Archive: December 2012

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Still Here!


posted by Chelsea

“Hey, umm… just to tell ya” (a direct Katelyn quote)… I’m still here.  Life has been a wee bit on the crazy side. Between the holidays, three kids, company, and well, life… blogging has been on the back burner.

So in case you’ve been wondering, just know that I’ve had my head down…

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…takin’ care of business :-)

Fortunately, “business” has been pretty fun.  Lucy jumped back on her skis like it was nobody’s business…

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And Kate was so ready to hit the slopes (OUT OF THE BACKPACK) she could hardly contain herself…

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A quick note to say, business is good!


Labor of Love


posted by Donna

Donna’s Note: After the publishing of “Mangers”, someone commented on a song she heard last year about the reality of what the scene probably was that long ago night in Bethlehem.  So I googled the song and it’s definately worth sharing with all of you… especially on this Christmas Eve!  Thanks, Nana.

Labor of Love

It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry in the alleyway that night on the streets of David’s town
And the stable was not clean and the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace with tears upon her face had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain, it was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark with every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph by her side, callused hands and weary eyes
No midwives to be found on the streets of David’s town in the middle of the night
So he held her and he prayed, shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb, He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the Faith that could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain, it was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark with every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace, with tears on her face it was a labor of love

It was not a silent night on the streets of David’s town

Songwriter: Andrew Peterson, performed by Randy Travis, also Point of Grace


Oh Holy Night


posted by Laci

Oh Holy Night

Over and over, I am struck with the fact that God had a plan for His people from the dawn of creation. There is so much in my life I have taken for granted. So much I simply accept. One of those things, sadly, happens to be salvation–the redemption of mankind to a Holy God. What a miracle it is that Christ would leave his throne and come to a broken, sin-ridden earth–simply to restore communion between ourselves and our God! Something Jesus has been laying on my heart, reminding me is this: “Don’t forget, Daughter, don’t forget! Be captivated with Me, with all I’ve done for you.” 

In an effort to remember WHAT He did, and WHY exactly it is we celebrate; join me on a journey through time…listen to the music of a beautiful piece that required the harmony of many instruments and the orchestration of our Heavenly Father.

In the Garden, God gave Adam and Eve a choice—the choice of free will—for His desire was not for His creation’s worship of him to be simple, even animalistic, but a decisive act of will. From the Fall, God had a plan to draw His people back to Himself—to save them from themselves. This plan, woven throughout the Old Testament and carried through Abraham—was he “The One,” the one God planned? To Moses—the Israelite deliverer; was he God’s chosen? Then David—man after God’s own heart; was he the One promised? These stories, these men, go so much deeper than simply leaders of Israel. Not only were they instruments in God’s ultimate story, but characters singing of grace, mercy, hope and redemption. Paintings of His faithfulness, goodness and worthiness.

Then, hundreds of years later, in a manner no one would expect, comes a teenage girl and her fiancé, returning to his hometown. No one knew, no one expected. They were much too busy to remember the promise from long ago, too involved in  their own crises to hope.  There was no room in that little town for this couple about to give birth to their first child. Only the man and girl knew—they were players in a drama that had been unfolding since the beginning of time. Stepping out in faith, they were unaware of how their lives would be altered during this child’s lifetime. The man and girl settle into a stable carved into a rock. There, amid the grime, the stench and the noise of animals, the “Son of God became flesh and dwelt among man.” Angels appeared to shepherds shouting: “Glory to God in the highest!” What a PLAN! Those who knew rushed to the pungent stable to fall on their knees and lift grimy hands in worship and adoration to the King long awaited. Was it what anyone expected? No. Was it God’s perfect plan, set to motion at the perfect time and foretold by prophets long ago? Yes.

Yet this wasn’t the end. This song had not yet reached its crescendo. The plan was in place, the characters and script were set, the music written. This infant-God, who was dependent upon a teenage girl for survival, was here on earth to live out the heartache of rejection, the joy of acceptance; the brutal terror, horrific pain, and the necessary, yet tragic death, and glorious resurrection.

This baby, so small; was The One sent to show the world God’s expansive care. The gift of love came to mankind that night so long ago in Bethlehem.

