Saturday, August 30, 2008

End of the Week Update

Around the house: Not much going on around the house this weekend. Its nice to have a long weekend without any big plans. Going to a cookout on Monday, watching the U.S. open... maybe relax? Yeah right.

In the Kitchen: I've decided to bring a lemon meringue pie to the cookout on Monday, after seeing a picture of one in an email I received last week. Suddenly, I realized that I've never made a lemon meringue pie before and am a little intimidated since every resource I've checked suggests that it is one of the hardest pies to make. Well, I'm not one to shy away from a dessert challenge (see previous cake blog entry), so I'm going for it. I'm giving myself a safety net though with some out of the box brownies in case the entire thing flops. I'm using the recipe from my most favorite cookbook, The Best Recipe, and so far this book has never failed me. Wish me luck, I'll take a picture before we leave.

New with Embry: One last thing before school starts, Embry needs new tennis shoes. They do not allow the ones with the lights on them at school, so we will try to find her some others this afternoon after everyone gets up from naps. She really needed a new pair anyway, so no big deal. ***Funny side story*** I realized that I have watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix way too much when Embry was humming the theme music along with the movie this morning. Not only do I have it on DVD, but it is on HBO at least once per day, and it has become my default background TV for when I am cooking or cleaning up the house, or folding clothes or whatever. I never thought Embry was paying attention. Hmm.

New with Matthew: Mattie has a stuffy nose this week and was not sleeping well at all. He was getting up 5 or 6 times per night instead of his usual 1 or 2. So, we brought up the humidifier from the basement and tada! he has been sleeping great. Even taking longer naps. We're not sure if it's just the humidifier helping his congestion or if its the light on the front of the machine or the noise it makes, but we are considering leaving it in there permanently.

I am grateful for: See humidifier comment above.

The weather outside: The weather continues to be great. A little warmer than last week, but still very nice.

I'm obsessing about: The Saturday Post Dispatch Crossword Puzzle. I've been working on them by myself for the last few weeks and I am determined to finish one without looking at the answers. I have not yet looked at today's but I can feel it...this is the week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Olympic Inspriation

Every night, before her bath, Embry has to "do gymnastics." Or more specifically, the trampoline. She has always liked to jump on the bed, but now it seems to have more of a purpose. She makes sure to "stay in bounds" and to "land on the X." Add in the occasional flip or twist. And of course no Olympic event would be complete without a captive audience (Matthew and Daddy).

Monday, August 25, 2008

The 3 Day, $35 Birthday Cake

It all started a few weeks ago when I received a recipe in my email inbox from Martha Stewart. I should have known from the source, right away, that the recipe would be more, lets say, complicated than usual. But, I have successfully completed many Martha recipes before, so I was up for the challenge. I know that J loves coconut cake, and I didn't let the fact that the recipe printed out on 4 pages deter me.

The $35 was for the 3 pounds of butter, 2 quarts of cream, 10 cups of coconut and 5 cups of powdered sugar that had to be purchased for the cake. I'm not even including the flour, regular sugar, cream cheese, 6! teaspoons of vanilla, coconut extract, vanilla bean, cornstarch, etc. that I already had on hand.

Day 1, Thursday Evening - I enlisted Embry to help me. She was very excited about Daddy's birthday and loves to bake. We put together the batter in the usual method, but when we were finished adding the ingredients to the mixer, the batter didn't seem right. It was way thicker than any cake I had ever made, about the consistency of sugar cookie dough. So I referred to the video on Martha's website. Her batter was indeed thick, so I proceeded. I didn't have the 10 inch cake pans that the recipe called for (I tried to find them, but couldn't, for a reasonable price anyway) so I had to estimate how much batter to use for 9 inch pans. I waited for my oven to come up to temp (it is normally 50 degrees off, so this takes a while). It was very close, so I put the cakes in. Well, the oven never quite got up to what it was supposed to be so the cakes didn't rise properly, and when I took them out of the oven they fell in the center. I waited for them to cool and then tried to get them out of the pan. No dice. I referred back to the recipe which said to cool completely before trying to remove, so I let the cakes sit overnight.

