Friday, December 28, 2012

All I Want for Christmas Is...

I have turned into that woman that asks for appliances for holidays.  Yes, I know, very sad.  An oven, stovetop, a new mixer paddle, even a new "Welcome" door mat topped my list this year.  Was there anything on the list only for me though?  No, not really.  This annoyed my husband greatly.

One reason it annoyed him was that it made it very hard to shop for me.  He kept on asking, "What do you want for YOU?  Not for the house, not for the benefit of others, but something selfish that only you will find enjoyment in."  Well, here are some hurdles I'm running in to making this "selfish" list:

1.  I am pregnant.  Not just a little pregnant, but big round belly, swollen feet pregnant.  So there is no point in clothes shopping until the baby is born, and quite a few months after.  Even shoes are iffy because of swollen feet and feet becoming bigger during pregnancy.

2.  I love home improvements.  I love new curtains, rugs, couches.  I could spend hours at a furniture store dreaming up my perfect sectional or kitchen table.  I have fantasized about new tile in the bathroom, re-finishing our hardwood floors, and have already picked out new countertops for our kitchen, even though we have no plans in replacing them soon.  The problem with this one is that these are "house" things, not "me" things.  Everyone would use these, and eventually our two children (almost three children) will destroy them. Why buy a really nice couch/rug/kitchen table when there will be permanent marker/grape juice/food spilled and staining our expensive things?  I guess practicality steps in here and tells me to hold off on these purchases until the children move out and only visit on holidays.

3.  What are my hobbies??  I'm having a hard time pinning them down.  They don't include massages or days at the spa, which would be very convenient for Greg.  I've always been a little jealous that Greg has had a string of hobbies that he has really enjoyed.

**Side Story: He had a motorcycle, that he could only ride...let me rephrase...a motorcycle that he WOULD ONLY ride (not too fond of riding), he has a Jeep that he is fixing up, he loves to read endlessly, and now his new hobby is RC Helicopters.  It started out with a cheap helicopter last Christmas from the mall, and his collection has slowly grown to cover some of our bookshelves with increasingly expensive helicopters.  Do I mind?  No way.  It's something that he enjoys, and he pays for them with money that he has saved or bonuses.  He has even included Nolan in this hobby.  I'll admit it's pretty darn cute to watch a father and son flying helicopters in the backyard.

Back to my hobbies:  I love to bake, but Lord knows if I ate everything I baked, I would weigh 800 lbs.  So, most of these baked goods leave my house for other people's kitchens to enjoy.  I love to crochet, but it's no fun to just make things for yourself.  Hats, blankets, and stuffed animals leave my house to go to other children or friends.  I love to read, but lack of time and accidentally falling asleep at 8 pm has put a hindrance on that hobby.

So, Greg was left to the task of being creative and getting me things that I didn't even know I wanted.  I think he did a fairly good job.
1.  Keyless Remote Entry for my car.  I have missed having a clicker for my car for almost a year now.  It's something that you don't really think about until you don't have it at your fingertips.  It will make getting all the kids into the car much easier and manageable.
2.  Hot Booties:  Yes, you read that correctly.  The kids actually picked this out for me (with some help from Greg).  They are house shoes that you warm up in the microwave and they stay hot on your cold feet.  I have perpetually cold feet, and Greg would never be caught in them, so this is only for me.
3.  Nail polish.  This one might sound silly, but I have been on the hunt for nail polish that won't come off after doing dishes one time, or folding laundry.  Sadly, $2 nail polish from Target never stayed on more than 30 minutes before chipping and peeling.  Greg picked up the quest for me and went to Ulta and got me some pretty cool nail polish with basecoat and topcoat included.  It's held up pretty well and I can say that it will last through washing dishes and laundry.  (Butter London if you are wondering).



I'm hoping that you got some "YOU" items this holiday season that you don't have to share and wishing you a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

BEST Anniversary Present EVER!

7 years
2.5 children (our third child will be born in March)
2 apartments
2 houses
2 mission trips to Germany
Good times outweighing the bad times

That's what has been going on for the past seven years in my marriage.  This is actually just the tip of the iceberg, but as you know, things get blurry the more kids you have and the longer you've been together. 

For the past six anniversaries we have tried to get thoughtful gifts for each other, but sometimes it's hard to think of something very thoughtful that has wrapped up your year in marriage.  But this year Greg out-did himself.  I, on the other hand could have probably done better; but we'll get to that later. 

His idea for my gift actually came to him 6 months ago while in Germany.  While on a mission trip there, we visited the city of Koln.  In the city there is a bridge that crosses the Rhein River.  All over the fence of part of the bridge were locks.  They explained that you take a lock, get it engraved with your significant other/spouse/etc., lock it on the bridge and then throw the key in to the Rhein River to signify your eternal love. 

I thought it was the coolest idea and had a great time taking pictures of these locks, looking for really original locks or seeing how old some of the locks were. 

