Thanksgiving 2015

As I sit here enjoying leftover pumpkin pie, getting to reflect on our past Thanksgiving celebrations, I’m loving the idea of celebrating and setting aside a day to rest in God’s grace and bounty.  Maybe that’s what Sunday was originally meant to be, the original Thanksgiving, only now it’s been reduced to  a single day a year.  Let’s challenge ourselves to begin again, maybe start out slow, set aside one Sunday a month; gather with friends, gather with family, stuff yourselves silly and enjoy your blessed life.

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After Thanksgiving, Friday was spent in jammies all day long, online black friday shopping for the win!  Saturday, indulging in leftovers once again.  Rounded out our weekend on Sunday with church, Target and a dinner that was cooked by my husband!  Dropping Eli off at the toddler area was so sweet.  This was the first time he has gotten to go be with toddlers instead of babies and he didn’t look back once.  Bittersweet moment for sure.

I’m spending today trying to get our December planned and lots of fun things planned, I hope you are all enjoying this celebratory time of year!

 

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Highs and Lows

This is going to be a little rambly as I make chocolate cake, watch Firday Night Lights, work out and catch you all up on our weekend.

I remember watching The Story of Us when Kenny and I were in high school and LOVING that they did high/low around the table, so much that I told Kenny that I wanted to do that all the time, 13 years later, we have done it maybe 10 times.  I still love the concept though and this weekend was certainly filled with a lot of high/low, so let’s get into it.

Low:  Eli has been a little temper tantrum throwing brat, including throwing himself on the wall, the floor- he looks like a Disney princess throwing themsleves down to burst into tears.  He has been hitting! me anytime we have to leave the park and just in general been a dramatic, whiny little guy.  I have little to no patience and in general am feeling terrible about my ability to parent and manage my child.

High:  Whew, that was a pretty big low, but now the opposite end of that low,  Eli is potty training!  I have been workinng with him for a couple weeks and when I had his diaper off of him the last couple times, he has run to the bathroom and gone on his little potty all by himself!!!  He is also starting to talk so much more, it’s amazing!  That kid drives me crazy with his ability to push me to the end of my rope and then fill me up with all this joy by being so loving and sweet and then making big improvements in his develpoment.  Parenthood is rough guys, so much up, so much down.

You know this weekend was so wonderful and we had this amazing family day, we went to the hot springs, made major progress on our room.  Through out all of this, I kept thinking about the fact that there are certain things or people, words that I wear around me like a blanket and family days are one of them.   They are the times that I feel known, safe, whole.  I curl up into those moments and wrap myself in them like a blanket.  As we head into this Thanksgiving week,  I hope you all have lots of “blanket moments.”

Flaky Pie Crust

Last week I talked about that delicious fall ice cream, but neglected to include the pie crust recipe; I’m here to remedy that situation.

I use the same pie crust that my mom used, that her mom used, and so on and so forth.  Aren’t those the best recipes?  I love getting out the family cookbook and picking something from it, anything to conjure up feelings of sitting in the kitchen with delicious holiday treats being baked up all around me while I gleaned bits of baking wisdom and cookie dough :).  Here’s the thing though, about half way through the holiday baking frenzy, my mom would start to lose her mind and kick everyone out of the kitchen.  The reason?  Pie crust.  Seems to me that just about everyone else that I know has had a similar experience, pie crust is a challenge for the novice and the veteran baker, but with a couple tricks it can come together and roll out like a dream.

First things first, kick everyone out of the kitchen!  I think the big problem was my mom allowing us all into the kitchen for “family time” pie crust is the time to be by yourself, let the kids into the kitchen  when its time to lick the beaters after mixing up brownies.

Butter should be cool, but not cold.  Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to mix everything up.

Step away from the mixer.  Pie crust can be done in the food processor (my preference!) or by hand with a pastry blender, basically, you want to cut the butter into the flour not blend it in.

Lets get to it!

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter (cool, cubed)

2 tbls. cold water

Mix flour and salt together.

