December 21, 2014

My Favorite Molasses Spice Cookies

Every once in a while, when you're really hungry, that plain old blue box mac & cheese can taste completely awesome. I'm sitting here blogging about fantastic homemade Christmas cookies while eating neon orange pasta, and happy as a clam. It's been a lovely Sunday, full of Christmas hymns and peaceful joy. We have been doubly blessed this Christmas season, both as a family and with opportunities to help others. Service adds an extra-special feeling of Christmas spirit, and I'm so glad my boys are old enough to feel it with us! I remember the first year we had them pick out toys to donate to a toy drive, and it was a disaster. They could not comprehend why they didn't get to keep the presents they picked out!! Now they have as much fun with it as we do, picking exactly what they would want, to give to some other lucky boy. Love it!! I have yet another batch of this cookie dough chilling in the fridge, Christmas music playing, boys napping, clouds rolling in, and I think I'll go join the napping trend. Tonight we'll watch White Christmas and start the relaxing part of our Christmas week!

December 20, 2014

Gingerbread Pancakes

People keep asking me if I'm ready for Christmas. Um, YES! It helps when you start getting ready somewhere around the first of November, and take a break for Thanksgiving. If I started after Thanksgiving, I have no idea how I'd be ready in time. And rushing around the week before Christmas is no fun! The Geologist is off work all next week, hooray!! We kicked off our Christmas vacation today with a trip to the community center pool. It has a dragon water slide and a pirate ship. We'll be spending a lot of time there the next two weeks. :) And I will be eating leftover pancakes for dinner this evening. 

December 19, 2014

Soft & Thick Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Rollin' out one of those old family favorites today! Actually, I haven't made them since I first posted them back in 2012. I like the pictures so much from back then that I'll just keep them! :) They're the boys' favorite, requested every year, because they are treat AND activity! Who doesn't like playing with sprinkles and frosting? They were always my favorite Christmas treat too, and I spent hours painstakingly decorating them perfectly. Seriously. Ask my family, they'll be happy to mock me for it. :) These days I leave the detailed decorating to the boys, but still take great pride in my frosting abilities. Oh, and they're seriously scrumptious. So if you've got a few hours and need a family activity idea during this Christmas break, I've got you covered!

December 17, 2014

Polar Express Hot Chocolate

We are a family of believers. We treasure imagination and belief in things you can't exactly prove, childlike wonder and fantastical mysteries. My boys will believe in Santa Claus for years and years, just like I did. As you can imagine, the story of The Polar Express is a family favorite. We have the book and the movie and went on a Polar Express train ride in Utah. Today's recipe, a brand new family favorite is inspired by that classic Christmas Eve adventure!

How many of you love hot chocolate? Hot cocoa? Show of hands! Okay, then how many of you think those terms are interchangeable? Have you ever had hot chocolate that didn't come from a powdered mix? I hadn't. In fact, I rarely drink hot cocoa, I usually stick to hot apple cider (also from a powdered mix). But the other day I was craving a really great cup of hot chocolate, and the powdered stuff just wasn't cutting it. Now, you have to understand, The Geologist is a hot chocolate fanatic. We always have at least 5 different types on hand, often more. So I figured he had the good stuff, right? Wrong. At least for that particular craving moment, it was incredibly disappointing. Later we watched The Polar Express movie and I remembered the line from the book: "We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars..." and decided I had to make real, full-on, melted chocolate bar hot chocolate. So I browsed pinterest, made my own adjustments (upping the chocolate ratio, duh) and created the most insanely delicious hot chocolate (emphasis on the chocolateEVER. It is now a Christmas staple in this house. I hope you like it!

December 16, 2014

Weekly Menu Dec 16

This week we have: 
Gingerbread Pancakes
Polar Express Hot Chocolate
My Favorite Molasses Spice Cookies

...and a few old favorites!

For today, Dec 16...

