Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quick takes Tuesday, Adoratrices edition

It's not Friday, but quick's all I have time for. :)

1.  Just when I actually have an important life event to blog about, I'm too busy to write!  There's so much to get done before I leave for Italy.

2.  I leave on October 22, Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

3.  I have to learn as much French as possible before I go.  It's not my forte.  I've always been a procrastinator, very bad at long-term projects, but learning a language is something I have to practice as much as I can every day.  So I'm slogging through it with Pimsleur.  I like the program a lot; it spoon-feeds a few new words at a time and gives lots of repetition and pronunciation practice.  It's satisfying to see or hear some French and understand it.  But sometimes the amount I don't know seems like a mountain hanging overhead, ready to drop and crush me. :P  (Buy the way, if anyone reading this is thinking of buying the Pimsleur program, you can save a lot by getting it on microchip from pimsleurdirect.com.)

4.  I wonder if I can at least learn enough French to learn more.... pick out words I don't know and ask about them, instead of listening uncomprehendingly to a whole lot of jabber I can't make out at all...

5.  I also have a ton of stuff to buy.  If I stay to become a novice I'll get a habit made for me, but postulants wear basic black skirts, white shirts, sweaters, tights, black shoes, that kind of thing.  I need to buy black snow boots.  In southern California.  In August.  L.L. Bean catalog, here I come. :)

6.  I'm happy and rather shocked that my parents and both of my brothers are planning to come to Florence with me when I go.  They'll spend a week in Florence; I'll spend the first half of the week with them and then go with the sisters.  I hope my visa comes through in time because we've already bought the plane tickets and the non-refundable reservations.  So one way or another we'll be forced to vacation in Tuscany in October.  I hear y'all playing the world's smallest violin in sympathy, but seriously, please pray I'll have a visa by then.

7.  Here are some French words that have been adopted into English recently enough for their pronunciation to be more or less retained: hors d’oeuvre, à la carte, table d’hôte, en route, en masse, rendezvous, carte blanche, savoir-faire, faux pas, fait accompli, par excellence, bon vivant, joie de vivre, raison d’être, coup d’état, nouveau riche, esprit de corps, laissez faire, allons-y, chargé d’affaires, piéce de résistance, and R.S.V.P.

8.  If you feel like you missed the neat organized post where I wrote all about how I decided to join the Adoratrices and how happy I am to have found an order at last and everything that's happening in my spiritual life and so on, that's because I haven't written that post yet and I don't know if I'll have time before I leave.  I will if I can, but you know not every blog can be Conversion Diary.  :)

9.  I should say the fact that I'm going to join an order doesn't mean that I know I'll stay.  That's probably obvious to anyone else who's trying to become a nun, but those who don't know much about it sometimes don't realize how it works.  I've seen not just one, but two news stories about nuns or monks that made the mistake of saying that the newcomers take vows when they enter the order!  But it takes years to reach final vows, and until then a person can leave, or be asked to leave if he's not a good fit for the community.

There's still so much I don't know about the Adoratrices, but the quickest way to find it all out is to head for Italy.  I'm going because there's no other way to discern whether God wants me to stay forever.  I really hope the answer is yes, and I'll assume so unless God shouts otherwise.  :)  Prayers are much appreciated!

Adoratrices, part trois

Here's a link to my announcement (it's at the end) that I'm becoming a nun.  For those of you who don't carefully comb through each of my posts. ;)  Now it's time for another installment about the Adorers!  The first post was an account of my visit to them in May and the second post was a collection of links.  Now a friend to whom I still owe an email has sent more links, so here we go:

First, various bulletins of the St. Louis Oratory (an Institute parish) announced the arrival of sisters for the first American foundation... which ended because of illness, but no doubt it'll be started up again.

Next, photos of the convent in St. Louis (I linked to some of these, but here's another set):

A parishioner of the Institute parish of St. Margaret Mary in Oakland has put up a lot of videos-- mainly sermons, and also various other goodies about the Institute if you scroll down.

Best of all, the mother of a candidate in the order is blogging her daughter's story (the letters her daughter wrote home are especially interesting.)

