Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Anniversary Ice Cream Cake

When our anniversary rolls around, I like to make something a little more special than my usual bars or cookies. This year, it fell during the week that I had also made this Strawberry Shortcut Cake. I originally wanted to make a decadent layer cake of some sort, but when I mentioned it to my husband, he seemed less than enthused. I think the conversation went something like this:
Me: "I was going to make a cake for our anniversary, but I don't really want to make it if you'll only eat one piece out of courtesy and then a lot of it will go to waste."
Dusty: "Well what kind of cake are we talkin'?"
Me: "What do you mean - I mean just some type of cake, something out of the ordinary."
Dusty: "Well, if you're talking ice cream cake, then obviously it'll get eaten . . . "

And so, this ice cream cake was concocted the day before our anniversary, and it was eaten gobbled up pretty quickly! I've made a lot of ice cream cakes over the years, so I usually don't follow a recipe. I just kind of go with what sounds good. Here's how this one looked

Ice Cream Cake
Peanut Butter Cookie Base
1 pkg. sugar cookie mix
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease an 8 inch springform pan.
2. Mix all ingredients together until dough comes together.
3. Press dough into prepared pan and bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.
4. Allow to cool, and remove cookie from pan. Slice off about 1/2-3/4 inch off top of the cookie and save for later. Place bottom portion back in the pan.

Ice Cream Layers
1 1/2-2 c. chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
1/2 c. hot fudge sauce, plus more for drizzling
8 fun size Reese's PB Cups, chopped
2 1/2-3 c. Blue Bunny Toffee Lovers Ice Cream, slightly softened
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 c. light cool whip
Toffee pieces, crumbled peanut butter cookie (set aside from earlier), and hot fudge for garnishes
1. Spread chocolate ice cream over cooled cookie crust, followed by hot fudge sauce. Sprinkle with PB cups and freeze 1-2 hours.
2. Spread Toffee Ice Cream over the peanut butter cups, and place back in freezer for 1-2 hours.
3. Gently fold together whipped cream and cool whip. Using a pastry bag with a large star tip (or even a plastic bag with a whole cut in one corner), pipe the mixture over the top, starting from the outside and working in. Alternately, you can simply spread it over the top.
4. Crumble the cookie over the top, sprinkle with toffee pieces, and drizzle with hot fudge. Place back in the fridge for at least 3 hours so everything has a chance to set up.
5. When ready to serve, remove sides of springform pan, and run a large, sturdy knife under hot water so it slices more easily. Enjoy!

 The roses were from my hubby, and the sunflowers from my boys!

I'm not sure why the pictures turned out either really bright or really blurry, so I do apologize for that!

We went out to eat at Granite City for supper that night, and it was delicious - nothing beats their Chicken Caesar Chalupa! The boys were a little wild, but pretty well behaved for the most part, so that was fun!
 "My brother's hilarious!"
 "Okay, maybe I've had enough . . . "
And one family photo - hard to believe five short years ago Dusty and I were just starting married life together! I'm one lucky lady.

Hugs and Cookies,


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Funfetti Rice Krispies Treats

Are you getting tired of Funfetti yet? I didn't think so, I just had to check. Such a versatile mix and so fun to work with! Remember this yummy stuff? And these that are still a family favorite? Mmmm, Funfetti . . .

Once you have kids, you can't really let them go through life without some good ol' rice krispies treats, right? Right. And I'm certainly not one to turn up my nose at them either. They're probably one of the most nostalgia-filled treats you can eat. Didn't everyone eat these growing up? I know I knocked down a few in my day!

I craved them fairly regularly when I was pregnant with Aiden, and quickly remembered how addicting they are. I just told myself after eating about half the pan that they're really not that bad for me . . . Marshmallows and cereal? Nah, it's basically healthy - or not. But still, delicious.

This version has a fun twist - you stir in some Funfetti dry cake mix into the melted marshmallows before you stir it into the cereal, and you get (if possible) an even more addicting treat! The cake mix flavor isn't overwhelming, but it definitely adds a nice touch, and you can never go wrong with adding sprinkles - especially if you're serving these to kids. These would be perfect for a birthday party, too, fun and festive.

