Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Pie Pockets

We've been studying apples in kindergarten for the past week.  I think I own every children's book, about apples, known to man.  As we were reading them, during the week, I was getting hungry for apple pie.  When Friday came around (my day off) I decided to make my kids a special treat for their after school snack.  Both of my kids had friends over, and I think they all enjoyed their apple pie pockets.

The pie mold came from Williams Sonoma.  It's very easy to use and makes the cutest little pies!

Happy Baking!
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Hobbies

There was a time, when my kids were very young, where I put aside absolutely everything I enjoyed doing in my free time.  "Free time" was the craziest phrase I could imagine.  There weren't enough hours in the day to work full time, feed my family, keep a fairly clean house, bake cookies, and still have enough time to do something for myself.

Now that my kids are a little older, I've taken back a little time for myself.  Well, I can't say actually have time all to myself, but my kids are interested in helping out with my hobbies.  They're curious and often want to learn how to do things. Sometimes it's hard to step back, especially when I'm in a hurry, and just let them try something.

Both of my kids enjoy cooking with me.  My son loves to chop things (although, I'm so afraid he's going to cut his fingers off).  He's actually quite helpful in the kitchen and will often just whip up a little lunch, if he thinks I'm being too slow. 

My daughter prefers to help with baking.  In her own words, "I like to help make the things that we put lots of sugar into.  Those things always taste the best."  It only took her 8 years to figure that out.

Both of my kids love being outside with us.  My son has always been a strong kid and has no problem hauling wood chips, moving bags of dirt, mowing, or digging up plants.  The other day, we finished up working in the yard, and next thing I knew, he was setting up the sprinklers.  He just thought the plants needed a little water.  He was right.  They did.  I love that kid!

I absolutely love to sew. My kids will sew with me, although my son started losing interest long ago.  My daughter and nieces worked on a few project at Auntie Becca's Sewing Camp this summer.  I can't say they love it as much as I do, but they know how to work a machine and have no problem creating something from fabric scraps.

My newest hobby has been photography.  I have truly enjoyed learning everything I can about photography over the past few years.  There are so many cool things a camera can do!

Of course, I can't forget my ALL TIME FAVORITE HOBBY... camping!

Okay, maybe not.  Here's the reality.

How about you, friends?  What's your hobby?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall Pillows

It's not officially Fall yet, but the Fall pillows have made a return.  Last year, when I broke my foot and couldn't go the pumpkin patch with my kindergarteners, I was forced to stay home and craft.  (I'm really thankful for fabulous teaching partners who jump right in and take over!)  I whipped up these little pillows with some burlap I had on hand, fabric paint, fabric scraps, and my embroidery machine.  I recovered outdoor pillows I already had, so I didn't even need to make a trip the craft store!

I saw this idea on Pinterest and couldn't resist.

 They are the perfect outdoor pillows for fall!

The leaf pillows have made a return as well.  They were made from cheap Wal-Mart placemats that I stuffed with batting and sewing up.  I love a simple project!

Happy Fall Decorating!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Help Rolls Rise Faster

The other day, when I took cinnamon rolls to the hospital, one of the nurses commented on how time consuming it is to make cinnamon rolls.  The day I made this batch of rolls, I was short on time.  I didn't have the time to sit around and wait for the rolls to rise. I know that rolls rise best in a warm environment, so I set up the heating pad.  It usually takes about an hour and a half for my rolls to rise to this level, and become ready to bake.  With the heating pad, it was about 40 minutes.

Waiting less and eating sooner makes everyone happy at my house.

Happy baking!
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Front Porch Fall-ification

Before I tell you about my front porch fall-ification, I'd like to say thank you for all of your nice comments and emails about my grandma.  She has had a very difficult few days.  My mom slept on her couch, sitting up, fully dressed, because she was sure the hospital would call in the middle of the night and she wanted to be ready to go.  Today, we packed up Nanie's room in Assisted Living.  In the best case scenario, she would go back to Nursing, but we know she is well past that.  We were happily surprised today when we visited.  She was the most alert we've seen her in a week.  It was nice to see her try to eat and be able to speak a few words.  Thank you so much for your kind words.  It really makes a difference.

On a lighter note, I needed a little pick-me-up after one of our days at the hospital.  I asked my hubby to get my fall boxes down so I could do a little decorating.  The front door was my first stop.  I'm trying to add a bit more yellow to the front of my house.  I love black-eyed-susans and mums, so those were the obvious pick.  I wasn't quite ready to change to my burlap pillows, but summery stripes just didn't cut it anymore.

My hanging baskets are still all about summer, but I'll be changing out a few plants to yellow or orange mums as the petunias start to die.

The leaves are even starting to blow onto the driveway.  I love fall, but I'm always sad to see summer slipping away. 

I wasn't feeling very creative this year, so I just went with basic wreaths, garland, and mums.  My old milk crate gets to stay, just because I love it.

