Wednesday, October 29, 2008
As a cruel joke, it gets quite cool at night...even down in the 40's some nights...making it quite chilly in the house first thing in the morning. When I wake, I am excited to don some cozy flannel pajama pants and fuzzy socks to make my way downstairs and brew my coffee. And every day, I am sorely disappointed when, about mid-day, I am sweating and have to turn on the air conditioning, as the outside temperatures climb well above 90. When, oh when, will summer be over????
In the meantime, I am still cooking and baking as though it really is fall. Saturday afternoon, our friends Dan and Gloria came over to spend some time and have dinner with us. I had prepared chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker, and my mom's delicious pumpkin bars for dessert...it was a super yummy, comforting meal!!
Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings
2 large, frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large, frozen, boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 C. baby carrots, cut into big chunks
1 med. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 T. fresh thyme, chopped
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 C. flour
Juice of 1 lemon
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
8 C. chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the flour over it, then add the remaining ingredients. Cook on "low" for 8-10 hours. About an hour before serving, shred the chicken in the soup. Turn cooker to "high" to bring soup to a simmer.
2 C. flour
3/4 to 1 C. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
In a bowl, combine the above ingredient. Gently fold just until dough comes together - do not over-mix. The batter should be thick. Let sit for about 15 minutes.
Once soup is simmering well - little bubbles around the edges - use 2 teaspoons to carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the soup. Do not put so many that they are overly crowded, but they should pretty much cover the entire top of your soup. Put the lid on the soup, and let the dumplings cook for about 15 minutes until they are puffy and firm.
Serve the soup with chopped fresh parsley (optional) and freshly ground pepper.
2 C. sugar
2 C. pumpkin
1 C. oil (or 1/2 C. oil and 1/2 C. plain yogurt)
2 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Stir together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat sugar, eggs, pumpkin and oil (and yogurt). Add dry ingredients and mix well at slow speed. Pour into greased/floured jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely, then frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
2 1/4 tsp. margarine
2 1/2 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 1/4 C. powdered sugar
Blend ingredients well, adding powdered sugar a little at a time, until creamy and there are no lumps, then spread on pumpkin bars.
Hope you enjoy!! I know we did!!
Friday, October 24, 2008
I finally finished the last part of the baby shower gift for Darrell's co-worker. I am LOVING this set of three squeezably soft baby blocks!! I adore these Sandi Henderson fabrics, a combination from her Ginger Blossom and Farmer's Market lines. I threw the pacifier in there just to show the size of the blocks. The smallest is a 3-inch cube, and the largest is a 5-inch cube. I have pieces cut to make a second set to put up for sale on my etsy site, whenever I can get a chance to sew them!!
This little tree was just something fun I did for the kids to play with. I keep seeing all these adorable little forest creatures and stuffies all over on etsy and online boutiques...trees, mushrooms, owls, birds, etc. They are just too cute. I found some old felt (and I do mean old - like bought at least 7 years ago!!) in an old craft bin in the garage, so I free-hand drew the tree parts on the felt (with some online inspiration) and cut them out. I used pinking shears to cut out little leaves from some fabric scraps, and stitched them onto the tree. Anthony was so funny...he loved watching the process as I made it, and when it was done, he could hardly contain his glee. "Mama," he exclaimed, "It's SOOOOOO cuuuuute!!!" :) The girls took turns with it today - Mackenzie just holding it and looking at it very intently, and Makayla, of course, eating it. At any rate, I think it was a hit with all 3 kiddos.
And as you can see, I did some overhaulin' here in blogland. I promise you I could NEVER be a computer programmer. I've been sitting here for the past 3 hours or so, figuring out which template to use and then adjusting code to work with what I needed to do...and I swear my eyes are going crossed!! When I started out, I was merely attempting to change the background color on the blog. I liked the old graphics and such, but I just couldn't get used to that funky kind of pink-mauvy color. But as it turns out, it wasn't just a background color in the code; it was an actually picture file repeated all through the blog, and with my VERY limited knowledge and no access to a Photoshop program, there really wasn't anything I could do about that. So I had to start over. So let me know what you think...do you like it? The cool thing with this layout is that I can change the header picture/background without having to change the whole template - yay!!
So, imagine my delight to find this wonderful website where all the recipes are introduced NOT by name or ingredient - but BY PICTURE!!!
