Friday, May 31, 2013


This is the follow up post I promised about my baking adventures for the babies' first birthday party.  Four of the recipes I used I really liked.  Two of them I will never use again.  First let's start with the good stuff!

I have recently discovered silicone baking mats and I use them any time I bake cookies, or anything else for that matter.  I used to use parchment paper, but I find I prefer the silicone mats.  They're easy to clean, I throw mine in the dishwasher, and there's no waste.

Coconut Smoochies

These cookies are a coconut macaroon with a chocolate kiss on top.  I love the movie "Just Go With It" and decided to dub these cookies Coconut Smoochies after the coconut competition they have as the tie breaker.  I followed this recipe pretty much to the letter.  I did use less coconut than what the recipe calls for. I didn't need a full 4 cups for coating the cookies. I purchased three bags of coconut and only used two.  I think I used about 8 cups total. I also let the dough refrigerate for longer than an hour.  It it a very sticky dough and the colder it was, the easier it was to work into balls.

2 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cups butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon juice from a fresh orange
10 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided in to 6 cup and 4 cup portions
1 bag Hershey Kisses (48 pieces)

Step 1: In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Step 2: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, vanilla and orange juice and beat till smooth.

Step 3: In 1 cup increments, mix flour in to the butter mixture. Add the 6 cups flaked coconut and beat to combine.

Step 4: Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. While dough is chilling, remove wrappers from the Kisses.

Step 5: Preheat oven to 350. One at a time, scoop dough into 1.5" balls (about the size of a large walnut, roll between your palms, then roll in the bowl of remaining coconut (4 cups). Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet, at least an inch apart (cookies will spread slightly). A standard cookie sheet should accommodate a dozen cookies at a time. Bake 12-14 minutes, until the cookies puff and are very lightly browned.

Step 6: Remove from oven. Immediately press one Kiss into each cookie. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional minute.

Step 7: Remove pan from oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. With a thin spatula, gently move cookies on to a rack to finish cooling.

Mint Chocolate Chips

These are a cake cookie and super easy to make. I used Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix. The recipe calls for Toll House Mint and Chocolate chips. The problem with that is that those are a seasonal item and only available around Christmas. The first batch I made I used Andes baking bites. They worked really well. For the second batch I went to Country Kitchen SweetArt, a local baking store, and bought mint chips and mixed them with bittersweet chocolate chips. I did like the result of the second batch better.  If you don't have a local baking/cooking store, the Andes bits still work. I also wasn't able to find mint Oreos, but the store brand was available and worked just fine.

1 chocolate cake mix (
8 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups mint Oreo cookie chunks
1/2 c. chocolate and mint chips

Step 1. Whisk together the butter, egg, cream cheese, and vanilla. 

Step 2. Add half of the cake mix and mix well. Add the other half of the cake mix and cookie chunks and mix again. Stir in the chocolate mint pieces by hand.
Step 3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Step 4. Roll dough into 1 or 1 1/2 inch balls. Place on un-greased baking sheet or a Silpat. 

Step 5. Bake at 350* for 9 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Citrus Sugar Cookies

These were probably the most difficult cookie to make.  It's not a hard recipe, it's just time consuming.  It calls for the zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange.  The result is totally worth it, but it takes a little while.  The recipe calls for you to roll the cookies in a sugar and zest mix, press the cookies and then add more of the sugar mix. The first batch I made I followed the recipe to a T.  The cookie wound up flat and had a big glob of baked sugar on top.  The second time I didn't flatten the cookies and didn't add extra sugar.  The result was much better.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 orange, zested
1 lemon, zested
1 lime, zested

Step 1. In a small bowl, zest all the citrus. Remove about 2 tsp of zest and place in a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar to the 2 tsp of zest. Combine with a fork and set aside.

Step 2. In a mixing bowl, add butter and remaining 1 cup sugar. Beat for 1-2 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined. Add flour, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until combined. Slowly add in zest.
Step 3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll cookies into 3/4-1inch balls. Then roll them in the sugar/zest mixture, coating generously. Place ball on cookie sheet and repeat. 

Step 4. Using a flat bottom of a cup, press the ball slightly to form a disc. Repeat for all balls. I then pressed a little extra sugar on the tops of the cookies at this point (totally optional). 

Step 5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack.

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

The cream cheese pudding mixture on these is to die for! I would be lying if I said it wasn't eaten with a spoon.  I had every intention of piping this with a piping tip, but it didn't happen.  I made the mixture the day before and put it in a gallon ziploc bag.  I just cut the tip of the bag and piped it straight from there with no tip. Not fancy, but they still looked good. There was plenty left over so I froze it to use the next weekend.  It froze really well and was just as good once it was unfrozen.

