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Thursday, April 10, 2014

6th Birthday Questions



My first born turned six years old last week.  I have no idea where the last six years has gone!  Man, I'm getting old.

Johnathan picked to go to IHop for his birthday because he wanted pancakes for dinner.  To say he is a fan of pancakes is an understatement.


We had thrown him a camping themed birthday party.  Here's the cake!  You can also see some of the decor in the background.


The "flames" are melted jolly ranchers and melted butterscotch candies.


The rocks are made of chocolate.  The logs are Pirouette cookies made by Pepperidge Farm and the dirt is crushed oreos.  Everything is edible. 


Here are all the kids in the basement with sleeping bags watching Scooby Doo Camp Scare (including baby brother sitting on the coach like a big boy).  They all had a blast!

If you remember, last year I asked him some questions on his 5th birthday.  I decided to make this an annual tradition because I think it will be fun to see how his answer change (or don't in some cases) throughout the years.

Q: What was your favorite part of the day? A: Going to school (that's my boy!).
Q: What's your favorite color? A: yellow & red (interesting, we learned he is color blind this past year).
Q: What is your favorite food? A: Homemade Mac & Cheese (yeah, my version is better than the boxed stuff).
Q: favorite snack? A: granola bars
Q: favorite movie? A: Star Wars: Clone Wars (all his father).
Q:Who is your best friend? A: Harper and Katie, and Robbie but I needed room for girls (mommy fell from his list).
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? A: Make bills just like you mommy (I think misunderstands my job a little bit but I guess that's ok). 

Well, I'm now officially a mother of a six year old, keep me in your prayers :)






Friday, March 21, 2014

Robbie's First Birthday Party


Well it is official.  My baby is NO.LONGER.A.BABY (insert teary eyes here).  A couple weeks ago we had a few family and friends over to celebrate his big day.  


It turns out he is a fan of cake (duh).  The bigger the piece the better!  He literally ate an adult sized piece of chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.   Hey, you only turn one once you know! 


His big brother gave him a toy Bert from Sesame Street (get it, Robert=Bert).  He also drew him this adorable picture.  The top reads, "Happy Birthday".  It is a picture of the four of us in front of the house on a nice sunshiny day (oh how I miss sunshiny days). 


I went for an airplane theme for his birthday because that was the theme of his birth announcements and I'm still diggin' the theme. I tried to keep everything simple.  For example, that's just blue wrapping paper with clouds cut free hand from copy paper taped to our built in china hutch.  The highchair banner was the perfect little touch.  I used PTI's boxy banners die, this is by far the most used die in my collection but more on that in a different post. 


I did something very similar to the hutch above our buffet by using a big cardboard box for stability.  Excuse the glare, I'm by no means a professional photography and had way more important things going on that day!  My hubby made the paper airplanes that hung from a string from our curtain rod to make it look like they were "flying". 


Here's the cake in all its chocolatey goodness.  This cake is to die for!  I've posted about it before and it is my go-to chocolate cake recipe.  You can find all the details on Mel's Kitchen Cafe


I always use Martha Stewart's Swiss buttercream frosting recipe with gell food coloring that I get from a local baking shop.


The "clouds" on the cake are just white cotton candy.  I purchased white cotton candy online through oriental trading company.


Again, my hubby made this paper airplane as well.  We just used a skewer to keep it in place.  


I made this cute month to month banner that I have yet to take down because I just love it.


Is it socially acceptable if I just keep this up always on my mantel?  To be honest, I haven't taken down any of his birthday decorations yet so I don't know who I'm trying to fool.  Johnathan turns six next week, I promised myself I would take them down before then. 


The little round banner was fun to make.  Johnathan helped me create all the banners.  We just hole punched with a 1.5 inch circle punch and sewed a bazillion of them together.  They actually are a really quick project!  Just use a straight stitch on your sewing machine.  It doesn't require anything fancy.  A quick search on the internet and you will see these circle banners EVERYWHERE!  I'm cool like that.


I used PTI's boxy banners to create the disgustingly cute baby picture banner in case you were wondering and wanted to re-create one yourself.  Of course, I'd always be willing to make you one through my etsy shop.  


The numbers also came from a PTI Die set. The cute baby was not included with any of those die purchases.  You need to get your own cute baby people.  No borrowing! 



He is all smiles after eating a huge helping of lasagna for lunch, followed by his favorite after dinner drink.