That's right - you scroll through and when you see something that looks delicious to you, all you do is click on the picture, and it will take you to the blog or website where the recipe is located!! How awesome is that?! I've already bookmarked several yummy things to try!!
It's called Tastespotting, and I think I'm in love. :)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Oh, my. I am in trouble. Well, first off...the donut holes. They are delish, but since I can't stand the smell of fried food in my house, I don't think there's a sincere danger of these happening all that often in my house. But they are quite wonderful, and definitely worth sharing the recipe!! Thanks, Karen, for the recipe!!!
Apple Cider Donut HolesCanola oil for frying
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 1 cup powdered sugar and 2-3 Tablespoons of apple cider mixed to make a thin glaze (approximate - I really didn't measure this)
Heat oil to 375 degrees (helps if you have a candy or deep fry thermometer - I didn't, and had to use trial and error to get it right...the first couple donuts burned!).
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk, cider, oil, vanilla and beaten egg....stir until mixed well. Drop into heated oil by rounded teaspoon-fulls - just like cookie dough. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side - until a deep golden brown. Take them out and rest them on a paper towel for a minute or two.
While they're still warm, either put them in a bag and shake to coat them with cinnamon sugar, or dip them in the glaze. I only did the glaze, and they were so yummy!!
The second sweet treat, I do not have a picture of. This is, in part, because it actually isn't very pretty, but mostly because I devoured it before I could have ever taken a picture. It never had a chance. This little baby will have a short life-span, let me tell ya!
The original recipe can be found here, but I altered it a bit to try to make a tad less fattening and to make it a bit more chocolate-y and it turned out fabulous.
Coffee-Cup Chocolate Cake
1 coffee cup (microwaveable)
4 T. flour (not self-rising)
3 T. sugar
2 1/2 T. baking cocoa
3 T. milk
2 T. plain yogurt
1 T. oil
Splash almond or vanilla extract
Mix the dry ingredients in the coffee cup. Add the egg and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix again. Microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes. Note: the cake WILL rise above the top of your coffee cup - don't worry - it won't overflow and won't make a mess. Let cool for a minute or two, then dump out onto a plate. I ate mine with powdered sugar sprinkled over it and whipped cream on top...YUM!!! (And I used the almond extract - SO yummy!!)
This did NOT have a normal cake-like texture, by the way. The original recipe calls for it to be cooked 3 minutes, and maybe if I cooked it that long, it would have more of a cake-like texture, but I could smell the chocolate heading towards that too-cooked state, so I took it out after 2.5 minutes. It was very moist and dense, almost like the texture of bread pudding. The flavor was awesome...totally satisfying. Too satisfying. As in - every time I have a chocolate craving now, I'm gonna want to make one of these babies. And because it only dirties one cup, and takes all of 5 minutes from start to finish, I can see how this could become a big problem.
If you try it out, let me know how it comes out!!! Oh, and the original recipe also suggests adding chocolate chips, but you could try anything, I suppose...nuts, peanut butter chips, whatever!!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I picked up this adorable owl and apple tree flannel fabric at Joann's a few weeks ago. It's perfectly sweet and so soft...I couldn't wait to make something with it!! One of the supervisors in Darrell's department is having a baby next month, so it was a great opportunity for me to try out some projects I've been wanting to try.
I love using cloth diapers as burp cloths, but mine are just so ugly. There's nothing cute about them at all. But these owls certainly turned an ordinary burp cloth into something adorable rather quickly, don't you think?! (And I love the tip I found on one of the sewing blogs I read about tying gifts with the selvage I cut off the fabric!! So cute!!)
I also wanted to make a coordinating baby blanket, using this tutorial. The flannel receiving blankets you get at the store are WAY too small, as all new mothers quickly find out. There's nothing small about this one...it will do the job quite well!! I used a little over a yard of solid ivory colored flannel to make a square, and folded over the edges twice, then stitched down, mitering the corners and zig-zag stitching over the corners. Then I used fusible webbing to iron-on 3 different sized circles of the owl fabric, and then I used a decorative stitch around the edges of the circles to ensure they stay securely on the blanket. It turned out so cute, and is really soft and cozy. I almost want to keep it for my babies, but I suppose I will give it away...I can always make another one for the girls!!
