Friday, May 17, 2013

Zoolander Movie Snacks!

So...what do you make to bring to a Zoolander movie night??

Or...if you're like me and you are worried an actual frappuccino would melt before you arrived you bring Orange Mocha Frappuccino CUPCAKES!! :)

Orange Mocha Frappuccino Cupcakes

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsps apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup special dark baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Blend the sugar, coffee, oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla until well mixed
Sift the flour, baking cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl
Add the flour mixture to the coffee mixture and stir until combined

Grease 12 muffin cups and fill each one 2/3rds of the way with batter
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 22 minutes

For the Frosting
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 tbsps fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract
Add all frosting ingredients to the mixer and beat on high speed until smooth and fluffy!

Once cupcakes are cool, pipe the frosting on top with a piping bag (or a plastic baggy with a corner snipped off) 

You can also embellish your cupcakes with printed Starbucks labels and straws if you want to get a little fancy :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I am a person with a great memory for details.  In fact, I make it a sort of personal quest to collect small tidbits of information about my friends and family and file those facts away in my mental filing cabinet (which I am considering updating to a mental online database!) I never toss out a file, never recycle a page, never consolidate, paraphrase or condense. I preserve each and every one and over time, those mental files slowly start to paint a complex picture for me about each of my loved ones.  I can then use my insights to better understand the people I care about and to avoid little things like serving them a dish that contains an ingredient they don't like, or picking a restaurant or suggesting an activity that isn't up their alley.  Generally, I strive hard to avoid conflicts and I find my mental filing cabinet to be a fantastic tool for helping me navigate around certain loaded conversation topics in certain crowds, which is something I find to be immeasurably useful.

My husband, however, likes to clean out his mental filing cabinet on a regular basis.  He finds it boarder-line ridiculous that I went four years without cooking pork for dinner because of one small side remark he made during a dinner about not liking pork.  He is often left shaking his head over the insignificant things I remember and has issued a statement that all my mental files I keep on him should be cleared out and burned at regular six month intervals.  (I am trying to decide if I should comply with that request...or only comply with that request for six months...and then burn it?!)

There is a quote floating around out there in the universe that says "Adversity doesn't build your character. Adversity reveals your character." I really believe this to be true and that is why I agree with many sociologists and relationship "experts" who claim that adversity is good for our relationships. Times of adversity provide us an opportunity to venture beyond the pretty mask of a happy relationship and truly discover whether or not we have solid footing underneath. I would imagine many couples can easily recount the first challenge they overcame together, whether big or small, and what that experience revealed to them about their partner and their ability to work together. I know I definitely remember the first real challenge the universe threw our way one night about nine years ago, but I wouldn't really have expected my husband to have an equally vivid recollection (after all, nine years is WAY past his six month expiration!) So I was quite surprised to hear him recount the story to our children with exquisite detail this evening as we were eating dinner.

"One night before your mom and I were married, it was so cold the shampoo in people's showers froze! I was giving your mom a ride home and there was lots of snow and slush, and ice on the roads - so they were very slippery! As I was driving up the hill to mom's house, I pushed on the gas and the car went up the hill...and then slid back down.  So I tried again - up the hill....and it slid back down!  Up the hill....and it slid back down...and it was stuck!  I tried pressing the gas again and the wheels just spun around and around, but the car wouldn't move!"  

At this point in his story there were many enthusiastic gasps from his wrapped audience and everyone had to take a turn recreating the sound they imagined tires would make as they squealed across and icy winter road.

"So I asked your mom to get out of the car and push it while I tried to steer it out of the ice and slush..."

Yes folks, this is true.  My prince charming sent ME out into the freezing night to the back end of his car to push!

"And now, your mom did a good job trying to push the car - but it still wouldn't budge!  So I came up with the idea to grab a piece of cardboard and place it under the tire.  That way the tire would be turning on the cardboard and not the slippery ice..."

This suggestion is met with many nods of approval from many child-sized heads

"So I put the cardboard under the tire and I pushed down on the gas pedal and *ZOOM!*  the piece of cardboard shot out from under the tire and flew all the way across to the other side of the street!"

