Saturday, August 29, 2015

Convos with Peanut: The National Anthem

We were sitting at the dinner table, waiting for Emma to be done eating and Michael was telling Annalyn about our national anthem.  He started singing it line by line and asking her to repeat it.  Somewhere after "the dawn's early light", Peanut chimed in with a loud, drawn out, very emphatic, "AND THE DRAAAA-GON!!!"

Anyone who's seen How I Met Your Mother would understand why we lost it, despite our best efforts.  (No, my kids don't watch sitcoms, they just pick up catch phrases from us.) Then we explained that the dragon doesn't belong in this song, but I think it was a little lost on our three year old who was cracking herself up.  Even Emma was laughing (she didn't know or care why).  Man, our kids are weird.  Awesome, but weird.  I hope all of your kids are weird, too, so they can be friends.  Otherwise, it will just be my two little weirdos against the world. And the world won't stand a chance...

Friday, August 28, 2015

2 Minute Apple Crisp

Is anyone else loving this fall(ish) weather?  I sure am!  (Even if it's going to be near 90 next week...) I couldn't resist making something reminiscent of fall food, but since we've been trying hard to eat healthy, I didn't want to completely splurge on something like pie.  So I opted for this super easy apple crisp-type snack (for under 200 calories!).  All you need is an apple, a little cinnamon, and a handful of granola (I used pre-made this time, but I think it'd be extra yummy with this homemade granola with dried cherries/cranberries).  Here's how Mama makes it:

2 Minute Apple Crisp

Ingredients: (per 1 serving)
- 1 Apple, sliced
- 2-3 T. Water
- 1/4 t. Cinnamon
- 1/4 c. Granola
Optional - feel like splurging? Top with a scoop of ice cream! Feel like splurging big time? Top the ice cream with caramel syrup. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Peanut Post: Three and a half!

Wake up, little girl, it's yellow day at preschool! 
Flashback to her first half birthday :)

About Annalyn at 3.5 years:
  You are our little sour patch kid - sour and sweet all at once.  You can be the sweetest, most genuine kid ever, then turn around and throw a major fit or push your sister down for no reason.  I'm told this is normal for your age, but it makes Daddy and me crazy. On the way home from Georgia we heard Faith Hill's "Wild One" and laughed about how well it describes you at this age - "when she was three years old on her daddy's knee, he said you can be anything you want to be... She's a wild one, runnin' free."  You, of course, now love the song about the wild little girl.

You love sleepovers on the rare occasion I let you sleep in bed with me, but kick and turn all night long.  Your latest thing is that you want every day to be "special."  Either a special event, special treat, special trip, or a special privilege (like staying up late or sleeping with mom).  I've tried to reason with you that if every day is special, no day is, but I think you're a little too young for that one.
You love, love, LOVE, to role play and we are constantly being told "who we are" at the moment. Usually, you are "mommy when she was a little girl," Emma is either "Uncle Travi" or "baby Lindsey", and we are "Grandma and Papa."  Sometimes we are various Frozen characters : you - Anna, me - Elsa, Dad - Kristoff, Emma - little troll.  Other times, you're Tarzan, and we are your gorilla family.  You get the picture - rarely are we Mama, Daddy, Annalyn, and Emma.

You desperately want friends.  Getting to see Remy, cousins, or the neighbor kids is a huge treat and you relish every second.  After two days of preschool, you tell me that Lily and Charlie are your friends and you also like the Spiderman boy that was wearing boots.  Oh my.
with cousin, Eliza, before the party (bridal shower)

You love dinosaurs and don't understand why they don't live anymore.  When I tried to explain it to you, you got sad and cried.  Then we saw a big t-rex statue along the interstate on our way down south and you proclaimed, "SEE, I TOOOOLD YOU THEY WERE STILL ALIVE!!!"  You also believe in mermaids and magic.  We decided to just stop arguing about those and let you have them for now.  On the other hand, you can tell us what makes an animal a mammal (babies in the mommy's tummy, drink mommy's milk, and fur), the difference between carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores, and the names of most dinosaurs we see in books or on TV (like parasaurolophus?  Really, that's a thing?  Are you sure she's not making it up?)

