Taking A Break…

Hi all,

Good news! We are ALMOST done with the nursery! There’s just a little painting that needs to be done and then all the furniture can be moved in and pictures hung on the walls. I have been terrible about procrastinating this time around and now we’re all rushing around at the last minute trying to get everything finished before D-Day (June 26th!)! I promise I’ll share pictures when it’s done!

In the meantime, I have zero interest in trying new recipes/photographing said recipes/blogging right now. All I care about right now is spending every last minute with my little family of 3 and enjoying Cassidy’s last days as an only child. Obviously, after that, all hell is going to break loose and we’ll have a newborn to take care of. What’s my point? I’m taking a break for awhile. Honestly, blogging is not high on my list of priorities these days, so I’m not going to stress about it anymore. I’m going to walk away for awhile and enjoy my family. I’ll be back- with updates, definitely. I promise I will let you all know when baby boy gets here and keep you all in the loop. Just no food stuff for a bit. Bear with me! And wish me luck!!!

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Are We the Same?

(No food post this week. I’m going through a “Life, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!!” phase right now, so I haven’t cooked a decent meal in awhile.)

With the baby due in exactly 5 weeks (um, wow), naturally, Joel and I have been getting the nursery ready. Which means, we had to clean out our “junk room” (great, NOW where am I going to put all this stuff??). My mom and I actually tackled the closet today and in doing so, I found numerous boxes of memorabilia; newspaper clippings, cards, and pictures from my time at college, old birthday cards from family, and lots and lots of pictures, love notes, and cards from the time Joel and I were still dating and engaged. Joel was at a business dinner tonight and Cassidy is at her grandparents’ house for the night, so I grabbed a box and began rummaging.

I was filled with all kinds of warm fuzzies sitting alone in the middle of the floor of my soon-t0-arrive baby boy’s nursery reading syrupy sweet love notes and looking at pictures. For one thing, they were good for a chuckle or two- I looked like a chubby 12 year old and Joel had way more hair (and *cough* maybe a few less pounds *cough*), but golly, were we happy.

joel and amy

joel and amy 2

[the night we got engaged; 2005]

Looking at all those incredibly sweet, precious memories and keepsakes made me stop and think- are we the still the same? We held hands tighter, kissed longer, wrote more on our cards to each other, walked closer, talked longer, and literally gazed into each others’ eyes…often. “Do we still do…any…of those things anymore?“, I asked myself as I sat there alone with my memories. “Pshaw! SURE we do! All the time!” I told myself. But then I started really thinking about it.

We hold hands…sometimes. Maybe on date nights. If we have a long-ish walk from the restaurant to the car.

We kiss each other. Sure. If Joel isn’t too buried in his work or I’m not completely tied up with Cassidy at the moment. So…mostly good morning and goodnight. Hey, it counts.

We might have sort of run out of super sappy things to say in our cards to each other on holidays and occasions. All the sentiments are still there, we just blew threw most of them in the first 2 months we were dating. You can only find so many ways to say “I love you”. But you know, sometimes a plain old “I love you” is just what I need to hear.

As far as the gazing into each others’ eyes thing? Yeah, that hasn’t happened in…I don’t even KNOW how long. Our honeymoon, maybe? If Joel gazed into my eyes tomorrow, I’d think something was way wrong.

I guess we’re not the same anymore. It seems like we don’t do any of the sweet little things we used to. Let’s face it, there’s just no time for hand-holding, eye-gazing, and letter-writing. On most days, we’re lucky if we remember to stop and give each other a kiss good morning.

Oh, but I forgot to mention how I look at Joel when I see him rolling around on the floor and horsing around with our precious daughter. He tickles her and makes her literally howl with laughter. And sometimes when we’re lying in bed at night, he’ll reach over and pat my belly and feel the baby kick. Sometimes I’ll make him a big plate of pancakes in the morning and bring it to him while he’s working (he works from home). Before every meal, the 3 of us will hold hands as Joel prays. On Mother’s Day, he’ll sneak out early in the morning to buy me powdered sugar donuts and a thoughtful card. In the summertime, after Cassidy is asleep, we sit out in the backyard with a glass of wine and just talk. Our lives are pretty stinking busy and hectic most of the time, but we manage to make time for just us. He puts his arm around my shoulders at church. I’ve learned to embrace geek culture (“ANOTHER Marvel movie coming out?? Great, let’s go see it!”).

