26 August 11 • MAV

Today is my first nephew’s 3rd birthday.
I love him and his brother more than anything my very best dreams could ever conjure up.

When there’s a birthday I like to make a cake. I’ll make any cake the birthday friend wants. Anything.

Miles requested a “pink cake”.

“A chocolate cake with pink frosting?” I asked. I know how much he loves chocolate.

“A lellow cake with pink frosting.” he answered.
(No I did not misspell yellow. He just says “lellow” instead of “yellow” so I figured I’d be accurate.)

Done.

A few years ago I published my yellow cake recipe in Lines & Shapes, Volume Seven (below). I really like this recipe. It’s just a simple yellow cake with more of a whole grain spin. It’s sweet and has that good buttery yellow cake taste. Miles even liked it and that is saying something! He’s the pickiest eater I’ve met.

My Cake-In-The-House Yellow Cake

2-1/3 C flour
2 t baking powder
scant 1/4 t salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 C natural cane sugar
2 t vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 C whole milk, room temperature

NOTE: For the flour I’ve used white whole wheat, spelt, all purpose and pastry in various combinations of measurements and all seem to work quite well. Today I went for 1 cup all purpose and 1-1/3 cups spelt. It was very nice.

Oven temperature = 325ºF / 170ºC

Butter, line bottom with parchment, butter again and flour a 9 x 3 inch round cake pan (or you can use two standard 9 x 1 inch round cake pans if you plan to make a frosted layer cake).

Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times and set aside. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on the highest speed for 5 minutes until very light and fluffy stopping halfway through to scrape the sides. Add vanilla, beat. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Gently and slowly beat in flour mixture and milk alternating between the two, beginning and ending with flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until the top is golden brown, edges of the cake pull away from the sides and a tester comes out clean. For my 9 x 3 inch cake it took about 80 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost once cooled.

For “pink frosting” I beat heavy cream, vanilla, sugar and some natural red dye I found at Whole Foods. So easy.

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I call this cake “Cake-In-The-House Yellow Cake” as a tribute to my brother who likes to have a boxed yellow cake in the house on any of your average days of the week. I was shocked by this practice because to me a cake is meant only for special occasions. But I developed this recipe so I could feel good about having a yellow cake sitting around on any day of the week if I was ever so inclined. I’m just not a boxed cake person (not that there is anything wrong with it!). I think this cake works for both the every day and for the special days. It was a pleasure to make this cake today for the most special of occasions.

Miles, je t’aime.

26 August 11 • SCB

We have just one more full week before the school term begins. Summer is not over, but our summer freedom is coming to a close. Everything did not go according to plan, but we have, on reflection, made the best of these months that we could. We gave it our best shot.

We read—a lot. We spent time at the Central Library downtown every week while my daughter volunteered there. We left with more than we could carry each time. I met my goal of reading 52 books this year back in July.

We ate well most of the time, and sometimes we just ate toast. We walked and biked to our neighborhood shops and markets. We tried new things. We picked 18 pounds of berries to freeze, but as of this week, they are already gone—into smoothies and slushies and crisps, but mostly just popped straight from the freezer. We ate out in our neighborhood and in other people’s neighborhoods and at the homes of friends and family.

We were bored. We bickered. We wished for independence.

We made things. I worked with yarn. My son made countless Lego contraptions. My daughter worked on her novel and doodled and crafted. We made sun prints. We knotted friendship bracelets. We built couch forts. We brought home feathers, sticks and pebbles to pile around the house.

We explored. We were stung by stinging nettle and bitten by mosquitoes. Someone got poison oak on their bum. We foraged for salmon berries. We got wet in indoor and outdoor pools, in creeks and rivers, in lakes, in the sound and in the ocean proper. We camped out with old friends and made some new ones. We built roaring fires.  We discovered the joys of the campsite hammock.

It was a very good summer, and it’s not over yet.

19 August 11 • MAV

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

On Thursday evening three of us set off in the car on our way to a birthday beach BBQ about an hour away. We were trying to hit the road by 4:15 p.m. but didn’t get in the car till 5 p.m. No worries though. We were feeling excited to celebrate our friend and put our toes in the sand even if we’d only have a few hours before the park closed at sunset. We were suppose to bring food for the grill but figured it was more important to just get there so we packed up what we had: a bottle of rosé and a few beach linens. Beach or bust!!!!

Well, the Portland traffic didn’t think so. What in the world?!

It took us 42 minutes just to try to make our way from our flat to the highway, then through town (trying for a short cut) and back toward the highway, and then back again. I think it was me who said, “when are we going to call it?” at about 5:55 p.m. We knew we were not going to make it seamlessly up to the beach to meet our friends as we had once hoped. We were not going to be able to celebrate the birthday girl. We were bummed.

Thank goodness for Lynsey who suggested, “let’s take this bottle of rosé to the Eastern Prom and calm our nerves.”

Yes!

So we stopped quickly for plastic cups and a few snacks and a small picnic was had.

Shoes off.

Snacking and laughing.

Watching sailboats and letting the day go.

Happy birthday, Chiara. We were thinking of you from our little patch of grass.

