Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Strawberry Cupcakes

These are a favorite of mine, let me start with that. You have two options to which you can choose your demise. A) Normal size cupcakes. You will be tempted to eat two. B) Mini cupcakes that you can't stop popping in your mouth. My husband claims they are bite size and will eat 10 in a row. I find them to be 2-3 bites. Either way, they are ridiculously good and hard to turn down. I prefer the minis but they work just find in standard size as well. There are a little hard to make in the winter because it isn't strawberry season, but most stores carry limited quantities and you only need one small carton to make the cupcakes. I got the recipe from Martha and have made a few changes. But as you know, Martha is the shiznit...and does not require much altering. Enjoy!!!

You will need:
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar (yeah, I know they're bad)
  • 3 large eggs plus one egg white
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries (pieces should be the size of a large pea to give you an idea)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line either standard muffin tins or mini muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Sift together both flours, baking soda and salt.
3. With electric mixer, cream butter (room temp), sugar, and vanilla until well mixed. (1-2 min)
4. On medium to high speed, add eggs and egg white one at a time while scrapping down sides of the bowl as needed.
5. Reduce mixer speed to low and add in flour mixture in two batches, alternating with milk. Beat until well-combined. Add in veggie oil and mix well.
6. Fold in chopped berries by hand. (The batter is a little thicker than normal cake batter, so don't worry.)
7. Divide batter among cups and fill 3/4 full.
8. If using standard cups, bake 25-30 minutes rotating half way through. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, but don't over bake...they can get dry easily. If using mini cups, bake 10-12 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

You will need:
  • two sticks (one cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 12 oz cream cheese
  • 3 1/2 - 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. With electric mixer on medium/high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy and well combined.
2. Reduce speed to low and add sugar a cup at a time.
3. Add vanilla and mix well.
4. Pipe onto your yummy little cupcakes!

You will love these, I promise. I forgot to take a picture after adding the frosting, but here are the sugar babies before they received their creamy topping.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa Works For God

Just in case you didn't know, Santa was hired by God. Why, because I needed a way to allow my kids to enjoy the traditions of Santa while understanding that Jesus is why we celebrate Christmas. I know, some of you would never think of allowing your children to believe in Santa, while others lie their heads off to make sure their kids are 13 before they figure out that a 300 pound man could not possible fit down their non-existent chimney. Well, I am somewhere in between. I might change my mind in a few years and decide that I went the wrong direction with the whole story, but for now, Santa is a nice, charitable guy who works for God. This way, Parker can still think that Santa brings gifts, but God remains the real hero of Christmas with the best gift of all, Jesus. I like it. If you don't, I understand, just don't tell Parker or Graham :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 First Snow

By the time this blog post actually gets published, I'm sure we'll have had many snow days, but there's nothing like that first snow each year, especially for a child. Parker got giddy when we told him snow was coming. He just kept looking out the window in anticipation. We ended up getting 3-4 inches during this storm, but he was out as soon as there was a dusting on the ground. Don't children make things that have gotten boring and mundane come alive again? I love that about having children.

It's sad when you get the first snow and your leaves still haven't been completely removed.
 Time to bring in the chairs for the year. That would be a cold seat.
 All bundled in his snow gear. He loves the snow!
This was about as much "playing" in the snow as I did...cold!

Here's to living in the North and all it's festive weather. I hate it and I love it. That's just how it is.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Play

I know it is a little late to do a Thanksgiving post, but I want to anyway. It's my blog and I'll post if I want to, post if I want to (sung to "It's My Party" melody). Ok, I'll stop being obnoxious now.

Parker, as you know, is in preschool. Preschool is good for two major things: socialization and cute holiday productions. Parker's school put on a singing program for Thanksgiving that was the cutest thing ever. The children were allowed to pick whether they wanted to be pilgrims or pumpkins. They unanimously picked pumpkins. (My guess is because preschoolers have no idea what a pilgrim is.)

Parker loves to learn songs, so he was singing them all week long. I wasn't sure what he'd do when he got on stage, but I was impressed with him. He didn't pick his nose (while singing), and he participated in all the lyrics (not all the motions). I couldn't hear him due to the girl in the middle singing at the top of her lungs (every choir has one of those, huh?), but who can blame her? She just wanted to be heard. I get that.

