Thursday, August 30, 2012

Finding God in strange places

We found this Bible verse on our egg carton from Aldi
Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hurricane Isaac

Hurricane Isaac started out like this on Sunday, we still went to church.
Then it turned into a major deluge that almost flooded our condo! We blame Walmart. Because they started building in the lot that used to be an empty field right next to our condo and we think they messed up our pipes. Why else would a condo fill with this much water with a category 1 storm and never in the 7 years of living here have we seen this much water in other higher category storms? And before you stop and tell me storms vary in the amount of water they dump consider that the vents in the roads were completely clogged and doing NOTHING! And there was almost no debris clogging the vents. Thus leading me and a few suspicious neighbors to blame Walmart.

Meatball Stew

An update on a recipe I created last year (original here) which I'd now like to call "Meatball Stew".  According to Wikipedia "a stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy", therefore I think this is a very appropriate name.

I started by sauteing chopped red onions in my awesome dutch oven - about 1/2 a red onion.  After about 5 minutes I added 1 quart of chicken broth along with 1/2 teaspoon of basil and a handful of coarsely chopped carrots.  Then I got busy with the baby and left that bubble for 45 minutes - definitely not saying this helped in the least - but it also can't hurt anything.  When baby finally agreed to sit in her bouncer, fresh tomatoes from Maryland were chopped up and added to the stew.  My mom dropped them off during our recent vacation and said to use them up real quick - I'm a little slow with all this travel!

I then sent Mike to the store for meatballs, we love the Armour style so much they aren't even worth recreating!  While he was gone, I managed to boil 2 ears of corn, cut them clean and add that to the stew.  20 meatballs added after he returned and finished! 

Without babies and meatballs already bought it probably takes 30 minutes to prepare!  Easy peasy.

And here's the details in case you don't want to be bothered with my ramblings:

  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 5 fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 2 ears of corn, cooked and removed from cobs
  • 20 Armour meatballs
Love, love, love this stew!!!  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Almond Butter Cookies

Warning!  This is one thick recipe!!  I took a basic Peanut Butter cookie recipe and exchanged the Peanut Butter for Almond Butter.  So why blog about it?  Because all the recipes I found did not bother to provide ANY type of warning for how thick the batter would turn out!  I happen to think it's very important to lay out expectations from the beginning so you know what you are getting yourself into and don't experience shock and horror at wasting ingredients half way through, only to find out the end result is rather pleasant.

This story started when Charlotte's pre-school announced it was a peanut free school thus eliminating peanut butter jelly sandwiches and cookies.  I did not realize how this would impact my life until I resorted to sending chicken nuggets every day for lunch!  Finally out of desperation I consulted friends on Facebook and was given the helpful suggestion to try Almond butter sandwiches and cookies.

Upon opening my first jar of Almond butter I found about 1/2" of oil on the top and it was so thick, I couldn't even stir it with a spoon or knife!  So I scooped the entire contents into my trusty food processor and that mixed the oil evenly.

Here is the recipe I followed and modified to reach the above photoed consistency.

Almond Butter Cookies ~ Double Recipe
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown packed sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened (2 sticks)
  • 16oz Almond Butter
  • 6-8 Tablespoons Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3.5 cups White Wheat Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 375, bake for 11 minutes.  In large bowl, cream sugar, brown sugar, and butter until fluffy.  Add almond butter, milk, vanilla, and eggs until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Use cookie scoop to create small cookie balls, approx. 1" diameter.  Then flatten with a fork in crisscross pattern dipped in confectioner sugar.

I've noticed that most diet's call for almonds as a snack, so I figure an almond butter cookie is a tastier substitute!  So far, I've found they are not quite as additive as peanut butter cookies so you eat less but they definitely satisfy a snack craving and I feel good about giving them to my kids!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Favorite Breakfast Spot

A few years ago I was traveling to LA frequently and I happened upon this lovely spot in Manhattan Beach when I had a late flight and a free morning.  Since that magical day when I discovered this beach location only 15 minutes from the LAX airport, I've actually scheduled flights in the afternoon so I can enjoy a morning at the beach with breakfast overlooking the ocean.  I do try to make the best of travel!
Side note, this also happens to be the first business trip I've taken since September of 2011, thanks to pregnancy of course!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hello Fall Pre-school!

The two week break was a welcome break from a very busy summer!  It seemed a bit impulsive to plan a trip with only a weeks notice but once my boss agreed there was no stopping us.  Bags were packed and the van was filled to the max!

We all enjoyed the trip tremendously and we noticed a vast improvement in Charlotte's attitude.  Not sure if it was the constant attention from family, or the lack of influence from other kids and related stress points but Charlotte was just as loving and sweet as we remember her being.  So much that we've decided her Fall Pre-school will only be from 9am-noon.  The school offers the option to keep kids for the remainder of the day for a small fee but we'd rather bring her home.

