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Pumpkins One, Two, and Three (and Me)

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Entries in cake-mix Revamp (3)


Happy weekend + more cake-mix bars.

Just a quick post to say hello.  I know it was a light week for me blogging-wise.  But for good reason!  I had so much to do before Charlie and I headed out for a quick getaway.  My parents were nice enough to watch the boys so we could take some time to ourselves--such a blessing, I know.  Even if I did overly obsess (yup, again) on having things just so when leaving the boys in anyone else's care. 

I also wanted to share our new favorite way to prepare the cake-mix bars.  These are ridiculously good.  Follow the recipe but add in two handfuls each of dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.  You also might want to squeeze in some extra tummy crunches and salad intake.


I hope you had a nice weekend too--I feel quite restored after ours.





No-time-for-fancy cake bars.

We're headed to a dinner playdate later today and I wanted to bring a treat.  But Fridays are my day to get the house ready for the weekend, so I didn't have much time to spare.  I try to get all the laundry and cleaning done for the week so that we don't have to spend the weekend doing (or ignoring) chores.  Weekends are for having Charlie and Max home and with us all day--though Charlie is extremely busy at work right now and has had to work most weekends.  I try not to complain as it's important work he's doing and it's not like we don't get to see him at all.  But we miss him very much.  My heart really goes out to those of you with loved ones deployed or otherwise afar--I don't know how you do it. 

And speaking of heavy hearts, I think we are all struggling with emotions right now amidst this unbelievable world tragedy in Haiti.  The important thing, I think, is to do something, anything, and not feel small, insignificant or otherwise powerless.  One of our neighbors is organizing a clothes drive so our family will start there and figure out other ways to help and donate.

When I'm stressed or otherwise cannot make sense of things, I often turn to baking...another reason I wanted to make something today.  Due to holiday sales last month, cake mix was nearly free so I loaded up, even though I prefer to make cake from scratch when possible.  Plus, we have three spring birthdays coming up and after last year's cake fiasco, this year this mama may not try to do everything homemade!

Wow.  That sure was a long way to introduce my most recent cake-mix base recipe that I wanted to share.  I tweaked it until I was happy--happy being a quick, fuss free, cake-like bar that can handle any add-in you choose.   

Cake mix cake bars

1 box yellow cake mix

1 large egg + 1 egg white

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup mix-in (I used semi chocolate chips this go)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom only of 9x13 pan.
  • Mix cake mix, butter, egg, egg white, milk and vanilla in a large bowl--no need for a mixer, I just use a wooden spoon.  Stir in mix-in.  Mixture will be thick.
  • Spread evenly into pan.
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Best if allowed to cool completely for an hour before cutting.

Hide the plate, else figure out a way to say no to this:

And because I do not want to leave you feeling as if I have not smiled much these past few days, here are a couple of images of things this week that made me warm and happy.

Max casually reading his brother's library book to him...

And William taking over a laundry basket to set up a comfy lounger--yet still not letting anyone else sit in "his" toddler sized chair and ottoman...




Beach Brownies.

When we go away for vacation, we prefer renting a house for the extra elbow room. But quite often, we end up sacrificing space for location, cramming the five of us into some tight quarters just to be able to walk to the beach.

These, shall we say, "quaint" accommodations usually have an efficiency-style kitchen without a full sized fridge.  This is otherwise known as my worst nightmare as I still like to cook while away.  And to make it crazier, I also like to bake on vacation.  I can’t help it and yes, I know I need help.

Since Max has been such a trooper this week as he adjusts to first grade, I decided to bake something for him that might remind him of our summer trips.  It’s one of those so-called cheater recipes that start with a box mix, something I call Beach Brownies.  I like it because there are just 3 main ingredients, so you don’t have to fool around with eggs or oil or any of that other nonsense that won't fit in the mini fridge anyway.  As a side note, I feel the need to go on record saying I don’t have a huge thing, either for or against, box mixes (though I do know that some folks swear by them while just as many turn their noses waaay up at them).  Me?  I'm sort of like, meh.  Obviously, they are great for the convenience factor but because I try to avoid preservatives when possible, I make up a big batch of my own “mix” to store in the fridge and use for all of my quickie recipes when I’m home.  But that won't work on vacation so I don't hesitate to use a box mix.

The true beauty of this recipe is that you can play around with the flavors.  Below is the brownie version.  It produces a moist, slightly cakey, brownie that gets fudgier as it sits.  I think they're perfect for packing in picnic lunches because they don't disintegrate into melted chocolate goo.  Another variation we like is using a yellow cake mix and lemon flavored pudding.

Beach Brownies

  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • milk, amount as indicated in pudding directions
  • 1 (18 ounce) box chocolate cake mix
  • 1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or other mix-in (optional)


  1. Prepare pudding according to package directions.
  2. Stir in cake mix, careful not to overbeat or incorporate too much air.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips or other mix-in.
  4. Pour into a greased 13x9 baking pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.
  6. Chow down.