Sunday, November 28, 2010

In a Sunday Funk...But Still Giving Thanks

    As the day comes to a close, so does the end to an awesome four-day weekend. Having my hubby home for four days in a row has been wonderful. I think that is why everyone was a little on the cranky/anxious/agitated/can't-do-anything-to-make-me-happy side of things--we just aren't looking forward to Nate going back to work. So to ease this Sunday funk, I've already turned my thoughts to his Christmas vacation. We are still trying to hammer out the specs, but no matter how it turns out he will be home for at least a week...all in a row! It is going to be unbelievable!
    I am hoping to have fun baking with my daughter this week, and use fun sprinkles! Tonight for dinner I made chocolate chip pancakes and threw in some of the cinnamon drops Jill brought back for me. Yumm!

    For Thanksgiving we got to be with those we are thankful for. In the morning we went over to my mom and step-dad's house. Peanut came too! I got to spend time with my mom, step-dad, and my little sister. That made me happy. I am thankful for each of them.

      I am thankful for my mom. She is a wonderful, strong, resilient woman and without her I would not be the person I am today. I am thankful for all that she has taught me over the years and even though I no longer live at home, the learning doesn't stop. She sacrificed so much while we were kids, and I hope she knows that we are more appreciative with each passing day. Thank you Mommy, for showing me where I want to go and what I want to be.
      I am thankful for my step-dad. He is a great, kind, caring man who makes my mom happy. They make a great team and I am so very thankful that he and my mom found each other. And that he cares about my sister, my girls, my mom's doggies, and is kind enough to taste-test my baked goodies for me and give me feedback. :)
      I am thankful for my little sister. We aren't that close seeing as how we are seven years apart--which means she is in the midst of her senior year of high school and is so busy, I wonder how she has time for her homework. My sister is one of the kindest people I have met. She is talented and excels at whatever she does. I am so proud to be able to call her my sister and so very thankful God blessed me with my family.

    After hanging out at my mom's, we came back to our place to drop Peanut off and pick up the food for dinner at the in-laws. As you've read in my Cooking Blog, I brought Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake as well as Pumpkin Bread. It was a great time hanging out and having dinner with Nate's parents and his younger brother. (His younger sister and her husband were having dinner with his parents.) 
      I am so thankful for Nate's family. Over the last five and a half years, they have been there for us and helped us through a lot of tight spots. They have given us a place to stay when we needed one, they have watched one or both girls when we needed it, they have helped us out in countless other ways. The most important thing, however, is I am thankful for all the love and support they have given to Nate, Kyleigh, Abigail, and myself all this time. Without them, I really don't know how we would have gotten through some of those rough times. Thank you all for being there for us, through good and bad.

    After a most satisfying dinner followed by dessert, we all piled in the car and headed home. The girls, who had not napped at all during the day, were out shortly after being put to bed...actually, Kyleigh fell asleep in the five minutes it took to get home. It was nice to sit at home, on the couch, with my husband and my dog.

      I am very thankful for my husband. Nate changed my life the day he accepted my invitation to "hang out and watch 'Sin City'". I love him dearly and feel that he completes me in every way possible. We complement each other and where one slacks a bit, the other is there to compensate. We make a great team. This man is my best friend. He would go to the ends of the Earth, and beyond, to make me happy. (Of course me for him, to the stars and back.) I am so thankful that God helped us to find each other. And then bless us with two of the most beautiful girls.
      Kyleigh challenges me every day and helps me to grow as a mom. Abigail gives me the sweetness to make it through each day. I love them both so much more than words can say. My family gives my life meaning I never thought possible. They have helped me grow from an immature teen to a responsible, loving, strong, still sometimes immature ;) person. 

      To all of my family, my mom, my dad, my sister, my step-dad, my step-mom, my step-sister and -brother, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my brother- and sister-in-law, I owe everything to all of you and am thankful/grateful/appreciative/in-awe-of all you do and all you have done for me and my girls and my husband. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day Before Thanksgiving

    It is the eve of Thanksgiving -- let the baking commence! On the schedule for today: 2 Maple Pumpkin Cheesecakes, 2 loaves of Pumpkin Bread, and something chocolaty if there is time. :) The aromas wafting from the kitchen are intoxicating. It is a sweet maple and pumpkin fragrance. Oh will the cheesecakes make it to dinner tomorrow?? I really can't say for sure. :) 
    As for the rest of the house, Abigail is doing much better today. Her temperature has only reached 99.4 so far and hopefully it won't spike again. It is supposed to be naptime at the moment...and it sounds like one of the little ones has yet to fall asleep. I guess I'm glad that Abby is napping at least.
    This is a lot shorter than I had intended, but I shall return!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner Monday

