Friday, October 10, 2014

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

I'm going to settle for a cartoon depiction and not a selfie on this one

On the one hand I cannot believe that I am only 30 weeks pregnant because it boggles my mind that I can continue to get bigger for the next 10 weeks. I expressed this thought to my husband and he assured me that I can and will... I think he may have missed the point but anyway. On the other hand, I cannot believe that at some point in the next 10 weeks (please God - let this little one have a different attitude than her brother) we are going to have ex-utero children! I know that I will love and treasure this little girl (I already do) but at the end of most days I feel like it's just been one parenting or spousal fail after another (on my end). For instance, it is only 8 am and Leo is already watching Disney's Robin Hood.

- 2 -

This is Leo's obsession. No other movie will do. We have tried to introduce other films and at the end of the day the only thing that our little lion desires is his beloved "Robbie". I had a theory that it was because it featured talking animals but 101 Dalmatians certainly held no attraction. In actuality that is totally fine because we only watched the first 20 minutes or so and I had forgotten that it is a rather dark movie. I still have high hopes for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and The Rescuers Down Under, however, because those are two movies that I will always carry a strong affection for. Oh man, see what I've done?! I've completely strayed from my original point and that is that I never wanted TV to be, well, "A Thing" in our house. Maybe nature videos from Animal Planet and Discovery Channel but that was supposed to be the end! But that was before pregnancy insomnia reared its ugly hideous head and Leo went from waking up between 7 - 8 am to 6 am. Or even before 6 am. Which leads me to this...
- 3 -

I hate it when people use God's name in vain so please excuse that BUT that is the closest thing to how I feel when I hear Leo wake up in the morning before 7 am. That and this

- 4 -

There is no escape. Only coffee.

- 5 -

Thanks to a number of Facebook shares I recently discovered this site and have had some many much needed laughs. The cluster-feeding one might just be my favorite.

- 6 -

One of the best birthday gifts I have ever received came this year in the form of a subscription to Magnificat. It is easy to use and just so helpful in terms of providing a concrete way to incorporate prayer and meditation into daily life, which is something that I need to work on in a big way!

- 7 -

I know this is a super lame post and not exactly the best way to get back into blogging but I cannot stomach giving Leo one more moment of screen time this morning and the coffee hasn't kicked in enough for me to be creative. I guess I'll throw this one in since my last post mentioned the living project.

Yep - we actually finished it and managed to remain sane!

Now go see Jen!

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, April 4, 2014

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

Now that we are settled settling into our amazing new house I am thinking about all of the ways to make it feel like our home. I've lost count of all of the projects floating around in my head but judging by the anxious and somewhat paranoid look that my husband gets let's just say it's a hefty number! The one project that I have strong feelings about is repainting our living room. It may or may not have evolved into a teensy tiny bit of a full blown obsession...

Complete with the Lowes fort that Leo could not care less about

What color is that? Valspar gave it a fun, fruity name (Mango) but I personally like to refer to it as Punch-You-in-the-Eyes Orange. I imagine it could work well as an accent color in a room full of sunshine and complementary colors but here in the land of earth tones, brick, and one window lighting.... well, yeah. The picture pretty much says it all. And after HOURS spent looking at more paint colors than I knew existed, I had this moment of clarity....

- 2 -

I don't have to match the wood or the brick - I can change them! I went ahead and emailed this awesome blogger to get her opinion (because I can bring the enthusiasm but I need support to keep it alive). She gave the remodel two thumbs up and so I have decided* to go ahead paint the wood and fireplace. Or rather, I have decided to paint the wood and whitewash the fireplace. Painted fireplaces are just a little too much for me. I like being able to see a hint of color and texture. I am one coat of paint away from being done with the mantel and am almost done spray-painting the fireplace accessories for a uniform black look (using this nifty thing). If all goes well I'll be whitewashing the fireplace this weekend!

*and was given permission by my indulging husband

- 3 -

What the Rorschach test would look like if designed by HGTV

I couldn't write this post without devoting at least one take to the absurdity that is paint color. I won't even tackle the whole rainbow and just stick with white. Forget fifty shades of gray, my friends, and allow me to introduce you to 7,589,301 SHADES OF WHITE! They have to have hidden cameras in Lowes for the sole purpose of capturing the back and forth of customers in front of the palettes and color chips. I settled on Valspar Pegasus White. After 30 minutes. And by the time I checked out I felt like this 

Kudos to Ben for not laughing hysterically at me. Turns out that "Pegasus" white works just fine. 

