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 :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

End of street bonus

Our house is located at the end of our dead-end street. Because of our location, we only have a neighbor on one side of our house - to the left is our one lonely neighbor, to the rear is a creek, to the right is a vacant lot/rec vehicle parking area and across the street from us is a baseball field.  One would imagine this positioning comes with the bonus of a super quite, private setting - unfortunately the neighbors two houses down are so insanely loud we had to move our boys to the bedrooms on the far side of the house so they could sleep at night during the summers (true story!)

You might think the bonus of living on the end of the street is the lack of through-traffic.  While it is true that our boys can (for the most part) ride their bikes in front of the house without concern, our neighbors in our community DO have to drive past our house to deposit and retrieve their camp trailers, boats, spare cars, etc.  So when there is traffic in front of our house, it is noisy and ties up the street for quite a while as they line up and hitch up, etc.

So what is the end of street bonus?  The ability to see people doing ridiculous things out front your living room window because they don't think anyone can see them.  Seriously, this happens ALL the time.  We are the only house with a clear view of the baseball field, we also park in our garage, so a lot of the time it looks like no one is home.  I can't count the number of times I have looked up from folding my laundry to see someone glance around, pick up a big stick and perform an elaborate javelin throw before continuing on their way.  Or a "too cool" high school boy romping around with his dog before quickly stopping and playing it cool when a car comes up the street.  Of course we also see our fair share of gross and just plain irritating things as well - the ultimate in irritation being the inconsiderate dog-walker of course.  So, so, so many times I have been tempted to stick my head out the front door and holler "I guess you must have missed this - but your dog just left a giant pile in the middle of the ball field."  So if you happen to live in our neighborhood...and you happen to have a black lab....I see you!!  ;-)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Empty Cupboard Coffee Cake

We are a strange breakfast bunch around here.  Strange because we cook/bake breafast every morning and don't use cereals, poptarts or breakfast bars.  Perhaps that is a result of my husband's British heritage, or perhaps it is just my taste preferences - who knows! 

We are working hard to eliminate sugar from our diets, but once in a while I run into a situation where I can't quite figure out how to eliminate the sugar completely (*see last week's post on cinnamon rolls!* haha)  Today was one of those days.  I woke up this morning to the reality that I should have grocery shopped three days ago.  I have been putting it off for days and it finally came back to bite me! We were out of milk and we were out of eggs so the breakfast pickings were instantly slim.  Waffles? nope.  Pancakes? nope.  French toast? nope.  Coffee cake? maybe......  Since my choices were limited to 1) come up with a desperate variation on coffee cake or 2) go grocery shopping first thing in the morning, I opted to try my hand at coffee cake.  And that is how this coffee cake receipe came to be!  I thought I would share it here in case any of you find youselves in a poorly stocked kitchen at some time in your future ;-)

Empty Cupboard Coffee Cake


1/2 c brown sugar
1/4c flour
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp butter
1/4c oats


1 1/2 c water
1/3 c dairy powder
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
1 c vegetable oil
2 1/2 c flour
2/3c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


1- Preheat oven to 375 F
2- Mix the water, dairy powder and vinegar in a bowl and leave to curdle
3- Mix the brown sugar and flour in a small bowl, grate in about 1/3" cinnamon stick and then cut in butter until "crumbs" form.  Mix in oats.
4- Add oil and vanilla to milk mixture
5- Add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to milk mixture
6- Mix batter well and pour into 9x13 baking dish
7- Sprinkle cinnamon sugar topping over batter
8- Bake for 35-40 minutes

It turned out pretty good if I do say so myself! And as an added bonus, when Big-Bug came to the kitchen to find out what we were having for breakfast and heard it was coffee cake he ran down the hall hollering "YAY!! We're having COFFEE CAKE!!"  Haha.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flooding in the Valley

Yesterday morning we woke up to find this outside our window.