Day 2, Friday Morning - Tried again to remove the cakes from the pan. Nothing happened. I ended up using a pancake spatula to scrape the cakes out of the pans. (Normally I would have papered the bottom of the pans, but I have discovered that with Martha's recipes you follow them to the letter, and this one only called for greasing the pans. No flour or paper.) So, one of the cakes came out in halves (left and right halves that is). The other one was more interesting. The center of the cake came out while a 1 to 2 inch ring of cake stuck around the edge of the pan. At this point I figured we had the makings for a good trifle, but I was willing to keep at it. I, very carefully sliced the cakes in half (I was supposed to slice them into 3 layers each, no way that was happening), and soaked them with sugar syrup.

Day 2, Friday Evening - Time to make the filling (once again with Embry helping). The procedure went fine, with one exception. the recipe calls for a medium saucepan, which to me means 4 or 5 quarts. Well, I decided to use a large one because of all the ingredients and it still barely fit. Not sure what they consider medium. Left the filling out to cool.

Day 2, Very Late Friday Evening - J gets up with Matthew in the middle of the night and realizes that we never put the filling in the fridge. He puts it away and we decide that its OK, mainly since we didn't have enough ingredients or time to remake it (it has to chill for 8 hours).

Day 3, Saturday Morning - Guests coming at noon and lots to do. The house is a mess, J and I need to shower and I have to make frosting and assemble the cake. At this point I have cleaned the kitchen maybe 7 or 8 times since starting the cake. I whip up the filling, which luckily has the consistency of spackling (sp?) compound and am somehow able to piece together the layers to roughly make a cake shaped dessert. I go to put the cake in the fridge and oops, it's too tall for my cake dome. What else? I whip up the frosting which turns out to be just barely enough. This surprises me because we had so much cake and filling left over I could've made another cake altogether. But, I somehow cover the cake enough and we decide to cover the entire thing with toasted coconut (instead of just the sides) in order to cover for the lack of frosting. back into the fridge.

Day 3, Saturday Afternoon - I can only find 17 candles (J is turning 30!) but no one minds. And the cake is a hit. Unfortunately almost no one is able to finish their piece (and we cut very small pieces) because it is so rich. This will definitely be a cake to remember.

If anyone would like to give it a shot here's the recipe Ultimate Coconut Cake , and a picture of what the cake is supposed to look like :)

By the way, I found out from watching the video clip from Martha's show that the bakery that sells this cake charges $100 for it, and now I know why.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend Update

Around the house: It seems as if everything is winding down here this week. Cousins Viv and Joaquin have returned home to CA. Grandma and Grandpa are back home and will be visiting less since school (for them, work) has started. The closing ceremonies for the Olympics are on tonight which means no more scanning through hours of TiVo'd sports that I won't see again for 4 years. ***Side note: I will be routing for Chicago which is a finalist for host city of the 2016 summer games. Going to the opening ceremonies has been a long time dream of mine (and my Mom's), so I will do everything I can to attend if they are so close to home. I actually went to some events when the games were in Atlanta on '96, but nothing huge.*** And finally, Embry will be starting school next week. More on that further down in this post.

In the kitchen: It is becoming tradition on Sunday nights to feed the kids their normal dinner at the normal time, but to pop some frozen appetizers from Trader Joe's in the oven and eating them after the kids are in bed. They have the best stuff there. Tonight we had Spanakopita and Ham and Cheese Quiche Bites, yum! And the best part is 1 minute clean-up!

New with Embry: As earlier mentioned Embry starts school next Tuesday. We went to her open house and orientation last week. I was reassured that she is ready for school when, it was time for the parents to separate from the kids for a hour and unlike most of the other kids who were crying and clinging to their Moms, Embry told me to "Go on!" so she could keep playing. She has also cried both times we have been to her school and left because she wanted to stay longer. She will only be going for half days, but we can actually switch her to full days at any time if she wants. It is obvious that I will be the one who is the most sad on her first day.

New with Matthew: Two more teeth, eating yogurt for lunch, and cruising around the house like crazy! He also clapped for the first time this morning, so cute.