November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Roll

I seriously can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. It completely snuck up on me this year!! Tomorrow I'll be cleaning house and dog, running errands, picking up a monster load of groceries and preparing for the first Thanksgiving in TEN YEARS that my whole family will be in the same place at the same time!! I hope you have a fantastic week, whether you're in the US celebrating Thanksgiving or all over the world doing whatever it is other people do this week. I hope there is at least yummy food involved for all of you! And this is a treat you can make no matter where you are or what you're doing. As long as you can get your hands on pumpkin and cream cheese, that is. Which I am learning is not as universal as I always vaguely assumed. Either way...

Happy Thanksgiving!!

November 22, 2014

Small & Wonderful Things

Anticipation and Excitement

Being part of sports history at my second football game ever!!

Stephen teaching Joe cursive, and assigning him homework

Falling Snow
Source: snowabove

Morning walks to school

Leaf Shuffling. Who cares if it's in the gutter!

Joe's gurgley full-out laugh

Frost (I know, I've done this one multiple times. I just love frost!!)

Pretty much any time those two boys of mine are getting along :)

November 21, 2014

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Sometimes this Mom thing is a tough gig. Sometimes no one listens, kids forget everything you've ever taught them, can't find the backpack sitting in the middle of the room, throw a fit over something tiny and pointless, wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and take you completely for granted. Those days are rough. 

But sometimes, kids write you letters to try and cheer you up. Or make a "do not disterbd" sign for your door when you ask for some time to yourself. They say "Thank You!!!" a bazillion times for a trip to the Botanic Gardens, are actually sad when you leave, and are ridiculously proud to carry a treat in to the school office. And somehow, all those little moments really do make this whole Mom thing worth sticking with. Like baking this biscotti with Joe!

November 19, 2014

Classic Rice Pudding

Today could possibly be a very exciting day! Now that my parents have found a house, it's time to get them a puppy!! They've been visiting breeders all over the state of Colorado (okay, nearly) and you would not believe all the different kinds of German Shepherds out there! Tall, short, thin, bulky, long-haired, short haired, pointy nose, square nose... It's been quite an adventure! I've gotten to visit a few breeders with them, and we're hoping to go back to the biggest (and my favorite!!) to put down a deposit on a puppy today! I just love tagging along to pet dogs and play with puppies. I have to admit, as adorable as my little black ball of Bracken fluff was as a puppy, German Shepherd puppies are the cutest puppies everrrr!! Pretty much the only thing cuter than a German Shepherd puppy is my Joe surrounded by German Shepherd puppies.
He's quite the puppy whisperer, that boy of mine!

November 17, 2014

Weekly Menu November 17

Source: Pinterest

This week we have:
Classic Rice Pudding
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Pumpkin Roll

For today, Nov 17 ...

November 16, 2014

Weeknight Chicken Pot Pie

 Ah, comfort food. We all have our favorites, and everyone's comfort food is different. There are some foods that are "generally acknowledged" to be comfort food, like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, chocolate cake... but comfort food doesn't always belong in the "creamy and fattening" box. Sure, when I'm depressed, I want sugary carbs. But if you offered me any food in the world at any given moment, I'd pick authentic Japanese ramen. Which takes like 3 days to make and is frustratingly hard to find around here! One of the Geologist's comfort foods is Spam and cheese "sushi". You read that right. He fries up a slice of Spam, puts a piece of cheddar on top, and wraps it in seaweed and rice. I think it's just plain nasty, but he loves it! Some of the other fun comfort foods I've heard of are congee, a savory rice porridge, spaghetti sauce on toast, pickles, sushi, and jam and mayo sandwiches. It's pretty clear that not all comfort foods have to be drenched in cheese and cream, they just have to be that one thing that always makes you feel better. The thing that tastes awesome to you no matter what disgusted noises your friends make. Heck, you should hear some of the noises my Mom makes when I talk about all things deep-fried!