So I guess even though we have changed; quite a bit; we’ve developed a new love language. We may not do all that sappy, syrupy, gushy love stuff we used to do, but we still cherish each other. It might be slightly less dignified (pregnancy ain’t pretty, folks), and slightly less shiny and new, but the love’s still very much there. We’re still selfish and prideful and downright mean sometimes. Luckily, one of the great things about growing older together is that you get better and better at apologizing and realizing there are more important things than weekend plans or someone not doing the dishes. We’ve known each other for over 17 years and when I look back on all the seasons of our relationship and how we’ve evolved, shaped each other, adapted, and grown as a couple, it’s just…special.

Nope. I don’t think we are the same. We’re better.

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One Year Ago…

tornado12

It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly a year since the tornado came through our little town. I have to admit, we’re all sort of on pins and needles around here…just waiting for it to hit again. In remembrance of that horrible night and what my family had to endure for the months following, I’m leaving the story here, a year later, for you to read again. If you want.

Click here to read my story

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Sour Cream Pound Cake…

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Sorry for my absence lately. We just finished a BIG master bathroom remodel and I’ve been a little preoccupied with getting it all cleaned up and finding the right finishing touches for it. It looks SO good and I can’t wait to share pictures with you! Hopefully I’ll have it all put together pretty quickly (it’s been tough finding just the right wall art…).

In other news, I’m finally in my 3rd trimester! Home stretch, baby! Only problem is, we can’t pick a name. Like, CAN’T. We have a short list of names we like, but none of them feel like “the one”. I guess it’ll come down to the last minute with this baby. Maybe I’ll get him named before we leave the hospital. Maybe. *sigh* 

Ok, this pound cake. There’s not much you need to know other than it’s rich, it’s buttery, it’s really, really GOOD. Especially the lovely crust that forms on the top…that’s the best part. This was so good in the mornings spread with a little butter alongside a cup of coffee. Oh, and it makes a TON. This is one big pound cake- enough to serve probably 10 people. I’m guessing it would freeze really nicely if you had tons of leftovers (like I did).

Sour Cream Pound Cake

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Sift the baking soda, flour, and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and pour the mixture into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serves 8-10.

Recipe source: slightly adapted from Paula Deen

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Lemon Brownies…

Lemon Brownies

Well, it’s officially Spring. FINALLY. I’ve had it with this cold weather! However, with the weather getting warmer, that means the time for our little peanut’s arrival is getting closer and closer- yikes. I haven’t done one single thing to get his nursery ready. Oops. Well, I did buy a rug. So there’s that. The good news is I’ve already found most of the wall decorations and stuff on Etsy, and I *think* I’ve found the bedding, so I guess that means I’m getting somewhere.

Now, these “brownies”. I’ve been seriously craving lemon for a while now. However, I recently FAILED (ugh) my one-hour glucose test (the preliminary test that helps determine whether or not a pregnant mom has gestational diabetes), which means I had to go back and take the dreaded 3-hour test. I had to go in first thing in the morning and have my blood drawn, then drink another lovely bottle of the sugary, disgusting “fruit punch”. THEN I had to sit around doing nothing for 3 more hours and have my blood drawn 3 more times. What fun. I left feeling jittery and starving, and my arms looked like a heroin addict’s.

So in the time I had to wait for my results, I really felt like I shouldn’t be eating much sugar- just in case. Which meant no lemony desserts…which is what I really wanted. Really, really, really. So when I got the call saying I PASSED with flying colors (hallelujah!), the first thing I did (besides my happy dance) was bake these lemon brownies. Then I ate most of them. Right then. They were oh-SO good. Dense, but not too thick, chewy, and perfectly, wonderfully tart. The glaze is what takes them over the top- don’t skip the glaze. Just don’t.

