Thursday, December 30, 2010

Letter to Lincoln

Dear Lincoln,

Today is December 30th. You are 2 and a half months old and getting more and more fun by the day! You are just becoming so alert and smiley all the time! When you wake up in the morning, you don't cry, you just sort of gurgle and grunt around until I wake up and I can tell you are ready for the day. As soon as I look at you, you get the biggest smile on your face! You just love to be awake!

I've never met anyone who fights sleep like you! It is the biggest struggle to get you to sleep. As soon as you start falling asleep, you pop your eyes open as if you are refusing to let in. Then, if we do actually get you to sleep, you usually sleep for about a half hour and then wake up. Then, if we try to get you back to sleep, you just give us a huge grin. It's the cutest thing in the world! The good news is, you usually aren't too grumpy, but sometimes you just get soooo tired from fighting your sleep that you just need a good cry. Those times are pretty few and far between though. We are quite blessed that you are such a good baby!

Here are some of my favorite things about this stage:
-One of my favorite things is watching you learn. Your eyes are so intelligent and you just take in the world as if you don't want to miss a thing. Two of your favorite things to stare at are the letters on the wall in your nursery that dad painted, and the wall-hang with the Celtic knots on it that Grandpa Lewis brought home from Wales.
-You are still my little cuddle bug. You just want to be held the whole day long. It's frustrating sometimes, but at the same time it's my favorite part of the day when I can just hold you. You love to be in your little baby sling, cuddled against my chest. When I need to walk Mayzie, I put you in that sling and put a hoodie around both of us and you love it. I could take you anywhere, as long as you are in the sling, you are happy! Sometimes when you are fighting sleep, I put you in the sling and just stand and read. It calms you down and you go right to sleep.
-Your chin is ticklish. Every time I kiss you or wipe spit-up off your chin, you think it's so funny! I would love to just tickle your chin the whole day to get smiles from you!
-You are just so happy! Sometimes when we are smiling and playing, you get so happy that you double over! It's the cutest thing!
-You have discovered your hands. You love to play with your fingers- especially while you are eating. Also, while you are being held, you usually will hold onto the neckline of the shirt of whoever is holding you.

I love you the most, my baby boy! I am so blessed that you're mine!
Love,
Your mom

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

My little Stud Puffin

John and Tracie gave Lincoln this bib for Christmas. Isn't it awesome?



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake

For a work pot luck, I made an oh-so-delicious pumpkin cheesecake! It turned out beautiful! Here is the delicious recipe:

1 cup crushed ginger snaps
2 Tbl melted butter
3 8 oz pkgs cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 cups sour cream
3 Tbl sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350* F. Mix ginger snap crumbs with melted butter. Press evenly into springform pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven to 300* F. Beat cream cheese with 1 cup sugar and the salt. Add 3 of the eggs and the 2 tsp of vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Pour half the mix into the pan.

Stir in pumpkin, spices, and remaining egg into the rest of the batter. Spread over the regular cheesecake batter. Bake for 60 minutes or until set in the center.

During the last couple minutes of baking, beat together sour cream, remaining sugar and remaining vanilla. Once you remove the cheesecake from the over, spread this mixture over the baked cheesecake. Bake for 10 more minutes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2 Months?!?!

As of yesterday, my little man is 2 months old! I can't believe how fast time flies!!!!!

Here are some of my favorite things he does:
He smiles and coos, especially while we are changing his diaper
He loves staring at the letters on his nursery wall
He loves his bath, especially getting his head scrubbed
He can rollover from his stomach to his back
He loves it when we wiggle our tongues- it makes him laugh
He clicks his tongue
He does what Tom calls the "tadpole" move- He moves his head from side to side like a tadpole swimming trying to find either food or his binkie

I sure do love this little guy!!!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Lunch

Today for lunch I'm having homemade roasted vegetable soup, homemade whole wheat sunflower seed bread, and a diet pepsi. Ok, so a little unbalanced. But here are the delicious, delicious recipes!