Keeping it simple was definitely key. 


Yummy cake helped too!


Here's the whole gang. 


Here's the birthday boy getting help opening his presents from his two big helpers. 

Tip for all working mommas out there:  have your party on a Sunday so you have Saturday to clean and cook like a mad woman, this was the first year I picked a Sunday instead of a Saturday and it worked out beautifully and saved me a Friday vacation day for another time.  Because who likes to burn a vacation day to clean their house? I sure don't! 

Speaking of cleaning.  I have a disgusting house to clean this weekend before my other guy turns six and has his camping themed birthday party next week!

I'll be back with more then (if not before)!  See yeah!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Baby Robert Turns One!


This post is for my son who turns one today.  It is a bittersweet day for me and I can't help but feel overwhelmed with a wide range of emotions.  I wanted to use this post as an opportunity to document those feelings for my son.
-------------------------

Dear Robbie-

I have no idea how the last 365 days went by so quickly and how madly deeply in love with you I have become.  I am just smitten by you each and every day.  I could write a very long post and go on and on but for the sack of having a point, I'm listing here the five biggest things that have surprised me most about you in this first year of your life:


One.
I can't believe we call you "Robbie".  When we finally decided on day five to name you Robert James, I thought for sure you would always be a Robert.  I'm surprised at how quickly we started calling you Robbie (probably around 3 months) and just how natural it has seemed.  There is just something about your easy-going disposition that makes this nickname perfect for your personality.


Two.
If I close my eyes in a silent room and take a deep breath, I can still smell your sweet scent and feel your warm snugly tiny body against mine.  I can even see your cute one sided smirk and hear your tiny little coos. I never want to lose this memory.  If I could stop time and live one moment over and over again, it would be this one.  I love you with all of my soul and all of my being.


Three.
Breastfeeding you was the most wonderful-frustrating-hard-joyous thing I have ever done.  It wasn't easy, it didn't come naturally, and it took a lot of advise from others but we did it!  Through all the cracked nipples, blood blisters, mastitis, gall bladder surgery, pancreatitis, and even the flu- we did it!  We went a full nine months.  While I am happy to have some more free time on my hands since breastfeeding has ended and dad can now help with feedings, I genuinely miss our special bonding time together.


Four.
I am pleasantly surprised by your independent nature.   Early on you were very content just chilling in your swing or in your bouncy chair all by yourself.  You have never been one to want to snuggle at bedtime, you like your space and enjoy your alone time.  Even now at age one, you are content playing with blocks or with trains all by yourself.



Five.
You have completed our family.  I know it sounds totally cliche but I promise it is true.  It took your daddy and I almost two full years to conceive you.  Not a single day went by in those two years that I didn't obsess, dream, cry, and pray for your existence.  You're a greater gift than I ever could have dreamed of and I can not imagine my life without you in it.  I am so lucky to be your ma-ma-ma-ma.  I admire the bond you and your brother already share and I am so excited to see your relationship evolve as you grow old together, I hope you two are besties always.



I know this is only the first of many, many, many more birthdays to come and I can't wait to see what great things each passing year has in store for you.

Love,
Mommy


Monday, February 17, 2014

Easy Homemade Yogurt




So last year at this time I was expecting my little one to gleefully pop out of my belly at any moment and because I was feeling so cocky good I thought I would spend a weekend filling my freezer with some meals for after his arrival. 

One of the items that I decided to make that weekend was yogurt. I had been wanting to make yogurt for so long.  I didn't have high hopes for it but really I just want to check it off my cooking bucket list.    I saw yogurt making as kind of silly.  WHY would you go through the trouble of making it when you can just go buy the stuff at the store?  It's like making your own ice cream, ricotta, or heck, brownies from scratch. 

Then I made it. 

Let me tell you people.  Yogurt making was LIFE CHANGING.

Not only is homemade yogurt delicious and easy,  it is cheaper (and I’ll argue healthier) than the store bought stuff.  I’ve read a lot of online tutorials about making your own yogurt   All of them promising the process is super easy but then they go on and on about all these steps you need to take and the threat of bacteria taking over your home.  I’m exaggerating a bit, but seriously, have you ever read some the message boards out there?  Crazy wack-a-doodles  are everywhere!

