Friday, February 27, 2015

happy weekend

The orange blossoms are here! Hooray! I wish I could send a whiff of the warm, sweet air from my backyard to yours. There is nothing better than the smell of orange blossoms. Nothing!

This weekend is full of happy, busy things. Things like school carnivals, soccer games, and neighborhood fiestas. February was good to us this year and I will be sad to see it end.

The best thing I saw this week? My two favorite Pauls, singing my most favorite song. (The whole thing is good, but you can skip to 5:42 if you want.)

What's the best thing you saw this week?

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In which I conquer my fear of Medjool dates.

I guess it's more of an intimidation, really. I've seen lots of whole food recipes featuring dates, and since we are trying to decrease the amount of added sugar in our family's diet, I thought it was time for me to give them a try.

Granola Bars, take two

1 package (usually 1 lb) fancy Medjool dates, pitted and smooshed in a food processor
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup crisp brown rice cereal
1/4 cup unsweetened flake coconut
1 tablespoon flax seed
1 tablespoon chia seed
2 tablespoons hemp seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
some chocolate chips (mini are better)

After pitting and smooshing the dates, add them to the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together. It becomes quite thick, so this is easiest to do by hand, I've found.

Press the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I put another piece of parchment paper over the top and used a roller to get them nice and compact and smooth. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, then cut, wrap in individual servings, and store in the fridge.

Homemade granola bars are great because you can add whatever you like. Dried fruit, nuts, seeds - just so long as you don't add too many things to overpower the stickiness of the dates. Otherwise you might end up with a crumbly mess.

I found some great recipes and ideas here, here, here, and here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

We were together. I forget the rest.

Quote above by my favorite Walt Whitman. It very accurately describes of the past fourteen years of my life.

You see, fourteen years ago this morning, Mike and I were married in the Los Angeles LDS temple. It was a quiet, easy day. He arrived with his parents. I arrived with mine. And when the short ceremony was over, we left together, sealed as husband and wife.

The ensuing years have been good. I don't really remember many of the details, but I don't need to. Mike and I were together, and that is enough. Mike is my best friend, my partner, my everything. There is no life for me without him in it. And this life that we have built together exceeds all of my dreams.

Friday, February 20, 2015

happy weekend

Stella stayed home from school for a couple of days this week because she said her throat felt "wet". I don't even know what that means. In her defense, she had a runny nose and a pretty awful cough, too. We both enjoyed not having to rush her out the door in the morning. And Elliot really liked having a playmate. We're counting down until spring break next month, and then summer will come soon after that. We're getting trunky over here!

I just finished remaking a wedding dress for a bride. It was sort of a big job, so to reward myself, I ordered a little print from artist Emily Jeffords. I have long admired her work and I am excited to have some of it hanging in my home.

Also, are you a cat person? I'm not, but the other five people who live in my house most definitely are. They thought this video of cats welcoming soldiers home was really funny. Cats can be so mean.

I am looking forward to going out with Mike tonight, but other than that our weekend, as usual, is wide, wide open. Have a good one!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

better bread

I love our bread maker. Like, really really love it. I use it a few times each week, and for the past four years I have made nearly all of the bread, buns, pizza dough, and rolls our family has eaten with it. I can't imagine running my house without it, actually. But, I made a mistake on Sunday. I threw some dough in the machine to make a loaf of bread, but I accidentally set the dough cycle, instead of the bread cycle. I had no choice but to transfer the dough to a bread pan and bake it in my oven! And that's when I realized that no matter how amazing my bread maker is, bread baked in my own oven tastes a thousand times better. The crust was soft and chewy, not hard and crispy. The entire loaf was light and fluffy. My kids ate the whole thing, crusts included, for lunch that day. I'm not sure I'll ever use the bread machine for baking again.

Irish Potato Brown Bread is my favorite everyday bread recipe. Except I skip the bread flour and only use whole wheat flour.

From now on, when I need a loaf of bread, I will use the dough cycle on my machine. Once the dough cycle is complete, I will knead the dough a few times and put it in a lightly greased pan to rise for 45 minutes or so. Then I will bake it in my 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Once it's out of the oven, I will rub the top with butter to make it glisten. And then we will try really hard to make it last for a few days, at least.

Friday, February 13, 2015

happy weekend

It's Friday already? Are we sure about that? Man alive, this week was a blur. A big blur of early mornings and homework and sewing and my aching, aching old lady back. (Those last two are most likely related.) It took 35 years, but I think my back has finally turned against me.

Also, I just realized that tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Slow down, February! Mike and I have dinner plans, but I told him not to get me a gift. Not even flowers. Just a hand written note where he tells me how pretty I am and how much he appreciates everything I do for him and the kids. Easy, right?

I hope your weekend is full of love, friends. Have a good one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

roses are red

Stella's valentines contain all of the best things about Valentine's Day: roses, candy, and original poetry. We had lots of fun making these crepe paper roses to give to her classmates. They were a little difficult for her seven year old fingers, but after wrapping a few, she got the hang of it. She penned the poem, which we printed on card stock and tied to the stem of the lollipop.

p.s. Those teeth!

Monday, February 09, 2015

February is my favorite.

I was sitting at the park behind my house the other afternoon, surrounded by good friends and neighbors, watching Elliot play soccer in our neighborhood soccer league that is run completely by volunteers. Stella was on the playground nearby with her best cousins. I could see Oliver across the street at the elementary school, playing a pick up game of baseball. The sun was shining, and the breeze in the shade was just right.

I am thankful for this happy, simple life that I lead. I've always known that it is in the recognition of small things that contentment and happiness grow, but I was glad to be reminded of it that day in the park.

It is easy to be happy in February in Arizona, when the sky is blue and the flowers are blooming and the sun is bright but not too hot yet. I wish I could send a little sunshine your way.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 06, 2015

happy weekend

I took Elliot in for his Kindergarten check up this week. I think his least favorite part was having to take his clothes off. Good news is that he's healthy as can be. He's all set for the start of school in August. I am so happy that our neighborhood elementary will start offering half day kindergarten again. I know August is months and months away, but I still can't stand the idea of him going to school all day every day. Half day will ease us both into it, I think.

This weekend Stella is hoping to craft her valentines. Oliver is probably looking forward to staying in his pjs all day. I am sure Mabel is planning on spending time with friends. I would like to make some headway on a big sewing project I'm working on. Mike is most likely scheming up some family weed-pulling and citrus picking. And I don't think Elliot can tell the difference between the weekdays and the weekend yet, so I have a feeling that he'll be happy with anything.

What are you hoping for?

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

baked oatmeal, take two

A few of you shared your family's recipe for baked oatmeal after my post a couple of weeks ago. Thank you! I haven't tried them all, but I've made Karen's a couple of times and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with the rest of you. I hope that's ok, Karen.

Karen's Baked Oatmeal

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use melted butter instead)
3/4 cup sugar (I decreased this to 1/3)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins (my crazy kids don't like raisins, so I just put a few in for myself)
2 tablespoons brown sugar for sprinkling on top

Beat the oil and sugar together. Mix in the eggs, milk, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Then stir in the oatmeal and raisins. Pour into a lightly greased pie pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cover, and refrigerate over night. In the morning, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Serve with milk and any fruit you have on hand, but you don't have to. It's great plain! I love the raisins in this one, and I really love the way the edges get a little crispy. Plus, it makes my whole house smell cozy and delicious first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

pinterest valentines

Thank goodness for Pinterest. Our valentines are much more creative after a quick pinterest search than they would otherwise be. Elliot and I made these cute wild animal cards for his preschool Valentine's party yesterday. His favorite part was picking out just the right baby animal for each of his friends. My favorite part was watching him write their names.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Las Vegas

Last week Mike and I were in Las Vegas for a convention. I feel lucky to be able to travel alone with Mike so often, but man alive, I think we have maxed out our babysitting options in the last four months! Last time we were in Las Vegas, we brought the kids and managed to have a pretty good time. This time, we left them home with my mom and stayed at Planet Hollywood, where the convention was being held. For people who don't gamble or drink, and who don't appreciate seeing scantily clad women dancing on tables as they walk to their rooms, Las Vegas is sort of a nightmare, and Planet Hollywood was pretty disappointing. (Although, the best thing we ate on the trip was the croissant french toast at Planet Dailies inside the hotel. So good.)

While Mike was in meetings, I spent the first day shopping for souvenirs for the kids. This is my favorite thing to do when I am away from them. I found lots of really fun things. Plus, all the time I wanted to sift through the racks at Forever 21 and Anthropologie alone? I am not a shopper usually, but I loved it.

On day two, my good friend, Annie, saved me from the filth and invited me to her house, about an hour out of the city. I had such a good time visiting her teeny town, and talking the day away. It made me wish we saw each other more than once a year. Thank you, Annie!

I arrived back at the hotel just in time to curl my hair for the big convention gala.

Mike had forgotten his dress shoes, and the red dress I scored in the clearance section at Anthropologie the day before really could have used some heels, but our poor shoe choices didn't stop us from having a nice time that night. Mike even won an award! I am so proud of him. He works hard and runs a successful company. He is smart and inventive and I like being on his arm at things like this.

The next morning, we packed up, ate a humongous amount of food at Hash House a Go Go and headed home. Good bye Las Vegas! I hope I never have to visit you again.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Banana Cake

I had some very ripe bananas sitting on my shelf this past weekend, but banana bread didn't seem to fit the bill for a Sunday dinner Super Bowl treat. So I found this recipe for a classic Banana Cake instead. I had just enough of the ingredients listed to make one little layer. There would be a few other desserts at Mike's parents' house that night, so I knew a small cake would be plenty. I halved this recipe:

Banana Cake
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3)
2 1/2 cups cake flour (If you don't have cake flour, replace 2 tbl flour per cup with 2 tbl cornstarch.)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and prepare two 9-inch pans (grease and flour). Mash the bananas in a small bowl. I like mine nice and smooth, but you can leave chunks, if you'd prefer. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a second bowl. In a third bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Add the buttermilk to the mashed bananas, and then mix it into the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Once it's cooled completely, frost it with this:

Banana Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 1)
3 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mash the banana. In another bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the vanilla and the lemon juice. Then mix in the mashed banana. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a little bit at a time.

The frosting really packs a banana punch and makes this cake extra special. The cake was light and moist, and the frosting was creamy and rich. We all loved it. I might not go back to banana bread ever again.

Friday, January 30, 2015

happy weekend

Mike and I spent most of the week in Las Vegas. Mike had a convention to attend, and while Las Vegas is probably my least favorite town, I am grateful that I was able to go with him. Having a few days to ourselves, no matter where we are, is such a gift.

I'll tell you more about it later, but right now I am really glad to be back home in my quiet little house with my sweet, innocent children where I can pretend that none of the things I saw on the strip exist in real life.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, January 23, 2015

happy weekend

This week was a good one - full of busy and happy things. I felt like I was on top of my game, which was such a nice change from the past little while. Good health is not something to take for granted, and I am grateful to have felt healthy and strong again.

Some good things that happened this week:

Mabel won the Geography Bee at her school! It was fun to watch her up on stage. She kept her cool and used her brain, two very difficult things to do when you're in the spotlight in front of a crowd. (She's third from the right in the photo.)

Elliot started soccer! About a year and a half ago, when I was tucking him into bed at night, he started asking me if he had soccer practice the next day. Every night. For months and months and months. He is finally old enough to participate in our little neighborhood league. His first practice was yesterday and it was everything he hoped it'd be. I am so happy for him.

What made you happy this week?

Have a good weekend!