Thomas’s Newborn Photo Session

I couldn’t wait to get Thomas’s newborn pictures taken.  Holy sweetness.  There is nothing like a newborn baby.  The smell, the tiny toes, the barely-there hair.  Our photographer Erin came to our house on a Friday morning a few weeks ago (before our big boy went back to school) and set up our newborn shoot right there at home.  This is the best thing ever – we never had to leave the house!  Having the pictures taken at home also made for a very personal shoot, sharing bits and pieces of the home we’ve made for both of our little guys.  It was just so very special.

For Andrew, I totally themed out the pictures and they were precious.  For Thomas, I didn’t really think about theming the photos because I was busy running around a 4 year old in New Orleans summer heat.  When photo day came, I was like…um, what am I going to do with these photos?  Thankfully, Erin knew exactly what to do.  She pulled props out of our nursery and made it happen.  Our dining room rug became a great photo backdrop.  The basket that houses our extra blankets added texture to some of the shots.  And of course, Andrew popped into some of the shots using the rocking chair, his favorite place in Thomas’s room.  Here’s some of the sweet shots from our peanut’s first photo shoot. 

Mexican Chicken Soup

Mexican Chicken SoupWe ate terribly when I had Andrew because I couldn’t muster the energy to cook anything.  This time around, I was determined not to survive on fast food and frozen pizza during those first few postpartum weeks.

My mom and I planned to put together a few freezer meals about a week before I was due for Thomas, but little peanut had other plans and arrived early!  So a few days after I got home from the hospital, I camped out at the kitchen table while mom did most of the work putting a few meals together.  And by a few, I really mean 27.  Yes, we put together 27 meals!  Thankfully, I have a chest freezer outside to store all of this in.

One of our favorite meals was a chicken soup filled with delicious Mexican flavors.  My husband is hard to please, and he absolutely loved it.  I know we will be making this soup again in the future, with fall on it’s way.

Crockpot Mexican Chicken Soup

Mexican Chicken Soup
Serves 4
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound carrots, peeled and diced
  2. 1 small yellow onion, diced (about one cup)
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  5. 1 cup tomato juice
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin
  7. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  8. 1 teaspoon chili powder
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. Juice from 1 lime
  11. 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  12. 4 cups chicken broth
If Freezing Before Cooking
  1. Put all ingredients (except chicken broth) in a good quality freezer bag.
  2. Remove as much as air as you can, seal the bag, and lay flat to freeze.
Day of Cooking
  1. Add all ingredients (including chicken broth) to the crockpot.
  2. Cook on "low" for 6 hours.
  3. Shred chicken with a fork and serve.
Adapted from New Leaf Wellness
Adapted from New Leaf Wellness
The OMG Life http://www.theomglife.com/

Thomas’s Adventure Themed Nursery Reveal

For my first son, I was so excited to be a mother that I began nesting very early.  Andrew’s nursery was completely designed and ready to go when I was five months pregnant.  This time around, it wasn’t so easy!  First, I thought that the boys might share a bedroom, but that quickly disappeared when I felt guilty about making my big boy give up “his space.”  We decided to turn our guest room into a nursery, but then the biggest challenge was deciding what theme I wanted to go with.  It was so hard to choose the bedding, decor, and overall look of the room this time around.  I don’t know why, but I found it much harder to make decisions during pregnancy number two.

After a quick chat with a good friend and a lot of Pinterest-ing, I decided upon an adventure theme with gray, aqua, metallics and wood.  The next step in the plan was to paint the walls a very light mint green color, which is hard to see in the photos but is actually so light and fresh.  It gave the room a great clean palette to start building decorations around.

I didn’t want to choose a room that was already pre-designed for us.  Instead, I wanted to piece together things I loved to make it all work in one room.  I chose his bedding from Babies-R-Us after looking at what felt like a million different quilts and bedding sets with arrows, teepees, foxes, bears…you name it.  I just loved the cute little fox on this quilt and the color scheme was beautiful as well.  From there, I went to Hobby Lobby and found the wall decor that would hang over his bed – a big, distressed letter “T” and some gold arrows.  While I was there, I stumbled upon these cute little prints of a fox and a bear dressed in aztec-wear, and I just had to snatch them up because they matched perfectly with the bedding theme!  boys nursery, adventure theme, nursery adventure theme

There’s a great little alcove in the room that seemed to scream “changing area.”  Adding aqua baskets for organization on the first shelf of our changing table was first on the list because storage for Thomas’s diapers and extras was a must.  I found the fancy safety pin at Hobby Lobby and knew it would look great in that space.  Adding a hanging pendant light from Amazon to give us some light during those late-night changes made a great finishing touch.