- 4 -

I always hoped that there was a quick bread out there that featured my favorite fruit (strawberries) but never looked into it until last week. Here is the recipe. You're welcome.

- 5 -

Leo has gone from taking two long naps every day to one long nap every day. I realize that I should shut up and be grateful that I have a little boy who takes a long nap but I'm a self-centered work in progress so I'm just going to mourn the 2 hours of free time that I have lost. Granted that "free time" was usually used for things like cleaning, prepping dinner, and other homemakery things but still, it is impossible to describe how amazing it is to make dinner without your pants nearly getting pulled off by the baby who is practically climbing your legs to be held.

- 6 -

Speaking of Leo (I really do adore that little boy) it never ceases to amaze me how much he loves people (and animals and nature etc.). We were doing our grocery shopping today and while we were walking through the frozen section we walked past an older woman who smiled at Leo. That was all it took, folks - Leo gave her a huge grin and practically leaped into her arms. I'll admit that it can alarm me when he does this with certain people and really we need to develop at least some concept of "stranger danger" BUT this lady was so sweet with him and was so touched by his warmth that it was just really cool. She kept laughing and saying "Well I've fallen in love today!".

Did I mention that he loves nature? Especially dirt. Reaaaaaally loves the dirt....


- 7 -

The end goal

I'm usually pretty good about getting exercise in throughout the week. I don't usually enjoy it and most of the time I wonder whether I'm going to die mid-workout but in the end I get it done. Why? I care about how I look and feel. Not enough to say no to desserts or be sensible with my food and beverage choices but still - I care and I make an effort. Why am I talking about this? Because all that work and all that effort is directed towards the parts of me that are pretty clearly temporal. I can't say the same about my spiritual fitness. So I've gotten myself the spiritual equivalent of a fitness trainer - a spiritual director. I've had a couple in the past but never benefited as much as I could have because, brutal truth be told, I was too concerned with how I sounded or came across. Real smart, I know. People can't help you fix a problem if they don't know there's a problem. Duh. Anyways, this time I'm determined to check my pride at the door and let God do His thing. Because toned triceps aren't enough to get you into Heaven.

Now go see Jen!

~ Happy Friday ~

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Leo's Birth Story

 Caveat : I meant for this to be shorter. Oops!

The Lead Up

The weeks leading up to Leo's arrival were full of a lot of stress and anxiety for me. I spent quite a few posts complaining and waddled around the apartment twiddling my thumbs and trying different methods of bringing on labor (stopping short of castor oil). Naturally none of them worked and I am pretty sure that I got to the point where I wondered if the little guy was just going to refuse to come naturally. Despite being pretty darn natural and holistic my doctor seemed to agree and scheduled me to be induced on Tuesday, February 26th. I got pretty emotional about this but decided that since I would be over a week and a half overdue at that point, why not?

What the....?!

I didn't start noticing my Braxton Hicks contractions until the week Leo was due. They weren't too painful and were very infrequent and that was that. Around midnight on Friday (February 22nd - 'cause you're writing this down and all) I started to get real contractions! All I can say is that with a pain threshold like mine it was genuinely dumb for me to ever wonder But how will I know when I have a contraction? I knew! They were so intense that when I would have one it woke me riiiiight up so timing them was not difficult. But they simply had no regularity, nothing consistent in terms of duration or time between start to start. So I tried to sleep as best as I could (not happenin') and note the time when a new one would hit. 

I was relieved when Saturday morning finally came and I could give up trying to sleep. The day came and went with no change. I would have a few contractions back to back (sometimes even three in a row) but then have a huge space of time before the next one would hit. They were getting more intense and more painful all of the time but again, I have a low pain threshold so I just told myself to "man up" and keep on keepin' on. 

Saturday night was much worse and by the time Sunday morning came I knew I was not leaving the house for mass or anything at all. I sat on the couch or on the yoga ball trying to find some relief from the pain but sometimes the contractions were so hard that I would fall to my hands and knees. There may have been some tears. 

By the time Monday morning hit I was desperate. I had not slept since Friday and while the pain and intensity of the contractions had amped up there was still no discernible pattern! I called my doctor and went in to the office for him to check things out. So he takes a look and starts chuckling. 