Add the butter into the flour, cut the butter into the flour, until the butter is about the size of peas.  In a food processor, you’ll hit pulse about 8 times.

Slowly add in the water, if mixing by hand, just keep using the pastry cutter, until everything comes together, you may need to use a spoon or your hands towards the end.  In the food processor, turn it on and let it run while adding the water in; everything will come together very quickly.

Once the dough has come together, form it into a disc, about 6 inches in diameter.   Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.  *If making a crust for a pie that needs a lid, double the recipe and make 2 sepearte discs of dough, be sure to keep the dough that is waiting to be worked with covered, pie dough dries out very quickly.

The struggle with pie crust is keeping the temperature correct for the butter to stay cool enough to create all those flaky layers.   The temperature you want is just barely pliable butter.  Cool, but not hard cold, it should barely bend, not break.

Once dough has chilled for a bit, dust your counter top and rolling pin with flour.  Gently roll out the dough, continuing to rotate, flip and lift it, dusting flour each time.  Anything you can do to keep the dough from sticking.  I prefer a thicker pie crust for pies (1/4″) however for the bits going into the ice cream, really thin, so that it is nice a crispy.

Lastly!  While not necessary flavor wise, brushing the crust with an egg wash and sprinkling a littel sugar or salt (or both!)  makes for a very pretty presentation!

 

 

Musings on Motherhood

I don’t feel bad letting Eli cry it out when we need to get his sleep back on schedule.  I know that so many parents can’t handle the tears, but I am heartless and cold, so cry all you want baby boy, you need the sleep.  However all bets are off past a half hour, everyone has their limits. image image

I firmly believe that my “time off” is between 8pm and 7am.  If Eli wakes up, it is basically the same as your average person getting a phone call from their boss telling them to be at work in 5 seconds.  Which is why the idea of going through newborn sleep deprivation is making me drag my feet for baby number 2.

Eli was a surprise baby and the idea of “trying” for another is such a foreign concept.  Sounds like a ton of pressure.

My favorite thing to do with Eli is chase him all around the house, he runs and screams and just has so much fun.  What is most funny about it though, is that he is doesn’t fully understand the concept of chase so he just stands there giggling, waiting for me to catch him.

When Kenny was little he showed a strong preference for his dad, which must surely be a genetic thing, because if Kenny is around, I’m invisible.  The other night Eli took the book I was trying to read him for bedtime and brought it to Kenny- 3 times!!  Whatever, when he is sick, I’m all he wants.

I’ve started trying to make new mom friends and it is so bizarre!  Kenny and I have been together since we were 14, meaning I’ve never been in the dating scene, but I feel as though that is perhaps a similar situation.  I just look for moms with children similar in age to mine and stalk them, not super weird at all.

Eli’s vocabulary has been expanding like crazy, but not in any kind of calculable way.  He says words, but won’t ever repeat them.  Whenever he is reading his animal books alone, he makes all the animal sounds, but again, never when anyone asks.  It’s so frustrating, but at the same time, what can I expect from someone with such stubborn parents.

 

 

Caramel Apple Pie Ice Cream

There are few things in the world that I crave less than ice cream, and despite the fact that I am ever so slightly lactose intolerant, I continue to deal with the tummy aches, just to get my “fix.” Ben and Jerry used to top my list, however haggen-daz has the most homemade flavor; most likely due to their pared down ingredient list. When I’m willing to deny my cravings for the immediate fix and make homemade ice cream though? Nothing has been able to compare. I like to stick to the same yolk/cream/milk/sugar ratio for all my ice creams; I stole it from David Lebovitz’s amazing chocolate ice cream recipe.
While many people feel as though ice cream is a warm weather staple, I’m game anytime of the year and always looking to incorporate the seasons. Introducing, Caramel Apple Pie Ice Cream!! How excited are you?? Roasted apples, apple syrup, caramel ice cream mixed with sweeetened pie crust? The perfect fall transition dessert

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Homemade ICe cream is well worth the effort,but can be a little tricky.
The greatest invention for all baked apple desserts has got to be The Pampered Chef apple peeler, corer, slicer! If you don’t have this great, however bulky and single task piece of equipment, just be sure to thinly slice your apples.
Be sure to read the recipe all the way through before starting,
Make sure your freezer bowl is well frozen, at least 12 hours in the freezer before mixing.

