Thursday, December 12, 2013

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

And we're back with another simply beautiful Christmas craft for kids! Thank you Pinterest! What can be easier than popsicle sticks, glitter, and cotton balls? You're right! Nothing! Not much is cuter than these sweet little snowflakes either. So, let's get started!

 For these Popsicle Stick Snowflakes you will need:

Standard sized popsicle sticks. Or, I guess, you could use the big huge popsicle sticks too, for some heftier flakes. Ha! :)
white school glue
cotton balls

First, glue two popsicle sticks together to form an X. Then glue a third stick on top running vertically through the middle of the X. Let dry.

When the snowflake is dry, run glue on the top of the popsicle sticks and sprinkle generously with glitter. Place a dot of glue on each tip and in the middle of the snowflake and glue down a cotton ball. I pulled the cotton balls apart so they looked a little more fluffy and not so ball-y.

Allow to dry, then add a piece of yarn to the back and hang up to create your very own glittery snowstorm!

Sophia was so excited when she came downstairs and saw all of the flakes hanging in the hallway.

"It's like it's snowing, in our HOUSE, mom!"

Twirl away, baby girl. Enjoy your indoor snowstorm!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Little Christmas Tree Craft

Happy December!

I know, I's already 10 whole days into the month and I'm just getting around to a December greeting. I have a great excuse for being MIA these past few weeks, though. Thanksgiving. My mom and dad visiting from Montana. School. Four kiddles. Life.

I'm telling you, I'm a fantastic blogger! I write out all sorts of blog posts in my head. All day long I'm telling myself, "Hey, I should blog about this..." It's just the sitting down and actually typing my thoughts out that I'm not so good at. I'm here to remedy that today with a sweet Christmas tree craft that is great for preschoolers and still fun enough for your bigger kids!

These little Christmas trees are just the sweetest and can be made with any old crafting supplies you have laying around your house. We used small pom poms and glitter to decorate our trees. I was looking for the loads of Christmas confetti that I am sure are hanging out somewhere in the depths of my craft drawers, but came up empty...those would be fun to glue on the trees as ornaments as well. What I love about this art project is the simplicity. A few shapes, some color, a dabble of glue and glitter and let your creativity do the rest. For the littles, this is a great craft for shape and color recognition, instruction following, fine motor skills development, and early cutting skills. We also threw in some math with the counting out of the pom poms. Even though Emma (8) has mastered all of these concepts, she still had fun creating a pretty Christmas tree to hang on the wall!

What you need:

white paper
crayons, markers, Do-A-Dots
decorations...pom poms, stickers, beads, confetti...
construction paper or card stock in your choice of color

Start out by drawing three triangles and a rectangle on a piece of paper. Have your children color them in any way they like. We used Do-A-Dots...Edward (2) really enjoys getting creative with these!

Next, have your children cut out the shapes. I helped Edward, but the rest of the children did a great job on their own. Straight lines are a great place to start for beginning cutters!

Then, glue your cut out shapes onto a separate sheet of paper. We glued the rectangle down first, then stacked the three triangles on top.

Finish these festive little trees by gluing on your choice of 'ornaments'. And please use glitter! Kids LOVE glitter! Tables can always be wiped down, hands can always be washed, and floors can always be vacuumed....get out that glitter and go crazy!

I can always tell the success of an art project by the mess left behind. I'd say the kids enjoyed themselves this morning.

Edward lost interest after the Do-A-Dotting, but had fun popping poms poms all around the dining room.

Happy Tuesday everyone! I'll be back later in the week with an easy beginner's crochet tutorial!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful little turkeys

Last week, my children made the sweetest little thankful turkeys in the history of turkey thankfulness! I'm sure I'll say the same thing next year, as I'm sure I said the same thing last year. :) That's just how moms are...every sweet little project is always the cutest!

For this quick project you will need:

one large and one small circle in coordinating papers
five (or more) popsicle sticks
markers, crayons, or colored pencils
yarn or string

Have your child color the popsicle sticks in fall type colors. We did orange, red, brown, and yellow. Then glue the small circle to the large circle so it looks like a head resting on a chunky turkey body. Draw eyes, a beak, and a wattle onto the turkey face.