The little play area is going to be a work in progress as Thomas grows.  I started with a cute basket with arrows from K-mart for all of his toys.  Right now, there aren’t very many but I’m sure that will change!  Then, I ordered some wooden spice racks from Ikea (because we don’t have an Ikea close by..booo…) and my hubby attached them to the wall for our little guy’s books.  We added a bold striped rug in front of the dresser and changed all of the pulls on the drawers to give it a more rustic feel.

quote, peter pan, little boys room

The biggest piece of art in the room was actually made by Moi!  The electrical panel to the entire house is located on the wall in his room.  It seems to be the craziest place to put a panel like that and also makes for a great big eye sore.  Since it’s so oddly shaped, nothing I found was big enough to cover it up.   I bought the canvas from Hobby Lobby and painted this quote on it from Peter Pan.  Bonus: it pairs with a hand-painted map of Neverland given to us and painted by one of my dearest friends.

Overall, I’m so pleased with how the room turned out.  There are a few little things here and there I’d like to do, like organize his closet, but the room was ready for when our little peanut came home, which was really important to us.  How do you like it?

baby boy nursery, adventure nurserybaby boy nursery, adventure theme nurseryadventure theme nursery, nursery decor

A Sweet Little Wreath for A Sweet Little Reese

My very best friend in high school and my long-time dance duet partner and I were pregnant at the same time, due only two weeks apart from each other.  We live a state away from each other, but it’s not TOO bad of a drive…says the woman who hates to drive long distances.  But I digress…

When it came time to have her baby shower, I knew I wanted to be the one to throw it.  Who cares that I was 8 months pregnant at the time?  I knew I could make it happen!  So, her mom and I got together and planned out the whole shindig, complete with quite a few craft projects by me.  I’m going to do a whole post on how I styled the shower, but for now, feast your eyes on this sweet little number.

nursery wreath, Baby wreath, hospital doorI made this wreath for Miss Reese’s hospital door and also used it as door decoration for the baby shower.  It took about 3 hours in total to do the entire project since every piece of tulle is tied individually, but it was a great time to catch up on House of Cards on Netflix.  Plus I was pre-baby number 2, so I was doing a whole lot of sittin’ anyway.  Here’s the supply list:

  • 1 14″ White Styrofoam Wreath (I got mine at Hobby Lobby here.)
  • Wooden letters
  • 4 rolls of 6″ by 25 yd white tulle
  • 2 rolls of 6″ by 25 yd pink glitter tulle
  • Paper Flowers (I got mine at Hobby Lobby here.)
  • Gold spray paint
  • Gold Glitter glue

The first step was to cut the tulle in strips long enough to tie onto the wreath.  I didn’t use a ruler because, well…I didn’t want to have to bend over a ruler with a big ‘ole pregnant belly.  Instead, I pinched the end of the tulle with my hand, pulled it to my elbow and cut it.  This gave me a little under 12″ for the first strip, and then I used it as a guide for each additional strip.  I tied each strip onto the wreath and double knotted it to ensure it stayed on the wreath – just a regular tie, nothing fancy.  I trimmed around the edges when I was done to make sure it looked even all the way around.IMG_4980

The next part of the process was to make the letters look fancy.  I had an antique gold spray paint that I used to give a little color to the brown wooden letters.  I didn’t worry about it being perfect because the party had a few rustic touches here and there.  When it was dry, I painted some gold glitter glue onto each letter, again not worrying about perfection.  I used hot glue to attach the letters to the wreath when they were completely dry.  (Ok, maybe I didn’t wait until they were completely dry, but I was pregnant and impatient!)  I also added the flowers to the wreath while I had the glue gun ready.  A little tip from my singed fingers to yours: Make SURE you have low-temp glue sticks and glue gun.   Your fingers will thank you.

