Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Haircuts

Coco had her first haircut this week. She doesn’t have all that much hair, but what she has was, in her words, “a hot mess”. I wonder where she learned that?

I think first haircuts strike fear and sadness in the hearts of most mothers. Sadness because the baby is growing up so quickly. Fear because you don’t know how the child is going to react when the scissor appears in the stylist’s hand. Luckily for Coco (and I) she has been watching her brothers happily get their hair cut for the last two years.

Here’s Vincent’s first haircut at 23 months.

And Franklin at 18 months. He has always had the best hair in the family.

Coco choose to sit in the big kid seat- no cars for her. Apparently she didn’t get the memo that explains why parents fork out $20 for a two-year-old’s haircut- so they can get a cute photo in the car. So sad for me!

She did, however, choose to watch Dora the Explorer.

Wendy cut her hair. We only get haircuts when we can get an appointment with Wendy. This may seem silly, but Franklin got a very bad cut once when Wendy wasn’t available. Luckily Wendy fixed it the next day. Wendy is five months pregnant. You better believe we will get haircuts before she goes on maternity leave.

Coco received a nice blow out and style. I was envious.

When we were leaving Wendy commented that she didn’t look as much like a baby anymore, to which Colette said, “I’m not a baby, I’m Coco.”

She’s not a baby, she’s my Coco.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Fun Size Me!

It was 12 days past Halloween and we had a vat of candy left. This is not from lack of attention. We all have a piece after lunch and dinner and sometimes after school. I have been known to raid the bowl at midnight while shopping online making my to-do list. At this rate, we will still have Halloween candy left after Thanksgiving. This is against my motherly sensibilities, and religion.

Since it was rainy and cold this weekend the oven was calling my name, so I decided Candy Bar Cookies were necessary.

This is an awesome way to use up Halloween (or any) candy, and you can use any variety you want. I used 7 Reese’s cups and 7 Snickers fun size bars. The batter was looking a little sparse at the end so I threw in 2 Butterfingers. I hate lonely batter.

You may be thinking that if my goal was to get rid of all this candy in my house it is counter productive to mix up sugar and eggs and butter to mold said candy into little baked calorie bombs. You are totally correct, but you can learn from my mistakes and shortcomings. The beauty of this recipe is that you can freeze the batter and use it later.

Better yet, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and roll the dough into individual cookie balls. Pop the sheet into the freezer until the balls are firm, then put them into a large baggie in the freezer. Pull out a few balls and bake them when ever you want something yummy, or the house to smell really good! 

I know I used the word balls a lot in that paragraph. Get your mind out of the gutter please. We are talking cookies here.

Candy Bar Cookies

1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons  vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
14 fun size candy bars, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together butter and the sugars until fluffy I find this is the most important step in any cookie recipe. Put your finger in there for a taste. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until blended. Stir in the candy bars.
I use a small scoop, on a silpat (or greased cookie sheet). In my oven this takes 12 minutes. If you have a good oven, I would check them after 10 minutes.

I will tell you that the cookies with the Butterfingers were the best. And a word of warning... if you used a caramel candy don’t be impatient and pop one of these cookies straight from the oven and into your mouth. The caramel gets really hot, not that I would know this from first hand experience. Not me.

Go use up the extra candy!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu Contenders 2011

We are celebrating Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year. Before you pity me, I want to make it clear that I love my in-laws. I am SUPER jazzed. The boys are counting down the days until we see their cousins while I try to prepare for any weather contingency.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays- all about family and food and football. No last minute gift purchasing. No worrying about getting a seat at midnight mass. Your jeans still fit because you are yet to munch on Christmas cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Booze can be added to any recipe and it is totally acceptable...if not expected.

My sister in law has already ordered the turkey and I am trying to decide on a couple of side dishes I want to make for Thanksgiving dinner. Normally, cooking at someone else’s house on a holiday would send me straight to the bottom of a bourbon bottle, but my sister in law has the most A-MAZ-ING kitchen ever, and she is refreshingly laid back about other people working in it. We are very different.