33 Oreos, divided
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1 (3.4 oz) pkg cheesecake flavored instant pudding mix
30 mini Oreos

Step 1. In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip together cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. 

Step 2. Using a wire whisk, stir in cream, milk and instant pudding. Whisk mixture for about 2 - 3 minutes until very thick. 

Step 3. Freeze mixture for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place 3 large Oreos in a ziploc bag, seal bag and crush Oreos finely using a rolling pin (alternately you can do this in a food processor). 

Step 4. Stir crushed Oreos into cheesecake mixture. 

Step 5. Pipe cheesecake mixture over 30 large Oreos, then top each one with a mini Oreo. For best result serve immediately (store in refrigerator if not used immediately).

I did also make no bake cookies, the Food Network recipe, and chocolate chip cookies, the America's Test Kitchen recipe.  I will not be using either of those recipes again.  

The no bake cookies didn't set up well.  I will be sticking with the recipe I have from 7th grade Home Ec. 

I usually love America's Test Kitchen recipes.  I own 6 of their cook books and most of the recipes are winners.  This one was not.  I will be sticking with the Toll House recipe from now on. I did use their quick vanilla frosting recipe for the babies' smash cakes and it turned out really well. A certain future sister in law of mine, not naming names, was eating the extra icing from the mixing bowl.

All of the cookies were frozen after baking and taken out the night before the party.  They were all just as good the day of the party as they were the day they were made.  I just stored them in gallon freezer bags.

Happy baking!!

Below are the links to the blogs where I found the recipes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I know we did even if the weather didn't cooperate as well as it could have.  That's Indiana though.  

Is it possible to photo bomb your own blog? If so, it's about to happen.  I take boat loads of pictures all the time. So many of the ones from this weekend are screaming to be shared. 

We of course headed to the lake for the weekend.  Layla was super sweet on the trip up and I was able to snap this photo on our drive. 


Unfortunately her sweetness didn't last long.  Due to her unwillingness to get along with the neighbor dogs, I have temporarily banished her from weekends at the lake. Poor Tyson has to pay the price too. We decided to crash in The Fort on Saturday night since we had to bring the dogs back anyway.

We headed back up Sunday morning and had a really great day of fun in the sun.  We had some adult beverages, went for a boat ride, played in the front yard and had a bonfire. 

During the kids' limited nap time we took advantage and enjoyed some cocktails. Kool-Aid ice cubes in vodka and sprite, the perfect festive drink for Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.  It's delicious too.

In addition to roasting traditional marshmallows we also roasted marshmallow creme dipped strawberries.  They were delicious, however I didn't think about the fact that I wouldn't be able to chew the strawberries thanks to my shiny new mouth accessories.

We woke up Monday morning to cold and rainy weather, so we stayed in our pjs.  The babies didn't sleep well overnight or for naps, so we planned an early return for after lunch.  It felt like the longest morning ever trying to keep H happy. My little man is not happy if he doesn't get enough sleep. B was super happy when she discovered the pinwheels. 

The kids were glad to be home and have free reign of the house. They are not fans of being told no.  It was great to see family and friends this weekend, but I'm glad to be home too.  I know it will get easier for the kids to stay other places, but right down it's a big pain in the butt. There's no place like home.

Thank you to all servicemen and women past, present and future.  Happy Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Year in Pictures

I saw this idea on Pinterst, surprise, while I was still pregnant.  For the original they used a chalk board wall and a white chair.  I have neither of those, so a leather sofa and hand drawn months on card stock it is.  I'm pretty sure this collage will be making it to a large canvas.

I can't decide if I want to keep doing the months this way or if I should switch it up.  I've been thinking maybe now that they can support themselves well and crawl/stand on everything, it may be time to take monthly pictures in the sac.
Brooke in the Lovesac at 1.5 months old.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mommy, Your Teeth Look Funny

This is how my morning was spent.

Yes that's right, I now have braces, again. I had braces for over two years in middle and high school.  I got them off during my sophomore year and had perfectly aligned teeth until just a few years ago.  I'm not sure what started it, but over the last 5 years my teeth have been gradually shifting.  About 18 months ago it really started bothering me, and now it's finally time to correct it. I of course stopped wearing my retainers and lost them while I was still in high school.  

Now for the next 14-18 months my mouth gets to feel like its 14 again.  I wish I could have done Invisalign, but it wasn't an option for my teeth.  So here I sit, drinking an 802 hoping it will numb some of the discomfort that comes with the first few days of wearing braces.  