If your child is able, have them write something they are thankful for on each popsicle stick. If your child is not of writing age, have them dictate their thankful things to you as you write them on the stick. Then, glue the sticks onto the back of the turkey making sure the writing is facing out so it can be easily read. Attach a piece of yarn to the back and hang as a Thanksgiving decoration!

Work by little hands is my favorite kind of artwork to display in my house. And it warms my heart to read the sweet things my littles are thankful for.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Dear Autumn

Throughout the last couple of weeks, some mom friends of mine on Instagram and I have been writing little "love letters" to our favorite season, autumn (or fall, if you choose). It's been fun to sit back and take a minute to share through a few words and pretty pictures what makes this season just so darn great, in our eyes. Also, I'm as social a gal as they come, so it's been fun participating in this little ode to autumn with other brilliant mamas across the country.

My kids sure love fall, as well. So, I thought I'd let them write out some love letters to autumn. And today, I'll share them with you. :) These letters are all in their own words, and the pictures that accompany them were taken by their own little hands. I hope you enjoy reading these sweet letters as much as I do!

Dear Autumn,
I love when you come. Your season is so pretty. I love that you bring pumpkin patches. You are my second favorite season, and you are here!
Emma (age 8)

Dear Fall,
I like that you come because you bring pretty leaves all over. I really, really love you. My name is Sophia, and anyway, your name is Fall. Fall, you're here! I'm glad you're here.
Sophia (age 5)

Dear Fall,
I love you. I'm glad we can go outside and see the leaves and you. I like when you are here because we get chilly. When you're here it means Christmas is almost here.
Elijah (age 4)

You can follow the goings on of our family on Instagram @julia_reed6!

Sour Cream Coffeecake Muffins

Happy Monday to you all!!

The girls and I tried a new recipe for muffins this morning. Just call us the Muffin Girls! We changed up the original recipe from Cooking Light quite a bit, so if you'd like to see that click HERE. It calls for an orange glaze, and we really weren't feeling that. We changed some other stuff around I'll share our new and improved version with you!

Sour Cream Coffeecake Muffins
Yields 18 regular sized muffins

1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C chopped almonds
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 C granulated sugar
1/4 C butter, softened
2 eggs
1 C sour cream
2 T water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C unbleached white flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400*.Place muffins liners into 18 muffins cups, or grease 18 muffin cups.

Combine brown sugar, almonds, and cinnamon into a small bowl; set aside.

Cream the granulated sugar and butter together, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the sour cream, water, and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl combine the flours, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add into the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold the brown sugar mixture into the batter, reserving about 3 T in the small bowl for topping. Don't completely stir it into the batter. We want to create a crumbly, streusel ribbon throughout the muffins.

Fill the muffin liners about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle topping over each muffin.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden or a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

These muffins were a hit in our house this morning! (Really, is that any surprise??) The cinnamon streusel running throughout the muffins was such a nice addition, and the almonds gave a nice, subtle crunch. Definitely put this recipe in your Autumn muffin repertoire!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vegetable Beef Soup

This is the third and final recipe from my ROAST TRI-TIP,  and this one is my favorite! We're a huge soup family (even in the summer!) and this one always hits the spot. Hearty, brothy, beefy...this soup is the whole shabang.


Approx. 1 lb. leftover beef, cut into bit sized pieces ( This could be steak, or in this case, leftover tri-tip roast. I've also used ground beef with favorable results.)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 large carrots, chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes
Approx. 48 oz beef broth (That's about 1 and a half cartons)
1/4 C ketchup
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 package frozen mixed vegetables

*If you are not using already cooked leftover beef, then brown your beef along with the onions, carrots, and garlic; drain.*

If you are using already cooked leftover beef:

Saute the onions, garlic, and carrots in 2 T cooking oil over medium heat until soft. Add the beef, tomatoes, broth, ketchup, basil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, add in the frozen veggies and bring back up to the boil. And that's it! Make sure the soup is heated through and serve with some delicious and fluffy've got yourself a recipe for comfort on a chilly fall night!