Let’s get started!
Pie crust, rolled out to 1/8 to 1/4″ brushed with egg wash, sprinkled with sea salt and sugar in the raw, baked until golden.

4 large apples peeled, cored, thinly sliced (21 oz./ 6 cups) I prefer Granny Smith, however a mix with some other firm apples in there shouldn’t sway the outcome too much. Just know that the sweeter apples will make a sweeter ice cream.
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (do not skip the nutmeg! Nutmeg is like grown up cinnamon, a more subdued spice, but plenty of fall flavor)

Heat oven to 375*
Combine the above ingredients and roast for about 45 minutes, until apples are soft, remember that they will be frozen and you don’t want hard chunks to bite through.
Strain roasted apples, reserving the apple juice.
You’ll want about a quarter cup of juice, if you have more, heat the juice up on the stove at a low, slow simmer, until it is a quarter cup.
Set aside.

1 cup sugar

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Heat up the sugar on medium, stirring every couple minutes until the sugar liquefies and turns a lovely amber color. (I let mine go a little too long)
Pay extra close attention to this step, sugar burns FAST!
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

Combine and heat up the milk, cream and apple juice, let simmer until heated throughout, about 110*
Slowly drizzle the heated milk/cream into the caramelized sugar.
If you are perhaps an impatient person that does not like to follow direction and you didn’t wait until your dairy was heated to combine it with the sugar (ahem, me) DON’T FRET! The sugar will seize up and harden, but you will just need to continue stirring and stirring until the sugar dissolves. It will dissolve as everything becomes the same temperature.

5 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. sea salt

Combine the above and whip them all together a bit. Slowly drizzle the heated, caramelized milk into the egg.
Pour the whole ice cream base into the saucepan and heat over medium until the temperature registers 150* or the mixture coats a spoon (meaning when you run your figure down the back of the spoon, through the ice cream, does the ice cream keep the line, or bleed over? The ice cream should stay put.)
Strain through a fine mesh strainer, into a metal or glass bowl (if you must do plastic, fine, but glass or metal will cool quicker)
Stir in the roasted apples from before.
Place bowl into an ice bath (a larger bowl with ice and water)
Stir every 10 minutes or so, for about a couple hours.
If you are in a hurry, once the ice cream base is cool, pour into the ice cream maker.
For a creamier ice cream, it is best to let the ice cream base sit covered in the fridge overnight so that it is chilled through out.
Freeze the ice cream according to your manufacturers directions.

Stir in crumbled up pie crust.
Pour into a container for the freezer and cover tightly, open air is the enemy of ice cream.

Freeze until hard, scoop and enjoy!!

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Walking Buddies

Eli and I try to go on a walk everyday.  Let me rephrase that, Eli, a buddy and I try to go on a walk everyday.  Without fail, if we head out the door Eli runs back to grab a friend.  It is my favorite part of him.  When I was little I had a ton of stuffed animals and I would try to rotate which one I slept with and felt so bad for any that ended up on the floor.  Eli is always grabbing a new friend, making sure to rotate through his favorites, I like to think that he doesn’t want anyone to feel left behind.

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I can not get over what a little lover this boy is.

Looking at the Bright Side

Perhaps one of the most challenging things about having a child in a world regulated by norms, statistics and percentages, is that at every interval, said child is put onto a line and judged as to where he is in relation to others.  Not an inherently bad thing, but hearing that your child is in the 25th percentile for height and weight, means that he is not in the upper echelon of giant babies, in fact, he is “below average.”  He is not undernourished, unhealthy and there in no cause for concern, but still, we strive to be considered “normal” and 25th percentile falls short.