"You know why you've been so uncomfortable?" he asks me. I simply give him a deadpan look in reply and he says, "Because the baby has dropped and you're 4 cm. When do you want to go to the hospital?" 

I started tearing up. I never thought I would make it to 4 cm without an epidural. Heck, I'm not entirely sure I would make it to 4 cm PERIOD! Somehow knowing that all of the pain and lack of sleep had been doing something made it all worth it. We scheduled check-in time for noon and I went home to Ben to finish packing (yeah.... I procrastinate) and take a shower. 

The Hospital

By the time we got to the hospital the contractions were coming more quickly and I had decided that I was G-O-O-D AND R-E-A-D-Y for that epidural, thank you very much! So we checked in and I got wheeled up to my (truly) very nice birthing suite. I had to have an IV (stupid StrepB) and monitors for the baby and whatnot but much to my chagrin the anesthesiologist was needed elsewhere and would not be available for awhile. It took about an hour (maybe longer) before I was able to have any pain medication. I was exhausted, in pain, and hormonal so naturally I cried. I was relying on the pain medication to help me to sleep until things got real and I needed to push and all that jazz. 

Anyways, I finally got my epidural (that needle in the back business did not hurt as badly as people told me) and began to fall asleep as Ben went to the cafeteria to get himself some dinner. The next thing I know three nurses and two doctors run into my room and start fussing over me. I am turned on my side and given an oxygen mask and can see by the fetal monitor that the baby's heart-rate is not doing well. Poor Ben returned in the middle of the chaos and I can only imagine what that must have been like. Eventually the heartbeat did normalize and the room cleared out, leaving an anxious Ben and me. I tried to fall asleep again, occasionally looking at the monitor in fear. Sure enough, we watched in panic as the heartbeat began to fall lower and lower. Again the nurses and doctors rushed in, moving me from my back onto my side and giving me oxygen. One of the doctors informed me that if it happened again I would need to have an emergency c-section. The only reason I was not having one then and there was that my doctor had said to give it more time. 

One of the best nurses in the entire world happened to be my nurse that evening. She seemed to like Ben and me a lot and stayed in the room with us, watching the monitor and me and talking to us about kids and parenting and life in general. After things had settled down for awhile and her shift had ended she had to leave and another nurse started her shift. During this time I started to notice that my feet had begun to tingle. At first I didn't pay any attention to it but as time went on the tingling spread up my legs and I started to feel the contractions again. They weren't painful in the beginning but I knew something was wrong. I told the nurse and she increased the dosage of the epidural but nothing changed (except for the pain growing). Eventually I asked her to get the anesthesiologist. She could see that I was serious and she tried to get him to come down. He refused. Just increase the dose, he told the nurse. It was not until I was a sobbing mess that the nurse was able to convince him to come to my room. When he did he examined my back and was shocked to see that the epidural had come out! He kept repeating that "This has never happened before" and assuring Ben and me that it was a fluke. Believe it or not I did not give a flying (la la la) that this was some freak accident - it had happened, it was happening, and it needed to be fixed! So I got a second epidural. He super-glued and super-taped that sucker in and after several minutes I had relief! 

So at this point we had been at the hospital several hours and I had progressed to 5 cm but that was it. At some point they broke my water and after my second epidural they gave me pitocin. Eventually things began to start progressing again and we arrived at the long-awaited moment.

Time to Push

My doctor was going to be there for the delivery but given that it was my first labor he decided to have a nurse be in the room with me for the first portion of pushing. For once I am going to spare you the details. Suffice it to say that after 3+ days of no sleep and 1 hr of pushing, I had gotten nowhere. I was told that I had 2 more hours of pushing before I would have to have a c-section. I was an emotional wreck. I had zero energy at this point and did not see how I could manage to keep pushing 2 more minutes, much less 2 more hours! Yet the idea that after all of the drama of the day I would be unable to have this baby naturally (relatively speaking) was a pretty devastating blow. I basically gave up and just laid there weeping. 

Lucky for me I had a doctor who was a real advocate. He came to my room and took over. I confess that the next hour was nothing but a blur. There was a lot of coaxing and encouragement from my doctor and Ben and a lot of pushing and unbridled emotionalism from me. I lost all sense of time and kept waiting to hear that I was headed for surgery. Then all of the sudden I heard this -

Doctor : "Are you ready?"
Me (in what can only be described as a tone of complete exasperation) : "Ready for what?!"
Doctor : "To meet your baby. Give me one more push."