Lemon Brownies 2

Lemon Brownies

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tablespoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice and zest of 1 lemon

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the softened butter.
In another bowl whisk the eggs with the vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Add to the larger bowl and mix well. Pour into a greased 8X8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes.

Remove and let cool, then glaze.

Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Whisk together.

Recipe source: adapted from Rita’s Recipes

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Roasted Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Potatoes

My sister and I like to exchange new recipes we try. In fact, over the years, I’ve gotten tons of good, simple, delicious recipes from her. This one is definitely a winner! She was telling me about it and when she got to the part about the banana peppers I have to admit I was a little thrown off. Banana peppers are…sorta sour. How on earth would that taste good with sausage and potatoes? But I trust my sister’s judgement, so I did it.

What a surprise! This was a GREAT meal- it took no time to throw together and there was SO much flavor! And only one pan to clean- bonus! If you make this, don’t skip the banana peppers; they add so much great flavor!

Roasted Sausage, Potatoes, Onions and Peppers

1 pound cooked sausage, such as Eckridge or Hillshire Farms (I use Turkey), cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
4 medium-sized red potatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 jar banana peppers, drained (you can use the spicy kind if you like heat, but I used the mild)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the chopped bell pepper, potatoes, and onion with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables and sausage on a large baking sheet in an even layer and top with the banana peppers. Roast in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes and sausage are crisp and browned. Serves 4-6.

Recipe source: I’m not sure on the original source of this one, but I searched and found one here

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Tortellini Pasta Salad…

Tortellini Pasta Salad

Guess what? It’s 70 degrees here! Finally! Us Texans aren’t used to such cold, freezing weather; in fact, usually by now, most of us have already planted our gardens, trees, and flowers for the Spring/Summer. Not this year, however. This winter has been brutal! I read that we’ve surpassed something like 60 days of below freezing temps! I remember last February, Joel and I wore shorts and took long, sunny walks with Cassidy several days out of the month. Not this year.

Oh well. Hopefully the cold, wintry weather is on its way out and warm, sunny weather is here to stay for awhile. To celebrate our day of sunshine and warm breezes, I made this pasta salad for lunch. It’s so easy- just throw everything together and let it sit in the fridge for awhile. SO yummy!

Tortellini Pasta Salad 2

Tortellini Pasta Salad

8 oz. cheese tortellini, cooked, rinsed, and cooled
2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bottled Italian salad dressing

Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for about 5 minutes, just long enough so that it’s still nice and crunchy, but starting to get a little tender. Transfer from boiling water to a large bowl filled with ice water (this stops the cooking process and helps the broccoli to retain its bright green color).

Toss the cooked pasta with broccoli and all other ingredients and stir to combine. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour; preferably 3-4. Serves 4-6.

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

**you could also throw in some frozen peas, chopped red onion, scallions, yellow corn…whatever veggies you like! It’s so versatile!

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Perfect Roasted Vegetables…

Perfect Roasted Vegetables

My all-time favorite, easy go-to side dish is roasted vegetables. Roasting just brings out all kinds of delicious flavor, and it’s just SO EASY! Toss your favorite veggie with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and pop in the oven. Done. My favorite vegetable to roast has got to be broccoli- something magical happens to broccoli when its roasted. Magical, I tell you.

However, when it comes to firmer vegetables like carrots and potatoes, I have a method for roasting that comes out perfect every single time. All it takes is one extra step- no biggie. Just boil them for about 5 minutes first, THEN pop them in the oven. It makes the vegetables almost creamy on the inside, with a nice brown crust on the outside. So perfect. I do it this way every time I roast potatoes or carrots, and every time Joel and I are like, “MAN. These potatoes (or carrots) are SO good!” Every time.

Perfect Roasted Vegetables

5-6 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 small bag baby carrots (or 5-6 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the potatoes and carrots in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until they’re just beginning to soften. You don’t want to be able to poke a fork all the way through them; the centers should still be hard.

Drain and toss with olive oil (about 2 or 3 tablespoons). Spread on a baking sheet in an even layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until fork tender and a nice crust has formed. Serves 4 as a side dish.

You could also use this method for rutabagas/turnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and any other really firm vegetable.