Whole Wheat Sunflower Seed Bread:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbl Powdered milk
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, finely chopped
4 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbl honey

Dissolve yeast in water and let sit for 5 minutes

In large bowl stir together white flour, whole wheat flour, salt, powdered milk, and sunflower seeds until completely incorporated. Add olive oil, honey and yeast water until dough forms. If it is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time. If too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time.

Turn onto floured surface or use a kitchen aid mixer to knead for 2-3 minutes until dough springs back when touched. Shape dough into a loaf and place into a greased bread pan. Let bread rise for an hour in warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375* F. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until bread sounds hollow when tapped and is golden brown. Cover the top with butter.


Roasted Vegetable Soup:
Serves 10

3 sweet potatoes
4 potatoes
1 lb carrots
3 red peppers
1 yellow pepper
1 stalk celery
6-8 cups beef broth (or any other broth or stock)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Cut all vegetables into bite size pieces. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in 350* oven for about 45 minutes.

Puree 3/4 of the vegetables and thin out with the broth until a good consistency. Flavor with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the other vegetables and bring back up to a simmer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giving Thanks

This time of year is the greatest, isn't it? It begins with Thanksgiving where we get the opportunity to look at our lives and really acknowledge how lucky we are, and then spend the next month or so full of parties, family, food and, of course gifts!
I think too often that we take for granted all the great things in our lives. It's so great to be able to slow down for a minute and appreciate it. Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with just how lucky I am (Since about October 14th to be exact...) I have sooo much to be thankful for this holiday season!
I have to begin my list with my baby and my husband. I feel so lucky to be a mother to the most amazing kid ever! I could never really picture myself as a mom, or that it was something I really ever wanted. But now that he is in my life, I can't imagine how I could have ever lived without him! It seems so natural to take care of him and absolutely love every second of it! I hate when I have to leave him, even if it is just to go to the store for a couple minutes. He is in perfect health and is gaining weight like a mad man! We couldn't ask for a better baby and I am so grateful that he is in my life!
My husband is the greatest man in the world. It's been almost 5 years and I still am ridiculously in love! At times he frustrates me so much that I just want to scream, but I couldn't imagine my life without him. He still makes me laugh every single day and I couldn't ask for a more patient man. He puts up with my faults and loves me anyway. There is no way I could have gotten through the pregnancy and delivery without him.
He was by my side the entire time and such a great support to me. I am so glad I had him there to hold my hand every step of the way. My favorite part of every day is when we are both home, getting ready for bed, watching TV and cuddling with Mayzie and Lincoln! To me, that is Heaven!
One of the things I love most about him is that he is such a great dad! Nothing makes me happier than seeing my husband adore our son. He just loves that little Link so much! Sometimes I can hear him talking to Link while he is changing his diaper
or giving him a bath in his little cutesy voice and it makes me smile every time. Since I have gone back to work, Tom and Link get to spend that whole time with each other and I know that Link is in the most capable, caring hands that he could possibly be in.
Our little family wouldn't be complete without my little Mayzie Day! She lights up my life! Such a happy girl! Always so excited to see us! She doesn't really get the attention she used to get anymore, but I am still so grateful to her and the happiness she brings to us!

I could go on and on about all the things and people I am grateful for, but this post would be about 80 pages long. I sure am a lucky girl!!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Baking

One of my favorite things about the holidays is making candy and doing all the holiday baking! When I was younger, my mom and grandma would do demonstrations at the Festival of Trees on how to make Christmas Candy, specifically making and dipping chocolates, and us young kids would be the hired help.

Last night I made two of my favorite holiday treats and sent some with Tom to his work and brought some in to my work. I had many people request the recipes because they are pretty much the most delicious things ever! The fudge recipe has been handed down from my great-grandpa, so you know it's good!