Also, the other girl who visited the motherhouse with me sent me the pictures she took, and hers were much better than mine because she wasn't shy about getting shots of the sisters themselves.  Here they are.

Me eating:

Me drinking after eating:

Me about to eat:

Me concentrating carefully on what I'm about to eat:

That is all.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Congrega nos!

Sometimes I feel that the "mutual enrichment" the Holy Father talked about should be mainly one way...

H/T Fr. Z and A Minor Friar

   Also, for the feast of St. Augustine, a comic book of his life (in Italian, alas).
H/T The Hermenuetic of Continuity

   If you're waiting for a link to make you feel nauseated...
H/T Domine, da mihi Hanc Aquam! (Which means "Lord, give me this water!")

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I cannot forbear to advertise this post by my friend Rachel, who's moving up to Oregon in a week, blowing the joint several months before I will.  Who knows when we'll ever see each other again, but prayer unites us wherever we are, and I'm so glad we got a last good talk in.  If I don't say much more about our friendship, it's because she already said it perfectly, and she's the writer. :) She lived in France for a year and learned to speak French. Boy, could I use some of that.

I can't say what we're doing in the picture; it's a great secret-- even to myself.

Summer vocations

Seems like everyone at St. Peter Chanel (Hawaiian Gardens, Los Angeles County, California) is going off this summer to become a priest or a nun.  When I realized how many there were I decided to list them all, along with a few others I know who entered religious life in previous years.

There's Teresa, who's joining the Nashville Dominicans straight out of high school and is the youngest in a postulant class of...(drumroll please)... 27!  I hear they're excited that they have the previous class beat.  I'm glad I got to know Teresa a little bit before she left.  Also in the new class is Courtney, whom I met when we were on the same visit to the motherhouse more than a year ago.

There's Teresa's older brother Paul, who's joining the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, the same order that staffs our parish.  I remember seeing him nearly four years ago when I first joined St. Peter Chanel.  He was leader of the altar boys and I thought it'd be pretty cool if he became an OMV, but of course you shouldn't assume that someone has the call you think would be cool... Anyway, he left for Boston on Sunday. :)

There's my own former roommate Mery who entered Corpus Christi Monastery in June 2009 and became a novice a few months ago and is now Sister Mary Isabel of the Angels-- WOOOOOHOOOOOO!  Not least because the confusing spelling of "Mery" is finally amended. :)  She's learning piano and singing and organizing the monastery's vast library and doing lots of other stuff-- harvesting fruit, painting, swimming, partying on every birthday and feast day... seriously, the Dominican nuns have too much fun back there in their beautiful 1920's Gothic cloister, but their main work is praying.  Here's a story about someone who's about to join their monastery as a postulant.

Just before Mery entered, a big group of us from St. Peter Chanel were all heading home from a wonderful trip up north to St. Stephen's in Sacramento, where Fr. John, formerly of our parish, was celebrating the 25th year of his priesthood.  I posted pictures from the trip here-- check out the prescient comments.

There's Nathan, who's leaving this Friday for the Norbertines.  Along with the OMVs they're the order I'm fondest of in my area-- may the Lord bless them for providing the traditional Latin Mass all over Southern California, and even into Northern California when someone needs a substitute. Nathan majored in music at Ave Maria, and gave a wonderful voice recital a few weeks ago to raise money to pay off his student debt so he could enter the Norbertines this year.  It succeeded and all was paid in time, hooray!

There's Joe, whom I first met on the internet before I realized he lived not far away and we became real-life friends.  I'll miss seeing him serve the TLM now and then at St. Therese.  He's introduced me to his new order, the Mercedarians, who say both the old Mass and the new with reverence-- I know Joe wouldn't settle anything less.  I can't neglect to mention his fifteen minutes of fame playing the bad altar server in this video.  :)

There's Quan, who used to go to my parish but started seminary shortly before I joined.  I met him on a St. Peter Chanel pilgrimage to Mexico.  A month or so ago he was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Orange, and I'm so happy I got to see it.  I believe he'll be ordained a priest next year, but even after that he'll still have more studying to do at the Angelicum.  I'm not jealous of his adventures in Rome, really.