It's time for dinner again-- oh, what to make? I was craving breakfast but how to make it seem new and fresh? While looking through some cookbooks for last week's Super Food Friday, I discovered a recipe for chocolate crepes...why not give it a go? But what to fill it with? For Stuffed French Toast I whipped up a semi unsuccessful pumpkin cream cheese, so I decided to try again. Thanks to the help of my four-year-old, this one was on  the money!
    I have to admit, one of the reasons I love making crepes is because I enjoy watching my daughter's face when I flip it without using a spatula. And it is just something I have fun doing: flipping crepes in the air. :) And having crepes is an excellent excuse to eat chocolate and maple syrup for dinner! I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

   Chocolate Crepes
     found in and adapted from Wonderful ways to prepare Crepes & Pancakes
3 eggs.

3 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp melted butter
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling.

1 package cream cheese
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Beat eggs with milk.

    Beat the eggs, then add the milk and vanilla extract and mix well by hand or in an electric mixer.

    Sift the flour with the sugar and cocoa and slowly add to the egg and milk mixture.
Flour, sugar and cocoa.
    Stir in the melted butter and blend thoroughly.
    If mixing by hand, pour the batter through a strainer to remove any lumps. Set aside to whip up the filling.
    In a mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft and creamy. Add in the pumpkin and beat well. Beat in the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Set aside for when it's time to eat!
Eggs, milk, flour, sugar, & cocoa.
    Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, turn down to medium (about a 5 on a scale of 10). Pour 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of the batter (depending on the size of the pan) in the center of a hot, lightly greased pan. I poured my batter into a liquid measuring cup to make pouring easier and less messy--worked like a charm!
    Tip the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter around. Cook until the top is dry, then flip over and cook about 30 seconds.
Chocolate crepe batter.

Use cup to pour batter.
Cover the pan in a circular tipping motion.
Ready to be flipped.
The beautiful color of the done side after being flipped.
Chocolate crepes rolled with filling slathered in maple syrup.

    Looking for a dessert crepe instead? The next day I was craving something sweet and went hunting in through the kitchen. I found some leftover Maple Butter Frosting (yes, frosting) from the Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes and figured chocolate with a Maple Butter--how could I go wrong? Looking for a different dessert? This is it! Spread a decent layer of the frosting down the center, roll it up, and chomp away! Ya might want to have a glass of milk on hand. ;)
    Whichever way you go, enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rainy Tuesday Evening

    I didn't realize just how long it had been since I had posted anything. I can't believe we are in the middle of November already! And of course, I went outside today in a t-shirt, pants, and no shoes or socks and it was warm and a little humid. Definitely doesn't help it feel like it is almost Thanksgiving.
    Yesterday Kyleigh and I made Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. We used cinnamon drops (front center) that my mother-in-law brought back (along with the other fun sprinkles you see) from her trip to New York. We were super excited to put the cinnamon drops in Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and to get the recipe and more pictures, go to my cooking blog

    Today was a very rainy day and since my baby is sick (she had a fever after she got up from her afternoon nap :( ) we didn't go anywhere. Abigail decided to climb onto the shoe rack, too (above). Lately Kyleigh has been trying to play in the kitchen. So while Abby was taking her morning nap, I let Kyleigh play in the sink with food colorings and some spices I never use. She had a blast!
 Here is little miss chef hard at work. She had three cups on the left side of the counter filled with water. We used one drop of food color in each cup-- we didn't use green at first and Kyleigh asked why. So I told her to add one measuring cup (that she was using to move the water around) of blue water to the cup of yellow and see what happens. She did that and as the colors swirled together to form a mint green color, Kyleigh LOVED it! She was so surprised at what happened and inspired by it, that she started doing other combinations "to see what will happen". :)
As you can see, she had a pot of water in the sink, a tupperware container in the right sink, and a pan on the right side counter. I let her use some old spices that had been pushed to the back of my cabinet that were probably older than her. ::cringe:: Needless to say, the smell coming from the kitchen was pretty potent. :)
Adding green to the red to see what'll happen.
Kyleigh in the middle of talking as she is doing.