Brooke has a fascination with my mouth. She loves to touch my lips and stick her fingers in my mouth anytime she can.  She noticed the braces almost immediately upon me returning home.  She touched them and giggled over and over again.  Harrison either hasn't noticed or doesn't care. 

Today on the way home verses me in 1996-1998.  

By the way, the list of foods I have to avoid for the next year totally blows.  Pizza crust, tortilla chips, taffy/chewy candy, popcorn.  I am going to have to find ways around these limitations, because I might die without chips and salsa for a whole year.  

August 2014 is my must be off by date.  If they aren't straight by then, I'll be pulling off the bonds myself with a pair of pliers.  And on that thought, it's time for more Advil and another drink.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First Birthday Party

Party weekend started at 9am Saturday morning when my future sister in law woke up and got a big smack on the tush from yours truly. We spent the day getting things ready and hanging out with the kids.

That evening we hosted game night for a group of our friends as a sort of going away party for my brother and his partner.  We played Cards Against Humanity and drank too much beer. I set a 12am bedtime for myself so I wouldn't have a repeat of last weekend.  A hangover at your kids' birthday party? Not so much.

The next morning I cleaned up empty beer bottles and pizza boxes, always a sign of a fun time the night before, and tried finishing up the last few things that needed done for the birthday party.  No matter how much time I give myself, I always seem to be rushing around to get things done before guests arrive.

I absolutely loved how their party turned out! It was a little too much excitement for them, but once they got adjusted to it, they did ok.  They were a bit lot overstimulated. 

The milk and cookies table.  We served 6 different cookies, 4 types of milk, and Oreo cheesecake bites.  We also had Jimmy John's platters for those people who didn't want to eat just cookies.

I decorated their smash cakes to look like chocolate chip cookies.

We have an eat in kitchen, not exactly enough space to seat 30 people.  We set up shop in the garage and used banquet table rolls to create a back drop so people weren't staring at rubbermaid tubs filled with baby stuff all afternoon.

I am seen here modeling a milk mustache.  We also had chocolate milk mustaches.

Boo loved the balloons.  I'm pretty sure they were her favorite part of the party.

The party hats were an epic fail.  They ripped them off right away. They looked super cute for the three seconds they were on their heads.

Their shirts tuned out really well, and I LOVE Brooke's tutu.  I'm not sure what she'll need to wear it for, but I will find another reason for her to wear it.

They weren't nearly as into their cakes as I had hoped.  No one went face first into it.  Brooke had a couple excited bursts of energy/giggles while eating cake and Harrison decided to cry a couple times.

Little man of course sat with me for gifts and Boo Boo was with her daddy.

The babies toddlers and I were completely exhausted by the end of the day.  It was so great to see our family and friends, especially those who came in from out of town. We are so lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

I had a few party attendees ask about recipes for some of the cookies I served.  I will do a follow up post about my baking adventures for their party.  One recipe I won't use again and a couple other ones needed a little tweak.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Only 3 more days till the 3 day holiday weekend! Party central at Hamilton Lake!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Happy Birthday H and B

Holy moly, where does the time go? My sweet babies are 1 today.  The last year has been amazing watching them grow, hit milestones and develop personalities.  I am so fortunate that they call me mom. Happy birthday, little munchkins!

Harrison was in quite the mood today, so he required a prop during pictures.  He would not give up the tape dispenser.  

When I tried to get a few pictures without the tape dispenser, this happend. Hilarious, but not quite the picture I'm looking for.

Yeah, you can have it back. 

I made the blueberry pancakes as planned, but made banana pancakes for this morning and crafted a pancake peanut butter cake.  While they liked their breakfast cakes, they were more into their berries.  Are we sure they're my kids? Berries over carbs?

They both enjoyed watching the candle while I sang "Happy Birthday" to each of them.

We did fit in our trip to the zoo.  They were both all about feeding the giraffes again.  This time they got to feed Zara, and we let them hold the lettuce.  They were so mesmerized. 

We took a spin on the carousel for the first time today.  They both seemed to really enjoy it. I see many rides in our future. Hopefully not back to back to back rides, or mommy may get sick. 

I let them each pick out a stuffed toy in the gift shop.  Harrison picked the peacock and Brooke was all about the honey badger.  Honey badger don't care!

Now they're sleeping and I can have a Corona to celebrate the adult way, drinking while steam cleaning the carpets. 

Happy birthday my loves!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Eve Babies

At this time last year we were getting all checked into the hospital for our induction.  I had spent half the day crying and the other half working on getting everything ready to go. 

Today was spent working on getting things ready for their party.  Harrison had a major meltdown in the store and of course everyone had to comment that I had my hands full.  Yes, I know, now move out of my way so I can get this screaming kid out of the store.  

