Friday, September 30, 2011

The season of sickness has begun.

Well, we've had two sick kiddos this past week - and it's still lingering, unfortunately. Asher started with a really stuffy/runny nose and was running a slight fever. I'm pretty sure his throat was bothering him, too, because the first night he wasn't feeling well he woke up crying 3 times before Dusty and I went up to bed, and the third time he was gagging on gunk in his throat. I asked him if he had an owie and if he could show me where it was - he nodded and pointed to his mouth and said "mouf!" Anyway, he's feeling much better now, but was pretty miserable for a while. Poor guy!

Aiden's "cold" (for lack of knowing what it is) seemed about a day behind Asher's, so yesterday in the morning his fever was 100.2, and I wasn't too concerned because he hadn't had any Tylenol yet. Well, later it spiked to 102.8(!) after he had had Tylenol. Cue panic on my part! I'm usually able to stay pretty calm, but neither of the boys has ever had a fever that high. So I brought him to the pediatrician, and long story short, it's nothing - or nothing diagnosable (is that a word? it should be). It never seems to be anything when we bring them in, but I'm glad I did because that fever really had me nervous. He was so pitiful too - red-rimmed, watery eyes, and so lethargic - I mean slumping in his high-chair because he couldn't stay upright. It was HORRIBLE! He's much more himself today, thankfully, but still running a fever. My fingers are just crossed that the stomach flu misses us this year!
I just want them to feel and look this happy all the time!!!
(That's not too much to ask, right?)
I hate when my little tykes are sick, and I wish I could just be the one who feels crappy instead of them - but alas, I have no control over that. I heard Rascal Flatts song "I Won't Let Go" yesterday, and some of those lyrics are sooooo relevant to how I feel about my kiddos, especially when they're sick!

It hurts my heart
To see you cry
I know it’s dark
This part of life
Oh it finds us all
And we’re too small
To stop the rain
Oh but when it rains
I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I wont let you fall
Don’t be afraid to fall
I’m right here to catch you
I won't let you down
It won't get you down
You're gonna make it
Yeah I know you can make it

Acutally listening to the song is much better, so here's a link! "I Won't Let Go"

On a Side Note: Asher loves squirrels, and the other day when we were playing outside he saw one at the base of a tree and when it started climbing, he said "Be careful squirrel!" So concerned for creatures great and small. :) Also, there are a couple of recipes I can't wait to try (Boston Cream Pie, Pumpkin Cupcakes, and a few others) and a few recipes I've made, but still have to post. Stay tuned . . . 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bar Cookies Are the Best!

Don't get me wrong, I loooove me some cookies, but with Two Under 2 it's often easier to bake bars rather than cookies. It usually takes less time (no scooping each individual cookie), and it's not as crucial to get them out of the oven right on time (a few extra minutes won't burn the batch). So, with that being said, here's a recipe from trusty old Betty Crocker for White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bars. The beauty of this recipe is you can change up the mix-ins with any that you like. Don't like white chocolate? Use semi-sweet. Don't have macadamia nuts on hand? Use walnuts or throw in some dried cranberries. Have a craving for something with peanut butter and chocolate? Use Reese's peanut butter cups, or a combo of semi-sweet and peanut butter chips. The possibilities are ENDLESS! And the bars are delicious, moist and chewy. (So moist even Dusty noticed and commented specifically on that aspect.)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bars (slightly adapted)
3/4 c. butter or margerine
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbls. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. chopped macadamia nuts
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 tsp. shortening
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13x9 pan.
2. Microwave butter until melted, and stir in brown sugar until thoroughly incorporated.
3. Beat in vanilla and eggs.
4. Stir in flour, baking powder, macadamia nuts, and 3/4 c. white chocolate chips just until incorporated.
5. Spread in greased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
6. Melt remaining 1/4 c. of chips with the shortening and pour into resealable plastic bag. Snip corner and drizzle over the bars in whatever pattern you choose. (If you don't feel like doing this, just mix all the chips into the batter.)
The original recipe can be found here.

On a side note: Aiden's working really hard on his top teeth, which has caused him to start attacking us again to try to chew on our chins . . . Case in point below.
Trying to find a good angle . . .  
Going in for the kill: "Oooo Mom's cheek - this is perfect!"
(Usually it just kind of tickles, but he actually bit my cheek with his
gums and bottom two teeth here . . . it hurt!)
Mommy explaining that it's not very nice to bite people's faces. :) He took it well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Potty Training - Part 1

I'm starting to think potty training would have been easier if we had started when Asher was 1 instead of 2 . . . you know, back when he was easy-going, non-argumentative, less independent. Live and learn, I guess - maybe we'll try that with Aiden. Anyway, it's hard to even know how to start potty training; I know you sould let them get comfortable seeing their little potty chair in the bathroom and everything and that we're not supposed to force anything. So far, all I've been able to get Asher to do is sit on his potty fully dressed. I'll ask him multiple times a day if he wants to go potty or if we should take his diaper off, but he says no every time; and, he says it in a way and looks at me in a way that says "Mom, if you even try that, you will regret it." So I don't force anything because I don't want him to become scared of the potty or turn it into a whole dramatic scene (there are enough of those during the day without adding any additional ones). Um . . . yeah, no success yet, but I'm hoping there will be some progress sometime soon here. How did/do you potty train your little tykes?
He loves hats - especially if they're adult-sized.