We hung the wreath on the door for Miss Reese’s baby shower, and Mommy Gabby added the sweetest little touch to the bottom – a custom sign to display her birth details at the hospital.  You can hang this in the middle of the wreath or on the bottom, like we did.  We used a small canvas, but a piece of foam core board would also work.  It’s important to have something that’s light but with enough weight to hang on the wreath.  Then, she wrote out Date, Time, Weight, and Length with blanks to fill in once the baby is born.  The last step was to add a piece of pink ribbon to attach it to the wreath and the pink edges around the canvas itself.  Ours is actually done with pink duct tape, but you can use washi tape, ribbon, or any other similar edging material.  I was pretty proud of how it came out!  Here’s what the finished product looked like:Nursery wreath, hospital door wreath, baby wreathThe best thing about this wreath is that it can be made to suit any color scheme or party theme.  It was super easy to make and not very time consuming.  I really enjoyed making this project for a dear friend of mine for her sweet little bundle of joy.  Who knows…maybe one day when Reese and Thomas (my new little one) are grown up, we will be making one for their bridal shower?  Ha ha!

Until next time, ya’ll!

 

 

 

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Done Before the Second Baby

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.55.13 PMThe first time around, I was prepared over-prepared.  I had my bag packed a month before he was born.  I had my nursery designed and finished in May, and he was born in October.  I read up on the latest and greatest in baby technology, took classes in breastfeeding and prenatal yoga, and discussed my birth plan with my husband and the doctor.  I was ready and couldn’t wait for my first little one.

The second time around, I wasn’t over-prepared.  In fact, I only got prepared a couple of weeks (uh…the weekend) before he was born.  The last pictures were hung on the nursery wall at the last minute.  I didn’t have new tubing for my breast pump ordered.  What was I going to pack in my bag again?  It was, I felt, a stressful mess.  But now, three weeks later, here’s five things I wish I would have done before the peanut was born…

  1. Enlist more help.  I didn’t ask for help the first time around because I wanted to “do it on my own.”  Let me tell ya, that’s for the birds.  When they say “it takes a village,” it really does.  In fact, I wish I would have added more people to my village before the baby was born to ensure I had my life together as much as possible.  But I’m not saying I did a shabby job – in fact, quite the contrary!  We hired someone to clean the house, asked friends to help fold clothes and put things away in the baby’s room, and my brother helped me run errands in the days leading up to delivery.  After he was born, my mom came over and helped prepare some freezer meals for ready-to-go dinners and a few of my students’ parents got together and dropped off meals for us. 
  2. Go to the grocery.  I don’t know why I didn’t think about this beforehand.  I wasn’t able to drive for a few weeks following delivery because of the pain medication and the general healing process.  Plus, my husband isn’t the frugal grocery shopping type.  It would have been nice to stock up on things like snacks, breakfast items, etc. prior to having the baby.  Right now, we’re still in a holding pattern where my husband runs to the grocery for essentials like milk and muffins because I can’t do a big shopping trip just yet.  But believe me, when September rolls around, I’m headed to the grocery to get my pantry and refrigerator back in order.
  3. Snuggle my first baby THAT much more.  My first son will be 5 in October, so he’s hardly a baby anymore.  But, he’s still MY baby.  I got really consumed with work and preparing for the second baby at the last minute, that I didn’t focus on Andrew and spending extra quality time with him before Thomas arrived in the way I would have liked.  I also wish I would have asked his daddy and grandparents to take him out of the house a little bit more, considering those last few weeks in the Louisiana heat were BRUTAL for this pregnant mommy.  He doesn’t seem to have suffered because of it, and I am focused on spending time with him now – between feedings, baths, homework, cooking, cleaning…the list goes on and on.
  4. Get a massage, manicure, pedicure, haircut… Ok, I know this is like my “vanity” list, but for real.  Can you imagine doing any of these things with a newborn?  Or, better yet, an exclusively breastfed newborn?  Now my life consists of planning things around 3 or 4 hour feedings, hoping the baby doesn’t wake up wanting to eat earlier than that, and praying that my husband doesn’t lose his mind.  He’s great, and I’m not taking anything away from him, trust me.  It’s just frustrating when you have a crying (hungry) baby that can’t be soothed by anything you do, and that’s his dilemma.  Plus, we don’t want to take stored breast milk out of the freezer and then not need it.  These things are all able to be planned around the baby, but it would have been great to get one final hurrah done before the baby was born.  Oh well!
  5. Stop sweating the small stuff! In the grand scheme of things, the stuff I was worried about not getting done didn’t matter.  So what if his closet isn’t Pinterest-worthy organized?  It will get done eventually.  So what if my closet looks like a bomb went off?  I’m not wearing half of those clothes right now anyway.  So what if I didn’t finish all of the work in my business before taking a mandated maternity leave (per my office manager, who is an absolute doll)?  It will still be there when I’m ready to get back to it.  Meanwhile, I have a first-born that craves my attention, and a husband that wants family time.  Those are the important things to think about before having a baby, not the cleaning and preparing and anticipation of the new baby.  I know that sounds a little like I’m brushing off the new one, but that’s totally not the case.  I’m merely saying that they don’t stay little for long, and these moments are to be cherished, not brushed aside for the things we think are more important.