Here’s what I am thinking about this year:

I made this sweet potato casserole recipe from PW last year. It got rave reviews and requests to make it again. It is always good to have a tried and true on the list.

Thanksgiving dinner is incomplete without stuffing, or dressing, depending on your political leanings. I have to admit that I am a big fan of good old Mrs. Cubbison’s stuffing shoved in the turkey, but since the turkey is pre-ordered, we need an alternative. I hear my mother in law used to prepare full Martha Stewart dinners for Thanksgiving. In her memory, I am considering this one.

I have been eyeballing this Parker House Rolls recipe since last Thanksgiving. My concern is baking at a high altitude...a mile high, but who’s counting... which I have never done before. A recipe for disaster? Perhaps, but look at all that butter...I think it is worth the risk.

This Pumpkin Pie Toffee Cheesecake might have to make an appearance on the dessert table.

The first Thanksgiving that Patrick and I were dating we were both spending the holiday with our families so I made a Cranberry Tart for him a couple days before. At his request, I have made it every year since for Thanksgiving breakfast. This will be the 12th year. It is perfect to eat while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a new tradition since VW saw the ginormous Elmo balloon a few years ago. Here’s the super simple recipe, if you are interested.

Cranberry Tart
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 cups whole cranberries
whipped cream

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients in the order listed. Pour into a well-greased 10-inch pie pan. I am going to try baking spray this year. Whatever you use, make sure you grease it well. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until done. Don’t under bake! Serve warm or cold or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream, either fresh or from a can. It’s all good!

And I am hoping some of this will show up on Thanksgiving too!

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year?


Monday, November 7, 2011

Choosing Happiness

I was asked recently why Mom’s for Xanax is so happy. I took offense to that comment, because it seemed that “happy” was used in such an artificial, saccharine way. I don’t really view it as a “happy blog”. I think it is more of a chronicle of our growing family with some of my random thoughts thrown in here and there. The intent is certainly not to blow sunshine up anyone’s behind. I fully recognize that life is not always rainbows and lollipops.

There is a lot of crappy stuff lurking around that I could blog about. The economy in general, and the housing market in particular, are a wreck. The downfall of a moral society can be witnessed daily by watching Jersey Shore. What is the deal with gas prices? My three beautiful children are not perfect, in fact sometimes they can act pretty ugly. Laundry is not filling my soul with joy, and don’t get me started on diaper changing.

Sometimes the only thing I have control over is my attitude, so I choose to be happy. Choosing happiness isn’t always easy. It feels good to vent and complain and be generally morose. And there are always people who are willing to bitch with you. But in the end, this whining and complaining and yuckiness get you nowhere. It lingers in your affect making you bitter and no fun to be around.

So when I want to be a complete hag here are some things I do to choose happiness. Maybe some will work for you:

Do something as soon as you wake up in the morning that makes you happy.  For me it is a cup of coffee. Maybe it is going to the gym, or praying, or calling your mom.

Do something nice for others. Make it a habit. They may not appreciate it at first (or ever), but you are setting an example for the people around you. I have a list of ideas here if you need inspiration.

Ditch the negativity. It can be as simple as turning off the television when the news is bringing you down or not engaging in a conversation that will cause needless anxiety. On the other hand, it can be hard to cut out negativity when it is a person in your life that is causing it. Is it time to reevaluate friendships and other relationships that are draining you?

Count your blessings, especially the small ones. We can easily take the big stuff like our health and family for granted, but the small things are reasons for happiness too. Sleeping well at night, a vacuumed floor, opening the mailbox and not finding a bill are all small things that can provide a touch of happiness to your day.

Turn a negative into a positive. Doing that laundry means my children have clothing to wear. Dirty dishes in the sink are a result of a home cooked meal. Patrick’s late night work call means he is still contributing value to his workplace. Is an overbooked social schedule really a bad thing? It means you have friends!

Finally, remember that this too shall pass- whether it is a headache, a really bad week, or eventually...hopefully...the crappy housing market.

Patrick turned 40 last Friday. The kids and I ventured out in the rain to stuff his car full of helium balloons while he was at work. Laughing and pulling a trick on daddy’s birthday made the kids happy. Thinking of Patrick trying to get in the car made me happy. Driving home with the balloons so the kids could have them (I would have released those suckers) made Patrick happy. Sometimes it's the little things that create happiness.

