Friday, September 30, 2011

Recipe - Snickerdoodle Cake with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

I tried a new recipe for this month's cake night with the girls. The recipe is from http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/, and it was a winner. The cake was lovely and light, and the frosting was sweet and delicious. I pretty much stuck to the original recipe listed here, except I didn't have cake flour so I used this little trick as a substitution, and it worked perfectly. I also halved the frosting, since I was making cupcakes and not a cake with four layers of frosting as the recipe calls for. And I topped each cupcake with a homemade snickerdoodle (this snickerdoodle recipe is a favorite in our home; we make them often and they never last long).

Snickerdoodle Cake with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cups fine or superfine sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk, warmed to room temperature

For the buttercream:
4 1/2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8-9 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of half and half, plus more if needed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale in colour. Beat the eggs in one at a time, fully incorporating each egg and scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add about 1/3 of the milk, beat to incorporate, then 1/3 of the flour, again beating to incorporate. Repeat this process, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until all of the milk and flour are added and mixed in evenly. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake, rotating midway through, for about 35 minutes or until the cake tests done. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes before turning out onto the racks to finish cooling. If making cupcakes divide batter into 24 cupcake liners and bake for 22 minutes or until done.

To make the buttercream (half the recipe if making cupcakes):
Beat together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until fluffy and pale in color. Add 6 cups of the confectioner's sugar and the vanilla extract and beat, starting on low and moving up to high, until it is fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and add the half and half. Beat to incorporate again. Add another 2 cups of the confectioner's sugar and beat, starting on low and moving up to high, until fully incorporated. Check the consistency of the buttercream. If it needs to be thicker, add the remaining confectioner's sugar. If it is too thick, add more half and half a teaspoon at a time, beating after each addition, until it reaches the consistency you like.

To assemble and frost the cake:
Level out your cooled cakes and cut each into two even layers. Place one layer on a cake plate then add a layer of buttercream, spreading to the edges and evening out as you go. Repeat with the remaining layers. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing. Store leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Car Trouble, More Car Trouble, and More Car Trouble

No, you're not seeing double, or triple... the title of this post is a true reflection of our past few weeks. Two weeks ago we took our van into the shop because the engine had been skipping and to also to get the brakes repaired. After four days in the shop and spending $800, we pickup up our van only to realize the engine was still skipping. We took the van back in for another couple days. The shop reported that the engine was skipping because of a faulty spark plug, which cost us $30. When I picked up the van, I asked the mechanic if the very expensive $760 fix from the previous week had even been necessary. He replied that it wasn't necessary, but would get out vehicle better gas mileage. Needless to say, we were frustrated by the unneeded fix.

The next week, as Greg and I were driving home from a date, the van shut down and completely died, twice. We had to get jumped, twice, to make it home and relieve the babysitter. The next day we got the battery checked, and found out it was fine. A ward member who is a mechanic kindly offered to test our alternator, and he determined that was the problem. Discouraged by our previous experience with our mechanic (having to pay a lot of money because he misdiagnosed our problem), Greg decided to try and fix the van himself this time. He took some time from work, shopped around for the best price on a new alternator ($130) and replaced it himself. Two days later the van started making an extremely loud rattling noise as I was running errands. I parked and called Greg, and he came and discovered that a belt had frayed and was hitting parts of the engine when running. Greg replace the belt the next day after work (another $40). The next morning, all the lights on the dashboard went off while I was driving the van. I quickly drove home and when Greg came home to check the van, it completely died within a minute of starting it. Our neighbor came over and we had the alternator tested again; it wasn't working properly. Greg took it back the the store the next day on his lunch. When he told the clerk the part didn't work, the clerk replied that of course it didn't, because they had given him the wrong alternator for the make and model of our vehicle. They had charged him for the correct part, but handed him one that was smaller (why the belt broke) and not powerful enough. So once again, we were stuck wasting our time and money because of a shop's mistake. And once again, Greg spent the evening installing a new alternator.

We also got both vehicles' safety and emissions tests, and consequently a new set of tires for each vehicle recently. Therefore, in the last two months, we have spent about $1600 on our vehicles, had 8 repairs, 4 breakdowns, and about two week total without a working vehicle for me to drive. I am very much ready to be moving on from our car-breaking-down-phase. One night last week, Greg jokingly told me not to break the car again. I replied if the car broke down again, I was ready to invest in horses as our main form of transportation!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Dentist Visits

September has been dentist month for our family. Greg and I had appointments last week. Palmer and Brody went for their first dentist visits this week, and I have another appointment next week to get a couple cavities filled (which was no big surprise since it had been almost four years since I'd seen a dentist, and three of those years I was pregnant and/or nursing which is hard on teeth).

We went to see my childhood dentist, Dr. Maki. Greg and I have tried a few dentists under different insurances, and haven't had great experiences with them. So, when I realized our current insurance was accepted by my childhood dentist, I was very happy. And after going, I'm even happier. The whole office is so friendly and great to work with! Many of the staff members even remembered me and asked about my family.