    I loved the color she made in this cup and just had to take a picture! It was the cup of blue water and she added a drop of yellow food coloring.
    The memories that came flooding back to me while watching Kyleigh experiment nearly knocked me over. I was instantly reminded of some of the concoctions I used to come up with. Let's just say that they would clear your sinuses-- from the other side of the room! I used to have so much fun playing "scientist" in the kitchen...I suppose my love of the kitchen (and subsequent love of baking and cooking) all started there. Thanks Mommy for letting play in the kitchen and for using your spices, too! :)
    I definitely had to call my mom and share this with her. She had not forgotten my concoctions either. ;)

     Not only was Kyleigh inspired by this adventure, but I just couldn't resist getting caught up in her excitement. I wanted to show her something really cool. I poured some vinegar in my awesome Pyrex measuring cup and took out my baking soda. We started sprinkling some of the baking soda in and watched the fizz come alive! I also gave Kyleigh some salt and that is what we are sprinkling into to the vinegar in the above picture. The reason it is colored is because I think Kyleigh was more impressed with the food coloring than anything else and just had to add color to the measuring cup. :)

    Later in the day Kyleigh decided to get in the bottom of Abigail's exersaucer. (If you don't know what these look like, click here to see something similar to ours.) When Kyleigh gets in the bottom of the exersaucer, she likes to stick her head up through the fabric seat and poke her face through one of the leg holes.
 So I thought it'd be funny if that was all you could see and decided to wrap a blanket (that they had been using for a tent) around the exersaucer-- kind of like a pop-up Kyleigh. :) Abigail thought this was hilarious. Kyleigh would go down and then pop her head up again and this would send Abigail into renewed fits of laughter.
 Abigail has been very giving with her kisses as of late, and wanted to give Kyleigh a few kisses when she popped back up. I was able to get a picture of one. Very sweet and cute.
 My goofy Kyleigh.

Abigail laughing endlessly and waiting for Kyleigh to pop back up.

    Even considering Abigail was a little under the weather, all-in-all, we had a good day. :) And Nate even got home before I had even finished making dinner! That was awesome! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Morning-- In A House Full Of Crazy

    The weather this Thursday morning is coincidently similar to that of last Thursday morning: cold, dreary, and rainy. The difference, besides the obvious, is the house is full of crazy! And yet, instead of wanting to pull out my hair, it fills me with such warmth and pure happiness. This is the most wondrous thing ever
    After breakfast, the girls played in their rooms while I brought the laptop out and had some coffee. Then I made a tent for them in a corner of the living room that is out of the way enough that the tent can stay in place for awhile. (Yay for tents made with blankets!) That's when crazy set in. Peanut decided to do her 'puppy run' at a million miles an hour through the tent, onto the couch, and around the coffee table. Kyleigh was in the tent as Peanut was tearing through and would yell with each pass thru. Abby was pretty oblivious as she was sitting in the entryway with a paperbag and toys-- putting them in and taking them out. After all that fun, Peanut calmed down and Kyleigh got her quilt (that I made for her when she was a baby), wrapped it around herself and came to find me in the dining room (still enjoying coffee as I watched the three sunshines of my life playing) and asked to sit on me. Now how can anyone refuse that?? I pulled her up and she sat facing me, snuggled into my shoulder and still wrapped in her quilt. Now if Kyleigh is doing something, Abigail must be a part of it. So Abby toddled over and held up her arms, saying 'up up'. There we were, the three of us sitting on one chair all snuggled up together. Kyleigh would lay her head on me and Abby would do the same. Ah, I think this is what Heaven will be like. My head resting in between my two girls-- nothing could be sweeter...except if they decided  to start lavishing kisses on me! Kyleigh gave me a kiss, then Abigail went "mmmmmmmwah!" followed by another Kyleigh kiss and another Abigail big kiss. We all ended up in giggling like crazy. It was wonderful! We all ended up playing on the floor together, Peanut too. It was the best way to spend a rainy day.
    After not seeing Nate very much this week, we had went and had lunch together. It was nice for him to have a little time with the girls. It wasn't until after we had pulled away from dropping Nate back off at work that Abigail realized what was going on. She had seemed confused when Nate was saying his goodbyes. Once it dawned on her that he wasn't coming home with us, she started crying and calling for 'dada'. It just about broke my heart. Hopefully the rest of today and tomorrow will go by quickly so Nate can be home for the weekend!
    It has taken me all day to write just up to this point and I fear I have completely lost where I was headed. Kyleigh is not taking her nap and it doesn't sound like Abby wants to sleep either. That is so like them to not sleep when finally in bed, but when they were in the car they were fighting to stay awake (Abigail actually did fall asleep on the way to Nate's work). I have a feeling this day will end with fussiness and cranky cries and an early bedtime. 