On a side note: We've been working on numbers lately, and after I count to 15 he says "Good job, Mommy!" Every time - what a sweetie-pie. I guess he thinks Mom could use some encouraging words every now and then, too ;)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Salty Caramel Peanut Brittle Bars

Sweet and salty - you really can't beat that combination, and these bars do not disappoint! A yummy sugar cookie base is topped with crunchy, salty peanuts, chocolate chips, caramel sauce, and a little bit of sea salt as an added oomph of saltiness. I wasn't sure about the sea salt on top, but I ended up really liking it; however, I think next time I would just use 1/4 tsp. instead of the 1/2 tsp. the recipe calls for. 

Dusty and I loved them and gobbled up an embarrassing amount (well, I did anyway), and the rest went to my friends at the office - hopefully they liked them, too. The recipe calls for peanuts, but I think it would be just as delicious with cashews or pecans - of course, both of these nuts are spendier, but might be nice to use for a special occasion, such as Christmas! I think I might use these as one of my Christmas cookies this year, and try the cashews or pecans - it's nice, too, because the recipe makes a 10x15 pan, which is great when you're making up cookie trays. I also think it would be delicous to use cashews and white chocolate chips . . . hmm, note to self . . .

Aren't these flowers gorgeous?! Dusty surprised me with them
when he got home from work last Friday - he's the best!
In other news, we put a patio in this past weekend! And by "we" I mean Dusty and his dad. The only thing I got to help with was sweeping the sand over the top of the stones to fill in the cracks at the end . . . I know, I know, I'm indispensable. Luckily, Dusty's mom came, too, so she and I were taking care of the boys and doing yard work so I at least felt like I was accomplishing something and not just twiddling my thumbs waiting to see the finished project. The patio looks really great and is going to be wonderful this fall - props to Dusty and his dad! (Before and after pics to come at a later date)

Salty Caramel Peanut Brittle Bars (slightly adapted from 
  • 1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz.) sugar cookie mix
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. cold butter, cubed
  • 2 c. salted, dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 jar (12 oz.) caramel ice cream topping
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 10x15 pan.
2. Reserve 3 T. of cookie mix, and combine the rest with the brown sugar. Cut in butter with pastry cutter or two knives, until crumbly. Press evenly in the bottom of the pan and bake for 15-18 minutes.
3. Remove crust from oven and immediately sprinkle with peanuts and chocolate chips.
4. Heat caramel in the microwave for approximately 1 minute - just until drizzling consistency. Stir in reserved cookie mix, and drizzle even over bars. 
5. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 12-14 minutes or until caramel is bubbly. Let cool to room temperature before cutting. 
The original recipe can be found here

Thursday, September 08, 2011

5 Things I Love About My Boys Right Now

Lately, I've been feeling very thankful for our two wonderful little boys. With the school year having started back up and Dusty back to work, I was a little concerned as to how I would again handle the boys full time on my own. It was just the idea of settling back into a routine now that Asher is Mr. Energy all the time, and Aiden is becoming Mr. Frustrated watching his brother run around but not quite able to figure out how he can do that yet. Anyway, they've both been so good and so much fun at these ages and stages. That's not to say there haven't been difficult days, but overall they're little sweethearts. So, here are 5 things I am loving about them right now:

1. I love that after Aiden goes to bed at night, Asher likes to sit between Mommy and Daddy on the couch and watch "Wipeout" . . . which he pronounces "Wipe-ey-out" - so stinkin' cute!
All smiles on his birthday
2. I love that after every  nap, even if he wakes up bawling, Aiden has the biggest, sweetest smile for me when I go in to get him.
Probably getting another tooth . . . he's always chomping on something
3. I love that Aiden is all smiles for his big brother and thinks he is the most fun kid ever.
Asher giving Aiden a kiss (at my request) while they play with Dusty's old action figures
4. I love that the first thing Asher says after his nap is "Where Aiden?"
Asher's "where's something?" face
5. I love, love, love how excited they both get when Dusty gets home from work - Asher has a huge intake of breath when he hears the door, yells "DADDY!" and runs to him; Aiden just sits (because of course that's all he can do right now) and waits for Dusty to come play with him, but then gets super excited, laughs, and grabs at Dusty's face and hair. My favorite part of every day.
Caught right before he was about to blink - he's impossible to time right now :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Mickey Cake for Asher's Birthday