For once I followed orders. And on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at exactly 2:39 AM we were able to meet the precious son that we had waited and prayed for for so long.

Friday, February 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

My sweet little boy is finally on the mend. He didn't stop pulling at his ears until a day or two ago and his sleep schedule is an absolute M E S S but his energy is back (oh. my!) and so are his delicious smiles and beautiful laughter.

- 2 -

Now that Leo's energy has returned so has his trouble-making. He is a little obsessed with his noise machine and tries to get at it whenever he can (i.e. when I'm not paying attention 100%). I wouldn't mind him pushing the buttons and fiddling around with it but he isn't content to do that. Nope. You know how most babies explore a toy or object with their mouths? Well, sure, Leo does that but discovery time is not complete until he has thrown it. And we have wood floors. Wood floors that dent and scratch easily. Wood floors that we are in the process of selling. Can you hear me wincing? 

- 3 -

So earlier today I was temporarily distracted and, naturally, Leo sped towards his bedroom. I heard the telltale thump of plastic on wood and started making my way to his room when I heard him start yelling. Not crying (yet) - just baby yelling in baby frustration. I walk into his room and burst out laughing. Why? Because my son the troublemaker had managed to wrap his monitor around his neck and was trying to remove it by pulling it tighter in his chubby little hands. I wanted so badly to snap a picture but I did not have my phone and, well, he was rather upset at that point. 

- 4 -

I already shared this photo in my last post but it just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite photos of Leo so I'm sharing it again!

I mean SERIOUSLY - look at that face!!!!

- 5 -

So last year our little family still lived in Indiana when Mardi Gras rolled around and we had the most awesome little bakery within 10 minutes of our apartment. Ben was away on the interview for his current job and was not going to be back until nightfall, leaving me with the intense responsibility of purchasing Paczkis. Despite growing up in a town that had a decent Polish population I had never heard of these delicious pastries so I did not understand why it was so terribly important that we have them. Still, being a dutiful wife I purchased a variety of them and waited for Ben to return so that we could end Ordinary Time in style. OH MY GOSH! They were soooooooooo good!!!

Fast forward to present day life in Virginia. I am unaware of a really good bakery in the area and Margi Gras is looming. I've decided to make my own this year. I have no earthly idea how they will turn out and it could end up being a colossal failure and waste of flour, BUT I'm still excited to try. I have found a solid recipe for the donuts themselves and a separate recipe for a strawberry cream filling. Results will be documented and shared. 

- 6 - 

Speaking of food (always a fav topic for me), tonight I made Muffin-Cup Cheddar Beef Pies, a recipe that I grabbed out of my first issue of Simple & Delicious (Taste of Home). It calls for frozen bread dough but I didn't have any on hand so I used the beloved dough function on my bread machine (seriously, I would be lost without that amazing contraption!!!) and used this recipe. Even if the filling had been a failure, which it was most certainly was NOT, the bread alone would have made this meal worthwhile! I'm talking Melt-in-Your-Mouth-Don't-Need-Butter Goodness! Leo enjoyed several bites and probably would have polished off a whole one himself if I had let him. I'm a mean mama, however, and insisted on pushing the veggies. 

- 7 -

Packing has gone well this week thanks to a trip to the liquor store and donations from a friend who recently moved. I've managed to pack 30+ boxes since last Saturday and while that is not as much as I would have liked, it's a solid start. I cannot wait to be unpacking them in a few weeks and getting situated in our new home! 

~ Happy Friday ~

Sunday, February 2, 2014

WIWS (Vol 11)

Errrmagersh! The last time I linked up with Fine Linen and Purple was in August! Several pieces of this outfit are repeats because, well, I always want to go clothes shopping but I either don't go OR when I go I wuss out and talk myself out of preeeetty much everything. Seriously I need a fashion consultant who I can bring along and force me to go outside of my comfort zone, buy things, and dress like an adult woman. In the meantime......

