Friday, November 29, 2013

Whew!

Whoa...I missed 2 days of blogging there, but we've all made it ;)

Nothing big has been going on around here...just busy with life and enjoying friends.  We've had company for a meal 5 out of the last 6 days!  Don't get me wrong, we've enjoyed every bit of it, but with the addition of Thanksgiving, it didn't leave much time for blogging!

Oh, you know how hospitality isn't about the food, but it's about being welcoming and getting to know your guests, etc.?

I can attest to that seeing as I did serve a guest cereal for supper.  

So, there's that!  To be fair, it was spontaneous and he was here for supper on Sunday, which we all know is on the menu as Silly Cereal Supper.  Our time together was good, though...maybe because of the cereal?  Or it could have been the apple juice.

You just never know :)

We've been up to the same old stuff.

Reading...


Nurturing...


and crafting!


Anyway, Thanksgiving was good!

I made little sugar cookies decorated like slices of pumpkin pie.


They weren't as cute as the original, but quite adorable nonetheless!

We had a couple of friends over for Thanksgiving lunch which was wonderful!  

I made a turkey and forgot to check for the neck in the cavity.  Yes, it was there.  Along with another creepy bag that I didn't take out.  I did pull out the creep-tastic bag of gravy starter.

1 out of 3 isn't bad.  I mean, in baseball, it's darn good!

I'm glad that the turkey was unharmed in the midst of my ineptitude.

We played some Chutes and Ladders in the evening.  The girls were fighting about what game piece they were going to be right away, so I pulled out the game pieces I made this summer. 


Crisis averted!

I won, too!  And by "won," I mean that I won the actual game, not just winning by cutting the fighting short :)

Today we are headed to meet my side of the family for a weekend away!  

My mom, sister, sister-in-law, and I are going Christmas shopping, while Aaron, my dad, and brother watch the kids!

I'm excited but oddly nervous.

I'm not superstitious, but let's look at the historical facts as to what has happened at the hotel:

  • Last year, Gracie broke her leg.
  • The year before that, Maggie threw up.
  • The year before THAT, I was so sick that I couldn't get out of bed.

I KNOW!  

I'm going to be keeping my eye on Aaron and Leah.

Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Many Hats (and Faces) of Party City

We headed to Party City again on Saturday to get some supplies for Maggie's upcoming birthday!

Nothing much, just some plates and stuff.


The girls always want us to get a ridiculously large pinata, but I always say no.

It's important to be consistent.

I'm also not quite crazy enough to allow a 4 foot tall Dora pinata in my house!

Close, but not quite ;)

After we gathered our supplies (and I stuffed down my fear of lice), we let the girls try on some stuff!

What is not to love about the creepy Dora masks?  I feel like they're something a bank robber would wear...


The picture of Leah with the mustache is probably my favorite :)

There were sparkle hats of every color of the rainbow!


I really wanted them to try on the tiny sparkly cowboygirl hat, but they were disinterested.

They were more interested in weird Christmas hats and animal masks.


I can't say I blame them, though.  I mean, it's not every day you get to wear a Christmas tree on your head.

Not to mention, it's even decorated :)

Over by the Christmas paraphernalia, they had some, um, interesting things.

Like the ever popular shot glass necklaces...


And I'm pretty sure that Jesus wasn't born so we could have Santa Smoking Jackets.


And by "pretty sure," I actually mean utterly confident.

Creeeeeepyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Then there were these:


I mean, really.

I have no words.

:)

Have a happy day!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kickin' it Old School: Thanksgiving Service

Ahhhh...

We just got back from our community Thanksgiving service, and it's pretty much one of my favorite things!

I grew up going to a fairly conservative Bible church until I was 12 years old.

I'm talking pews, organ, hymnals...PLUS the music leader waving his arms up in front to keep everyone together.

The Thanksgiving service brings me right back to all the good things (and none of the less than good things).

Some years there has been a men's quartet.  Other years, there's been open sharing.

There's always hymn singing!

The church we were at tonight even had the same hymnals as the ones I grew up with.


Apparently it's not just any old hymnal...it's THE hymnal.

Anyway, I got to teach Leah how to use a hymnal which was kind of funny...she's not a fan :)

We all sang together, and it sounded like a choir.

We read Scripture and prayed.

There was even the whole randomly-pray-a-sentence-out-loud part and people happily participated.  

We had a pie social at the end (I made this), too!