And there's also Marta, whom I met last February and then again in March-- we were hitting the same convents as we both discerned our vocations.  She'd stepped away from a relationship to try to discern faithfully what God really wanted her to do with her life, and the Lord made it clear to her that she was supposed to... marry the guy!  So she very happily did, just a few weeks ago.  It's so wonderful.  There's a joy and peace that comes from doing God's will. See how neatly I segue back to religious vocations? ;)

I've only listed people I know personally; I bet there are others I haven't heard of at St. Peter Chanel, since it's a big parish.  WOW, so many who have entered religious life or are doing so this summer.  It's the trend. All the kids are doing it. But just because my friends jump off a cliff, should I?

Oh, why not.  So I'm leaving to join the Adorers on October 22. :) :) :)  Please pray for me!

Saint Louis

It's the feast of Saint Louis (1214-1270), King of France.  Here's a letter of advice he wrote to his son and heir.  It's almost unbelievable that a king could write like this!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pistachio pistachio macarons!

These are my favorite of all the varieties I've made so far. :)  Recipe's at the end.  I began with pistachios, powdered sugar, and a touch of grass green powdered food color, in the food processor

Here's what it all looked like being mixed with the meringue.

I'm getting better at piping even sizes, but it's still hard to make them as small as I'd like.

Thanks to my dear sister for giving me the set of pastry bags and piping tips for Christmas!  I filled a bag with the pistachio buttercream.

For the first time, it occurred to me to use a fluted tip instead of a plain round one, and oh my goodness, people-- suddenly I felt like an actual pastry chef!

I'd just assumed the pretty fluted edge would be smooshed when I sandwiched the shells together, but instead:

It was a lot of fun to pipe the fillings. :)

Of course I had to bite one for purposes of photo documentation.

And then I just kinda went nuts with the camera in our pretty front yard.

Recipe: First, know how to make macarons.  Here's a PDF of Tartelette's great tutorial.

Then use Tartelette's tips to make macaron shells with the following ingredients:

90 gr egg whites (everyone tells you to age them overnight on your countertop, but I have never aged my egg whites, never, and the little macaron feet form just fine. I live in Southern California; perhaps a dry climate helps.)
25 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr raw pistachios
powdered green food coloring (about 1/2 teaspoon.)

Grind the pistachios with the powdered sugar in the food processor.  Whip up the egg whites and sugar into a meringue.  Mix the two parts together along with the food color until your batter flows like magma.  Pipe the shells and bake-- I did 315°F for 18 minutes.

Now make pistachio buttercream as follows (slightly adapted from Our Patisserie):
2 oz pistachios
1 cup powdered sugar
7 tbs butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add some food coloring if you like... I think I added too much....

Grind the nuts and sugar in the food processor (I hope you didn't bother to wash it out).  Add to the butter and vanilla and beat until you get a nice buttercream.  Transfer this to a pastry bag and pipe.

I have to admit something about macarons.  They are way too time consuming.  I spent four hours making a grand total of 18 of them.  That's... let's see... more than 13 minutes per macaron.  13 minutes for something that takes me 30 seconds to consume.  Now, if I could pipe like this guy, it'd be worth it:

As it is, I've gotta stop making these things. I love them, but there are so many tasty desserts that can be made in much less time.

Oh, these macarons are also good with a simple chocolate ganache filling. FYI. :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweets for the August feasts

Behold the pistachio macarons I just made!

They're filled with pistachio buttercream and they're délicieux. Please note you can click for a nauseatingly large version of the picture.  Many more to follow if I find the time. :)

Today's the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and if pistachio macarons seem insufficiently related to her crowning as Queen Mother in heaven, I've got a better Catholic dessert for you-- this one from the feast of a week ago.  Good Thunder made an Assumption Cake. See, she's being borne up on the clouds of heaven. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

St. John Damascene on the Assumption

There's great stuff to be found in the breviary:
It was necessary that she who had preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free from all corruption after death. It was necessary that she who had carried the Creator as a child on her breast should dwell in the tabernacles of God. It was necessary that the bride espoused by the Father should make her home in the bridal chambers of heaven. It was necessary that she, who had gazed on her crucified Son and been pierced in the heart by the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in giving him birth, should contemplate him seated with the Father. It was necessary that the Mother of God should share the possessions of her Son, and be venerated by every creature as the Mother and handmaid of God.