The boys did fabulously at their dentist appointments. Both were happy and cooperated well. I knew Palmer would think it was fun, but I had doubts about Brody. At home, it is always a fight to get Brody's teeth brushed, but even he had a great time at the dentist and let them exam his teeth and polish them. The boys really liked the playhouse, the television in the ceiling, and the dental assistant giving them each a token for the toy vending machine. They can't wait to go again!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pick-A-Pocket Purse

I made a few of these this summer for friend's/family member's birthday. The tote has six pockets on it's outside, perfectly sized for keys, a cellphone, small toiletries, and/or a drink or snack. The tote itself is smaller in size, just the right size for a set of scriptures and a Gospel Principles manual. The tutorial can be found here. I thought they turned out really cute; I think I need to make one for myself now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wasp Stings

Tonight Palmer and Brody received matching wasp stings, each just below their left eye. I happened to be right with them when it happened. I was pushing them on the swings on our swing set. We've had issues with neighbor kids getting stung by wasps in our backyard (three kids in fact, yikes!). Each time we went on a search to locate their nest. We chopped down a tree that seemed to attract the wasps, with no luck of finding a nest. Greg found a small nest in a pile of deadwood he'd made from pulling out overgrown bushes, and we figured that was it. Tonight, since I witnessed the stings and the culprits return to their home, I was able to finally discover that blasted nest, and the cause of all our wasp sting woes. The nest was in the swing set, go figure. In some of the padding next to the trampoline, and it was a HUGE nest. So hopefully, *crossing fingers* we won't have anymore wasps hurting our kids or their buddies.
Here is a picture of Palmer and Brody this evening, swollen eyed, cuddling on the couch with Mom, watching Dora the Explorer, eating chocolate, and milking their injuries. I'm always good for a whole lot of comfort when our kids are sick or injured. It's what moms are for, right?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recipe - Spicy Honey Chicken

Greg grilled up these beauties for tonight's family dinner with the Nichols side of the family, and they got rave reviews! This recipe is another winner from Our Best Bites. I just can't seem to get enough of their recipes lately. In in the last couple months we've also made their grilled stuffed zucchini, baked creamy chicken taquitos, orange chicken with snow peas (from their cookbook) and peanut butter sandwich cookies. They are all delicious!


Spicy Honey Chicken

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 t vegetable oil

Rub:
2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

Glaze:
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Combine all spices together in small bowl and mix well. Trim off any excess fat from chicken pieces. Pat dry. Drizzle oil over chicken and rub in with your hands to lightly coat all the pieces. Then toss chicken with the spice rub to coat all sides well. Use your hands and get in there! Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through. While chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave so it’s not so thick. Add the vinegar and combine well. Reserve 2 tablespoons honey glaze for later. Take the rest and brush on chicken (both sides) in the final moments of grilling. After letting the meat sit for a few minutes, drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of glaze over thighs.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day of Preschool

Palmer's had his first day of preschool on Wednesday. He was super excited about it! So excited, that every time I took his picture he couldn't help but to raise his arms up high in celebration.

He has a lot of his friends in his preschool class. Most he knows from my work in the local fitness center daycare, but there are also a couple of kids he knows from our neighborhood. He has been excited to go to preschool with these kids, whom he has recently been referring to as his "school friends".

I helped him find his seat and he instantly starting practicing his name (actually he just scribbled on the paper because he was too excited to focus on tracing). Brody happily plopped down in the chair right next to him and attempted to write on a paper that read "Maya". Brody was very sad to not be able to learn and play with Palmer. I had to carry him out crying. Palmer stayed behind happily.

Palmer's teacher informed me that he did well his first day. She did say that he needed to be reminded to stay in his seat and to listen a few times, and had to sit with her at one point because he wasn't listening, but for the most part, he had was good. He came back from class very hyper, and was running all over the place. He says he really likes school and wants to go again.

Friday, September 2, 2011

So We Meet Again Terrible Twos

Yikes! My formerly-sweet baby boy Brody turns two next month, but apparently he has decided that's not soon enough since he has hit the terrible twos head on, hard. The past few weeks have been a maddening blur dealing with the tantrums, whining, stubbornness and wild behavior that comes along with this difficult parenting stage. Our two little boys embody all that is terrible of the terrible twos.

Palmer has definitely had better behavior since turning three, but still shows signs of terrible toddlerdom often. However, lately, Brody has been worse than I ever remember Palmer being. Although, that might not necessarily be the case, as I might have blocked out Palmer's poor behavior peak. My used to be sweet-cuddly baby boy is now quite a bully. He hits nonstop, he pulls other children's hair whenever he gets the chance and bites Greg and I several times a day. The biting I haven't dealt with before as Palmer was not a biter. The times we have responded physically to the biting with a flick or a bop on the mouth, he just laughs at us... the little stinker. He also is purposefully disobeying us, and he always does so with a huge smile plastered on is face. Needless to say, he has been spending a good chunk of his days in time out. And once he goes in time out, he stays in time out for a while, since most times when we check on him and ask him if he is ready to be good, he responds with a firm and matter of fact, "uh uh." Greg claims that he gets his stubbornness from me, but I don't know what he is talking about. ;)

I can now see why parents choose to put more than 17 months between their children. With us going the nontraditional route, and having our boys so close in age, we have had to deal with some not so fun events: two in diapers and now two terrible twos. I foresee a few more rough patches in the future: two rough-housing-ransacking preteen boys, two eat-everything-in-your-house teenage boys, two boys on a mission at the same time (*sob*), two college tuitions at the same time. Wow. It's almost enough to make a mother lose her mind... twice!