Yes, that is the creek that runs on the far side of the lot next to ours.  It overran its banks during the night and over took our street!  Since our house is on a hump, we luckily stayed dry, but we were a little worried there for a while.  I walked across the field to see the extent of the flooding and saw that the water level of the creek was about 4-5 feet higher than normal. 

Our neighbors who sit at a lower elevation than us have sandbagged their houses as you can see from the photo. 

I also walked around to the back of our lot to check the level of the second creek (the one that runs behind our fence) and saw that the water level was about twice as high as ususal, but it had not yet escaped its banks.  The nutria (an invasive water rodent that lives in the streams) were having a hay day and were swimming back and forth up the stream while I watched. 

We were able to get out of our street to take Big-Bug to school, but the district called families halfway through the day and asked everyone to come get their children due to the rising water levels (I had already picked Big-Bug up at that time since he is in the am kindergarten class.)  When I drove up to the school for pick up the school grounds were (relatively) dry, but the storm drains were erupting like fountains in the intersections! It was pretty crazy.

Around our town, other families have not been as lucky.  An entire town to the south east of us was evacuated yesterday as water levels rose.  A town to the east of us has a lot of water over their roadways (although I read it is receding today) and our downtown area has been expriencing a lot of flooding.  The city has been updating a google map documenting road closures and there were 35+ noted in town last night. All of this flooding has been the result of heavy rain, runoff and overfilled creek beds.  Today it is forecasted to rain another inch and the Willamette River is predicted to breach its banks and reach 100 year flood levels by 4pm today.  This will result in a lot more flooding throughout down town and the surrounding areas.  A 100 year flood map was published this morning in the newpaper and I was nervous to see a few close friends of mine live in areas that are expected to be impacted by the Willamette today. 

On a side note -something I have been seeing a lot of on the news sites is a misunderstanding of the term 100 year flood.  A lot of people seem to think it means a level of flooding that has not occured for 100 years.  This term actually refers to a flood with a water level that only has a 1% chance of being equalled or exceeded in a single year.  So if you are reading this, please give the police officers and the reporters a break - they actually DO know what they are talking about ;-)  (see, my natural resources degree DOES pay off every now and then! haha)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Words...

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls.

That is all :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Been a While!

*whew*  where did the last month and a half go?! 

December turned into a super busy month for us (no big surprise there I suppose.)  The first week of December I coordinated a family game night at Big-Bug's elementary school.  This turned out to be a monumental task that involved countless hours of prep work, much coordination with other groups and a LOT of table assembly.  It was further complicated by my husband's out of town business trip that happened to overlap with the fun night, meaning I had all three bugs in tow the entire day!  In the end, I would say the event was a success.  Many families attended, people seemed to be enjoying themselves and there was a nice write up in the student news paper the following week as well.

The second week of December was Baby-Bug's two year birthday party.  We hosted at the house this year and went with a hungry caterpillar theme. I was trying hard to learn towards healthier food options, so a hungry caterpillar party with an emphasis on fruits was a winner! We put out a spread of food that had each of the food items mentioned in the story (minus the salami and the leaves) and it seemed to go over well.

We had apples, pears, plums, oranges, watermelon, strawberries, swiss cheese, summer sausage, miniature chocolate cake bites, mini cherry pies, mini cupcakes, lollipop sugar cookies and icecream cone cupcakes.  The kids made a few caterpillar crafts as well - clothespin butterflies, thumbprint caterpillar bookmarks and egg carton caterpillars.  We also had a basket of caterpillar antennas for each of the kids to wear at the party, it was a pretty fun day!

That same night we attended a holiday parade in town and were able to bring both sets of grandparents with us as well, which was an extra treat!

The third week of December was the annual holiday get together with my mom's side of the family.  This is always a great time, but it also a four hour drive away!  Because of the drive, the party turns into a weekend event, which is extra fun - but also adds a little chaos.  This year we decided to really pack the schedule and aside from attending the party we also met a friend for coffee, visited my Grandmother and delivered a Christmas gift to a friend...all in a 36 hour window.