Do you remember? Or has Christmas lost its potency; its music dimmed over the course of the years, a result of difficulty, disappointment and disillusionment?  It’s so easy to come to that place where anticipation and hope no longer fill our hearts, but bitterness, hurt, sorrow and fear crowd in. Sometimes it seems so far away—so far removed from where we are today. So far from that night when the Father said it was time to set His masterpiece in motion by sending His only Son into a wicked world. A world ripe with selfishness, pride, and all things ungodly. So far away from that night when when the presence of God must have crackled like electricity. So far from that night when hope was real. 

My friends, there is still HOPE!

The piece, written so long ago, is not outdated! It is, in fact, the core basis of our faith, our belief, and the sweetness of its sound only swells with time. And from that time until now, we see that infant’s divine hand moving in our lives—moving each encounter, every situation and all circumstances in our lives. What an amazing composition our Heavenly Father set to music beginning with Creation! He didn’t stop or give up on His people when they played out of tune and without His perfectly harmonious music. Each time, He was there to welcome His children back—even though there was consequence.

How like Israel I am, how stubborn, how unseeing! Yet my Heavenly Father walks with me; pulls me from the mire of myself and gently prods me on. 

May I (and you too!) not just this season, but all year long, remember the night God’s love set the world on edge—in a town unsuspecting and busy; among people deaf and without hope. May I be like the shepherds and drop my “duties” to lift unclean hands before the Holy Lord. May I be touched throughout my life as I am now, with the awesomeness of the Child; of the plan He came to fulfill. May I never forget the sacred score to which my life dances and the hand that has guided not only my song, but the music of generations before me. May I remember the love God has for me, and never cease to show that love to all I meet. Finally, may I never forget the plan put into motion so many years ago, that by God’s grace and mercy, still includes me.

Merry Christmas!


Carols


posted by Donna

Are you, by any chance, one of those people who loves to hear good Christmas songs year round? I am. And I qualified the question by saying “good.” No “Deck the Halls” or “Frosty the Snowman” for this melody connoisseur. Where’s the beef? the meat? the stuff one can sink one’s spiritual teeth into?

So having an inquisitive mind, I did a little research on google and here’s what I found:

Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled. Joyful, all ye nations rise Join the triumphs of the skies With angelic host proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hark, the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King.

This carol was a joint effort by several notables. Famous composer/conductor Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 to celebrate the invention of the printing press.  The melody of the cantata was used by William Cummings, who put the music to lyrics written by Charles Wesley, younger brother to John Wesley, both known for their roles in keeping Christianity alive in the 1700s.

 

O little town of Bethlehem How still we see thee lie Above they deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark street shineth The everlasting Light The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight.

A 30 year old Episcopal clergyman named Phillips Brooks wrote this poem in 1865 after an inspirational visit to Bethlehem himself.  A year later, Lewis Redner, Brooks’ organist at his church in Philadelphia, put the poem to the music the world now knows so well. It is believed that this song was first sung by their Sunday School children’s choir.

 

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth; Long lay the world in sin and error pining Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices O night divine, O night when Christ was born O night O holy night O night divine.

This Christmas favorite was written by French composer, Placide Cappeau (1808-1877) and the melody was composed by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856). He wrote the score for the ballet Giselle.  In 1847 during a Christmas Eve mass, it was performed in French but it was later translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight.  Almost 5o years later to the day, “O Holy Night” was played live over the radio on another Christmas Eve thousands of miles away in Brant Rock, Massachusetts.

 

 

Down in a lowly manger The humble Christ was born And God sent us salvation That blessed Christmas morn.

Go, tell it on the mountain Over the hills and everywhere. Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born.

This African-American spiritual was compiled by John Wesley Work Jr back in about 1865.  But it may have been first sung by an anonymous slave from the American Civil War era who began singing it to other slaves then they began singing it themselves.  John Wesley Work Jr was the first black collector of Negro folksongs, most likely born August 6, 1871 in Nashville, Tennessee. He published “Folk Songs of the American Negro” which was where the song was first published in 1907. John studied a year at Harvard in addition to receiving his master’s from Fisk University in Nashville where he taught for many years before being forced to resign in 1923. He served as President of Roger Williams University until his death in 1925.  His wife and two sons were all professionals in the field of music and education.