   St. John Damascene was born in the 600's, and I was interested to learn from Catholic Encyclopedia's article that he was the first (that we know of) to attempt a Summa Theologica, "to collate and epitomize in a single work the opinions of the great ecclesiastical writers who have gone before him." His book Concerning the Orthodox Faith, "is the most important of John Damascene's writings and one of the most notable works of Christian antiquity. Its authority has always been great among the theologians of the East and West." Now you know. :)

   I also really liked the point that Pius XII made in Munificentissimus Deus that sin and death are linked and triumphing over one means triumphing over the other:

Above all, it must be noted that from the second century the holy Fathers present the Virgin Mary as the new Eve, most closely associated with the new Adam, though subject to him in the struggle against the enemy from the nether world. This struggle, as the first promise of a redeemer implies, was to end in perfect victory over sin and death, always linked together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Therefore, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part of this victory and its final trophy, so the struggle shared by the Blessed Virgin and her Son was to end in the glorification of her virginal body. As the same Apostle says: When this mortal body has clothed itself in immortality, then will be fulfilled the word of Scripture: Death is swallowed up in victory.

He's dead, Jim

Vincenzo's illustration of the comments on A game that made me waste time.  I do get around!  See his post for the video.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thomas Merton, 14 years before Vatican II

I'm reading The Sign of Jonas, which is a very personal journal that Thomas Merton kept from 1947 to 1952, about his life in the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani.  He writes something I want to quote or remember on just about every page.  Here's a paragraph from September 1948, ending with a throwaway remark that just nails it.

Evelyn Waugh wanted to edit the English edition of The Seven Storey Mountain and has apparently already done so.  I am glad.  Also it seems he is going to do a feature for Life on the Church in America.  The idea seems to be that there is a great Catholic revival in this country and that the future of the Church depends on us.  That is all news to me.  If we are supposed to be reviving, where are our saints?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A game that made me waste time

Here's the game. You knock tiles off the board by clicking a square where you have a clear path to two (or more) tiles of the same color. Mistakes knock time off the clock. My highest score after five or six attempts is 90.

I'll be very busy at work for these two weeks-- heck, nearly working full time-- so the world will be somewhat deprived of my bloggy wisdom during that time. It's amazing how well everyone gets along without it.

Incidentally, this blog gets spammed with a lot of comments from spambots, advertising various dubious links. That's why I have it hold comments for my approval on all posts older than two weeks. The other day I got a spam comment that I almost wanted to approve. It said, "I'm currently being held prisoner by the Russian mafia and being forced to post spam comments on blogs and forum! If you don't approve this they will kill me. Please send help!"

I probably would have approved it if it hadn't been accompanied by some rather inappropriate ads.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fresh-brewed coconut caramel crunch coffee from Kauai

My mommy just made me some, with half cream on top whipped into a foam, and raw sugar sprinkled on top of that.

Just had to share my happiness. :)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Paean to the universal nature of the Catholic Church

Sorry, I just had no idea what to title this post. :)

Fr. Jeremy, a priest who used to be stationed at St. Peter Chanel, was back in our area recently, spending some of his vacation with his old parishioners.  (Awww....)  So Peter and Tam threw a big potluck and pool party for him on Sunday afternoon and had about 75 people over to their house.  I think they would have invited the whole church if there'd been room.

