Monthly Archives: July 2013

Honey cupcakes for my Bumble Bee’s birthday!

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Miss Kylee has a handful of nicknames but since she was still in my belly we have called her “Bumble Bee”.  I would joke that she would buzz around my belly so the name stuck.  I have always kept an eye out for “bee” themed items for her and knew that for her first birthday we would throw her a ‘First Bee-Day” party.

I initially figured we wouldn’t be able to throw her an individual party because Kyle is going to be away again for her actual birthday.  We started planning a joint party for her and Reece but after a lot of thought and discussion on the matter we came up with a way to give her her own special day.  We are squeezing the party in to a short timeframe when Kyle is still in town and my mom is here (it is about a 12 hour overlap).

If you are familiar with our family you would know my mom is our resident “Cake Lady”.  She makes some amazing cakes and can decorate them as beautifully as the masters do.  I hoped she could make Kylee’s cupcakes and smash cake but we will literally be picking her up from the airport 90 minutes before the start of the party, not enough time for her special skill.  So it is up to me.

Pinterest saved me.  I found this amazing recipe for Honey cupcakes with a Honey & Cream Cheese frosting.  The original recipe is from The Cake Blog. I just made them as a test run and I can say for certain that these little cakes of amazing will be made time and time again.  I know our little Bumble Bee and her guests will love them!

Honey Cupcakes!

Honey Cupcakes!

For the cake:

1 stick butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In medium bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  3. In small bowl mix together wet ingredients: buttermilk, honey and vanilla, set aside.
  4. In bowl of stand mixer cream butter and sugar on medium speed until combined.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Gradually add the dry and wet ingredients, alternating starting and ending with dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  7. Using ice cream scoop fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  9. Let cupcakes cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.
  10. Once cupcakes are completely cool, ice with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting.

For the frosting:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp honey
yellow food coloring (optional)
yellow sugar sprinkles

  1. In bowl of stand mixer cream butter and cream cheese until combined.
  2. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to mixing scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  3. Mix in honey.
  4. If desired add a few drops of yellow food coloring to slightly tint the icing.
  5. Place the icing in a piping bag fitted with a round decorating tip and swirl the frosting on top of the cupcake going in a circular motion.
  6. Add some yellow sugar sprinkles and enjoy!

To give credit where credit is due, recipe and image stolen from thecakeblog.com.  Go check that blog out for more cake inspiration!

To-do, almost done (plus some)

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Every time Kyle has to leave I make a list of all the things I want to accomplish while he is away.  I can’t pinpoint why I am so much more productive when he’s gone, I just am.  After I put the kids down I turn on some music and get to work.  I usually stay up until some crazy hour of the night then crash into bed out of sheer exhaustion.  It is the only thing to look forward to concerning Kyle’s absence.

This go-around I wrote out a list that had 18 things.  Easy ones such as anchoring the cable in our bedroom to the wall and more time consuming ones such as refinishing the dining room table.  It is a dream list, one I know I won’t finish but at least everything is written in one place so that I can stay reminded of the things I want to do.

Kyle comes home tomorrow morning and I must admit, while looking over this list and looking around my house I feel like I made some serious headway.  I put away all of the stray linens that were still sitting in boxes since we moved, I went through/sorted all of my clothes and thrifted a ton, I cleaned out the truck, organized Kylee’s closet by size, started Reece’s busy book, re-covered the corkboard, painted our growth chart, and anchored that damn cable in our bedroom.  In addition to checking off those things from my list I also organized the laundry room, moved the unused couch ottomam out of the living room, hung a shelf in the kitchen, cleaned up my bookshelves, organized my desk, moved and organized the kids’ bookshelf, cleaned out the fridge, and cut the grass.

I love that things are getting done.  I have these grand plans to stay as productive when Kyle is home but deep in the back of my brain I know this is not the case.  We prefer to spend our time together by being together.  We may not be doing anything glamorous but watching TV with him takes precedence over thrifting old clothes.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no intentions of becoming a bum when Kyle is not away and blaming it on wanting to spend time together.  There are so many things that need to get done around the house that would be more fun if we did it together such as painting the picnic table.  It will be hot and messy work but it will be worth it for 1. The end product and 2. A fun way to be together while accomplishing something.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even let him help me refinish the dining room table (this is a project I have a little OCD over).

