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!


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.


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...


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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Artisan Bread & Cinnamon Butter

Can you believe I baked this bread?

I still can't believe it. But I did have a little help.

A few weeks ago, I read a book review on Scribbit. Michelle raved about a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Michelle followed the simple instructions in the book, and easily turned out beautiful loaves of bread.

Could it really be true? I have great memories of my mother and Aunt Jennifer baking bread together on Thanksgiving. They spent hours in the kitchen mixing dough, letting it rise, and braiding it into beautiful and delicious loaves. And so I've wanted to do the same. Only I fail miserably.

A few years ago, I put a King Arthur Flour bread baking book on my Christmas list. I received it from my sister-in-law, and was so excited to try it. I mean, any bread book by King Arthur Flour is like a bread Bible, right? The problem was, I couldn't get it right. I did everything according to the directions, but my bread slumped over in the oven and made a giant mess all over the baking stone. It wasn't edible.

So I was intrigued by Michelle's review, but wasn't quite a believer. I did my research, reading reviews on Amazon. Even self-proclaimed bread snobs said this book was a winner. I bought it Friday night, then held my breath and made the dough on Saturday.

Everything went according to plan. The master recipe in the book is for a Boule dough, which is an artisan free-form loaf. I added water, yeast, and salt into my stand mixer, then dumped in the flour all at once. (You can also mix by hand.) About a minute later, I had bread dough. That was it, no blooming the yeast or kneading. I let it rise on the counter for a couple of hours, and popped it into the fridge.

And it still looked good the next morning. I formed a loaf and set it on the counter to rest. I preheated the oven. I told Chris I was afraid to bake it. Everything was going along so perfectly, and here was the test. It couldn't possibly be this easy.

Imagine how excited I was when a perfect loaf of bread was ready just thirty minutes later. The best thing about this recipe (besides the fact that it makes delicious bread) is that you mix enough dough for four one-pound loaves. Then you just store it in the refrigerator for up to fourteen days, taking what you need as you bake. So I popped in another loaf. When it was finished, it looked even better than the first.

I felt like an accomplished baker when I took these to Rachel's for Sunday dinner. And I had a huge feeling of satisfaction when they were gobbled up, to rave reviews.

I made a new batch of dough with Evie this morning, and it's waiting in the fridge. After I'm sure I've mastered this recipe, I'm on to the Vermont Cheddar Bread recipe. Or the Olive Bread recipe. Or maybe I'll get brave and try Bagels or Pretzels or Naan. Or Brioche. All I know, is this book has given me the confidence to try them all!

I served the loaves Sunday with a simple Cinnamon Butter.

Cinnamon Butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. honey
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

Cream butter in mixer. Add honey and cinnamon, and mix until fully incorporated. Chill before serving.

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

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Magical Night

Last night, we saw Disney On Ice 100 Years of Magic. In a word, it was spectacular!

Of course Evie was excited. She woke up in the middle of her nap yesterday and yelled "Ice!" then went back to sleep. I asked her later what she was dreaming about, and she said "I dreaming about ice by the Princess' feet. I dreaming about skating." Later, when we were in line to enter the arena, Evie pretended to skate until we were admitted. Chris and my mom held onto her hands as she slid her feet and tried to twirl around the floor.

The show was so much fun! As you grow up, you lose some of the wonder at the world around you. But watching the performance through the eyes of a child made me feel kind of like a kid again. Evie was excitedly clapping along to the music. She loved each of the characters, especially Genie who did flips. And she loved when they reenacted the It's a Small World ride, pointing and squealing at the lights, the Eiffel Tower, and Mickey flying in a hot air balloon. I found myself smiling and "oohing and ahhing" along with the crowd.

Evie sat next to my mom, and it made me so happy to watch them together. For my mother, who never saw the Ice Capades as a child, this was a long-held dream come true. For much of the performance Evie sat on her lap, where I could see both of their faces light up at the same time. Oh, Snow White! Oh, Jiminy Cricket! Oh, Nemo! Oh, Pinocchio and the whale!

It really was a magical night, and Evie didn't want it to end. We stayed until most of the crowd had left so Evie could dance to the music playing over the loudspeakers. And as soon as she woke up this morning, the first words from her mouth were "I wish we could see Biz-en-ey On Ice again next week."

There's still time for your family to attend a show and experience the same wonder we did. You can purchase a 4-pack of tickets for only $44 for weekday shows or receive $4 off weekend tickets by logging onto http://www.metrotix.com and entering the coupon code MOM.

St. Louis Show Dates:
Thursday, September 3 @ 7:00 PM
Friday, September 4 @ 7:00 PM
Saturday, September 5 @ 11:30 AM, 3:30 PM, & 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 6 @ 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM

We received free tickets, dinner, and a goody bag courtesy of Mom Central and Feld Entertainment. Although these are fantastic perks, this review is straight from the heart!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Miracle

Do you remember this photo from many months ago? One of these precious embryos has grown into the beautiful little boy you see above. My heart still swells with this miracle every single time I think about it. A very big blessing from God in a very tiny package...

I can't wait to see his face. Will he look like Evie? She was such a miniature version of Chris when she was born. Will this little one look more like me? And what will his personality be like? Will he be laid-back, the opposite of his big sister?

With less than nine weeks until my due date, we have a lot to do. The new "nursery" is still our guest bedroom/junk room. The carpet guys are coming to measure this Saturday, then we need to paint, decorate, and put up the crib. We'll have to replace some of our "pink" baby essentials. We have to stock up on diapers. We need to take a trip to Babies 'R Us to remember all the "must haves" for infants. We have to buy a crib mattress. I should look up refresher information in the books about labor and delivery and breastfeeding.

But most of the time, I'm dreaming. Dreaming about what it will be like to have a new baby in the house again. Dreaming about his soft skin and the smell of his hair. Dreaming about watching my first miracle baby grow into a big sister. About chubby little thighs and half-sleeping cuddles while nursing him in the middle of the night. About singing lullabies and dressing him in BOY CLOTHES and watching him sleep in my arms.

Don't wake me...