Here there was more gasping

"So that didn't work, but then I thought - hey! The floor mats of the car!  They would have more traction because they are rubber and they would kind of stick to the ice."

Dad you're such a genius, the boys are all thinking

"So I grab the mat right out of the car and I stick it under the tire.  I push down on the gas pedal and *ZOOM!* the floor mat goes flying out from under the tire and shoots all the way across the street!"

At this point the audience is on the edge of their seats, myself included!  Unlike the rest of the pint sized crew however, I wasn't anxious to discover whether or not Dad shot any other random items across a snowy street via car tire.  Instead, I was waiting to find out if my husband also remembered who finally came up with a working solution to the stuck car problem!  And if he did remember - would he willingly tell his sons, or would he sort of gloss over that particular detail of the story ;-) You see - my husband and I are both a bit prideful and we both like to think of ourselves as the dominant personality in our relationship, so it isn't very often that we are enthusiastic about admitting the other has a superior idea.

"Do you know how we finally got the car unstuck?  It turned out your MOM knew a magical trick for helping the car!"

I am simultaneously shocked and impressed that he not only remembers, but is really playing up the significance of my contribution all those years ago! The kids meanwhile sit google-eyed, waiting for the juicy details.

"You see, your mom knew this magical thing about salt and ice! And she poured the salt out onto the ice.............and the ice just MELTED AWAY and I drove the car right back off the slippery ice!"

Wow! Amazing! Cool! comes tumbling out the kids mouths as they stare at me with wonder on their little faces...

"And that's when I knew kids...."

My husband looks lovingly into my eyes from across the table and smiles and I am instantly touched.  In all these years I never realized the he also looked back at that night as such a significant moment in our relationship! But then he continues...

"Yes, THAT is when I knew kids...that your a WITCH!"


He definitely got me good this evening!  But in all truthfulness, that icy night nine years ago WAS the night our relationship was tested for the very first time.  That night we handled a very obnoxious, cold, and potentially stressful experience with fantastic humor.  We laughed at my failed attempts to muscle the car back off the shoulder of the road.  We laughed as big pieces of cardboard and car floor mats were flying through the air, and we laughed when my suggestion to use table salt on the ice (which was the first idea suggested!) ended up taking care of the problem in a matter of seconds. With the car freshly un-stuck, we went in to my apartment and warmed up with some hot chocolate and I thought to myself, "Man, we made a great team out there!"

Since that day we have faced down many more moments of adversity (though thankfully we have been very blessed over all.) Some times we are that same great team that laughed together on a frozen street, other times we have to remind ourselves we are on the same side. But in the end, we always have come out laughing, and really -what more could this witch ask for!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Easter!

I hope you all had a happy, fun filled Easter weekend! I know we sure did :)  Our celebration started on Friday afternoon with an egg hunt at a local park that was organized by our awesome playgroup! There were 38 kids in attendance with their parents this year and over 450 stuffed eggs!! (WOW!)  Having read so many news stories recently about bad behavior (primarily by parents!) resulting in community egg hunts being cancelled, I was extra-appreciative of our well-mannered, friendly group of families this year.  The kids were divided into age groups to hunt (with the youngest starting first) and each child hunted until they had 12 eggs and then sat down to examine their goodies.  There was no pushing, shoving or bad sportsmanship in sight (that I saw anyway!) ;-)  We had a great time!

