Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baby Bliss and a Batch of Brownies

Sleepless nights, messy diapers, fussy baby times, interrupted personal time, baby blues… How does one ever cope?  I’ll tell you how – baby bliss and a batch of brownies!

IMG_5511 Yes, I am IN LOVE with my daughter.  She is absolutely adorable and precious.  I look at this miracle every day and am touched by God’s love towards me, my daughter, and the world.  I adore her and she adores me, and it is wonderful!  Each day I am thankful for her.

In addition to these great feelings, what else could give me a burst of joy?  A batch of brownies of course!  Yes, I baked my first batch of brownies tonight and enjoyed them thoroughly.  There’s just nothing like gooey, yummy chocolate coming fresh out of the oven.  Our favorite brownie recipe, as it stands, is the “Whatever Floats Your Boat Brownie” recipe.  That’s what I made tonight, with chocolate chips inside.  However, I did make a recipe last week, before Ava was born, that was good.  If you like a rich, not as moist, brownie that you would like to serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top, then this is the recipe to try.  (I did not use the espresso powder).


Dark Chocolate Brownies


     adapted from Bon Appetit, August 1999

     makes 24 brownies

Print this Recipe!

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil and butter the foil.  This will make brownie removal much easier. 

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. 

Place butter and chopped chocolate in a medium sized heat proof bowl.  Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, being sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water.  Stir until chocolate and butter are completely melted.  Use pot holders to remove the bowl from over the boiling water. Let mixture sit for a few minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and espresso powder.  Whisk until pale and thick.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Whisk until completely incorporated.  Add the flour mixture all at once and whisk to incorporate.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Makeup

Photo credit:  Garden Botanika

Eye ShadowsI know… I know… I just had a baby… I should be posting about late night feedings and messy diapers.  My brain, however, just needs a little diversion, and I thought you might too.  I think my dad especially might like this post, since he is one of my faithful readers (Hi, Dad!  :-) ).

If you are looking for some fresh, summer makeup, try one of these sites.

  • Garden Botanika is having a 5 for $25 color sale on certain color items.  They are a good, nature-based company.
  • I ran into Everyday Minerals recently, and their products look good.  They sell all-natural, mineral makeup that appears to be cheaper than Bare Minerals, and you can get sample products.

Don’t worry… I will get to the meatier subject of having a newborn soon.  In the mean time, happy shopping!  :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

She’s “Arrived”

Well, my due date came and went, but not for too long!  Our beautiful daughter was born on June 24, just after midnight.  She just missed my friend’s birthday by 52 minutes! 

We are so thankful for her and for a great delivery and recovery.  God has answered all of our prayers.  He is Good, and we give Him thanks!


Ava Rose

8 lbs. 8 oz.; 20 inches long

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father’s Day and a Sweet Breakfast

Well, alas, Father’s Day has come and gone and Baby is still snug inside!  I was able to pull together some “surprises” for Brian with the kids’ help.

To display our yummy breakfast and “Daddy’s” gifts on the table, we were a little more “creative” this year (or maybe I should say “simple” :-) ).  We put a rectangular sheet of green cellophane wrap in the middle of the table.  Atop of that we placed the gifts (two polo shirts and a baseball cap), homemade cards, and breakfast items.  My daughter made a “Happy Father’s Day” sign that we hung from the chandelier.  We called Dad up from the basement (where he was hurriedly crunching in some work before church) and surprised him with the presentation.  It was fun to have everything out in the open for him to see and explore.


This was our breakfast:

Stuffed Pecan Pie French Toast and Berries



*I used regular bread and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on the first layer of bread slices before topping them with the pecan mixture.  This worked well.  You would use 16 slices of bread for the entire recipe.  I actually made a half recipe because my niece was at her mom’s house.  The half recipe was sufficient for the other five of us.

Stuffed Pecan Pie French Toast


    • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    • 1 loaf (16 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Cinnamon Swirl Bread
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • confectioners' sugar


Heat the oven to 350°F.