I enjoyed my first experience as a mom watching a program. Can't wait for the first time he has to act or have a real part. Should be fun-ny!     

Graham loved watching the program.
 The whole fam. No, I didn't dress Parker like was a part of his pumpkin duty.
Aunt Sarah
 Me and my little pumpkin.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

15 month Baby G

My baby boy had his 15 month well-visit at the pediatrician last week and I figured I'd give you an update.
Weight: 22 pd 5 oz. (25th percentile)
Height: 31.5 inches (60th percentile)
Words(not all of these are super clear, but we definitely know what he's saying): Dada, momma, bubba, car, cat, what's that, bug, milk, thank you, wa wa(water), book, go, more, hi, bye bye.

Graham is changing so much right now. His speech is starting to develop and his understanding is unbelievable to me. This week, I've really noticed his ability to follow commands. I can ask him to go into certain rooms of the house, and he goes exactly where I've asked. I know that I've already been through this once, but it is so different with Graham. Why? Because Graham is different. I thought it wouldn't be as exciting, but so far, I am still in awe watching a new little person develop. 

 Graham is such a blessing in my life. In a short list, he is loud, sweet, exhausting, funny, and assertive. I'm excited to help shape his strong-willed self into the little boy God wants him to be with each of his bold characteristics. Here's a few pictures of my sweet boy at 15 months.

Graham is obsessed with going outside...I cannot accentuate enough how excited I am for summer 2011.
 I know this picture is of terrible quality. I don't care. Graham's bed head was amazing this particular day, and I'm glad it is documented. His middle name, Jeffrey, is not a misnomer at all when it comes to nappy morning hair. Sorry, Dad, it's true.
 Some days, when momma feels like having a life, naps get taken in the car. Take that, Babywise :)
 This is a very common scene in my home. It makes me crazy. I can't decide whether I love it or hate it. Probably both. Usually Daddy is involved as well.
 Helping me rake leaves. More like destroying piles I've made, but I'll have plenty of years of untouched leaf piles. Whatever.
 Don't splash water out of the tub? How am I suppose to have fun then?
 Ever so often, if Graham wakes up before 7 o'clock and doesn't quite get enough sleep, I'll let him come cozy up to me in my bed. This day, he fell back asleep and I got to hold him for an hour straight without squirming. It was a nice present for me. I loved it. It kind of made me miss our morning feedings since Graham was weaned last month. He's growing up and I can't stop it.
 I see this face a lot and I thought I'd share it with you. Aren't I nice?
 Watching his brother's thanksgiving play. He really enjoyed it.
 Graham is slightly obsessed with his big brother. I hope it always stays that way.
 Parker helped me spike his hair...then I realized his hair was too long...kinda scary looking.
 Ahhh, that's better.
 I don't know...he's pretty cute all styled up. Anyway, though he tries vigorously to make me crazy, that's my boy and I love him. A lot.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Greek Chicken Pasta

I just wanted to pass along to you one of my favorite easy recipes. I'm forever snatching up other blog's yummy dishes, but I rarely give back to the world wide web of delish food. Speaking of food blogs, I have to give a shout out to Kelly Pierce and her wonderful recipes. I needed a good vegetable soup recipe last week and I looked one up on her blog. It was perfect. Thank you, girl! The squash, mushroom, and peppers really pepped up an old favorite.

Back to the Greek Chicken Pasta. You will love this dish if you like Greek food and a lemony flavor. I recommend using whole wheat pasta, but for those of you who don't like the distinct flavor of whole wheat, use multi-grain. It too has much more fiber than white pasta and there are many varieties that add in omega-3's.

You'll need:
  • 3/4 to 1 pd of pasta (I like using shells for this one but others would be fine too)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic crushed/minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 to 1 pd of boneless chicken breast meat cut into bite size pieces. We buy organic, so we try to stretch our meat and 1/2 pound worked fine. If you want more protein, use closer to a pound.
  • 1 (14 oz) can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (use 3/4 while cooking and 1/4 on top)
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley (dried works too)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 lemon wedges for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook pasta for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

2.Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken. Cook until chicken is no longer don't want it beginning to brown, but you want it thoroughly cooked. About 5-6 minutes.