Fall-ification done.

How about you?  Have you started  breaking out the fall decor?

Happy Fall-ification!
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Time at the Hospital

It's been a very hard week around here.  My grandma, who just turned 95, doesn't have much longer with us.  She has stopped eating, can hardly speak, rarely opens her eyes, and struggles to breathe.  She has told us she'll be going on a trip very soon and that she loves us very much.  We've been driving to see her in the evenings, after work, but yesterday was the hardest day.

Nanie was very uncomfortable, anxious, struggling for breath, and clearly at the end of her life.  I was so proud of my little girl and the way she handled herself. Most kids would be full of fear when they walk into a hospital and see their loved one hooked up to so many different machines and so obviously in distress.  I imagined her shying away from Nanie, being a bit afraid.  What she did instead made me feel so proud, hopeful, and heartbroken all at the same time.

My daughter, who tends to see the negative in things, was filled with delight at every little thing that made my grandma  smile.  She knows how much Nanie loves to have visitors and was absolutely gleeful to know she was the reason Nanie opened her eyes, tried to speak, reached out to grab her hand, or even tried to smile.  She wasn't focused on the fact that her great-grandma is dying.  Instead, she delighted in the joy she was able to bring to someone other than herself.  She was selfless, loving, and stronger than I could ever imagine a child to be.

The first thing she did was pull a chair as close as she could to Nanie.  When that wasn't close enough, she asked if she could sit on her bed.  She held Nanie's hand and asked her if she could open two eyes for her, lighting up when Nanie opened her eyes and smiled.  There were hugs and kisses, even though there were tubes and needles.  She had no fear, only love.

I could hardly see through the tears, watching them smile at each other.  I sobbed.  I got home and sobbed some more.  My kids were strong and so grateful for the time they had with Nanie.  It became very obvious that I'm CLEARLY not the strong one in the family.

My mom has been with her for 10-12 hours a day, smiling and talking to her, telling her how much we all love her, and listening to her sing hymns.  She's the strongest person I know.  Maybe that's where my little girl gets it.

Since being strong wasn't going to happen for me, I did what I do best.  I baked.

You see, my grandma has been trying to get something for everyone who walks into the room.  She asks, with a very soft breath, if she can get you anything and looks around the room to see what she might have.  She's a hostess and she wants to make sure her friends and family are comfortable and well fed..  It's what she's always done. 

I woke up at about 4:30 and couldn't sleep anymore. Nanie's cinnamon rolls were calling me.  I got down the same bread basket we've used to hold her cinnamon rolls for the past 30 years, and I found her recipe for the rolls.  I used her recipe, not my own, because this was a gift from her.  I brought the rolls to hospital with me today and we were able to share them with visitors and hospital staff.  My grandma knew I was there and spoke my name, but nothing more.  She was peaceful today.  People came back to thank us for the rolls and I knew my grandma was happy.

It was her basket, her recipe, her thought, and her heart.  She just needed my hands.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


No words tonight. Just love.
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rainbow Birthday Party

Two weeks of birthday celebrations have finally come to an end for my little girl.  Her birthday was in August, but we decided to wait until school started before having a party with her friends.  She didn't really have a strong preference, this year, about decorations or a theme.  That was good news for me, because I've seen so many cute ideas on Pinterest lately!

We went with a rainbow theme, which thrilled my kids to no end.  I'm not a huge fan of dyes and food coloring in my kids' food, so when my daughter saw the bright colors, her eyes lit up.  It was certainly a special birthday treat for her.

We made rainbow cupcakes, with rainbow cupcake toppers.

There were rainbow plates and M&M candies. Boy, I'm glad they sell M&M's already sorted by color.

My kids were excited to tell everyone that their mom decided to do a plain old white cake this year.  The little rainbow bunting was a hint of the surprise to come.

Six layers of rainbow loveliness! 

I won't lie. The cake, cupcakes, and decorations were a lot of work (and dishes), but nothing more than I usually do for my kids' birthdays.  The result and "happy" birthday girl were worth the work!

Happy baking! (And Happy Birthday to my big 8 year old!)
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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rainbow Sandwich Cookies

I'm in a rainbow kind of mood this weekend.  My daughter is having her birthday party this weekend, with her friends, and I'm doing a rainbow theme for her.  I've been playing around with different decorating ideas and different recipes.  These rainbow sandwich cookies were in the final running.  They ended up at our neighborhood block party, rather than the birthday party, but they were well loved by the neighbors too!

Here's the recipe if you'd like to try them.

Cookie Ingredients:

• 1 cup butter, room temp

• ½ cup white sugar

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 1 tablespoon vanilla

• 1 egg

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• ½ teaspoon baking soda

• ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

• ½ teaspoon salt

Beat butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
Using a small cookie scoop, drop 1 inch balls onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 minutes at 350 degrees.

I doubled this recipe to make the cookies you see in the picture above.