Heat the butter and brown sugar in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the pecans.

Grease a baking sheet with the butter. Place the bread slices onto the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes or until the bread slices are lightly toasted.

Beat the milk, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Dip 8 bread slices into the milk mixture and place onto a baking sheet. Spread about 1 tablespoon pecan mixture onto each dipped bread slice. Dip the remaining bread slices into the milk mixture and place over the pecan mixture to form sandwiches.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the sandwiches are golden. Sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar.

Tip: When cooking a sugar mixture on top of the stove, use a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  The thicker the bottom, the less readily the sugar will burn.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies?


Well, Baby hasn’t arrived yet.   I’ve got to keep myself busy – what better way than to bake, especially with Father’s Day tomorrow?!  I made these cookies tonight, and my hubby said, “This is the best Father’s Day present”.  I did buy him some other items as well, but he was more than happy to eat these tonight as an early gift.  I’ve made these cookies the past few times I have opted to bake chocolate chip cookies.  My family says this recipe is the best.  It makes about 20 large-sized cookies.  I use a muffin scoop to put the batter on the pans.

Oh, the funny part is how I discovered this recipe… I was looking for an image of a chocolate chip cookie on Google for one of the kids’ school charts.  I found a picture of this cookie and saw there was a recipe linked to it.  The rest is history…

(Recipe source:

The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need
2 cups never bleached flour (all purpose will do)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet(s) with silpat mat.  (I do not have a silpat mat, so I spray with oil or use parchment paper).
Sift flour, salt and baking soda together; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until well blended.  Beat in vanilla, egg and egg yolk until mixture becomes creamy.
Mix the sifted ingredients all at once until just blended.  Stir in chocolate chip cookies with a wooden spoon.
Drop by 4 tablespoons of cookie dough at a time onto prepared cookie sheets.  Cookies should be evenly spaced about 3 inches apart.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges turn a light brown.
Cool on baking sheets for 15 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks with rubber spatula to cool completely.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guess Baby’s Birthday

It’s 5 a.m., and I’m up…. again… only four short hours after I was finally able to get myself to sleep, two hours after my last trip to the bathroom, and five hours after my last post … thanks to two of nature’s alarm clocks:  my very pregnant body and the birds wholeheartedly singing outside my bedroom window (Did anyone tell them it is still dark outside?).  Since I was just lying in bed, feeling wide awake, I decided I should try to be productive instead.  Therefore, before I get to the more important tasks of bills, cleaning, and prepping for my day (and then maybe crashing for an early morning nap!), I decided to pick your brains and see when *you* think Baby might arrive.  Here are the stats:

Due Date:  June 22nd

Child #1:  arrived three days late

Child #2:  arrived two days early

Child #3:  arrived five days early

With the trend, frankly, I thought I would be having the baby already, BUT she is still happy to be cozy inside – for the moment.

I’ll start the guessing.  I’m going to say Father’s Day (June 20) since it would just be nostalgic, and it is one of my closest friend’s daughter’s birthday that day, so why not?

What do you think?

Random Acts of Kindness

I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I was on my way to Costco tonight, while the rest of the family was at church.  I’ve been trying to minimize my activities lately and *had* to get some groceries for the house before Baby arrives.  I was feeling emotional, tired, and not really wanting to do much of anything.  Before heading into the store, I stopped at the gas pumps to fill my tank.  While I was pumping my gas, a man, probably in his 60s, shouted to me from the next pump over. 

Man:  “When are you due?”

Me:  “Next week.”

Man:  “Oh, you look great.”

Me:  “Thanks.”

Man:  “Is it a boy or a girl?”

Me:  “A girl… or so they say… we’ll see.”  :-)

Man:  “You must be excited.”

Me:  “Yes,”  and then on my way into the car,  “Take care.”

Man:  “You too.”