There's just something about coming in out of the cold, dark evening into a bright, warm church that makes me happy.  

Just like there's something about hymns, the KJV, men in suits, watching my husband and our friend be the edgy youth group guys during singing, and talking to Leah about how she wanted to pray a sentence about being thankful for Jesus dying on the cross that makes me feel like a carefree 9 year old again.

Maybe that's weird, but I'm OK with it :)

And even though I wouldn't want to live old school, I'm always really, really happy to visit!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Tart

I developed a recipe which is fairly unheard of for me!  Plus, you can get everything from Aldi, AND you can easily make it dairy free.

WIN!  WIN!!  WIN!!!

Chocolate Cherry Tart


To start off, we're going to make cookie dough.

For a tart (or pie...you can use a pie plate if you want).

We are SO edgy around here ;)

This is adapted from my old school Betty Crocker cookbook that is out of print.

I believe that makes this vintage which is even cooler!

Anyway.

You need:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For later, you'll need an 8 oz tub of Cool Whip and a can of cherry pie filling.

Mix together the sugar, oil, vanilla and almond extract, and chocolate in a large bowl.  Mix in egg, one at a time.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to overnight.  

Now at this point, you can make cookies, OR you can make a tart.

We're making a tart.

Get out your tart pan or pie pan.


The girls (pre-hair do), were very excited to show you the tart pan.  It's aqua which I love. 

A tart pan has a bottom that easily comes out and the sides are ruffle-y...or fluted.

Using nonstick spray, spray the living daylights out of the pan.

I'm not joking.  This is no time to be stingy!

Press the cookie dough on to the bottom of the pan and a little bit up the sides.


I made 3 mini desserts in custard dishes for the girls.


The girls were equally excited about those, too!


Oh, your oven should be preheated to 350 :)

Bake the custard dish for about 10 minutes and the tart for 16 minutes.  

You can see how the cookie gets a little puffy.


As soon as it's out of the oven, use the end of a wooden spoon to pat down the middle so you have a nice cookie cup.

Then, when the tart is done, you do the same thing.  I used a measuring cup, though, because I'm all about maximizing efficiency...or something like that :)


Also, using a knife or skinny spatula, make sure that the cookie/crust isn't sticking to the sides of the pan.  You're going to be removing the side of the pan, and you don't want the cookie/crust to go with it.

Let it cool completely.

Now, doesn't that look delicious?


Next, put a single layer of cherry pie filling in the crust.


Top with Cool Whip or whipped cream.


If you want it to be dairy free (which I did, because I was making it for a friend who is lactose intolerant), use Cool Whip.

Am I the only one who thinks it's creepy that there's no dairy in Cool Whip (or Oreos, for that matter)?  I'm sure I don't want to know what's in there...it's just so darn delicious!

Once the tart is topped, put it in the fridge for at least an hour.  

Remove the side of the pan before serving.

Chocolate Cherry Tart

The beauty of the cookie crust is that it stays chewy, with the exception of the tiniest bit of crisp on the top edges.  

And, yes, go ahead and top it with some mini chocolate chips.  They add some nice texture to the smoothness of the Cool Whip, the pop of the cherries, and the chewiness of the crust.

I served this when we had friends over for supper and it was a home run!  

Or a touchdown.  

It is football season after all :)

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Table Manners?

It seem like, lately, we've needed to work on table manners more at our house.

I mean, nothing terrible.  The girls aren't wild animals.  


THEY'RE ALL LOOKING AT THE CAMERA!!!
It's just a bunch of little things that take away from the nice family meal we'd like to have.

Aaron made the incredibly valid point that we've never made meal time manners definable.  We just constantly remind them of the same things over and over until we all get irritated. 

We really don't want to exasperate our girls and we want to have family dinners be happy.

After one particularly frustrating meal, I sat down with the girls, and they helped me come up with the manners.

I wish some of these were jokes, but they're not.



Really, I wish I could say that the whole "don't lick the table" thing was a joke, but alas, it is not.  Apparently Gracie doesn't want to waste a drop of a drip of ketchup or syrup.  We all had a good laugh when I wrote that.

I'd also like to point out that sometimes Gracie treats ketchup as hand lotion...hence the rule about keeping your hands out of dips and cups.

I tried my best to keep the rules positive...you know, the whole "Ask someone to pass you food" bit as opposed to "don't reach across the table."

Leah added all of the exclamation points to the last sentence which is more of a reminder than a rule.  I can't be the only mommy who gets up from the table one million times per meal.

