Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Activities - first week (1-8)

This year has been so fun preparing for Christmas with the girls. With  my schedule how it is, I finally feel like I have the time to enjoy the season with them and truly make each moment magical.

Each morning, the girls take turns on the various advent preparations we do. One of them gets to move the star forward a day on our countdown calendar. The second gets to open that day's advent activity envelope which is always propped up for them next to our small, antique Christmas tree in the morning.

The first day, we enjoyed making Christmas picture frames at Home Depot. The first Saturday of every month, Home Depot does their kids workshop from 9 AM - 12 PM. I thought this would be a fun advent activity for them, as they love being creative and doing their "art projects." The time was complete with swinging hammers, screwdrivers and lots of paint. Home Depot even gives them their very own orange apron and a pin for every workshop they complete. We will definitely be doing this more throughout the year!


On the second, after Kasen went to bed, we took full advantage to the hot chocolate bar permanently set up in our house right now and watched some Christmas movies. One of the movies we watched was Veggie Tale's Christmas Story. It was such wonderful timing for questions that have already been escaping the girls' mouths; since we have never made a huge deal out of Santa around Christmas, the questions about who he is and how he does what he does have been coming up. Without trying to kill the magic about that side of Christmas, we have tried to give them the answers they were looking for. The Veggie Tales Christmas story talks all about St. Nicholas and his desire to help people in need. It also talks about why we give gifts on Christmas because God gave us the greatest gifts - Jesus - because He loves us so much!  It was fun for them to understand that Christmas gifts are given because we love people - not because we have to.  It was also great for us to encourage that the idea of Santa comes from a real man who loved to help others because of God's love, so we should long to help others in need too.

The third day was a sad day....we were supposed to make ornaments. However, we have a rule that if we aren't obeying that day, we don't get to do our fun activity. And it was that kind of a day (probably because I let them stay up late and have lots of hot chocolate...dumb mom....). So, we didn't get to do this activity. I'm saving it for next year. The good news is, though, that we have had fairly obedient children since then! :) However, they did have a fun night as Grandma came over to play with them so mommy and daddy could escape for a few hours!!

Following our discussion about St. Nicholas and why we give gifts on Christmas, I thought it was important that the girls go through all of their toys and donate those which they don't use or feel like they could give to others who don't have a lot of toys. Their playroom is seriously exploding and knowing that Christmas and birthday's are right around the corner makes it all the more urgent to purge where necessary.  So, why not make it an advent activity so that they can bless others and be grateful for what they have? This was our fourth activity.

The fifth day I had to go into the office for work. So I had a simple activity of coloring Christmas sheets. I printed about 30 free ones off of the Internet and let them go to town. Now we have Christmas Coloring Sheets as decoration on our art project door. Totally festive and fun for the girls to participate in the decorating with their creativity.

On the sixth day I had the kids make a Christmas gift for daddy. I wish I could post it here but, alas, he will read it and know. So you will have to take my word for it that it was really fun and the girls are reminded every day to keep the secret (it's torture for sure!)

Friday night, the seventh day, lent a little more time to do something more in depth, as the next morning wasn't as early. So that night I had planned a trip to the mall for dinner, ice-cream and visiting Santa. The kids' cousin Ella and friend Gavin joined us as we had Chick-fil-a (or Chicken Way) for dinner, Baskin Robbins for dessert and then stood in line for the magical experience of visiting Santa. Kasen did not meet Santa this year as he is pretty nervous around...well, anyone except mommy when it is night time. The girls loved it, though, and I loved how even through they know the truth, it is still a fun, magical time for them!! (I wish I would have a picture, but they wouldn't allow us to snap our own this!)

