Monday, July 25, 2011

Wits' End? Um, we must have missed that exit by a few hundred miles.

I. Am. Exhausted. Aiden, who just turned six months, still wakes up 3 times a night. We're working through this phase by giving him bottles of 1/2 water 1/2 breast milk during the night so it "tricks" his brain into thinking he doesn't need those calories at night; thus, he'll drink them all during the day instead. This, in and of itself, makes me/us tired. But, on its own we could deal with it fairly well, I think.
Attempt at a family photo on the Reese vacation . . . you can see how cooperative Asher was ;)
However, the storm on Friday night totally threw Asher for a loop as far as sleeping goes. The constant thunder terrified him - understandably - to the point where he cried horribly every time we left the room. So, we tried having him sleep in bed with us. Bad idea. We never have him sleep with us, so he was just laying in bed awake . . . and so were we (especially because Asher kept kicking my leg). Finally Dusty brought him back to his crib to try again. Asher bawled. Final solution: Dusty slept on the floor next to Asher's crib so he would finally settle down and sleep. Clearly, that was not the ideal solution, but honestly we were too tired to care. Well, it happened again last night, except there was no storm, so we let him cry for 20 minutes (which feels like 3 hours if you've ever tried this method). I ended up sleeping on the floor next to his crib. Sometimes tiredness wins out, but Dusty and I both know if it happens again we'll have to do things differently.

On top of these two things the "terrible twos" are hitting H-A-R-D. Who knew independence was so important to someone who's not even 2 yet? Ok, probably everyone who has ever parented a toddler knows that, but the extent of the independence is what is surprising to me. It's really frustrating because Asher has learned the word "self," so it's clear as day when he does not want Mom or Dad to help. The frustrating part is that he's clearly conflicted - on the one hand, there are things he simply can't do by himself and when he realizes it he says "help." But, try to step in and help and he scowls at you and says "self, self, self." And this cycle continues until he either yells at us for just doing it for him, or we're able to distract him with something else. Distraction is working less and less frequently, however. So, not only are the nights exhausting, but the days are tiring us out, too! We keep telling ourselves it's just a phase (I can hear my mom's voice reassuring me with those words on a daily basis), but sometimes it's hard to keep that in mind. We like to call Asher "sour patch" ("first sour, then sweet" is the catch-phrase on the commercials) because he can be so naughty one minute, but the next he'll be saying "Mommy, kiss; Daddy kiss; Aiden kiss." He melts our hearts on a daily basis.

Aiden is growing so fast - he's a big boy just like his brother; 93rd percentile for weight and 97th for length at 6 months. He's so busy all the time, too, grabbing anything in reach or getting a kick out of Asher's antics. He's our little tough guy - he's taken some accidental knocks from Asher, and he didn't cry at all when he got his shots at his appointment. Before we know it he'll be crawling around and talking. His smile is the sweetest thing - it makes it much easier to get up with him at night when he looks up at me with his big, dark eyes and smiles like he's the happiest boy in the world.

 Ok, so we're past Wit's End, but we keep on trucking knowing the end of this phase could be right around the next curve.
Moments like these make everything else worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PB Cookies for Lilly

Our niece, Lilly, happened to tell me that her favorite kind of cookie is peanut butter, so when she came to visit a few weekends ago I was determined to have some yummy ones ready for her. They are now my favorite peanut butter cookie of all time, and I think Lilly liked them, too. While some prefer a crisp texture, I like mine soft and chewy. My "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook" provided the perfect base to which I added a couple of yummy extras.

Peanut Butter Cookies
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. (2 sticks) softened butter
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 c. extra-crunchy peanut butter (we only had creamy on hand, so that's what I used)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
Mix-ins: I used 3/4 c. mini Reese's Pieces candy and 3/4 c. peanut butter chips. Deeelish.

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat butter and sugars together on medium speed until ligt and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in peanut butter until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla and eggs, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low, and slowly mix in flour mixture until fully combined. Stir in candy and chips, or whatever mix-ins you prefer. Drop dough by tablespoons onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until the edges are golden brown, approximately 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It's Wedding Season! Part 2

This summer I was lucky enough to be asked to make cupcakes and cake balls for a friend's wedding reception: cue nervousness. But, it was the good kind of nerves that makes you excited, not terrified. I made 160+ cupcakes, and 180+ cake balls. I was also asked to make a small layer cake for the top of the cupcake stand so the bride and groom could have something to cut. All in all, I was really proud of how it all turned out. I so appreciated having the opportunity to do something like that. It was stressful (especially with my paranoia that Asher would get into the decorated cupcakes), but really enjoyable.

I definitely couldn't have done it without Dusty, though; he watched the boys pretty much all day on Thursday as I frosted and decorated cupcakes, and dipped cake balls, and he didn't complain or seem annoyed once. THANK YOU! My mom and sister, Hannah, also came down that weekend to watch the boys while Dusty and I went to the wedding and reception - big thank you to them, too!

The cupcake flavors were white with buttercream frosting, chocolate with Kahlua frosting, and red velvet with cream cheese frosting. The layer cake was white with buttercream, but the frosting between the layers was a raspberry buttercream - yummy.

If you haven't heard of cake balls, they're the new thing in the cake world. You take a warm, 9x13 cake and mix it with approximately 2 c. of frosting. Form the mixture into balls and pop them in the freezer. You can freeze them like this for a while as long as they're in an airtight container. When you're ready to use them, take them out, let them thaw a little, and dip them in either chocolate bark or chocolate chips, or a mixture of both. Totally simple method, and it's so fun because you can literally make any combination you want! Genius. I was asked to make chocolate cake mixed with raspberry buttercream, dipped in white chocolate, and yellow cake mixed with peanut butter frosting, dipped in milk or semi-sweet chocolate. Both were delicious - I'm partial to the PB ones because I love the peanut butter/chocolate combo.

Chocolate Cupcakes
I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe for the cupcakes, which is Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake. You can find the recipe here. The Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting is delicious, too, but I didn't use it for the cupcakes.

Kahlua Frosting
6 tbsp. butter
1 lb. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
3 tbsp. Kahlua
2 to 3 tbsp. hot strong coffee or hot water
Cream butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and cocoa. Mix slowly until combined, then increase speed to medium and add Kahlua. Continue beating as you add the hot water or coffee, and mix until a thick, smooth consistency. (You can adjust the amount of Kahlua to your taste. I used slightly more Kahlua, and hot water instead of coffee so the Kahlua flavor stood out more against the chocolate cupcake.)

White Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
For these, I used the same recipes that I posted last time, with the exception of leaving out the almond flavoring in the cake. This time I tinted the frosting pink because the bride and groom's colors were pink and gray - so cute. You can find the recipes here.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 box German chocolate cake mix with pudding
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 oz. red food coloring
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add all ingredients into mixer. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl, and mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Pour batter into greased or lined cupcake pans (you'll probably get about 20 or so from 1 batch). Bake appr. 22-25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly with your finger. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese
1/2 c. softened butter
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter and cream cheese until thoroughly combined, 2-3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 more minutes. Use to frost cake of your choice!