It was a simple conversation, but I was touched by it.  I was touched by the fact that this man had noticed me from the next pump, was interested in my pregnancy, and showed excitement for me.  I felt warmed by his kindness, and it reminded me how the little acts of kindness we do really can touch people’s lives.  It is not always easy, in this selfish world, to be purposefully kind.  However, it sure does make our world more pleasant; doesn’t it?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Buttery Blueberry Scones


I got this recipe from The Sunday Baker and is listed below “as is” from her blog.  (She has photos of the process on her site).  I did have to add a tad more cream to my dough, as it was not coming together enough initially.  After a little extra travail, though, our family was very pleased with these scones.  Enjoy!

*I made half of the butter sauce, and that was PLENTY!

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 Cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (or mini-chocolate chips)
egg mixture to brush on top:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Golden Butter Sauce:
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. real butter
1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

Mix in large bowl the flour, sugar, salt & baking powder. Cut in butter with pastry blender (or fork) until flour becomes crumbly:
Then add the beaten egg, cream and vanilla, combine just until mixed. I use my hands so I don't overmix or the scones will be tough and not crumbly.
Carefully fold in blueberries with hands (if using chocolate chips, you don't have to be as gentle)Do not overmix.
On a floured surface, knead by hand for a minute and then form a 6 inch circle:

Cut into 8 triangles with a pizza cutter.
Put onto a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with the cream/egg mixture.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Remove to cooling racks.
To make butter mixture, combine all 3 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts.

Pierce the scone with your fork in a few places, and pour some butter sauce over scone.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Appetite for Books

Training your children to read and enjoy reading is an important part of life.  After all, God Himself thought it was important for us to read – He established His Word, the Bible, for us to read in order to gain wisdom and insight for our lives.

How can we train our children to enjoy books?  We start from the time they are very young.  When they are just babies we look through picture books with them and as they grow older the repertoire expands according to their level.  Reading books aloud to your children engages their imagination and attention in a way movies can not.  Children are forced to imagine what the situation looks like and live it in their minds.  Sure, they may have some pictures to help them, but their minds have to fill in the gaps.  As your children listen to you read, they are also able to build their vocabulary and learn about conversation and intonation. 

When children read on their own, they learn many skills.  In my homeschooling, I did not focus on spelling as a school subject until my oldest was in third grade.  Before that, he was learning to spell wonderfully… how?  In his reading.  I wanted him to be a good reader first – before worrying about him being a good speller.  By seeing words repeatedly in books, it helped reinforce his visualization of a word.

Reading also teaches children to investigate and be interested in stories and facts.  It teaches them to think for themselves and pursue education.  It helps them be independent learners.  Books are great resources for learning all sorts of things!

Maybe your children aren’t so young any more and you would like for them to have a better appetite for books.  Why not start reading to them and see if it sparks an interest?  Pick a good read-aloud book and schedule some time as a family to read it.  Even if you can’t do it every day, do it when you can.  We oftentimes read to our children before bed or at least have them look at books on their own.  We have had children come to our home who are not normally book-lovers who will engage in a book while they are here.  Why?  We say, “Okay, it’s book time.”  Everyone is required to get out some sort of book.  The children follow suit, and it is amazing to see how these children will delve into books too.

Make it a goal to plunge into a book soon, whether it be for your own benefit or for the good of someone else.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nesting and Resting at 38 weeks


I am 38 weeks pregnant and continue to vacillate between nesting and resting.  Feelings of “The baby’s coming soon… hurry, let’s clean, organize, and shop for final items” quickly turn into feelings of “Wow!  I’m exhausted and can barely move right now.”  Yes, my body continues to remind me that I will meet my baby soon. 

Last night we tried to wrap up our necessities shopping.  We bought a crib pad, crib sheet, diaper pail, bottles, a foam pad for bathing, and a simple yet cute “coming home” outfit.  Again, hopefully the baby is a girl, like the technician said, as the outfit is a pink cotton dress with attached flowers and diaper cover to match.  :-)

Yesterday was a productive day altogether, though, and we did get outside to work in the yard.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day – in the low 70s and just wonderful.  The kids and I started the work in the yard with some weeding, mowing of the lawn, watering of the garden, and cleaning up.  When hubby came home, he helped tie things up with his contribution of weed-whacking.