Saturday...the day I had been looking forward to forever!! We had found out that one of our downtown parks put up a free skating rink for the first week of December, with skate rentals. So, this definitely had to be added to the advent calendar for my girls who "ice skate" with their socks on the wood floor whenever possible. Opening that envelope was priceless as they squealed for joy. Mia even tried to explain to me that she was so good at ice-skating because of her sock moves on the hardwood...explaining any differently to her would have been a waste of my time that would never return, so we let her live in her delusions for a few more hours.  The rink was wonderful...and difficult. Because of the fall like weather we were still having, it wasn't real ice but rather the fake plastic that can be skated on. I found it more challenging than I thought it would be. But we figured it out and the girls slowly got the hang of it. Most importantly, it was a fun experience that they can't wait to do again....on real ice! Grandmama and Papa came with us to watch Kasen and encourage the little it was extra special for the girls!


We have moved on to week two as the excitement builds toward Christmas day :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pear Pie Crescent Rolls

My cravings for pie got the best of me. I, however, am way too impatient to wait for an entire pie and then watch half of it sit on the counter all week potentially going to waste. So I decided to make these tasty treats...and they were super easy...and super delicious!

First I used a traditional pear pie recipe and then trimmed it down for my 8 crescent rolls:

2 Medium sized pears, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
sprinkle of ginger and nutmeg
1/3 tsp of lemon juice

Mix it all together. Try a pear slice, or two, just because you can. (I wish I had a picture of the mixture to insert here)

Next, I pulled out a tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls.

On each triangle I placed a few slices of the pie mixture on the wide part of the triangle. Then I loosely rolled them up. Following the directions for the crescent rolls, I baked them at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

They are perfect size for the little hands in your family, and small enough that you don't feel guilty eating more than one. :)


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Countdown to Christmas

This year I am getting the family more excited for Christmas (not like we needed any help) by doing Christmas activities that lead up to Christmas. I know there are a lot of fun traditions out there: advent calendar, elf on the shelf, etc. We have always had a Christmas calendar from when I was a little girl that counts down the days by moving the star over nativity characters. This year, in addition, I have added activities to go along with each day.

Each day the girls will find an envelope on the counter with a card inside instructing them of their activity for the day. It also shows the current day and how many days left until Christmas! The design is really simple, black card stock with printed candy cane paper and the item written in a pretty candy like script.

I have been so excited for these little activities. I think it will be a fun way to spend time with each other and a chance to teach lessons like gift giving, thankfulness, creativity and the true meaning of the season.

Here are some things we will be doing counting down to Christmas:
  • Hot Chocolate and watching Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer
  • Make Glitter Ornaments
  • Donate unused toys
  • Make Christmas Gifts for daddy
  • Ice-Skating at the Park
  • Visit Santa at the Mall
  • Play board game in front of the Christmas tree
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • Sledding
  • Make a pizza snowman
  • Paint toenails in Christmas colors
  • Christmas stories by the fireplace
  • Make Christmas goodies for the neighbors
  • Host a cookie decorating party
  • Homemade Carmel Corn and watching Frosty the Snowman
We no doubt will have a lot of fun! I'm excited for the extra special time with the family and I totally love this time of year.

Merry Christmas!! I'll post pictures as we countdown :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Decorating

Surprisingly, I have discovered that I truly enjoy decorating for each season in my minimalistic type of way. I don't have a lot of decorations for each season, especially fall, but little touches here and there really get me excited. Add a few scented candles for the appropriate season and you have yourself a masterpiece...but I get ahead of myself...

This weekend we said good-bye to the pumpkins and brought out the Christmas decor. My decor is a healthy mix of sentimental items from when I was young, new items that add some bling, and traditional decorations. And, as always, it's just a little bit here and a little bit there.

First, our beautiful Christmas tree which was given to us by my husband's grandparents. Our main level has 15 foot ceilings, so this 9.5' tree looks perfect nestled in the corner of our living room. I have it sparsely decorated with red, silver and white. Mixed with the abundance of lights, the tree sparkles when lit up. There is a red velvet tree skirt to add pizazz.

On top of the piano in the living room, I have draped pre-lit greenery and decorated it with white and red berries, a few snowmen (my favorite) and some scented cinnamon pine cones.