After the egg hunt we drove up to the church for Good Friday Mass.  The boys were really interested in the Easter Triduum this year, which was neat and they were particularly excited about Good Friday.  As we came closer to the veneration of the cross Big-Bug kept whispering to me "I can't believe I get to kneel to the cross!" :)  After we waiting in the (long!) line of parishioners and had our turn to pray we were walking back to our seats and Big-Bug exclaimed "THAT WAS AWESOME!" hahaha

Saturday we spent most of our time working around the house, catching up on the laundry and the floors, mowing the lawn, etc.  I ran up to grab Chinese take out for dinner that night and hesitated as I placed my order.  My husband always gives me a hard time for over-ordering when I get take out (I will admit that I do!) but I really felt like I should order TWO dinner combos instead of just one.  The bugs are unpredictable eaters and can range anywhere from one ity bity bite at dinner to out eating my husband and myself combined.  I went with my gut and ordered TWO dinner for two combinations and I was SO glad I did!  Because every single last speck of food was consumed, with the bugs doing more than their share of the eating :)  After dinner we colored our Easter Eggs! This year we used sharpies and stickers instead of traditional egg dye and it was a lot of fun!  We were able to be a lot more creative with our decorations AND it was way less messy ;-) 

On Easter morning we woke up to an indoor egg hunt and basket surprises!  There were new sunglasses, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, stuffed lambs, cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies for the bugs and even travel mugs and chocolate bunnies for mom and dad! (What a nice bunny)  ;-)  We had a perfect breakfast of whole grain pancakes, hard boiled eggs, organic sausage and fresh berries and then got ready to head to mass.   We arrived half an hour early and were SO glad we did - the place was PACKED!  After mass we came back home and spent the day playing in the yard, drawing with sidewalk chalk, swinging on the swing set and riding wheely things! 

I also spent a fair portion of my day in the kitchen prepping dinner of course ;-)  This year I did a spiral ham in my crock pot with a honey spice glaze and fresh pineapple rings.  On the side I served scalloped potatoes, steamed green beans with Parmesan and homemade challah bread (which was my favorite part of the meal!)  For dessert we had old fashioned vanilla Tillamook ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries - it was delicious!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A little updating

I was browsing around for craft inspiration the other day when I stumbled upon this cute mother's day gift idea from two years ago over on the blog brown paper packages 

It just so happens that we have a black step stool in our bathroom that the bugs use to reach the sink for hand washing and teeth brushing (and other activities that are slightly more irritating to mom.)  So when I saw this footprint step stool I could instantly envision my own stool transformed.  I tested Big-Bug's foot against the top step of the stool and found it just barely fit, he is getting so big! So I decided the time to act was now!

Before their bath that night, I painted the bottom of the bugs's feet with white acrylic paint and had them each step both of their feet onto the top step of the stool.  Then I penned their names along with the month and the year on a strip of star paper (that happens to coordinate with the green paint in my bathroom) and set the stool to dry in the garage.  Because I sort of acted on a whim, I found myself without modge podge AND acrylic clear coat, so after the kids were settled into bed I waved goodbye to my husband (who was happily installing a new graphics card into the computer) and ran out to pick up my supplies!

I took the advice of the original blogger and applied modge podge to the entire top step of the stool and let it dry over night.  The next morning I sprayed on a finishing coat of clear acrylic and it was complete!  I am so in love with this idea :)  I can already picture myself gazing at the stool remembering my boys when they were too short to reach the sink!  And when they outgrow the stool, I believe the lower step would make an excellent stand for a house plant so I can continue to enjoy my little guys' footprints!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras! :)  We won't be doing a lot of partying tonight (with the kids and all) but that doesn't mean we won't be having a good time today! We put our party colors on display this afternoon by making some paper bunting and a festive paper "wreath" for the front door.  And of course, no Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a king's cake!  I actually made two cakes this year; one for the family and one for my girlfriends who are coming over later tonight to make homemade laundry detergent and vanilla extract.  Yep - we are party animals! ;-)

Greta's King Cake

1 cup milk
2/3 cup warm water
2 eggs
4 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
5 cups of flour
1.2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar
green and purple sanding sugars

1.Add these ingredients to your bread machine in the following order: milk, water, butter, yeast, eggs, sugar, flour, salt.  Start the bread machine and run the dough cycle.

2. While the dough is processing, mix together the white sugar and molasses in a small bowl.  When they are well combined, add the flour and stir until mixed.  Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a microwave safe dish.