There is one last part of her gift that's not finished yet. It doesn't actually coordinate with the others, though, so that's why I decided to go ahead and post these pics. I will be sure to post pics when the last part is finished, though.
As with the crayon roll, I'd be happy to make up more of these if anyone is interested in placing an order. I haven't decided on prices, so just email me and we can discuss details!! :)
On Saturday, we had a birthday party for one of Anthony's friends to go to. The little boy, Erik, was turning 5, and like Anthony, he is a HUGE fan of Thomas. When his mom, my friend Louise, was here for craft night in September, she gave me some remnants of some Thomas fabric she had been using to make some things for Erik's bedroom. So...for his birthday, I thought it would be fun to do something with some of the fabric scraps she gave me. I used this tutorial for a crayon roll, and it was quite simple to make. I had another craft night here Friday night, and I got the crayon roll finished within 2.5 hours, I believe. Anyway, both Erik and his mom loved the gift. I also included a really cute train book from Barefoot Books, called The Magic Train Ride, which comes with a CD.
The birthday party was held at the Orange Empire Railway Museum, and all the kids had a blast. We even got to take a ride on a train, which had Anthony SO excited.
I'm thinking about possibly making a few of these crayon rolls up (in a variety of fabrics) to sell. If you're interested in purchasing one, drop me an email and let me know. I'm thinking $12 plus shipping (if I have to ship it to you!). It holds 16 crayons and would be a great gift...great for throwing in your purse or diaper bag with a small drawing pad or coloring book for restaurants, car/plane trips, doctor's offices, etc.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Check out this GORGEOUS quilt!!! It is being GIVEN AWAY!!! Can you imagine going to all that work and then giving it away??? I can't! But you can enter the contest by leaving a comment on the giveaway post here. The contest runs through the end of tomorrow (Friday), so quick like a bunny, hurry over there and post!!
Gingerbread Butterscotch Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/2 package butterscotch chips
The second good thing I want to share is a FREE upcoming online class that looks really fun. I'm excited about it myself, because I see a big need for it! I have been terrible about keeping up with scrapbooking, and even for those of us who are good about keeping up with it, there are SO MANY stories that never get recorded in our scrapbooks simply because we have no photos to go along with the stories. This class will teach us how to start getting our stories recorded, because our stories MATTER!!
It sounds fun, doesn't it? You can click on the graphic, and it will take you to her blog, where she has more details about the class. Join me, won't you?!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
to shatter all the darkness,
and bless the little time we knew.
Like a beacon in the night,
the flame will burn and lead us on our way.
today, I light a candle for you.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. At 7:00 p.m., in each time zone around the world, women from every culture and country lit candles in honor of the tiniest ones they have loved and lost. Most of you know that I had a miscarriage nearly 2 years ago, which devastated me. Even though I obviously now have two beautiful little miracles and I could not be more thankful or more blessed, nothing will ever replace the child I lost, and I do believe that when I one day reach heaven's gates, I will get to finally meet my fourth little one.
Keira, an amazing triplet mommy, is a grieving mother whose blog I visit regularly. One of her 25-weeker triplets, precious Zoe, lost her battle in February of this year. Keira and her family will be holding a candle-lighting ceremony this Saturday, October 18, in honor of Zoe and so many other babies, both born and unborn, who've gone to heaven too soon. If you would like Keira to light a candle for a little one you've lost, just send her an email with the information.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I snapped some quick pics of the girls last night, looking pretty in pink. I've been playing around with Picasa to see what all I can do with my photos, thanks to my sister Karen's inspiration. She always has such awesome pics on her blog (I'd send you to take a look, but her blog is set to private...). Anyway, you really can do some fun things with Picasa, and it's free...what could be better than that?
As you can see, Mackenzie has learned to sit up quite well! Not only that - but she has figured out how to get herself from laying down to sitting up, and from a sitting position to a crawling position and back. She hasn't quite figured out the crawling thing yet, but she is just moments away from getting it. I also saw her trying to pull herself up in her crib today!! AND, she managed to pick up a puff (like cheerios) and got it in her mouth today!!! Amazing!
Meanwhile, Makayla is cruising around on anything she can hold onto while standing, and has even started letting go of things and waits a second or two before she plops down. It won't surprise me at all if she's walking before their first birthday.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I'm playing catch-up from last week. I had a craving last week for something apple-y and custard-y, and apple clafouti fit the bill perfectly!! (Of course, I forgot to sprinkle on the powdered sugar before I took this picture!!) It was a delicious warm treat, kind of a cross between a custard and a bread pudding.