I am a little sad that not everything on my list was completed.  I wanted him to come home and I proudly show him everything checked off but I know as soon as he walks in the house he will notice a big difference with all the changes I was able to make.   I feel so accomplished.  Plus there will be more trips and to-do lists in the near future.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

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I have read a lot of really great books but there are few that leave me wishing the book would never end.  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is nearly 700 pages and I still wanted more.  I was sad when it ended but the story was complete with no need to go on.

This was one of the four books Kyle selected for me as a birthday present back in May.  I was unsure about it after reading the synopsis on the back because comic books aren’t really my ‘thing’. But it had won the Pulitzer and I am a sucker for accolades so I decided to jump in when I was ready for my next book.

The first thing I noticed was the author’s witty voice.  The sentences felt like they belonged in a comic book.  They had the personality and attitude to match the purpose of the sentence.  There was no fluff, no unnecessary exaggerations; you got what you needed and nothing more.  I hate overly descriptive books where the author takes four pages to paint a scene down the dust on furniture and was relieved that Chabon never once wasted my time with that crap.  There was so much story on every page that even though it took me a while to read, it kept me so engaged that time flew right by.

The Amazing Adventures  of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures
of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon

Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay are the two protagonists in this epic novel.  Joe escaped from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia leaving behind his family in hopes of making enough money in America to pay their fair to join him.  Sam, his cousin had big dreams of striking it rich by producing comic books but he has no artistic talent.  The two join up, Joe illustrating while Sammy comes up with the storyline, to create a super successful series called The Escapist about a masked man who can escape from any bonding.

The relationship between the cousins is wholesome.  Both are about the same age with similar interests (magic and especially Harry Houdini) and both desire to be successful even if it is for two seriously different reasons.  They work together, and have a believable and authentic feeling relationship.  I fell in love with the young men, whole heartedly wishing nothing but the best for them.

As the two become successful Joe is hit time and time again with the news of his family’s status.  He saves every penny he can to help get them out of harm’s way even going so far as paying for the passage of other Jews to better the chances for his brother.  Over the years Joe develops a relationship with Rosa which softens him some but the future of his family is always in the back of his mind.

Sammy was raised mostly by his mother while his father traveled in a circus like setting.  Struggling with his own sexuality, a physical handicap, and the lackluster payout of his comic authorship dreams, Sammy cannot find a stream for direction in his life.

I just loved this book.  This is the type that I wish I was still in DC with my book club ladies so we could discuss it.  There was so much story and although I was reading it for what seemed like for-ev-er I still could not put it down.  There were no dull moments, no characters I couldn’t stand, no sub-plots that didn’t connect, and no missed opportunities.  There is so much to talk about but I do not want to give away any of the book so please believe me when I tell you that this book was great.  Don’t be daunted by the length of this novel just pick up a copy and read it (you can thank me later).

After finishing I was doing a little research and discovered that The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist was actually made into a comic book in three parts which I quickly ordered and am now waiting on.  Since I ordered them used from a private seller it will take a while for them to arrive but once they do I hope to devour them and write additional reviews.

I have baby fever, royally!

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I am one of them.  I am going nuts, haven’t turned off the tv, checking the web for updates, and soaked in all of the Royal baby news I can find.  Every girl, at some point or another, dreamed of being a princess and I find it so exciting that a normal girl went from unknown to crowned! 

Congrats Willy and Kate on your new Prince!!!

They are some of the small fraternity of people who can actually call their child a ‘prince’ and it be accurate.   

I don’t indulge in much of celebrity gossip and I rarely watch reality TV but when it comes to the Royal clan over in Great Britain I just can’t seem to get enough of it. 

First was the drama of Will and Kate’s on-and-off relationship. My heart broke when their representatives announced they had split up but then skipped a beat when it was announced they had gotten back together.  I thought “those two are destined to end up together”.  William-and-Kate

Then they did!  I ate up every second of coverage about their engagement.  I was the person scoured the internet looking at her ring, their engagement photo, and searching for the story of how he asked.  As the wedding detail were released I followed along, it was so much fun. 