3. When the dough cycle ends, turn the dough out onto a cutting board and slice the dough into two equal portions.  Set one portion aside and roll the other portion into a large rectangle. 

4. Sprinkle half of the molasses mixture over the rolled dough, then sprinkle generously with cinnamon.  Drizzle half of the melted butter over the sugar and cinnamon. 

5. Starting on the long side of the dough rectangle furthest from yourself, roll the dough up like a jelly roll/cinnamon roll. 

6. Next transfer the rolled dough to a baking sheet.  Bring the two ends of the roll together to form a circular ring of dough.  Pinch the dough together at the seam to seal it closed.

7. Using kitchen sheers, snip the dough ring in one inch intervals, cutting about one third of the way down.

8. Next roll, fill, shape and snip the second dough portion as described above.

9. Cover the two cakes lightly with a kitchen towel and leave them in a warm place to rise for 30-40 minutes.

10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

11. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes and then ttransfer the cakes to a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.

12. While the cakes are cooling, mix 2 cups of powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of milk.  Add one tablespoon of milk at a time until a thick glaze forms (should not take more than 3-4 tablespoons of milk)

13. Drizzle the glaze over the tops of the cakes, coating liberally.  Then sprinkle the cakes with the green and purple sanding sugars. 

You can make the cake ahead of time, but it is the most amazing when it is still warm from the oven!

Silly-Face Applesauce Cups

Big-Bug is turning six this week (how did that happen?!) and so I have been spending a fair amount of time trying to think up an appropriate snack time treat to bring to his classroom on Friday.  His teacher has specifically requested NO cupcakes and no cakes.  She says anything with frosting is super messy in a room full of kindergartners (and lets not forget the sugar coma that usually follows!)  Additionally, the school district now requires ALL snacks to be store bought and packaged.  I can understand the reasoning here, but it definitely puts additional limitations on snack ideas! When I asked Big-Bug for birthday snack suggestions, he asked to take yogurt cups for all his friends. I was hesitant to go the yogurt route since it needs to be kept in a refrigerator, so I suggested applesauce cups instead.  Applesauce cups are a big deal around here because I usually just buy the big tub or make it myself in the crock pot and serve it in bowls. Big-Bug thought this was a great snack idea, so I set to work trying to make the snack presentation "fun!" 

A friend of mine had shared a cute snack idea with me that she found on pinterest where a woman had created a robot using applesauce cups, juice boxes, raisins and pretzel rods. The robot were super cute, but a little too elaborate for our needs.  I know snack time in Big-Bug's class is limited, and his teacher has told us that snack items need to be easy for the kids to manage on their own, so deconstructing a robot and opening multiple boxes/packages/straws seemed like a little much :) 

Instead I took the idea of an applesauce cup head and adapted it to make silly-face applesauce cups.  All it took was a permanent marker, wiggly eyes and a hot glue gun!   Once I decorated all 24 applesauce cups, I glued a clear plastic casserole lid to a cake board and then stacked the applesauce cups inside.  I decorated the tray with some curled ribbon to make it festive and cut six candles out of paper to glue to the back of the tray.  I attached a small paper sign to a box of plastic spoons and then topped the box with more ribbon.  Overall, I am pretty happy with the end result, and I can't wait to surprise my birthday boy in class this week!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine for the Husband!

This Valentine's Day I tried to come up with something creative to give my husband.  He normally one-ups me in the creativity department - so I was feeling pretty determined!

In the end this is what I came up with.  A homemade "classic" valentine heart with a few plays on words and accompanying gift items ;-)

The card includes phrases like "I'm nuts about you" "We're a perfect pear" "I'm lucky to have you" and "I love you a latte"  I included a soy latte from Starbucks, a bag of roasted almonds, a pear and three lottery tickets.  We have a running joke between us about Scottish oatcakes. These are something my husband absolutely loves, and I think they taste like a carboard box.  We like to tease each other about them from time to time. So, at the bottom of his card I added "now go eat some oatcakes!" and I included a take out box filled with heart-shaped oatcakes that I baked up for him.  I think it turned out pretty well :)