Wednesday, October 28, 2009


It's taking all my willpower to not dive into these mini loaves of pumpkin bread I baked for our church's Harvest Bazaar bake sale this weekend.

Doesn't it look yummy? It smells divine.

I still have a loaf of banana bread to make tonight, too, and tomorrow I have to bake two, maybe three pies. Plus I have the treats to get ready for the kiddo and kidlet's daycare Halloween party, but those are just cheese & crackers and grapes, so those won't take too much time.

We're heading into my favorite time of year - the Holiday season - where baked goods abound. My waist may not thank me, but I can worry about that in January.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Patch!

We took a nice little trip to the Pumpkin Patch on Sunday, something we'd never done before with the kids (or ever, for that matter).

We had a great time!

There were lots of pumpkins of all different sizes

And pony rides

 And pony ride watching

And tractor driving (even if it was the wrong color)

And a neato barn

And a spooky old tree

After wandering around a while, we finally picked out our pumpkins

And loaded them up in a wagon

And paid for them so we could take them home!

The kids had a wonderful time running around and looking at everything (despite having been to both grandparents' farms quite a few times). The kiddo was very brave and went on a pony ride (he's a very cautious personality). The kidlet was just having a ball trying to walk everywhere and would pick herself right back up when she fell and start walking again. She even climbed into one of the little red wagons and was standing up in it. Tenacious and not cautious, that one. She will definitely give us gray hair!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

We took a trip to the Pumpkin Patch yesterday and came back with five lovely pumpkins (one for each of us, and the dog).

I told the kiddo we could only carve two into Jack O'Lanterns, which we did. I haven't carved pumpkins in ages, and I'd forgotten how messy (but fun!) it is.

I decided to go all Martha Stewart, though, and save the pumpkin seeds for roasting. It actually turned out to be easier than I thought it would.

First, we (and by we, I mean me) separated all the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin guts.

After that messy process was done, I took them inside to wash them off.

Don't they look all nice and clean now?

Then, in my big jelly roll pan, I drizzled about 1T of EVOO and spread it around with my fingers to cover the bottom of the pan.

After I did that, I added the pumpkin seeds and tried to flatten them out into one layer as best I could. Then, I drizzed some more EVOO on top and sprinkled about 2t of kosher salt. Then I mixed all that mess up with my hands and respread it on the pan. (I don't have a photo of this part because my camera battery died and I charged it while the seeds were roasting in order to get a photo of the final product.)

The pan went into a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes. At 10 minutes or so, I kind of shook/stirred/respread the seeds around to make sure they were all evenly roasting.

I didn't think the seeds were quite done at 25 minutes (I had a lot of seeds, plus they were pretty wet) so I gave them an extra 3 minutes in the oven. That was just about perfect, because this is how they turned out.

Very tasty! 

Though these guys may not agree. 

i heart faces - week 42

The theme this week on iheartfaces is Halloween Dress-up!

I was never really big into dressing up for Halloween, as I posted about here, we always came up with our own costumes when growing up, usually cobbled together from whatever clothes we had in our dress-up box.

So when the kiddo was born, I decided he was going to have a proper costume. And, as always, Grandma (my mom) came to the rescue! She whipped up this super cute Monkey costume in about a weekend. We <3 Grandma and her mad sewing skillz!

His daycare provider at the time took Halloween off to be with her family, so the kiddo and I hung out together that day. We stopped by my office to see everyone so he could woo them with the cuteness. It's hard to believe that cute little monkey is almost 4 now, and is going to be Spiderman for Halloween this year. How fast they grow!

Head on over to iheartfaces for more cute, spooky and just-plain-fun Halloween Dress-up photos!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

It's a gloomy fall day today - dreary and rainy and gray and wet. The kind of day that just screams Comfort Food. So I decided I was going to make Macaroni and Cheese for supper tonight.

I've never been a fan of the boxed, electric yellow stuff. I don't know if it's because my sisters would eat it all the time while growing up (that and potato buds, you know, dehydrated potato flakes? Barf.) but I just couldn't stand it.

Then, the hub and I went to NYC a few years ago with some friends, and went to a bar where one of our friends ordered some mac and cheese as an appetizer. I had a bite and have been in love ever since.

I searched around a little on the internets, but finally found (and slightly modified) a recipe that comes pretty darn close to what we had in NYC.

The Cast Of Characters:
10oz elbow macaroni (or shape of choice)
1/4 c butter
3 T flour
2 c milk
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz sour cream
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t garlic salt
1 T dijon mustard
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c shredded pepper or monterey jack cheese
1 pkg cooked, diced ham (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring pot of slightly salted water to boil.

Add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes, until al dente, drain.

In a saucepan (I use a stock pot) melt the butter over medium heat.

Stir in the 3 T of flour

Cook for about 1 minute, until smooth and bubbly, stirring occasionally.

Mix in milk,

cream cheese, sour cream

salt, pepper, and mustard (the mustard is what gives it the yummy, slightly spicy flavor).

