Banana Cake with chocolate cream cheese icing

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I built a cake earlier this week. I’m doing really well at blogging about it while the cake is still in existence on the kitchen counter! I’m still playing catch-up with blogging about news from the summer, but I wanted to share this before it died in my drafts folder like so many other recipes. Excuse the bad lighting in the photos, it starts getting dark around 4.30pm these days and I had run out of good daylight hours before I was done with the cake.

At our place we have dessert on days starting with T and S, so dessert days come around pretty frequently. Sometimes it’s a piece of chocolate or candy, sometimes it’s ice cream. Recently we went on a bit of an ice cream streak, especially after discovering Trader Joe’s Pumpkin ice cream. It’s like eggnog and pumpkin pie had a baby that turned into ice cream. So good! Anyway, after a while Ben suggested that maybe we should have some variety in the desserts around here. I had a look at my fruit bowl and saw a bunch of very sad looking bananas — perfect for banana cake/loaf. There really isn’t any difference between the two, one gets icing and the other you slice up and eat with butter) — and I concocted this banana cake with chocolate icing using a mishmash of various recipes online. Poor Ben, it wasn’t quite what he had in mind — he’s not a cake fan! — but it turned out delicious nonetheless, and even he thought it wasn’t too bad.

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Cake

(I got this recipe from my sister in law, Elrike, and have tweaked it just a very little bit. The key to getting a moist but light cake is to alternately add the wet banana mixture and the dry ingredients a little bit at a time. Say goodbye to dense or dry banana cakes, this will become your go-to recipe like it has for me!)

½ cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
2 T plain yogurt or sour cream
2 cups flour
1 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t salt
½ t baking soda
1/2 to 1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly. Mash bananas; stir in yogurt/sour cream. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately to creamed mixture with banana mixture. Fold in nuts.

Spread in greased 9 ½ x 5 ¼ x 2 ¾ loaf pan or a 9″ cake pan . Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 min. Let stand 5 min.; turn onto  rack to cool.

Icing
(This makes enough icing to be able to cut the cake in half horizontally and to put a layer of icing in between the layers of cake as well as ice the outside.)

1 block of cream cheese
4 T butter
1 t vanilla essence
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 cups icing sugar

Walnut topping

1/2 c walnuts, chopped finely
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
1 t cinnamon

After icing the cake, cut a circle out of a piece of paper that leaves an edge of about 2 inches of icing exposed. Lightly wet the exposed icing in case it has started to dry out (this helps the nut mixture stick better), then put the nut mixture onto the piece of paper in the middle and spread it outwards until it is all off the paper and in a nice ring on the outside of your cake. Gently press the nut mix onto the cake, and ta-da!

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Enjoying a spot of sewing

The week before Easter I decided that I’d love for the girls to have new dresses for Easter (which is a bit of an American church tradition, it seems to me), but I really didn’t want to fork out $30 a dress (times three!), so I had a scratch in my fabric stash and decided to sew something with some fabric I got ages ago in the hopes of making the girls dresses. They were smaller then, and there were only two of them, so the fabric wasn’t quite enough to make a whole dress out of them, so I poked around the internet at how to use a T-shirt and turn it into a dress.

I found this twirly T-shirt dress tutorial, which was incredibly useful. I made a dress like that for Laurelin, but didn’t have enough fabric to make such twirly skirts for Marica and Esther too, so their skirts aren’t so full. I still think they turned out cute!

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For the flower on the sash I used this tutorial, but didn’t use the ‘flower maker’. You really don’t need it!

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The whole thing was so easy — I managed to make 3 dresses in one day, even with the kids running around me. The flowers took a little longer, but they were also surprisingly quick to make. Such fun to do a bit of sewing again — now the bug has bitten me again… I should finish that quilt I’ve been working on for over a year now!

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Lego Tower version 1

Marica and Esther and I (Ben) have been playing with Lego on Saturdays. Marica’s built up a decent collection of small Lego sets over the past several birthdays and Christmases, and building things with them is one of my favourite inside things to do with the kids.

