November 30, 2009

Bake-off 2009

*Picture from Williams-Sonoma
Each year, my sister-in-law and I engage in what has become an annual tradition - a bake-off. It began with more participation by my husband and my other sister-in-law and mother-in-law, but it has since dwindled. My SIL and I are keeping it alive, though. Competition aside, it is a fun way to get a couple desserts made for the holiday. We must choose something we've never made before, so it's also fun trying new things. Here are last year's results.

This year, A made this Black-Bottom Raspberry Cream Pie. It sounds fancy, but let's be honest: It's just a fancy way of saying "chocolate pudding pie with raspberries on top". And since we won a couple years ago with a chocolate pudding pie, I conceded the prize under protest. That said, it was a good dessert. It wasn't amazing, but it was good. The big boy definitely loved it.

I went with a Pumpkin Cheesecake. This cheesecake would've been awesome and absolutely would've won, but I overcooked it by about 10 minutes. I just kept opening the oven, saying "Is it done yet? Is it done yet?" I just couldn't tell when the filling was set, and I ended up waiting just a few minutes too long. So although the filling was super yummy, the crust had a slightly charred taste, which gave A's pudding the edge. I will definitely make this cheesecake again, though. Perhaps I'll try it again - and get it right this time - for Christmas.

*Picture from Epicurious

November 24, 2009

Be Thankful

*These gorgeous boys top my list!
I love that we have a holiday where we all celebrate everything we're thankful for. We should all try to remember to be grateful every day and acknowledge these things throughout the year, as I try to do with my blog, but Thankgiving is just one more way to focus on all the good things in our lives. My list would be tremendous - I am blessed in so many ways - but I thought I'd take a few minutes and think about some of the things I have to be thankful for. Please do the same. And then eat some pumpkin pie, watch some football, or do whatever it is that makes you happy. Happy Thanksgiving!
I am SO thankful for...
- My happy and healthy little boys
- My sweet and awesome husband
- My mom and sisters, who also happen to be my best friends
- The rest of my extended family. I am so incredibly thankful to be a part of such a large and loving group
- My friends, far and near. Especially those that don't allow distance or time change our friendship
- My in-laws. They're just the other half of my family at this point, and I'm so thankful that I joined such an awesome group of people.
- My house, which is coming along slowly but surely as we make it into a home
- My job (I're thinking "my job? seriously?", but yes, I should be thankful), which is flexible enough to allow me to juggle things so I can focus on my highest priorities (those two little boys)
- My health. I get every cold that day care throws at me, and I haven't had a decent night's sleep in as long as I can remember, but I'm still doing pretty well. My boys keep me strong.
- Art. Hard to capture in a short statement, but I'm so thankful for everyone out there who contributes to the art, music, and other entertainment that I enjoy. It's hard to imagine life without art.

*Thanks to Perfect Sentiment for the lovely quote!

November 22, 2009

Living Room - Before and After

We still have some decorating to do, but the change is so dramatic that I couldn't wait any longer to post some pics. It feels like a brand-new room!

This first picture is from the first time we visited the house, so this is how it looked when we moved it (minus all the previous owner's stuff of course).

And this is how it looks today. Bright walls, a gas fireplace, built-in shelves/cabinets. Most importantly, NO MORE PINK!

It's fabulous. Now we'll have fun trying to find something just right to display on that mantle. What a fun dilemma.

Just another little before and after...

...and after

November 20, 2009

Online Cooking Club - Wrap-up

*Image from Bon Appetit

Sorry I missed the last week of the Cooking Club. Actually, I did make a new recipe, but I just didn't find the time to blog about it. wasn't a keeper. It had such promise, too. It was a Butternut Squash and Sage pasta dish, and that is one of my favorite flavor combos, so I thought it was a sure thing. It was good, but not fabulous, which is what it needed to be to justify the effort. Also....A didn't eat any of it. I'm disappointed that he's not a fan of squash, but he's not. At least not yet. I'll keep trying, of course.

Anyway, I thought I'd just put one more post out here about our little cooking club. I had fun trying new recipes over the last couple months, and although they weren't all winners, I did add a few new recipes to our rotation. These include:

Tex-Mex Pasta Salad - Actually, I made this for dinner again last night. And once again, Aaron ate a ton. Even peppers and tomatoes. Love this one!
Spicy-Sweet Pork Tenderloin - A super easy way to dress up pork.
Corn and Clam Chowder - This is awesome. Seriously. This is going on our list of meals to make with holiday guests.
Oven-Fried Chicken Parmesan - Using panko makes this chicken parm dish yummy. It's easy too!
Chicken Enchiladas with Green Salsa - Aaron wasn't a fan of this the first time around, but Kevin and I liked it enough to give it another try.

November 19, 2009

More Pink Skies, Cilantro, and Magna-Tiles

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. The big boy ran into the kitchen and said, "Mom! Come here! Come! Come!" He grabbed my hand and pulled me to the living room window to show me the "pretty pretty sky". We ran outside in our socks to watch the sky turn colors. I love that he has an appreciation for a pink and orange sky, and I am so glad he pulled me away from making dinner to see it. It was gorgeous.