With so much of my attention focused on sick babies last week, Anthony was doing his share of attention-seeking (read: annoying and at times, downright dangerous!) behaviors. So I made sure to work in some fun one-on-one time during rare twin naps. I found this great site where we were able to print off pumpkins and all the assorted decorations to cut out and glue together, which he really enjoyed. Then, the next day, we did some wax-resist painting - where you draw a picture in white crayon, then use watercolor paints over it. We both actually had fun doing that...I forgot how much fun that can be!!
I owe everyone an apology!! I'm so sorry I disappeared for a week...ack! Two sick babies and a sick preschooler make for a very busy mommy. I think we're finally coming out from the green cloud that has been hovering over our place for the last couple weeks, though. Mackenzie does still have an ear infection, but yesterday the doctor switched her to a new ear drop that is a combo antibiotic/steroid, so hopefully she's on the mend. Makayla's first two teeth finally made their appearance, and the green snot is clearing. Anthony still has a runny nose, but seems otherwise okay. And somehow, Darrell and I have managed (knocking on wood and saying a prayer) to not get sick! Other than the almost daily migraines I've been having for the past week or so, thanks to wacky hormones, but that's another post for another day....
I have managed to squeeze in a little fun while the kids sleep. I made another gratitude wrap - this one for my grandmother's 81st birthday. I just love these fabrics...great fall colors, don't you think?!
I also FINALLY made my apron!!! I don't know why, but I had been a bit intimidated by the idea of sewing my apron. I've had the pattern and the fabric for a while now, but hadn't had the guts to actually cut the fabric. I finally made up my mind Thursday night that on Friday, I was just going to DO IT, and I did. By Friday afternoon, it was finished, and I LOVE it!! The main fabric is from the Ginger Blossom line by Sandi Henderson, and the accent fabric is a Moda fabric. I decided to forego the ric-rac on this one, because I didn't really think it needed it, and I wasn't sure I could find ric-rac in the exact color to match.
As a side note, I am in love with the entire Ginger Blossom line, and was thrilled to discover that some of the fabrics in this line are also available in flannel (think: adorable grown-up pajama pants!) and corduroy (how cute would a little jumper be?!). I can't wait to get my hands on some of them!! Maybe for my birthday...:)
On Sunday, after church, I went to Joann's to pick up some fabric for some baby gifts I need to make, and I found this fleece on sale 50% off. It matches our paint colors perfectly. I had been wanting a blanket/throw for the family room, and hadn't found anything in the right price range. A couple yards of this were perfect! I didn't even bind the edges...since fleece doesn't fray, I just used my rotary cutter to make sure they were nice and straight, and left them alone! It's so nice and cozy...perfect for the chilly weather we had over the weekend.
Monday, October 06, 2008
1 bottle (750 mL) cheap red wine (seriously - $1.99 will do!)
4 cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole allspice
8-10 whole cloves
4 T. honey
Slice the orange and lemon, then combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and reduce to low; simmer for 20-30 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the more the alcohol will burn off and the wine will condense, leaving you less liquid, but the richer the spices will get too.
Serve with a shot of brandy and a cinnamon stick in it. Enjoy!!
1/2 gallon apple cider
5 cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole cloves
Slice the orange, then combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Serve warm with a cinnamon stick. You can also add whipped cream and caramel syrup for a real treat, or for a grown-up treat, add a shot of butterscotch schnapps for a caramel apple cider. Yum!!
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Darrell brought in the mail on Friday, and to my delight, there was a package for ME, one that I hadn't ordered from anywhere and wasn't expecting from anyone - the best kind, right? My dear friend Sally, from Illinois, knitted me (or crocheted??? Do I know the difference?? I think they're knitted.) two potholders and a dish rag!! How sweet is she?! Thank you Sally!!!
Yesterday, I was sitting here at my desk, and I just happened to glance over at Anthony's art easel. Do you see what I saw??? The little smartie pants had written his name, all by himself!!
Both of the girls still have colds, but Makayla's is much worse than Mackenzie's. Ah...green snot. And today Anthony's nose is running too. Gotta love it.