We got the babies an early birthday present in the form of some art work for their room.  I love these prints and think they're so perfect for boy/girl twins. 
Tomorrow morning I'm planning to make some birthday blueberry pancakes for H and B. A trip to the zoo may be in order, assuming they nap well. Pancakes and the zoo? Sounds like a pretty good birthday to me. Happy Birthday, Harrison and Brooke!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Weekend in Chicago

We packed up and hit the road Friday morning just in time for the babies' morning nap.  They fell asleep right away but only slept for 30 minutes. That left us with three and a half hours of drive time.  Thankfully there were no meltdowns.  As long as they were being entertained 100% of the time, they were happy. We made it to Evanston just in time for naps, which thankfully they didn't fight.

On Friday night Michelle and I wen't out for an evening with her bridal party.  We went to a really awesome bar called The Violet Hour. If was great to have some cocktails and get to know the other ladies who will be in the wedding.
We froze our butts off waiting for the train to get into the city.

After the swanky bar it was time for something more low key.  Beer and Tacos from Big Star Tacos. This was my first night out drinking since before the babies.  While I handled myself very well the night of, I had the hangover from hell the next day. It didn't help that I only got three hours of sleep before the babies were ready to get up for the day. It took me until 2pm before I was feeling normal again. There went any plans to do something that afternoon.  

We headed out to my older brothers' house in Oswego for a going away shin dig.  He and his partner are moving to Denver in a couple weeks.  After having the dogs cats at M & M's run away from her for two days, Brooke was glad to meet some cats that liked her. She of course called them dogs.  She was so happy she even shared her food with Gibson.

On Sunday the babies and I walked down to Starbucks for some breakfast and coffee while everyone else was still asleep. It was nice to be out and about before the town woke up. The few people we did see were so nice and wished me a Happy Mother's Day.

After morning naps we decided to go for a walk around Evanston before it was time to head back to Indiana.  We went down to the beach so the babies could put their feet in the sand.  It was only 50 degrees, but the sun was out so the sand was nice and warm.  After that we headed to Andy's, a frozen custard joint, where the babies had their first taste of frozen custard.  It was love at first bite.

We headed home at afternoon nap time, and again they only slept 30 minutes. Just long enough to get us out of the city.  They were much fussier on the way home, but we survived and made it home with only one stop on the way. When we got home, they went to their toy box and it was like playing with toys they'd never seen before. They were definitely happy to be home.

I think they might miss this.

Happy belated Mother's Day to all of the moms out there.  I hope your all had a wonderful day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Road Trip

In three days we are going on our first road trip with the babies.  We've mastered the hour long trek to the lake, but a four hour drive to Chicago is a whole other ball game.  I've been reading a few blogs with travel advice so I'm hoping we're prepared.

Packing for two almost one year olds is kind of ridiculous.  My parents say that packing for an overnight with a baby is like packing if you were moving to Alaska.  Multiple that times two. It's a lot of stuff.  I am still suffering from "mommy brain" and forget everything, so lists are essential.  I usually just make a note on my phone, but a list this extensive requires a hard copy.  

That's just stuff for them.  That doesn't even touch items for Rob and I.  How can two little people need so much stuff for 3 days?

Our plan is to leave at morning nap time on Friday and drive back at bedtime on Sunday.  I'm hoping we'll only have to make one stop on the way up. Is this unrealistic? Maybe, but I'm hopeful.  The UPS guy will be dropping off activity trays and Color Wonder packs tomorrow.  I'm hoping between those, lunch time and a little Disney action we can power through.  

If anyone has any advice on road trips with babies, please share.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

We Love the Zoo

We went to the zoo last year with my nephew from San Francisco who is two years older than H and B.  They were only a month and a half old, so needless to say they didn't get much out of it. The most exciting part of the trip for them was nursing during the train ride.

I have been looking forward to taking them to the zoo for months. We purchased our season pass a few weeks ago and are planning to go at least once a week.

Our first visit was just the three of us. They were interested in some of the larger animals and super interested in the other kids. They were happy to snack in their stroller and take in the sites.

They were both in awe of the ostriches.

The giraffes were cool too.

The super friendly goat drew the biggest smiles.

We went again the next day so daddy could join us. They got to get out of the stroller which they were definitely excited about.

Both the leopard and tigers were very active.  Brooke called the leopard a dog.  They didn't much care about the big "dogs." Daddy and I enjoyed the big cats even if they didn't.

The petting zoo was an even bigger hit when they were actually able to get out to the stroller.

Of course we fed the giraffes too.

On a completely unrelated subject, I discovered a great water pitcher at Target similar to the one in the link, and I'm in love.  Now I have delicious spa water every time I open the fridge.