Well, there you have it. Three completely different meals using one tri-tip roast. We've also made meat pie (like chicken pot pie, but with beef), beef tacos, and shepherd's pie using leftover tri-tip roast. It's safe to say we are a tad obsessed.

Blessings! Have a wonderful weekend, friends! (Because we all know Friday begins the weekend!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spiced Pear Muffins

There was a delightful chill in the air this morning. Perfect for making muffins! Emma and I had the same idea, almost at the same time, of making pear muffins. So, I hopped online and found this recipe from The Kitchn It sounded delicious, so I thought I'd share it with you! I modified it a bit by using coconut oil. We didn't put the cinnamon sugar topping on either (I forgot!) and they still turned out amazingly! Below is my modified version of the recipe.

Spiced Pear Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1/2 cup  packed brown sugar
1/4 cup  white sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temp
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups pears, unpeeled and diced small (2 medium-sized pears)
 Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on top.
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Heat your oven to 425°F. Spray the top of your muffin tin with non-stick coating and place muffin cups in all the wells.
In a mixer on high speed, cream together the sugars and the coconut oil until they resemble fluffy frosting, about 1 minute. Mix in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated, about 1 minute each. Mix in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, mix 1/3 of the flour mixture into the sugar mixture followed by 1/3 of the milk. Continue alternating between the flour and the milk, mixing just until the flour is incorporated. It's ok if there is still some flour on the sides of the bowl. Do not over-mix.
Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir gently to incorporate the last of the flour. Add the diced pears all at once and fold them in to the batter.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups. The batter will fill the cups and mound slightly on top. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar.
Place the muffin tin in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 400°F. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan once in the middle of baking. The muffins are done when the tops look cracked and toasted, and when a toothpick inserted in the middle of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool enough to handle, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These were completely devoured and I have requests to make them again...tomorrow! Serve with butter and coffee and you've got yourself a winner! Enjoy!

Pulled Beef Sandwiches

Hello all!

Last week I shared with you my recipe for ROAST TRI-TIP in the crock pot. I promised you all three meals out of one roast, so today I am back with a tasty dinner to make using some of your leftovers.

Pulled Beef Sandwiches. Yum. All you need is some of your roast, fork-shredded, and some of your favorite BBQ sauce. My mom gave me this idea, and I'm so thankful she did! This dinner was a hit with the family! Since this is really not a recipe, I'll just give you basic step by step instructions on what I did.

1. Place your fork-shredded beef into a saucepan over medium heat. Just eyeball the amount of beef you use. We are a family of 6 and I would estimate I used about 2 C of beef. So just put in what looks right for the amount of people you are feeding.

2. Add about 2 T of water to the beef along with about 3/4 C of your BBQ sauce. Again, just eyeball this. If you really like BBQ sauce, put in more. There is no right and wrong here.

3. Heat and stir until beef is heated through.

4. Serve on a warm hamburger bun with a side salad and some caramelized turnips....

About those turnips. I really, really, REALLY wish I could utter the words, "Oh my children LOVED my caramelized turnips. They couldn't get enough of them. I didn't have to hear one word of complaint when I served these!" But, alas, in the real world, everyone (including myself) had a huge aversion to them. I'm glad we tried them, though. Now we know, none of us like caramelized turnips. And that's ok!

Two recipes down, one to go! This next one is my favorite!! Stay tuned!


Friday, November 1, 2013

A tragedy, a victory, and a recipe.

Isn't there some sort of saying stating something like, "never make a new recipe for guests or contests..."? I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before. It's very good advice....that I never seem to follow.

My lovely sister and her awesome husband made a beautifully fantastic Caramel Cake for the bake-off at their church's annual Harvest Festival. It sounded so delicious and seriously looked like a million bucks. And they won first place! We were all so excited  for them...especially Stephen...he made the whole cake by himself! What a guy!

The girls and I had the great idea to ask Auntie Jessie for her cake recipe so we could make it for OUR bake-off at OUR church's annual Harvest Festival. She obliged and sent the recipe straight away! I kept thinking, though, "we should probably have done a test run of this cake...".