 

Nearly all of my favorite childhood Christmas carols were written in the 1700’s and 1800’s by men of many countries: France, England, Germany, America. So I decided to look at a couple of present day classics.

 

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?  Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?

Mark Lowry, a popular Christian comedian and songwriter, wrote this tune in 1984 at his pastor’s request as part of a living Christmas tree choir presentation. Buddy Greene, an ace Christian harmonica player and long one of my favorite composer/performers, wrote the music.  Their duet performance is stellar. In 1997, Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd took this song to #55 on the country music charts. Clay Aiken took it to #35. Eventually it became the basis for a musical by said name.

 

Another of my contemporary favorites:

Follow the star to a place unexpected Would you believe after all we’ve projected A child in a manger  Lowly and small, the weakest of all Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in His mother’s shawl Just a child Is this who we’ve waited for?  How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? only One did that for me.

“How Many Kings” is a new Christmas song by Downhere, a rock band from Canada.  Here’s a story Marc Martel shares after his band’s release of this song: My Dad is a pastor at a small church in Canada and he’s never come down to Tennessee to see our band perform. The first time my Dad heard this song on the radio last year, he did something he’s never done before. He actually called me up on the phone just to tell me how much he liked my song. I was blown away by his reaction since he’s always supported my decision to become a musician but has never had that strong of a reaction before. What really struck me was the amazing parallel between what I wrote about in the song “How Many Kings” which is how the heart of a father loving his son the way my father felt when he heard the song is a human example of how God’s loving heart for His son Jesus caused Him to give up His son for me. Completely humbling and what Christmas is all about.”

 

Christmas time was approaching, Snow is starting to fall, Shoppers choosing their presents, People filling the mall.  Children waiting for Santa, With excitement and glee, A little boy tugged my sweater, Looked up and asked me.  Where’s the line to see Jesus? Is He here at the store? It’s Christmas time, it’s His birthday. Why don’t we see Him more?  Where’s the line to see Jesus? He was born for me. Santa Claus brought me presents. But Christ gave His life for me.

The story behind the song, as told by Steve Haupt:

“While at the mall last year, my four year old grandson saw kids lined up excitedly to see Santa Claus. Having been taught as a toddler that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of God’s son; with the innocence of a child, he asked his mom, ‘Where’s the line to see Jesus? If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, why don’t we see Him more?’ As his grandpa, I was so happy that little Spencer understood the meaning of Christmas at such a tender age, and then the words for a song were jotted down in just a few minutes. The song was inspired by my grandson, and the message was inspired by my Savior. Out of the mouths of babes come profound truths that many adults can not understand. Hopefully Spencer’s observation and our song will cause people to reflect on the love of Jesus, and the certainty that one day we will all stand in line to see Jesus. Merry Christmas everyone.”

The boy’s grandfather, Steve Haupt, wrote out song lyrics in a matter of minutes. He made a demo video with his daughter, Becky Kelley, which has gotten over a million hits on youtube over the course of the past year. It’s a wonderful example of the power of the internet, which made it possible for a “do-it-yourself” song to reach thousands, when, years ago, it would probably have had a much smaller impact.

 

Well, there you have it. Plenty of material to exercise your vocal chords AND sing of the true reason for the season.


 

 

 

 


Hope


posted by Chelsea

Several years ago a little Rodeo Bible Camper stole my heart.  His name was Pete and he came to camp when he was 12.  He was the cutest little guy- always had his rope in hand, twirling it as he walked, rode, and even packed it with him into chapel.  He was ranch-raised and wore a buckaroo flat top hat.  While this isn’t him…

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… he had a similar look and now you have a visual.  Pete was a real hand with his rope and he had a quiet competence about him.  At the end of camp, I was reading through the campers “evaluation forms” and where it asked the campers their favorite part of the week he wrote something to the effect of: “ropin’ and talking in the tent at night with my leader and the other guys.”  Pete is probably in college now, but he was the little guy who made me want to someday have a little boy of my own.  I’ve met a few boys since who made me feel the same way– my friend, T, has a little boy who steals my heart in the same way Pete did.  Lately we’ve watched him in a couple of wrestling tournaments…

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I can’t tell you how much this little guy’s tenacious-go-for-it-spirit makes me excited to have a boy, too.   I’m not saying Cooper “has” to be a wrestler (Buck might say otherwise).  I’m also not saying he has to wear a flat top hat and twirl his rope every spare second at Rodeo Bible Camp.  What I’m saying is– the sweet little-boy spirit in these boys is a picture of the hope we have for our boy.