Leo sneaks in on the action

How could I not post this picture???!
Before I get to the details (I know, I know - you're dying!) I just have to share this with you : So I finally got cleared to wear contact lenses again after almost 2 years of only being allowed to wear glasses. I still barely wear them because my eyes have grown quite sensitive and, well, I'm lazy. The absolute best thing about being able to wear contacts again is Leo. Every time I have them in he stares at me with this absolute look of wonder and gets so SO bashful, especially when I smile at him! It is the most adorable thing in the world and melts my heart.

Details :

Skirt : Macy's
Shirt : Target
Cardigan : Charlotte Russe
Shoes : Target

~ Happy Sunday and Blessed Candlemas ~

Friday, January 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

Like Jen this has not been the easiest of weeks for me. Leo started having a runny nose on Sunday and by Monday morning he was a fussing, miserable sick mess of a baby. Maybe it's just my imagination but I feel like he gets sick all the time! We dealt with a bad cold before, during, and after Christmas and HELLO! it is not even February and here comes another one! So Ben is back to the good 'ol daily grind of teaching and I am trying to get my act together regarding packing (more on that later) but it's hard to pack a box when Mr. Sniffles is too sad and sick to play and only wants to be held. After a few days of this I figured that something was different this time around and so I scheduled a doctor's appointment. They fit me into their 4:50 PM slot and long story short we were seen at about 6:00 PM (did I mention that Leo skipped his afternoon nap that day?). You would've thought that they were giving him shots the poor kid was so upset! Seriously, the doctor was a little unnerved herself. So yeah it turns out my poor little guy has a double ear infection! The good news is that we made it until 11 months before needing antibiotics. The even better news is that we have antibiotics and ear drops and even though he shouts death threats at us in baby speak when we give them he is doing much better now.

- 2 -

I wish that I could sit here and tell you that I handle stress and emotions in general like a champ. Yeah.... not so much. So my question to you is this - how do you learn to control your emotions instead of letting them control you? I know that I've improved a lot in the past few years but I'm not where I want to be and as a wife and mom that is pretty darn high on the priority list!

- 3 -

We are moving!!! If all goes well (knock on wood) we are going to be moving into a lovely house IN TOWN at the end of February! I cannot tell you what an answer to prayer it is and the whole process has been such a God thing that it's crrrrrazy! Here's a little anecdote to show you what I mean.....

We received an e-mail on Tuesday morning that the sellers had received a new offer on their house. We were given 72 hours to get a contract on our house. It was bad weather and we had already had 12+ showings without an offer in sight so we "knew" it was impossible. Long story short we had someone come out to the house the next morning (had to be driven by their realtor because they needed four wheel drive to get here) and had a contract by that afternoon...!!! It was a total 11th hour, God-showing-off deal and we could not be more excited

- 4 -

It seems that all that crawling around with Leo took its toll because I had to say goodbye to my favorite pair of jeans this week. It felt wrong tossing them in the trash, like maybe I should have set them on fire or buried them or at the very least given a little eulogy. *sniff sniff*

- 5 -

There is a stink bug on the floor next to me. I hate those things. I mean, I really really really really really hate those things. I know they don't bite. I know they don't sting. One day I'm just gonna have enough and go Simon Pegg on em

Overkill? They're STINK BUGS!
- 6 -

Leo and I have been having fun with forts over the past two weeks. While he enjoyed the one I made with the kitchen table his favorite by far is his crib. That's right - the hated crib doubles as his favorite play zone. One thick, fleecy blanket draped over and it is transformed into his own personal baby cave. He laughs uproariously if I crawl around the outside and sneak up on him. Seriously love this kid.

- 7 -

The buyers did the whole home inspection thing last Friday and so Leo and I had to vacate the premises. Naturally it was during nap time so that made things a different level of interesting. Thanks to the generosity of one of my friends we were able to crash at her place and revel in new surroundings, different toys (fun ones!), and even sneak in a nap. Using the app that Katrina told me about I was able to snap these photos of Leo while we were there

Leo eats the baby doll. Clearly we have work to do.

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, January 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes

I'm a bit late to the game and not even sure I can type these babies before my actual baby wakes up but what the heck, why not give it a shot? Apologies for the rambling and incoherency!


- 1 -

It's funny what goes through your mind when you're holding a flailing, wailing baby. There's the obvious How is it possible that someone under 30 lbs is practically overpowering me right now? or There's no way that the piece of paper in your mouth was that delicious! But then something absurd occurred to me - I used to teach parenting classes... once a week for over a year and a half at the crisis pregnancy center I stood in front of a room full of real parents telling them what they ought to be doing (or not doing as the case may be). When I started out I was single; not yet dating my future husband and with nary a child of my own. Please feel free to laugh - I certainly did yesterday.

