Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recipe - Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes

I made cookies and cream cheesecake cupcakes for this month's girls cake night. I wanted the cake this month to be both delicious and fun since it would be served at a BBQ to not only the women who bid on my cakes, but also their families. I found the recipe for these little cheesecakes in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook, and thought they would be perfect to appease adult appetites as well as children appetites. However, when I showed up with these goodies, the women quickly decided to hide them and reserve them for the adults only so that the kids wouldn't eat them all up. Haha! I can't really blame them; they were scrumptious. There were a couple cakes leftover that didn't fit on the cake stand, which Greg and I enjoyed the next day. I happily discovered that they tasted even better the second day! From now on I will make sure to bake these the night before I serve them.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes

42 Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
2  pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving. Makes 30 cupcakes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Recipe - Chocolate Caramel Bars

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. These. are. so. good. I made these delectable treats for the first time this week to go along with a meal I made for a family in the ward who is having a hard time. I made one of our favorite meals: cranberry apple pork roast with baked sweet potatoes. However, these chocolate caramel bars where the best part of the dinner. They are soft, chewy, melt in your mouth, super sweet. Enjoy!

Chocolate Caramel Bars

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) bag caramels
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 (12 oz.) package milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl combine first 6 ingredients to form a crumbly mixture. Unwrap caramel (let kids help, Palmer loved this step!). Melt caramels and whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle half of crumbly mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Press to pan lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over baked mixture and top with melted caramel mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Make a day ahead or several hours ahead to allow time for caramel to set.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Can Sew

...sort of. Well, I'm certainly learning to do so. Greg gave me a sewing machine last Christmas. I've always wanted to learn and knew I never would unless I had a machine to practice on. Which turned out to be true. Now that I have one, I've realized the learning is slow going, at least in my case. The world of sewing is full of so many supplies, and techniques that I have never before encountered. And the jargon is like a foreign language to me. However, with the help of my savvy seamstress friends, I am learning something new with every project I work on. One day I hope to pick up a set of sewing instructions and know exactly what they mean and how to carry them out. Oh, and one day I won't have a possessed machine. Seriously, anything that can go wrong with my sewing machine does. I have to troubleshoot is just about everytime I use it. This is what I and my Singer have been doing the past few months.

Churn Dash Quilting Block

Curtains for Our Bedroom

Crayon Rolls (I've made several of these for birthday gifts)

Pajama Pants for Palmer

Flowered hairpiece made for London's Tea Party

Superhero Capes for Brody and Palmer

Tie for Greg

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stay at Home Mom

When I was in college I took a Women's Literature course, which I absolutely loved. I fell in love with many female writers and for the first time in my life realized the term feminist was a positive notion, not the man-hating, woman-is-superior association I had theretofore believed it to be. Through these amazing works of art and my fantastic professor, I had the epiphany that I myself am indeed a feminist. My professor and I grew very close through the semester and gained mutual respect for each other's love of the written word and writing skills.

On the last day of class, we discussed our future plans and aspirations. I was working towards a degree in English teaching, which my beloved professor knew of. However, it was during this discussion that I mentioned my true desire for my future occupation, that of a stay at home mom. I said that I would love the opportunity to teach English, but that if I had the choice I would happily choose staying home with my children over my sought after career. I instantly saw a look of total disappointment fill my professor's face. She told me what a waste such a decision would be, and that I would be throwing away my gifts and the contributions I could make to our society. Honestly, I was hurt, really hurt. Because of my desire to be a stay at home mom, I had lost value in her eyes. I informed her that just because I wanted to put my efforts into raising my children, that did not make me less of a person. That I still believed in the rights of women, and that men and women should have equal opportunities. And that because we are all equal, I could choose to do what I truly wanted to do with my life. I resolutely told her that as a stay at home mom, I would surely contribute to our society, and in a manner which I deemed most important, just as she, with her teaching, was contributing in a manner she believed to be most important. I left, a bit saddened by my professor's discouragement, but even more sure of my personal aspirations. I am proud of my strength that day. Proud that I stood up for what I believed, even when it went against someone I deeply respected.