Likewise, we have hopes and dreams for our girls– many of which I could tell you all about.  But I’m not going to because the simple point I’m making is one that every parent can relate to– we have hope for our kids.  We have hope for them in all sorts of ways– hope for them to learn to crawl, then to walk, then to run, then to ride a bike, hope for learning to read, for getting married, hope for all the little things that delight them.  Hope to hear their little giggle at the end of the day.  Hope to watch them open their presents on Christmas morning.

And those are all the reasons why my heart is broken.  I’m broken for the parents of the 20 little kids…

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…who have to let go of all the little hopes, all the big hopes, all the plans they had.  I’m broken, because while I know those families can still have hope, they had their “parent-hope” ripped away from them.  The injustice angers me.  But mostly the loss makes me so sad I can hardly stand it.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.”  ~Jesus


Almond Butter Cake w/ Crunching Almond Topping


posted by ~ ann

 

The name of this recipe tells it all!  If you like an almond and butter-flavored cake.  If you like crunchy almond topping.  If you like quick and easy.   If you like a slightly dense (but not heavy), little-bit -chewy snack cake, then by all means give this a try!  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Stir together 1 1/2 cups sugar and melted butter in a large bowl.  Stir in eggs and almond extract.  Stir in flour.  Pour into greased 9-inch square or cake pan.  Sprinkle 2 tsp. sugar and sliced almonds over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until golden.  *Cake will not test clean with toothpick*

 

Makes 8 servings

 


BiRthDaY!


posted by Chelsea

It’s been quite a week.  I keep typing and erasing.  I don’t know what to say other than welcome to our crazy wonderful life.  I love the roles I get to play in our family- although sometimes, when all the roles come crashing together, I get a tad bit overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed in several ways, but mostly overwhlemed with gratitude.  I feel beyond privledged to be a part of this crazy little life of ours.   I’m so blessed to have a husband who is the greatest teammate I could ever ask for.  He gives me “wings” to be everything I feel called to be and picks up the slack when he knows those wings aren’t superwoman’s!  The wings I desire aren’t always convenient….actually, they’re rarely convenient.  I seldom talk about my job here on CC, for obvious small-town-confidentiality reasons, but this week I’m thanking God for putting it on my heart way back in high school to take a little “CNA” class that would eventually lead me into a nursing career that I’m absolutely passionate about.  So passionate that I could cry with gratitude right here at my computer- but I have way to much to do.

Way to much to do, like tell you that this weekend, it is Lucy’s SIXTH birthday.  In the last year she has gone from the little girl who you could still see a spark of toddler in, into being our big kid.

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I just checked the “height wall” and it looks to me like she’s grown about five inches since last year.  Buck and I keep asking eachother if we can believe how big she is.  And no, we cannot.

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What a privledge to be her mom- to watch her ambitious determination take root in whatever she finds to do with herself.

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Whether she’s picking out a bright and cheery and color-coordinated (!) outift or choosing “Lemon with strawberry cream cheese frosting” (yum?! can you say gourmet choice?!) for her birthday cupcakes…

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Whether she’s learning her sight words or shooting hoops into the laundry basket (our most recent evening activity! We are ready for LONGER days again!) or drawing and coloring her little heart out, we get to watch her own desire mixed with her endless energy…

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mold together into nothing short of a really fabulous oldest daughter.

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I could sit here and cry again, but I have way to much to do.  We’re blessed.  And super crazy about this curly headed blonde bundle of energy….