Marica loves building sets from instructions, I enjoy building more free form stuff, and Esther likes playing with the stuff that’s been made. Each to his own. :-)

Last weekend we made a 15-story skyscraper, using a good portion of the straight Lego pieces we have. The footprint was an 8×8 square, and our “rules” were that each story had to be of the same colour, have at least one window, have a floor, and be at least five bricks high. Here are some photos Franci took:

The following week we added 7 more stories out of mixed colors (and didn’t necessarily have great floors), but unfortunately we didn’t take any photos of version 2 before it crashed to the ground from a child-induced earthquake.

The Entrepreneurial Fair

The Co-op that we attend had an Entrepreneurial Fair early in December, and as much as I would have liked to just be a spectator, my kids were burning to sell stuff (surprise, surprise). So, we made Christmas ornaments, some chocolates and gingerbread men. The girls made a pretty good effort at helping, and at selling on the day too. I was so proud of them!

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The girls made $36 and sold all their cookies — good work, Marica and Esther!

Some nice things

I like autumn. It’s not so hot, there are pretty colors everywhere, and the change of season brings all sorts of nice things like warm slippers and hot drinks, nice decorations and good smelling candles, and fun kids’ crafts…

I changed up the decoration on my buffet and put 3 cute little pumpkins on it, and they just make me happy with their cuteness.

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Earlier this month we made some coconut and orange zest shortbread, which tasted just lovely, and was fun to make with the kids.

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The shortbread goes quite nicely with a cup of pumpkin spice latte. (Make a cup of strong coffee, blend it with a cup of milk, a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin puree and about half a teaspoon of cinnamon, with a dash of nutmeg.)

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Another nice thing around here is that there is only one alien left among us, yours truly. The girls got their US passports in the mail and now officially have dual citizenship.

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Recently I realized that with the colder weather Laurelin will need her duvet out, which I then realized I didn’t have a cover for. So I rummaged in my fabric stash and combined 3 fabrics and some ribbon that were all actually intended for other projects in my mind, but combined perfectly to make this cute cover.

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Marica the entrepreneur

When Marica was 4, I got a fancy new camera as a very generous gift. Marica then got our old camera, which was a little point and shoot that was on its way out but still in good condition. Unfortunately it got dropped a few times too many and gave up the ghost. Ever since then, Marica has been hoping and saving for a camera. But you know, you have to do a lot of extra jobs to make money around here, and that’s just not nearly as cool (or profitable!) as having a lemonade stand!

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We live on the same block as a big school. Another block away there’s a charter school, and two blocks in the other direction there is a big day care center. (Yes, people think we are crazy when they find out that we homeschool!) Suffice to say, we get a lot of foot traffic  past our house for about half an hour after school gets out.

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Marica got pretty excited about the idea of having a lemonade stand, so we said that if she bought the lemons and cups, I’ll help her with it. Well, the first day we had our stand, the lemonade sold out within 10 minutes! The second time we sold iced tea as well. We made more lemonade which all sold out and most of the iced tea went too. The third time we made lemonade, iced tea and we sold chocolate chip cookies! With those 3 stands she made about $70! Seeing that we told her we’d for pay half of the camera she and Ben picked out after researching online which went for $110, she had more than enough! The camera has now been ordered, and its arrival will be cause for great rejoicing. :-)

A prize-winning photo!

With such a sensationalist title, you’d think this is something really special, right? Well, not quite! TripAdvisor (where Ben works) had this internal competition over the summer where you could send in a photo with a TripAdvisor fridge magnet on your vehicle, and every week they picked a winner.

One night, we organised a date night and went and took some photos.  After that we had a fantastic Mexican dinner and got to witness a spectacular lightning storm from our cozy seats inside the restaurant.

Here is our prize-winning entry. Ta-daaa!

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Oh, you’re probably wondering what we won. No, not a holiday… I wish! A big bag full of useful (and less useful) goodies with TripAdvisor emblazoned on them all. :-)