IMG_5301 IMG_5304


After we came home from dinner and shopping, we were rewarded by our trimmed yard.  It was very pleasant.  :-)

We are STILL finalizing Baby’s name.  We have it narrowed down to a few choices.  Maybe we’ll have to see Baby in order to make the final decision. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Homemade “Sliders”


The original recipe called for dry onion soup mix, which I chose not to use.  Here’s my tweaked version, which turned out nicely!  I even took half of the batch to my parents’ household, which is brimming with four adults and two children right now, and everyone  liked them!  My own household had these for dinner one night with watermelon on the side.  YUM!


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 24 dinner rolls, split
  • 1/2 cup sliced pickles (optional)
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Saute ground beef and onion in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook until beef is browned and no longer pink. Drain. Remove from heat. Stir the mayonnaise and Cheddar cheese into the ground beef mixture.
  3. Lay the bottoms of the dinner rolls on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the cheese and beef mixture on the bottom half of each roll. Replace the tops. Cover with another sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the burgers are heated through and cheese melts, about 30 minutes. Serve with sliced pickles.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Being Proactive with Our Children

Due to various dynamics of life and being at the end of my pregnancy, I have struggled with putting my children first.  It is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the work that is on my plate – feeling like the housework is never done… feeling the CRUNCH of trying to finish the school year well… feeling energy continually zapped from my body and soul as I deal with my children’s character issues repeatedly.  Juggling the many hats in life is never easy.  However, recent issues in my home have caused God to tug at my heart again and cause me to see the needs of my children. 

Children need a lot of affection, proactive affection from their parents.  It is easy to get into reactive mode – where we react to our children’s needs and behavior with love or discipline.  The demands of life overtake us, and we push our children aside, giving them the minimal amount of attention.  Oftentimes we don’t really see how much we are pushing our children aside until behavioral issues come up.  “Why is ______ acting this way"?  Although there are oftentimes multiple factors, one of them is usually a simple desire for love and attention.

Children really need us to be proactive.  They need us to be a step ahead of them.  They need us to be the leaders of good character.  They need us to be pouring into their love tanks and strengthening them.  When we are able to be the initiators, rather than just reactors, it seems that children are happier.  They sense purpose.  They feel loved.  They know someone is watching over them, caring about their desires.  They don’t feel pushed aside, but instead feel a sense of belonging.  Behavioral issues don’t disappear completely but many are remedied, softened by the power of love and grace.

I am working on this with my daughter, in particular, right now.  She has been dealing with various attitudes and manifesting them in unpleasant ways.  Yes, we are still training her through those attitudes, but I am trying to get a step ahead of her.  I am trying to think of ways to spend time with her.  “What does she like to do and how can I fit that into my day?”  I am trying to think of ways to encourage her.  “How is she struggling and what could she afford to hear that would make her feel more secure?”  I want to be reassured in my heart that I am making her feel loved and appreciated, that there is no lack on my part.  It is not an easy task, but bit by bit, by God’s grace, I am trying to improve. 

Even with my sons, I see a need for more affection.  I notice myself  thinking “stop hanging on me” when they are doting on me at times.  Recently I have stopped to think, “How often am I doting on them?  How often am I being proactive with my love towards them?” 

May the busyness of life not choke out what is truly good, profitable, and necessary – giving our lives to our children proactively and unreservedly.

This is a great post on children’s need for attention and how some have a greater need than others.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Refreshing Lemonade


My 6 year old daughter likes to make lemonade, especially around this time of year!  She made it the other day, and we’re looking forward to making it this weekend when we have “girl time” together.  This is our recipe, originally inspired by a friend of mine:

Mix together in pitcher:

  • Freshly-squeezed juice from 3 lemons
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Cold water and ice until pitcher is about 3/4 full

That’s it!  It is soooo good and refreshing!