Mix well and continue cooking until sauce is thickened.

Now, because we have to have some sort of protein (preferably in meat form) at every meal, I like to add some cooked, diced ham. You can leave it out, too, it's just as tasty.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce.

And then add the shredded cheeses.

Mmmm..... cheese........

Mix well

and add the diced ham.

Make sure they're all combined happily into one big cheesy, pasta-y, meaty mess.

And then pour into a 2 qt casserole dish. This is Corningware I received as a wedding present 6 years ago, and think I've been able to use exactly twice. Scratch that, make that three times now. Woo hoo!

Sprinkle some Panko bread crumbs (about 1/4-1/2 c, just enough to barely cover the top) and parsley (optional) on top. I just discovered Panko bread crumbs. How did I not know there was such goodness on this earth?

Pop it into the 400-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is nice and brown and the sides are bubbly. My oven runs hot, so I put it in for 16ish minutes. Perfect!

Pair it with your favorite side (yes, those are brussels sprouts) and you're good to go!

This is probably the only mac and cheese I'll ever eat.

Here's the recipe again.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

10oz elbow macaroni (or shape of choice)
1/4 c butter
3 T flour
2 c milk
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz sour cream
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t garlic salt
1 T dijon mustard
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c shredded pepper or monterey jack cheese
1 pkg cooked, diced ham (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a pot of slightly salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes, until al dente, drain. In a saucepan (I use a stock pot) over medium heat, melt butter and stir in flour. Cook for about 1 minute, until smooth and bubbly, stirring occasionally. Mix in milk, cream cheese, sour cream, salt(s), pepper, and mustard. Stir well and continue cooking until sauce is thickened. Add cooked pasta and shredded cheeses (and ham if so desired). Mix well and pour into 2qt casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/4-1/2 c bread crumbs and bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and heated through.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

As always, I'm running a little late. Mom's birthday was actually Sunday.

Inspired by my sister (okay, so I'm copying her), I'm dedicating this post to our mother.

How do you describe someone who has taught you basically everything you know? Who has been there for you when you need her, and sometimes even when you think you don't (but you do, and she knows that because she's your mom and moms know everything). Who is willing to drop everything at a moment's notice and come down to help clean or babysit or bake or sew or whatever. Who let you play Beauty Parlor on her when you were 8 and sat patiently while you applied frosted blue eyeshadow up to her eyebrows or accidentally got a touch close to her ears when you were practicing with the curling iron.

That would be our mom.

We are blessed with a fantastic, talented mom.

A mom who can sew wonderfully, and made all the bridesmaids dresses for my sisters' and my weddings. Who taught us all to sew, and is the reason all three of us have sewing machines today.

A mom who taught us how to cook and bake from an early age, so I now know how to make a proper pie crust and love to bake cookies from scratch.

A mom who oversaw roughly 16 years worth of 4-H projects from my sisters and me. Who volunteered in foodstands and as a leader. Who taught us how to hang wallpaper and refinish furniture.

A mom who inspired a love of reading in all of us as well.

A mom who loves and supports us unconditionally. Who sits back and lets us make seemingly stupid mistakes/decisions for ourselves but is right there when we need her.

After having both the kiddo and the kidlet, my mom came and stayed with us for a few days. She was invaluable - helping clean and cook for us and taking care of us (mostly me and the new babe).

Mom and the kiddo.

Mom and the kidlet.

Thank you, mom, for being such a wonderful mom and role model. We are blessed and love you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

i heart faces - pink week

This week it's all about Pink on iheartfaces. The challenge was to show something that represents Pink Week to you.

Like everyone, I've been touched by breast cancer. My dad's sister had a round with it a decade ago, some very dear internet friends have battled the cancer beast. One is NED for nearly five years, another is still doing everything she can to beat her cancer beast (both of these women were diagnosed in their 30s!). My photo isn't as touching or endearing as some of the other photos on there, but I'm still proud to post it.

I call this "Self-Portrait in Pink" and I took it right before I left the house around 7:20 am to head to the 5k for breast cancer I walked in a week ago. (FYI, there were more than 12,000 registrants for the race and it raised more than $233,490 for free mammograms and other breast-care services for local women in need. AWESOME!).

I rarely have photos of me, and self portraits are even more rare (because they never seem to turn out well - hello chin!), but sometimes it's fun to put a face to the person writing all these words (right?)

So here I am, in all my early morning, bleary-eyed glory. Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person?

It was so worth it. The walk was an incredible experience for me and I'm so glad I could do it this year. I even found out that I placed second in my age bracket for walkers! How cool is that! Some day I hope to do the 3-day walk.

Please, please stop on by iheartfaces and see what Pink Week means to everyone there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's official, we have a walker!

The kidlet has been taking more and more steps on her own lately. She's even almost walked across the room a few times (as long as she's holding something in her hands and is distracted from the fact she's actually walking!)