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Post Script: Mangers


posted by Donna

Since publishing “Mangers“, a very delightful thing happened.  We were yard sale-ing last weekend and I purchased a small treasure.  It is a Nativity set with a stable scene made of metal and electrically lighted with a single small bulb.  It has all the  anticipated animals {except the camel was a bonus!}, baby Jesus with a halo {Mary had one, too, and her arms were stretched open wide as she bent over Him, Joseph’s halo broke off long ago}, and a variety of other small figurines representing all the key players in the story. There are 5 animal figures and 8 people to complete the scene. One of the shepherds has a lamb slung over his shoulders with a staff in his hand. The stable has an angel attached to the top front overseeing the whole scene. And the back of the barn has painted props of cows and hay and a ladder and donkeys peering curiously around posts {In their words on the box: beautifully lithographed metal stable}.  The original box it came in has an address listed as 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY.  This set looks older than ME so it’s more than half a century old!! It is such a treasure and I knew it was an indirect gift from God as soon as I laid eyes on it.  Five bucks and our home has a new year-round decoration!

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Mangers


posted by Donna

Away in a manger no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lays down His sweet head.

The stars in the sky look down where He lay; the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

 

This song, throughout the ages and across the miles, has been the impetus for countless nativity scenes around the world.  At present, I reside in the Bible Belt, the deep south, and I can tell you there are more nativity scenes on lawns, alongside the road, on porches, in open garages; just yesterday I saw one between a bank and a Dollar General on a state highway.  Southerners aren’t worried about offending anyone with a statue of Jesus, even if He is a cute little baby.

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With some, depicting the holy scene is popular in America. A nativity set usually includes tiny Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes laid in a small feeding trough filled with hay, His expressionless parents, Mary and Joseph, a cow or two, a sheep, a donkey, and maybe a cat or dog peering curiously at the Baby. Beside the menagerie (mini zoo), shepherds with staffs are present and three wise men carrying gifts might complete the scene. All of this is usually found in a wood structure or stable. In most of my travels nativity scenes abound.

Many homes have them indoors, too. I once had a small wood-carved set but in our many moves I’ve lost track of it. But like so many American depictions, the representation is probably a far stretch from the reality. If being away in a manger  meant it was located in a barn or a cave or a stable, it was probably dark and cold and and unfamiliar. Mary was young and  probably frightened to be away from her Mom and her home. Joseph may have been worried out of his mind, just to find a place to stay, to say nothing of the prospect of delivering a baby. How did they know what supplies to bring and how on earth did they think they could travel with Mary so pregnant? No nativity set I’ve ever seen shows Mary crying or Joseph wiping his furrowed brow. I’ve never seen bloody rags or buckets of water or scissors or clamps or even a small fire burning to stave off the night chill. Just smiling people and cozy animals. And we don’t glean many more facts from the Bible account:

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough – because there was no room for them at the inn. {Luke 2:4-7}

This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger. {Luke 2:12}

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the feeding trough. {Luke 2:16}

The sparsest of details. Maybe they engaged the services of a midwife (For everyone’s sake, I sure hope so.). Most likely, since Jesus was placed in a manger, they actually were in a stable or something similar. Maybe they found a house right after the birth of Jesus, because we know they were in one when the 2, 3, or more wise men visited sometime within 2 years of His birth.

Entering the house they  saw the Child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. {Matt 2:11}

We won’t know any more details than we know now until we get to Heaven. Then it won’t matter. Then we’ll get to meet the real persons (and perhaps animals?) from the Nativity scene. Til then, we can speculate and enjoy the rest of the song:

 

The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle ’til morning is nigh

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.

 


Apple Walnut Coffee Cake


posted by ~ ann

I have spent a little part of my Thanksgiving holiday sorting through the pile, stack, mountain of recipes I’ve clipped and saved in the recent past. {Don’t even get me started on the clipped recipes from the distant past!}  I took an old spiral notebook and taped these clipping on the pages.  My hope, goal, desperate thought is that I’ll try a new recipe (at least one! possibly more!) per week.  Just flip open the notebook that is conveniently located on top of my mixer and pick a recipe, any recipe…….

Well, here’s one of them!  The cake is in the oven as I type this post and I must say, it smells delicious.  I’m making it to take to church tonight, so it will be a good test of whether or not its a keeper.  I’ll keep you posted!

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In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the apple and walnuts; mix well {batter will be very stiff}.  Stir in apple and walnuts;

 

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pour (spoon) into a greased and floured Bundt or tube pan.
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Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.  Increase heat to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 -25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near middle comes out clean.

 

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Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes; turn out onto a serving plate.  Pour glaze over cake.

Glaze:
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In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract; drizzle over cake.

Serves: 16

 

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