- 2 -

My go-to line when a client would ask me "Do you even have kids?" was either "I've babysat a lot" or "I've spent a lot of time with my nieces." It was a question that was usually asked with a lot of attitude, especially when it came from a client who was considering abortion. At the time it made me feel very defensive and even annoyed. I mean, how hard could it be? How different could it be, parenting versus babysitting? The only real difference is that you're around the kids longer, ya know? 

Before you whip out your brass knuckles please let me assure you - the "teacher" has been schooled! Believing that babysitting prepares you for or is the same as parenting is kind of like a kid who thinks he's ready to have a puppy because he's kept his Tamagotchi alive and happy.

There ain't a button for the real thing, kid
- 3 -

Before we got to hold him :)

Pregnancy in and of itself had a huge impact on my approach to counseling and I am so glad that I worked at the crisis pregnancy center during that time. Nausea sounds so doable when it's hypothetical. Or at least it did to me. Then it hit and man oh man, God only knows how many times Ben and my coworkers heard me say "I'm going to die" during those first two trimesters!!! It wasn't even that bad as far as "morning" sickness goes - I'm just a wuss (Ben will back me up on this). I can only imagine what it will be like to experience all of that with a little one around. At least I hope and pray that I will get to experience that because as tough as it is, what on earth compares to feeling your child move inside of you? Sure it can get annoying (especially a hard kick to the ribs at 3 AM) but it's pretty freakin' cool all the same!

- 4 -
I'm not even going to touch on the issue of labor and delivery (YET! Leo's birth story will venture into that special territory). For now suffice it to say that the books I read and movie(s) I watched did not quite prep me for the real thing. Shocking, I know. On the upside I am almost looking forward to going through it again at some point (if God blesses us with another little one) so that I can try and do a better job! Ben was a little horrified when I told him that and asked for us to please change topics.

- 5 -

So yeah, pregnancy and delivery weren't what I expected or what I told clients to expect (wince). As a result I guess it shouldn't have come as a shock that motherhood would be so different. It was and it is. During pregnancy I kept telling Ben that I did not want us to be like most first-time parents - I wanted us to be eclectic, relaxed, and just figure things out as they came. It turns out that you can't not be first time parents. When your baby gets sick it's probably gonna freak you out a lot little. You may or may not make an unnecessary trip to Urgent Care. You may or may not clip too much of your baby's nails and draw blood, thus convincing you that you are the worst parent in all of existence. The thing is that I don't think you can really know what kind of a parent you are going to be until you are one. Maybe you'll be the parent you envisioned and handle things with grace, wisdom, and sanctity. Or maybe you'll be a little bit more like me. In a recent post Jen said
It would be awesome if your kids could have a mom who had the holiness of Mother Teresa, the energy of Mary Poppins, and the domestic skills of Martha Stewart. But if you’re not there yet, saying “I love you guys and I love Jesus and I’m doing the best I can” works too.
- 6 -

Here's to the moments when we feel like we supermom. Maybe it's because we cleaned the house, made an awesome dinner, kept the baby entertained and happy all day, and have a nice evening lined up. Or maybe it's because you kept your cool in the midst of that surprise poop explosion that took place fifteen minutes into a long car trip. Whatever it is, whenever it is - celebrate!

- 7 -

With his first birthday approaching I think it's safe to say that I will spend the rest of motherhood discovering how little I know and how grateful I am for God's grace, my incredible husband, my amazing little boy, and the wonderful life I have been blessed with!

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes : Recipes Edition

I have had some fun adventures in the kitchen over the past several weeks and I figured why not share them and link up with Jen at the same time!

- 1 -
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Idiot Proof Baking
Super delicious cookies! Seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever tasted! They were pretty good when hot but actually much more yummy once they had cooled. 

