Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Talky Tuesday.

1. You guys. I have some issues when it comes to throwing birthday parties for my kids. BIG ISSUES. Just ask the pile of party stuff sitting in the corner of my office. Amazon loves me. So does Etsy.

The mailman, probably not so much.

2. I made some new Pinterest recipes this weekend. Three were successful. One bombed. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And I mean that literally. I should probably stop venturing with things that require lots of butter and sweetened condensed milk. Especially since I'm on Weight Watchers.

3. Speaking of Weight Watchers, I have an announcement. I've been working out. Regularly. For over two months.

I'll give you a second to climb back on your chair.

4. Nate and I have decided to paint and redecorate our bedroom. And by Nate and I, I mean I. Nate couldn't care less about the color of our room, but I am tired of brown. I am not a brown kinda gal. (Really, it's not even brown, it's a lovely golden tan color. But, still. Not me.) Still playing around with color palettes in my head, but whatever it is will likely involve a cheerful pop of yellow.

5. I love pops of yellow. In fact, I am lusting after some pops of yellow for myself as we speak. Now, if only I could find a yellow and white striped t-shirt...

6. You know what used to be good, then wasn't, then kind of is again? Grey's Anatomy. I know this because I have been simultaneously watching old and new episodes. I got hooked on reruns while I was on maternity leave, and now I'm re-watching the entire series on my Kindle while I pump at work. There have been some serious highs and lows to that show (read: seasons 4-5), but when it's good it's really good. And even the bad episodes beat staring at a blank wall for 20 minutes every three hours.

7. Keeping a clean house with two kids is a losing battle. Every night after dinner I clean up the kitchen, hand wash what seems like an endless amount of bottles and pump parts and pacifiers, and then walk around the first floor picking stuff up. I don't even know what all this stuff is, but it's everywhere. Cars, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, cups, bowls, papers, shoes, snacks, rattles, socks, blankets, bears, sweatshirts, action figures...arghhhh. I spend so much time picking up my house that I have no time to clean it. So I finally hired someone to come do it for me. But she doesn't start until May 11, which seems like an eternity when you're living with dust bunnies comparable in size to your 50lb dog. So I guess I'll just keep picking stuff up. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just leave it on the floor in an attempt to cover up (or, at the very least, distract from) the dust bunnies.

8. New music obsession: James Morrison. Yum. Good writing music.

9. New food obsession: Honey goat cheese. And Litehouse Pear Gorgonzola salad dressing. Slap both of those things on a pile of spinach, add some walnuts, craisins, and sliced pears, and you've got yourself a darned good salad. You're welcome.

10. New TV obsession: Friday Night Lights. I got a text from Heidi a few weeks ago saying she was obsessed with it (I believe the direct quote was "I really, really want it to be real."). Coincidentally, I had the first disc on hand from Netflix, so Nate and I started watching it that night. It's good. Really good. And I hate football, so when I recommend a show about football you should probably watch it.

11. New restaurant obsession: Butcher and the Boar. We went out last Friday night with the Vuongs and ate ourselves into food comas. All you need to know is this: They have lobster grilled cheese. Oh, and wood grilled oysters. And double cut berkshire pork chops with maple, blueberry and pecan relish. And smoked beef long ribs. And gingersnap banana pudding.

And that's only half of what we ordered. Like I said: food coma.

12. Thankfully, we made a full recovery and I was able to work off about 1/100th of what we ate at the gym the next day.

I do that now, you know.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We make cute babies.

I'm not even going to pretend to be humble about this, because we do. The proof is in the pictures, my friends. And if you don't believe me, check out the archives. There's plenty of Calvin baby cuteness to be had as well.

This one is all roly-poly baby goodness right now. Pink cheeks and chubby thighs and that adorable little tongue. She LOVES to stick out her tongue.

Oh, and the hair. Did I mention the hair? One big curl on top of her head.


Some days it takes everything I have not to squish her to death. She is absolute perfection.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

iPhones are handy...

...for capturing afternoon cuteness. And just the hint of a smile...

A whole lotta Easter.

Nate and I hosted Easter brunch for his family after church this year. I love hosting. Love having family and friends crowd my tiny house. Love baking yummy things for everyone to enjoy, and sending people home with happy, full bellies. And I love setting my table pretty and having an excuse to get out my china (and glue gun).