Our little Asher is already 2! I can't believe how much he's changed in the two short years since he was born. His personality amazes me - we can already see so much of his dad and me in his sense of humor, his stubbornness, and his inquisitive little mind . . . some of which he may not thank us for as he gets older. ;)

Right now, he loves Mickey Mouse, so I thought for his birthday I would try to bake a cake with Mickey on it. I didn't want to do a full-size Mickey cake because the majority of the frosting would have to be black and red - both difficult to achieve if you make the frosting yourself, and then your tongue/mouth ends up turning bright red or black. One of my mom's co-workers bakes a lot of cakes and goodies and she told my mom about this method she uses: you put a picture of the character you want under wax paper, create the character in frosting using the visible template, and then freeze it. After it freezes you're supposed to be able to place it frosting-side down on the frosted cake and peel away the wax paper and be left with your character . . . Well, I must have done something wrong because there were very few parts of the frosting that peeled off the paper. Luckily, it made enough of an imprint on the frosting that I was able to free-hand. I was happy with how it turned out, and more importantly Asher was able to recognize Mickey - success in my book! I still want to figure out how it's actually supposed to work, though. If I do, I'll let you know.
I also discovered these things called cake tattoos at our local Walmart in the cake decorating aisle. They're from Duff Goldman, the Ace of Cakes - and they were so easy! You peel off the design and stick it onto your recently frosted cake, cupcake, or cookie; I used them to decorate the sides of the cake. They are edible, but I wasn't a fan of the chewy texture (kind of like fondant for those of you who have had that). It does peel off easily, though. There were only a couple options in the store, but you can also order them here where there are many more designs to choose from.

I guess Asher couldn't wait to eat it because he stuck his
hand in the frosting while my back was turned :) 

I made a three-layer cake and used an 8-inch square cake pan. The layers were as follows: white cake/raspberry buttercream/chocolate cake/raspberry buttercream/white cake. The top and sides were frosted with regular buttercream. For the chocolate cake, I only used half the batter in the pan and made cupcakes out of the rest. I didn't use all of the raspberry buttercream between the layers because I didn't want frosting overkill, but next time I would because it was hard to taste it otherwise.
The recipes for the white cake and buttercream frosting can be found here.
The recipe for the chocolate cake can be found here.

Raspberry Buttercream
1/2 softened butter
3/4 c. seedless raspberry jam
3 c. powdered sugar
Beat butter and jam until creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then beat until fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Catching up on some classics

Waiting for eagerly anticipated books to come out in paperback is hard! It's especially hard when they're part of a series. So, as I waited (and am still waiting) for Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin, I decided to peruse our bookshelves and read some books that have sat there for a while . . . an embarrassingly long time in some cases.

Dracula by Bram Stoker: This was surprisingly creepy considering it was written in 1897. I know! I was surprised, too - I had no idea it was written that long ago. That being said, I found it enjoyable, but felt the ending was kind of anticlimactic. The creepiness lessens throughout the book, but I had no trouble finishing it. Dracula is the original vampire, seeking to strengthen himself and enlarge his species by feeding on humans.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: The extent of my prior knowledge of this book was only what I gathered from watching A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which, I recommend). That's kind of sad. The book, of course, differs from the information you get from the movie, but I thought it was interesting and entertaining. I was, however, annoyed because I read the front panel of the version that I have (you know, to get an idea of what the book is about) and it gives away all the major plot twists! So beware of that. Basically, Dorian Gray is a young, handsome, socialite who sees a portrait of himself that so entrances him that he becomes depressed at the thought of aging. He sells his soul in order that the portrait may physically alter instead of himself. Some parts are really chilling.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Yep, I have my M.A. in English and had never read it. I'm embarrassed by that actually. But, no more! I consider it a valuable addition to my have-read book list. The language is old, but I like that in books - for example I love early British lit. so old language and long descriptions don't usually deter or annoy me. It also provides a glimpse into the Puritan beliefs and attitudes. Hester Prynne is a married woman who has an affair while her husband is away for years. She becomes pregnant, and as punishment she is forced to wear at all times a red letter A (adulterer) prominently displayed on her clothing, while the identity of the man is kept secret. The man, Hester, and Hester's husband suffer in different ways throughout the book, and the conclusion is a satisfying and somewhat surprising one, in my opinion.

I have to say I'm kind of glad those previously-mentioned books aren't out in paperback yet because I got to read some books that would probably still be gathering dust right now. Oh the gems you can find if you actually look. :)

*On a side note, I just purchased Oxi Clean Stain Remover Powder for all the variety of stains that Asher's and Aiden's clothes acquire . . . it's spendy, but I am SOLD. If I don't have to spend half an hour or more scrubbing clothes before putting them in the wash, that's worth the money to me. If only I had tried this sooner . . . live and learn I guess!