A few Sundays ago, a fellow ward member, who I hardly know, asked me about my job working with the special education students at the local junior high. I let him know that I no longer worked there and hadn't since I had my children. He huffed and rolled his eyes, and made a sarcastic remark. I then quickly informed him that I now work at the local fitness center daycare. He seemed content in hearing this and continued our discussion.

Later, during Relief Society we had a lesson on pride. We discussed how pride can take the form of being ashamed of our beliefs. It was then that I realized, when talking to this man, I had felt a need to be ashamed of my decision to quit work to be with my kids. Why else would I have scrambled for the excuse that I am still working? I work at the daycare (very part time) because I can bring my children along with me, because I can still be with them, raising them, while also making a little extra needed income, certainly not because it is my life's ambition. Why is it that I, as a college student, was so ready to defend my values to my greatly esteemed professor, and yet today as I find myself, in the situation I so long desired, I cower at my choice? I still believe I am doing a good work being at home with my children. I believe I am where I should be. I'm not sure why I have lost my assertiveness concerning this matter. Surely, I made a mistake in the denial of my choice to be a stay at home mom. I will not do so again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Marble Maze

The best $4.00 I have ever spent at a yard sale. The kids ask to play with with it almost daily. It is even worth constantly finding random marbles in every nook and crany in our home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Storytime Stories

We are big fans of the library. Not a day goes by that we don't have a stack of library books on our book shelf. This is especially the case with children's books, since our boys love to be read to, and can practically recite any of the books we own by heart. Thankfully, the library offers us a way to keep storytime fresh and exciting without breaking the bank.

Brody loves any touchy feely books, especially the That's Not My Dinosaur/Teddy/Train/etc. series. Any page that has a plush accent on it goes directly to his mouth for some kissing and gnawing. He is also a fan of pop up books or any book that lights up or makes a noise. He's getting pretty busy at this age, and if the book doesn't have much more to offer besides words and pictures, he loses interest quickly.

Palmer has many favorite books, which lately include: the Llama Llama series, Peek-A-Zoo/Peek-a-Moo/Peek-a-Bloom/etc., I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean, Mr. Brown Can Moo, Spot Books, Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See as well as any other Eric Carle book.

A little while ago I had checked out Paul Stickland's Ten Terrible Dinosaurs. It's a cute little book detailing the escapades of ten dinosaurs that eventually dwindle down to one. The first night I read it to Palmer I was quite sleepy and when we got to the part in the story where all the dinosaurs eat so much that one almost "popped," I read "pooped." I even stopped myself and reread the word thinking that pooped was a little graphic for a children's book, but in my tired mind, I once again saw the word pooped, and so that is what I said. Of course he was instantly drawn to this little detail and to this day Palmer will emphatically insist the dinosaur pooped and not popped when anyone reads him Ten Terrible Dinosaurs.

Palmer also loves any books by Todd Parr, especially The Daddy Book. And he really loves when Daddy reads him The Daddy Book. This story is about how all dads are different (some daddys have long hair, some daddys have no hair, some daddys like to take naps with you, some daddys like to play ball with you, some daddys work far away, some daddys work at home, etc.) and wraps it all up by iterating that all dads love their kids and want them to be who they are. Very cute. One night while Greg was giving this book a go, I asked him what daddy he was. He replied, "I'm the daddy who works far away, and from home." Sad, but true. Greg has been working 60-75 hour weeks (in the office and from home), and at times it surely can wear on our family.

Thank goodness for storytimes and other precious little moments when we get the chance to cuddle up with our sweet, sweet little boys and lose ourselves in a fun, silly, fanciful world. Soon enough they'll be reading comic books and Goosebumps and I will yearn for the day when they happily plopped on my lap toting a thick board book copy of Go, Dogs, Go.