Funfetti Rice Krispies Treats (original can be found here)
3 Tbls. margerine
1 10 oz. bag marshmallows
1/2 c. dry Funfetti cake mix (if you only have white or yellow, that'll work, too)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. butter flavoring, optional
3 Tbls. sprinkles, optional
6 c. rice krispies
1. Pour rice krispies into a large bowl and set aside.
2. Melt margerine in a large sauce pan over med.-low heat.
3. Stir in marshmallows and continue stirring until completely smooth. Add in cake mix a little at a time to avoid lumps.
4. Stir in vanilla and butter flavoring, then pour over cereal. Stir until completely coated, then stir in 2 Tbls. sprinkles.
5. Spread evenly in a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle remaining 1 Tbls. sprinkles over top and press lightly with your hand. Allow to cool (if you can resist) before cutting.

Hugs and cookies,


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Baby Recap and Thoughts

Looking back over my first pregnancy, labor, delivery, and first nights being home, I thought I'd sum up things I wish we would have done differently, things I'd keep the same, and just things we learned along the way.

1) You know that advice to nap when your baby's napping? DO IT. Seriously. That's probably the #1 thing I wish I would have done differently. I'm not really sure what I was doing when Asher was napping: tidying up, pumping, showering? I honestly don't know, but I do know that it would have benefited me in multiple ways to be catching up on sleep. Don't feel guilty. Just do it. Because when you have a second baby you won't get the chance because you'll be keeping an eye on your older one!

2) Don't feel bad or guilty if the birth doesn't go exactly how you planned. I felt a little guilty having gotten an epidural, but I'm so thankful I did because it was only after that that the nurse was able to get a good read on Asher's heartbeat and discovered it just wasn't high enough. And yes, I didn't get to deliver naturally, I had to have a C-section. It was a little depressing, but in the long run it doesn't really matter. We got a healthy baby out of it, and avoided a possibly life-threatening situation. So just go with the flow and listen to your body. Try not to be too bummed if it's not picture perfect. (Although, I'm not sure I would want pictures of that anyway!)

3) All the pain, stress, and hormones are totally worth it. Nothing compares to having a baby. Of course it's scary and nerve-racking, but many of the best things in life are. Once you see and hold that little guy/gal your world will change, but in a marvelously wonderful way.

4) Take help when it's offered. If someone wants to bring you a meal, do your laundry, sweep your floors . . . Let 'em! If they minded, they wouldn't offer in the first place. Most of the people offering to help have probably been there and want to make your transition into parenthood as smooth and easy as possible. There's no shame in accepting help . . . I need to remember that myself! :)

5) Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you have someone nearby, don't be afraid to ask if they'd come over for an hour just so you can take a little bit of time for yourself. Your baby will be fine, and most people are more than happy to snuggle a newborn. It might just give you time for a nice, long shower without worrying that the baby will wake up 2 minutes into it. Long showers definitely became a luxury after Asher was born, so when I got the chance for one I definitely took it.

6) Just enjoy your baby. They change so, so quickly. It's like seeing a miracle developing before your eyes. You won't enjoy every minute of course, that's insanity! But, most parts are pretty awesome: that first real smile, how quickly their little personalities develop, how they recognize mommy and daddy so easily (I love that part!), and how everything they do seems to be the most amazing thing you've ever seen.

Hopefully this post was encouraging to new, or soon-to-be parents. I know my sister (due with her first in a couple weeks) was pretty freaked out with Part 3 of Asher's story, so I felt kind of bad. I was going for informative, but may have missed the mark. :) So, I'm hoping this remedies that a bit because having a baby is terrifying in a lot of ways, but incredibly miraculous in a million more.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Strawberry Shortcut Cake

Nothin' says summer like a strawberry cake with whipped cream frosting! The cake is light and moist with a layer of strawberries on top, followed by dollops of fluffy whipped cream. It's definitely one I would make again, and I might even try a white cake mix with raspberry jello and fresh raspberries next time . . . Hmm, that's enticing.

The whipped cream as the frosting is wonderful - it's not overly sweet, which is a nice complement to the sweetness of the cake and strawberries. Bring this to your next picnic or get-together and it'll be a hit! (And so will you.)