Summer pre-school helped us realize all the high stress factors before the serious education began.  Here is a short list of what I consider to be the most difficult parts of pre-school (for parents):
  1. Lunch & Snack - the effort I put into packing a lunch that she would eat drove me slightly batty at times.  The teacher would frequently write notes saying she didn't think Charlotte was feeling well because she wasn't eating much.  Add the stress of no peanut butter sandwiches because it's a peanut free school and I ended up sending Mickey shaped chicken nuggets every single day!!
  2. A full day of school means a very tired, stressed and easy-to-annoy little girl.  The drive home was tedious at best.  I had to have snack and drink in hand because it's South Florida and extremely hot at the end of the day.  They were let outside for free-play from 5pm on so if I didn't get there as close to 5 as possible I could be certain her mood would be horrible.
  3. Too much socialization can be a bad thing when they pick up concepts like "best friend" incorrectly.  Towards the end of the summer she was upset that so-and-so didn't want to be her best friend and when she's really happy with us she calls us her best friend.  I'm hoping the focused school hours of 9-12 are so education based that they don't have time to explore their "feelings". 
  4. In Fall Pre-School, I get to drop her off in an actual classroom so there is less of a chance that she will cling to me at the coat rack in the room outside the classroom because their isn't an outer room!
It's been 3 days and so far we are all are liking this new arrangement and my favorite part of Fall Pre-school is uniforms!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE uniforms, it makes mornings go so much faster and takes all the confusion out of getting dressed in the morning.  I thought the color sceme was rather dull but the red highlights really jazz it up!  Charlotte was super pyched to get new Minnie Bowtique shoes and headband so we made it work!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ah vacation, what a needed break

The idea of packing 3 kids into the van, driving 17 hours last Thursday/Friday to arrive at my mom's house seemed daunting.  We had a family reunion on Saturday that required another 2.5 hours of driving both ways, and then on Sunday a trip to Baltimore with another 1.5 hours each way to visit two awesome friends from high school.  That's alot of time on the road!  We didn't know if we could pull it off but we did!

Stop in Savannah to visit friend Carol and her local park!

Kids got to see a Praying Mantis!

Backyard summer fun with slip and slide!

Yeah vacations!

Um, corn?

Hello Sherlock Holms.

Ooooh, dad's teaching us stuff.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Goodbye Summer Pre-School

We've declared the last two weeks before the fall semester starts as VACATION - even though we aren't leaving until Thursday.  Even though I'm working Mon - Wed, it will be a vacation for me to not get up and take Charlotte to school.  I might even break out of here at 7am and eat breakfast at work thus getting done early for evenings at the beach!  Wouldn't that be awesome!!  Yeah!!!

We think it will be a nice break/transition from summer pre-school where they do lots of fun activities to serious school where they do learning activities from 9-12.  And honestly, after these past few weeks of disaster drop offs mixed with good days, I'm in serious need of a break from it all!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to recreate Starbucks mini peanut butter cupcakes

These mini cupcakes used to be a treat I reserved for those special Starbucks days when I needed a little pick-me-up.  Then recently they stopped selling them!  I went into shock and denial, actually checking back several weeks in a row to see if they had come in and was finally told the weren't coming back.  At loss on how to live life without this little treat, I finally decided to recreate them at home - and you know what?  The result is better!  Because I can make them in mass and not have to pay $1.50 each!  Although I do miss the cute little box.

Check it out -

Mini Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
- 2 cups white wheat flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup milk

Heat oven to 375, bake mini cupcakes for 15 minutes.  Mix dry ingredients in large bowl, wet ingredients in small bowl.  Combine ingredients from both bowls with high speed mixer for 2-3 minutes.  Always check to see if cupcakes are done by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean (meaning the occasional crumb attached) then they are done.

Peanut Butter Icing Recipe
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 - 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup peanut butter (I prefer natural)

Blend until smooth, place into frosting decorating bag.  Once cupcakes are cooled, add icing, try to pile it on as high as possible!  The bigger the frosting tip the better!!

1 bag of Reese cups for topping - cut each Reese cup into 4 and place a wedge into the icing of each cupcake.

This morning was perfect

My husband worked so hard to make our morning perfect.  He got up early and made waffles; Charlotte actually ate an entire waffle and asked for more!  When she eats well, she becomes the sweetest happiest little girl.  She went to school with no objections and gave her teacher a big hug.  I got to work on time!  Thankful for all your prayers and concern yesterday, I appreciate the support tremendously.