The party began with all of us gathered in the living room.  Our hosts have six kids and most of the guests were families they'd met through homeschooling, so there were lots of children there.  One of the little girls made the rounds with dozens of Rosaries hanging from her arms, and once we all had one we prayed the Rosary, followed by the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, followed by a big ol' blessing of various items that people had brought: water, salt, oil, candles.  The blessings were taken from old Roman Ritual books, translated from the Latin.  So, for example, the blessing for salt ran,

P: O salt, creature of God, I exorcise you by the living (+) God, by the true (+) God, by the holy (+) God, by the God who ordered you to be poured into the water by Elisha the prophet, so that its life-giving powers might be restored.  I exorcise you so that you may become a means of salvation for believers, that you may bring health of soul and body to all who make use of you, and that you may put to flight and drive away from the places where you are sprinkled; every apparition, villainy, turn of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit; adjured by him who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

R: Amen

P: Let us pray.  Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly implore you, in your immeasurable kindness and love, to bless this (+) salt which you created and gave to the use of mankind, so that it may become a source of health for the minds and bodies of all who make use of it.  May it rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness, and protect it from every assault of evil spirits.  Through Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

And then the blessed salt was used in the blessing of holy water.  All the praying and everything must have taken about 45 minutes, and I was impressed by how still the kids were during that time.  They weren't perfect, but they were quieter than I would have expected.  Here's a really wide-angle picture of the blessings (Adonela on the left is bathed in a heavenly white glow.)

After all that, we pigged out on a great variety of food and watched the kids disport themselves in the yard and the swimming pool.  Adonela and I had to leave early to make it to the evening Mass, and Tam, our hostess, came to hug us goodbye and thank us with her usual grace, as if we'd done her a favor by coming.

"Thank you so much for having us!" I told her.  "I really loved that we started with prayer.  How many parties have that?"

"Yes, we were trying to think, 'How can we make this party different from all the others?'"

"It was great of you to host so many of us!"

"Well, when we got this house we promised God we'd find a way to share the blessing with other people!"

Then the next weekend, Shane and Mary were having their newly-adopted son baptized.  A big crowd showed up that Saturday morning for the baptism.  There were eight altar boys at the Mass that followed; it looked like every boy who knew how to serve had thrown on a cassock and joined in.  Father said something in the sermon about the child now being a part of the family of God, and then he paused and looked at him, being held by his parents in the front row.  "You all can't see it, but he's smiling!"

After the Mass we all drove to a nearby park, where the new parents provided a catered lunch.  Joanne and I got Gary talking about the foundation of America's government versus an ideal government from the Catholic perspective, and we were so fascinated that hours slipped by and the party was over by the time we looked up.  I laughed when I saw this picture of the water balloon contest, because I hadn't even noticed it while it was going on, even though it was right beside us and Joanne and I got splashed.  We were too busy solving the problems of the world.

I was thinking, after those two fun events, about the blessing of a church community.  I've been going to St. Peter Chanel for three and half years and that place just makes me happy, and parties like we had seem to extend SPC to other cities. :)  And then it occurred to me that a big part of what forms the SPC community is the shared ritual, the praying together, the words we all know.  We gathered at Peter and Tam's house and prayed 45 minutes straight without needing to get a good public pray-er to lead us or plan the meeting beforehand-- it was just, "Let's all pray the Rosary now," and we all started doing it.  Same thing with the baptism and the Mass: we could easily participate in the ceremonies we were so familiar with.

And that made me think of the TLM that I blogged about here starting at #4-- how it was only the second time I'd met Fr. Moreau, but we didn't have to know each other to worship together.  It's Mass, we both knew it, it was right there in my missal 

That's a great advantage of having certain set rituals that are the same the world over.  I remember the very first time I went to Mass, how I couldn't feel that I was worshiping God because it was so unfamiliar to me.  But now that I do know it, I can go to Mass anywhere and join right in, even if I'm just a visitor.  And the Rosary-- it felt so artificial and unspiritual the first time I knelt with the beads in one hand and a booklet in the other and tried to say it right.  But it's very different when you know it, and it's perfect for a bunch of people to all pray together out loud for a while, for any intention that deserves more time than you can fill with a few ad-libbed sentences.