I am grateful for: J's birthday is this week and he can no longer make fun of me for being 30, because now he will be too :)

The weather outside: Finally starting to cool off. It has been very nice especially in the mornings and early evenings. I love it when I can open all the windows and get fresh air into the house. This was a rarity in Alabama because it seemed that we went from too hot to too cold in one week and back again in the spring. Here there are actually 4 seasons. This is great since Autumn is my favorite. Embry loves it when she can go outside and play after dinner (after a hose down with the bug spray, ever since we found out how allergic she is to mosquitoes). Especially since 2 of the neighbor girls have been coming over to play as well. They love our yard because we have a swing set and hammock, and Embry just loves having someone her age to run around with.

I am obsessing about: Now that I can stand to be outside for more than 5 minutes at a time I have been weeding our very much neglected (some of the weeds are taller than me) flower beds in the backyard. I absolutely despise yard work. When we actually buy a house I'm tearing up the lawn and replacing it with rocks and cactus. But, I can't stand for our current yard to be messy, so I've been spending a couple of hours a week pulling the weeds that have taken over our 2 huge flower beds. I usually keep going until I fill up our yard waste bin which is simply a 30 gallon trash container. This week I was rewarded when some flowers appeared out of nowhere (Mom-in-Law said they were called Surprise Lillies because they come up so late in the summer). It almost motivated me to plant some more things, but then I came to my senses. And I do very much want to clean up our patio in back. I really would like it to be a nice space to hang outside. We have a nice fire pit and some comfortable chairs but no place to use them. Oh well, one of these days...

Monday, August 18, 2008

He's Gets Up (and Down)

Finally got him standing up and his two new skills, getting back down (not on his face) and sitting up from crawling. I can't believe how fast he is learning this stuff. I'm sure that Embry was barely crawling at this age. But everyone says that second children do everything faster to try to keep up with the older ones. That is SO true. 90 percent of the time when Matthew is on the move it is to get to where Embry is. She gets annoyed after a while and likes very much for me to let her play in her room by herself. I can sympathize; I was the older sister too. (Sorry, Nicol, it's true. Sometimes we just need to get away :)

P.S. Notice how he can only get down on his right side, so funny!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quiet Weekend Alone

Yes, alone. J took the kids to Grandma's this weekend, so it's just me at home, by myself. A very weird feeling since I have not been away from all three of them (J and the kids) since we've been married. J and I have had one weekend to ourselves since Embry was born which was great, and I've spent a few days with the kids alone while J was away for work, but never just me.

When they first left yesterday afternoon, I really didn't know what to do with myself. I cleaned up the house a little, but it just seemed too quiet. So, I decided to go get a pedicure. It helped me to relax a little, but when I returned to the way too quiet house, it still didn't feel right. I did get to sleep in, a rare luxury for me. I got a haircut this morning (always a risk going to a new stylist for the first time, especially when you are as picky about your hair as I am, but it turned out great) and then spent the rest of the day at the mall. It was really nice to be able to shop for shoes and clothes without having to spend the day in toy stores or in Cabella's looking at the fish. But every time I saw someone pushing a stroller I felt a twinge in my stomach (even if the kid in that stroller was throwing a screaming fit :)

So tonight I am cozied up in our bedroom, which I realized I almost never do. Probably because our room is right next to Matthew's room and we are always trying to be quiet when he's asleep. I've got my laptop, my Chinese takeout (my new favorite is broccoli and bean curd), and the TiVo'd bronze medal tennis match between, my favorite, Novak Djokovic and American James Blake. I feel kind of bad that I'm not routing for the U.S. By the way, as if I couldn't love my TiVo any more, it has been the best way to watch the Olympics. It records 15 hours a day of all kinds of sports that no one ever pays attention to like women's weight lifting, doubles table tennis, fencing, cycling, synchronized swimming, etc. They never show that stuff in the prime time coverage, so I actually get to watch the sports I'm interested in ant not just the ones that everyone else likes. OK, end of TiVo commercial.

So, I will try to enjoy my last night of freedom and force myself to stay in bed a little longer tomorrow morning, but I will be counting down the minutes until I get to hug my husband and my kids again late tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He Gets Around

I realized today that I've been obsessed with capturing Matthew standing on video and I've totally forgot that many of you haven't yet seen him crawl (really crawl, on hands and knees). So here he is cruising through the house today...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sara's New Trick and the Coolest Food Ever!