Reading remains one of your favorite things to do.  You will sit for 30 minutes at a time, flipping through various books, magazines, catalogues, etc.  Several of them, you can recite from memory. Dr. Seuss is your latest obsession.
PBK catalogues are a good alternative to Dr. Seuss, right?

Chasing birds "catching" butterflies (you never actually do), and finding spiders are a few of your favorite outdoor activities lately.  We've found some little frogs and toads, too, and you like to poke at them but won't pick them up.  Instead, you make Emma, who is all too willing to oblige.

weight - 35 lbs.
height - 3 ft. 3.5 in.
sizes - shoe size 8-8.5, clothing size 4T (with some 3T and some 4 mixed in after a big growth spurt this summer)


preschool - Started preschool last week.  You go a couple times a week for a couple hours at a time.  The first day, you did awesome.  Jumped out of the car with your teacher, high-fived me through the window and bounced on in.  When I picked you up, you proudly exclaimed, "I had a good day at preschoooool!"  The second day, not so lucky - when I picked you up, the teacher said you had "a sad day" and missed your mom.  So we had several talks about how preschool is a time to play with your friends, learn new things, and do crafts and afterwards you get to see mama. Third day was somewhere in between. Apparently not as easy of a transition as I expected after your first day...


potty training - mostly done, still pull-ups at bedtime since you don't always wake up dry.  We took them away at naptime this summer and have only had a couple small accidents since.

dressing yourself - including shoes, you can dress yourself now.  Not that you always want to or will, but you definitely can.

why yes, that is shorts over a skirt over a romper

obviously, you have great style/taste

first dentist appointment - you had your first dentist appointment this summer and did great.  You listened to everything they said and asked you to do and had perfect sparkly teeth.  You and Emma do really like to brush your teeth, so I'm not surprised.

first trip to the ocean - as you've seen in previous posts, you made it to the ocean before you were 4.  Lucky duck!  It took me until I was 20 and on my honeymoon to see it.  You really liked running into the water, then running away from the waves as they came crashing in.

You are so incredibly smart, manipulative, sweet, stubborn, hilarious, sensitive, honest, sarcastic, goofy, sincere, ornery, and silly.  I can't think of a better way to describe it, though sometimes I just say you are me, with a double dose of Daddy.  I'll let you decide whom to attribute each of those traits.  Love you, too, Peanut.  I know, I know, it's Annalyn.  Oh, wait, Tarzan?  Oooook.  Love you, little Tarzan ;)


Mommy Gorilla

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Vacation Cooking Tips

Traveling with kids can be hard.  Traveling with two kids under 4, is hard.  For us, one of the hardest parts of extended travel is eating out.  Not only does it get hard to keep a toddler and preschooler content while confined for that long, but also more expensive and unhealthy compared to eating in.  So you can imagine how excited I was to rent a house instead of staying in a hotel this trip.  Sleeping arrangements were easier (everyone in their own bedroom), and having a full kitchen allowed us to make some of our own meals.  I even got to go grocery shopping at a Kroger on the island! (Yes, this excites me - I always like daydreaming about all the places I "could work.")  

The next challenge was how to stock a kitchen for a week without bringing everything.  Enter my label-obsessed, super-organized alter ego.  First, I planned our menu for the week, including built-in restaurant meals, since you have to try some of the local food down there.  A few of our plans changed along the way (like we decided not to make a day trip to Charleston since we'd spent enough time in the car) and we were able to easily adapt them, but all in all, this gave everyone an idea of what we would do that day.  Several meals, we opted for sandwiches/wraps, fruit, and pretzels, think picnic food.  It was cheap, relatively healthy, and easy to make/take if we wanted to eat on the go.  Of course, we also snuck in a few snacks - ice cream at Leopold's, coffee at Tybean, cookies from Byrd's - but this helped keep us on track. We even posted it to the fridge.