You see, this cake calls for making homemade caramel for the frosting, hence the caramel part of the Caramel Cake. But, I've never in my life made a successful caramel. Never. And it's not for lack of trying. I've tried and tried, and I either burn it to death, or it turns out crystallized and crunchy. I was intimidated by this say the least. My girls, however, were fired up and ready to go. So, we dove in and began the cake.

The actual cake making went splendidly! The cakes were beautiful. Perfectly springy and the loveliest creamy color! We were well pleased. With our new sense of determination we got to task making the caramel.

We had all of our ingredients measured out and ready to go. We read and re-read the recipe four times and felt very confident in our carameling abilities. Everything was going smoothly, and I was so surprised! We finished the last step, adding the cream, took a step back and breathed a huge sigh of relief. The only thing left to do was taste it, and boy were we ready!

If you know me well, you know that I usually have to smell everything, food or drink, before I taste it. I don't know why...I've done this all my life and will probably continue to do this until the day I die. So, I smelled our beautiful caramely creation. Instead of a rich amber scent, I breathed in a bitter, burned stench. I tasted it secretly and that's when I realized, I burned it. And I didn't even know it. Just the teeniest hint of burning...but it was enough to make it unusable. The girls tasted it and at first they were all "mmm's" and "yuuummm's", but after a moment, they tasted it too. The bitter pang of burnt caramel. We kept tasting it, hoping it would be better with each taste, but with each spoonful we knew, it had to be thrown out.

"It's ok!", I exclaimed! "We'll make a new batch and use brown sugar this time!" So, I Googled a brown sugar caramel recipe. It was a Martha Stewart recipe, so it HAD to be good, I thought. We got all of our ingredients out again and started back at it. Round two of the caramel making commenced!

This time, the failure happened almost immediately. As we started adding the butter to the melted sugar it began clumping and crumbling like crazy! Then, it firmed and hardened completely, getting completely stuck in my whisk! Obviously, I had done something wrong, and ruined one more batch of caramel. I'm telling you, people, caramel making is NOT for me! And actually, I'm ok with that. I don't have to be good at making caramel. I am just fine with not being an expert, or even a good, caramel maker.

Now, this is where the rubber meets the road. My girls were looking at me with the hopes of winning any place in our bake-off shimmering in their eyes. I wanted to scream and cry. I had just wasted two sticks of butter and a bunch of whipping cream. That stuff's not cheap, and I HATE wasting ingredients due to the recipe not turning out. But I knew my girls were watching me. This was a make it or break it situation...and I've had SO MANY times of breaking it. I whispered a prayer to God to give me peace and patience, turned to the girls and said as softly and happily as I could, "We'll just change the frosting. How about Spiced Buttercream?" Thank you Lord. He intervened in a situation in which I knew I was just about to lose it, and gave me exactly what I needed at exactly that time. The girls cheered their hearty agreement and we got to it.

I'm not sharing this story to pat myself on the back. Really, I'm not. My list of parenting failures is long and ugly. All of us have times where we wish we could permanently erase those Monster's Inc. moments from our history. You know, when Sully roars at the fake kid right in front of Boo. Her sad, scared little face, wondering why in the world this big guy that she loves and respects is acting like a crazed lunatic. Yes, I've been here.

But it's what we do after those moments, and the moments after that when our patience and resolve is tried and tested again. What will we do? Lean on our own understanding? Allow our own emotions to guide the situation? Get mad and take it out on the kids, again. Or, take Proverbs 3:5&6 to heart and live it out? "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Or how about Philippians 4:6&7, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." He will straighten our angry and frustrated path. He will guard our hearts and mind and bring us peace. Just trust. Pray.

I'm just so thankful that He is faithful to His Word. So faithful even in the smallest of things, like making caramel that didn't turn out. We didn't understand why our caramel wasn't turning out after meticulously following two recipes, but God did. We may never know why, and that's ok. It didn't work out, that's fine. Shake it off!

The cake was saved, the memories made in our kitchen stayed happy and free from mom's grumpiness, and in the end, our cake won first place. My girls are still talking about was a magical night for them.