3.Reduce heat to medium-low; add in artichoke hearts, tomato, feta cheese, parsely, lemon juice, oregano and cooked pasta. Stir until heated through. About 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper and garnish with lemon wedges and extra feta cheese on top.
Simple, Easy, Fast, Yum yum!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Shave (Almost) Everyday

What? It's winter, you say? Well, yes, that's true...but I need to feel some sort of girly beauty. Where the heck is this coming from? Let me explain. If you're not a mom, you might as well click away from this page to spare yourself. Also, if you're prissy, you won't understand my ways. If you get up everyday and do your hair and put make up on, you'll find me lazy, or weird.

This post is for those mothers who know what it's like to not have the time (unless you want to give up sleep, no thank you), or lack the drive to doll up.

Don't get me wrong, I love to look pretty and feel like my husband should take me out. I do find time get all shnazzy for fun, but my everyday life does not include make up and a flat iron...shocked? You shouldn't be. If I'd put on nice clothes, they would just be covered in finger paint and spaghetti sauce. If I did my make up (other than a touch of mascara to not look washed out), it would just get rubbed off when two very handsome boys insist on sloppy kisses on my cheeks. If I proceeded to straighten or curl my hair, it would just get put up in a pony tail because it hurts to get pulled when being wrestled to the ground by tag team WWF wrestlers named David, Parker, and Graham.

You ask, "Don't you feel better about yourself when you take time to look nice?" Not really. Since I find enough things to do that satisfy my girly need to indulge in fashion, I don't feel like I need to prove to myself everyday that I can be eye-catching. I know what I can look like, not to mention I'm all about practicality. If I'm doing dinner and shopping with friends, then yes, I have a blast trying on clothes for an hour only to end up wearing the first thing I had on. I love to put together outfits and try new make-up trends, but I also like the freedom to feel ok about myself with the basics: T-shirt, jeans, and the face God gave me.

Speaking of jeans, that leads me to the title explanation. I choose to shave my legs everyday. I might miss a day here or there, but generally speaking, I shave every time I'm in the shower. I feel like it's my little boost of confidence. It's my reminder that I am a beautiful women, even if I don't look like I did pre-children with places to go and people to see. I know underneath my jeans are smooth silky legs that are a part of the frumpy mother-figure I allow myself to be some days. They serve as a little hint to the beautiful confident woman that David married almost seven years ago.

If you like to do yourself up every morning, more power to you. I don't feel there is anything wrong with that choice, I am just trying to explain those of us who don't.

You may use these verses for encouragement if you have low self-esteem. I choose to use them for excuses to not spend more than 5 minutes in the morning. :)

Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

1 Samuel 16:7
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

So yes, I let my hair air dry today. It looks ridiculous. However, my legs are nicely shaven. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

on the road again...

As you know, Parker spent last week in Florida with my mom. I'm not sure who was more worn out by the end, but it seems they equally had a terrific time. In deciding where to meet to pick up my little buddy, we considered two things. First, where is a good halfway meeting point? Secondly, where is some place we can enjoy a day with our oldest buddy. Charleston seemed perfect. No one had to bend my arm backwards for me to agree. Despite having been there 4-5 times in the past few years, I'm always game for a little southern carriage ride (as tourist-y as it is).

Another great thing about Charleston is that we have family there. David has second and third cousins who have lived in North Charleston for years. We have never really been able to spend much time with most of them so it was nice to get to hang out. Thanks so much Betsy and Bruce for letting us crash your pad for a night. You were so kind and we really appreciate your hospitality. Also, thanks Michael and Emily for spending some time with us. Can't wait until we can get together again. You all are always welcome in our home. You just have to find a reason to come to ol' West Virginia. Maybe if I make some Mac and Cheese, I'll get y'all up here. Well, at least I know Michael would come.

David and I left on Friday morning and headed south. We got hungry just outside of Charlotte. I know that the best way to find a fun restaurant is to ask someone who lives there. I remembered that a friend from high school currently lives there so I sent her a tweet asking for a suggestion. She recommended a BBQ joint named Macs. It was delish! Thanks again for your two cents, Audrey. I have to admit, though, that I was a bit concerned about where you where sending me when we drove past a small ghetto to get there. The funny part was that on our way home, Parker said he was hungry again when we were right outside Charlotte and guess where we took him? Yep, we hit Macs up twice. We sat outside in the beautiful weather and had a lovely lunch.