I was on the couch at the crack of dawn (Eastern time) to watch the wedding of William and Catherine.  I watched every second then read a bunch of news articles and watched replays for days after.  At the time of their nuptials I worked at Borders so I read biographies about the pair.  I was enamored. 

I had hoped for baby news soon but was totally caught off guard when officials announced Kate was in the hospital then confirmed she was PREGNANT!  There is nothing more relatable than pregnancy for a princess and the average person.  She will suffer morning sickness (even though her’s was more extraordinary) and put on weight (even though she looked phenomenal at every appearance) and in the end she will have to deliver (even though her care is different than you or I may get).  Pregnancy is one of the great equalizers because the baby –for the most part- is in control. 

So news broke last night (HST) and I have been hooked to media since.  I woke up and checked my phone and the news for any announcement of the royal arrival…nothing.  I carried on with my day, taking the kids to a playdate and refused to check my phone, choosing to focus on my babies.  But then after I buckled Kylee in her seat and waited for Reece to buckle his I checked my phone and saw it!  My heart melted.  Now comes weeks and months of baby updates!

I am a sucker but is there a better subject to be a sucker over?  Okay, the Queen is a little detached from the normal world and her son, the Prince of Wales is a bit distanced as well, but Prince William, his beautiful wife, Catherine and Prince Harry seem so normal they’re easily likable. 

I am so happy for the new parents.    

The next 20 books

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I just finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon and what a book it is!  I feel like I need a couple of days to stew on it before I can write a review because I am a little bitter that it ended.  Not how it ended but that it ended altogether.  It is apparent why this book is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  It was phenomenal.

So instead of writing about the book I just finished I have decided to write about my reading intentions of the future.  I am making a promise to myself and Kyle (even though he want aware of it until this sentence) that I am not buying another book until I read at least 20 of the books on my “to read” list.

I don’t typically like to be confined to a set group of books I can only read, that may be why I buy more books than I have time for so I can still have a choice when the time comes.  I go to Target or peruse Amazon for my ‘next book’ but once the newness of it fades away it finds a place on my bookshelf and a lowly rank on my list.  I have these grand intentions when I buy the book but nothing comes to fruition.

There are 21 books on the bookshelf in our room.  I am always noticing them when I am deep between the covers of a book.  They speak to me.  They cry, “me next!” but when I finish the last word on the last page of the book I finished reading their calls are not nearly as loud as the ones by the books I haven’t purchased yet.  I try to restrain myself but it inevitable for me to walk down the book isle at any retail store and pick up one that will make a perfect addition to my library.  It’s awful.

So, in no specific order here are the next 20 books I plan to read:

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau

The Glassblower of Murano by Maria Fiorato

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David wroblewski

The Lost Van Gogh by A. J. Zerries

A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Winter of the World by Ken Follett

The Great Gatsby by F/ Scott Fitzgeralg

These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

And I will start this adventure with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

 

This will be fun.  A reset on my book buying impulses which will save us money and farce me to follow a syllabus of sorts.

When a stranger steps in to help

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Today was going so well.  I had made an appointment for this afternoon with the doctor for Kylee because she wasn’t keeping any food in her belly (from the top and bottom ends) for about five days.  Since she is now walking I opted to not take the stroller into the hospital because it takes up so much space in the tiny examination room.  Reece would walk and I would hold Kylee to and from the office where I would let her walk too.

Reece was being such a great kid.  He stayed with me did what I asked him to do.  When we got into the office, he ran to the kids area and sat down with a few other boys and read books.  When they called Kylee for her vital I left Reece at the table and peeked around the corner every few minutes.  I was happy with how good he was being.

But then things changed.

When we were called back to the exam room Reece followed me in and immediately started acting like a little butt.  He began jumping on the step-stool, tuning the sink on and off, screaming, banging into things, opening drawers and going through them!  I tried everything I could to stop this behavior but he just wasn’t listening to me.  I would sit him down in the chair next to me so I could talk to the doctor and he would jump right up and go right back to what got him in trouble in the first place.  It was so embarrassing.