And I'm giving glory to God. Thankful for His faithfulness. Thankful that He can take an exasperated mama and breathe peace into her soul at just the right moment. I'm thankful for the sweet memories made with my girls while making this cake.  And, I'm just thankful for cake.

So, I'll share the recipe with you. Not the caramel. Never the caramel.

 Vanilla Cake with Spiced Buttercream
1 1/2 C white sugar
12 T butter, softened
3 eggs, room temp
1 T vanilla extract
2 1/4 C flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 C whole milk 
Directions for cake:
1    Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter and flour 2 8x8 round baking pans 
2    In a medium bowl, cream together sugar and butter (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and beat on high for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale. Stir in the vanilla.
3   Combine flour, baking powder and salt in different bowl.
4   Add to butter mixture, alternating with the milk (start and end with the flour)
5   Pour batter evenly into prepared pans, smoothing tops with back of spoon.
6   Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes in pan then transfer to cooling rack

Spiced Buttercream Frosting

1 Cup butter, room temperature
3 1/2-4 Cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 C milk
Beat butter until creamy. Alternate adding the sugar and milk, starting and ending with the sugar. Mix well until it is completely smooth. Add the vanilla, spices, and salt. Mix well. 
 Assembling the cake:
 Spread a layer of frosting over the top of the bottom layer. Sprinkle some semi sweet chocolate chunks over the frosting. Gently place the top cake layer on the bottom layer. Frost the entire cake, including the sides. Sprinkle a bit of extra cinnamon on top for garnish.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Roast Tri-Tip {crock pot recipe}

Hello friends!

With the onset of chilly weather, I have been in the mood for warm and hearty meals. And I ALWAYS love when I can get more than one meal out of something. Roast is perfect for that! My husband recently discovered tri-tip roasts at our neighborhood Trader Joe's (seriously, we live there), and since then I can't get enough of it! It's relatively inexpensive. We get an almost 5 pound roast for about $20...that's a good price, right?

Well, I certainly think it, I'll be getting at least 3 dinners out of this one roast. Bada bing! That's what I love, right there!

Today, I will share with you the way I initially cook a tri-tip roast. I always cook my roasts in my crock pot...that's what my mother always did and does, so that's what I do. It's pretty much fool proof! And I don't know about you, but when I spend $20 on one package of meat, I want to make sure it's not going to get messed up in the cooking process.

Tri-Tip Roast and Yorkshire Pudding

4 or 5 pound tri-tip roast
1 large onion, quartered
4 large carrots, cut into thick sticks
1/4 C beef stock
Italian seasoning
garlic powder

Place the onions and carrots in the bottom of a standard sized crock pot. Sprinkle with your choice of seasonings. I usually season the vegetables in the same manner as the roast. In this case: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.  Season the roast on both sides with your seasonings. I never measure the this part...I just kind of eyeball it. Make sure to rub the seasonings into the meat on each side. Place the roast in the crock pot, fat side up, on top of the vegetables and pour the beef stock over it. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours, then turn it up to high for about 2 1/2-3 hours. I checked my roast after 2 1/2 hours on high and it was done. Then I turned it off and let it sit in the pot for about 1/2 an hour or so.

The vegetables.

The roast.

The end result!

I love serving roast with Yorkshire pudding. Now, if you've never had Yorkshire pudding before, beware, it's not actually pudding at all. It's sort of a dense bread and goes really well with roast...and gravy!

Yorkshire Pudding

4 eggs
2 Cups flour
2 Cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 Cup drippings from the roast (just swipe some from the bottom of the crock pot)

Heat oven to 400*. Grease a 9x13 pan and then add drippings. Beat eggs on low for 30 seconds. Add milk and beat for 30 seconds more. Add the flour and salt and beat until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour batter over drippings in the pan. Bake 35-40 minutes.

The pudding forms these fun peaks in the middle...the most desirable pieces (in my opinion!). Now, let's plate it up!

And there you have it! A delicious roast served with carrots and onions, Yorkshire Pudding, and a nice green salad. A bit of horseradish sauce is always delightful as well. Oh, and make your favorite gravy to go along with it. HERE is a great recipe for an easy beef gravy using the drippings from your roast. I followed the recipe using flour, and it turned out perfectly! :)

My kids gobbled this meal up! That shows me this recipe is definitely a our house at least!

