and said, "I am NOT going to write about this!"

And they said, "Yeah, right."

And I thought to myself, "Well, maybe . .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Inexpensive Decorations And Delightful Music

It just occurred to me that I have never posted any pictures of Steve’s “done over” church office.  So . . .  here ya go!

To the left of the couch are built-in, book-filled book cases but I didn’t want to show those just yet since they’re still surrounded by boxes and miscellaneous stuff and not currently altogether inspiring. So I’m just featuring the part of the office that looks presentable. The entire office was furnished through Craigslist, Lowes, Walmart and K-Mart.  It turned out pretty well!


You will note that a lovely young lady is featured in this next photo.  We are not quite certain who this person is but we think it might be a local pastor’s daughter who has come in to seek counseling concerning the best way to deal with an older College Dude brother who can be (occasionally) just a little annoying.

And in the reflection of the window, you will notice the lady who is taking the photo—she could quite possibly be the pastor’s wife who is waiting for him to come home for lunch.  This is all pure conjecture, of course.


And just for the sake of comparison, here’s the office with the smaller rug and the original paint. Quite a nice improvement.  (Especially getting that wacky College Dude out of there!)


And speaking of the College Dude, next Monday Nathan will fly from Orlando to Norfolk for a 3-week visit.  (It used to take 45 minutes for us to drive to the airport in Raleigh; now we have to get used to driving two hours to the nearest airport in Norfolk!)  Monday night we’ll make our traditional “Decorating The Tree Night Pancake and Bacon Supper” together and then we will—you guessed it--decorate the tree.  On Thursday, the four of us will leave for Charlotte to spend a couple days with Steve’s family. 

It will be a strange feeling to bring Nathan home from the airport to a home that he has never been in before. We’ll have to give him the whole tour and show him where all of his stuff is.  He’s always been with us through every family change so this recent transition without him has been been a bit bittersweet for me.  It feels funny to no longer be a full time family of four.   Since when did I get old enough to have a college junior, anyway?  (Don’t answer that!)

After Christmas, Nathan and Steve are planning to take their annual 2-3 day ski trip while Sarah and I take our annual “stay home from the ski trip”  trip.  (If it is indeed possible to take a stay at home trip.)

And one last thing—last Friday night our family went to a nearby church to hear their music team put on a Christmas concert called, “Unspeakable Joy.” 


Some of you readers may be familiar with CFHusband, Nathan, his lovely wife, Tricia, and their darling miracle daughter, Gwyneth.

Well, if you’ll take a gander at the following photo, you will see Nathan in front of the drum set,  playing guitar.  He is the worship leader at Nag’s Head Church.


As it turns out, the church where he works (where his dad is the pastor) is about ten minutes from our church!   He heard through a Facebook friend (thanks, Amy!) that we had moved to Manteo and emailed us inviting us to come to the performance.

We were delighted to be able to attend and were blown away by the quality of the music team he has put together; the music was excellent.  He and Tricia were pretty swamped at the end of the evening and although we lingered a bit, we didn’t want to linger so long that we appeared to be crazy-eyed stalkers. (smile)  

I’m sure we’ll be running into them again in the weeks and months to come.   Since they have a family member transplanted at Duke (Tricia had a double lung transplant; Sarah had a bone marrow transplant) and they have lung issues in their family (Trica has CF; I have COPD and may be a possible transplant candidate down the road) and since Nathan is a musician and worship leader (as are Steve and I) we have just a few important things in common!

At any rate, I just wanted to send out public kudos to Nathan and his whole team for a really stellar night of music.  We enjoyed it very much.

Also, if you haven’t yet discovered Nathan’s site,  drop by and get familiar with his family’s story; it is inspiring on so many different levels.

Well, it’s off to a busy day of pastor’s wife-ing here in Manteo!  I’ll home school Sarah, unpack a few more boxes, keep a couple church-related appointments and find some time for a bit of chocolate-imbibing in the process.  Our real estate agent dropped by the house yesterday with some homemade goodies his wife had made for his clients and so the house is full of yumminess.

A house full of yumminess equals one happy woman!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Home Is Where Our Story Starts

On our first morning in the new house, I went to the bathroom to apply some Facial Fixatives (AKA make up) and try and do something about my not-so-magnificent, non inspirational head full of bed hair.  It only took one glance in the mirror to become ominously aware of the fact that my usual frightful morning look was even more frightening than usual.