My newest addition to the winter season is my hot chocolate and coffee bar set up on our built in hutch. "Baby it's Cold Outside" is proudly displayed on my homemade chalkboard, while my decorative snowman pot is displayed next to it. My fun snowman dishes are out of the cabinet ready for use at anytime during these seasonably cold days. Candy canes, marshmallows, cinnamon, cream and chocolate are proudly displayed and ready for use.

The fireplace mantle, which also houses the TV (unfortunately), has two different groupings of decoration, incorporating my love of snowmen, pretty red sparkly ornaments, and scented pine cones.

A few extra decorations throughout the main level....

...and finally the kids' tree. The girls had so much fun decorating it this year.  Every year it is fun to see their personalities come out while doing the project. Mia is so particular in doing it "just right" while Lilia's different approach and creativity is something to chuckle at.

What fun decorating things do you do in your house?!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Making it all work

Since having three children, the laundry never lets up, the house is constantly chaotic looking, chores seem impossible and life, well, just happens. With two children it seemed stressful many of days, especially being a mother who works full time both in and outside of the home, but three has brought a whole other level of crazy!

Questions like..

"Is my house ever going to look normal?"
"Which is more important: clean clothes or clean toilets?"
"Should we have a family day or clean the house?"
would cross my mind daily.
When I went back to work after Kasen was born, I was stressed about continuing some of the "Mommy time things" that I had become accustomed to that I knew were beneficial, working out being one of those. So I put together this daily schedule to keep me sane. I still follow this schedule pretty closely except my day does start at 5:00 AM now, giving me plenty of time to workout and get ready for the day at the gym (let's be honest...if I don't get ready there it ain't happening at all!)
Since returning to work, my house has fallen apart. I barely seem to keep the main level of the house acceptable for anyone who may show up at my house; the bedrooms have been classified a danger zone. Now, I have come to realize that I get really stressed out when my house isn't clean, laundry is piled up, dishes are in the sink and there are crumbs on the floor, but I don't have the time, or the desire, to be a crazy cleaning lady all hours of the day. Not to mention that, though a clean house is inviting, an unused house is a turn off. I have three children who I want to enjoy and actually LIVE in our house, so things cannot and will not be perfect. 
As I processed through how to keep everything up, I continued coming back to the schedule I grew up with: work/school during the week, chores on Saturday, rest on Sunday. Though I love the concept of this schedule, it leaves very limited time for family activities (especially since the weekends are all we have with Casey working nights.) After scouring blogs, talking to other struggling mommys and finding unique ideas on Pinterest, I came up with this cleaning/home schedule for myself.
Some people have said "as easy as 15 minutes a day..." however, I don't know how they manage that little of time. I do know though, that I have found that no more than an hour a day makes all this possible. Usually that time is broken up throughout the day - kitchen clean up doesn't happen until after dinner; the dishes get in the dishwasher, the counters all cleaned off, spot cleaning on appliances, and the floor swept under the table (I do have 3 kids under 5!) If I'm working at home that day, I will do the laundry and cleaning early in the morning - that leaves the rest of the day for family time and work. Similarly, if I'm in the office that day, I do my "chores" in the evening after the kiddos are in bed. It's just a matter of manipulating it around, and with a small list like this doesn't make it feel overwhelming ultimately causing me to just sit on the couch and eat ice cream and watch TV.
A few rules I've set for myself:
  1. This schedule is only to maintain cleanliness; it is not meant for deep cleaning
  2. If for some reason I don't get one day done, I do not try to do two days in one. This causes the schedule to feel daunting and it probably won't get done. Instead, I move on to what is on the schedule and pick up the missed activity the next week. 
  3. It doesn't have to be perfect!! Life will still find dust balls on the baseboards, crumbs on the floor and fingerprints on the glass but we live here and I'm proud of that!
  4. Even though I'm mom, I am not responsible for all the mess. My children must clean up their messes before creating new ones and their toys must be completely cleaned twice a day: before nap and before bedtime.
I have high hopes that, as this continues, any part of my house will be welcomed to guests and that my feeling of stress at the end of the day will be non-existent on the home front end. 
My final suggestion: find yourself an awesome husband like I have! My hubby helps me out whenever he knows a clean house = happy wife! It makes it so much easier when you can tag team on it. :)
If you have any creative ideas about how to make life work smoothly, I'd love to hear them!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kasen's Dedication

For each of our children, the moment that we have been able to dedicate them to the Lord has been a really special for us as parents. Consequently, we have tried to make it a big occasion, celebrating with family and friends the wonderful gift that the Lord has entrusted us with.