Kartchner Fudge

12 oz chocolate chips

1/2 lb butter or margarine

chopped nuts

4 cups sugar

1 can evaporated milk

30 marshmallows

Put chocolate chips, butter, and nuts in a glass bowl. Set aside. Bring the sugar and canned milk to a boil, stirring constantly, until it reaches 242*. At the last minute, stir in the 30 marshmallows and continue to stir until melted. Pour into the first bowl until the chocolate chips and butter are melted. Pour the fudge into a buttered 9x13 pan and allow to set up.

Soda Cracker Toffee

Saltine crackers

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup REAL butter (if you use margarine, it will not be crunchy, it will be soft and won't be nearly as delightful)

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick spray. Put 1 layer of saltine crackers. Boil together the butter and brown sugar for 2 minutes. Spoon over the saltines. Bake at 350* for 5 minutes. Take out of oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crackers. Let sit for 2 minutes and spread chocolate across the top. Allow to cool completely in fridge and break into pieces to serve.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Secret Confession

I'm in love.... with Mr. Darcy. And to me, Colin Firth is the only Mr. Darcy, ever.

mmmmmmmmmmm...... I'll take 2 please.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our nursery

Netty


Next week it will have been 6 months since my little Netty girl died. I still miss her so much. It's amazing how big a void such a small creature can create when they are gone.

There is something so special about disabled animals, I have found. Anything they lack in physical ability is more than made up for with the capacity to love. At least that was the case with Netty and
I definitely hold a special place in my heart anytime I hear about a "lesser abled" animal because of her. I just am so glad that I was able to take care of her while she was here.

One of my favorite things about her was that you could never tell HER that she was disabled. According to her, anything Mayzie did, she could do too. She used to throw a fit if Mayzie got to go on a walk without her. We tried to keep her inside in the winter because she would get so cold with her bad circulation and also, if she walked on anything other than grass, her back feet would get torn up when she walked due to them dragging. But if we were anywhere near the door with a leash for Mayzie, Netty would start whining and throwing a fit to come too. Sometimes I couldn't open the door to go outside without her squeezing out and running as fast as she could down the side walk.



This is how I almost always saw her. If she could have just slept on my lap all day long she would be in heaven. When I would get up, she would give me a look of what looked to me like annoyance that I would dare disturb her when she was comfortable.

For some reason she loved to use my slipper as a chew toy. It was just about the same size as her, but she would whip it back and forth, showing that little slipper who was boss. Then when she got bored of fighting it, she would use it as a pillow.

I came across this picture just a couple weeks ago. You probably have to look close, but Netty is there, cuddled under Mayzie. Ever since Netty died, Mayzie has been much more cuddly with Tom and I, and much more clingy. She hates being left alone now, when she used to seem to not mind it so much because she had Netty to keep her company.

It was so funny to watch Mayzie and Netty play. You would think that Mayzie would be the bully because she was so much stronger and bigger than Netty, but that was not the case at all. Netty would chase her around the house until finally Mayzie would get sick of it, jump on the couch and just stare at Netty because she knew she couldn't get her up there. Netty would keep on trying to jump up to get her though. "Determined" in an understatement when talking about Netty. I have even seen Netty pull Mayzie off the couch if Mayzie let her guard down enough to allow any part of her body (ears, mainly) within Netty's reach.

This is one of the last pictures we ever took of her. Tom got her that little sweater for Christmas. It was too big on her, but she sure looked cute in that little hoodie. Because of her poor circulation, she was cold all the time. We kept a little sweater on her pretty much from September to April to keep her from shivering.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tommy

