Monday, February 24, 2014

Do the things that frighten you (See also: Selfies on the Beach in February)

This past weekend, I finally did something that I had been wanting to do for some time: I participated in a polar bear plunge in Seaside Heights. Yes, one of those crazy events where a group of lunatics jumps into the ocean in February. And you know what? It was amazing! The weather was reasonably decent (50 or so degrees), exceptionally warm for February, and I had the support of my husband, kids, parents and grandparents, all of whom came down to spend the day at the shore and cheer me  on. My mom even decided at the last minute to take the plunge with me!
All of the money raised by donations went to the Special Olympics, and this one event managed to raise over a million dollars. Yes, the water was cold. But the experience overall was wonderful, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I wish I had known to leave the house earlier, since we were stuck in traffic for an hour and a half. I wish I knew that this was the kind of thing where costumes are completely appropriate. In all fairness, hubs did tell me, but I thought he was making it up. I wish had spent more time on fundraising and raised more money. But overall? I just wish I'd done it sooner.
As a stay-at-home mom, I feel like I sometimes lose little bits of myself- pieces of my personality that are pushed into the background. When I had to give up the rollercoasters I always loved so much due to pregnancy and having very little ones, or had to pack up some of my bigger art supplies to make more room for baby stuff, or undertake fewer strenuous hikes or stopped doing really serious writing, I always felt like pieces of me went missing. Now slowly but surely I'm taking them back, by doing things that scare me in some way or another. Sometimes I'm scared I won't be able to follow through (as was the case this past weekend at the plunge) or that I won't finish a collage or poem, or I'm just scared of failure (I still haven't signed up for the half-marathon I've been training for since November, because I'm scared I won't be able to finish it, though I partially blame the weather). But pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to do the scary stuff is the one way I've found to take back those pieces of myself I thought I'd lost. 
This is my year to undertake all those monumental-seeming, somewhat intimidating tasks on my bucket list. Why? Because nothing is stopping me, and by taking care of myself physically (half-marathon training) and mentally (doing things that make me feel like a whole, brave person and not merely an extension of my children), I can be a better wife and mother and person in general. Also, it's giving me a sense if accomplishment that I thought I'd left in my office when I came home to take care of the kids. And some good stories, too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Life: An Adventurous Few Months

Hi all! Bet you didn't think I'd be back, like, ever. It's been a crazy few months. I know that having a new baby is a big adjustment, but I was not expecting this caliber of crazy. Stenni was a terrible eater but a great sleeper. Cuatro? A great eater (well, sometimes too good...I can't possibly nurse him enough), and probably because he's such a good eater and wants at it round the clock, not such a wonderful sleeper. So our household, which was used to a bare minimum of a solid 8 hours of lights-out, lock-down, quiet time awesome sleep, has really taken a hit, this mama especially. I feel like my immune system's really taken a hit by the lack of sleep and the total lack of sunshine, and I've been sick off and on since the end of November, which kind of sucks when you're already a little beat as it is. We've gotten a ton of snow this year (y'know, being in the northeast and all) and winter feels never-ending, and there's really nowhere to get out and exercise, which is kind of another bummer especially in regards to the rapidly-approaching half-marathon I had planned to run at the end of April. All of these things are kind of tricky, but right now it feels like there is enough sweetness in my house to last me right through til all of this ridiculous snow melts and the sun comes back again (which I suspect will be some time around June).
I will be back very soon with the most delicious tea bread recipe that I've ever tasted, some fitness goals and updates, and a post about doing things that scare you, just because you can ( hint/teaser: I'm doing one of them tomorrow and I'm terrified/super-psyched).

Kiddos, cuddling. Is there anything sweeter than siblings who still get along?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bananas for sugar!

Hello everyone, hope all is well and settled down after the holidays. For those in the northeast, I know they have done anything but settle down what with the 20+ inches ya'll received over the last week or so. So for those of you reading this, hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow.

Anyways, it's been a while since there has been a post, for that I apologize. V is spending time loving up her new baby boy and I've been slacking on my guest blogs. BUT, I have two super easy Pinterest snack recipe finds to share with you guys, so I hope you'll enjoy as much as I did.

The first, a super delicious and fun snack for those of us trying to lose a few pounds but constantly being bombarded by our sweet tooth. Frozen banana bites. SO yummy, also they kind of taste like ice cream. These awesome snacks are an easy way to use up those ripe bananas and get a sweet and salty fix quick. They're just like the "Dole" brand frozen fruit products, only they were free, I already had all of this stuff in my pantry.



All you need for these are a few (however many you'd like to use) bananas, dark chocolate (or milk, but if you use dark chocolate you can get away with saying your getting antioxidants), and any kind of peanut butter you like. You can alter this recipe any way you want and maybe sprinkle some coconut for texture, or totally take out the peanut butter part, no matter what you do they're pretty good.

1. Slice the bananas into equal size slices and lay out on a plate covered in tinfoil or parchment paper. 
2. Spread a small amount of peanut butter on top of each slice
3. Melt small amount of chocolate chips in microwave safe dish 30-45 seconds
4. Either dip bananas or spread chocolate over bananas. You can cover the whole banana slice, or just cover the peanut butter on top.
5. Place the tray into the freezer for about 30 minutes, or long enough to set the chocolate.
6. Pop those babies out an enjoy!