We are happy to be able to report that our little guy became quite the average little butterball and is now firmly in the 50th percentile, however we have something new that he is “falling behind” on. At our last pediatrician appointment we discussed my child’s lack of words for the second time.  At 20 months, my little guy has 2 words that he uses regularly, wow and “da”, “da” typically refers to dad, but can also be used to mean anything else at all in the world.  We have heard him use about 5 other words one or two times: dog, ball, duck, cow, no.  However, we are not getting down about this; we have found the many good things about having a child that refuses to speak.
You’ll never be the annoying mom bragging about your 10 month old’s 10 word vocabulary.
Sometimes to communicate, your child will make the most adorable puppy sounds.
Instead of yelling for cottage cheese, your toddler may gently take your hand and lead you to the fridge.
You become an expert in body language and pseudo sign language.
Everytime someone brings up your child’s speech you get to brag about the fact that he was super advanced and walked at 9 months (win some, lose some).
You’ll never be fighting your offspring for airtime.
No need to explain stranger danger, he’s not saying hi to anyone anyway.
When you hear “mom” shouted in a store, no need to look around, obviously not your little guy!
The only real silver lining? You are the only actual expert on your child. You and he have a special club, full of a secret language involving grunts, points, hand holding and gestures, making the spoken word wholly unnecessary.

Banana Cookies

Grocery shopping has been one of my most favorite activities ever since I got married, the planning of the meals, the stocking of the pantry; it all feels very grown up and mature, like I have my whole life organized and together.  While I still love grocery shopping, the fire has been slightly dimmed by the addition of a wee little one that uses a squeeze packet as a toy and steals my phone, I still get extra excited as I see the produce aisle and notice bananas nearing the end of their shelf life.  I adore bananas, but can not get enough banana baked treats.

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These banana cookies are studded with small bits of extra dark chocolate to combat the natural sweetness of bananas and a dusting of crunchy sugar crystals over the top for a little texture.  I consider them cookies, but if you’d like to call them muffin tops, I won’t be too mad.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (4 oz.) softened butter

1 cup (7 oz.) sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

4 medium bananas (2 cups worth) mostly brown, but not completely black

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter, 1/2 tsp.)

2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz.) flour

1/2 cup mini extra dark chocolate chips

sugar in the raw

Heat oven to 350*

1.  Cream together butter and sugar

2.  Add in the egg and vanilla, mixed to combine

3.  Add in bananas, I like to keep the bananas whole when I toss them into the mixture so that I get really delicious banana chunks in the cookie, if you prefer a more consistent texture through out, smash them before adding to butter mixture.

4.  Mix together the dry ingredients and then mix into wet.  Mix together until just combined.

5.  Add in the chocolate chips, use either mini extra dark chocolate chips or big shavings from an extra dark chocolate bar; the darker the chocolate, the better.  Do not use regular sized chocolate chips, they will overpower the banana flavor, just a wisp of chocolate in each bite is all these cookies need.

6.  Portion out cookies and then decide how much extra work you want to do.  For the best crunch, sprinkle the sugar in the raw (about a 1/4 teaspoon per cookie) halfway through baking, for the lazy way, sprinkle the sugar over the top and let it bake the whole time.

7.   Bake cookies for 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden all around the edges.

These cookies keep amazingly well, I like to toss them in the microwave for 10 seconds to bring back that fresh baked toastiness!

November Goals

Guys!!  October was not an epic failure of goal achieving!  This practice of setting goals and actually having to be accountable to at least a website, is finally paying off.

October Results:

10 Blog Posts:  got to 8!

Master Bedroom: Finally got the goods to do it, just need to implement it all.  We were a single car household for about 12 days this month (Kenny’s car got a new transmission that was installed incorrectly, thus resulting in a fire!), which isn’t a huge deal, except when it comes to decorating obviously.

Mom’s Group: Found one!  I’ll finally be meeting up with them for the first time on Wednesday

Halloween:  So much fun! (see previous post for details)

Apple Picking: did it!

Friends Gathering: …

Church: didn’t happen even once, maybe next month.

