Happy 2nd Birthday, Smalls!

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Today is my Smalls’ 2nd birthday. He has brought me so much joy in his little life. I am crazy about him. This kid has spunk. He’s fearless about so many things, and I secretly love that about him. Even though it can be scary, as a parent, for my child to go into things without thinking, it’s neat to see the joy that fearlessness brings him. On the flip-side, he’s very complex – he gets overwhelmed very easily in certain situations. He gets upset at things that are too sensory-oriented (he’s got some proprioceptive things going on). But…I LOVE that we have this understanding, me and him. I know when he’s got his issues, and he comes to me to make them go away. He trusts my hugs to make him feel better. I love his silly, fun-loving sense of humor, the way he loves to make people laugh, but also gets shy when directly addressed by others. I love his wild antics, his mischievous smile, the naughty twinkle in his eye, partially hidden by his dark, long lashes. I love his teeny, little button nose. I love his lanky, long, skinny stick legs that envelope me in a hug, like a little koala bear. I love his hands, they are still like little baby hands. I love his bouncy, golden curls that frame his face, and flounce all over the place, especially because he’s almost always running and jumping, everywhere he goes. He’s simply the best. And I’m so blessed and eternally grateful to be his Mommy. What a gift from God.

We had a little party for him over the weekend with both sets of his Grandparents. I went with a beachy, tropical theme. It was a little tacky. I love tacky. And it was kind of a nod to his first birthday party, last year, where I did an under-the-sea theme.

I cooked and baked allllll day.

I made a Pineapple Cilantro Pulled Pork in the crock pot. It was an easy(ish) recipe because the crock pot did most of the work. I simply seasoned the pork butt and made a BBQ sauce.

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It was delicious and FULL of flavor.

http://www.fivehearthome.com/2014/07/14/slow-cooker-pineapple-pulled-pork-with-pineapple-barbecue-sauce/

I also made a Porky Pineapple Fried Rice.

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It was also very good.

http://damndelicious.net/2014/06/25/pineapple-fried-rice/

I made green beans, too! I boiled fresh green beans, put them in an ice bath, and then sauteed them with a little bit of olive oil and garlic. Delicious.

I also made crescent roll octopi. They more came out like jellyfish. I don’t know how on earth I was supposed to get EIGHT legs out of them. But they came out so cute. The boys kept asking for “legs”.

It wasn’t weird at all.

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They were a hit. Just cut 7 (or however many you can, then call them “jellyfish”) strips on the short side of the crescent and then roll the top down to form the head. Use (or not) black olives for the eyeballs.

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Dinner was delicious.

But dessert…oh boy, dessert was where it was at.

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I have to say, and not to pat myself on the back, but it was my best ever work. It was DIVINE.

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I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, but I used Hershey’s dark cocoa in place of the regular cocoa (both turn out delicious). Because of that change, this cake was black and fudgey with a deep, complex cocoa flavor. It was insanely good.

https://www.hersheys.com/recipes/recipe-details.aspx?id=184&name=HERSHEY%27S-PERFECTLY-CHOCOLATE-Chocolate-Cake

I paired it with a white buttercream.

The buttercream was silky smooth. I just added blue coloring (Americolor Sky Blue). I used my offset spatula to make waves with the blue frosting.

http://www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com/2013/06/double-chocolate-cupcakes-and-crispy-magic-frosting/

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I left some of the buttercream white and used that as the shore, and added graham cracker crumbs for sand.

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I decorated it with palm trees and a surfboard (all from Smalls’ first ever birthday cake last year), flamingos, fish and dolphin sprinkles, and gummy turtles (Smalls loves turtles).

It was so, so, so good.

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The combination was heavenly. And not because of what I did, but because of the recipes. So good. I can’t even stop thinking or talking about it. My mouth is watering for it now.

It was a great celebration. And today is family day – we will be showering Smalls with lots of love, fun times, and good food.