It took us about 7 hours to arrive in Charleston, SC. First destination? The beach. How can I not stop by the ocean when it is so close?? Who cares if it was 60 degrees out?

Saturday, we met up with my parents in the morning and got Parker back in our possession. (Sounds a little like drug smuggling.) We spent the day going to the South Carolina Aquarium, taking a carriage ride, eating at some yummy restaurants, and walking some beautiful old streets. It was such a good day with my two-thirds of my boys.

I forgot to bring my camera this weekend, so I had to use my phone.

Our drive was really pretty since NC and SC still had some fall leaves.
 Me wishing that I owned one of the boats behind me.
 Beautiful sunset.
 My toes were freezing!

 I love the ocean.
 Headed back to our car a bit colder than when we left it. I have a love/hate relationship with sand. It's beautiful, feels great between your toes, and makes the beach experience complete. However, it is obnoxiously everywhere once you've touched it.

 I love the big bridge behind us. So pretty.
 Hello, big ugly shark, please stop starring at my son.
 Parker's favorite part of the aquarium was the touch tank. Every five minutes I heard,  " Mommy, can I pet the sting rays again?"

 I don't typically like fried bread, but these hush puppies had crab, shrimp, and parmesan cheese in them. Thank you, Bubba Gumps, for the best flavored calories this weekend.
 Parker with the mules that pulled our carriage. Aren't the cute?

 On our way home.
The past two traveling weekends have been exactly what I needed, but I can truly say that I am glad to be home. I need a break from the suitcase.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ivy league decor

I love the Holiday season. The sights, the smells, the parties, the traditions, and the list goes on. When it comes to decor, I really love Christmas. Though I enjoy Thanksgiving and appreciate a national holiday centered around thankfulness (something our country could use a little more of), I'm not super into fall decor. I indulge a little and maybe I'll do more in the future (since I'm aware of my constant evolution of style), but the craving for turning my house upside down comes when I hear the sleigh bells ring. I get giddy when digging out my christmas boxes to reveal all my after-Christmas shopping treasures from last year. Some people freak out about early Christmas decorating because they feel as though those of us who start busting out wreaths in early November are "skipping" Thanksgiving. This is what I have to say about that. Lighten up. I am not skipping Thanksgiving, I am just skipping Thanksgiving decor. I am very THANKFUL for my Savior being born and I want to celebrate as early as possible ;)

Speaking of Christmas decor. I kept seeing these vine-looking Christmas trees in stores and I thought to myself, "Self, you can do that." I love to make things, but rarely think about all the logistics of what it will take. Luckily, this time, all that was needed was sticks, vines, and spray paint. Sweet. I have all of those things on hand, or at least on hand or out by back door. I marched up my backyard hill yesterday and pulled up ivy vines. I grabbed a few sticks and sawed them to equal length. I got out some twine, a hot glue gun, and began. It was soooooo easy! This was my goal.

I started with these beautiful ivy vines. (The pictures are rather bad since they were taken on my phone with an over-the-limit caffeine hand, but you get the point.)

 I stripped the leaves and began wrapping them around three sticks I had put together in a teepee fashion. The top of the"teepee" was secured with hemp twine. (Don't mind my cluttered basement in the background...I've been in project mode.)
 I continued to work my way up the sticks by tucking in a new vine when an previous one ended. I secured the vines in place with hot glue ever so often.
 I made it to the top and decided to saw off the top of the "tee-pee". By this point the vines and hot glue kept everything together and the top twine mess was no longer needed. I took the brown and green non-uniform tree outside and gave it a good coating of gold paint. Almost done. I felt as though the tree was a little sad and needed some sort of embellishment.
 I got out my ornament box and found this bad boy. I removed the metal part that allows it to hang from a tree, hot glued a little stick inside, and attached it to the top of my almost-finished woven tree.
 I love how it turned out. Imperfect. I actually like how it has more texture than its counterpart at the store. I now have to find a Christmas home for my project. The mantle, dining table, built ins? We'll see. As for now, I have to go clean up the mess I made in the basement. No fun.
 Have you done any Christmas projects in the past that turned out beautiful? Do share. Maybe I'll start something else so I don't have to go clean.