Well, there you have it.  The five things that I wish I would have done before I had baby #2.  And as I’m typing this, I have a big boy who wants help with an iPad game and a little peanut grunting for feeding time.  So, I’m going to go enjoy the moments while they last.  Until next time, ya’ll!

 

It’s the First Day of School ‘Round Here

A lot has happened since I wrote wayyyy back in November about the never-ending negative pregnancy tests…

Big Brother with New Little BrotherYep.  Shortly after all those negatives, we got a positive on December 4th and our 2nd baby boy Thomas was born on August 3rd.  It was a distracting pregnancy to say the least, what with having the busiest season EVER at my dance studio and having a 4 year old to chase after.  But, here we are.  A family of 4.  It’s been an amazing and beautiful journey.

Today was the big boy’s first day of Pre-K, and I’ve been battling with carving out enough time to spend with both little guys.  Normally, since school starts later than most around here, we spend these last few weeks of summer heading out to the zoo and the aquarium…not this year! Mommy was way too tired from taking care of Thomas since we are exclusively breast feeding and dealing with overproduction issues – more on that later.

Last night consisted of trying to get Andrew to bed early – he is so much like me in that he stays up late and wakes up late – and getting everything together for the next morning.  I realized that in my “nesting” phase, I threw out BOTH of Andrew’s nap pillows from last year and without enoFirst day of school readyugh time to get a new one before the big first day, I had to put one of our throw pillows in the backpack and call it a day.  #momfail.  It may not be a “cool” pillow, but it will work for the time being – though this doesn’t help with the mommy guilt!  It’s tough being a newborn mom and having a kid in pre-k all at the same time.  I know some of you moms can relate. 

We are a little obsessed with Mario all of a sudden, pushing aside his three year dinosaur obsession.  Thanks to his cool Rae Rae, he got a fancy new Mario backpack and lunch box.  (I hope this makes up for the un-cool pillow scenario.) 

I printed that cute little sign from The Shady Lane and filled in all the info with a chalkboard marker.  After sticking it in an 8 X10 frame, it was ready to go.  Notice my guy said he wanted to be a “mountain climber” when he grows up?  I don’t even know wherIMG_5401e he gets this stuff from.  Then it was time to figure out a first day teacher gift.  I know it’s not necessary to do, but as a dance teacher, I love it when my students think of me!  I wanted to do the same for his teacher, so we got her a candle from Bath and Body Works.  I didn’t have time (or energy) to print out a fancy little tag, so I just wrote it by hand.  It’s the thought that counts, right?  I had Andrew write his name himself – hopefully he gets a little better at it this year!

Breakfast is never really something Andrew does, but I thought it might be nice to make him a “special” breakfast of Mickey Mouse pancakes to start his day off right…but he didn’t eat them, as usual.  At least now I have a whole batch of buttermilk pancakes to stick in the freezer for another day.  So now it was time to head off to school, and Mommy didn’t even cry one bit!  He jumped out of his seat, kissed me goodbye, and walked to his classroom all by himself!  So now, the little guy and I just sit and wait (and nap, hopefully) until we can go pick up big brother from school.  We can’t wait to hear how his awesome first day went!