Happiest Birthday, my sweet, spicy nugget. May you always feel as loved as you are. ❤

Blessings to you all,

Kristin

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone!

Or in my case…my glasses! I’ve been wearing glasses for the last 12 or so years, from sunup to sundown. I finally worked up the gumption to give contacts a try. What a frustrating day! Anyways, I think I got the hang of them, finally. Life is so different without having to constantly push my glasses up. I can also see things while laying down, workout without having the sweat cause my glasses to slide down, and actually have people see my eye makeup that I just learned how to do properly. Ahhh yes, it’s good to have options now!

In addition to all of that, we have been busy!

We had our Friday playdate at a new park. We love trying out new parks. It was a really nice day.

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There were tire swings, bridges, a play train, slides, and more!

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And the park was right next to real train tracks, which my boys loved!

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CHOO CHOOOOOOO!

And I packed them a special, summery lunch.

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I made beach balls out of their PB&Js, gave them each an applesauce squeezy fruit, a box of raisins, and some goldfish crackers. And for Bigs, I also packed some chocolate covered banana chips.

The next morning, we had pancakes (back on track!). I used a different kind of gluten-free mix – King Arthur Flour. As far as how the actual pancake turn out, this was the best GF mix I’ve tried! I added lots of vanilla bean paste and some caramel extract. They were delicious.

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They came out golden and fluffy, like how they look in commercials.

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I served them with little turkey sausages and some Maine Caviar – blueberries from Maine in Maine maple syrup (from my Mom-in-law). DELISH.

I made the boys a quick craft to play with at home with my husband, while I was getting my contacts lesson at the eye doctor.

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Bird-watching binoculars! Thank you Pinterest!

Bigs had a great time with them.

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Bird watch here…

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Bug watch there…

Smalls crushed his before I could even leave the house.

Awesome.

And I made a good dinner on Sunday (not something I find myself saying very often)! Truth be told, the only reason it came out better than okay is because my husband grilled the meat part.

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Earlier in the day, after church, I had thrown some steaks in a Ziploc with some GF soy sauce, lemon juice, fresh garlic, and olive oil. By dinnertime, they were ready to be grilled. That simple marinade came out so delicious.

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I served them with rosemary roasted potatoes (I used fresh rosemary that my friend Kristin, and fellow blogger, gave us) and balsamic green beans.

I also threw together some oaty, banana “cookies” while the oven was still hot. I mashed one super ripe banana, and mixed it with a handful of oats, some honey, and some cinnamon and baked them.

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I poked one semi-sweet chocolate chip into each of them and the kids thought they were cookies.

Mommy:1

A great end to a busy, but nice, weekend.

It was a bright (bright), bright (bright), sun-shiny daaaaaay!

PS – check out my friend Kristin’s blog! She’s a great friend and cook.

http://thefoodgeekdiary.com/

Curry On!

For tonight’s dinner, I went with a slightly Mediterranean influence. I use “slightly” loosely, since I’ve never been to the Mediterranean and ‘they’ might just be appalled at what I label as such. Earlier today, I made a curried carrot and raisin salad. I love those. I might be the only person who orders them at Chik-Fil-A (no curry in theirs). Am I? Why do they still have those on the menu if it’s only me eating them? So flattered. The recipe called for mayonnaise and since Dairy-Free-Husband can’t eat that (nor would he, with a ten foot long fork), I made a slightly different version for him. Seriously. Wife of the year. I’ll clear some junk out of the way to put up my trophy.

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The one on the left is obviously the better one (with mayo).

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I added more cayenne to my husband’s and used olive oil in place of mayo. I also added turmeric since it helps with his Crohn’s. The result was like a marinated salad. The fresh lemon juice really brightened it up. I actually really enjoyed this take on it.

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The original recipe yielded a creamier, Chick-Fil-A type salad. This might also be really tasty with pineapple in it. Dang. I actually have pineapple this time.