Next, I found all the recipes I wanted to make while down there (obviously, we had to splurge and make a peach pie and some peach sauce for our pancakes - it was vacation, after all!).  I printed everything out so it was all in one place, then measured out any ingredients that I could ahead of time (mostly dry ingredients).  I put all the pre-measured ingredients in a neatly labeled ziplock bag along with any remaining ingredients that needed to be added and cooking directions (it was so handy having that on there!).  Then I made a grocery list of the ingredients we wouldn't be bringing from home (things like milk, eggs, butter, yogurt, peaches, pie crust, etc.) so I'd be all ready to shop when we got there.  I brought some from home, too (condiments, cooking spray, applesauce).  The only thing I forgot was the oil for the pancakes, but I was able to substitute applesauce which made it healthier anyway.

All ready to go!  Packed in a reusable bag along with paper products 
and any kitchen essentials that wouldn't be provided at the house.
(notice how I even brought S/P/seasoning salt for the burgers?)

Here's a peak at our vacation cooking:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf

Last Monday, my new tech, Nancy, and I were talking about meatloaf.  Because everyone has lengthy work conversations about meatloaf... right?  Well, anyway, at some point she asked me if I'd ever stuffed a meatloaf.  

Me:  WHAT?  Stuffed meatloaf?  Wait, with what???  

N:  Oh, you know, broccoli and cheese or something like that.

Me:  <mouth hanging slightly open, obviously in deep, deep thought>  So, frozen or fresh?  Walk me through this...

N:  I usually just use the frozen broccoli with cheese sauce.

Me:  So easy! I must try this!

And so I did... the very next day.  Using my tried and true meatloaf recipe, I whipped up a batch and for once, actually put it in a loaf pan so I could effectively stuff the broccoli in the middle.  And it was awesome.  It tasted great and sparked a rousing dinner conversation I'd like to adapt into a short story entitled, "Foods we could stuff inside a meatloaf."  Chapter 1 - Sausage, bacon, and cheese.  Chapter 2 - Mushroom and swiss.  Chapter 3 - Pickles.  Chapter 4 - Any combination involving cheese and jalapenos. Chapter 5 - Meatloaf-induced heart attack and how to respond.  (How many chapters can a short story have before it's considered a book?  I'll have to look into this...)

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.   Start slow with this broccoli and cheese stuffed meatloaf recipe.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf

- 1 lbs. ground beef
- 1/3 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pkg. reduced fat Ritz crackers, crushed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 t. Lawry's seasoning salt
- 1/4 t. black pepper
- 1/4 t. garlic powder
- 1 package steam-in-the bag broccoli & cheese sauce

for the piquant sauce: (amounts are approximate, adjust to taste)
- 1 c. ketchup
- 1/4 c. mustard
- 1/4 c. brown sugar

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tour of my new kitchen, part 2: A little paint makes all the difference!

This weekend we knocked out a big project that I've been dying to have done, but really really not wanting to start.  As you can see, we painted our dining room table.  The reason I was so hesitant? Well, this isn't my first go around with painting this table.  We bought this table and chairs set on Craigslist when we still lived in our old apartment (so 6 years ago... ish) and it was solid oak.  The table top needed refinished, so we stripped and sanded it down, refinished the top, and painted the legs and spindles all blue (all in our tiny apartment, in January).  I loved how it fit and looked in my last house.

here's the before picture
which is sort of the middle picture
since it was once the after picture
got it?  good!