I'm especially partial to my little place cards — I cut small styrofoam balls in half, stuck them into small terra cotta flower pots, and then covered them in reindeer moss. The cute little cards were sold as a set (Martha Stewart, my hero) and I just glued a toothpick between the pink card and its corresponding envelope. Took me all of 45 minutes to complete, and made a huge impact. The centerpiece is jelly beans around a candle. (Did you know they sell just red and pink Starburst jelly beans? Thank goodness, too, otherwise I would have been picking them out of the regular multi-flavor pack.)

My coffee cake was delicious. And so was the quiche Nate made. Since I like you, I'm going to include the recipes below. Make them.

The Easter Bunny came after church, for fear we'd never it make it to church if he came beforehand. He's thoughtful like that.

Also, newsflash: Calvin enjoys candy.

Still no smiles from Miss Audra, but didn't she look CUTE? The closeup of her shoes is for my mom. They totally made the outfit. I wish I had them in every size.

The Easter bunny had to do a mad dash in order to get all of the eggs hidden after church without being noticed. I'd say he's pretty skilled, especially given the fact that he was doing it in a dress and heels.

Love my sweet family. Now, onto the food!

The Best Quiche Ever
(unofficial title)
Courtesy of: All Recipes
Serves: 8-10 (makes two)
Prep and cook time: 1.5 hours

1/2 lb thick sliced bacon
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 8 oz container sour cream
2 9 inch unbaked pie crusts
2 T olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, finely diced
2 cups finely diced smoked ham
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
8 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half cream
1 T dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet and cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside. Cook spinach according to package instructions. Allow to cool, then squeeze dry. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until soft and translucent, then stir in mushrooms, and cook for 2 minutes or until soft. Stir in ham and bacon. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, combine spinach, sour cream, salt and pepper. Divide, and spread into pie crusts. Layer with bacon mixture. Mix together cheeses, and sprinkle over pies. Whisk together eggs, half-and-half and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over pies. Place pie plates on baking sheet, and bake on middle rack for 40 minutes or until the top is puffed and golden brown. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: If you aren't a fan of mushrooms, those are easily omitted. We make one with and one without. The one without is not for us, though, as we are mushroom enthusiasts.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Courtesy of: Barefoot Contessa Parties! Cookbook
Serves: 8-10
Prep and cook time: 2 hours

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T real maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle over the cake with a fork or spoon.

Note: I used an angel food cake pan. I wouldn't recommend a bundt pan since you serve it bottom-side-up.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


At three months old, I can say this with certainty: Audra is a Serious Baby.

Calvin was, too, for a while. But once he started smiling, he smiled all the time. By three months I had numerous pictures of my little man grinning from ear to ear.

I think I have one of Audra. (See last post.) And it's not even a good picture.

It's not for lack of trying, either. That girl lights up like a Christmas tree...once she's looked you over and deemed you and your smile-inducing efforts worthy, that is. But as soon as I whip out the camera, or my phone, she's back to being stone-faced.

She's not a performer, our little Audra. She's an observer. A thinker. She emerged from the womb with a look of skepticism on her face. When Calvin nursed, he latched on with the enthusiasm of a guy about to inhale a giant hamburger. Audra latches tentatively, gently, her dark eyes darting back and forth watchfully as she eats.

Already I can tell she's going to be easier on us than Calvin has been. She's more deliberate, more cautious, more thoughtful. I love the way she watches us, the way her eyes follow Calvin as he races around her. She is content to lie on the floor and look at a book, or bat at things on her activity mat for lengthy periods of time. She loves sucking on her pacifier, and is instantly soothed by its rhythm. I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to do more than pick her up to calm her down. And she's slept through the night pretty consistently since she was eight weeks old — a miracle in my mind. Her needs are simple: a clean diaper, a full belly, and someone or something interesting to watch.

It's amazing how quickly the differences between my children have become evident. Calvin hurtles through life at the speed of light, with smiles and charm to spare. But Audra, well, I think she's going to be the kind of girl who looks before she leaps. The kind of girl who values authenticity. The kind of girl who has much to offer, but only offers it to those who are deserving.

I already love this about her.

She may make us work a little harder for those smiles than her brother did, but oh, is she ever worth it.

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