Monday, May 9, 2011

18 Month and Three Year Photo Shoot

We took the boys to JC Penney to get Brody's 18 month photos and Palmer's three year photos. The boys actually did pretty well sitting still and I think the pictures are really cute. The photographer did try one last fun shot of the two of them and within seconds of posing them, they both had jumped up and were running around the room. That's when we knew we were done. :) However, the photo shoot only last fifteen minutes and during that time we were able to get almost 20 good shots. This is just one of the many reasons I love JC Penney Portrait Studio. These rambunctious little boys are just too busy to sit through an hour or so of photographing.

I so love the shots of the two of them together; they love each other so much and it shows. My favorite is the one of them both lying on the floor and the last close up of them smiling big.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recipe - Sausage Gravy over Biscuits

There is nothing better in my book than comfort food. And Greg is just crazy about breakfast foods. Combine these two favorites and what do you get? Sausage gravy over biscuits. I usually prepare this meal, with scrambled eggs and fried potatoes, for dinner since it is so very filling.

Sausage Gravy Over Biscuits

1 lb. sausage (we like Jimmy Dean Regular)
4 tablespoons grease from sausage (add 2-3 tablespoons butter, if necessary)
4 tablespoons flour
2 c. milk
salt and pepper for taste
biscuits (we like Pillsbury Grands)

Cook sausage. Remove sausage from pan and drain grease from sausage. If there is not 4 tablespoons of grease, add 2-3 tablespoons of butter and put back in pan. mix flour into grease/butter and bring to a boil. Stir in milk. Let it cook and thicken. Add sausage. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over warm biscuits.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monkey Business

We threw a Curious George party for Palmer's third birthday. We always call Palmer our little monkey because he is always climbing, swinging and basically monkeying around all the time. He also loves Curious George. We had mostly family over for the event as well as a few close friends of the family. We served sub sandwiches, various salads, chips and soda pop. We had a Schmidts cake decorated by Aunt Andrea and banana splits for dessert. All the kids spent time monkeying about on our new swing set. We played "hot banana" (a.k.a. hot potato). Palmer opened a bunch of wonderful presents including: play dough sets, puzzles, a Curious George blanket, pillow and pajama set, a few games, a sprinkler toy, a bubble fan, a couple movies, and a tricycle. He sure is loved, and spoiled well! Thanks to those who joined in our celebration for Palmer. He had a perfectly, wonderful birthday!

Three Years Old

Palmer is three today! He is such an energetic, fun, intelligent boy. His behavior has been getting better in regards to the tantrums and defiance associated with the "terrible twos," and he hasn't been as sensitive as he once was. And at times he can even sit and be still. He has been more aggressive recently and has been know to hit and push, and gets put in time out at least once a day for his aggressive acts. However, he is also very loving and gives hugs and kisses and holds hands with his family and friends. He often tells us, "You make me happy," and when he is concerned that we are upset with him asks, "I make you happy?" He continues to be very active and wants to learn. He is a smart little boy and picks up on things quickly. We just love our little Palmer boy; he surely makes life a great adventure! This is what's going on with Palmer at three years old.

He has learned: to use the potty, many little songs (his favorites include: Old MacDonald Had a Farm, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Family Night and Once There Was a Snowman), all his colors, to use a mouse and play games on the computer, to do a somersault, to talk on the phone, and continues to learn new words and concepts each and everyday.

He likes: Little Einsteins, Mickey Mouse and Curious George, fruit snacks, juice, pretzels, strawberries and any other fruit, candy, playing outside, blowing bubbles, board games, play dough, playing with friends, playing toddler games on the computer, coloring with markers and using his safety scissors, play places and park equipment, running around, reading books, puzzles, and swimming.

He dislikes: going to bed at night and naptime, most sandwiches, pepperoni, being ignored, being alone, and staying home all day.

Things he does that makes us laugh: Says clever and funny things daily (see here, here and here for the latest), get within an inch of a person's face when he wants to have a serious conversation, cute and very enthusiastic dance moves, huge smiles, and big laughs and giggles.