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

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Blue Marbled Vanilla Cupcakes…

Blue Marbled Cupcakes 3

Just thought I’d update y’all a little on my pregnancy. I’m 21 (almost 22) weeks along now- over halfway there! Feeling great physically, albeit a little tired. Joel and I sing in the praise band at church and each week I’m finding it harder and harder to sing without feeling like I’ve just run a marathon. My diaphragm feels like its being shoved up into my throat, so having enough breath support is tough. The extra hormones are driving me a little batty this time around. One day I’ll be feeling great, all sunshine and roses and the next day…

Hulk-Angry

Let’s just say, poor Joel has been a saint to put up with all of my craziness lately. Cassidy is starting to understand a little better and talks a lot about the “baby in Mommy’s tummy”. So sweet.

Blue Marbled Cupcakes

So anyway, the purpose of this post is not only to share with you these yummy cupcakes, but announce that….

WE’RE HAVING A BOY!!!

We went for our anatomy scan a couple of weeks ago and were totally blown away to find out Cassidy will have a little brother! I had made these boy-themed cupcakes months ago in honor oF my friend’s soon-to-be baby boy but never posted them; little did I know I’d be repurposing them to announce our own little boy! :)

I used my favorite recipe for white cake, reserved a little of the batter, colored it blue, then swirled it into the tops of each unbaked cupcake. It didn’t sink down into the cupcake during baking as much I would’ve liked, but the tops still looked pretty cool before I frosted them (which really ended up not mattering, since the frosting covered that part up. Oh well.). They tasted great, and that’s what mattered! Now I think I need a cupcake…

Blue Marbled Cupcakes 2

Blue Marbled Vanilla Cupcakes

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) and working with the paddle attachment, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the buttermilk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the buttermilk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Set aside 1/4 of the batter in a separate bowl. Mix in a few drops of blue food coloring until you reach the desired shade of blue.

Using a small spoon, fill each cupcake liner 1/2 full with the batter. Drop a small spoonful of the blue batter on top and swirl with the back of a spoon or a toothpick to create a marbled effect.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a toothpick inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to cooling racks and cool completely before frosting them. Makes approximately 24 cupcakes.

Vanilla Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
blue food coloring

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading or piping consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. Stir in a few drops blue food coloring until the desired color of blue is reached. Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled. Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes.

Recipe sources: white cake adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours; frosting adapted from Magnolia Bakery

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Cassidy’s Curious George Party!

2nd Birthday 4_

Well, it’s happened. My little sweet pea has turned TWO. So, so hard to believe! I was proud of myself this year, though. Unlike last year, I didn’t blubber and cry and make a huge fuss over my baby growing up too fast. Honestly, I’m enjoying watching her learn and grow so much, I can’t help but sit back and just enjoy the ride. She’s too much fun to cry over!

Since Cassidy’s absolute favorite thing in the world right now is Curious George (seriously, how precious is that show?!), we decided a Curious George birthday party was just the thing! I seriously had so much fun planning this one. Thanks to HomeGoods, Zulily, and other various places, I had all kinds of cute Curious George toys and books to decorate the table with. We decided to do a small family party and I think Cassidy had a blast. Here’s a few pictures from our fun day.

2nd Birthday_

My mom found some cute material and made Cassidy (and Baby Doll) their very own Curious George dress! Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe it!

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Since the party was late afternoon, we didn’t do a whole meal, just snack food. On the menu:

Hot ham and cheese sliders
Fruit kabobs
Spinach dip
Individual banana pudding cups
Yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream
Monkey punch (Pineapple Orange Banana juice with ginger ale)
Cheese crackers

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I was so pleased with how everything turned out and everyone (especially the birthday girl) had a really good time. I know I’ll always look back on this day with such happy memories! Happy birthday to my sweet TWO year old!

2nd Birthday 2_

Party Info:

Invitations, ‘Happy Birthday’ banner, and food labels – SmashCakeandCo on Etsy

Cupcake toppers – Confetti Prints on Etsy

Curious George figurine and birthday candles – Amazon

Jumbo confetti sprinkles – Amazon

Curious George jack-in-the-box and hardback book- Zulily

Wooden Curious George car – HomeGoods

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