So, as an anniversary gift this year, Greg got me a lock engraved with our names and will lock it on the bridge for us when he returns this summer.  I will sadly not be able to go as I will be with a newborn.  He also got a collage frame of all the lock pictures we captured this summer plus a picture of our lock.  It was a lucky bonus that the lock is copper-colored and our "traditional" gift for each other is copper. 

I was absolutely blown away by his thoughtfulness and the meaning that it carries.  I don't want this to be bragging, but it will be nice on days where I am frustated with situations that I can look back and read about something special that he did for me.  The pictures below are of the bridge and all of the locks. 


Picture of the locks on the bridge
 


 
 An awesome owl lock that I found
 
 
More locks on the bridge.  I wonder where Greg will put ours :)
 

Now, on to my present.  Our traditional gifts were wool and copper this year, like I mentioned earlier.  I got him a wool pull-over sweater for the winter.  Epic fail compared to his gift.  He has set the bar pretty high for next year...maybe I'll get him that helicopter that he's been eyeing for Christmas  :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

I don't know what it is about Christmas time, but you try to cram as much stuff in one short month as possible.  And every year you try to out-do last year, deeming this year "The Best Christmas Ever!"  I think that's what every parent loves to hear to come out of their children's mouth.  So, this year instead of leaving one million things to the last minute I tried to give our family some breathing room and just do one little thing every day.  The list below is 25 Days til Christmas.  You definitely don't have to do it in any specific order, and I even added a few things on the end if you are over-achievers :) 
25 Days to Christmas

1.    Go cut down a Christmas Tree

2.   Decorate Christmas Tree

3.    Look at Christmas Lights

4.   Read “Gingerbread Baby” and make gingerbread men/gingerbread house

5.   Hang Christmas lights

6.   Write letters to Santa

7.   Give a “secret” gift to someone

8.   Make homemade ornaments and hang on tree

9.   Go buy special Hallmark ornaments and hang on tree

10.Volunteer together (fill food bags at church-Dec. 3-5)

11.Make a birthday cake for Jesus and read the Bible story

12.Watch The Grinch and drink hot cocoa

13.  Make a fire and roast marshmallows

14.  Go to Christmas in the Park (free). 

15.  Read Frosty the Snowman and watch the movie

16.  Make Reindeer mix to feed to the reindeer

17.  Buy Christmas presents for others/some one special

18.  Watch Polar Express and drink hot cocoa

19.  Make snowflakes out of paper and hang around the house

20.  String popcorn and hang outside for the birds

21.  Visit Santa Claus

22.  Take Christmas pictures with the family

23.Make sugar cookies for Santa

24.Open one gift on Christmas Eve

25.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!


**More things geared to grown-ups

·        Watch Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Elf

·        Outside fire pit or bonfire

·        Bundle up and take a lot of blankets and hot cocoa and lay outside and look at the stars

·        Go to a Christmas Craft Show or boutique and look around

·        Spend the day with loved ones, go get coffee somewhere and catch up!

·        Invite someone over for dinner that you don’t usually have over

·        Go caroling with church or friends

·        Go ice skating

·        Go to Mt. Aggie

·        Have a Cookie Exchange

·        Have a cookie/gingerbread house making party
My 5 year old Nolan was super excited to see this on the fridge.  He loves "projects" and to see a huge list just made his eyes light up.  It doesn't hurt that he loves Christmas time either. 

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lego Man and Rapunzel

Lego Man
Wow.  It's been awhile since I've posted anything.  I guess I've been waiting for creativity to strike, and Halloween was the perfect opportunity!  Nolan and I were looking through costumes on Pinterest (a horrible addicting habit) and he saw this Lego costume.  It didn't look too hard, and it wasn't.  We went to Greg's store and picked out a box that would fit his chest.  I cut down six Red Solo Cups and hot glued them on to the front.  I cut out openings for his arms and head and then re-inforced the openings with duct tape.  I then got some red spray paint (because Nolan HAD to be a red lego) and sprayed it in the backyard.  I found a Lego logo on the internet, blew it up to extreme size and pasted it to the back, just to make sure if anyone was confused about what he was supposed to be. 


 He had a great time posing for the camera.  He had some various "Lego" emotions such as: sad, mad, surprised and the faves of being patriotic, strong and surprised.  Maybe you can match up the emotions with the pictures!





Pulling on the braids
  This year Mallory went as a princess (of course).  I thought some braids would turn her in to the cutest Rapunzel ever.  I crocheted a pink beanie and then took a lot of yellow yarn to make the braids.  I left a section at the front for her to see out of, and then pulled the yarn through the last crocheted row.  It was super funny to see her wear it.  The first time she put it on she hated it, but after a lot of convincing she decided to sport the braids all through the Halloween party at school and through all the events on Halloween Day.  The only problem being, whenever she was annoyed or sad, she would pull (and stretch out) the braids like she was holding on for dear life.  This hat will be a great addition to the dress-up box for the rest of the year!
Sad Rapunzel
Disgruntled Rapunzel

Friday, August 24, 2012

Germany Mission Trip 2012

So, it's been a good 6 weeks since returning from Germany and am amazed how fast the time has gone.  I had the best of intentions of writing down everything that happened right when we got back to Texas, but crazily 6 weeks passed in the blink of an eye and here I am trying to remember everything!