IMG_5389Proud PreK student on his first day

When a Negative isn’t What You Bargained For

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
The standard answer I’ve programmed myself to say when asked “when are you having another one” (another what?  Puppy? Husband?  Just kidding…) is, “Well, hopefully one day.”  But what I really want to say is:

Oh I’ve been tracking my period on an iPhone app for three months, stopped taking my birth control and all medications in August, stopped drinking the occasional glass of wine just in case I might be pregnant, and I stopped going shopping for clothes because I won’t be wearing them long anyway since I’m trying to get pregnant right now.  Wait, according to my app, I’m in my fertile window.  Gotta go, bye!

My husband knew all of this was going on inside my compulsive brain, and I’m sure it made for some of my sexiest times in life.  Not really.  I think he was too nice to tell me that I was a schedule obsessed crazy person who should probably pour myself a glass of wine (or three) and online shop for clothes for a few hours.  Needless to say, sex was a chore – a means to my desired end of pregnancy. 

With our son, I didn’t even have to “try” to get pregnant.  It was just a month after deciding we were ready to be parents that I got the positive pregnancy test result.  I didn’t even see it coming; I mean, doesn’t it take a little longer than this?  I was 25 at the time and we had just gotten married.  I was happy, relaxed, fresh off the honeymoon, blissful – the perfect baby-making scenario.

But how soon did I forget what got us there in the first place!  This time around, I was calculating due dates before I even conceived.  I tracked my period and took pregnancy tests as soon as two weeks before my missed period.  I started reading message board stories of women who just “knew” they were pregnant the moment they conceived and got a positive digital test right away.  A friend of mine knew she was pregnant right away because her Fitbit tracked her heart rate at higher than her normal rate.  Every time I heard one of these stories, I’d convince myself I was pregnant, obsess over taking a test, and then take one.  And each time, the result was the same. 

A single pink line.  The bold words “Not Pregnant.”  Just a flat-out “No.”

I didn’t understand.  How was it so easy the last time? I mean, I’m so much more prepared now.  I’m healthier.  Sure, I’m 30 now, but my age shouldn’t affect it THAT much, should it? Why isn’t it happening for me?

Then my period was 4 days late.  Being the 28 day, extremely regular person that I am, eeach day that ticked by made me more and more hopeful for a positive result.  Maybe I just don’t have enough hormone in my system yet.  Maybe I’m taking the tests wrong.  I convinced myself I had to be pregnant because there was no period.  I did everything I could to ensure I conceived, so logically, it had to be the reason for my late period. 

Then it came.  My period whacked me straight across the face.

First I cried.  I thought about all the possible situations as to why I wasn’t pregnant yet and what the future looked like remaining a family of three.  I called my sister in law to tell her the “bad” news.

Her response?

I’m sorry you’re sad.  I’m not going to tell you it will happen next month because it might not.  You might never get pregnant again.  I hope that you will be, but nothing’s guaranteed.  So, I’ll just say I’m sorry you’re sad.  Just chill out and just let it happen, if it’s meant to happen.

Some of you might want to say…Uh, Excuse me?  Others may criticize her bluntness.  But, it’s probably the part of her personality that I appreciate the most.  She’s hoping to get pregnant soon, too.  Our sons are one year apart, to the exact day – mine was late and hers was early.  I was able to offer insight when she was a new mom, and now, she was returning the favor.  She had already been through the obsessing and worrying phase.   It couldn’t have come at a better time.  And then, she hit me with this gem:

I enjoy being with my husband.  If it makes a baby, great.  But I’m not going to worry if it doesn’t.

So, that’s exactly what we’ve done.  I put down the pregnancy tests, stopped tracking every move, and even opened a bottle of wine.  I’m not worried about every little move I’m making because what will be, will be.  It wasn’t easy to get to this point, that’s for sure.

Some may criticize me, simply because I am blessed with one child and I haven’t been trying to conceive for very long at all.  But I know there are other women in my position, and there will be more in the future.  These are the things I think about each and every day:

  1. I am so lucky to have one beautiful son.  There are many women who can’t have children and want them badly. 
  2. I am not ungrateful for my ability to have had that one beautiful, healthy boy. 
  3. If he is all I ever have, we will be OK. 

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the process and being thankful for what I have.  I mean, practice makes perfect, doesn’t it?  🙂

Until next time, ya’ll!

