Monday, October 29, 2012

Newborn: Caleb John Tobias

One of my close friends and neighbors recently welcomed a third addition to her family, baby boy Caleb John Tobias (I love how each of her children have two middle names). And he is perfect. Autumn and Gideon have two other children, little girls Rachel and Michaela, and let me tell you, those girls love their new brother! At every opportunity they ask to hold him, hug him, and kiss him.

He is one well-loved baby. 

Because Autumn is a neighbor, I was able to go over to her house twice to make sure we got all the photos we wanted. As I'm learning with newborns, you need a lot of patience and time to get the pictures you want. And that's even with a sweet, happy baby like Caleb. There are still necessary breaks to change diapers, feed him, and comfort him. What new baby wants to be put down and posed, instead of being held by mommy? 

Thankfully, this time, I brought a space heater and that really seemed to help. He seemed to just sink into the heat and fall into a sweet slumber--which, unfortunately, we woke him up from every now and then to reposition him. Poor baby! But he did so well, the little trooper. 

Here are some of my favorites from the shoot: 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple Picking

I love traditions. Besides holidays and birthdays, having traditions in your family gives you things to look forward to during the year. In my opinion, you can never have too many traditions. 

Eric and I have a few with our family, things like having a pumpkin carving party every fall, making monkey balls every Christmas, etc. With my extended family, we have more than a few. We go to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens every year, have a Christmas Eve Scavenger Hunt every year, etc. 

Another one of our traditions for the Fall Season, is to go apple picking. Since my parents and one of my sisters live about two hours away from me, we meet in the middle at a nearby orchard. We pick apples, sip on apple cider and eat amazing apple cider donuts. If you've never gone apple picking, you ought to, if only for those donuts. As far as I know, they sell them at every orchard. Or should. Yum! (They also have puppies that are up for adoption at our particular orchard. Yes, every year, we debate whether to adopt. I'm pretty sure that, if not for the men in our families and their voices of reason, we would adopt every single one, every year, and have a doggy farm overflowing with four-legged friends. Nora would be in heaven.) 

Another perk to this trip is that we are able to visit one of my cousins, Becca, who lives right by the orchard. She invites all of us over and feeds us chili before we head back home. And her chili is always the tastiest thing in the world. Especially when you're sugar crashing from all the apple cider and donuts you just ate. 

You still have time! If you live near an orchard, it's still apple-picking season until early November. Last year, we went late in the season when Pink Lady apples were at their peak. My favorite. Here is a pic from then, when I was 9 months pregnant with Nora.

Last November, before Nora was born!
Our family of three!
Nora's first time picking an apple.
Eating an apple, right off the tree. 

Showing Nora the proper way to eat an apple.

 If you have any fun family traditions, please share them with me! I am always looking for more.

Mini Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins

Alright. If you've been following my recent posts, you've read all about our Pumpkin Party. I posted reviews on several other recipes I tried (go to the Recipes I'm Trying page for more info), and this will be my final post. I simply could not leave you without this recipe. Amaaaazing.

These mini-muffins were insanely easy to make. Seriously, the hardest part was waiting for them to finish baking. In the recipe, you dip the muffins in butter and then cinnamon and sugar after they cool, but you could just as easily leave that off if you wanted to. They are tasty on their own. Although, why you would want to is beyond me.

These little buggers went so fast at the party, I was almost disappointed that I didn't stockpile some for myself before anyone came over. If you want to make them for your own festive party, click on this link. You still have plenty of time in the season to enjoy these. They would also make a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving pies, because, let's face it, there is no such thing as too many desserts on Thanksgiving Day.

The only critique for this recipe is in their name, because these muffins are really more like little donuts. Their name should be Mini Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Donuts (quite the mouthful). Except they're healthier, because they're baked - not fried. Except they're probably not really healthier, because they are doused in butter and sugar. But, why are we wasting time debating that? You need go to your kitchen and make these right now.

Pumpkin Pillow (Wontons)

Oh. My. Goodness.

This is my new favorite recipe of all time. I seriously think that I will have to make these every Fall for the rest of my life. In fact, that might not be often enough.

I made these for my annual Pumpkin Party, going for all-things-pumpkin. I cannot think of anything bad to say about them. So, you just have to make them yourself. That's all I can say.