I said to myself, “Wow. The lighting in this new bathroom is sure not as flattering as the lighting in our old bathroom was.” 

In fact, I looked so very weary and worn that I immediately made a mental note to ask Steve if we could try to install some different light bulbs soon.  (I thought that maybe we could even locate some miracle-working light bulbs.  Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?)

After spending a few (futile) moments trying to make the necessary improvements, I went downstairs to where Steve was eating breakfast.  When I said “Good morning,” he turned to look at me and the first words he said were, “Honey, you need to be sure to get some rest today.  You look exhausted.”

And suddenly the terrible thought hit me.  It wasn’t the new mirror after all! That was how I really looked! And no new light bulb on earth was going to change that.

What an unhappily riveting revelation that was.   Yikes!

In the midst of all our recent (and exhausting) packing and moving adventures, I’ve been thinking about something  Sue G. wrote in the comments area about how blessed we are to be moving into a new house with our whole family intact. 

When I read her words, I immediately thought about Sarah’s cancer relapse three years ago and I appreciated the very real possibility that it could very well have been just Steve and me moving to Manteo.  Alone.  Without our precious daughter accompanying us.

As part of the pediatric cancer community for almost eight years, we have met scores of cancer families and we are well aware of how many of those families will be going through this Christmas season without their sweet cancer warriors.  We feel incredibly blessed that we have been able to move into this new house accompanied by our desperately loved
14-year old princess who is still alive, still well.  We know very well the Sarah Story could have been written in a completely different way.

I also think about women I know who have had to move out of their homes (either alone or with their children) due to divorce, domestic abuse, or other trauma.   They don’t have a helpful, handy husband around to kill bugs, hang curtain rods or unstop toilets.  They don’t have the daily, ongoing support of a strong, godly man and yet they’ve still managed to make the move; they’ve still managed to make a new life; they’ve still managed to make a loving home for themselves and their families.

I admire those women more than I could ever say.  They do what needs to be done with little fanfare and with few pats on the back; they do it just because it needs to be done—for themselves and for their children.  (And ladies, my hat is off to you.)

Most of us have moved at some point in our lives.  Most of us have pulled up roots and lived somewhere new. We’ve taken our memories with us.  We’ve taken our stories with us.  And we’ve left behind what needed to be discarded, even as we look forward to the making of new memories and the writing of new stories.

Today, on this misty Monday morning, I am blessed to be in a new town, a new church, a new community, and a new home.

I am especially blessed to be here with a daughter and husband (and occasionally, a son) who will continue to write the Smith Story with me, leaving their inimitable, indelible fingerprints on every page.

And even on those mornings when I look in the mirror and see fatigue and weariness reflected back at me, I know that there will be many other mornings when I will only see the reflections of joy--the kind of deep seated joy that trumps the tedium of life and reminds me of three things:  Life is hard.  Life is good.  And wherever our lives take us, home is where our story starts.


Miscellaneous photos from the last few days:

Steve teaching the Wednesday night Bible study.  I just loved how be fit in so well with the beautifully decorated stage.  He looks like he’s part of the decor!

. IMG_0110


Some more of the decorations at our church.  I sure am glad someone has that amazing gift because I sure don’t!


And moving from loveliness to messiness—here’s yet another moving mess I dealt with.   While we were moving in, I stacked a whole bunch of things in the laundry area that I didn’t want to deal with at the moment.  Well, the moment of dealing with them finally arrived--mainly because I needed to get to the washer and dryer!


I dragged everything from the laundry room to the kitchen and started sorting through stuff.  Oh happy day.


But I ended up with this, so it was worth it!



The hanging of the family calendar.  You know you’re home when the calendar has been hung!


This is in the entry area of our home.  We have fondly christened the statue, “Raymond,”  after our 6’7” tall trumpet player (and friend) who played in our worship band in Smithfield.  



Sarah and Snowy, hanging out at the cottage while Steve and I were in the process of moving into our new house.  Math has to get done, regardless of what else is going on.



And finally, Saturday we gathered around the computer in Steve’s office to watch the live streaming video of the graduation at Southeastern University where Nathan attends.  His girlfriend, Meagan, graduated with her Bachelors degree in Elementary Education.  When she walked across the platform to get her diploma, the three of us whooped and cheered and even did a little dance.  Meagan is planning on going right back to school in January to start on her Masters degree.


Meagan, we are so proud of you! We’re glad we could share your moment with you.