    Yesterday. I had some pureed pumpkin left in the fridge from Halloween and I wanted to bake with it. So yesterday after her non-nap, Kyleigh and I baked cupcakes! I can't remember the last time I made cupcakes... ::pauses to think:: I don't know that I have ever made cupcakes before. If I did it was only once and quite a long time ago. Anyway, we made Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Butter Icing. Woo hoo! These are sin-sational! Absolutely irresistible! Scrumptious! Divine! You can't have just one! Believe me, I tried. I had to take a lot of pictures of the girls to keep my hands from grabbing another one. :)

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Butter Icing

3 c. flour
2 tsp baking soda                               
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. butter, melted
5 eggs

Maple Butter Icing
6 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp maple extract
1/3 c. milk
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the muffin pans with paper cups.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and spices. Set aside.
In another mixing bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, butter and eggs. Using a whisk, mix well.
Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture. 
Stir just until the everything is incorporated.
Divide evenly among the lined cups, filling about two-thirds of the way. (I used a quarter-cup measuring cup and rubber spatula to help keep it even.) 
Bake for 15-20 minutes; until a toothpick, or knife, comes clean out of the center of the cakes. Turn cupcakes out to wire racks to cool.

While the cupcakes are baking, it's time to make the icing!
Start with three cups of the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add in the extract, milk, butter, nutmeg and cinnamon. To get it smooth, I like using a whisk (yes, again). Add an additional one cup of powdered sugar at a time until you get the consistency you like. I had to use six cups to get me desired consistency. 
Wait until the cupcakes are cooled completely, then ice away! And as always, enjoy!

My little helper. 

We decided to use Halloween sprinkles on them.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend Recap

    Friday started the weekend off a little rough since Nate didn't get home until about 8:30 pm. No worries though, Saturday was good and the girls got some fresh air. Saturday night I got to work on my costume. I decided to be a zookeeper-- basically, I went as myself. :) Just kidding. This was definitely a budget-friendly costume since the only thing I actually bought was the fabric paint. I got one of my husband's old work shirts (from one of his old jobs) and decided to paint on the back. 
    First thing was to draw out my design. I drew out 'The Harned Zoo' since I'm the 'Zookeeper' for our zoo. I drew out pictures of the "animals" of our zoo: Kyleigh, Peanut, and Abigail. Second was to cut it out so I could use it as a stencil. 

Then I covered my workspace in newspaper and positioned the stencil on the back of the shirt. I used a fabric paint spray in silver (that I bought from the craft store) for the lettering. 
    I drew the faces in pink fabric paint. Then I let it dry overnight. I know the so-called baby face looks alien-like...I didn't mean for it to come out that way. Strange. 
    Anyway, moving on to my girls. My adorable girls. Kyleigh was a pretty bride. She was the one who picked out her costume all by herself, and loved it! Abigail was the most adorable snuggly little bear. We went trick-or-treating with one of Kyleigh's friends and the girls had a great time. After a few houses, Abigail started getting the hang of things. Although she wouldn't say 'trick-or-treat', she was saying 'thank you' and 'bye bye'. :) 

   Before we went out Halloween night, we had a little get together. The grandparents wanted to see the girls in their costumes so we had my mom and Nate's parents over. Nate made Rice Krispy Treats and they were delicious! I made pigs in a blanket, gingerbread cookies, and a cheese sauce for chips. The cheese sauce consisted of sharp cheddar, smoked provolone, and mozzarella. I used a pumpkin as a serving dish!


I used a pie pumpkin and cut a lid. Then I scooped out the seeds and gooey insides and poured the cheese sauce (that had been cooking up in pot on the stove over medium heat) inside the pumpkin. It was a hit!
I hope everyone else also enjoyed their Halloween!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday is the new Friday! -- Take 2

    Ahh, it's the end of the day and I'm watching NC State take on the 'Noles. (Go Pack!) How did the rest of my day go, you ask. Did I do any of what I needed? Well, after my first post today, it was nearly time for Abby to take her morning nap. When I went to get her up, she was already up. But was she in her crib? No. WHAT?!?!?! No she was not in her crib. She was on the floor playing. Didn't I  hear anything that would've aroused my suspicion that something was off, you say. When I heard her crying about twenty minutes prior to going in there, I looked at the video monitor (courtesy of Nate's parents when Kyleigh was going through her poop phase...that's a story for another day) and could've swore I saw her little head in the crib where it was supposed to be. Then the crying stopped. I thought she had gone back to sleep. But yes, the crib is as low as it goes and it will now be turned around since the back is higher than the front. 
    After that fun surprise, lunch was greeted by a minor four year old meltdown. I decided that going to Party City to get Abby's costume would be a good way to use up the time until afternoon naps. This was greeted by the mother of all four year old meltdowns-- just trying to get her socks and shoes on, that is. Getting the socks and shoes on should have taken five minutes. The whole ordeal of the tantrum followed by timeout, took about forty minutes. And we still decided to go to Party City, which actually turned out fine. Abby will be a bear since that is her favorite thing at the moment.
    Abigail was so tired that she fell asleep in the car on the way home and didn't stir at any point from getting her out of the car to putting her in her crib. She actually slept until almost four o'clock (after falling asleep at about 1:30pm). Kyleigh did not sleep-- I think they have an agreement that if one sleeps, the other doesn't. The rest of the day is pretty uneventful...well, stressful, but nothing you want to read about.