Frosting Ingredients:

•1 cup butter, room temp

•1 cup shortening

•7 cups powdered sugar

•1 tablespoon vanilla

•2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter and shortening.  Slowly, add powdered sugar.  Add milk and vanilla. Adjust the amount of milk you add, depending on the consistency you're looking for.

I use Wilton food coloring to get bright colors in my frosting.

Assemble the cookies like a little sandwich and arrange in rainbow order.

Does anyone else need to say, "ROY-G-BIV" as they figure out which color comes next?

Rainbows make everyone happy, especially when they taste yummy.

Here's a sneak peak into tomorrow's party:

Happy baking!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas and Salad with Ranch Dressing

A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts of cooking for my family. I wrote:

"If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I love to spend time in my kitchen.  I've always felt like food is a gift I can give to my family.  It makes me so happy to cook a yummy meal, from scratch, and feed my family.  It's the way I grew up and I hope my kids will enjoy cooking meals for their own families some day." 

Big old home cooked meals have always been a family tradition that my hubby and I both enjoyed growing up.  I don't remember eating many things from a box, or eating prepackaged meals as a kid.  We ordered our meat from the butcher, grew veggies in our garden, and the milk man delivered milk to our doorstep. (Boy, that makes it sound like I grew up in the olden days!  I'm really quite young!)  We ate fruit that my mom canned herself and I never knew that people did things differently.  As a mom, I strive to do those things for my family.  I want to know where the food for my family comes from.  I want to prepare it from scratch and keep out all that artificial stuff that comes in a box.  It tough!  I can't say I meet this goal all of the time, but it helps that I enjoy cooking, baking, and spending time in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago I shared a meal I prepared for the family and I promised I'd post the recipes. So, here you go!

First up, chicken enchilada. This is something my mother-in-law and sister-in-law make and it has become a staple at our house. 

I usually start by putting a few chicken breasts in the crockpot with some taco seasoning (Yes, I buy the package even though I just said I try not to buy prepackaged stuff.). I let that cook all day and by late afternoon, I'm ready to assemble the enchiladas. 

Combine 1 cup sour cream with one can of Cream of Chicken Soup.
Add a package of taco seasoning to the creamy mixture.

Lay out a tortilla shell.
Spread a little of the creamy mixture on the tortilla.
Add cheese and chicken.
Roll it up and put it in the (greased) pan.
Think of it like a taco and build it like that.
You can decide how much meat, cheese, and sour cream you usually like.

Once you've used all of the meat, lay the enchilada in the pan and smear (that's a technical term) the rest of the creamy sauce over the top.  Top with cheese and bake for 30 minutes at 350.

I guarantee this is a family favorite in the making.

I tried a new recipe for homemade ranch dressing. 
The kids thought it was a little strong, but I LOVED it.

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed OR a few tablespoons of chopped dill

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk

I started by putting the herbs, garlic, and scallions in the food processor.  I gradually added the other ingredients, and that's it!  So simple!  This recipe doesn't last quite as long as bottled salad dressing from the store.  It only lasts as long as the expiration date of the milk and sour cream.  I'm fine with that, since I know there aren't as many preservatives.

One of the things I've loved about blogging has been people telling me that they tried something for the first time, after reading about it on my blog.  If you try these recipes, I'd love to hear how you like them!  (Ok, don't tell me if you didn't really like them.  Just pretend you liked them.  It's the nice thing to do, right?)

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fabric Lemonade Stand

All Summer long, I saw the cutest Lemonade stands popping up on Pinterest.  Most of them were made of wood, painted, and made my heart go pitter patter.  I'm not a woodworker and although I love to paint furniture, I can't say I'm artistic enough to do any decorative painting. 

But, I can sew! 

I sketched up a simple lemonade stand that I knew I could make out of pvc pipe and fabric

I'm in love with chalkboard fabric!  It sews like oilcloth and wipes off like a chalkboard.

I even made a simple bunting to go along the skirt. I made the stand the same width as our card table.  The kids set their goodies up behind the stand, on the table.

I had grand plans to stage this with pink lemondae and really cute sugar cookies.  Sadly, I never got that far.  My kids did, however, spend several summer afternoons selling chocolate chip cookies and Smucker's Lemonade from Costco.
Fall is in the air and it's time to put the lemonade stand away for the year.
Happy end of Summer, friends.
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Monday, September 3, 2012

Late Summer Garden

It's our last (unofficial) day of summer and I'm doing every thing I can to hold on. This is my favorite time of year in my garden. My dahlias are blooming, the herbs are going strong, and I have more tomatoes than I can eat. It's usually pretty nice weather, this time of year, in the Pacific Northwest too. That makes it the perfect time to be outside. As I was looking though pictures today, I decided I'd make a garden video to share with you. Maybe, when the rain starts in again, this will give me a little hope that it will eventually dry out and things will bloom again.

Happy gardening!

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