I'm happy to report that meal time manners are improving!

One of the things that has helped is giving direction to our conversation.  I pinned these Family Dinner Questions a long time ago.  The questions are all great but not all are age appropriate for our girls, so I pick out 1 per meal.  

Once we even did the whole high-low game...you know, when each person shares the best and worst parts of their days.

Leah, who is so incredibly optimistic and cheerful, insisted that ALL of her day was the best and none of it was the worst!

We've told the girls that once their table manners are more consistent (we really need to make that more definable, too), we can go out to eat at the "fancy" new Italian restaurant in town.

Don't worry, I'll keep you posted :)

I'd love to know any tips you have on how you've encouraged your kids in good table manners while keeping things happy and cheerful and realistic.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Barrage of Adorableness!

Leah and I went to Target on Saturday.  

On our way there, we drove passed a packed Portrait Innovations.  

Saturdays are busy days at portrait studios.  We've certainly gone to photo studios and gotten great photos, but the stress...seriously.  THE STRESS!

I was extra thankful for Brandon taking our family pictures when I saw the stressed out mommies, crabby children, crying babies, and the disgruntled dad wearing a stocking cap with a pompom on the tip of it!

He took like 1200 pictures, narrowed them down, and then I narrowed them down some more for this post.  It was so hard, because Brandon did such an insanely amazing job!

Buckle up, friends, it's about to get adorable around here!

Oh, and be sure to notice Gracie's expressions...she's pretty hilarious!  Brandon even had a subfolder filled with pictures of Gracie's many faces :)



I love the silly faces in these!







This is one of my very favorites!



And this one was hands down the best picture of Leah by herself!



Leah is the happiest and most cheerful kid I know.  I feel like that photo really captured her joyful spirit!

And Maggie!



When she decides to cooperate with having her picture taken, she is insanely photogenic!



I mean, seriously?  How do you even pick a favorite shot?

And my little kitty cat (yes, I call Gracie "kitty cat" :)!



She's so busy and full of life that it was challenging to get her to stay in one place!



She's a mighty cute one, too!

And then there's us <3



I might see if Brandon can magically make my watch disappear disappear :)

I heart these, too!



I think I'm going to make a new header of the blog with one of those!  Which one do you think is best?

And then we brought out the cupcakes!



They were really working hard...



...and having fun!



So which ones are your favorites?

And again...millions and millions of thank yous to Brandon and his assistant extraordinaire, Hannah!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Friends.

I don't like to give unsolicited parenting advice, because, really, nobody likes that.

But, this. 

This can probably be categorized under Parenting Tip, more than anything else.

Meet my buddy, the paper lunch bag.



We all have times where we need to throw away something that belongs to our child.  Very often, they don't even remember that they have these items/treasures, but if they see them, all of a sudden, the thing you just threw away becomes their favoritetoyeverrrrrrr!

And that's just drama.

I don't think I'm alone when I say, the less drama the better!

Take this skirt, for example.



It has a hole/ruffle that I don't know how to fix.  Leah has had this skirt since she was probably 5, so she's literally worn it to pieces.

Even though, seemingly over night she's gone to wanting to wear jeans all the time (they're warmer than a skirt with leggings), I know she would have feelings about seeing the skirt in the garbage.

So, I put it in a paper bag, toss it out, and she is none the wiser.

I went for the big ones tonight, though.

Toothbrushes.





The ladies like to hoard toothbrushes.



I'm okay with them having a primary toothbrush and a backup...which is probably a little weird.

But, I draw the line at FOUR (or 3, in Leah's case) toothbrushes per person.

After the girls went to bed tonight, I grabbed the 5 doomed toothbrushes.



The bristles have certainly seen better days.

Plus...



The toothbrushes go into their new home...



and then to their final home.



See!  The skirt AND toothbrushes are in there, but the girls have no idea!

I feel like I've won.

Maybe.

They're still sleeping and haven't brushed their teeth since I tossed the toothbrushes a couple of hours ago, so we'll see.

Oh, and 2 more things!

You should read this great blog post (from a couple of years ago) called Parenting 001.  It's one of Aaron's and my favorites!

Last but certainly not least, be sure to check back tomorrow to see some of the awesome family pictures that our friend, Brandon, took.

Here's a sneak peek!



Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  I'm so excited!  They turned out awesome!

Have a great day...and throw something away :)