    For dinner this evening I didn't know what to do. I went into the kitchen and decided to peel and chop up the other half of a small pumpkin I had leftover from earlier in the week. While that was steaming, I put a couple tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium-highish heat. I then peeled and sliced up two apples and put them in the pan with the melted butter. I then sprinkled on a good amount of cinnamon and let that simmer; occasionally swishing it around. I removed the pumpkin from the heat and let it cool down...still unsure of where all this was headed. I added raisins to the pan of buttery cinnamon apples and tossed a bit. What does cinnamon apples say to me? Pancakes! I took out my blender and pulsed the pumpkin a bit. I noticed that I had two very ripe bananas and decided to add those to the blender. After the big chunks were pulsed out, I added cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice (good compliments to the pumpkin). The pumpkin-banana puree coupled with the buttery cinnamon apples...*sighs* heavenly. The aroma coming from the kitchen was just sensational. It even enticed Kyleigh into the kitchen with her nose in the air, excited about whatever it was she smelled. (That rarely happens! haha) 
Anyway, I then went on to start making the pancake batter...whole wheat pancake batter. I added in the pumpkin-banana puree into the batter and then turned the heat off for the pan of apples and covered it. Then I made pancakes! When on the plate, butter the pancake, lay some apple slices and raisins on top and drizzle on some maple syrup. Yum! 
    Unfortunately, after getting the girls set up with their pancakes, feeding the dog, and taking the trash out, I couldn't wait any longer to eat. So that means no final product pictures. Guess I'll just have to make them again and take pictures then. Darn! :)

Thursday is the new Friday!

    Well, sort of. Okay, maybe not really but it still a good feeling when you wake up and realize it's Thursday. You are that much closer to the weekend! 
    I'm sitting here at the breakfast table with my girls. Abby has a strawberry jam goatee from her 'toe', which is baby for 'toast'. On my left is Kyleigh, working on her whole wheat English Muffins slathered with Nutella. Since today is not a school day, I've decided to let the television stay on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse during breakfast-- NOT a regular occurrence I assure you. Abby is giggling at her toast strips because for a reason unbeknown  to me, toast strips with strawberry jam are silly. 
    I like looking out the window from time to time, and today it is a grey day. It looks like it is trying to rain but the clouds can't fully commit either way. So for now it is cloudy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. 
    As I sip my coffee, my second cup of coffee already, I wonder what to do today. My doggy is in need of her playdate, but if my mom isn't feeling well (and I hope she is feeling better today) or if her yard is soaked then that is not in the cards. I need to go to the store to get my baby her Halloween costume and decide if I want one. It would be nice to pick up some more toys for puppy since she is chewing whatever she can find--and yes, she already has chew toys. I'm a little dizzy this morning and not quite feeling up to much, least of all going out. My little one is going to be going down for her nap before long so perhaps Kyleigh and I can finish baking the rest of the Gingerbread Cookies. There is also some housework that needs to be done; vacuuming, laundry, you know the drill. 
    My husband has accused me of being a coffee elitist. I scoffed at this. I've only been drinking coffee since Kyleigh was a few months old (I never had a sip before that but being sleep deprived is good motivation to start) and I just know what I like. Today's cuppa joe is a Starbucks bag of whole bean Espresso Roast from the grocery store. After putting cream in it, I can't say I taste a whole lot of flavor. Now it's not awful tasting, otherwise I wouldn't be almost finished with my second cup. It's just easy to drink quickly. I find this appealing because I can't remember the last time I was able to sit long enough to fully enjoy a cup of coffee. 
On this note I come to a close for now and wish everyone a Happy Thursday!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apples & Pumpkins

    Today was another beautiful fall day here in North Carolina. What does cool, crisp fall air make me want to do? Go to the Farmer's Market of course! We actually had an objective this time. We were out of pumpkin and Abby has been asking for apples. So after picking Kyleigh up from school and meeting up with my mom, we set out for apples and pumpkins.
    This time, I remembered my camera! :)

Abby was very excited to spend time with my mom and see the pumpkins!

                 This is the large inflatable pumpkin that Kyleigh is posing under.    

This picture, and the following flower pictures, were taken by Kyleigh.
                                               Kyleigh and Abby sitting with the big pumpkins!