Oh well. I can add some tomorrow and eat it. There’s plenty of leftovers (of both), since I was the only one eating it tonight. :/

Anyways, if you are into such a salad, here’s the recipe:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/03/carrot-raisin-salad-from-down-south.html

I also made a chicken and bean casserole. I found this recipe today and love that you can pretty much sub out any of the veggies, beans, and proteins.

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I used one can of chick peas and one of navy beans. I used a frozen mixture of green and wax beans and carrots.

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I love a recipe that you can literally just throw together. With whatever you have. That’s my kind of cooking.

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I really enjoyed this recipe too. The bean mixture on the bottom was so good. I couldn’t get enough. Some of the chick peas had browned to a crunchy state. So good. The little boys didn’t like this. Too bad. More for me. This will also be good tomorrow, cold and over a green salad.

Here’s the link to the recipe:

http://www.katheats.com/easy-chicken-and-bean-bake

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I served it with a fresh fruit salad.

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I really enjoyed this meal.

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Hope you have a blessed Thursday and a wonderful Friday! TGIF!

Kristin

Hammy Time!

What a week. Seriously. I know I say that all the time, but what a week. Both boys had doctor’s follow up appointments (both better – yay!), both boys had a little kid gym class (they go each week on different days), both boys had a make up little kid gym class (on different days), Bigs had school and one on of those days, I worked in his classroom. And also Smalls got reinfected with pink eye and had another fever night (booooo). But he’s better again. But seriously. Whaaaaat? Why does this keep happening?!

I absolutely love working in Bigs’ classroom. The parents of the kids switch off days, so that every day has a helper parent. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know our kids’ teacher, classroom and procedures and learning itself, and classmates better. I absolutely adore Bigs’ teacher and classmates. He’s expressed that he never wants another teacher again. Just the one he has. 🙂

I showed up to class rocking my donuts. You just might recall how much my Bigs and I love donuts. It’s sort of a thing for us.

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I put on my donut sweatshirt and earrings. And then I remembered that I had a donut necklace.

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So I put that on, too. Because…you can’t just wear SOME of your donut stuff. Sure I looked like Flava Flav a bit. And maybe also a clown. But you know what? The kids (and adults) thought it was a hoot. And I did too. Love donuts. And someday, probably not too far off in the future, my Bigs will be (and I hope he isn’t!!) mortified when I show up like this. I gotta capitalize on him loving my wackiness now.

Tootsies

My feet matched. I try to do that.

It was a blast of a day, hanging out with my big buddy.

So, back when I’d posted about this sweatshirt, I sort of mentioned that it was a Christmas gift to myself and that my husband didn’t know it yet. I’d already purchased it and was going to give it to him to give to me. But sweet Husband took it upon himself to get it for me before knowing I’d already done the dirty work. It was quite a hubbub to return it. So I EXTRA appreciate it!

Besides the boys not taking naps yesterday, which by all scale-of-tiredness-accounts they should have (and I needed one!), it was a lovely day.

I also made a ham dinner. For some odd (and I DO think it’s odd), Bigs’ favorite meat is ham. I feel like kids Bigs’ age (almost 4) would rather chicken. But I’m glad he likes it! Especially because he’s having it for dinner again tonight. 🙂

Hammy Ham Ham

I glazed it with cherry preserves. I also made a cheesy hash brown casserole.

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This is from the copycat recipe for Cracker Barrel. Do you have those near where YOU live? If not, just get off on the next interstate exit and go immediately. That place is so good. For this recipe, it calls for a cream of soup and sour cream. I didn’t have enough sour cream but I DID have a tub of ricotta cheese. I threw that in, hoping it would help make up for my lacking ingredient amounts. It turned out great, you couldn’t even tell.

I also made beans.