Ingredients (yield : 3 dozen)
  • 3/4 C butter
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 - 1 tsp salt (depends on your preference)
  • 1 1/2 C chocolate chips
  • Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla - beat well.
  • Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. 
  • Stir in chocolate chips
  • Drop onto parchment paper or greased surface and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Place pan on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing cookies (important!)
- 2 -
Better Than Brownies Cookies

Quadrupled the recipe. Surprise yield of 16 dozen cookies. Oops.
These cookies are a chocolate lover's dream. I certainly had my fair share over the holidays! I kept waiting to get sick of them but I never did (one of those good things that's also a bad thing). I certainly would discourage you from quadrupling the recipe! That is unless you want to be up to your elbows (literally) in chocolate. Who knew the Kitchen Aid bowl was that deep?! My mother-in-law told me that she doesn't even double a recipe if she can help it. Considering that her cookies are awesome I think I'll follow her lead from now on and just make several separate batches.

  • 16 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⅓ C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ C all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 C semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.
  • In the meantime, stir together the eggs, vanilla and sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
  • Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine well. Slowly add the dry ingredients, folding them into the batter. Once all of the flour is incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Scoop 1½ tablespoons of dough (a medium cookie scoop's worth) onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are firm on the outside. Like brownies, do not over-bake! Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets. 

 - 3 -
Apple Cheddar Scones

My husband and I agreed that while these are some very yummy scones, the next time I make these I will add more cheddar and apple. The end result was great but still felt like it needed a little more oomph! Found out today that this is easily remedied by applying apple butter. SO GOOD!!! I should also say they almost require tea as a companion. I originally made these goodies for a book club I was hoping to go to but after a long day and the onslaught of snow/rain I stayed in. As far as nights in go it's a little hard to beat sipping tea and eating a warm scone while watching Elementary. Anyways, on to the recipe!
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 C cold butter
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 C shredded cheddar (will use more in the future)
  • 1 C diced peeled apple (ditto)
  •  In a bowl combine the first five ingredients 
  • Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  • Stir in buttermilk until just moistened (I had to add several heaping tablespoons of flour after I failed to pay close enough attention to this step)
  • Fold in cheese and apples
  • Pat in a 9" circle and cut into 8 wedges
  • Separate wedges and place on greased baking sheet
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown 
I got a pastry blender for Christmas and was inappropriately excited to have a chance to use it for this recipe. Seriously, I know it's a simple cutting action but I have never been able to use two knives to get butter to blend in properly.

- 4 -
Cranberry Brie Bites

Mine did not achieve this perfect golden brown color
I am stealing this recipe from Tablespoon because the pictures are amazing and I cannot seem to locate the original website that I used. The recipe calls for cranberry sauce but I imagine that you could use jam just as easily. The next time I make these guys I think I'm going to increase the amount of brie used per pastry. Basically I think that if you can add more cheese to a recipe you almost have to. Also, we sampled these hot and after they had cooled and we both thought they were much tastier after having cooled. Just a thought.

  • 1 package (17 1/4 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed 
  • 1/2 lb Brie cheese
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Thaw the frozen puff pastry, and cut with a pizza cutter.  The puff pastry sheet I used was folded in thirds.  I cut down those lines, then cut the sheet into quarters the other direction.
  • Place each puff pastry square into a separate holder ofmini muffin tin  
  • Fill with brie and cranberry sauce.  
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown on the edges.
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