I guess I'll start at the beginning.  Our decision to take our son, Nolan, with us was decided when returned to first time from Germany.  We were very excited to share this experience with him.  But, being like a mom, I knew there would be two outcomes to this venture.

#1:  Nolan would break down at the airport, on the airplane, at baseball camp and he would have to worst time of his life
OR
#2:  Nolan would love every minute and be able to handle all situations.
Thank God he leaned more to Scenario #2.

My biggest relief came when we boarded our first flight.  It was a connecting flight that went to Atlanta, Georgia.  It was Nolan's first flight ever and I was expecting a meltdown.  We got on the plane, buckled up and took off with no problem.  Then...the turbulence started.  Being a grown-up, the first thing that came to mind was that we were going to crash and burn.  I was worried Nolan was going to think the same thing.  I looked at him and he said with the biggest smile on his face, "This is awesome!"  Crisis #1 averted.

We were blessed to stay with the same family that we did last year, so it was easy to fall in to the same routine that we had the previous summer.

It wasn't all smooth sailing those first few days though.  We did a lot of sight-seeing a LOT of walking and the time change messed up Nolan's internal clock.  One of the first nights we were there it was almost midnight and he's crying in bed, saying he's not tired.  But the look on his face was telling me he was about to pass out any minute.  He spent the next morning sleeping in and playing with our host mom, Barbara and baby Mia.  He was in heaven playing with Duplo blocks.  This extra time to himself help Greg and I in more ways than one.

At Baseball Camp, we were blessed with another great team.  Go Cubs!  We had  two players on our team from the previous year, and it was great to have them on the team again.  The baseball practices were great, some minor hiccups, but overall couldn't have asked for better.  The Team Times (where we discuss Jesus and our relationship with Him) seemed to be much tougher this year, which was a great thing!  The discussions we had were really great and it was nice to talk to these wonderful kids.
The biggest blessing of all was how nice and wonderful everyone was towards Nolan.  I never expected how caring and loving everyone would be towards him.  He was always taken care of even if it wasn't by me or Greg.  He always had a watchful eye on him.  They gave him (sometimes secretly) soda, gummies and candy.  It made him feel special, and it warmed my heart to see that they were trying to befriend him.  He left with many great relationships, and new buddies.  It's so sweet to see that he sleeps with a bear (a Cub, get it?) every night that one of our team members gave him.  I never thought that God would work through Nolan to build these relationships, but He does work in wondrous ways!

After Baseball Camp the Siegburg Church gave us the gift of two sight-seeing days around Germany.  We went to Aachen, a mustard factory, a glass-blowing factory and a great small village with an awesome Christmas Store.  I could probably fill up ten posts describing all the beautiful churches, cities and sculptures we saw, but I'll leave that for another time.

Some things that I learned this year in Germany:
1.  Nolan will only eat candy, bread, nutella and "american" cereal.
2.  Bring an extra pair of shoes for Nolan b/c he literally wore a hole in his other pair walking so much
3.  Bring warmer clothes!  We had wonderful weather last year, but weren't lucky this year.  Tons of rain and pretty chilly too!
4.  Movies on a tablet to keep a small child occupied is awesome!
5.  It IS possible to do a "Trust Fall" with teenagers...no one was dropped!
6.  American DVD's don't work in German DVD players.  Weird, right?
7.  You will be stopped at customs for bringing a large statue in to the US.  (It was actually a nutcracker)
8.  Little children DO get patted down at the airport.  Super weird and super awkward, but it didn't bother Nolan one bit.
9.  Ice cream eaten overlooking the Rhein River is the best kind :)
10.  I want to go back again next year!!

I feel as though I have only written a small fraction of all the things that happened.  I wish I could describe ever wonderful thing that happened, but there isn't enough time in the day for that.  Some pictures are below:

 Plane ride. Ready to go!
 In front of the Dom in Koln
 Love!
 A neat water feature in Koln.  Trying not to get wet.
 A bridge with locks on it to signify relationships.
 Silly!
 Team Building
 The Cubbies!
 Nolan up to bat
The Human Knot
Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Does Money Solve ALL Problems?