 

How to Host a Polar Express Party

Right around the holiday season, I host a Polar Express Party at my dance studio for busy parents to enjoy a night out. It always coincides with a big school function that’s parents-only. Our party is kids-only! I thought this idea wasn’t all that original until I mentioned to a dance teacher friend that I had the annual Polar Express Pajama party on Friday and couldn’t make it to her event. The barrage of questions soon followed about the activities, the food, the details. So, here we go – time to tell you my secrets!

Polar Express PartyI start promotion of our event around Halloween, but the signups don’t start coming in until the week of our party.  I passed out fliers at local events, sent out emails to the email list, and made sure I told everyone that came into the studio about it.  I ended up with 19 kids – wow!  That’s actually pretty good for a Friday night in December.

I set up the room in zones.

Each child got a “map” with their “train stations” on it.  Really, it was just a flow chart designed to make them go to each activity in the room.  Our list of activities included:

  1. Pin the Nose on the Snowman
  2. Cookie Matching Game
  3. Christmas trivia
  4. Christmas Tree Ring Toss
  5. Craft Table
  6. Make your own snow (Science Experiment)
  7. Coloring Station
  8. “Snowball” fight
  9. Jingle Butt game

The Dollar Tree has a lot of Christmas games for only $1!

I purchased two packs of Christmas trivia cards as well as the cookie matching game, the Christmas Tree Ring Toss, Pin the Nose on the Snowman, the packages of “snow” for our science experiment, and a few items for the craft table at the Dollar Tree.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to come up with all new ideas for games and construct tons of pieces – this took care of a lot of the busy work.  I will probably have to make the games from scratch if they aren’t available for purchase next year, but it sure did save me some time this year!   The coloring station had a couple of coloring books (also purchased at Dollar Tree) and a big bucket of assorted crayons I’ve been collecting over the years from various camps and classes held at the studio.

Purchase Pre-Made Games for $1 at the Dollar Tree!

Table Cloths are Your Saving Grace at Kids Parties

I learned when it was time for cleanup that table cloths would have reduced my cleanup time drastically.  This is mostly due to the free-for-all that I called the “craft table.”  I basically set up foam shapes, glitter, glue, paint, and some pre-fab craft kids I purchased at Dollar Tree and Michaels.  Everything was set up for the child to be able to do it themselves, even as young as 4 years old.  After a few hours, my nice and neat craft table with items divided into neat containers started to look like this:

Craft TableHad I put table cloths on that table…well, let’s just say I am still picking up sequins and the party was last Christmas.  🙂  I was so impressed with what the kids were able to make, using their imaginations and having a variety of mediums to use.  Many of them had three or four craft projects to take home at the end of the night.

The Snowball Fight and Jingle Butt Games Make for a Lot of Giggles

The snowball fight game is quite simple but somehow manages to get a lot of laughs from the kids.  It is played in teams of two, and all you need to start are two cups (we used Styrofoam), some cotton balls, and a barrier to place between the two players.  We used our tumbling mats, but you could use a stack of blankets/pillows.  The first player sits with their back to the barrier and starts throwing cotton balls over their shoulder.  The second player tries to catch the “snowballs” in their cup.

Snowball Fight GameThe Jingle Butt Game is probably the most popular among the kids, and I got the idea from Minute to Win It (the TV show where contestants try to complete difficult tasks in a minute or less).  I took a tissue box and cut two slits in each side.  Then I laced ribbon through the holes I cut, making it long enough to tie around a child’s waist.  Finally, I filled the box with different sizes of jingle bells.  Dollar Tree had a pack of 50 small bells and also a pack of 8-12 larger bells.  To play, the kids tie the box to their backside, the knot facing front.  They have one minute to shake as many bells out of the box as they can.  Some kids figured it out quickly and were able to shake almost all the bells out…others were lucky to get a few bells out of the box.  Either way, they giggled the entire time, which was music to my ears!  The trick to making this game harder is to tie the box to the small of their back, NOT their backside.  This way it’s low enough that they feel it’s on their butt, but it’s high enough that the bells don’t usually shake out easily.