Our appointment was at 1 so I tried to get him down for a nap early but he never fell asleep.  It also didn’t help that for the past few days, given Kylee not feeling so well, I have told Reece numerous times to settle down and play quieter so he doesn’t wake her.  Plus Kyle isn’t here so in addition to him missing daddy, I haven’t taken him outside as much so he can burn his building energy.  And with all the focus being on his sister I’m sure jealousy played a role in today’s behavior.

Everything I tried failed.  I tried taking him out of the situation, sternly talking to him (which probably came off as yelling), giving a snack in hopes of keeping him seated and quiet, giving him the Kindle as a distraction, ignoring, and so much more.  I did everything short of pulling down his pants and spanking him.  It just didn’t work.

The doctor, who I could tell was reaching his limit as well, looked at Reece when he blatantly ignored me when I told him to sit down and said to him in a firm voice, “Your mother said go sit down.”  Reece dropped his chin to his chest and walked to the chair and sat down quietly.  I mouthed to the doctor “Thank you” and we continued discussing Kylee.

I think we need to help other parents out more often.  We have gotten to a point as a society where if an adult yells at a child whom is not theirs the child’s parent responds with teeth and claws.  I want other people to correct my kids.  A similar situation happened in the commissary shortly after we arrived on the island.  A woman noticed I was having a hard time with Reece and she came over to my cart and said to him, “You need to listen to your mommy or I am going to take you home and you won’t like living with me!”  Reece got himself together real quick and didn’t give me any hassle the rest of the day.

I want Reece to be corrected by any adult in his vicinity.  There are some situations where kids need to be kids and handle their problems themselves but if my child does something that deserves correcting, for the most part, I am okay with another parent stepping in.  If it is a severe or serious problem then I will take care of it but the little things can be handled by any person who notices.  I want my kids to know that just because mommy or daddy isn’t around doesn’t mean s/he can get away with thing they know are not right.  I also want them to understand that acting out affects more people then they realize.  When the doctor reinforced what I was saying it made Reece realize that he wasn’t being cute or funny and that he was not making the right decisions.  I think he felt embarrassed too.

I was planning on going to the commissary today because our kitchen is nearly bare but I figured with how Reece was behaving and Kylee not feeling well it best to save that trip for tomorrow.  If you see me there and the kids are acting out, feel free to come up and call them on it.  It will probably change their behavior for the better.

 

***Disclaimer: Do not think that I feel it is acceptable for someone to yell at my kids or discipline them.  I only mean that calling them out when tehy are acting out or reinforcing what I have already told them is okay.

PS.  I haven’t proof read this post.  I can’t right now.  I am still trying to wind down after this adventure at the doctor’s office, I am starving, and it sounds like Reece is waking up.  If there are typos, mispellings, and other errors all I can say is “oops”.  I will try to come back and proof it later but if the first half of my day is any example of how the second half will play out I will not have the time or energy.  Sorry.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, and Beer Pancakes!

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There is nothing better than waking up on a lazy Sunday morning and making pancakes to enjoy with my family.  Usually, I buy Aunt Jemima and add some beer but I recently came across a recipe that inspired me to break free from boxed pancakes and make them from scratch.  I altered the recipe –because I can’t seem to follow directions- by adding beer and topping with chocolate chips.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, and Beer Pancakes

Ingredients 

There were a hit in our house!

There were a hit in our house!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt (I like kosher)
2 eggs
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 ½ cup milk
½ cup beer*
Chocolate chips (optional)
Butter

*the beer you add is totally up to you.  You will get a hint of the flavor (yeast & hoppy-ness) so I suggest not using a fruity beer or a heavy stout.  Plus you can opt-out from using any beer at all, just substitute with more milk.

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In separate bowl combine eggs and peanut butter.  Once combined, mix in the milk.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix just until combined, you want the batter lumpy.
  4. Pour in the beer and gently stir to incorporate, still allowing it to remain lumpy.  (You can add more beer if the batter seems too think but add in small amounts as to not make the batter too liquidy). Allow batter to rest for five minutes
  5. On a hot griddle (just UNDER medium heat) drop a small dollop of butter letting it melt in the pan then pour batter right on top of it. You can do small coin-cakes or large pan cakes, whatever you are feeling.
  6. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the pancake shortly after you pour them so they have time to settle into the batter.
  7. After a few minutes, flip.
  8. Enjoy.