Am I happy 24/7? No. Unfortunately Patrick often gets an earful when I have had a particularly long day. But in general, I choose happiness in life and in my blog.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How About Them Apples?

If you read this blog occasionally, you will remember that we had a crazy amount of apples and pears from our apple picking adventure a few weeks ago.

I am happy to report that we ate them all, in one form or another.

We made Crockpot Applesauce, Butternut Squash Soup, Apple Carrot Muffins, and Fruit Crumble. All were delicious, but the kids especially like the applesauce and muffins. Patrick and I have the fruit crumble to blame for us each gaining a pound that week.

I have linked a few of the recipes above if you are interested. You can still get some awesome apples from the farmers market and Trader Joes.

For the applesauce, all you do is peel, core, and quarter 8 medium to large apples, place them in the slow cooker with ½ cup of water and cook on low for about 6 hours. When you can stir them and they fall apart you know it is done. Add cinnamon or nutmeg or apple pie spice, depending on your taste. I also add a pinch of brown sugar, or a fourth a cup, or a half a cup. Try to act shocked. I have made this 4 times since apple picking. The kids love it and the consistency and taste is so much better than store bought.

After peeling a few apples by hand, I realized I need one of these for next year. It's from William Sonoma.

Don’t ask me where I would store it, but I would make life in September, October, and November a lot easier next year!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Moe the Spider

In the spirit of Halloween, and all things creepy, I would like to share with you an ongoing obsession in our house- SPIDERS.

The mere mention of spiders sends Patrick running to the other room. It is quite comical. He hates them- all 6’5”, 225-pounds of grown man is, dare I say, AFRAID of spiders.

The boys on the other hand adore all things arachnid. When we visited our family in Boulder this summer we made a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion.

There, in addition to an amazing butterfly habitat, which you could stroll around, was a fantastic insect room. It was full of ants and bees and SPIDERS!

Here is Franklin, my brave boy, holding Rosy the Tarantula.

And our family’s personal favorite, the Black Widow. Patrick mumbled something about it reminding him of me. I pretended not to hear, but a woman never forgets.

Colette shares her father’s distain for the live ones.

Pretending to be spiders in a “spider web”.

The boy’s obsession extends to pretend spiders as well.

Meet Moe, the squishy black Target dollar bin finger puppet.

A few hours after he became a member of our family he was lost somewhere in the house. The boys were beside themselves with worry. I reassured them that he was around somewhere. I was forced to eye Snoop’s poop for Moe’s remains. Everyday they asked if I had found Moe yet. It became a part time job. Two weeks later, Moe was found shoved between Franklin’s headboard and mattress. The children rejoiced. Angels sang. If only I had changed the sheets sooner the reunion would not have taken so long!

Since Moe’s “return” the boys have decided to keep him in a box with the rest of his spider family, were he will never be lost again. The box also houses Meanie, his mother. I’m not sure when we will have a Eanie and Miney, but there is a warm bed consisting of a washcloth waiting for them. And we love our yarn spiders as much as the others.

Spiders- they make Hexbugs look so cuddly!

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Preschool Pumpkin Patch

I think I have mentioned here before that I LOVE the kids’ preschool. The teachers and instructional aides and principal are amazing. The parents are very involved. There is a very loving, positive atmosphere, and the kids have so much fun!

One of my favorite activities of the year is the Pumpkin Patch. This year I got to take Franklin and a group of his classmates around to the various activities. It is staged on the bluff next to the church. When the kids walked over from the school building they were in awe!

There were pony rides.

“Cow” milking.

Bunnies and goats and chickens.

Bobbing for donuts.

A scary, wretched, evil witch... who happens to be the boys’ favorite teacher.

A haunted house made by Vincent’s class, and many, many more activities.

They “bought” pizza for lunch.

There was The Monster Mash and lots of singing and dancing. The kids all got to pick out a pumpkin to take home, along with candy and other treats...

Like these.....

Happy Early Halloween!