In fact, these crazy wack-a-doodles scared me enough that I put off trying to make my own yogurt for a good year.  I put it off until Mel (my favorite food blogger) wrote her own post about yogurt making that made the process seem do-able.  Her “DIY Homemade Yogurt”  post is thorough and includes a great step by step picture tutorial.  Heck, you can stop reading my post here and just go to her blog.  Please don’t leave.  Please? 




I’ll bribe you with cute pictures of my babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! 



And my older son!


And kitties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



And doggy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Besides, you’ll miss out on my snarckiness if you leave.  

Ok, for real, let's get back at this.  Yogurt making is really really simple, hence all the silly distractions above.

You will need:
1 gallon of 1% milk
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup of plain yogurt

You take a 5 quart (or larger) crock pot and fill it with about 2 cups of 1% milk (don't measure, just dump some in).  You can use whole milk as well, but this family doesn't need the extra fat.




Add in 1/2 cup of dry powdered milk (the envelops are usually measured to 1/2 cup).  You can skip the powdered milk, but the powdered milk makes the yogurt a thicker consistency and I like really thick yogurt.  I've read that if you use whole milk you can skip this step (the fat in the whole milk makes it thick enough, I've never tried it).  I've skipped it all together one time even with my 1% milk and it still turned out fine (just a little thinner consistency that's all).


Wisk



Pour in the rest of that gallon of milk


Turn the crock pot on high



Heat to 180 degrees.  This takes exactly 3.5 hours with my crock pot.  I've let it get too hot, no worries, it still turned out.


Remove crock from the heated pot.  Uncover and stir.  Let the temperature reduce to 110 to 120 degrees.  Yes, I've missed this before too.  I just heated it back up to 110 degrees and it worked just fine.  This usually takes about 1 hour.  While this is cooling, preheat your oven to the lowest temp it will let you, mine is 175 degrees.  Once it is pre-heated, turn off the oven.  You want the oven to be warm, not hot (it will kill the cultures if too hot).


Once the temperature is between 110 and 120 degrees, you are going to add in 1/2 cup of yogurt.  Now, I always use a yogurt from my previous batch but you can go out to the store and just purchase a container of yogurt.  I'd suggest an unflavored greek style variety.  Just make sure it has "live active cultures" in it, because after all, we're growing cultures here.  Wisk it in.



Now recover your milk and wrap it up in a nice big towel and place it in your oven for 8-12 hours.  I usually time this step to occur overnight and put it in my oven around 9pm and take it out around 7am.  Remember, your oven is turned OFF.  


When you pull it out you are going to have something that looks like this:


When you put a spoon into it, it will feel and look like a nice soft yogurt.  Now, if it is too soft for you, you can put it back in the oven for a few hours, just don't mix it all up.  The cultures do not like to be disturbed. Once it is mixed, the "magic" stops and the cultures stop multiplying.  


All that yellow "stuff" is whey.  If you want nice thick yogurt, you want to strain the whey away. (whey away...haha).  I do this with a cheesecloth set in a colander over a bowl (with a tiny bowl inside to elevate it).



Let this sit in the refrigerator.  You can let it strain for as little time as you like. It just depends on how thick you like your yogurt.  Most tutorials recommend 4-8 hours.  Dump the whey every once in while (I usually dump it a couple times).  You don't have to throw this whey away.  It tastes great in bread (instead of water).  I usually just end up throwing mine away though because I'm not usually that ambitious.


 I let my yogurt strain for 24 hours.  Yes, 24 hours.  Remember, I like my yogurt thick.  It will look dry and have the consistency of peanut butter BUT after just a few seconds in the food processor (or blender) you will have a heavenly delicious yogurt.




I love to add honey to the blending step, HOWEVER, I have a baby in the house so we've been skipping this step and keeping it plain so that it is baby friendly.


 That's it.  You're done.  You will end up with about 5-6 cups of yogurt from 1 gallon of milk.  It will last for about 1-2 weeks (use the milk expiration date as your guide), however, it only lasts in this house for about 1 week before it is completely eaten.


I'm telling you people, this stuff is so delicious.  You will NEVER buy store bought again once you try this.  My favorite way to eat it is with honey, coconut, chocolate chips, and fruit.  Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking this is ice cream.  Sometimes.




Babies like it too (no honey!).


I hope I've encouraged you to go home and try this.  It is snowing like a dickens here in Wisconsin so it is a great night to stay in and snuggle up to a big bowl of yogurt.