Beans

I sautéed a mix of carrots, green beans, and wax beans in coconut oil with whatever seasoning feels right (lemon pepper this time) and freshly grated garlic. I add dried cranberries when it’s almost done. This time, I burned the lot, but it still tasted good. And, oddly enough (my life must be “odd” because I find myself saying this a lot!), this was the only thing Smalls ate last night. He literally turned down cheesy potatoes and frozen yogurt (I froze actual yogurt for the boys to have for dessert) for beans. That kid is something. But I’m glad that if he’s eating anything, it’s beans.

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It was yummy.

Dinner

And like I said, we’re having it again. I love leftovers.

Yummers

Just yes.

Oh yes ham

After such a long few weeks of sickness and not really having the energy to cook, it was really nice to have a homey, comforting meal to eat.

And I love knowing that no matter what happens today, we’ll get that same homey, comforting meal again. And I don’t have to even cook it again.

Have a wonderfully blessed Friday (seriously TGIF!!)

Kristin

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

Twas the night before Christmas

It’s here, it’s finally here! The night to start or finish wrapping gifts, the night to put together all the toys and bikes, the night to play Santa, the night to set out milk and cookies for yourself to enjoy later. It’s here!

My husband and I have so many plans!

Buddy the Elf

Then…

Buddy

I just don’t know if we’ll have enough time!

We’ll OBVIOUSLY be turning on A Christmas Story just as soon as it starts tonight. It’s a family tradition that I grew up with that I am imposing upon my own family. Best movie ever.

And so is Elf. But they haven’t played it on the channels we have, yet.

We really do have so much to do today. I’ll be making some casseroles for tomorrow’s brunch (Cracker Barrel inspired cheesy hash brown, and a white chocolate and cranberry bread pudding – all of which you’ll see here soon!). We’ll be cleaning the house for guests, we’ll be doing special traditions with our sons and we’ll be going to Christmas service. It’s going to be lovely.

Our elf Duncan was here again. And today is his last day with us.

Yesterday, he set out a birthday party for Jesus!

Elf on a Shelf Day 23

And today he packed his bags up and left a good-bye note for the boys. We’ll miss you, Duncan!

Elf on a Shelf Day 24

Also, I made a turkey dinner last night.

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I got this HUGE (almost 10 pounds) turkey from Publix for $7.80. I couldn’t believe it. It’s actually the first whole turkey I’ve made. I think it came out great. Was it a leeeetle bit dry? Sure. Whatevs. It’s my first. The prep was easy (olive oil, Kosher salt and poultry seasoning), but I don’t care how strong your stomach is, pulling out a half-thawed, leaking bag of innards will make you queasy. Well, me, anyways. Blech. And that neck. I am southern, but that neck. *Shudder!* I cooked it (the turkey, not the neck – dat nasty went right in the bin, although I am sure someone somewhere has a great recipe for it, lolz) according to directions and the whole time it was cooking, I was drooling. Whenever there is a cooked turkey around, I am like The Old Man Parker (the dad on A Christmas Story). I cannot resist sneaking (which…as an adult who made the turkey, do I really have to sneak bites? I guess I sort of do, with kids around, if I want peace while eating.) crispy skin or breast meat pieces. Oh just yum! I made a quick gravy from the drippings and corn starch and pepper. Gravy is one of those foods that, and my parents will back me up on this, I got really sick on after eating too much in one sitting as a child and came back for more AFTER…um…disposing of it. Know what I mean? I love gravy. I’m gross.

I love gravy

Anyways. Enough about my grossness.

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I served the turkey with steamed fresh green beans and sweet potato casserole (basically the same meal as the other night, but subbing turkey for ham). It was SO good. And yeah, I’ve served my family sweet potato casserole with marshmallows three weeks in a row.

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I tried to show my older son how to make a wish using the wishbone, but for some reason, it didn’t work. Neither of us got our wish. That dang thing was as slippery as an eel. We sure did try to break it. He even tried to break it with all his three year old might! It wouldn’t budge. Whatever. He still thought it was cool.

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Enjoy this last night before Christmas!

To all a good night

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Kristin