Strawberry Shortcut Cake (original recipe here)
1 box strawberry cake mix
eggs, oil, and water as called for on cake box
3 c. fresh strawberries, sliced
1 Tbls. lemon juice
2-3 Tbls. sugar
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. (3 oz.) strawberry gelatin
1. Prepare and bake cake in a 9x13 pan as directed on cake box. Allow to cool.
2. Dissolve gelatin in 1 c. boiling water, and stir in 1 c. cold water. Place in refrigerator until cool, but don't let it set up into jello - it should still be liquid.
3. Mix together sliced strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Allow to macerate for 20 minutes.
4. Poke holes all over cooled cake with a straw. Slowly pour the liquid gelatin over the entire cake.
5. Spread strawberries over the top and place in the refrigerator.
6.Whip cream and powdered sugar together on med.-high speed until stiff peaks form. Don't overbeat or you'll get butter! Spread over cake and refrigerate cake at least 4 hours before serving.
 This is what the cake looks like after the jello and 
strawberries have been added - so summery!

Hope you're all enjoying the summer so far!

Hugs and cookies,


Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Baby Story: The Aftermath of Asher

After we got back to our room from the C-section recovery, Dusty and I were able to enjoy our new little bundle for a few hours by ourselves. All we wanted to do was hold him and snuggle him. He was so warm and cuddly, and so, so tiny! Dusty and I were both chubby as babies (I was over 9lbs when I was born!) so I assumed our baby would come out round and plump. Nope - he came out long and skinny! Okay, maybe not skinny - he was still 7lb 13 oz., but he was smaller than I imagined.

A few hours later my parents arrived to meet their 3rd grandchild and of course gushed over him (well, my mom did . . . I don't think my dad gushes). They stayed for a while and then left so we could get some rest. Dusty got to give Asher his first bath (with the aid of a nurse) and I felt a little left out. I wasn't supposed to be up and walking quite yet with the C-section, so I could only watch from the bed. It was pretty special to see Dusty taking so much care to do everything right and be as gentle as possible. I got to dress him afterward . . . Nobody really warns you about how hard that is! You literally get no help from the baby (obviously) and you're paranoid the entire time that you'll accidentally be too rough . . . So 10 minutes later you finally have a onesie on 'em!
Ready to head home!

We turned down the lights after bath time and Dusty laid down on the couch (he couldn't share the bed since I had a C-section . . . darn those things) and I did my best to nurse Asher. No one really talks about how hard that is either. It did not feel natural. My arm felt like it was at an awkward angle, and I was never positive that he had a good latch. I talked with nurses and lactation consultants on a pretty regular basis; they were wonderful. Utilize your nurses and lactation consultants! Seriously.

So, Dusty fell asleep pretty much right away that night, and I was lying awake staring at my new baby boy. I knew I should've been tired, but I wasn't. I never got a chance to push during labor, and I think I had so much built-up adrenaline that I didn't end up using. Sometimes when you lie awake in bed for a long time it gets frustrating as you try to force yourself to sleep, but I didn't mind at all. I was too enthralled with the cuddling - newborn snuggling is addicting and amazing.
Daddy's trick of Asher sucking on his pinky finger worked every time!

The rest of our stay in the hospital was stressful. We had a lot of family visit, which was the best, but other things weren't so great. The circumcision was pretty traumatic for us. I was a wreck imagining the worst and thinking of him in pain. But he came back sleeping and peaceful. He was slightly jaundiced, too, and had a fever they were watching. He also ended up needing an x-ray . . . Is it horrible that I don't remember why? I just remember going down with Dusty to talk to the pediatrician afterward for the results, and I was still in a hospitable gown . . . crying. She and the nurse just studied me and she said, "Do you need a chair? Would you like to sit down?" She was very nice, and funnily enough, she ended up being who we chose as Asher's pediatrician before we left the hospital, but I didn't put two and two together until a few months ago! She was probably thinking, "Oh great, that way over-emotional mom . . . yippee." :)

Our first day home was exhausting. Asher wanted to eat literally all day (we had to take him in the next day to check his jaundice and he had gained a pound! In one day!). And he cried. A lot. My sister had told me to call anytime if I needed anything, and I did call her that night at about 11 p.m. because I had no idea what to do. Finally, after a couple hours, he hit the trifecta: huge burp, poop, then ate. Then, he fell asleep. But I was unbelievably tired and sore from nursing. And crying. I cried a lot. Sometimes Often about nothing.