Themed Snacks to Keep Their Energy Up

Our party started around dinner time, so we ordered pizza.  But later in the evening, kids started complaining they were hungry.  I came prepared!  We offered natural juice boxes, milk, and water for drinks.  I prepared some “S’mores snack mix” and divided the mixture into little snack sized bags.  It’s cinnamon cereal, milk chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.  I like to go easy on the chocolate chips when I’m using milk chocolate because it is so much stronger than semi-sweet.  For kids who are choosy, this mix seems to satisfy most of them because of the three different ingredients.

smores mixWe wrapped up the night with a visit from Santa and curled up with hot chocolate – from the crock pot!

Santa is a very close personal friend of mine, so it was a no-brainer when I asked him to come stop by at the end of the night.  He wore his full Santa suit (as you can see in my title photo) and sang some Christmas carols with the kids.  After having each one on his lap and snapping a photo with my camera (and he took his own “santa selfies” with his iPhone), we said our goodbyes and promised to be good girls and boys.  I played the movie, The Polar Express, using a projector and displaying the image on a blank wall space. The kids brought blankets, pillows, and their favorite stuffed animals to snuggle with while the movie played.  I gave each child a small cup of homemade hot chocolate, which they could garnish with candy canes or large marshmallows.  It was literally the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted in my life!  I’m going to do a separate post on this soon because it deserves some attention.  🙂

When the parents started to arrive at the end of the night, some kids were fast asleep and others were jabbering on about how the “real” Santa came to visit.  I have so many great photos to share with them from our party!  It’s always fun to be a part of keeping the Christmas magic alive for kids.   Let me know your thoughts on my party and what you would add when you host this party yourself.  I’m always up for some new ideas to jazz up what’s becoming one of my favorite new traditions.

Until next time ya’ll!

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

I’m not one to buy cookbooks because they take up space.  With the era of Pinterest and being able to find recipes accessible online, why purchase an entire book? 

I’ll tell ‘ya why!  I found a book at Michael’s craft store entitled The Ultimate Cookie Book by Better Homes and Gardens.  After flipping through this $19.99 tome of wisdom, I realized there wasn’t a single recipe I disliked.  So basically, 500 reasons to get in the kitchen and gain a few pounds enjoy some delicious baked goods…that’s why you purchase an entire book!

The first recipe I tried was called Pumpkin-Pecan Cookies with a recipe for brown sugar-butter frosting as a topping.  Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, I thought this would be a great first recipe to try. 

pumpkin pecan cookies with brown butter icingAnd boy, was it!!  I had to give some of the cookies away to my BFF Carly, including a baggie of them for her mom, and…I’m pretty sure I ate the rest of them.  I gave her seven of them, people.  The recipe yielded 31.  So…yeah.  They’re just that good!!

I made some changes to the original recipe in order to make things a little easier AND a little tastier for me.  The cookie is not sweet on its own, but when you add the icing, it’s a perfect pairing.

I hope you enjoy making these cookies and giving some away because we all know the holidays are a time to share (and eat, but mostly share, right?). 

Here’s a fancy little printable for you guys.  Don’t be shy – go ahead and stick that on a Pinterest board.  And while you’re at it, take a look at my other pins!

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
Yields 30
A delicious cake-like cookie with a sweet brown butter icing to top it all off. Definitely a good fall flavored dessert!
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
35 min
Prep Time
35 min
For Cookie
  1. 2 cups flour (all-purpose is best)
  2. 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  6. 1 cup butter, softened
  7. 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (or make your own)
  8. 1 egg
  9. 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
For Frosting
  1. 6 Tbs. Butter
  2. 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  3. 2 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1-2 Tbs. hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium-sized bowl, wisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and allspice. Set this mixture to the side.
  2. In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl), beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30-45 seconds, until you see the butter starting to cream. Add sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flower mixture and pecans. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls at least 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes until bottoms are slightly browned. Cool on the cookie sheet for two minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. While cookies are cooling, make your icing. Heat 6 Tbs. of butter and 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar over medium heat until the butter is completely melted. Remove the mixture from heat. Stir in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Transfer the mixture to your stand mixer or beat the mixture until smooth. Add 1 tbs. hot water to allow the icing to thin out and become more spreadable. Add the other tbs. of hot water only if necessary (for me, it wasn't).
Adapted from The Ultimate Cookie Book by Better Homes and Gardens
Adapted from The Ultimate Cookie Book by Better Homes and Gardens
The OMG Life http://www.theomglife.com/

The Best Damn Cake Ever: Ooey Gooey Cake

My friend Daniel is willing to go to the ends of the earth for a taste of some Ooey Gooey Cake.

