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When it comes to talent, creativeness, sister takes the cake

By Shirley Prihoda The Bulletin

When my husband and I married 33 years ago, I was not prepared to encounter the world of a large Catholic family; there were 11 children, eight of whom were sisters.

Let’s just add right here that there was only one restroom in their Danbury farmhouse, and your imagination can take it from there.

It’s a natural transition in large families to find differing talents equally dispersed among all the children. Given the family’s size, none of the children seemed more endowed with talent than the others.

That was not the case in my family with only two children, both girls. My sister, Helen Vogel, hereafter called the favored one, is blessed with more than her share of talents. When I came along five years later, which is my only claim to fame, the talent well was drier than the Sahara. I’ve often told her it was her fault for standing under the faucet too long and draining the well dry.

This lack of creative talent may not be intimidating in a large family, but when the total sibling number is two, it’s noticeable. Not only does my sister paint pictures, she crochets for the elderly in nursing homes, and she’s a floral designer and an avid crafter of almost anything.

If that wasn’t talent overload, she also received the gift of hospitality. Her home is an open door where any and everyone feels immediately at home. I didn’t get that talent, either. Go figure.

It’s not that she hasn’t tried to teach me to craft, for she has…repeatedly. It didn’t take her long to decide I was a hopeless case with crochet yarn. I think it was the fact that she had to cut my hands out of the yarn that gave it away. Not to be deterred, she moved on to painting. With the canvas, brushes, and paint arranged just so, she said, “this will be so relaxing.” She gave me what seemed like simplistic instructions to just let the brush flow across the canvas and talk to you. It did talk to me, but unfortunately, what it said is not printable.

She held her tongue long enough for me to finish my painting of a Christmas tree with a cross in the center. I display it on the fireplace every Christmas and don’t take offense when I have to explain what it is. I’ve heard most great artists sometimes have to do that. With that talent put to bed, we moved on to floral designing.

Before my floral designing class, my expertise in this area was to hold the cut stems in one hand and tap them on the table. With the other hand, move the container close to the hand holding the stems and drop them from about six inches in the air into the container.

Voila, you’re done. I proudly shared my flower-arranging method with her, and with a raised eyebrow, she said we could do better than that. Several hours passed, and she said maybe we needed to revisit my previous method.

I do need to extend a standing ovation to her for sticking with me in the flower arena since our flower-arranging class wasn’t a total bust. I did learn how to take a small flower bud, bridal net, and florist tape to make a boutonniere. While these may lack formal decorating usage and frequently disappear in a drawer, I realize there’s not a great demand for this difficult and sought-after skill. Nonetheless, I can make one, and it is discernible as a boutonniere. Once my creation was complete, my sister looked at me with perspiration, glistening as if she had just given birth, and smiled. She was proud. The florist classes ended that day.

Given her amazing talents, my sister could approach those of us artistically challenged with a condescending nose in the air. She doesn’t. She’s quick to point out that I do have talents, since I write for The Bulletin newspaper. While that is true, I couldn’t do it without my trusty spell check and a software program that’s smarter than I am.

While she, on the other hand, doesn’t need either of these to create something virtually out of nothing. Like most favored ones, she can do this with a house full of guests who are comfortable enough to make their own coffee and raid the refrigerator. Favored ones are gifted like that.

While I’m not going to say there is anything supernatural going on with my sister’s overabundance of talents, one has to wonder. While wondering, try this amazing cake.

Magic Cake

Note: This recipe is made using 6-inch cake pans with three layers. The recipe makes two cakes.

2 Cups Brewed Coffee ½ Tablespoon Espresso Powder Combine and mix well. Cake 2 Cups Sugar 1 ¾ Cups Flour ¾ Cup Cocoa 2 Teaspoons Baking Soda 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder 1 Cup Buttermilk 1 Teaspoon Salt 1 Cup Vegetable Oil 1 Teaspoon Vanilla 2 Eggs

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add the coffee blend and mix well.

Grease and flour the cake pans. Divide the batter equally among the 6 pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing cakes from pans. Cool the layers on a wire cooling rack.


¾ Cup Butter 1 Cup Cocoa 4 ½ Cups Powdered Sugar ½ Cup Whole Milk 1 ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Melt butter and add cocoa. Blend the cocoa well. Using a bowl-style mixer, alternate adding the milk and powdered sugar to the cocoa mixture. Blend on medium speed to mix well. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Add a little more milk if the mixture is too thick.

To assemble the cakes, insert long toothpicks to stabilize the layers.

These cakes freeze well.

(To contact Shirley, please send emails to or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)


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