So whether your comfort foods are off the wall, inspired by your heritage, or pretty classic, try adding this chicken pot pie to the list. Who knows! It might just stick with you. :)

November 15, 2014

Small & Wonderful Things

BURGUNDY CONVERSE!!! My new favorite shoes, in my most favoritest color!!

Stealing the perfect hoodie from The Geologist, just long enough, sooo comfy, totally living in it (Okay, I didn't actually steal it, he got it from work and gave it to me)

My little silver maple in all its glory

Making a house a home, all your own

A leaf bouquet from Joe

A perfectly-risen cake

Finding my icewater all ready for choir, because my Geologist knows I always forget it.

The sound of my boys giggling together

November 13, 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

 I'm still on schedule!! Hurrah! I'm back, folks. Back in my blogging groove. Actually grooving at the moment too, headphones in and everything, listening to a rather odd mix of new favorite songs. Cheezy country love song, silly pop nonsense, awesomely random soul/rock/something... I don't even know how to describe that last one. Lets just say I need to learn the words FAST. We're still in single digits over here, but we saw the sun for the first time since Monday! Who is experiencing plummeting temperatures with me and who has yet to freeze? This week has been kinda fun, no one wants to go out at night when it's this cold and snowy, right? So all of our weekly obligations have been canceled left and right and we're all reveling in our natural homebody/hermit state. Watching way too much TV and, in my case, eating way too much of my favorite dessert of all time!! Yes, that would be this one, right here. I baked it three times, just to get it perfect. For you of course. Not so I could eat it three meals a day. All for the blog...

November 11, 2014

Lion House Wassail

While we may not have gathered "feets and feets" of snow, enough stuck around to blanket rooftops, powder trees, and strand my parents in Colorado Springs! I always forget they're actually about 2000 feet higher over there, which makes storms worse. The forecast called for "a small possibility of flurries" today, but it's been flurry-ing ever since I woke up! So festive! It seems to have refreshed me, I'm more motivated than I've been in weeks! I am also a complete dingbat. I shall explain. 

First of all, it's long past time to show you the before and after of our ridiculously drawn-out spring project, replacing the bay window and installing french doors! Yeah, it was quite a battle... but we learned a lot and are finally thrilled with the result! First up: The Bay!

Interior Before:

Interior after! A grill between the panes, which I adore, and you may not be able to tell, but it's actually deeper and wider than before! I know my pictures aren't awesome, but you should be able to get the idea.

Exterior Before:

 And After! Much nicer. And all the seals intact, hooray! I can sit in my couch without freezing now!

Next, the French Doors! This is their Before shot, the panel on the left didn't move, basically just a giant window. The right side opened, and was the source of our massive heating bills and insidious drafts. We once stood in front of it and watched snow blow in around the sides. *Shudder*

And After!! Aren't they gorgeous?! I love them so much! We used them so often during the summer, opening both doors to the backyard as the evenings cooled off; it was heavenly. And no snow! Functional seals, hurrah!

And now for my dingbat moment. I've been taking pictures for months on the table in front of the French doors, thinking that all indirect natural light is created equal. Turns out it's not. It may be natural, but the back is always in shadow and my photos are always grey. I finally decided, just for the heck of it, to try taking pictures in my South-facing bay. 
I can't believe I didn't try this sooner! I just scoot the couch for a minute and it's basically a ready-made studio! No awkward furniture in the background or off to the sides, no awkward empty angles, I just need a reflector for the house side, and it's perfect! The light is so much better! Anyway, I hope you enjoy the results of my new studio as much as I do! :)

And, in honor of our very first snow of the season, I'm thrilled to finally share one of my favorite recipes of all time. A childhood favorite that has become a holiday season must in our family!

November 10, 2014

Weekly Menu November 10

This week we have: 
Lion House Wassail
Weeknight Chicken Pot Pie
Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

For today, Nov 10...