The other day I needed an evening Mass near work and ended up going to St. Dominic's in Eagle Rock for the first time.  Lovely old church, not too much wreckovated, staffed by (you'll never guess) Dominican priests.  We prayed the Rosary, then had Mass, then prayed the Chaplet, then I did a holy hour.  I was stressed when I arrived, but one of the readings at Mass was consoling, and praying the Chaplet together gave me peace.  I was right at home in a place I'd never been; felt a sense of community with all the people (mostly Filipino women) who were there.

It's nice to be Catholic.  Seems like I can go anywhere, and there'll be a church nearby that I can waltz right in and call my own.  (I have heard of parishes that just make stuff up and seriously change the ritual-- that would throw me off, but I haven't encountered that in any of the churches I've been to.)  This morning I was at the Carmel of St. Teresa in Alhambra, where the chapel is simple and white except for big colorful stained glass windows.  I stayed after Mass till everyone else had left and had this whole beautiful place to myself, so I knelt on the steps of the sanctuary and read John 21.  (Do you ever just think about that scene?  Jesus cooking up some fish by the Sea of Galilee and saying to his astonished disciples, "Come and have breakfast"?)  Supposing I was a millionaire and built myself some places to pray in, it still couldn't match what I already have-- Catholic churches all over the world, open nearly all the time, where I can go and worship with like-minded people.  Do you know what I mean?

Hey, speaking of visiting new churches, in a month I'm hoping to go to Carmel in Carmel.  Yes, the Carmel by the sea in Carmel-by-the-Sea!  It's not a vocation discernment visit or anything; we're just going to be driving through.  I must be careful not to eat caramel in the Carmel in Carmel-- no, not even caramel lite-- or the interaction of three sources of carmelness will become the seed of a self-reinforcing harmonic resonance that grows through time until in ten years it reaches such amplitude that all nearby glass windows of the same frequency will be destroyed.

That's the signal that I need to stop blogging.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Rare moment of insight

Things have a way of working out for me.  Like last week, when I got stopped for speeding.  "Were you headed somewhere in a hurry?" asked the cop.  "Going to pick up my parents at the airport," I replied.  To my surprise, he let me off with a warning.  LAX turned out to be really crowded that night, the worst I've ever seen, and my parents were very late getting out to the curb.  But I was quite late myself, and so it was perfect timing-- I pulled up to the curb, they found me in minutes, and we were out of there before I was forced to move my car and go around the loop again.  It would have taken longer if the policeman hadn't stopped me.

It's like the charmed life of Bob the Dinosaur:

But I had a rare bad day today: stuff went unexpectedly wrong and people were upset with me.  Feeling depressed, I reread my post below about the dumb personality test, and you know what-- it seemed to describe me well.  Maybe it's not inaccurate after all; maybe my nice life just masks the undesirable aspects of my personality!  I'll do my best not to learn from this. ;)

To Mistress M.R. -- Counsel concerning her choice

DEAR, heav'n-designed soul!    Amongst the rest
   Of suitors that besiege your maiden breast,
   Why may not I
   My fortune try,
And venture to speak one good word,
Not for myself, alas! but for my dearer Lord?
You've seen already in this lower sphere
Of froth and bubbles, what to look for here.
Truth bids me say, 'tis time you ceased to trust
Your soul to any son of dust.
'Tis time you listen to a braver love,
   Which from above
   Calls you up higher,
   And bids you come
   And choose your room
Among his own fair sons of fire,
   Where you among
   The golden throng
   That watches at his palace doors,
   May pass along
And follow those fair stars of yours;
Stars much too fair and pure to wait upon
The false smiles of a sublunary sun.
Sweet, let me prophesy, that at last 'twill prove
   Your wary love
Lays up his purer and more precious vows,
And means them for a far more worthy spouse
Than this world of lies can give you:
Ev'n for him with whom nor cost
Nor love, nor labour can be lost;
Him who never will deceive you.
Let not my Lord, the mighty lover
Of souls, disdain that I discover
   The hidden art
Of His high stratagem to win your heart.
   It was His heav'nly art
   Kindly to cross you
   In your mistaken love.
   That, at the next remove,
   Thence He might toss you,
   And strike your troubled heart
Home to Himself; to hide it in His breast,
   The bright ambrosial nest,
Of love, of life, and everlasting rest.
   Happy mistake!
That thus shall wake
Your wise soul, never to be won
Now with a love below the Sun.
Your first choice fails, O when you choose again,
May it not be among the sons of men.