A couple of tips: When I went to the grocery store, looking for the wonton wrappers, I couldn't find them among the prepared biscuits/pizza dough, etc. You know the aisle, over with all the Pillsbury stuff. And this is where I made my mistake. I didn't ask any of the store clerks for help. Turns out, they are apparently in the frozen section of the store. I was told this by a friend, I have not actually seen them myself. But I have no reason to believe otherwise.

But since I couldn't find them, I bought some Pillsbury croissant dough, thinking that would be pretty close to wontons, right? My husband disagreed. And I'm glad he did. Because when I came home, ready to make these pumpkin pillows, he suggested that I look online for a wonton dough recipe. I found this.

Making this dough from scratch kept me up baking much later than I'd intended, but it was well worth it. I don't think these pillows would have been the same in a croissant. Plus, it was fun to try something new. I'd never made wonton dough before. You only need four ingredients, and one of them doesn't really count because it's water. If you make your dough from scratch, be prepared to think that you made it wrong. The dough was a lot tougher than I expected and I almost threw it out. But my husband convinced me that it was supposed to be that way - so I rolled it out nice and thin on my table, and sure enough it ended up being the perfect consistency. We sliced it up into triangles, dropped a dollop of the pumpkin goodness inside, and then folded it over to make the little pillow. We let them sit overnight in our fridge before deep-frying them the next day, just in time for the party.

The only other thing that I would say about this recipe is for the dip. It's very simple: you melt about 15 Kraft caramels in the microwave and mix it with sour cream. When I did this, though, the caramels hardened back up very quickly and didn't want to melt into the sour cream. I ended up having to microwave the mix slowly (because I didn't want the sour cream to react funny to the heat), and the caramels finally melted enough to mix in to the sour cream. I think that the problem is that the sour cream was so cold from the fridge, it made the melted caramel harden back up. Another option might be to melt the caramels on the stovetop, and then slowly add the sour cream. That might work best.

No matter how you make the dip, when you eat it with the pumpkin pillows they are little pieces of heaven. Literally. (And now every person who has ever watched and loved Friends should be thinking about the time when Monica made candy for her neighbors.)

Try this recipe. Today.

Doesn't that look like the most appetizing thing you have seen, ever?

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

So, Eric and I had our annual Pumpkin Party to celebrate the Fall Season, and the coming holidays! We invite all our friends to bring over their pumpkins and carve them together. Then we serve tons of pumpkin snacks and pastries. My house smells amazing.

This year, I picked out a ton of recipes that I'd pinned on Pinterest (if you don't know what that is, you need to. Look it up and create yourself an account), and saved them all for baking the night before the party. So, my husband and I stayed up until 2am baking. This hardly ever happens anymore now that I'm a mommy. It was a bit nostalgic for me, reminding me of my college days. And somehow, between all of our clattering of pots and pans, Nora stayed asleep. Still amazed by that.

Anyway, one of our picks was to make Monkey Bread. If you've never had it before, you need to buy yourself a bundt pan and make this recipe (assuming you don't already have a bundt pan). For the normal version, click here. For our party, though, I decided to make it with pumpkin. This meant that, instead of buying the already prepared Pillsbury dough, I made it from scratch (only one of the reasons why our night went so late). I got the recipe from this blog.

Before I critique it, you must know that all monkey bread is delicious. So, you really can't go wrong however you make it. However, I was a bit disappointed that that pumpkin flavor was practically nonexistent. The whole reason why I made it from scratch, and I couldn't really taste any of the pumpkin. I even asked some of my guests if they could, wondering if it was just me, but none of them knew it had pumpkin in it either. I don't know how this would change the consistency, but if I had to do it again, I would use more of the canned pumpkin. Maybe even add some pumpkin pie spice to see if that "spiced" it up. :)

In the end, I think that I was the only one disappointed in it, though. The monkey bread disappeared without any prompting. So everyone else seemed to enjoy it just fine.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Don't Make Me Count to Three!

I've just finished reading a fantastic parenting book called Don't Make Me Count to Three. It was so good, I have to share. Trust me, you will appreciate this post.

My whole life I've been around a lot of young kids -- babysitting, cousins, church... I've seen a lot of different types of kids, and a lot of different parenting styles. I've seen some parents discipline in ways that really seemed to work, and others... not so much. I don't believe that this book is the only way to discipline, but there are so many profound truths that I think we, as parents, need to be teaching our kids. And, I am sorry to say that if I hadn't read this book, I would probably not have thought to use these tools.