I was just reading an article on Complimenting your way to a happier marriage. I absolutely loved this article! I thought it was so true! Sometimes we just take our husbands for granted. I know I do. I wish I didn't, but it definitely happens. So I just wanted to take this time to talk about how amazing my husband is and how glad I am that he is my husband!
The first thing that needs to be said about Tom is how funny he is! He makes me laugh every single day. I love his sense of humor, he is a complete goof ball and he is so much fun to be around. He is a completely unique individual who lives by his own rules. He doesn't let things get to him. Both those things can be frustrating for me sometimes, but I need to learn from his example and start taking life as it comes instead of worrying about what could be.
Tommy is a very smart man. He seems to always interject into conversations with random facts that no one should ever really know. I love being able to talk to him and to hear him get on a
subject that he is really passionate about.
I could go on about the things I love about Tom forever, but I probably ought to get on to something more productive. I just want to finish with how excited I am to see him be a dad! I know he is going to be amazing. Any doubts I have about my own parenting skills are made up for because I know he will be by my side. He is sooo good with kids and has only ever wanted a family. I couldn't ask for a better partner in parenthood and can't wait to get started!

All in all, I am an extremely lucky woman to have found such a perfect partner for me. I couldn't be happier with spending forever with such a great man.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Croquembouche

May's challenge for the Daring Bakers was a Piece Montée or Croquembouche. I have always heard them called Croqembouche, so that is what I am going to call it. A classic Croquembouche is a pyramid or cone of basically custard filled puff pastries glued together with caramel, decorated with spun sugar, flowers, or chocolate. It is what is used as the traditional wedding cake in France. I have always thought they looked so beautiful and have always wanted to try my hand at it so I was excited to do it!

Making the Pate a Choux (puff pastry) from scratch turned out to be a struggle for me. My first batch was waaaayyyy too runny and turned into egg flavored disks. My second batch turned out perfectly though. I forgot to brush the egg wash over them before they cooked but they still browned nicely, so that is good.

I ran out of the custard before all the cream puffs were filled, but I did have some chocolate whipped cream in the fridge. I ended up using that to fill the rest and they were just as good if not better than the custard filled ones.

Here is what a traditional Croquembouche is supposed to look like:

And here is what mine looked like:

Soooooo.... not quite the same. But it was still delicious! And was more than enough for 7 people for dessert with leftovers.

Here is the recipe as given to us by Little Miss Cupcake:

Ingredients:

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!


Monday, May 24, 2010

It's a Boy!!!!!

I wanted to post the little video they gave me, but apparently I can't figure out how to do it. Maybe once I learn I will post it, but until then, cyber-world, you just get this picture. Isn't he cute?!?!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls

For Mother's Day this year, my family gave my mom a day of service, working in the yard. While the fam was hard at work outside, I stayed in my element and made cinnamon rolls for a big Mother's Day brunch. They ended up quite ridiculously tasty, if I may say so myself! I had some requests for the recipe so I thought I would share it with anyone who was so inclined.



Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls

Recipe from Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur


Rolls

1 package active dry yeast (¼ oz size)

1 cup warm milk (105-110° F)

½ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup margarine

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

4 cups all purpose flour


Filling

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 ½ Tbl cinnamon

1/3 cup margarine, softened

Icing

8 Tbl margarine, softened

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

¼ cup (2 oz) cream cheese

½ tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

1. For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.

2. Mix together the sugar, margarine, salt and eggs. Add flour, and mix well.

3. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough flat until it is approximately 21 inches long and 16 inches wide. It should be about ¼ inch thick.

5. Preheat oven to 400°F.

6. For the filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened margarine evenly over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar evenly over the surface.

7. Working carefully from the top (a 21-inch side), roll the dough down to the bottom edge.

8. Cut the rolled dough into 1 ¾ inch slices and place 6 at a time evenly spaced, in a lightly greased baking pan. Let the rolls rise again until double in size (about 30 minutes). Bake for 10 minutes, or until light brown on top.

9. While the rolls bake, combine the icing ingredients. Beat well with an electric mixer until fluffy. When the rolls come out of the oven, coat each generously with icing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pictures of Tom and me


In November, my extremely talented roommate from my freshman year of college took some pictures of Tom and I. We hadn't had any professional pictures of us since our wedding and wanted some to show off how damn good-looking we are!!!! :) She is amazing and did such a great job! Here are some of my favorites that she took. Thanks again Bekah!