   --- Richard Crashaw (1613-1649)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Okay, maybe this order

Since their apostlate appears to be cuddling with baby miniature horses. :)

Lime Cake

I must have been in a fruit mood.  Needing a recipe for a dinner party my parents were having, I looked up cakes on Tasty Kitchen and picked out the lemon cake... the mango raspberry cake... the strawberry shortcake cake... the rhubarb cake... the lime cake... and one inexcusable chocolate cake covered in caramel pecan praline sauce which I will never make.  I settled on the Lime Sheet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

You start by zesting and juicing two limes.  Then add a french vanilla cake mix, eggs, sour cream, oil and water.  Dump it all in a bowl.

When it's mixed it looks like a sour-cream-and-chives vegetable dip.  I decided to add just one drop of green food color.

It looked nice being mixed in, but then the color seemed to disappear and I wondered if I'd added enough.  The baked cake layers didn't really look green.  But once I'd cut them open-- perfect!  Just a bit of green, light enough that people could believe it came naturally from the lime zest.

Into the oven with you!

Perhaps you've wondered, "Why does Rachel make so many sweets?"  My people, this is why.  There is no greater food-related pleasure than licking out the bowl.  If my mom were doing this, she'd scrape the bowl much cleaner and have almost nothing left to enjoy.  Mom weighs about 110 and looks fabulous.  I lick out the bowl.

I lost track of time and the layers darkened too much at the edges and cracked in the middle.  But that won't matter much.  Oh, the recipe called for this all to be baked on a big sheet pan, but I wanted a layer cake so I had to bake the batter in 8" pans for much longer than the recipe called for.  Don't ask how long-- I lost track, remember?

When I quit my job two years ago, I was given a really nice (and heavy) marble cake stand that a co-worker's mother had bought at the Carnegie-Mellon Museum.  They invited me back six months later and I gladly accepted, so I'm at the same job still, but I didn't give back the farewell presents.  :)  This cake stand has a raised medallion in the center, and I wasn't sure how that was supposed to work with a cake, but I decided to just go for it.

It was a bit nervewracking trying to center the layer of cake perfectly, 'cause it's not going to slide when it's on top of that raised medallion thing (maybe that's what it's there for?)  Fortunately I got it right.  You can't exactly hold the layer upside down and slowly position it perfectly, 'cause the cake might fall apart under its own weight.  So you just flip it over quickly and hope for the best.

The white chocolate frosting looked great.  Meditate upon its whitechocolateyness:

Frosting is one of the most fun steps, I think.

Spread it out and then it's time to slap on the second layer.

Drat.  Off-center.

Fortunately, on frosting it slides right over.

Now to frost the sides!  (You might notice I cut off the burnt edge.  That wasn't because I was longing for a piece to snack on or anything.)

The main problem with baking too long is that the darkened edges want to show through the frosting.  But once all the frosting was on and evenly spread out, it was fine.  Like love, frosting covers over a multitude of sins.

Now for the top...

I just slapped the frosting on quickly and smoothed it out roughly, but it already looks great.  I stuck it in the fridge after this to firm up the frosting a bit, and then I obsessively smoothed it out for ten minutes, at the end of which the cake looked... about as good as it does in this picture.

The final stage.  It was my mom who took a potato peeler to the third lime we happened to have.  I didn't think the idea would work out, but Mom's usually right and the peel was a perfect decoration, looking pretty and effectively communicating, "This is lime cake you're looking at."

It's too bad I wasn't making this cake for someone named Elizabeth.  I don't know what her last initial would be anyway.

I just know that it was a nice summer cake, not too sweet and full of lime flavor.  And the frosting was a perfect complement.

And by the end of the night the nine of us had polished it off.