We had to leave on Saturday night this year instead of staying the whole weekend because Big-Bug and Middle-Bug were in a Christmas program at church on Sunday night.  This was their first ever Christmas Pageant and they were absolutely adorable dressed up like angels, singing Christmas songs :) 

During that same week, we also attended our fantastic playgroup's annual Christmas Party. This year was special because we held it in a local coffee shop that is designed to be kid-friendly.  But this isn't just any kid-friendly coffee shop! It is a brand new shop that was opened by one of our very own playgroup mamas and her husband! They were so generous to open their place to us after hours, and they even provided drip coffee and herbal teas for the party. We really enjoyed our evening with wonderful friends - and the kids had an amazing time playing with their buddies and of course gorging themselves on holiday cookies, fudge, taffies, chocolates, etc.

The fourth week of December was Christmas of course, and we were lucky enough to be able to host my in-laws AND my sister in-law this year :)  We had a lazy Christmas morning opening presents, eating cinnamon rolls and bacon and testing out the new video game santa delivered - lego star wars III for the wii! Once the family arrived that afternoon the bugs headed out with their daddy, grandparents and auntie to test out their brand new Christmas bikes!  They had a blast riding up and down the street.  I started the dinner prep inside and kept it simple this year (I was so proud of myself for reining it in!!)  I made roast beef with oven roasted tomatoes, citrus mashed yams, bread stuffing, bacon wrapped green bean bundles, stuffed mushroom caps and roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans!  I also served shrimp cocktails for an appetizer and my mother in-law brought her signature English Trifle for dessert....we can't have Christmas in this family without it!

mushrooms didn't last long enough to make it into the photo! lol
The fifth weekend in December we headed to my parents' house where we celebrated Christmas with my parents and my sister. The boys had a great time seeing their Auntie and really enjoyed the time with their grandparents.  On new years eve my parents stayed with the boys while My husband and I escaped for a rare night out!  We went for dessert and martinis at a local brewery and had a nice time chatting without kiddie distractions :)  We made it back to my parents' before midnight and settled in to play a HILARIOUS game of "Quelf" with them before toasting each other into the new year.   I have never laughed at a game so hard in my life...I was honestly in pain from laughing.

On new years day we headed further north to spend some time with my husband's parents at their annual new years day gathering.  There was an amazing spread of food to be sampled and a house full of friends and holiday cheer.  The kiddos were in 7th heaven playing with their daddy's old legos and watching a marathon of disney films.  It was a great way to start the new year!

The first weekend of January....we were out of town AGAIN!  This time staying with my parents once more as well celebrated my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary!  They are such an amazing couple and have always been a touching example of the way devotion, tender love and a sense of humor can build an unshakable marriage. We have been so blessed to have them as role models in our lives.

While we were at the anniversary party, the Bugs had a chance to play a LOT with their second cousins. There was a great grassy area perfect for Star Wars reenactments and a big friendly, gentle horse on the other side of the fence who was eager to be pet and have carrots fed to him.

This week has been relatively calm considering the past couple of months, but we have still been running pretty solid.  Baby-Bug had his two-year check up, we have had a couple of fun play dates and my womens' bible study group has started back up after their holiday break.  Oh - and did I mention I am planning the second family fun night at Big-Bug's school? :)  Yeah...that one is a real energy drainer for sure! The event itself is going to be held next Friday night and I have three local science clubs and a local astronomy club coming to set up experiments for the students to watch and the astronomers are setting up telescopes and facilitating star gazing in the school field.  It's going to be amazingly fun for the kids, but boy am I exhausted!

There is only one more fun night on the school calendar this year and I am planning a family read-in in the gym.  Everyone will bring their own blankets/pillows/sleeping bags/bean bags/etc and all I will need to coordinate and supply will be cocoa and coffee and books to read :)  *whew*

So much fun and so little time!!