Stay tuned this week for TWO more recipes you can make with this ONE roast!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lego Face t-shirt ~ Idea post~

This is so simple I'm almost embarrassed to dedicate a whole blog post to it. But then I thought, "maybe someone out there is like me and needs a little springboard for their imagination and creative juices to start flowing". So, I give you:

This is more of just an idea post and not really a formal DIY or tutorial.

I chose a dapper little Minifigure to use as my template. First, put a piece of cardboard in between your shirt layers right under where your image will be. We don't want any paint bleeding through and ruining the back side. But if that does happen, I'm sure it would be easy to paint a little something on the back too, to cover it up! :) Then, lightly draw the outline of the face with pencil. I found the middle of my shirt and just drew freehand. When you are satisfied with your sketch, start filling it in with fabric paint. I used Tulip Soft Fabric Paint for this project. I have also used the Folkart brand of fabric paint with much success.

Follow your chosen Minifigure as your guide, or get all crazy and do your own thing!

When your paint job is to your satisfaction ( I gave it two coats), let the shirt dry flat for about 72 hours. Then set it with an iron. I put a hand towel over the image and set my iron to the dry setting and made a few passes over it. The shirt can then be washed (inside out) and dried. If you want the image to last longer and not to fade as quickly, I would recommend letting it air dry.

Now, for some pictures of the cute boy in the cute shirt!

 As you can see, the shirt is H U G E. I'll be taking care of that. A little trim, tuck, and sew. But the face turned out exactly as I wanted! He loves it!

He was on a saluting kick. And then things got a little silly. He did, after all, have his sisters there to show off for. :)

Then we got his new Batman Lego set out. But he still kept his eyes on his siblings.

If you have ever tried taking a four year old boy's pictures, then you know it's nearly an impossible task. Over half of my pictures are blurred. And getting him to look at me is pretty much a losing battle as well. But, it'll help me to remember, when he is old and married, the way he was when he was four. An energetic bundle of Lego loving boy.

And now I'll go cry in my heap of mama emotions.

Juuust kidding. Kind of.

Blessings, dear friends!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Simple DIY Lego Party Ideas

My first born son, Elijah, just turned 4! To celebrate, we had a small family party with some simple decorations. The theme was his current obsession: Lego.

We love to celebrate birthdays! We usually celebrate all week long. My husband has a really hard time hanging on to birthday gifts, so we end up giving them early. Then, we do our special traditions on their actual birthday. We'll go over to my husband's parent's house usually the weekend before or after their actual birthday and do a family celebration with cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course Grandpa and Grandma. My family lives in Montana, so it's a another whole hoopla when gifts and cards come from Nanny and Papa and Auntie Jessie and Uncle Stephen...and a special time when cards come from extended family! Seriously, I feel like singing "Celebrate good times, come on!" for a week when it's birthday time!

With all of that being said, I am a super minimalist when it comes to the party. We don't do party favors or much decor. Really, we just make the day special for the birthday child. They get to choose the food and's a celebration of them as a person, and the precious blessing they are to all around them.

I am in NO WAY saying that big, fun birthday celebrations with lots of decorations and games and favors aren't celebrating the child as a person as well. It's just not my style. I try to be a 'keep it simple' person. Also, my organization skills are seriously lacking!

Alrighty! Now on to some easy, and I mean EASY, DIY Lego decorations and ideas! First off are these super cute Lego Minifig balloons. They turned out so much cuter than I even thought they would! I blew up a bunch of yellow balloons and drew Lego Minifig faces on them with a black Sharpie marker. Bada bing, bada boom.
What was really fun with these is, as I was blowing them up and drawing, all of the kids came in and they started blowing up balloons and drawing Minifigure faces on them too. And then they played and played and played with them until they popped! Ha!

I used the same idea for these yellow cups. I just chose a Minifig face that I liked (and was pretty simple to replicate) and drew it on with black Sharpie. Simple, cute, and Lego!

Now on to the cake. The piece de resistance. Elijah asked for a 'chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate in the middle cuz I yike chocolate!" Boy after my own heart!