My conversations with Nolan have gotten very philosophical lately.  He told me in the car this morning that if he had more money he would be happier. I've really tried lately to help him become more aware in this department.  If we go to Target, toys there aren't free, so now if he wants a toy he has to use money that he has saved in his piggy bank ($5 max).  If he could spend all of his money in his piggy bank on one big cool toy he would do it in a hot minute, but I know that toy will be broken/forgotten about in a week and his piggy bank will be empty.  I point out that food costs money and the reason Greg goes to work is to provide for us...house, food, bills, etc.
  So, this money comment bothered me.  I know in his 5 year old mind he made the connection:  more money=more toys, which would equal more happiness in his life (or so he thinks).  I explained to him that more money wouldn't make us happier, but people in our lives should make us happier.  Great concept, but do I really believe it myself??
I have caught myself numerous times thinking, "If I only had: new shoes/ extra bathroom/new countertops/a new haircut, I would be so much happier."  Well, all of those things are THINGS, and they all cost money.  So, maybe Nolan wasn't too far off the path of my own selfish thinking...more money might equal more happiness.
But I know deep down that isn't the right answer.  Just like our first instinct in Sunday School is to answer all questions with, "Jesus!" because we always think that is the right answer; I catch myself answering the question, "What would make you more happy?"  "More money!"  I definitely think that it would get me more things, but I know human nature.  After you get those things, you'll just want more things.  I see this in mini-form in Nolan and Mallory.  They aren't just happy with one Power Ranger/My Little Pony, they have to have them ALL!  And if they ever got them all, they  would go to a new set of toys they just had to HAVE!
So, my solution to this problem?  To be happy for what I have.  Easy answer, hard to put in effect.  But I am reminded every day.  Take for example, I saw an article on a sick baby.  I have two healthy children that I probably don't deserve, but have been graciously blessed with by God.  Every time I use the internet/air conditioning/refrigeratory I remember that we are probably more well-off than 70% of the entire world.  When I open my fridge and pantry I should be grateful that I don't have to worry about where my next meal comes from.  I need to just look up to see the roof over my head (newly fixed and not leaking by the way).
In the next few days I will be making a list with Nolan to post on the fridge of the things that make us happy that are free, and a few things that make us happy that do cost money.  I don't want to be unrealistic, there will always be things that cost money in Nolan's and mine lives that make us happy.  Does this make me a selfish person? No, it just makes me human.
What do you think?  Is money the answer to all problems?

Friday, June 15, 2012

29 Things

In celebration of my 29th Birthday (I know I look way younger), I'd like to list 29 things that make me smile, make my heart lighter and make me laugh out loud. 
1.  Rain on a sunny day where it sizzles on the street and creates steam.  A much needed reprieve from the Texas heat.
2.  My kids...the funny moments definitely out-way the tough ones, or atleast I choose to remember the funny ones.  :)
3.  Hugs from a 2 year old.  Especially when I say,"squeeze tighter!" and her little arms try so hard to squeeze me.
4.  Kisses from a 5 year old.  I feel the "oh, mom!" and eye rolls coming on.  So, as many kisses as I can get from Nolan while he allows it, the better.
5.  Blue Bell Ice Cream:  need I say more??
6.  Seeing my vegetables ACTUALLY grow in the vegetable garden.  I don't have a green thumb, more light green or teal.
7.  Little kid's birthday parties.  I've never seen kids get so excited over every little thing.  Their amazement always brightens my day.
8.  Seeing completed crochet/sewing projects.  Watching it come together and make something out of basic materials is still pretty cool to me.
9.  Swimming, preferably Barton Springs
10.  Germany
11.  Haribo
12.  Nutella w/ bananas, or nutella right out of the jar.  Doesn't matter, still delicious.
13.  Nolan and Mallory playing tea party...LOVE this one
14.  Reading a good book
15.  A large fountain drink on a hot day.  I wouldn' call myself addicted, but I am much nicer if I have one in my hand.
16.  Having food in my fridge/a car to drive/a job to go to/a church to worship at/etc....
17.  AC!!!  Eventhough it never goes below 78 degrees, I would not make it through summer without it.
18.  A good baseball game
19.  Mallory walking around in her high heels clickity-clacking through the house
20.  Working out at the gym.  I force myself to go, but at the end I always feel as though it is worth it.
21.  Climbing in to bed with clean sheets, clean blanket and clean pillowcases before the dog has left hair on them/ Greg has wrinkled them/ Kids have drooled on them.  Best feeling ever.
22.  When me and Nolan play the "I love you more than..." game.  My favorite is "I love you more than Power Rangers" which is pretty big in a 5 year old's world.  I tell him "I love you more than tater tots" :)
23.  Being able to stay connected to friends via the internet
24.  Baking for others.
25.  Playing board games with the kids.  Sometimes completely frustrating, but they love it.
26.  Getting letters in the mail, it always seems so very thoughtful
27.  Going on a water slide.  We did this at Nolan's birthday.  I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.
28.  A nice cold glass of water or sweet tea
29.  Being blessed with another year!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Great Sandal Scandal