2. Making dinner yesterday, I took a moment to appreciate the smell of cilantro. One of nature's best smells.

3. Magna-Tiles are currently our key to a smooth drop-off at preschool. A grabs a huge stack of them ("just the small squares, Mommy") and finds a place on the rug. He put down his stack, gives me a hug and kiss, says goodbye, and then sits down to build a house. Loving this routine!

*As the sky turned from orange to pink to purple to blue, several flocks of geese flew overhead. Made the sky even more beautiful.

More Fun with the Timer

November 6, 2009

Photos of the Day

Images from a fun afternoon hug-and-tickle session...

A Look Back - November 2008

*Me and my little sister. I need to get my mom to share more pictures like this one online. They make me happy.

It's fun to take a look back at older posts to see what was making me happy a year ago. I think I'm going to do this every month from now on. Looking at pictures of A from a year ago is especially fun. Here's a little sampling of what I was talking about last November:

I Love Me List - A fun reminder of why it's great to be me. I could come up with a thousand other reasons, too. Maybe I'll do that.

Barefoot Books - I adore this book seller from Cambridge. Their books are wonderfully illustrated, and they often incorporate a celebration of other cultures. Our little local library carries a few, and A always loves them. If you have a kid on your holiday list, you should definitely check them out.

Simplifying the Holidays - We're focusing on the kids with my in-laws, skipping the gift exchange among the adults. And in my family, we're limiting the exchange to just stockings. Playing with the kids is the fun part anyway, and I'd rather focus on getting good food and drink to celebrate the season as a family.

Mini-Diaries - I use my blog to capture some of these thoughts, but I still love these mini-diaries and think they'd make a great stocking stuffer!

Are You Rude? Of course you are. Sometimes. We all have bad habits or bad days. But let's renew our commitment to minimizing the rudeness and increase the niceness.

Chocolate Pudding Pie - Have you decided on your holiday desserts yet? You might want to add this one. It's super easy and so so yummy!

Reasons I Love the Holidays - Fun looking at this list and realizing that Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Hooray! What a fun time of year. I'm going to have fun anticipating and planning for the holidays.

November 4, 2009

Sneak Peek

The office is almost done! The office is almost done! (Okay, so it's taken forever and we just found out that the paint we used on the door and a few of the shelves was the wrong kind and we'll have to paint over it, but nothing worthwhile is easy, right?) The blinds are ready to be installed, the rug is ready to go on the's all going to come together soon. Oh, I am going to have so much fun putting books on those shelves! I'll post true before and after shots in a couple more weeks, but it's great to celebrate progress.

November 2, 2009

Online Cooking Club - Week 7

*Image from Real Simple
Week 7 of the Online Cooking Club already. This week, I decided to make this recipe for Chicken Enchiladas. Similar to Joslyn, I am a person who is bound by recipes, as you've no doubt noticed. You're not typically going to see me try to "adapt" any recipes or create my own. Occasionally I'll try, using a recipe as an outline but then modifying it based on what I have or whatever. It usually fails. Every now and then it'll work, but in general, I like to stick with what the experts have created.

That said, I did make a few tweaks to this one. I used flour tortillas, because that's what I had and because every time I try to use corn tortillas, they end up chewy and not very tasty. I don't know what my problem is, and I'll try again one day, but for now I stick to flour. So instead of frying in oil, I quickly dipped the tortillas in some veggie broth. Worked fine. I used frozen corn and frozen chicken strips - both worked fine as well, and make it even easier. Also, I'd probably add some cilantro next time. Especially if you don't go heavy on the green salsa (I used bottled, by the way - don't call me a cheat, okay?), a little cilantro would go a long way I think. (Plus I just love cilantro.)

The results? Very good. A was having a bad night - perhaps all that Halloween candy gave him a stomachache - but he didn't really eat much of anything, even after I gave up on the enchiladas and offered him a bowl of cereal. So we won't use him as a judge. My husband said they were yummy, and he doesn't lie about such things. I liked them and loved how easy they were to make. And enchiladas are one of those dishes you can modify pretty easily based on what you have in your fridge. I didn't make a side dish this time, but you could serve with rice, beans, tortilla chips, salad....again, pretty flexible. Another keeper!

November 1, 2009

Halloween Fun

He is one awfully cute firefighter, isn't he? This was Aaron's first year trick-or-treating, and he loved it! (As all kids do, I suppose.) He was super excited to put on his "lellow costume".

The first couple houses, he did a great job of saying "trick or treat!" and then politely taking one piece of candy from the bowl, and then taking another one if offered. By the last house, though, he skipped the "trick or treat" part and just reached right on into the bowl and took what he could before the person pulled it away. Smart kid. Love it.

I remember very clearly being so excited to get home, dump out my bag, and count my candy. This is exactly what Aaron did. He then enjoyed two pieces and proceeded to run in circles around the living room.


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