This Sunday, we had the pleasure of dedicating Kasen, 3 months old, back to the Lord. As parents, Casey and I consider it a blessing to stand humbly with our family, admitting that our child is a gift to us for a time, fully belonging to God and what He has in store for his life. We believe that the Lord has wonderful things in store for our son, and commit to raise him according to His ways so that our son can learn to love and know the same God that we serve.

Following the ceremony, we do what we do best...PARTY! Everyone came over for a potluck lunch and yummy desserts. We fellowship, laugh, and watch the kids run around. All in all it was a special day for us, one that we pray stays on our hearts for the years to come.

(I have a great video of the event that will not upload for some reason. Hopefully I'll have it up soon.)

"Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had hold plans for you: A prophet to the nations -- that's what I had in mind for you."
Jeremiah 1:5 MSG

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reality Sets In

As the afternoon wears on, I sit here mentally making a to-do list and emotionally preparing myself for a day that has held so much meaning these past few months. Six months ago it felt like an eternity; 3 weeks ago it seemed like an impossibility; today it is reality. The event is Wednesday, October 3, 2012, the day I head back to work after 12 glorious weeks off with my new, expanded family. The time I have spent focused on family has truly been a blessing beyond what I expected (you can read about it here), one that I will treasure for always.

A few weeks ago I panicked at the thought of returning to a full time schedule of work. Life still seemed out of sorts, schedules were often varying, and our world didn't quite feel "normal" yet. Today, I feel ready...well, mostly. Life has created patterns again throughout the days, children have settled back into daily schedules, and I feel like I could conquer the world. My only fear is making it all happen once again.

As always happens, I have created patterns throughout the day of things to do and accomplish, strategically placing them within the allotted hours of the day. Most of these patterns I don't want to give up, nor do I think I should, so the challenge comes in re-arranging the day once again. So, in order to help me cope with the change, here is what my "new" first day looks like:

5:30 AM - Rise and Shine
6:00 AM - Feed baby boy
6:30 AM - Work out at the gym
8:00 AM - Arrive at the office
2:00 PM - Head home
2:15 PM - Throw a load of laundry in
2:30 PM - Work at home during kids' naps (husband heads out for gym & work)
4:15 PM - Start working on dinner
5:00 PM - Dinner Ready
5:30 PM - Bath time for baby boy
6:30 PM - Kasen in bed, girls clean up playroom
7:00 PM - Girls in jammies and read books
7:30 PM - Girls in bed, clean up kitchen/house
8:00 PM - Fold load of laundry (one load of laundry each day keeps in manageable)
8:30 PM - Finish any additional work, mommy time, prepare for next day
10:30 PM - Bed Time

I know it can all be accomplished with grace and dignity; the prayer comes in asking for the strength and rest to do so.

The challenge I fear the most: the emotional pull. I have thoroughly enjoyed the dedicated time I have had to my three children the last few weeks. The ability to focus on being mommy for a little while without the mental pull of my job has been a delight and much needed for my mommy's heart. As I look at tomorrow and the change it will bring, I am so thankful for my family and what they mean to me, and to my husband and the support he brings. His dedication to our children throughout the day makes it possible for me to love and enjoy my job outside of the home, ultimately making it easy to come back home to slip the mommy hat on once again.

I truly treasure every aspect of my life: family, children, job...I'm, once again, up for the challenge of making it all flourish within any given day. That is after I do the ironing, cleaning, writing out children schedules, making my lunch, etc.