We had to get a bilirubin bed for him for his jaundice, and I bawled about that. I felt horrible laying him on there all the time. He looked so small and pitiful; he wasn't bothered by it, but I was. I felt guilty that I couldn't do anything.
Tummy time. On the biliruben bed. Boo.

Things picked up, though. I was a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding 10 days after Asher was born, and we all made it to the wedding and enjoyed ourselves. It was definitely stressful, but I was so glad we could do it. And nursing got slightly easier. It was never easy. It was painful. So much so that tears sprung to my eyes every time he latched on. And he had a habit of turning his head quickly to look at something while he was still latched, which hurt like h***!!! But, we kept at it and both improved. I know a lot of the problem was my inexperience, but really what can you do about that but keep at it?

Looking back, I'm fairly certain I had postpartum depression. I never even considered it until after we had Aiden and I had something to compare to. I should have gone in, but I thought it was normal. I had zero appetite. I was just too busy during the day to think about eating because Asher was such a frequent eater. Dusty did his best to entice me to eat by ordering food or making food that I like. It's a good thing my parents gave me some Godiva chocolate and a huge bag of peanut M&Ms because they were almost my only sustenance for a while. I'd eat a couple pieces of chocolate every now and then, but overall I was just not hungry. Another reason I should have sought help.
Always and forever.

Luckily for Asher and I, we had Dusty around during the first days. I can't imagine how I would have managed without him there. He didn't know what he was doing either, but he would always commiserate, and when I had to get up 6 times a night to feed Asher, he got up, too, just to keep me company. It brings tears to my eyes knowing how thoughtful he is and how much he loves us.

Gotta love a wrinkly newborn in a diaper! :)
First babies are rife with ever-changing emotions: delight, disgust, pain, sadness, love, doubt, happiness, utter joy, and extreme faith in a God who can create such little miracles. We were truly blessed, and happy with our little Asher.

Thanks for reading, and keep checking back for Aiden's baby story!

Peanut Butter Crunch Bars with Reese's Pieces

Sometimes I just need a peanut-buttery treat. Okay, probably more than "sometimes" . . . Frequently . . . Most of the time . . . Alright, always! This recipe is the recipe for Peanut Butter Crunch Bars that they served at my high school, and they are soooo good. Peanut butter and oatmeal in the bars, plus a peanut butter frosting? Double score. Oh, and I added Reese's Pieces . . . Triple Score! These are really filling, but also really addicting. You know, the kind where you're really full, but you can't stop from eating more? Yep, these are like that. Eat with caution. :)

You can certainly leave out the Reese's Pieces, or the frosting, or both, but the combination of the two on top of the bars is really, really yummy. I found the recipe over here, on the blog of a girl I went to high school with and her husband. If you get a chance check it out! It's a fun blog and deals with lots of relevant problems including financial, spiritual, relationship, parenting, and many others.

Peanut Butter Crunch Bars with Reese's Pieces
1/2 c. margarine, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 3/4 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. flour
3 c. oatmeal
3/4-1 c. Reese's Pieces (could also use chocolate chips, Reese's PB Cups, M&Ms, or I think Snickers would be good, too!)
1. Preheat oven to 350, and grease an 11x15 pan. (This makes a lot, so you could probably put it in two 9x13 pans and bring one to a friend or to work!)
2. Cream together margarine, shortening, both sugars, and peanut butter until smooth, approximately 2 minutes.
3. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, soda, and salt, and beat again for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in flour and oatmeal until combined. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
5. Sprinkle Reese's Pieces over the top and press in lightly with your hand. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until light golden brown on top. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

3/4 c. peanut butter
2 1/2 Tbls. margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar
1/3-1/2 c. water
1. Beat together all ingredients but water until smooth and creamy.
2. Slowly add in 1/3 c. water and see if it's the consistency you want. If you want it thinner, add water one Tbls. at a time until it's how you like.

Hugs and cookies,


Monday, June 18, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Don't run away, these are much easier than you think! 