Healthy:  started running again and stopped inhaling cookies, feels good!

November Goals:

We are bringing over a couple of the goals from October,

Master Bedroom

Church

Daily Routine Implemented: I function at my best self with a schedule.  I think for anyone that is mainly at home, having a schedule is necessary, otherwise the freedom to choose what one does becomes overwhelming and marathon sessions of Gilmore Girls win out.

Christmas Shopping Done:  Glennon over at Momastery mentioned that her family gets all of their shopping done by the end of November so that December can just be about celebrating  and I love that idea!  Not to mention that if I don’t set that lofty of a goal I will be doing my Christmas shopping in February, as per usual.

Orphan Thanksgiving:  We are going to Redding for Christmas this year for the first time in 7 years! I’m so excited for our families to spend Christmas with Eli this year.  Also! We get to do our own Thanksgiving out here!  Thanksgiving is my most favorite meal to make and we will be doing an orphan Thanksgiving (basically everyone else without family out here can come join us).

Date Night:  Kenny and I haven’t gotten to go out without Eli in…. 3 months?  I don’t know, way too long.  It’s going to happen this month!

Family Dates:  Even though Kenny and I haven’t gotten to go out without Eli, we have been making sure that we go out and do fun stuff together as a family.  This month I’m hoping to get to the zoo before it gets too cold and maybe hit up a hot spring.

Noonday Ambassador:  I’ve been toying around with becoming a Noonday ambassador, an amazing company that is all about empowering female entrepreneurs in developing countries. I love their jewelry and their business model.  I don’t expect to make any money, but it’s more about promoting a business I believe and getting out and conversing with adults and building community with women.

Book Club: Hoping to start a little book club with a Brene Brown book!

New Dish a Week:  Either a dessert or a main dish will work, just something to shake up the routine.

How about you?  Interested in setting any wintertime goals?  I miss The Tiny Twig doing her monthly Goals with Grace link up so shout yours out in the comments below!

October Wrap-Up

I am so happy to have finally gotten to a holiday where Eli is starting to participate and enjoy it, October could not have been a more fun month!  We started out our month with apple picking; resulting in apple pie, caramel apple pie ice cream sandwiches (coming later this week!!), apple/peach breakfast bake and a new tradition.   The pumpkin patch (The Farmstead) was a blast although we went a little late in the season this year, so it was considerably chillier than last year, but Eli ran around everywhere and loved it!  We fed animals, played in a corn kernel pit (similar to a sandbox), rode in a tractor, went down all the slides, and picked pumpkins.

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While I love pumpkin carving, it seems until about age 5? 6? pumpkin carving with kids is a lot of work for parents and not a ton of fun for kids, thus the painted pumpkin.  We stuck  Eli in the tub with finger paints and a pumpkin and just let him go to town.  It was adorable to watch and now all he wants to do is finger paint everyday.

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Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year.  I love costumes and playing with different characters.  This year, we had a costume party to go to and trick treating, meaning two costumes!  However we ended up not getting dressed up for the costume party so Buzz and Jessie have been shelved for next year.  We ended up as Charlie Brown, Sally Brown and Linus Van Pelt from the Peanuts movie The Great Pumpkin. Super easy costumes and it enabled Eli to carry around his beloved blanky that never leaves his side anyway!

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We only did about 10 houses for trick treating, I feel a little ridiculous bringing my child that can’t even say “trick or treat” to go beg for candy all around the neighborhood.  He may not have totally gotten the concept of trick or treating, but he loved getting to meet everyone that opened their door, looking at everybody else’s costumes and playing with all the decorations.  I have never gotten to be home to hand out candy and I have to say, probably the highlight for Eli and I!  It was so much fun to watch all these excited little kids run up to the door and all look so cute with their costumes!  Eli ran up to the door to “talk” to all the trick or treaters everytime the doorbell rang, too cute.

I can’t get over how fun life is with Eli.  We have gotten so much family time in and I just can’t wait for all the fun things in store for us in the future, everyday just gets better and better.