19 August 11 • SCB

During the summer break I am with my kids full time which means they accompany me everywhere. You may have seen them slumping and scowling in the line at the post office, dancing and high-kicking in the wide aisles of Home Depot, knocking down frame displays at the film lab or, most certainly, begging for salt & vinegar potato chips at the market.

While I like to engage my kids in all aspects of the sourcing and preparation of our food (and I highly recommend doing so if you have reluctant eaters), their shopping enthusiasm can have an incredibly distracting effect on both my grocery list and our food budget. This week we brought home two different kinds of pickles, flavored rice cakes, dried exotic fruits, smoked salmon, packaged sushi, and seeded rolls. We, however, did not buy the bread, milk and butter for which we had made the trip.

Another of our impulse purchases was red currants. I’m not sure how they ended up in our basket, maybe we were lured by their ruby-red jewel-like appearance. I don’t know. Days later, they were still lovely, but uneaten ( we discovered that they were both tart and full of seeds). They were at risk of going to waste, but we didn’t have enough to warrant jam. A friend recommended baking scones with them, but we had not bought milk and had only a pat of butter. Then I remembered Molly’s Lemon Yogurt Cake which I had paired with another sweet-tart flavor, rhubarb, with great success in the past.

One of the very first Orangette recipes I ever tried, I have adapted this cake just slightly over time by adding some whole wheat flour and a touch of salt (I have also made it with all whole wheat pastry flour). It is always moist and simple (it’s a great cake for kids to bake on their own) and a perfect accompaniment to fruit, fresh or baked within.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Red Currants
Adapted from Gâteau au Citron by Molly Wizenberg

1 cup red currants
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter a 9 inch cake pan. Wash currants and take them off the stems (if you have someone with little fingers to do this—great!). Spread currants across bottom of pan.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly blend yogurt with sugar and eggs. Add flours, baking powder, salt and zest, stirring to combine. Finally, add oil and incorporate into mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is lightly browned and springy to the touch (test with toothpick). Allow to cool for 20 minutes and then gently turn out onto a plate.

12 August 11 • MAV

Let’s pop the champagne!

Welcome everyone.

Stephanie and I have been talking about a new online home for 3191 Miles Apart for quite some time. We knew this would be the year and we are so happy to be here with you in our new space. It feels cozy, doesn’t it?

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Things have changed a little …
• posts are now categorized by titles in our Archives
• our diptychs have a home of their own where they can be viewed all together (Stop back this Sunday for the start of our Year of Sundays project.)
• we have chosen to let you view our posts side by side and week by week (a feature we’ve been desperate to have since the beginning of the project)
• along with weekly posts our new site will also hold info on our books and our collaborations (3191 Miles Apart will be a great place to visit not only for the posts but to find out more about us, what we’ve been up to in our work-lives and what will be coming up in those realms in the future.)

And things have remained the same …
• we will still post once a week on Fridays or on the weekends if we’re running behind
• this is still a quiet and intimate space where comments are not turned on
• you can still send us a letter in the post
• I am still on the left and Stephanie is still on the right

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As we were preparing this site I kept saying over and over again: “I can’t believe we have been doing 3191 Miles Apart for nearly 2-1/2 years.” It seems impossible to me. Didn’t we just finish A Year of Mornings??

When I think of how quickly time is moving I want to stand up and stomp my foot with a loud “NO.” But we all know there is none of that in this world. Life just doesn’t slow down; there is no pause button. And that is why I love being here every week with Stephanie. It’s far too easy to let a week go by without any sort of ritual. It’s easy to let a week go by taking very few moments of personal creative time. It’s easy to let a week go by without connecting with someone you love. I don’t take for granted that this space helps me connect not only with Stephanie but also with myself, my close friends near and far, my family, my Mom and Dad, my sweetheart. 3191 Miles Apart is a record of our lives. It’s a journal that is not private but rather lives and breathes off its interaction with you. It’s a place where I can send postcards out about my life and the things I see in a slow, mindful and thoughtful way. I am so glad to be here.

We have much exciting news to share with you as well. Next week we will tell you about our newest collaboration (which has spawned a soon-to-be-released book). And as August moves on we will start to fill you in on the new year of 3191 Quarterly of which the first issue will be out in early November (subscriptions will be opened up September 30).

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I would like to take one last moment to give three important shout outs of deep thanks. First, to my incredible creative outfit without whom this site would not have happened: guys, tonight’s going to be a good, good night. Second, to our insanely talented assistant: Chloe, you’re our angel and our door is always open to you. And last, to my creative partner: Stephanie, I refuse to imagine a time when I open a web page to find that your heartening life is not standing next to mine, propping it up, making it more full. Thank you for these 5 years of collaboration and friendship.

And of course thank you for joining us in our new space. I am happy to say that we’ll see you here next week.

These film photos were all taken this summer. They are featured on a web project launched by the previously mentioned Chloe. The project is called, appropriately, This Summer and it will be updated daily through the end of August (or so). I have much more to write about this summer, this project and the like but I can’t bring myself to think about the end of summer this week. That’s for another week.