Bye! Must get on with it :)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

60% there

NOTE: This blog contains serious thoughts and feelings of a postpartum mommy desperately trying to lose pregnancy weight number three.

Five weeks ago I rigorously started a new diet and workout routine to lose the tremendous amount of pregnancy weight that decided to take up residence. For some reason, after number three, the hint to leave is not easily received by the unwanted visitor on my thighs....arms...face...well, you name it! So, I started a ketogenic diet which basically teaches my body to use my fat cells as energy instead of depending on carbs. It is a low carb (under 20 g/day), high fat and protein diet. However, unlike the Adkins diet, it allows me one day of carb eating so that I'm not starving my body from all that is out there, ultimately teaching me how to keep the weight off when I do indulge a little bit. Now, let me please say that this type of diet isn't something to live by your entire life, but rather a means to an end where you feel comfortable in maintaining your weight loss.

My first worry when I investigated this diet was the results it would have on breast feeding. I was unwilling to even try if it would jeopardize that. However, since I am not concentrating on cutting calories, and I am truly eating more wholesome foods like spinach, broccoli, eggs, meats, etc. I am able to keep up my milk supply. I would even argue that in some sense it is more whole as my calories aren't consumed in junk food. Every calorie that is consumed is good for you and not wasted (minus maybe diet And as my son has gained almost 3 lbs in the last five weeks and grown 2 inches, I feel pretty good about my current decision.

So what do I eat throughout the day? Remember that my diet is truly focused on fat with protein.

Regular coffee w/ a tsp of Coconut Oil
2 egg omelet with mushrooms, cheese and ham (or bacon)

Chicken Curry Salad (mixed with celery and almonds)
Avocado Half

Meatloaf wrapped in bacon (recipe modified to not contain any bread or tomato sauce)
Broccoli with butter and salt

2 TBS of Natural Peanut Butter with Celery
String Cheese
Handful of natural almonds

In addition to the strict diet, I also strive to workout five days a week.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are strictly cardio days. The other days contain a warm up of cardio (15-20 minutes) with Monday's focus on ab/core strength, Wednesday's on lower body/legs, and Friday's focus on arms and back. It has been a good mix for me and I can feel myself getting stronger and leaner.

Saturday mornings are weigh-in days, as Saturday night is my cheat night ( I LOVE Saturday nights!!). My goal is 2 lbs a week and, for the most part, I have been able to keep to that goal. This will get me to goal weight by the end of the calendar year. Now, I do want to say that at this point of my journey I have technically lost all of my pregnancy weight with Kasen (child number three.) The remainder of the weight is what was still lingering from the other two pregnancies. :)

I'm pleasantly surprised with the results and how I feel while on the diet. I even find that, after carb night, I look forward to getting back into my routine. I will say, though, that I am looking forward to the end of the year when I can put this all behind me and not worry about it any more!

Happy Dieting! (I think that is an oxymoron)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Harvest Festivals

Now, I realize that Summer is chalked full of fun, adventurous things to do with your family. However, there is something about the onset of fall and the anticipation of pumpkin patches and fall festivals that get me really excited! About this time, I start scouring blogs, forums and newsrooms to make a list of these festivals and outings for our family. Yesterday, though, hubby surprised us with a trip to a local Harvest Festival that I had not heard anything about! We were so excited; bouncy houses, cotton candy, snow cones, hot dogs and pumpkin decorating awaited us!

When we arrived, we quickly stopped by the cotton candy stand to immediately sugar up the girls. I'm pretty sure the bag lasted a whole 2 minutes :)

We then moved on to all the bouncy toys. There were about eight different toys, all promising a different level of adventure. The favorite of the group was the big obstacle course ending in a huge slide (see videos below.) Coming in a close second was the old fashioned "jump 'till your hearts content" and the jumpy connected to a slide.

After the girls had officially gotten "all their wiggles out" we naturally got them a snow cone to eat prior to dinner, because dessert before dinner is necessary on adventures such as this. Their cute little lips were dyed red, along with parts of their clothing and fingers.

Then it was hot dogs and apples, just to balance out the amount of artificial sugar we just shoved down their throats!

Finally, it was pumpkin time! This particular venue asked that only one pumpkin per family was taken, which took a little convincing to our two princesses. However, together they found the most perfect pumpkin and I managed to capture a few semi-"Kodak moment" poses. :) Unfortunately, our time was running out for painting and decorating the pumpkin, so that will be a project for another day at home.

We had such a wonderful time! A great way to kick of the start of Fall.

Oh, and Kasen thoroughly enjoyed himself too...

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Love letter to my son

If you scour this blog (which I haven't written in consistently for awhile), I have yet to mention the newest member of our family, born to us on July 10, 2012.

This is our son, Kasen Baylor:

This letter is written with only words that a mother can pour out for her dear son.

My dear, sweet son ~
Words can't express the joy that filled my heart when I heard those words whispered "it's a boy!" Oh sweet boy, how I had prayed years for you believing that maybe a little boy wasn't in the future for me. Prior to finding out we were pregnant with you, your daddy and I struggled with the loss of another baby which broke mommy's heart. As the due date neared for the baby we lost too soon, I nearly gave up on trying for another child for a little while. The due date came and passed for our lost baby, only to find out shortly later that you were alive within me!

Oh sweet boy, I could hardly contain my excitement. The whole situation seemed so surreal with the perfect timing set only by our Lord. All the preparations for your arrival seemed sweeter, surviving the struggle of pregnancy seemed that much easier, and even labor was less painful knowing we were blessed with you.

In your short 10 weeks of life, the joy you have brought me has been immense. There is a certain bond between a mother's heart and her son that I cannot seem to explain. I long to protect you. I long to show you how to be the sweetest boy and young man; to make sure that you learn the act of chivalry and how to protect all those around you. I earnestly pray that you will fall in love Jesus and become a godly man and leader of your future family. I pray for your future wife and the love that you both will undoubtedly have. But before the future engulfs my thoughts, I hope only that your arms never get tired of wrapping around your momma. That you will forever indulge me in sweet kisses on your chubby cheeks and allow me to always call you my sweet baby boy.

I look forward to the weeks, months and years that we will have with you. The Lord has truly blessed us with this time to raise you and get to know you. How honored we are. I love you sweet boy. Always remember how much you are loved and that you were prayed for, day in and day out. The Lord answered my prayer with you!

Love, Mommy

Monday, September 17, 2012

Never late...Rarely early

This morning, in my moments between chaos and crazy, I spent some time with the Lord thanking him for his provisions throughout the coming day. Though consistency can be somewhat challenging as I learn to balance my new life of three, I find that these sweet moments alone in the morning (coffee in hand) allow me to focus clearly on the rest of the day with the correct perspective.

This morning I was reading in Jeremiah 5 and this verse stood out among the rest:
"Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest."  ~ Jeremiah 5:25
Here in chapter 5, along with the previous chapters, the Lord is working through the reasons why he must punish the people throughout the land. Though they were once close, they had chosen to completely walk away, worshiping false Gods, continually backsliding and rebelling, perversion...and the list goes on. The Lord's conversations with Jeremiah are based around how He will get His people to know and acknowledge him again, and the appropriate means to do this.

The above verse is embedded within a conversation of just that. The Lord is showing Jeremiah exactly what the people of that land are not doing; however, this verse stuck out to me as a promise.

So many times in life we feel that the hurry to fulfill or accomplish provides the better order in life. Being a planner in all areas of life, I understand the struggle between having everything ready ahead of time and waiting patiently for the direction from the Lord. I can feel the stress creeping in when the weeks are nearing a decision and there isn't the clear direction following the deadline. The Lord is continually having to teach me the beauty of the journey and freedom of trust and letting go. If I slow down and focus on each day as it comes, life becomes so much more enjoyable without the worry.