November 9, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Bread

Happy November!! One of these days I'll stick to that schedule I keep making myself. Until then, I'll just keep my fingers crossed that as long as I can keep giving you scrumptious food, you won't up and rebel on me. Totally kidding, you're the sweetest, most patient group of friends and readers that a scatter-brained girl could ask for! Which is why even though 'tis late, I had to get you this recipe, come hell or high water or a week-long hiatus. October may be over, but who said that means we have to put our pumpkin away till next year? If you've got a spare can, and some cream cheese lying around, with that winter storm front looming, you'll be set for scrumptious goodies to hold you through the big chill with this recipe. Is it just me, or does this whole Alaskan storm remind anyone else of the intro to the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie??

If it were December instead of  early November, I would be pretty concerned about Christmas, I don't know about you... Instead, I'll just be concerned for Alaskans, pray like crazy, and hunker down planning my baking list!! For those of you not in the US, congratulations. :) For those of you getting frozen already, bundle up and stay warm!! I'll see you tomorrow, when we start getting snowed on. Have a delightful Sunday!

November 1, 2014

Vegetable Cheese Chowder

Menu change!! I'm just plain not satisfied with my ramen pictures. I'll have to make it again. Oh darn. Not really, because its basically my new favorite food, but that also means I need to do it justice with perfect pictures! I think you'll forgive me, because I've got an old favorite for you that I hope you'll love!

October 29, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Wait a second, where did my easy week go?! I went from nothing (well, almost nothing) on the agenda to supplying all of the food for Stephen's class Halloween party and a very specific cutesy treat for Joe's party, chili for the trunk-or-treat tonight, check-up for Bracken, carpet cleaning, and a few other odds and ends. This was supposed to be the week of relaxing and doing nothing! Besides baking a cheesecake. Which I am very excited about. Trick-or-treating tomorrow, Happy Almost-Halloween! 

October 27, 2014

Weekly Menu October 27

Source: Pinterest

This week we have:
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread
Vegetable Cheese Chowder
Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

For today, Oct 27...

October 26, 2014

Perfect Apple Crisp

Today I thought I'd give you a short picture visit to the most adorable apple orchard, and one of my new favorite Colorado finds!
 It has kind of a funny name, but Ya Ya Farm and Orchard is as pretty as can be! They grow heirloom apples, which are being revived from an orchard that was planted in the late 1800's, and adding lots of newer varieties, including Honeycrisps, my Mom's favorite, and Ginger Golds, my new favorite.
 Isn't their farm store adorable?? Lots of yummy apple treats and honey from their hives, delicious apple cider, cider muffins,and bushels of already-picked apples. If you want to pick your own apples, especially the heirloom varieties, you have to make a reservation. In January. You better believe I'll be on that list!!
 Plus they have mini cows!! I did not know such a thing existed!!! They're so cuuuuute! 
 But, of course, the baby Percheron was my favorite part. He's taller than ME! He liked nibbling on Joe's shoes. 
 Oh, and apples. Of course. Apples everywhere! I came home with ten pounds of Ginger Golds and this crisp was the first item on my apple treat list. Enjoy!!

October 24, 2014

Apple Pudding Cake with Toffee Sauce

My pumpkin-loving birthday boy

Time flies when you're REALLY BUSY!!! I can't believe it's Saturday already, where did my week go?? Today we went to the pumpkin patch, which turned out to be the BEST patch EVER!!!

Reasons why:
Dogs allowed, so Bracken got more exercise today than she has in months and made friends with a cow and every little girl under the age of 3
100 acres of pumpkins. That's a LOT of pumpkins, people!
No admission fee
Flat rate, six bucks per pumpkin, no matter how big, so of course my Dad left with half a dozen
Free kid activities
Huge, gorgeous corn maze
Mountain range in the background

Then it was a sprint back home so I could whip up some mac & cheese for the block party and get started on Joe's pumpkin cake. I was going all out, double bundt pumpkin spice pumpkin-shaped cake, inspired by Pinterest (of course):

But I only have one properly shaped bundt pan, so I dumped the first layer out before it was cooled, and it collapsed a bit, and by the time it should have been assembled, after hours of a very successful block party (yay neighbors!!) I just didn't care anymore. Slapped some frosting on and called it good. Maybe next year.