I'm no stranger to making yeast doughs, whether it's for cinnamon rolls, bread, pizza dough, even doughnuts, but for some reason I had never tried soft pretzels. I'm not really sure why - I love them, whether they're savory or sweet and could probably eat three large ones in one sitting . . . With these I limited myself to two, but still that's a lot! I think what might have discouraged me was that after you form the pretzels, you have to boil them with baking soda before baking. Not that it's difficult, but it's an extra step.

Now that I've made them once, I will definitely be making them again. If you're worried this will be too difficult, please just try it - the dough is a dream to work with. It wasn't a sticky mess in the least - it was soft, stretchy, and easily pliable and yielded chewy, tender, delicious-beyond-words soft pretzels. 

I set up a little buffet for my husband and myself so we could try making our favorites from Pretzelmaker (Parmesan with Pizza Sauce, Buttered with Cheese Sauce, and Cinnamon-sugar with Vanilla Glaze). I'll include the recipe for the cheese sauce and vanilla glaze. Otherwise I just brushed butter on the pretzels and either left them like that, dipped them in parmesan, or sprinkled them with cinnamon-sugar. I used store-bought pizza sauce but if you have a recipe you love, go for it!

All three variations were unbelievable; so unbelievable that I couldn't pick a favorite. I just kept cycling back through each of them and eating more and more and MORE!

Homemade Soft Pretzels (original recipe can be found here)
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 Tbls. light brown sugar
1 pkg. dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 ounces butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp. sea salt
4 1/2-5 c. flour
3 quarts water
2/3 c. baking soda
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbls. water (called egg wash)
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt, if desired
1. Combine water, sugar, butter, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with hook attachment. Let sit 5 minutes (otherwise mix by hand if you don't have a mixer).
2. Add salt and 4 1/2 c. flour and turn mixer on med-low to knead bread approximately 3-4 minutes, or until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If it looks too wet, add additional flour a little at a time. (Can knead by hand, but allow 10-15 minutes for dough to come together while kneading).
3. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place until double in size - about 1 hour.
4. Bring water to a boil. and preheat oven to 425. Grease two large baking sheets and set aside.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula or a spider. 
6. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt (you can skip the salt if you want - I don't like it on mine so I left it off). Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.

Cheese Sauce (original can be found here)
2 Tbls. butter
2 Tbls. flour
1 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med. heat. 
2. Stir in flour and continue to cook about 1 minute.
3. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time to avoid lumps.
4. Mix in cheese slowly until completely melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Vanilla Glaze
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbls. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1. Mix all ingredients together, adding more milk or powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want.
 Next time I would roll my ropes thinner - my pretzels ended up a tad chubby. :) And see how they look ugly after they've been boiled? Don't worry about that . . . 
 Look at those beauties! Who would've thought they resembled bumpy, ugly globs of roughly shaped dough before they were baked?

Have you ever worked with yeast dough? If not, what's holding you back? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Hugs and cookies,

Friday, June 15, 2012

German Chocolate Cake Bars (One Bowl!)

Oooh, these bars are good. I love German chocolate cake - you know, the kind with the frosting that's almost caramel-y and is loaded with coconuts and pecans all piled on top of chocolate cake? Yum.

These bars hit all the flavors of the cake, but in an easier, more portable form. You start with a cake mix as the crust, which simplifies things even more! There aren't any complicated techniques in this recipe, and the result is won-der-ful. My only tip would be not to overbake them. You don't want them to dry out on you; I recommend checking them a couple minutes before the timer goes off, and if the center looks set, but maybe slightly jiggly, go ahead and take them out.

I really don't think you'll be disappointed with these gems! Maybe they'll even please your Dad or your hubby or your grandpa on Father's Day!

German Chocolate Cake Bars (I found the recipe here)
1 pkg. devil's food cake mix
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 egg

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sweetened coconut
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan.
2. Make the crust: Combine all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Press into bottom of prepared pan and bake for 7 minutes.
3. While crust is baking, make the filling. Combine sweetened condensed milk, egg, vanilla, coconut, and pecans (can use the same bowl you used for the crust) until completely mixed.
4. Pour filling over warm crust and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
5. Bake 24-27 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Baby Story: Asher's Labor and Delivery

I was really annoyed. A couple weeks before my due date, my doctor told me I was 3 cm dilated and she'd be surprised if I made it to the due date . . . It came and went. No baby. Very frustrating.