I used the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake and frosting recipe (to follow) and made my own chocolate Lego Minifigs for decorations.

We found this awesome ice cube mold at the Lego store on our last trip there, and the first thing I thought of when I saw it was: Lego chocolates!!!

Because this tray is silicone, the chocolates just pop right out with no hassle at all! These trays can be found at the Lego store or at

So much chocolatey goodness!!! Elijah was pleased!

Happy birthday to you, my sweet 4 year old boy! You bring so much love and laughter into our home! I am so thankful God chose for me to be your mommy!

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil ( I used butter )
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 
10 to 12 servings.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Books We Love

  I started a series last year called "Books to Look For" and only ended up writing one post in that series. Books and reading are very near and dear to our hearts, and so I am purposing now to keep up in sharing with you all books that we really love! So, I am restarting my book series and entitling it "Books We Love". I will share many different types of books ranging from books for little ones all the way up through to books my husband and I enjoy reading.

First up is A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

My husband brought this book home from the thrift store one day. As I sat looking through it, reading the sweet little poems throughout it, I knew this would be a favorite in our family. It's a book we sometimes forget about, but when we rediscover it on our bookshelf, it's like an old friend has come to pay us a visit. A Child's Garden of Verses is full of sweet, silly, brave, and sleepy poems and is a fantastic way to build a love for poetry in your little ones. A few of our favorite selections are: Bed In Summer, Whole Duty of Children, and Marching Song. This book is a treasure.

Goody O'Grumpity by Carol Ryrie Brink
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

A sweet, rhyming story of Goody O'Grumpity and the creation of her marvelous Spice Cake. *Beware* This book makes you really can almost smell the spices in the air! The illustrations are beautiful and the reading has a lovely, lilting quality. The best part: a recipe for Goody O'Grumpity's Spice Cake is included at the back of the book! We made it one time and it is so good!!!

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." George R. R. Martin


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Dutch Baby {recipe}

Hello and happy October to you all!

This fall we have been loving our OATMEAL PUMPKIN PANCAKE recipe for breakfast. Emma is able to make it all on her own this year, which totally works for me! It's great having another cook in the house, and she sure loves to cook!

Just when we were wanting a new recipe to add to our fall repertoire, my mom emailed me this sweet gem from the site SAVORY LOTUS. This Pumpkin Dutch Baby recipe has quickly become a favorite!

This recipe is grain free. It uses almond flour in place of regular wheat flour. But, I have made it both ways, and it turns out great either way. I like it better with the almond flour...I find the nuttiness and slight crunch very enjoyable, while my kids (namely Emma) likes the taste of the flour dutch baby better. The consistency doesn't change much at's a lovely, custard-like texture whether you use flour or almond flour.

Pumpkin Dutch Baby

5 eggs
3/4 C milk
3/4 C pureed pumpkin
3/4 C almond flour (or 3/4 C regular flour)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (we like cinnamon so we always add extra)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Celtic sea salt (any salt will do, but Celtic sea salt is so very good for you!)
3 T butter

Melt about 3 T butter with about 1/4 C pure maple syrup. Pour over each serving. Or top with whipped cream, pumpkin butter, warmed fruit, or some chocolate chips. Yum!

Preheat oven to 450* and place an oven proof skillet into it. Combine milk and eggs, in a large bowl and whisk vigorously. Add pumpkin, almond flour, salt, spices, and vanilla. Mix well to thoroughly combine. Remove skillet from oven. Drop in butter and return to oven for a minute or two until completely melted. Remove skillet from oven and pour the pumpkin batter into the skillet. Do not stir. The butter will pool on top of the batter. Yum! Place back in the oven. Bake for 16-20 minutes, until turning golden brown and slightly crispy at edges.

When you take it out of the oven, the middle and sides will have puffed up quite a bit. As the Dutch Baby cools, it deflates back into itself. My kids LOVE watching as I take this out of the oven. The puffy, risen middle never gets old to them!

Top with your favorite topping and serve up with some yogurt or fruit and coffee! These go really, REALLY well with coffee!! Enjoy!