I received this book for my birthday and finally tried out one of the projects after finding socks in the dollar bin at the grocery store. Here's a picture of my first attempt. Not too bad I think.

It only took me a few hours and the best part is the Embry has taken a huge interest in sewing. She had to sit on my lap almost the entire time and played with the yarn and leftover scraps of sock.

Oh, and the coolest food ever...pancakes in a can. We saw this at Costco in Alabama, but it was right before we moved so we didn't buy it then. I've been pining for it ever since and they finally had it at the Costco here! I was so excited.

Yes, it's ready made pancake batter in a can, just like whipped cream or Easy Cheese. OK, so it's not quite as good (or good for you) as our homemade whole wheat pancakes, but the cool factor overrides the (lack of) taste and nutrition. You just spray it onto your pan and voila, pancakes. And because of the delivery method its really easy to make letter and animal shaped pancakes, just like my Grandma did for me and my brother when we were little. I could never do it with regular pancake batter. J made Embry's whole name this morning. She was so impressed that she actually ate breakfast (which never happens without a fight.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Embry's New Trick

50 States in under 2 minutes! Well, maybe 44 states. See ever since Embry learned "The States Song", I've been trying to get it on tape, but lately she has not wanted her picture taken or to be in any videos. So, tonight she was being very silly before bed and she started singing while sitting on my lap. The camera was sitting right next to us, so I grabbed it and started recording (that's why the beginning of the song got cut off). The only way I could record her while she was on my lap was to turn the viewfinder around and hold the camera in front of us. Since she could see herself being taped, she started acting even sillier (hence the silly faces and hand waving). So, I had to remind her to keep singing and she missed a few states. We're going to work on the Presidents Song next...

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Anyone who knows me, knows that cookies are my favorite thing to bake! (Hence the name of my blog...) Here is a new recipe I've been tinkering with. I think I've got it worked out pretty well. The cookies have a lot of stuff in them, so you can leave out one or two of the extras (fruit, nuts and stuff) if you like or replace them with something similar.

Kitchen Sink Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (optional, I like to put this in everything I bake lately)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon water

1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat; set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and flax; set aside.

3. In your mixer bowl cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, corn syrup, vanilla, and water, beat until thoroughly combined. With mixer on lowest setting gradually add flour mixture until just combined.

4. Fold in extras (fruit, nuts and stuff) with a silicone spatula.

5. Drop by 2 inch balls of dough, flatten dough balls slightly. Dough will spread during cooking so only place 5 or 6 per cookie sheet.

6. Bake 12 to15 minutes or until slightly browned, rotating sheets halfway through baking.

7. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Matthew's New Trick

After way more effort than was necessary (new computer, grrr!), here's a new video clip of Matthew...

Something Funny

Well, since my old video camera does not agree with my new computer I will postpone the video of Matthew until I run to Radio Shack tonight to get the right kind of cable. Instead I will share a cute little story about Embry. ***By the way, no one tells about having kids, how funny they are. It still amazes me the things that they do everyday to make us laugh.

Anyway, we have recently found a great way for Embry to drink milk. Costco sells individual serving "boxes" of organic low-fat chocolate milk that she loves, I guess because they look like juice boxes and taste like chocolate. I told her the other day to finish her milk because it will make her big and strong. Apparently, her definition of big and strong means that you can reach the ceiling fan, because that was her response. Now every time she finishes her milk she runs over to the ceiling fan in the family room and stands on her tip-toes trying to reach it and says, "Not yet, but I'm still growing!"

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Art Wall

It amazing how many hours of fun 2 creative little girls can get from some construction paper, markers, glue and $30 worth of buttons, jewels, googly eyes and foam shapes from Oriental Trading Company.

By the way $30 gets you 500 to 1000 peices of each item, so there are lots more hours of gluing to be had. Also these are only a few of the pictures the girls made... a few went home with Grandma and there is a big stack of ones that didn't make it to the wall. Next time I'll have to choose a bigger wall!