I hadn't felt any false labor or anything - it literally felt like he would never come out because nothing was changing. Dusty and I headed into my appointment 4 days after my due date and my doctor said the "wonderful" words: "Let's get you set up to be induced tomorrow." But, I had already packed my bag and brought it with and we were ready, and I mean rea-dy to go so I asked if she could check if they might be able to do it that day. Drumroll . . . They could! She actually told us to head over there after we checked out from her office.

We were finally doing it! I didn't even feel very nervous - I was so excited and felt like I had waited long enough. I was ready. Dusty . . . well, he might not have been as ready or as calm as I was, but he hid it pretty well. :) I knew going in that he was pretty nervous about how much pain I would be in, and he hates seeing me in the hospital anyway.

They got me all prepped and broke my water (not as unpleasant as I thought it would be) and started me on Pitocin to get contractions started. My mom had warned me about Pitocin because I think she had it with one of her six labors and said it was absolutely awful. It really wasn't bad at first - the first 20 minutes or so were totally doable. But, then the Pitocin must have really kicked in because my contractions started coming hard and fast - as in a minute apart. That might not sound too bad, but when you consider going from basically 0 to 10 in that short amount of time . . . Well, it was painful.

And poor Dusty. All those helpful tips and techniques we learned in our labor class? Totally useless. Nothing he tried was working. I love that he tried, but I had to politely tell him not to touch me because it was just distracting. So he just had to stand there feeling relatively helpless. I think I lasted for about an hour and a half and we decided to get an epidural. I kind of felt like I was copping out, but once I had the epidural I really didn't care. It made a world of difference. So I got to relax . . .

But, shortly after that they noticed the baby's heart rate kept dropping during contractions. That's fairly normal, but usually it'll come back up between contractions. Mine were coming so hard and close together that his heart rate wasn't getting back up to where it should be. The doctor (not my usual one) and nurse were conversing and then all of a sudden said "We need to do a C-section. If this was your second baby we might let you go because you're 8 1/2 cm, but since it's your first it could still be a couple hours and we can't wait that long." WHAT?! A C-section? That was not part of my birth plan. Hadn't even considered it. And I remember feeling slightly annoyed with the doctor for not including us in her conversation with the nurse before dropping that bomb on us.

Dusty ran out to call our parents while I was being prepped, and probably 5 minutes later I was being wheeled into surgery. It was surreal. The room was full of people, but I felt alone. Dusty couldn't come in until they were ready to start surgery. Everyone was very polite, it was just extremely nerve-racking. I had the best anesthesiologist; he kept asking if I was okay - noticed immediately that I was really shaky and asked if I'd like something to calm my nerves. Yes, please!
Finally, Dusty was by my side, or head I guess since I was laying down, and . . .

SCREAMING BABY . . . BOY! We were a little bit shocked I think. First of all, I thought it would take longer to do the surgery, and secondly I had thought all along that it was probably a girl so it was an amazing feeling to be completely taken by surprise. And there he was - they held him up to my face for an oh-so-brief instant and then took him away to get cleaned off. I specifically remember some of the nurses laughing because he kept screaming. I, on the other hand, was actually a little nervous because he just wasn't stopping. I thought, "What if he just cries all the time? What are we going to do?" But, then they took him out with Dusty to the recovery room while I was being stitched up. He must've stopped crying during that time because by the time I got to recovery, he was calm - thank goodness!

We did it! We successfully had a beautiful baby boy, and once I got to the recovery room we decided to name him Asher, which means "blessed, happy,"  because that's exactly how we felt.

Our little peanut.

Happy, ecstatic, Mama
PROUD Papa - I still can't get over how tiny Asher looks here.
Asher Dustin Reese, born August 27, 2009 at 4:18 p.m. He weighed 7 lbs 13 oz, 
and was 21 3/4 inches long.

Thanks for reading this rather long post, and stay tuned for part 3 - the aftermath . . . bum-bum-BUM! (That's supposed to be like the music you hear in movies right before something crazy happens.)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Funfetti Chex Mix

Funfetti - you know it'll be good. I mean it has the word fun right there in the title so how could it be bad?

We're traveling to St. Louis this week, so I was trying to think of some fun treats for the boys to have either in the car or at the hotel. We love traditional Puppy Chow, but the chocolate can be kind of messy on fingers, clothes, and drooly chins. This recipe uses vanilla almond bark and Funfetti cake mix in place of most of the powdered sugar, so I was really excited to try it out.

Asher and Aiden really like it, and I have to say it's delicious! It's easy to eat a lot of it, so beware! Obviously, it'll still be somewhat messy what with the powdered sugar and cake mix, but at least you won't have chocolate faces and fingers to clean up. :) This would be great as a birthday party treat or even a favor to send home with the kids!

Funfetti Chex Mix (original can be found here)
5 c. rice or corn chex
10 oz. (5 squares) vanilla almond bark
1 tsp. shortening
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. Funfetti cake mix (or any cake mix you'd like)
*I used 1 1/2 c. of cake mix, but I really think you could reduce it to 1 c. because I had a lot of powder left in the bottom of my bowl. That's the only change I'd suggest.
1. Pour cereal into a large bowl and set aside.
2. Melt almond bark and shortening in the microwave at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Pour over cereal and stir gently until evenly coated.
3. Add powdered sugar and dry cake mix to cereal, and stir until thoroughly coated. Allow to dry and store in an airtight container.

Hugs and cookies,


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Pinterest Projects: Budget Savvy

The idea of making products for the home has become really appealing to me lately. I'm not sure if it's because I know I'm saving money, or if it's because I feel as though I've accomplished something, or maybe it's something else entirely.

Whatever the reason, I've tried a number of "home products" recently, and this is one I feel is worth sharing. Fabric softener can be pretty spendy, so when I saw this recipe for making it at home I thought I'd give it a go. The first time I made it, I was a little bummed that I couldn't really smell the fabric softener, so the next time I made it I bumped up the "smelly" ingredient by 1 1/2, and it seemed to make a difference. Next time, I might even add some essential oil to it to enhance it even more . . . We'll see.

Anyway, this fabric softener works well, and is considerably less expensive than buying the nice ones from the store. All you need are three easy ingredients:

Homemade Fabric Softener (original can be found here)
6 c. hot water
3 c. white vinegar
3 c. Suave conditioner (I used Ocean Breeze, but use your favorite scent)
1. Mix all ingredients together until conditioner is dissolved.
2. Shake before each use, and use as you would any other fabric softener.
 I use an old fabric softener container to store it in, and my Downy ball in the 
wash - same as I always have.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Cosmic Brownies - Little Debbie Style

Don't you just love the Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies? I remember being able to go to the store when I was younger and getting an individual pack for $.25! Isn't that unreal? They're so dense, chewy, and chocolate-y, and none of the brownie recipes I've tried have come close to having that consistency. Until now. This recipe is golden. It is by far the fudgiest brownie I've ever made. I also love that the recipe calls for cocoa powder and not unsweetened chocolate squares as many brownie recipes do. I always have cocoa powder, but it's pretty rare that I'll stock unsweetened chocolate . . . I'm not sure why that is.

These came out so similar to the Little Debbie ones that I've loved since before I can remember, so I know I'll definitely be making them again. The frosting is a simple ganache (cream/milk and chocolate), and the original called for bittersweet chocolate. I only had semi-sweet chocolate chips, so I used those and it turned out great; next time I might use all or half milk chocolate chips because I usually like my frosting a tad sweeter. Any way you frost it, it'll be good - if you have a brownie frosting that you love use it!

This brownie base is really amazing and I think it might end up being my go-to scratch brownie recipe from now on. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

Cosmic Brownies (original can be found here)
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted
2 Tbls. water
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1. Preheat oven to 350, and line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk together sugar, brown sugar, butter, water, eggs, and vanilla.
3. Slowly whisk in cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Fold in flour until just combined.
4. Spread into prepared pan and bake 18-20 minutes. Don't overbake these. Allow to cool.
1/2 c. heavy cream (I used whole milk and it worked well)
7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
pinch of salt
sprinkles, if desired
1. Pour chocolate into a bowl and set aside.
2. In a small pan, bring milk or cream just to a simmer (bubbles around the edges of the pan). Pour over chocolate and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add salt, and gently stir everything together with a spatula until it's smooth. Spread over prepared brownies and refrigerate about 1 hour so the ganache can set.

Hugs and cookies,