By the way, I made my own pumpkin puree this week, and used it in one of the two bundt cakes. The one I chose to frost, actually. We all agreed that the canned pumpkin was significantly tastier. More pumpkin-y, less squash-y. Who knows how those canned pumpkin people do it, but hey! At least I tried it once, right? We ended up scraping the frosting off the first layer and smearing it on the second layer. Much yummier. :)

October 21, 2014

Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls

I love baking. A LOT. After the PTA welcome meeting where they tried their darnedest to get us to join up and participate and make our kids' lives better by helping with everything, I was a little swayed. But, being the semi-antisocial introvert that I am, that little kernel of motivation manifested as signing up for every possible PTA opportunity that involved food. Because I may be awkward around a bunch of parents I don't know, but by golly I can bake! Sometimes I get a little carried away, and everything has to be creative, everything has to be for the blog, everything has to be photographed, or perfect, or lit correctly, or new... I forget all of my favorites, the things I baked all the time before the blog was born. Yesterday, as I mused about what to bake while writing up my daybook, I decided to make scones, just cuz, just for me, no pictures, and yum. And they were! It was very satisfying. Now I need to freeze half of them so I don't eat all of them, all by myself. Oh, and by the way, the recipe for those spontaneous scones, my absolute favorite Ginger Chocolate Chip scones, is already on here. Lucky you!

Weekly Menu Oct 20

Source: pumpkin-k1sses

This week we have:
Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls
Apple Pudding Cake with Toffee Sauce
Perfect Apple Crisp

For today, October 20...

September 21, 2014

Strawberry Cream Cake

Sometimes, you just need a fancy cake.

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Aunt Renel!! :)

September 17, 2014

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

Well, yesterday was awfully exciting around here!! I told you about a month ago that we have a family of raccoons living in our chimney. So weird. We assumed that they'd eventually leave, but it became pretty clear they weren't going anywhere. We figured we could just get animal control to come remove them, but it turns out you have to hire a private company, and they're ridiculously expensive. So we started trying "home remedies" for this critter problem of ours. We scared the mom away with a blacklight in the chimney, but the two babies wouldn't budge. We've been working on them for the past week or so, and of COURSE, the day the Geologist leaves me on my own, they come down into the fireplace. I tried making them a food trail to the door, but they weren't interested. They explored the basement for a while before I got them barricaded into one room. Tried bright lights, Bracken, and loud music, but they wouldn't budge. Bracken would get nose to nose with them but they just stared her down. Or pretended they were invisible. Finally, some friends came to my rescue and we got them out with a laundry hamper a a piece of rope through a pipe. No harm done! Only took five hours of my day... But we are now raccoon free! Hooray!

September 15, 2014

Weekly Menu Sept 15

This week we have:
Cinnamon Pecan Banana Muffins
Baked Honey Mustard Chicken
Strawberry Cream Cake

For today, Sept 15 ...

September 2, 2014

August 26, 2014

Weekly Menu August 26

Sorry friends, I don't much feel like being creative and newsy and entertaining today. We bought Bracken some new booties today, to protect her fragile nails and keep her from licking her feet, and as I was putting them on I found that every nail on her two front paws is cracking, separating, oozing, and crusted. The poor girl has infections in every nail bed (and inside the separated nails), and my heart is just breaking for her. No wonder she can't leave her feet alone, and I've been scolding her every time she licks them. She's such a good sport, so cheerful (well, except with her old booties, she totally pouted with those on) and loving and snuggly and playful, but she's in constant pain. She's my baby and my therapy; her goal in life is to make me feel better, and I can't fix her. I can only hope that in a month or two, she'll feel better. Months. It's just very, very hard on my heart right now.