However, all things have a season, including my blue table that just didn't look right in my new kitchen.  So I was torn between repainting or replacing, but I'm cheap and sentimental, so here comes a weekend painting project!  First we primed all the remaining wood parts with Zinnser Cover Stain Primer (yay for no sanding!).  (For the record, I planned to have it tinted so I wouldn't have to paint black over bright white primer, but I had two kids with me in Lowes on a busy Saturday morning and forgot.  So here's to getting it right the third time I paint this table... because we all know that's probably inevitable).
Bulls Eye Bulls Eye Interior Oil Primer (Actual Net Contents: 32-fl oz)

Then we painted all the rest with this HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams black enamel paint.  It took 2 full coats, plus spot coverage on the painted parts, and 3 coats over the white primer.
HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Ovation Interior Gloss Tintable White Latex-Base Paint and Primer in One (Actual Net Contents: 32-fl oz)

For the top of the table, I decided to use Benjamin Moore Muslin, which is one of the colors that matches our Cambria quartz counter tops (the two companies paired up to have a series of colors that perfectly match the different colored counter tops. It's called the paint match tool on their websites.) I like how it breaks up the stark black.  And how it gives me a great excuse to go buy some cute tablecloths and/or place mats since I now have a very light colored table top (the paint is scrubbable, at least).

Carlisle Gray, Cambria Quartz

We also got our gallery wall up in the dining room. Starting to feel more homey all the time.

While we're talking about DIY projects in my kitchen, here's another one I'm pretty proud of - my "kitchen window" mirror.  This window was part of the screen door that was original to our first house (so 1959ish) and when we replaced it, I insisted on keeping the window part since it was in pretty good shape and clipped out easily.  Sure, it sat in the garage for a couple years, but I knew that one day, I'd have room to make it a focal point piece. Plus, I don't have a real window in my actual kitchen, so it's nice to pretend.

see the old blue table in the corner?
doesn't the black look so much better?!
(please don't tell me if you answered no...)

For the window, I scraped off all the peeling paint and glazing first.

Then sprayed the back of the glass with Krylon looking glass spray paint.  This is what gives the regular windows the antique glass finish.


Next, I taped off the glass and put a fresh coat of white paint on it. I didn't worry about it being perfect, because I wanted it to have an antique feel.

 Then, it waited for Mike to figure out how to hang it...

And lastly, I found the perfect wreath for the middle. I plan to change it out seasonally or whenever inspiration strikes.

Well, that's all the updates for now! Except these little guys I suppose - had to get bulldog s/p shakers to watch over the place :)

Homemade Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer

Do you love the taste of store-bought creamers, but not the price or lengthy list of ingredients?  Yea, me too.  My solution was to start making our own!  It's super easy to do and with only 4 ingredients, I feel much better about indulging.  We've been making our own for the past few months and have no intention of going back.  You can use any extracts you like, but this is our favorite (tastes like Nestle's Italian Sweet Cream).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Homemade Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer

- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 t. almond extract
- 3 t. vanilla extract
- 3 c. half & half, or milk

Friday, August 7, 2015

Brownie Batter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Is there anything better than a mix between a brownie and a cupcake?  I mean, really?  If there is, I don't want to know - my waistline can't handle it!  This recipe was created as a last day gift to my old technician who moved out of state.  He is obsessed with chocolate and anything that I'd consider "too rich to eat more than a bite of."  They were a hit with my family and the entire pharmacy staff.  Essentially, it's a chocolate cupcake with brownie batter buttercream icing.  Yes, it is as dreamy as it sounds.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Brownie Batter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Ingredients: makes 30-36 cupcakes, depending on size
- 1 box chocolate cake mix
- 1 small box instant chocolate pudding
- 1 c. flour
- 1/2 c. sugar
- dash of salt
- 1 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
- 3 eggs
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 c. water
- 1 T. vanilla

- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 3 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
- 1 t. vanilla
- 2/3 c. brownie mix
- 3 c. powdered sugar
- 1/4 c. milk
- chocolate chips/sprinkles/chocolate shavings as garnish, optional
(afternoon coffee and cute apron, also optional... but highly recommended)