If you live anywhere where temperatures creep above 80 degrees, you might own a pair of sandals.  Since we live in Texas, where most of the year it's boiling outside, I have a little collection of flip flops...well I USED to anyways.
I am quite attached to my sandals, each pair has a story behind them: where they are from and where they have gone.  Take my Reef sandals for example:  Greg got me my first pair of Reef sandals as a present for getting my Aggie Ring.  I even wore them to pick up my ring, very excited to start breaking them in.  Eight years later (I know, I'm getting old), my sandals have been to different states, on the beach during our honeymoon and even went international for our mission trip to Germany last year.  I'm even known to wear sandals during the winter time (with a sweater, of course) to Greg's large disapproval of this fashion statement.
Sadly, I am down three, yes THREE, pairs of sandals in the past week.  I don't know what has gotten in to our dog, but she is chewing them up left and right.  I hear the little "squeak, squeak" of teeth on leather/rubber soles and I go running through the house to find Olive (our dog) hanging out on our bed with a little graveyard of shoes surrounding her.  I saw her go through a phase of destroying the kid's shoes, and even Greg's shoes (Greg has lost a pair of Clarks and numerous pairs of sandals as well), but I thought she liked me better than that...I guess not.
I walk in to her on our bed, I'm guessing that's a great location for shoe chewing; and I find her surrounded by three pairs of my favorite sandals.  She actually ate the leather off one pair: non-salvageable, the other pair she chewed through a strap, and lastly my beloved Reefs.  She chewed a few holes in the fabric straps.  They are not completely ruined, but they just aren't fitting correctly.
I suppose there is a lesson to be learned:  keep my sandals not only off the floor, but way high up on a shelf in my closet.  I wish I would have learned this lesson three pairs of shoes ago.
 The culprit
The damage (1 of 3)
The bright side to all this sandal carnage is that it is the perfect reason to go get a new pair :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just for laughs....

Here are some things that have happened over the past few weeks that I found entertaining, and you might find funny:

1.  At school Nolan filled out a questionnaire about me.  In his eyes I am 35 years old with long hair, small eyes, 5 ft tall and only weigh 35 pounds.  Hmmmm....

2.  Mallory has begun the horrible habit of pooping in her underwear...specifically at restaurants.  I will be avoiding any type of eatery to help her start pooping in the correct place, the bathroom.

3.  Watching my kids get in and out of the car is like watching two turtles race to see who can go the slowest.  Greg always asks why we leave 30 minutes early to get to the gym when we literally live less than 5 minutes away.  It's because I add 10 minutes to get in the car, 10 minutes to get out of the car and another 5 minutes to walk the 20 feet to the door.  :)

4.  Nolan and Mallory have started playing "tea party" which really means that they get out every single plastic food and baby they own and lay it in the hallway.  This is a horrible accident waiting to happen.

5.  We recently went camping with friends and both kids had a blast.  They got to go kayaking, fishing and play to their hearts content.  I've never seen them so interested in worms and being able to touch live fish.  They came home worn out and thoroughly happy. 

6.  Watching Nolan rock out to Guitar Hero on the Wii always puts a smile on my face.  I don't know where he learned his moves, but he definitely has "Moves like Jagger".

7.  Mallory has demanded to dress herself lately.  I never thought I'd be the parent with the kids that looked all crazy, but when Mallory chooses to wear pink cowgirl boots, her pink tutu bathing suit and purse you can't help but smile and laugh.  Nolan also has questionable choices in fashion:  he is rather fond of the rain boots and shorts look with a dragon hat to finish off the outfit.
Here are a few pictures from camping:
 Nolan decided to be a superhero the first day we got there.  He is showing off his fishing lure.  He actually caught something with his Spiderman pole, I was impressed.
 I like the look of determination on Mallory's face as she tries to peddle the tricycle.  This was her first time trying to ride.  The campsite had a large flat concrete pavilion to ride bikes around.  It was the perfect area for her to practice on.
The pink tutu bathing suit that we've worn camping, to HEB and Walmart.  :)

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Big Cookie Project: Week 52

I can't believe it's finally over.  It's been a year since I started this crazy baking journey.  There have been some ups and downs, but in all I thought it was fun to do.  Here are some highlights over the year:
The Prettiest Cookie:  The stained glass cookie
The Tastiest Cookie:  Believe it or not, I'm a basic chocolate chip cookie kind of girl.  Some of the other recipes were tasty as well, but also really rich.  The chocolate chip cookie, in my opinion, is the perfect balance.
The Messiest Dessert:  Boston Cream Pie
The Most Difficult:  Recipes with A LOT of steps.  I'm impatient and hated to all those things I had to do.
The Biggest Fail:  This one is a tie between the coconut macaroon cookies and the earthquake cake.  I just couldn't bake them correctly.  I felt as though I baked them for forever and they just wouldn't set up. 
I've probably used a ton of flour and sugar, atleast two containers of baking powder, one container of baking soda, quite a few bags of chips and close to five bottles of vanilla. 