So, I recently discovered something that makes my life easier, and I'm all about anything that makes my life easier! Did you know that the post office will send you priority mail packing supplies FREE OF CHARGE??? Yep - last week, I went on their website, and ordered 10 flat rate envelopes and 10 flat rate boxes, which were shipped to me at no cost. I had made a birthday gift for my grandma, who lives in Illinois, whose birthday is this week. I wanted it there in time for her birthday. I have sick kids. Do I want to drag them out to take the package to the post office? Not a chance!! So...I printed off a shipping label online - on regular paper - and ran it through my Xyron machine to put adhesive on the back (I could have just taped it or used some other adhesive just as easily). Since it's a flat-rate envelope, it doesn't matter how much it weighs, eliminating the need to worry about weight and proper postage. (Plus, you get a $.05 discount by paying online as opposed to at the post office!) Then, I arranged, online, to have a mail carrier come to my home today and pick up the package - again, at no charge. I just left it on the table at my front door, and when the mail carrier picked it up, she left me a slip indicating she got it. How simple is that?! Love it!!
Something that did NOT make my life easier, was believing that my 3 and a half-year old son was mature enough to be trusted to use markers unsupervised. I've let him use crayons and markers with no concerns for quite a while now, but this morning, he showed me that perhaps I was being too hasty with this. I was busy attending to the sick girlies, whilst he was redecorating the tile floors, the girls' toys, and his entire body, particularly the bottoms of his feet - which were SOLID BLUE. Fortunately, it was a dry-erase marker, and a bit of my vinegar cleaning solution cleaned it all up fairly easily (although the grout did take a bit of scrubbing). He was concerned when his feet were still somewhat blue after a soak in the tub...um, so what have we learned here??? He was also a bit disconcerted when I told him I would be letting daddy in on the news of his artistic efforts. File this in the "what WERE you thinking???" category.
Yesterday, we awoke to a fabulously chilly, cloudy fall day!! Friday - nearly 100 degrees. Yesterday - nearly 70 degrees! What a splendid relief! And the perfect weather for a trip to the pumpkin patch!! We loaded everyone up, and off we went...the girls' first opportunity to actually wear jackets!!
They had so many fun things to do and to look at. We stopped at the entrance to take some photos by the old tractor.
Next, we got some tickets and headed off to the petting zoo. I wasn't sure how Anthony would do, since the last time we visited a petting zoo, he was TERRIFIED of all the animals!! But this time, he did remarkably well, and even got up the courage to feed a baby goat.
After a thorough hand-washing, we headed towards the "rides" and bouncers. They had quite a large selection...pumpkin bouncers, inflatable slides, a circus train inflatable thing, a couple inflatable obstacle courses...lots of fun.
After a couple trips down the big slide, and a round of jumping in the pumpkin bouncer, Anthony decided to drive the little John Deere. They were very cute - not on a track or anything - just very slow, but it allowed the kids to totally use the accelorator and the steering wheel. Anyway - Anthony drove his around for a while, and then, out of no where, hops out of his, and runs and hops in the passenger side of a little girl's. No one he knew, no one we knew...just some cute little girl driving her little John Deere around. What a flirt!!!
Next, Anthony wanted to ride the "race cars," which were 3 cars attached together, pulled by a quad kind of thing. I went on it with him - what a bumpy ride!!
Meanwhile, Mackenzie was the only one who had any sense and actually got some sleep. Makayla - not so much.
After that, we got some warm, fresh-from-the-kettle, kettle-corn - YUM!! And a mediocre burrito. I was really hoping for some pumpkin donuts - I have these wonderful memories of visiting the Apple Barn while growing up, and they always had freshly cooked pumpkin donuts which were splendid. Anyway, they had no pumpkin donuts...might have to drum up a recipe and try those myself!!
The next activity was the most surprising to me. I couldn't believe Anthony was SO brave!! They had this very cool Euro-Bungy jumping thing, which flies you very high in the sky if they pull you down hard enough (and they did!!). He was totally on board! Unfortunately, I had already put my camera away by the time they flung him REALLY high at the end of his turn!! Suffice it to say that he was AT or above the top of the poles on either side of him!!! And I only turned a couple shades of white watching my baby fly through the air!!
Finally, he used up the last of his tickets on the Spiderman inflatable obstacle course (which he needed help in getting through). Afterwards, he posed for some pics with Spidee himself...