- 5 -
Applesauce Pork Loin
Clearly not my picture
This is the best pork I have ever tasted. I found the recipe at Taste of Home and it's just perfect - not a lot of ingredients, not a lot of prep required, and a whole lot of flavor as the end result! The only negative thing I will say is that the cooking time has been way off both of the times I have made this. The pork has been completely thawed both times and I have followed every step of the directions completely so I have no idea what that's about. Oh well - it's worth the wait! We had leftovers after both meals and I chopped up the remaining pork (including the sauce) and sauteed it with mushrooms then added eggs and it was kind of amazing. 
  • 1 boneless pork loin roast (3 lbs)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 C applesauce
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown roast on all sides in oil. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Combine the applesauce, mustard and honey; spread over roast. Top with rosemary.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until a thermometer reads 145°. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Yield: 10-12 servings.
- 6 -
Chicken Suiza Cornbread Bake
Not my photo either - I don't do garnish. Ain't nobody got time for that!
I found this recipe at All Recipes and between the reviews and the ingredients I knew I had to try it! It requires a little bit more prep than I prefer with our dinners but again, totally worth it! The one thing I will say is that Frank's Red Hot Sauce or Sriracha Sauce make a B-I-G difference in the flavor! I wouldn't include them in the cooking process but some liberal use of either when it comes to eating and you have a scrumptious meal ahead of you!
Ingredients (Crust)
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cream-style corn, drained
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C egg substitute (I used real eggs)
  • 1 (8.5 ounce) package corn bread mix
Ingredients (Chicken Topping) 
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp canned green chile peppers, chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (ran out - used canned)
  • 1 1/2 C reduced-fat sour cream (yeah right - used regular sour cream)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 8 oz package Monterey Jack cheese, shredded  
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  • Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender.
  • Dice one or two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and stir them into the skillet after the onions and garlic are soft. Cook and stir about 5 minutes; the chicken pieces should be cooked through, and will continue to cook as the casserole bakes. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  • In a large bowl, combine corn, cream-style corn, salt, and egg substitute. Beat in muffin mix. Fold in cooked onion mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, combine chicken, green chiles, mushrooms, sour cream, salt and pepper. Spoon over corn mixture to within 1 inch from edge. Sprinkle top with cheese.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
- 7 -
Healthy Mexican Chicken Bake
While I did not take this picture this is exactly what the end result looked like
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Mexican cheese blender
  • 1 C salsa
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season one side of chicken breasts with half the cumin, half the garlic powder, salt, and black pepper; arrange chicken breasts with seasoned sides down in the hot oil. Fry until chicken is lightly browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Season the top of each chicken breast with the remaining cumin, remaining garlic powder, salt, and black pepper; flip chicken and cook until other side is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. If the skillet gets dry, pour in just enough juice from the salsa to keep it from burning.
  • Transfer chicken breasts to a 9x9-inch baking dish; sprinkle with Mexican cheese blend. Loosen all the drippings from the skillet with a little more juice from the salsa and pour on top of chicken breasts. Spoon salsa over cheese layer. 
  • Bake chicken breasts until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, 20 to 25 minutes.  
Another recipe off of All Recipes! Because I am lazy and did not want to bother with dirtying and washing another dish I used a cast iron skillet and simply put it in the oven when it was time to bake. It is really tasty and goes great with rice and refried beans. Heck, if you wanted to you could shred the chicken after it bakes and just make burritos or fajitas or tacos or, well, you get the idea :)

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, January 3, 2014

Let's Catch Up

Remember that one time when I was all like "hey I am blogging again!" and then I made good on that for like, oh I dunno, two days? Yeah..... good times....

So let's catch up!


Leo and his Papa

Leo is now 10 months old (!) and has a mouthful of eight teeth. He crawls and even pulls himself up on occasion. He has one of the strangest crawls I have ever seen - his right leg basically stays crooked beneath him (like he's in the sitting position) but the rest of him is in the crawling position. It makes him off-balance so we have had falls aplenty, especially with the hardwood and tile floors. He babbles a fair bit and seems to show a growing understanding with "mama" and "dada" but it's not consistent yet. He is a sweetheart and tends to be very warm towards others, but he does have a fiery temper and when something happens that he doesn't like he finds a way to express it! 
- 2 -

Leo was the sheep the grandkids' Christmas pageant. Naturally he stole the show....

- 3 -

Every time it starts to snow this is all I want to do

That right there just might be the best moment in movie history

- 4 -

Ben and I continued our tradition of spending New Year's Eve watching a kid's movie. This year we sipped wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers while watching Over the Hedge. We didn't even bother trying to stay up until midnight.

- 5 -
Long story short we put our house on the market about a week before Christmas. It happens to be the worst time of year to list a house so if you feel like sending some prayers our way we would sure be grateful! 

- 6 -

My side project
So a few months ago we decided to get a door for Ben's office. We wanted it to be a solid wood door so that it would match the other doors of the house but as it turns out solid wood doors are $$$$! So I was on the phone with my mom and lo and behold she has a free door that is exactly the size we need and if we want it it's ours! I didn't realize that it was painted so when it arrived I was a little disappointed but hey, free is FREE! I decided that I was going to refinish it and set up shop in our garage. Suffice it to say that my little side project did not end up being so little after all. Instead of taking me a week or two it took me a little over two months and God knows how many hours. Our contractor felt so bad for me that he lent me his sander AND installed it for free! It's hard to express how good it feels every time I see that door (poorly stained as it is). 

- 7 -

This is one of the best things I have ever seen <3

~ Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ~