Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Dad

He gave me my bright blue eyes.
And my dark hair.

Once we went to a Father/Daughter dance.
I was upset when everyone said "You would look just like your dad if you grew a mustache."

He taught me to love music.
And books.

When I was in third grade, he showed me how to do algebra.
He made me feel smart.

He talked more than anyone I know.
Even more than me.

He made the worst hamburgers, but the best Chinese food.
I still love Chinese.

He let me get that cat.
But he chose the name. The dumbest name ever - TC for The Cat.

He surprised me and came to my fifth grade talent show.
I felt special.

I made fun of him when he said "I'm fixin' to..." or "I'll give you a holler..."
He laughed.

He made a lot of mistakes.
But he owned up to them later on.

And after I had my own children, he told great stories of when I was a child.
And he gave great advice - "Don't forget these days. They're the best."

He visited a few weeks ago to meet Ethan and see Evie.
He read to Evie and carried her. He tickled her and sang silly songs.
She loved the attention from her Poppa.

When he left to go home, he promised to read her books on the webcam.
But we ran out of time.

Last night, my dad passed away.
And I'm in disbelief. I'm numb.

But trying to remember.
My dad.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Spirit of the Season

I'm finally feeling the Christmas spirit. This year, it took a little longer than normal, but I'm there now. This past weekend, we finally decorated the tree that's been up for two weeks. The presents are wrapped and ribboned. I'm blaring Christmas music in the kitchen, singing in the car. We're taking drives just to see the lights in the neighborhood.

And I'm thinking of my Savior.

With a new baby in the house, I am focused even more on Baby Jesus - "born a child, yet a King." Usually, it's grown-up Jesus that comes to my mind. Even during the Christmas season, I'm focused on what Jesus ultimately did for me, and not how He came.

But every time I hear the Christmas Story this year, I glance over at Ethan. I see his tiny body, his soft skin. He's vulnerable - not strong. And this is how God chose to come down and dwell among us. As a baby.

For me, that's a miracle in itself. God didn't come as a prince in a palace, or as someone famous. He didn't have servants and bodyguards. Jesus began life just as we do. He wasn't even born in a hospital. He felt cold and hunger and pain, just as we do. He depended on a mother to care for him when he was an infant, just as we do. Because He became a child, just like us, He knows what our life is truly like.

That gives me shivers, knowing that by becoming human, God understands me. Jesus reconciled me to God. He began this reconciliation as a baby, and ended by suffering in my place.

And so this Christmas season, I celebrate Baby Jesus. I celebrate this Baby's long-awaited arrival. God in flesh, living still with us. "Glory to the newborn King..."

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find out rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Talkin' with My Girl

Evie: Here are the directions I wrote to Heaven, where Jesus lives.
Me: Oh, good! But we won't be going to Heaven for a long time.
Evie: (Handing me my cell phone) But don't forget your phone when we go.
Me: Honey, we won't need phones in Heaven.
Evie: They already have a phone?
Me: (A little exasperated) Yes, they have a phone already.
Evie: When it rings, I will run run run to answer it!

-----

Me: Evie, what do you want for breakfast?
Evie: Ramen Noodles.
Me: You can't have Ramen Noodles for breakfast, they're lunch food. What do you want for breakfast?
Evie: (Pausing a few seconds.) Is it okay if we just call this lunch?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Potato Soup

At my first job, way back when, a girl named Chris sat in the cubicle next to me. Chris is sweet and wacky and smart and funny and cute. She helped me though bad bosses and bad roommates and dating and wedding planning. You know how there are people in your life who you lose touch with, but still consider friends? Chris is one of those people for me...

Anyway, I don't even remember why, but there was a time when we were trying to make the perfect potato soup. This was before AllRecipes.com, when I only had dial-up internet at home. (Boy, I feel old now!) So we used to ask other people for their hints. Someone told Chris to use sour cream in the soup, which tasted good, but curdled. Someone told me to use ham in the soup, which was too chunky. And eventually we gave up and considered our recipe "good enough."

But it wasn't really good enough to make regularly. You know, because of the curdled sour cream and the chunky ham!

About six months ago, I found this recipe. It's for the crock pot, and I made it like that a few times. Then I figured out it's just as easy (and faster) to make on the stove, so I modified it a tiny bit. And it is simple, but the best thing to fill your belly on a cold night. I've thought of Chris every time I make it.

So, here is finally the perfect potato soup recipe...

Potato Soup
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 2-inch chunks
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 quarts chicken broth
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
crumbled bacon (optional)

Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasonings, and broth to large stockpot. (If you're like me, and think extra garlic makes anything taste better, resist! It's perfect with 4 cloves.) Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for about an hour, until potatoes are tender.

Remove lid. Using a stick blender or potato masher, blend the soup until smooth.

Break the cream cheese into chunks and add to soup. Turn heat to low and cook about 20 minutes, until cream cheese is mostly melted into the soup. Run the blender through the soup again, just to make sure any cream cheese chunks are incorporated.

I don't think this needs the bacon garnish. (I'm trying to lose this pregnancy weight.) If you want it, just crumble it on top before serving.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Night

I've never been a good sleeper. I lay my head on the pillow, and instead of drifting to dreamland, my brain clicks "on." I worry, I write blog posts in my head, I make To Do lists, I redecorate the house. So when I finally fall asleep, I want to stay sleeping! Because I repeat the whole cycle again if I wake up.

But I don't mind getting up with Ethan at night.

Oh, he's just the sweetest thing ever. And he's all mine at night.

During the day, there is so much going on. The radio is on, or the television is on. Evie is running around, or dancing, or singing, or asking for my help. The doorbell rings, or the phone rings.

At night, it's quiet. The light is dim. It's just the two of us. I hold his warm body in my arms while I feed him. In the soft light, he looks like a little angel. I kiss his head and stroke his cheek.

When I was up with Evie in the night, I used to pray for other mothers who were up with their children. But I sometimes forget to pray when I'm up with Ethan. He steals all my attention, all my love, all my heart - there in the dark.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just Average

Yesterday was Ethan's one-month check up with his pediatrician.

He is 21 inches long.
He weighs 9 pounds, 5 ounces.

Guess what percentile 9 pounds, 5 ounces is? The 48th percentile.

Yep, that's me doing a little dance. I finally have a "normal" sized child!

I love Evie - her big personality in her tiny little body. But I'm happy Ethan is average. No weight checks are scheduled in our future. I won't cry at the doctor's office if he loses an ounce. I won't butter everything he eats or insist he eats his ice cream before his carrots.

Just average is just great...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pot Roast

I'm back! Did you miss me?

We're adjusting to life as new parents, again. Ethan is the sweetest little baby, and Evie is the best big sister. Seriously, she's doing even better than we thought she would.

And, despite being sleep-deprived, I'm even up to cooking a meal now and then. Nothing gourmet, to be sure, but at least I'm back in the kitchen! Tonight I made a very easy pot roast, to rave reviews. Even my almost-vegetarian daughter ate the meat! It also makes it's own yummy gravy while cooking, which is my favorite part...

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 c flour
salt, pepper, and garlic powder (for seasoning)
2-3 lb pot roast
2 (10.75 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (1 oz) package dry onion soup mix
1 1/4 c beef broth
1 lb baby carrots
3 onions, quartered
4 large potatoes, quartered

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle roast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and flour. Brown all sides of meat.

In slow cooker, mix mushroom soup, onion soup mix and beef broth. Place pot roast in slow cooker and coat with soup mixture. Add carrots, onions and potatoes.

Cook on High for 3-4 hours, or Low for 8-9 hours.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tums

When I was pregnant with Ethan, I had a lot of heartburn. It's the most annoying thing to have heartburn after you eat a bowl of cereal or an apple. But I had it, and I took a lot of Tums.

Evie is obsessed with Tums now. I even took an empty container and filled it with candy Spree, so she would be able to "pretend" to have heartburn. (I know, we are just crazy in this house!)

It's still not enough. She wants the real thing, and will do just about anything to get it.

Evie: I can't wait to get married.
Me: Really? That's a long time away.
Evie: But then I will be able to reach the Tums when I need them.

Evie: When I have a baby, I'm not going to the hospital.
Me: Oh, no?
Evie: No. I will just stay home and take some Tums.

If only we could solve our problems with antacids, the world would be a much easier place...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Off Course

So what have I been doing the past few days since we returned home? Besides cuddling and cooing and not sleeping? Well, I've been trying to breastfeed.

And, oh, I've been having the hardest time!

I remember rough patches with Evie. Waiting for my milk to come in, trying to get her to wake up for feedings, the whole milk/soy thing... But the relationship we had during our nursing sessions made it all worthwhile. I loved the whole thing, and breastfed her for 20 months. It's an accomplishment I'm still very proud of.

Ethan is a different story, though. Just hours after he was born, he was in the NICU with jaundice. It was important to get him eating right away, to rid his body of bilirubin. So I agreed to supplement his feedings with formula. And he drank a LOT of formula! The nurses were all impressed with his appetite, and everyone was happy when he started getting better.

But all the bottles have caused me problems. I can't get him to latch on. I worked with a lactation consultant at the hospital, and she gave me lots of tips. I was so enthusiastic at first, but after so many days of Ethan refusing to nurse, after days of trying everything I could think of, of calls to several lactation consultants, of pumping around the clock to protect my milk supply, of more tears than you can imagine, after nipple shields and dripping syringes of breastmilk, and countless pleads to Ethan to JUST LATCH ON, I am done.

It makes me so sad. This is never something I even considered. Bottle feeding just wasn't in my plans at all. However, here I am.

Talking with Ethan's pediatrician last night made me feel so much better. Really, there's not much more I can do to encourage him to nurse. And it's not a choice I made for him - he made it for me.

The new plan is to pump a few times during the day and feed him that milk from a bottle. His other feedings will be formula. And I'll cuddle him often, wear him in a sling, sing to him, and kiss his little head so he still feels nurtured. It's a compromise I never wanted to make, although I'm becoming more accepting as time goes by.

But it sure feels like failure.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Paperwork

Yahoo! We're just waiting on the paperwork to be completed, and we're on our way home!

Little Boy Blue




Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Long Story, Short

Ethan is still beautiful, but life is not.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, Ethan's billirubin levels shot up dramatically. Like, enough to wake his pediatritan in the dead of night and get him admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

His levels have stablized, thanks to constant light therapy. But they are still way too high, so although I have been discharged, I am rooming in with Ethan at the hospital.

His doctors are unsure of what caused such a rapid rise, but it is most likely a maternal blood incompatibilty issue or some kind of rare genetic thing. In any situation, the outcome is good, and we are thankful for that.

The hardest thing is that we cannot hold him, since he has to be under the lights contantly. Evie is home, while Chris and I are not. This is certainly not the way I imagined our family life would start out.

Everything should calm down in the next few days, and we hope to go home soon. Ethan will probably remain on 24/7 light therapy for awhile there, but at least we will all be together. And that will be the start of something very, very good.

Monday, November 2, 2009

More Photos of Ethan




Ethan Ambrose


Ethan arrived, after an easy delivery, at 6:37 PM this evening. He looks just like Chris, in miniature. He weighs 7 lbs, 5 oz and is 20 in long.

I am already in love.

More to come in the morning...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Morning

So right now, I'm sitting in a hospital bed, pitocin dripping into my veins. I'm comfortable. And so very excited.

I keep looking down toward my belly. Ethan must also be excited, because his movement is causing my gown to ripple and move. His heartbeat is a steady sound in the background, along with ESPN on television. Already Chris is immersing our baby boy in football!

The sun is shining through the blinds, and a ray of light has fallen on the baby bed Ethan will soon rest in. I keep looking over, imagining him there. Not much longer, but the anticipation is killing me!

All the struggles to have another baby are about to pay off. God provides His light in every difficult situation. So now we wait to meet our son. We wait for this next wonderful change to our lives. And we thank God, again, for answering our prayers.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Friday, October 30, 2009

Zhu Zhu Pets

Zhu Zhu Hamsters from Jim Britton on Vimeo.


Have you heard of Zhu Zhu Pets? Picture cute, cuddly, energetic little hamsters - without the mess and fuss of a live pet. You can see them in action at our house in the video above.

A few months ago, Mom Select offered to send me a Zhu Zhu Pets party pack. It included eleven of the little hamsters, plus a hamster habitat. And what did I have to do in return? Host a party to give them away! So I happily agreed.

The enormous Box O' Hamsters arrived during nap time one day, but Evie and Chris tore into it when she woke up. Right away, Evie fell in love with her hamster. She squealed as it zoomed around the kitchen floor and yelled "Oh, no!" when it darted under the sofa. We met my family for dinner later in the evening, and she insisted on taking her new pet with us! And the next morning when we woke up, she headed into the living room and began playing with him again. Seriously, this little guy has kept her occupied way more than the average toy.

And the hamster habitat we received was cool, too. It included a funhouse, tunnel and wheel, ramp and spiral slide, adventure ball, surfboard and sleep dome, U-turn ramp and skateboard, and a hamster car and garage. Somehow, the hamsters know what room of the habitat they are in, and make appropriate noises - like snoring in the sleeping dome.

The entire habitat is easy to set up, but pretty large. We had to move our kitchen table to make room for it! But you can choose the pieces that work for you, creating a customized home for your Zhu Zhu pets. Everyone's favorite accessory seemed to be the car (kids and parents both flipped for this one.) I thought the adventure ball was the best. Watching Evie's pet zip around in it made me remember the hamster I had as a child. Plus, it stopped him from getting stuck under the couch!

The party was great! It was so much fun to watch the kids playing with the hamsters and habitat. Everyone took a pet home, and I've received great feedback. One of our little friends still sleeps with his hamster in a shoe box next to his bed! (Mental note: the pet bed and blanket would make a great Christmas gift for him!)

Since our party, my sister watched a news story that Zhu Zhu pets are going to be THE hot item this Christmas. And they're already among the top hot-selling toys on Amazon.com. After trying them ourselves, I know why!

Oh, and special thanks to my friend Jim Britton for shooting and editing the video of our party!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Insult to Injury?

Part of our "car routine" is that I always kiss Evie before I close the her door in the minivan. Yesterday, I buckled her into her seat and kissed her nose. I whispered "I love you, Little One." And she sweetly replied "I love you, too, Big One."

Did I mention I'd really like to have this baby soon? Like now?

So today, we scheduled an induction. If Ethan doesn't make his grand entrance by the morning of November 1st, we're heading to the hospital for a little medical intervention. I think a baby born on All Saint's Day should be an angel, don't you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thirty Three Months

Sweet Evie,

You turned thirty three months old yesterday. Since you're so tiny and so very verbal, people often look at me with surprise and ask how old you are. It feels odd to say "She's almost three." I don't know how the time passed so quickly, but it's been the best almost-three-years of my life.

This is the last birthday letter I'll write to you as my only child. Ethan will join our family in less than two weeks. You are so excited about his arrival. Just this morning, you were snuggled up to me and felt him moving. You said "I can't wait to meet him!" You plan on holding him and making him "comfy cozy." You're ready to help change diapers and soothe him when he cries. You are going to be such a sweet and loving big sister.

We've been making the most of our time together lately, with special "family" activities. We've been apple picking and to the circus. We've been to the park a million times, where you just want to swing and swing and swing. We've been out to dinner and played games and read books and cooked together. We've made crafts and colored and used glitter glue and put Halloween stickers on paper for hours. We've talked and talked and talked. You love doing anything "like a family," even mundane things like brushing your teeth!

You still require pickles each day before your nap. I lay down in bed with you as you crunch them and you always ask for stories. You need a story about Pablo and Rose, two made up characters, and a story about when you were born. Pablo and Rose used to take trips around the world on airplanes, but now you insist they get hurt in the story. So I find myself thinking of ways someone can break a bone! (Isn't this crazy?) They slip on water by the pool, trip on a branch on the sidewalk, and bump into each other when they're not paying attention. Then they are rushed to the hospital, where the doctors ask them what color cast they need. Of course, the answer is always pink! Let's just say your birth story is more fun to tell!

In addition to pickles, you love sushi. Last time we went out, we allowed you to eat the raw stuff for the first time. You devoured spicy tuna hand rolls and discovered a true love for masago. Pomegranates are in season again, so I have been spending lots of time pulling the jewel-like seeds out and putting them into bowls for you. You also like to eat cupcakes and candy, like any child!

Recently, you want to know what road we are driving on. "Are we on Manchester Road?" You know most of the street names close to home, and others that we travel frequently. It always makes me laugh to hear your little voice asking "This New Ballas Road?" I joke that you are already better with directions than Aunt Rachel!

You are becoming more musical all the time. Sometimes I'll see you tapping on something (your tummy or the table or the kitchen floor or a park bench) and you'll say "I'm making music!" You play your recorder and have just learned how to move your fingers up and down on the holes to make different notes. And, oh, do you love to sing! When we went apple picking, the orchard had a stage for Kid's Karaoke. You marched right up and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - three times! You are a great performer and you did not want to leave the stage!

Your favorite musical artist is Taylor Swift. You discovered her by chance on the radio one day, and begged to hear her each time we went somewhere in the car. I finally had Daddy download the CD and now we play it constantly. You used to like You Belong to Me because of the line "She wears high heels, I wear sneakers." Your face lights up and you belt it out! But now you like Love Story. You love the end, where Romeo pulls out a ring and proposes. As the only two-year-old I know who is obsessed with weddings, it is the perfect song for you!

So we listen to those two songs over and over. I hadn't even heard many of the other songs until the other day. You stayed with GaGa while I had an appointment with my doctor. I'm so used to playing your music that I didn't even think about turning on something else. I just listened to the CD and the song The Best Day made me cry! It's a simple song with little memories of childhood, and a girl who is thankful for her mother. I hope and pray I am this kind of mother to you. And I hope you have these kind of memories to look back on when you're grown.

I always have the best days with you...

Love, Mommy

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fright Night

Wednesday night was freaky, to say the least.

It started out as a pretty normal bedtime affair. Evie fell asleep on the couch and Chris took her into her bed. About 3:00 AM, she came into our room. Of course we were fast asleep, but her little sing-song voice woke us up.

Evie: (Holding up Shamu, her lovey, her pillow, and her blanket) I brought in all my stuff!
Me: Good! Now, please lay down on your Backyardigans bed and go to sleep.
Evie: Okay. Night night.

Quiet.

Our dog, Murphy, suddenly jumps up and runs barking to the kitchen. We live very close to Bluebird Park, so this happens several times a night. Murphy hears deer or skunks or who-knows-what. We ignore it.

Evie: Someone is standing in the hall.
Me: WHAT?
Evie: (Sitting up in bed, pointing) Someone is standing there.
Me: (Heart beating fast, looking in the hall) I don't see anyone in the hall.
Evie: (Insistent, still pointing) Someone is standing there.
Me: There is no one there!
Evie: (Angry now) Daddy is standing there!
Me: Daddy is in bed next to me.
Chris: Now she's really freaking me out! (Gets up with a flashlight to check things out. Finds nothing.)

Murphy comes back in the room and lays on her dog bed.

We all settle back in our beds. I can't stop opening my eyes to check the hall.

Murphy gets up again, runs to the kitchen and barks. She comes back into our room a few minutes later. I hear Evie's breathing, even and deep, and thank my lucky stars that she's already asleep.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

Murphy gets up again, runs to the kitchen and barks. She comes back into our room a few minutes later.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

Murphy gets up again, runs to the kitchen and barks. She comes back into our room a few minutes later.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

Somewhere after 4:30, I finally fall asleep.

During the day, I am (usually) a sane and rational person. I don't worry about ghosts and things that go bump in the night. I know there is no such thing. But at 3:00 AM, things just look different. Especially when my daughter insists she sees someone in our home.

Soopy times here at the Hub House. Last night, she didn't mention anyone in the hallway. But I checked several times, just to be sure...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boo! Salt Dough Ghosts


Evie is really into Halloween this year. Of course, she remembers that you dress up and get candy. We've already purchased her costume, one that she's declared is "too scratchy." The tags have been removed, though, so she's wearing it if it kills us both.

Our neighborhood really decorates for this holiday. Evie keeps her eyes open for all the "soopy" (in English: spooky) sights. We see pumpkins and lights and spiders, skeletons and goblins and GHOSTS. She is fascinated by the ghosts - especially the big blow-up decorations on lawns. At night, we find ourselves driving her around to see the best houses, just to watch her excited reaction!

Yesterday, I found instructions on how to make salt dough ghosts. (Or "ghostes" if you ask Evie. She even corrects us if we say "ghosts.") We can't get a break from the cold and rain, so it was the perfect day to mix up this dough and bake our little ghosts in the oven. And don't you think they turned out well? So cute! Evie was even able to form some of the ghosts herself. (Hers are the three smallest.)

After they were finished, Evie played with them for a long time. Then she put them on our bookshelves, on the entryway table, and in her room. We even had enough to stick a couple on the mantle. It's beginning to look very soopy in our house!

Salt Dough Ghosts
1 c. salt
2 c. flour
1 c. water

cookie sheet
fine point Sharpie marker, black

(This dough is not edible. It won't hurt you, it's just way to salty to taste good!)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together salt, flour and water until a dough is formed. Turn out onto counter and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. If dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour, and knead again. (Don't add too much flour, though. You don't want to dry out the dough and have it crack before you even bake it!)

Roll the dough in your hands into a short, fat tube. Stand the tube on a cookie sheet to form a ghost with your fingers, making the head smaller than the rest of the body. Use the tip of your finger to create waves at the bottom of the ghost, by pointing your finger straight down on the cookie sheet and tapping gently into the dough to make dents.

Bake for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Check the bottom of your ghosts for wet spots. If still wet, continue cooking in 20 minute increments until dry. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Using a fine-tip marker, draw faces on your ghosts.

(I can't remember where I found these instructions, so I'm not giving proper credit. Sorry. You can also visit this link for a microwave version of salt dough.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Bread & Applesauce

Why didn't anyone ever tell me it's easier to make your own applesauce than to drive to the store and buy it?

A few weekends ago, we went apple picking. Chris and Evie and I, and Rachel and Jyoti, loaded up in the minivan. We took several wrong turns, resulting in a very long trip, but we made it to the orchards safe and sound.

And it was so worth it! Evie rode rides, we fed farm animals, we filled our tummies with barbecue, and then we headed out to the apples. A little tractor pulled us out to the fields. Then we picked and picked and picked! Evie liked the smaller apples, and Chris often had to hold her up so she could reach higher branches. The only variety that was in season was Golden Delicious, so I scouted out the greenest of them. I mistakenly thought I didn't like Golden Delicious apples, but changed my mind after tasting some that were crisp and sweet, with just a little bit of tart flavor. It is a very special day when you get to rub a shine onto an apple and sink your teeth into it - right in the middle of an orchard.

Then we loaded our little bags back on the tractor and went to pay. Would you believe we ended up with TWELVE POUNDS of apples. What can you do with twelve pounds of apples? You can only eat so many plain. Here are two recipes I tried and liked. And I really meant to post pictures. But we ate everything too quickly!

Apple Bread
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8X4 inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix into the butter mixture until just moistened. Fold in the apples. (It will seem like a lot of apples, but don't worry.) Transfer into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake one hour in the preheated oven, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cook completely.


Applesauce
4 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher. (I used a stick blender when the apples were still hot.)

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crazy Talk

It's been raining like crazy for the past few days. Fortunately, we've had a lot of activities that have taken us out of the house. Mostly doctor appointments, but we haven't been cooped up much. Until now. Evie is battling another allergy flare-up and I am sick of the bottom of my jeans being wet. So we are home for the day.

But even a sick Evie has a lot of energy. After we played and watched TV and glued noodles to paper, she was antsy. And what did we do to release this energy? Why, we had a pillow fight, of course!

It was so much fun! We bonked each other in the head and ran around the living room, giggling. She learned to block my hits. She sneaked behind me to whack my bottom. She was out of breath by the time she started chasing the dog and we had to end our game.

A few minutes ago, we were eating lunch. Evie looked into the living room and noticed our pillows in a heap on the floor.

Evie: We shouldn't hit. It's bad to hit.
Me: It was okay this time. We both wanted to play. Plus, we hit with pillows so it wouldn't hurt.
Evie: It would hurt if we hit with bats.
Me: Bats? Like baseball bats?
Evie: Yes, bats.
Me: Well, yes. It would hurt if we hit each other with bats. That would be really bad.
Evie: What if we put pillows around the bats?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Now that it's October, pumpkins are everywhere. And Evie loves them. We have a visit to the pumpkin patch scheduled for later in the month, but we bought a very tiny pumpkin when we went apple picking this past weekend. (Pictures of apple picking to follow soon!) Evie likes to look at it, but mostly she wants to eat it.

I've explained we have to cook pumpkins before we eat them. I must say I'm not a fan of pumpkin at all. I might take a small sliver of pumpkin pie occasionally, but that's just so I can pile on the whipped cream and then pitch the pie in the trash later. (I can hear the boos and hisses from you all now.)

However, there is one exception. My sister-in-law, Cathy, makes the most yummy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins. We make these often for potlucks and the occasional breakfast. This fall weather and spooky season is making me crave them, so I know I'll be baking these for Evie (and Chris and myself) soon!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
2 c. sugar
15 oz. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. oil (I sometimes substitute apple sauce)
1/2 c. vanilla pudding (can use 1 container of handy snack pudding)
4 egg whites
3 c. flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. In a separate bowl, combine cinnamon, salt, baking soda and flour. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until moist. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into muffin tins.

Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pinkalicious


Evie loves the color pink. She loves pink toys, pink food, pink clothes. She's been known to refuse to wear a dress because it's not pink. "It looks kind of like boy clothes." Whoever heard of a boy in a teal and yellow dress?

It should come as no surprise that her favorite book is Pinkalicious. We read it over and over and over, and over and over and over, till we are pink in the face. For those of you who don't know this story by heart, Pinkalicious is a little girl who bakes pink cupcakes with her mom on a rainy afternoon. She eats so many that she is pink when wakes up the next morning! After her doctor diagnoses her with Pinkititis, she learns two lessons: the importance of a well-balanced diet, and that it's always more comfortable to be yourself.

This afternoon, Evie woke up from her nap crying. Hysterically. I think she didn't have enough sleep, but I couldn't get her to calm down. She kept saying "I'm sad!" and "I don't know what's wrong with me!" After at least ten minutes of this, I asked "What do you think we could do to make you feel better?" The waterworks stopped immediately (I'm a sucker, I know,) and Evie said "Do we have the stuff to make Pinkalicious cupcakes?"

We did, and the last batch is in the oven now. We had fun mixing and adding lots of pink food coloring. Evie is tickled pink about the whole thing. But just a couple minutes ago, she said "I'll eat all the cupcakes and then I'll be pink like Pinkalicious!" Um, that might be an ingredient I don't have.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rebellion

Evie's negotiation skills are going downhill.

We have this wild and crazy rule in our home: You may not throw food. You can't throw it across the table, can't throw it to the dog, can't throw it on the floor. No food throwing, are we clear?

But this rule must be unreasonable to a two-year-old. Most of Evie's Time Outs are for one of two things - bothering the dog, or throwing food. Last night was no exception. Evie threw an apple slice across the table. I warned her, and Chris gave her a lecture. "You are not allowed to throw food. Mommy gave you a warning, but no more warnings. If you throw food, you will go in Time Out. Mommy and I are on the same page here, food throwing gets you a Time Out. Capiche?" And Evie pretended to understand.

A few minutes later, she sent the apple slice sailing to the floor.

Me: Okay, you threw the apple on the floor. You are going in Time Out.
Evie: I don't want to go in Time Out.
Chris: You know the rules, and you already got a warning. You are going in Time Out.
Evie: No! I don't want a Time Out!
Me: Too bad, you shouldn't have thrown the apple.
Evie: (sitting in the Time Out chair) But I don't want to sit in Time Out!
Me: We're not talking anymore. Be quiet and sit there for two minutes.
Evie: No! I'll sit here for FIVE MINUTES!

I think we may need to work on her concept of time...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Easy French Onion Soup

Chris has been asking me to make French Onion Soup for a long time. Ages, really. But I read once that French Onion Soup isn't worth it unless you make your own beef stock. And I've meant to do that, only I never have. Things like vacuuming and blogging and taking care of Evie and sleeping and Desperate Housewives get in the way, and I don't carve out time for things like homemade beef stock.

Chris just couldn't leave it alone, though. Then Evie discovered Panera's French Onion Soup, and loved it. So, fine - they won. I looked up an easy recipe on allrecipes.com and I bought beef broth at the grocery store. And, man oh man, this was good soup! It was perfect for the fall weather we're having - warm and rich and gooey with cheese. I guess Chris can be right every once in awhile!

I served the soup with my homemade bread. And even though I used canned broth, I still felt like Suzy Homemaker...

Easy French Onion Soup
1/2 c. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 c. sliced onions
4 (10.5 oz.) cans beef broth
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

4 slices French bread
4 slices Muenster cheese
2 slices Swiss cheese, diced

Melt butter with olive oil in a stock pot on medium heat. Add onions and cook (stirring very often,) until tender and translucent. Do not brown the onions. (The part about not browning the onions didn't sound right to me, but I followed the directions. The soup was fabulous, so I guess there's a reason for it!)

Add beef broth, sherry and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven broiler.

Ladle soup into oven-safe serving bowls and place one slice of bread on top of each. Layer each slice of bread with a slice of Muenster and 1/2 a slice of diced Swiss. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and broil in the preheated oven until the cheese bubbles and browns slightly. (I don't have oven-safe bowls. Instead, I just broiled the bread slices as directed and put them into bowls of soup afterward. Still just as good.)

And I'd make sure to use the sherry. I think it added a tiny little hint of richness that I would miss if it wasn't in the soup. Plus, it was fun to hear Evie in the liquor section, confused about the difference between sherry and Aunt Shari!

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Four Days of Giveaways - St. Louis Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Zing Zang Zoom


Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages - the circus is coming to town!

St. Louis will be hosting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's show Zing Zang Zoom at the Scottrade Center. The performance is a mix of magic and traditional circus arts, so you shouldn't be surprised if a four-ton elephant disappears before your eyes! Tigers and elephants and Arabian horses will join human performers like human cannonballs and highwire acts to delight and amaze you. It promises to be The Greatest Show on Earth!

And every ticket holder is invited to the free All Access Preshow, which begins at 6:00pm. It will give you a chance to head down to the circus floor to meet the performers, get autographs, try on costumes, and clown around. Get it, "clown around?" Oh, but I digress...

St. Louis show dates are:
Thursday, October 15 @ 7:00pm
Friday, October 16 @ 10:30am & 7:00pm
Saturday, October 17 @ 1:00pm & 5:00pm
Sunday, October 18 @ 1:00pm & 5:00pm

Mom Central has graciously provided my family with tickets for this thrilling event. I can't wait to see Evie's face amid all the wonder under the big top! I've also been provided with tickets to give away to one lucky family! Simply leave a comment on this post letting me know your favorite circus animal. Be sure I have your email address so I can contact you if you win! One random winner will receive a 4-pack of tickets for the opening night (October 15th) show. This contest closes at midnight on Saturday, October 3rd.

If you don't win, I can still let you in on a great deal:
To purchase tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com. You can receive four tickets for $44 for any Monday-Friday performance, or $4 off tickets for all weekend performances by entering the code MOM in the "MC promotion" box. A minimum purchase of 4 tickets is required, but additional tickets can be purchased at $11 each during the week and $4 off on weekends. Offer not valid on Celebrity Circus, Front Row, or VIP seating. Cannot be combined with other offers. Service Charges, facility and handling fees will apply.

Good luck! Of course, I'll tell you all about it, but I hope to see you there!

**This contest is closed to new comments. Congratulations to Alaina @ Three Ladies and a Dad, who won tickets for her family! Thanks to everyone who participated.**

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Four Days of Giveaways - Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters


I am eight months pregnant. Obviously, I'm not hiking the trails. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a healthy snack right here in front of my computer.

My Blog Spark recently sent me a Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters "Snack Pack." And I love Nature Valley. When I was still working, there was a little shop in the lobby of my office building that sold snack-type foods. I used to start my morning with a yogurt sprinkled with mashed-up Nature Valley crunchy granola bars. Oh, yum.

So I tore into these bags. I received all four varieties - Roasted Cashew, Nut Lovers, Roasted Almond, and Honey Roasted Peanut. These little bites are a blend of roasted nuts, whole grain oats, and a touch of honey. It's been less than a week, and all that's left is half a bag of Nut Lovers. I've popped these nuggets in my mouth for breakfast, had them as a snack while watching TV, and served them to other moms in my playgroup. They are so good! Crunchy and salty and sweet all at the same time. I like that they're tasty, but also pretty healthy. It's nice to get a decent amount of fiber and protein from your snacks! And I can pronounce every ingredient on the list!

The "Snack Pack" also included a sling backpack, stainless steel water bottle, flashlight and binoculars. You would have thought it was Christmas! Chris snatched up the water bottle, and Evie has taken over the flashlight and binoculars. The poor sling backpack has been relegated to the closet...

I have an additional "Snack Pack" for one of you! Simply leave a comment telling me your favorite season in nature, and I'll choose a random winner to receive the prize pack. This contest closes at midnight on September 30th.

Good luck! And if you live in the St. Louis area, stay tuned tomorrow for another chance to win free stuff! Don't forget to enter my other contests from this weekend here and here.

**This contest is closed to new comments. Congratulations to Martha, the winner, who said "Omg, I've totally got to get in on this one. I'm a Nature Valley freak, I eat the granola bars constantly. Fall is of course my favorite season. Cool and rainy, with the lovely bonus of halloween :D." Thanks to everyone for participating!**

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Four Days of Giveaways - Dole Jarred Fruit


Okay, so we probably should all eat more fruit. It's is low in calories, but high in fiber and nutrients. And if you're worried about H1N1 (like my husband,) you will be happy to know that adequate Vitamin C intake can help maintain a healthy immune system. Plus, fruit just tastes good!

I prefer fresh fruit, but it's not always convenient or cheap. Dole Fruit in Plastic Jars is an easy, all-natural way to get your fruit fix. No cutting, slicing, or peeling - the multi-serving jars are resealable and contain ready-to-eat fruit. Dole makes several varieties including Mandarin Oranges, Pineapple Chunks, Tropical Fruit with Papaya and Pineapple (our favorite,) Sliced Peaches and Mixed Fruit.

I received coupons for two free jars along with a recipe wallet. We snacked on a jar, and used another to make Caribbean Cream Pops. They were so good - and full of that healthy fruit we should all be eating!

Caribbean Cream Pops
1 jar (24.5 oz.) Dole Tropical Fruit
1 c. mango or papaya nectar
1/2 c. light coconut milk
1 small ripe banana, peeled and sliced
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. honey

Measure 2 cups drained tropical fruit. Combine tropical fruit, nectar, coconut milk, banana, cream cheese and honey in a blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour mixture equally into popsicle molds or 3 oz. plastic cups.

Place on tray and freeze about 1 hour, until partially set. Insert 1 wooden stick into center of each cup; freeze 2 hours longer or until firm.

At www.DoleMagic.com you can find tips and more recipes to help incorporate fruit every day as part of a healthy diet. You can also enter for a chance to win a trip for three to Maui!

I have an additional Dole coupon wallet to give away, including coupons for (2) free jars of fruit, as well as recipes. Simply leave a comment letting me know your favorite fruit by midnight September 30th. I'll choose a random winner to receive the coupon wallet.

Good luck! Stay tuned tomorrow for more prizes! Yesterday's contest can be found here.

**This contest is closed to new comments. Congratulations to Jenn @ A Country Girl's Ramblings, who won the coupon wallet. Thanks to everyone for participating!**

Friday, September 25, 2009

Four Days of Giveaways - Yoplait Whips!


There are so many fun things about blogging - capturing this beautiful and fleeting time in my life, making new friends, getting my feelings out. But recently, I've discovered another perk - FREE STUFF!

I've been fortunate enough to have a few companies send me products to try. And this is to your benefit, because you may get to try them, too! For the next four days, I'll be posting reviews and giving away the items I review.

First up is Yoplait Whips! Now in all honesty, I've tried this yogurt before. It's light and airy and tasty, but I always thought the texture was a little off. This doesn't make any sense, but it seemed greasy - too much air or something. So I stuck with the custard-style yogurt, which is my favorite.

But then I noticed the commercials for frozen Whips! I wondered how that would taste, when lo and behold, Yoplait offered to send me a Summer Cool Down gift basket. The basket included coupons for free Whips! as well as a cooler tote, popsicle molds, and color-changing spoons.

I used the coupons about a month ago and bought a Strawberry Mist and a Chocolate yogurt. (There are a ton of other flavors including Key Lime Pie, Orange Creme, Chocolate Raspberry, Lemon Burst, Peaches 'N Cream, Raspberry Mousse, and Vanilla Creme.)
I stuck them in the freezer. And I loved them!

Pregnant women and ice cream go together like, well, pregnant women and ice cream! But I feel a lot healthier chowing down on a yummy frozen yogurt. Whips! have a great texture when you freeze them - smooth and cool. These are seriously my new nighttime indulgence. And one I can continue guilt-free once Ethan is born!

If you'd like a chance to win a Summer Cool Down gift basket of your own, please leave me a comment telling me your favorite indulgent treat. Be sure I have your email address to contact you if you win. This contest closes at midnight on Wednesday, September 30th. Two random winners will receive a gift basket.

(US residents only. The free coupons included in the basket are not valid in some states, including California, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Tennessee.)

Good luck! Stay tuned tomorrow for another chance to win free stuff!

**This contest is closed to new comments. Congratulations to Alex @ The Jones Family Journey and Ashlee @ Across the Branch, who won the gift packs. Thanks to everyone for participating!**

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Secret Asian


Chris and Evie often like the same foods, and we joke it's because they're both Asian. That's why they like soy sauce and nori and Sriracha so much. And we all drool for sushi. Chris also insists it's why they love pesto, but I think that's a bit of a stretch!

Yesterday, Evie and I were putting away the dishes and listening to her Backyardigans CD. The song "Secret Agent" came on, and I sang along:

Shh! Shh! Secret!
Shh! Shh! Secret Agent!

Evie looked up, surprised, and blurted "Hey, I'm Asian!"

I hope she doesn't think it's a secret!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thirty Two Months


Sweet Evie,

A couple of days ago, you turned thirty two months old. And there isn't a day that goes by now when I don't realize how big you are. Right now, you're in the garage since it's raining, playing with the neighbor girls. You're eating Nerds. I can hear you all talking and laughing. Someone is singing, and it makes my heart happy to hear your voice piping up now and again.

Daddy is painting Ethan's room blue, and it is driving you crazy. You insist that your brother would really like pink better. I think you're just about as excited for his arrival as we are. Today you kissed my belly and asked "Ethan have toys in there?" I explained he does not, he's just floating around in the water, listening to us. Then you said you were going to share your squirt bottle with him, and I swelled with happiness. You see, your squirt bottle is one of your favorite and most prized possessions. And you want to share it with our baby. You are going to be the best big sister...

You and Daddy are inseparable lately. The two of you play Hide and Seek and board games. He carries you on his back and calls it the Monkey Train. The other day, he was at work and you said "I want the Monkey Train to come home so I can take a ride. I miss he." Sometimes you cry in the morning when you wake up and realize Daddy has left for work. But when he comes home, you run into his arms and he throws you in the air. It's a magical sight to behold.

Ooga is everywhere now. She is home with us, sharing your pickles before naptime. She comes with us to restaurants and the park. You mention her a zillion times each day. I wonder if she will hang around so much once Ethan is here for real.

You are such a little drama girl. You love to pretend you are someone else. Your newest persona is Sassy Pickle. We'll be playing ball outside on the front lawn, and you'll run over to Daddy and thrust out your hand. You'll ask "Who are you?" and shake hands. Daddy will make up some silly name and you'll reply "I'm Sassy Pickle." I have no idea where you came up with that name! I wasn't even aware you knew the word "sassy!"

You love to dress up, and are forever disappointed when wings and a wand don't really let you fly. You are so confused because it works for Tinkerbell and Abby Cadabby... You also love to dance. And now you try to teach me your dance moves - "You put one arm out and wiggle your fingers. Walk on your toes and turn around and around." It cracks me up to get instruction from you.

Oh, you love to look at our wedding album! I don't know where this obsession came from, either, but it's fun. At least once a day, we pull it out and look at the pictures. We look at Angel Grammy and Daddy's cousin Philip. You like to see Chris, our ring bearer, and Samantha, our flower girl. You comment about how handsome Daddy is. But most of all, you love the cakes! And you just can't figure out why you aren't in any of the pictures.

Of course, I think you are a genius. Really, you probably are. (I'm not biased or anything!) You know all your letters and you love to spell out signs you see. "B-O-R-D-E-R-S!" "B-E-S-T B-U-Y!" I R-O-C-K!" I'd like to take credit for this learning, but it's all due to television and Word World. The best is when you see a long word, and you say "It's a challenge!" and then spell the whole thing.

You are such a treasure, my dear girl. I read somewhere that this age is like Christmas - you can't wait to wake up and see what kind of gift your child gives you. A smile, a hug, saying something magical and sweet. It really is the truth. I love each minute, each second, with you. You will always be my "best thing."

I love you beyond words.

Love, Mommy

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh, the Games People Play


Today is bright and beautiful. The sun is shining and there's a cool breeze. But Tuesday was nasty - it rained all day long. All. Day. Long. So what do you do when you're stuck inside with a toddler? I'm thinking of this more and more, because the weather will turn soon, and we'll have a little guy who won't be so mobile.

There's always Play-Doh and painting and coloring and books (Pinkalicious, over and over,) and mindless cartoons. But on Tuesday, we played games. Evie loves to play games, although she's not yet competitive enough to get "winning." I thought I'd let you know a couple we've discovered. You know, since Evie is a trendsetter and all.

Our first favorite game is an oldie-but-goodie. I bought Hi Ho Cherry-O! about six months ago, and we've been playing it ever since. In case you've forgotten, the object of the game is to get all the cherries (or oranges or blueberries or apples, in the new version) from the tree into your basket. You spin a little spinner-thing and "pick" the appropriate number of pieces from your tree. Watch out for the dog or bird, who eat the fruit right out of your basket! (Evie always says "The dog must like my blueberries!) It's helped us with counting and learning to take turns. And it's fun to see her throw her hands in the air and yell "Hi Ho Cherry-O!" when her basket is full!

We also love Disney DVD Bingo. A neighbor gave it to us as a hand-me-down and it has been Evie's favorite game of the summer. You choose a card and pop in the DVD. The great thing is that each space on the card corresponds to a number, color, and Disney character. So B12 is Peter Pan on the red space, and a big picture of Peter Pan comes up on the screen. Evie can easily identify the correct spot and put the marker over the space. (Her confidence at this game also makes her bossy, and she watches our cards, too.) This game is fun for her, but also for us! And it was great to take along with our portable DVD player to my mom's cancer treatments and hospital stays. All the nurses smiled at Evie and my mom propped up in bed playing Bingo.

The newest game to enter our household has been Zimbbos! and this is what we're currently "stuck" on. I love the game because the pieces are wooden and durable, and it teaches spacial relationships and motor skills. Evie loves it because it's fun! The rules are simple - you roll a die to determine how many elephants to stack, or if you should stack another piece like a clown or a balance bar. Whoever puts the last elephant on the pyramid (and wouldn't you know it, it's PINK) wins! We have made some fantastic pyramids, and I'm amazed at how creative Evie is!

So now it's your turn to share with me. What do you when the weather turns foul and you spend the day inside? And do you have any favorite games in your household?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Carrot Cake

My sister, Martha, was in town from Portland a few weeks ago. My mom had a BBQ so friends and family would have time to visit with her. The BBQ also fell on Jyoti's birthday weekend. We all know his favorite cake is carrot cake, so that's what I brought to the shindig!

It was delicious! I was so pleased with the rave reviews from Jyoti and my husband! (Chris is always one to give suggestions to make a recipe better, but he didn't have any this time!) I've never made carrot cake before, but it was easy and so very yummy. It's definitely something I will make again and again.

But it wasn't a pretty cake. Although I tried not to incorporate too much air when I was mixing the ingredients, the center of each cake still fell. And then it stuck to the bottom of the pans, so the cake came out in a couple of pieces. I managed to piece it together, frost it, and then covered it in chopped pecans. Not great, but the taste made up for it!

Next time, I'll line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper, and I'll use those strips that promise level cakes. Oh, plus I would make just a little more frosting. I can't get enough cream cheese frosting...

Carrot Cake

For Cake:
4 eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt.
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 c. grated carrots (I used a food processor instead of a grater.)
8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
1 c. chopped pecans

For frosting:
1/2 c. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots and pineapple. Fold in pecans, and pour into prepared pans.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make frosting, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in pecans and frost the cooled cake, or simply press pecans onto sides and top of frosted cake.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Party of Four

Last night, Evie curled up on the couch with me to fall asleep. We watched a little bit of a PBS special and then she turned toward me and put her sweet head on my ever-growing belly. She closed her eyes. Oh, Evie was just beautiful in the flickering light! She was still for so long that I thought she fell asleep.

And then the baby started kicking in my tummy. This little guy is strong! Evie sat up and looked at me. She said "I love this baby. I love Ethan."

My heart melted. She's so young, but so very sweet. I know she doesn't understand the changes Ethan will bring to our lives, but she understands her baby brother is growing inside me, and she loves him.

She put her head back on my belly, and Ethan kept kicking. Evie said "He is kicking a LOT!" She placed her tiny hand on my tummy, right next to her cheek. "I want to feel he." We sat like that, feeling our baby kick, until she drifted off to sleep.

I am soaking up these last few weeks with Evie, but I can't wait until Ethan is born. I have little glimpses of our life with him. Evie is ready to have him in the seat next to her in the mini-van. She always points and says "Ethan can sit here, and Ooga can sit in the back." And I can imagine her back there, chattering away to this tiny baby. We had a beautiful day at the park yesterday, and I thought about Chris and I, side by side, each pushing a child on the swings. We'll have to ask for a table of four at our favorite sushi restaurant. Evie will show Ethan how to gobble edamame and miso soup. I see us all cheering on the Spartans this fall, Chris and Evie yelling at the TV, while Ethan and I give them puzzled looks. Such good things are in store for our family...

For now, though, I'm just cherishing watching my first miracle baby in the flickering light.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering and Celebrating

My post last year on 9/11...

http://oakbriarfarm.blogspot.com/2008/09/let-freedom-ring.html

Congrats, Jyoti, on the one year anniversary of becoming a citizen of our great nation. And heartfelt prayers for our country, today and every day.

Your Voice - Grandparent's Day

Chris and I both come from big families, and we love it. The only downside is that Evie has so many relatives who live far away! Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins... We frequently use our web cams to keep in touch, which really helps her "know" these people she can't see often.

A few weeks ago, I received an email newsletter that included information about a new, FREE service. It's called Your Voice, and it allows you to record and send voice greetings. I like that the recipient can listen to the greeting over and over, and even download it for safekeeping. We used it at the end of August to record Evie singing Happy Birthday to Chris' dad. It was really easy, and certainly brought a smile to his face! And to mine! (Evie is a LOUD singer!)

You simply dial a number, record your message into the phone, and send the greeting by email. You can find instructions and record your greeting here: http://www.grandparents.com/gp/yourvoice/getstarted1/index.html?navbar=menu-activities

National Grandparent's Day is this Sunday (September 13th,) so it's the perfect time for you to try this service, too. Your child could sing a song or say "I love you!" If you're a grandparent yourself, you could tell a story about your grandchild or read one of their favorite books. Plus, it's a fun way to capture your child's voice! I know I will treasure these recordings as Evie gets older. It's better than a Hallmark card!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Still Love You

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday.

It was probably because I was sorely lacking sleep, mostly of my own doing. It's hard to get a word in during the day, due to Evie the Motor Mouth, so Chris and I do a lot of talking at night. We lie in bed and talk and talk and talk. For several nights in a row, it was past midnight when we eventually went to sleep. And then I wake up approximately forty-seven times a night to pee. And a few more times when, I swear, this kid threatens to kick his leg right through my tummy. And Evie, who used to sleep until seven each morning, is now waking up at the crack of dawn. And did I mention I'm eight months pregnant?

I'm just giving you some perspective here, not asking for sympathy. Like I said, this is mostly my own doing. If I went to bed at a respectable hour, I would be much more rested. But Wednesday I was so tired. So cranky. And a little bit nervous about my mom's appointment with her oncologist. Do you see where this is going?

Oh, I was not the mother I intended to be! The loving and patient woman I try to be on a normal day was nowhere to be found.

I spent too much time on the phone, then yelled at Evie when she hit my leg to gain my attention. I spent too much time on the computer, then tried to rush her out the door because we were running late. I was frustrated when she only ate a few goldfish crackers for a snack at our playdate. She threw rocks, and I groaned. She walked too slowly back to the car. She would not stop talking. She wanted to stir in the seasoning packet for her noodles and I refused. I just wanted to get her to bed for a nap, and collapse myself.

Evie cried about the seasoning packet. She said "You're making me sad! My eyes are dripping!" And do you know what I did? I yelled "You are making me sad, too! I'm trying to make lunch here, and you are getting in the way! Go in the living room!" And my heart barely even registered a blip when she curled up with Shamu on the floor, whimpering.

We ate a rushed and quiet lunch, and fell into bed. Forty-five minutes later, the phone woke me up. Ah, that sleep made me myself again. Ready to really "mother" Evie. And twenty minutes later, she woke up when my mom came in the door. She jumped out of bed and ran to GaGa, yelling with joy. It made me smile, probably for the first time all day.

Later that evening, we were snuggling together after her bath. I apologized to Evie about my behavior earlier in the day. I told her it wasn't her fault. I explained that the best thing about tomorrow was a fresh start, and promised not to act like that. I was so disappointed in myself.

I swear, Evie listened. I know she's only two, but I really believe she understood. She said "I still love you when you are mad. I still love you when you are frustrated."

Oh, that healed my guilt. There are so many times when I explain to Evie that I always love her. Even when she disobeys and has to go in Time Out. Even when she cries in a store. Even when she hits the dog. I might not like her behavior, but I always love her.

And Evie knows it. Knows it enough even to repeat it back to me when I've misbehaved. I forgive myself for yesterday morning. Because I am a good mother all the other times. Those times count more than the times I stumble.