Now for my final week I went with a breakfast dessert.  Only because I was signed up to take breakfast to our Sunday School class this past week, and they might look at me like I was crazy if I brought in cookies for breakfast.  Here it is:
CINNAMON ROLL CAKE
CAKE:
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup ( 1 stick) Butter, melted
TOPPING:
  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks) Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
GLAZE:
  • 2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 glass baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2.In an electric or stand mixer add the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined well , slowly stir in the melted butter. Pour into the prepared 9×13 baking pan.
3.For topping, In a large bowl mix the 2 sticks of butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon together until well combined and creamy. Drop evenly over the batter by the tablespoonfuls and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake.
4.Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out nearly clean.
FOR GLAZE: In a medium bowl, mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla together with a whisk. Drizzle evenly over the warm cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe from:  www.chef-in-training.com

I think Paula Deen would be proud, 3 sticks of butter in this recipe! The only problem I had was that the topping really didn't stay on top.  It all sunk to the bottom to make a delcious gooey mess at the bottom of the pan.  So, it looked weird when I cut myself a slice and I'm trying to scrape all the good stuff from the bottom, but I wasn't just going to leave it there.  It was pretty much gone by the end of church, and by Monday it had vanished completely.  A big success for the last week. 

You might ask, would I ever do this again??
Give my taste buds a few months to recover and then ask me :)

Happy Baking!


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Big Cookie Project: Week 51

One week left!  EEEKKK!  I don't know if I've made a cheesecake for this cookie project, but I definitely haven't made a cheesecake dyed green with sprinkles in them.  The cheesecake came out really well, it would have come out even better if I hadn't listened to Greg.  I baked it to the time mentioned, and asked Greg to take it out.  He came back and said it still looked too jiggly, so I stuck it in for another 15-20 minutes.  Greg came back and said that I shouldn't have listened to him, because the recipe said it SHOULD look jiggly and would harden up after refrigerated.  Oops, but it really didn't hurt it.

 CAKE BATTER CHEESECAKE BARS
INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cups vanilla cookie crumbs (Nila Wafters or off-brand would work)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
16 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, separated
1/2 cup yellow cake mix
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanill extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sprinkles
5 drops blue food coloring (optional)
3 drops green food coloring (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8x8 pan, then line with parchement paper.
2.  Stir together cookie crumbs, 2 Tablespoons sugar and melted butter.  Press into the bottom of prepared pan.  Bake until crust in just brown around the edges (8-10 minutes).
3.  Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the remaining sugar, and beat until smooth.  Add the eggs and yolk, milk, vanilla, salt and beat until completely combined and smooth.  Finally stir in food coloring, cake mix and sprinkles until smooth.
4.  Pour filling over crust.  Set the pan in a larger pan (9x13) and add enought hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan (about 2 cups).  Bake until just set, about 40-45 minutes.  Remove the baking pan from the water bath, and transfer to a wire rack.  Let cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate over night.
5.  Cut in to bars and serve!
I gave a few of them away, a few of them we ate, and magically they were all gone!  The sprinkles made it fun, but I'm not quite sure why it had to be green.  Maybe for Spring or St. Patricks' Day?  Either way, it still looked pretty.

Happy Baking!

Original recipe from:  www.teenagetaste.com

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Awkward Moment #47 AND #48

Awkward Moment #47: Your 2-year old daughter crawls under the door of the OCCUPIED stall, unlocks the door and tried to open the door for me. All the while, some poor lady is using the bathroom wondering why there is a little girl in her stall.

What was my response, you might ask?? I grabbed her by the legs and dragged her out with not too much resistance from Mallory (thank heavens). The stall must have been occupied by the nicest lady ever, because she didn't yell at me or Mallory, just started laughing...

Awkward Moment #48: Your 4-year old thinks he is big enough to go in the Mens Restroom by himself. Then, poops and decides he doesn't want to clean himself, so proceeds to scream, "Mommy! Is my butt clean?" so loudly you can hear it in the Women's Restroom. Then, had to go IN the Men's Restroom to assure Nolan his butt was clean. Another blessing: the Men's Restroom was empty.

I took them to the restroom quite a few times in what seemed like a short period of time. My friend, Molly, even took Mallory. I think she saw the look in my eyes, "AGAIN?" We kept on passing a mom with a 10-month old (guesstimating) and I could see that same look in her eyes, "AGAIN? How many times can they go to the bathroom?" Then, I tried to send her a signal through my eyes saying, "You just wait until this stage of life sneaks upon you and you spend half your meal in a stall waiting for your child to use the restroom." I think it came out as a scowl though.