No, that’s not a joke.  He will drive to unsafe neighborhoods and buy packages of it from gas stations.  I’m not judging.  This stuff is pretty addictive.

So when he helped us move from our little starter home into our beautiful new(ish) house, I offered him money and to my surprise, he turned it down.

“No Jess, you keep your money,” he said.  “Remember that dessert you made at Christmas a few years ago?  It’s real sweet?  If you can just make me some of that, I’d be so happy.”

Let’s get this straight – you will turn down $100 for a pan of cake that would cost me a fraction of that to make?  And you remember the dessert I made a few years ago when I can’t even remember what I cooked for dinner last week? Well, hey, I’ll take it!!

So here’s how you can make the best damn cake ever, winner of friends and moving buddies alike…though, a little disclaimer here…I wouldn’t really call it a “cake.”  It’s more like a squishy, sweet, melt-in-your mouth mix between a chess square/lemon bar consistency and a cake that’s just slightly under cooked.  And more than two pieces just might put you in a sugar coma, so be prepared to share!

DSC_0241I’m getting better at the whole “taking pictures of food” thing, I think.  Might need to sign up for my good friend Erin’s photography workshop over on Sixth Bloom.

Anyway, here’s the ingredients I used for these delectable dessert.  Really, that’s all you need: yellow cake mix, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, butter, and eggs.

Start by melting 8 tablespoons of butter in the microwave at 20-30 seconds.  I cut my butter into individual tablespoons to make it melt uniformly – a lesson I learned from my grandmother.  Looks like this:

DSC_0243Pour the melted butter, one box of yellow cake mix, and one egg into your stand mixer (or into a bowl to beat with a hand mixer) and mix it up until it reaches a doughy consistency.  Then press the dough into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 X 9 inch pan.  Make sure you press some dough up the sides like you see here to create the crust of this cake all the way around.  

DSC_0249Then, in a new bowl (or just clean out the one you had before), beat your cream cheese, the remaining two eggs, the vanilla, and powdered sugar until creamy.  Pour this mixture over your crust and bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes. DSC_0300

 

When you take it out, the top should be a golden color and should seem squishy on top.  Sorry – lack of a better word!  But really, it’s squishy. 

IMG_0040

Oops!  I ate a piece before I remembered to take a pic.  But really, wouldn’t you be just so excited for this delicious dessert that you might forget too?  I wouldn’t judge.  Here’s the recipe for you guys – a good ole printable for your cookbooks…or Pinterest!  (Check me out on Pinterest while you’re at it!)

Ooey Gooey Cake
Yields 20
The best damn dessert ever! Creamy, sweet, and fluffy, this dessert will wow your friends AND give you a sugar high like none other. Perfection!
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
  2. 3 Eggs
  3. 2 Sticks of Butter (Melted)
  4. 1 8oz. package of Cream Cheese, softened
  5. 1 tsp. Vanilla
  6. 2 cups of powdered sugar (or one 16 oz. box of powdered sugar)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the cake mix, egg, and half the melted butter and mix well with an electric mixer. I use the paddle attachment on my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, but you can also use a hand mixer with wisk attachments. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan. (Note: You can line your pan with foil if you want to easily lift the ooey gooey cake out of the pan to cool. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.)
  3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth (I use my stand mixer for this again). Add the eggs, vanilla, and the rest of the melted butter and beat until all ingredients are combined. Next, add a little bit of powdered sugar at a time and mix. If you add all the powdered sugar at once, you could end up with a big puff of white stuff in your face. No good! 🙂
  4. Pour this mixture over the cake batter crust and bake for 40-50 minutes. The center should still be gooey but not liquid when you remove the pan from the oven.
  5. When the cake is cooled, cut into squares and serve!
Notes
  1. Sometimes when I bake this dessert, I get a brown top when it's done and other times I don't. Neither way is wrong or right...they both taste great!
Adapted from Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake
Adapted from Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake
The OMG Life http://www.theomglife.com/

 

1 2