There are so many aspects that I love about this book, and so I'll only share a few. But the main point the author makes is that the Bible tells us to "discipline and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord." As parents, we can't just discipline our kids without instructing them -- without telling them what they should be doing. If your child hits another kid out of anger, instead of just telling them that they shouldn't have struck out in physical violence, we should be teaching them how they ought to have handled their frustration. Kids - young kids especially - don't understand their own hearts half of the time. They know that what they did was wrong, but they don't know why they did it. It is up to us as their parents to help them understand their own hearts.

The author uses an analogy in the book that really resonated with me. She explains that when you are potty-training your dog, you might smack him on the leg and tell him that he did a bad thing when he does his business on the carpet in your house. So, the next time he has to go, he goes in the corner of the room - a less visible spot. But when you find it, you bring him over and rub his nose in it, telling him he is a bad dog. So the next time your dog has to go, he does it in a very private spot and then hides under the bed as he waits for you to find it.

The problem here is that you are telling your dog that he should not be going to the bathroom inside, but you are not teaching him where he should go. In the same way, without that instruction (the second part in the verse), a child will likely struggle with understanding the heart of the discipline.

The author mentions several worldly methods that many parents, even with the best of intentions, have fallen prey to. Tactics such as bribing, threatening, scolding, etc. The author makes the argument that our children should obey us because God tells them it is right. Not to get a lollipop, to avoid time-out, or any other reason. It is our job as parents to help shape and mold their hearts to be receptive to God's word, even at a young age -- especially at a young age.

Trust me when I say there is so much more to this book. Simply too much to write in a blog post without making it entirely too lengthy.

I'm not speaking from experience yet so don't think that I am preaching from a pedestal. But I think there are a lot of truths exposed in this book that we ought to be learning/remembering, so that we can be intentional in our parenting and disciplining.

I'll come back later to share how this all works on Nora. That journey will be interesting, I can already tell. My little peanut is already learning to exert her will. When seven laps around the kitchen table just isn't enough and she wants to keep practicing her walking, she crumples to the ground and throws a mighty fit. Right now, it's pretty darn cute actually. But I try very hard not to laugh (quite the task), because I know in just a little bit those tantrums will not be quite as darling.

Hence, I ordered a walker for her today to give mommy's back a break. :)

Here is the link to the book if you're interested: Don't Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

I had a friend over this morning to talk about photography - swapping stories and tips. Before she came over, I scoured my pantry for something to make since I knew that we would be hungry. I was in a Fall mood, so something with pumpkin sounded especially pleasing.

I found several recipes that required a yellow cake box mix which I didn't have (although, one of the many lessons I learned this morning is that I should always have several boxes of that cake mix! It was in 9/10 of the recipes I looked up!), but I finally found this recipe. A pumpkin cream cheese breakfast bread. Oh wow. If the picture itself didn't sell it, the scrumptious aroma coming from my oven sure did... but that's jumping ahead.

I had all the ingredients and so I set about making this only an hour before my friend was to arrive. If you read my post about the Andes Mint Chocolate Cake, you will begin to notice a trend. My spontaneous nature can bring a lot of unexpected joy to my life, to be sure. But on the other hand, my lack of planning almost always comes back to teach me a lesson. One that I fail to remember time and again, at least, where baking applies. :)

I followed this recipe step by step, but I was rushing. So when the recipe asked me to split to ingredients in half for two different bread pans (can I just note that this whole fiasco could have maybe been avoided if I had had two bread pans), I didn't stop to take the time to actually measure out half. Perhaps, if I had had two bread pans, I would have been able to see right away that I was putting way too much of the mixture into the pan. So then it was time to add the cream cheese part. Once I did, it was glaringly obvious that I had put too much in -- and I still had to layer it once more with more of the mixture, covering the cream cheese with more pumpkin bread. I knew just from looking at it that it was going to be bad once it hit the oven. But I didn't have time to fix it, and plus, the layers were already set. So I just forged ahead and hoped for the best.

Ten minutes in, it was already overflowing off the top and falling into a heap on my oven floor.

Of course, if you know me well, you would probably expect to see that picture. It would be more shocking if my experiment turned out exactly as it should. Needless to say, my kitchen is a mess and I should probably stop writing and go clean it up. But, as I am, I fully intend to enjoy a huge slice of this pumpkin bread. Because even if it looks atrocious, it tastes divinnnne.

Katie Vogel Media

Katie Vogel Media