Video proof from tonight:

She was walking towards the dog (which she can say, kind of) and the hub and was rewarded for her efforts by sloppy, slobbery, germ-infested dog kisses (which she loves - I just prefer not to think about it).

She even decided to go for round two five minutes later.

It's so fun to watch her wobbly, tentative steps (which we affectionally call the Drunk Monkey walk). I'm not sure if I'm ready to have another biped child, though. She's already wicked fast when she wants to be and has a tendency to get into trouble. If we turn our backs even for a second, she's headed straight for the stairs. She loves to play in the sink in the bathroom, and has figured out how to climb up her brother's step stool to reach the water.

Oh Lordy, she will be the reason I go gray, I just know it!

i heart faces - week 40

I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it!

The theme this week on iheartfaces is Excited!! (yes, the two exclamation points are totally necessary).

My entry this week is a photo I took of the kidlet when we were at the IL's farm for Easter. I don't know what had her all giddy, but she was smiling up a storm and just so animated.

This photo makes me laugh every time I look at it. Her expression is just priceless and the big, open-mouthed, toothless grin is great. The fact she has a touch of the crazy eyes makes it even better. Man, I love having all these silly photos of my kids with which to embarrass them when they get older. :)

Hop on over to iheartfaces to check out more great excited photos. You won't regret it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It was a great morning

to walk a 5K. A little chilly, but I battled that with long underwear, lots of layers and cute pink scarf, hat and mittens.

It was an absolutely amazing experience. Including the late registrations this morning, there were almost 12,000 entrants. I'd say it was a good mix of runners and walkers, plus there was a 1 mile fun walk that was geared towards families.

They had opening ceremonies about 20 minutes before the race started, had some speakers and then a lovely prayer and song led by some hospital employees. Each year the race hands out a certain color of shirt for entrants to wear - this year it was brown. All you could see for hundreds of yards was brown shirts. It was so cool!

I finished my walk in right around 40 minutes. I was definitely power walking, and my legs are going to pay for it later! How sad is it that I can almost walk a 5K as fast as I can run it?

After I went through the finish like, I walked back to where I'd parked my car. It happened to be on the same street as the last leg of the race, so I stood and watched the rest of the walkers go by. Of course, after the race was done I remembered I'd brought my camera and left it in my car. I did take a self-portrait before I left for the race, but I'm planning on using that for iheartfaces Pink week. So that will have to wait.

I would definitely do this race again, maybe even run it one year! Some day I hope to do the 3-day walk, too. How amazing would that be?!?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's only October 10

and we woke up to flurries and a slight dusting of snow.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, it is the Midwest after all. Anything can happen here when it comes to weather.

So tonight the expected low is 18. Brrrrrrr!

I'm going to have to pull out the down comforter and shake it out. And put the flannel sheets on all the beds.

And tomorrow morning I'm going to be braving the cold and walking in a 5K

I won't be running as I haven't run since the 5K my sister and I ran in July, but I can walk a 5K no problem. A friend and I had signed up to walk the race two years ago, but it got rained out. I couldn't do it last year because I had just had the kidlet. I'm walking solo because the said friend had a prior commitment, but that's okay.

I'm really looking forward to it. I went and picked up my race packet this morning and discovered my tag number was 10,700. That means there are more than 10,000 people signed up for this race. That's awesome! It's a run/walk race, and this is the first year men have been able to sign up for the race as well. I really kind of liked the idea of it being women-only, but if it raises more money for breast cancer research, then heck, let dogs run too!

I'll try and take pictures. The race starts at 8:00 am, and I should be there at least 30 minutes before the start. I may not be pretty, or awake at that time, but I'll be there. And I'll be wearing my snazzy new hot pink stocking cap and hot pink gloves to ward off the cold. :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Missing: one willpower

I seem to have fallen off the exercise/good eating wagon. This isn't a surprise, it happens every now and then. But there's one major culprit:

My fall candy mix. A bag of candy corn (I like the "Indian" corn with the brown tops), a small bag of M'n'M's and a jar of dry roasted peanuts. Divine! It's the best combination of salty, sweet, chocolate, crunchy and chewy. I've even figured out the perfect ratio of peanuts (2-3), chocolate (2 M'n'M's) and candy corn (1).

Unfortunately, I've been snacking on it for the past week and I'm starting to notice it's catching up to me.

It doesn't help that with sick kiddos, birthday parties and yucky weather, I haven't exactly been exercising as regularly as I had been.

I mean, come on, this is what the weather has been like this entire week:
Cloudy, rainy, gloomy and chilly. Despite my best intentions, I haven't gotten up early to exercise like I have planned in my head because it's so dreary and chilly in the mornings and bed is so warm and comfortable!

But I haven't worked so hard the entire year to just stop and let it all go to pot. So I'll take my little break, enjoy some time off, and then get back to it.

Falling off the wagon is only a setback if you refuse to jump back on.