My most recent example has been my maternity leave timing. FMLA standards state that one gets 12 weeks (either consistent or intermittent) every 12 months either paid or unpaid. My company allows you to take disability pay for the first six weeks (60% of your normal salary) and then you can utilize any accrued sick time or vacation time for additional pay throughout the leave should you need to cover your salary. Prior to my son being born, my husband and I went back and forth on how we could cover finances during my leave and what the appropriate length of leave time would be for our family. We finally settled on 10 weeks leave as that was the accrued time that was available for financial coverage.

Well, this week marks the 10 week mark for me to return to work. However, about a week ago the anxiety started to set in again. I still feel so unprepared to return to work, as I'm not totally settled in to the schedules of three children plus trying to fit any other life into a normal day. After some investigation, it seems that I have more time accrued for coverage than originally perceived and I can now take my full 12 weeks of maternity leave!

Coincidence? I think that the Lord allowed this brief moment in time to again show me that He knows exactly what we need and will provide it at the exact moment. You see, nothing was different in the time that I had accrued, just the way that we had worked through how coverage would work, causing the decisions we originally made. At that time, thinking about 10 weeks of leave was sufficient for us, however, as the time grew near and anxiety set in, the Lord allowed the clarity of reality in what was available because that is what I needed at that exact moment.

The Lord is never late in His timing and rarely early. Everything He does is exactly on time, providing us the appropriate harvest when the conditions are just right. When I can remember this, life seems so much sweeter as He unfolds the blessings on my life both daily and annually.

Today's blessing: knowing that I now have a few more weeks with my babies before returning to the office! Thank you, Lord!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fall is in the air...

Colorado must have missed the memo on the fall season as the clear sky and warm heat still hovers around 80 degrees. But, as it is mid September, I'm already planning out the fall decorations that will make their appearance shortly, dreaming of fall outfits and tall boots, and craving the sweet smells of fall desserts, soups and entrees.

This weekend, I couldn't resist the tasty dishes any longer. With some fresh pumpkin frozen in the freezer (seriously...use fresh pumpkin instead of canned. It's WAY better), I decided that chocolate chip pumpkin cupcakes were on the menu for this weekend.

I wish I had a before picture of all the ingredients but, alas, I did not think that far ahead. So, you will have to use your imagination on how I get to this:

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 box of white cake mix (try yellow or spice cake as well)
15 ounces of pumpkin (1 can -- if you insist)
1/2 bag of chocolate chips

Seriously. That is it! The best part is that, since there is no raw egg, you won't feel guilty about feeding the batter to your children or setting some aside for yourself to dip graham crackers into while you wait for the others to bake. You will have to forgive me for not having exact measurements on the spices. You could probably go without the spices and it would still taste delicious, but they add that little extra that definitely makes it worth it. So, do as I do, and add a little bit of this and a little of that until you feel it tastes just right. Cooking instructions follow the cake box directions.

I then topped my cupcakes with delicious cream cheese frosting, because how could you not, and then sprinkled the top with a little cinnamon. Betty Crocker has a pretty good canned cream cheese frosting. However, you could also quickly whip up your own frosting combining the following:

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
8 ounces of cream cheese
2-3 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar until desired sweetness.

These seriously were just what we needed to kick start the fall season, even if the weather is a little behind. Try these today. You will thank yourself, and me.

For an added bonus, this is how easy it is to make your own pumpkin puree:

Pie Pumpkin (the smaller pumpkins - they are sweeter and will be better for cooking)
Blender/food processor

Cook the pumpkin in the oven according to the directions on the sticker (usually at around 400 degrees for about an hour.) When it is done cooking, allow it to cool to the point where you can handle it with your bare hands. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Scrape the pumpkin off of the skin and add it to your blender or food processor. Blend. If it is too thick, slowly add water to it as you blend until you can get a smooth consistency. Then measure out the pumpkin puree into freezer appropriate bags or containers, measuring out 15 ounces per container (this will make it easier for any pumpkin recipe you find, as most recipes go off of the canned pumpkin.) You should get at least 30-45 ounces per pie pumpkin.

Happy Fall!!