Oh, the escapades of small children. If I had a dollar for every embarrasing or funny story that I had, I might be rich. :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Big Cookie Project: Week 50

Below is what my dessert SHOULD have looked like. It did not look like this at all. I have this pet peeve of putting time and effort in trying to re-creating something, but having my result look nothing like it was supposed to.
I took an "after" shot of the dessert I made, but deemed it unworthy to put on the blog. So, I've left you wondering of what it actually turned out like. Despite its lack of appearance, it was actually pretty yummy. I think I made one HUGE error during the baking process which might have made my cake come out ugly (I'll tell you that error later). Here's the recipe:
EARTHQUAKE CAKE
INGREDIENTS:
2/3 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup pecans-chopped
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1 box German chocolate cake mix
8 oz. box of cream cheese
1/4 pound of butter (1 stick)
1 pound powdered sugar
DIRECTIONS:
Sprinkle coconut, pecans and chocolate chips over the bottom of a 9x13 inch greased cake pan. Prepare the cake following hte package directions. Pour batter in to the pan. In a small saucepan melt the cream cheese and butter, then stir in the powdered sugar. Spread over top of cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes.
If you desire, I sprinkled some extra chocolate chips on top.

Ok, so here is my big error. I baked this for Easter Sunday after church, but Greg also had to cook a chicken. So, we put them in at the same time. I know...a huge no no. After 50 minutes, I checked and it seemed 95% raw. I kept it in the oven for what seemed like forever. Over 2 hours in to the baking process, I finallly gave up and took it out. The edges were done, but it was still gooey in the middle (even for me, which is saying alot). I chopped off the edges, gave them to my sister and have been eating the middle. It tastes great though. The coconut, chocolate, cream cheese and german chocolate cake really compliment each other.

I hope if you bake this, it will be the only thing in your oven. I guess in my dream house I will need to have a double oven :)

HAPPY BAKING!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fun Things to Do this Summer!

Here's my list of things to do this summer. Some are with kids, some are without. Some we've already done, but definitely need to do again (water balloons!).

1. Aggie Baseball Game
2. Barton Springs in Austin
3. Zilker Zephyr Train Ride at Zilker Park
4. Brenham Aquatic Center
5. Blue Bell Factory
6. Go antiquing
7. Go to some kind of street festival
8. water balloon fight
9. water gun/nerf gun fight
10. Run through the sprinklers screaming like a 5-year old (Nolan is a good example)
11. Gorge myself on Haribo Gummi Bears while in Germany
12. Go to softball games (Greg joined a team!)
13. JJ's Snowcones!
14. Play catch in the backyard with Nolan and Greg
15. Eat veggies and fruit from my garden
16. Go to a road-side fruit stand and buy local produce
17. Stop and smell the flowers
18. Camping (at a real campground or in the backyard)
19. Make s'mores around a campfire
20. Go swimming...alot
21. Have a picnic
22. Sidewalk chalk
23. Jump on a trampoline
24. Go to some kind of farm and play with animals
25. Make home-made ice cream
26. Have a lot of playdates
27. Go to a concert
28. Matinee movies with the kids...cheap!
29. Do a lot of BBQing
30. Have fun and go with the flow. To make it the best summer possible

I hope I can do some of this and more. I always seem to want to do a lot, but always get bogged down by the heat and the wonderful air conditioning in our house seems to keep me indoors.

What's on your list for this summer?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mallory's "Re-Do" Dresser

When I was pregnant with Mallory I swore that she would never wear anything frilly or pink. Two years later, her small baby dresser was bursting with tutus, pink shirts and tons of shoes. I've been thinking about painting a wooden dresser we had to make it fit more in to Mallory's room. I finally got around to doing it these past couple of days.
Here's the dresser. Its main purpose was to house most of my yarn stuff. It actually had some cool history. It was Greg's great-grandmother's dresser. When I took out the drawers to paint them, on the bottom of one drawer was written: From Grandma, To Mary Kay. Mary Kay is Greg's mom, so a ton of people have used this dresser at one time or another.
As you can see, it has 6 drawers and what you probably can't tell from the picture is that it is on the smaller side, which fit perfectly in to Mallory's room.
Ta-Da! The finished product. I lightly sanded everything, and then put two coats of high-gloss paint on it. It's definitely not the best paint job, but it'll serve its purpose fairly well. The drawers are almost completely full, one drawer practically dedicated to tutus (those things take up a lot of space).
Basically everything was free on this project. The paint was in our garage from a previous project, and the dresser we already owned. The one thing that I did buy cost a lot (but totally worth it). I envisioned these handles while pulling off the old ones. After searching on the internet, they almost cost $10 and had to be shipped. I tried one last ditch effort and headed to Target. I don't know how Target got in my head, but they had these that fit perfectly with my vision. They were about $5 a piece, but I told myself it was Mallory's Easter present.
One DIY down, one million to go :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Year of the Yard: Part 2

This whole yard project is turning out to be a little bit more involved than I first anticipated. I told myself that I would be done with everything by Mallory's birthday, March 17th. I have moved that back to Nolan's birthday, June 14th. Why an extra 3 months? I could give you a million reasons, but here are a few:
1. Rain, rain and more rain...makes it hard to do yard work, but does wonders for the garden.
2. Two children. I thought I would get a lot done during nap time, but as of a few weeks ago Nolan is nap-free. But gives me less time to do outside stuff.
3. The flu. It put me down for a good week and a half.
4. Lower back injury. The rock digging didn't help, and neither did lifting 2-year olds all day

I could probably go on, but let me share with you the things that HAVE been accomplished:
Grass is filling in my bald spots!! Only one more little patch, and it is looking better by the day. The rain has been helping a lot.
Planted strawberries! Put each individual one in sections of cinderblocks that we had in the backyard. We got about 5 really early in the season, and the birds ate the rest. They were a good snack and super sweet.
Our garden! It's really taking off and has a ton of blooms on it right now. Very excited to start getting veggies and fruit. Here's a list of what we planted: yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, cucumber, tomatillo, jalapenos, green peppers, a lot of tomatoes (in pots, not in the photo), basil and cilantro (not in photo), and my favorite: a blackberry bush! We put the blackberry bush against a tressil to see if it would grow up, but hasn't gotten really huge yet. It does have about 15 blackberries on it though!
And last, but not least, my huge rock project. I could never have imagined so many rocks could fit in such a small area. I'm probably digging down between 6 to 8 inches and can't believe what a pain it is. I guess after so many years the rocks and dirt have really compressed together and it is making it very hard to actually dig up. Very tedious...but will be worth it (hopefully). I'm probably 3/4 of the way done, maybe even more. I think I've decided to go with stone. I was leaning towards wood decking, but thought that might be too hard to get everything level and exact. If I use stones, it will give me a little bit more leeway for error. If anyone would like to donate stones/bricks to my project I would greatly appreciate it :)
I will hopefully update you with the finished project soon!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Big Cookie Project: Week 49

This week my dessert is perfect for Easter. I always think food is so cute when it looks like a real object/other food and then tastes like something else. For example, one year Carrie made a cake that looked like a burger. I thought it was so funny, but I am easily amused. So, I rolled with this and made desserts that looked like birds' nests. They look fun, don't they? And it was a great recipe for Nolan to help me with: he was the egg-placement guy.

EGGS' NESTS
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup peanut butter
6 oz. bag of butterscotch chips
3 oz. can of chow mien noodles

DIRECTIONS:
1. Mix peanut butter and butterscotch chips and microwave on High for 30 second intervals until peanut butter and chips are melted and combined completely.
2. Stir in chow mien noodles
3. Drop by spoonful on wax paper. Place 2-3 robin's eggs on top. Chill in refrigerator

This recipe is one of Greg's favorites and he likes them frozen, but they don't have to be. For me, this recipe made about 12 large bird's nests. Definitely enough to feed enough people on Easter. I took them to an Easter Egg Hunt, and all got eaten up....I might have to make some more before Sunday :)

Happy Baking and

HAPPY EASTER!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Big Cookie Project: Week 48

4 more weeks left! Greg says I should finish strong with cookies (like my Cookie Project first started off as) instead of just desserts. I like his idea, just don't know yet if I can follow through with it.
Today was Nolan's teachers last day of school. She is starting maternity leave and wanted to have a little going-away party. I wanted to make something for the party, but waited until late last night to actually do it. We spent all yesterday in Austin and by the time we got home my eyelids were very heavy. Greg ran to the store to buy me some key ingredients, and I quickly shoved them in the oven. I started the timer at 10:00 pm and they should have been done at 10:25. I guess I fell asleep, because at 10:45, Greg woke me up saying, "Is something in the oven burning?" Thankfully, they were not ruined, they are a little browner than they should be, and a little tougher as well. I really don't think any of the 4 year-olds noticed.
M&M COOKIE BARS
Ingredients:
1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups M&Ms
Directions:
1. Cream together shortening, sugars and eggs.
2. Add flour, vanilla, baking soda and salt.
3. Mix in 2/3 cup M&Ms, leave the rest to sprinkle on top.
4. Spread in greased 9x13 pan, and sprinkle remaining M&Ms on top.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 or until brown on top.
6. Let cool, and cut in to bars.
Since I made mine pretty crispy (not really my fave) I hav a lot of hard edges to eat, but of course I never throw away a good cookie :)
Happy Baking!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Big Cookie Project: Week 47

Somebody seriously needs to come help me get off this "chocolate and peanut butter" kick. It's the umpteenth recipe that contains my two favorite things. I'm actually surprised at how many recipes I've found to contain so much chocolate and peanut butter. And the best thing about this recipe this week? NO BAKE!
I've been eyeing this recipe for some time, and finally got around to making it. For me, it's a little rich, so it doesn't take a lot to fill me up. But like always, these will disappear :)
NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER BARS
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup and 4 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
DIRECTIONS:
Combine melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and 1 cup peanut butter in a mixer. Press this mixture in to an 8x8 pan. Then, in a microwave-safe bowl combine the 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolates and 4Tbsp. of peanut butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, and mix. Continue until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is creamy. Pour chocolate on top of peanut butter mixture. Smooth over evenly. Place in fridge for 1 hour until hardened.
I wouldn't call this sweet and salty combination my addiction, but it is very addicting.
Happy Baking!