*These will last a few days in your freezer so you can pop a few out whenever you get a craving. They don't, however, last that long once you take them out of the freezer. So if you want them to be creamy and delicious, just take out anything you'll eat in 20 minutes or so.



My final delicious snack is also a good way to use up ripe bananas. Three ingredient banana cookies. "Cookies" is a little misleading, perhaps granola bars would be more fitting? Super easy, super versatile. No flour, no sugar, just 2 ripe bananas, a cup of quick oats, and 1/4 cup of dried fruit. If your not into dried cranberries and such, you could also substitute for something a little sweeter like chocolate chips or caramel pieces (which is a new twist I took for the ones in the picture). 



All you do for this super easy recipe is:
1. Preheat your over to 350. Mash your ripe bananas until creamy
2. Add your 1 cup of quick oats and 1/4 cup of dried fruit or choco. chips. Here you can also add a little extra flavor if you so desire. I like to add a little cinnamon and vanilla for some umph. 
3. Mix until all of your ingredients are combined. 
4. Spoon balls of mixture onto greased cooking sheet
    * These cookies don't spread, they will maintain whatever shape you make them, so if you want them to  look like a cookie use the back of your spoon to smush them into shape. 
5. Place in oven and let cook 10-12 minutes. They will brown a little, but don't really crisp because of the banana. 
6. Let cool, and enjoy!

*These are best if enjoyed within a day or two of making, otherwise the banana will get stale and they wont taste as delicious.

My boyfriend really loves these cookies, they are soft and chewy, but also healthier so you don't have to feel so bad when you eat 5 of them in one sitting. 

Anyway, these are two of my new favorite snacks for the house because they are so easy and so scrumptious. I hope you guys like them, let me know!

~Shlee








Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls 101 - A Sunday Snack!

Cinnamon Rolls 101

     So let me start off by saying that I am not a baker, I've only recently started because I moved in with my boyfriend who eats pretty much whatever I make (he likes perusing Pinterest or allrecipes.com to find weekend breakfast recipes and healthy meals to challenge me with). Since I’ve had more time on my hands now that I graduated college, what better way to spend my free time!


     I’m Shlee, by the way, V’s younger sister, I will be guest blogging for her a time or two while she and her hubby adjust to having a new addition!


    So on one of my bf’s recipe hunts he came across a recipe for cinnamon rolls (which is his favorite weekend breakfast). I thought this would be impossible to make – we didn't have yeast, we didn't have cream cheese for frosting, and we didn't have bread flour for dough, but I found this recipe that I already had the ingredients for in the pantry, and it turned out just as delicious as the premade Pillsbury rolls but more fun to make.

So this is everything you’ll need for the cinnamon rolls.

Mix together the filling ingredients until they are a crumbly mixture.

Mix the ingredients for the dough together. The dough will very soft and sticky.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle, make sure it is thick enough that it won’t tear when you roll it up.

Sprinkle the cinnamon filling onto the rolled out dough. Leave a little bit of room on all sides to make sure the filling doesn’t leak out, then roll up the dough so that the filling stays inside.

Use a sharp knife to cut the rolled up dough and filling into 12 (semi) equal parts.

Place the 12 cut rolls into greased muffin tins. (This is where you can add the extra cinnamon, butter and sugar mixture into a few of your tins if you’d like an extra gooey cinnamon roll.)

This is how they look when they’re fresh out of the oven.

Once they’re cooled enough to remove from the pan, add your icing glaze (which is what I used since we were out of cream cheese) or cream cheese frosting and enjoy while they’re warm!

     This recipe is perfect for a cold, lazy weekend morning or a fun project for small children to help with on a holiday – maybe I’ll try it with Stenni and Cuatro for Christmas! Enjoy =)

Filling: 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Dough: 
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour (plus whatever you’ll need for rolling)
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk or buttermilk

 OR 

 Glaze:
 2/3 cup powdered sugar
 1/2 tsp vanilla
 2 tablespoons milk

 Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin or round cake pan with nonstick spray.
2. Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, combine the filling ingredients with a fork (I used my hands) until a crumbly mixture is formed.
3. Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use clean hands to work the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the milk and the egg and stir to combine. The dough will be very soft.
4. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into roughly shaped large rectangle. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all the way around. Carefully roll up the rectangle. Use a sharp knife to cut 12 rolls. If you want smaller rolls, cut them a little smaller and you'll get 18. Carefully place the rolls in the prepared muffin tin.
5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool, then pipe on frosting and enjoy!

*For some of my cinnamon rolls I added about a teaspoon of a mixture of brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon to the muffin tin for a sweeter, more gooey treat. But believe me, the recipe is delicious either way.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Life Looks Like These Days




It looks a lot like this, actually:
And sometimes like this:
(Obligatory shot to show you the size of Cuatro to scale using Deandra as a benchmark.)
(This is only maybe 6 hours before Stenni's little brother was born. So we let her wear Papa's hat and shirt. I have to get used to the fact that this is what life used to look like)
This is soooo very different from how it was only two weeks ago. Our routine can hardly be called a routine at all. We eat when we can (thankfully we had a lot of stuff made ahead of time, and a lot of people brought food when they came to visit!), sleep when we can, and the rest? We just make it up as we go along. We try to still get Stenni to school on school days, and the Hubs makes sure to get out of the house to teach his guitar lessons, but other than that we haven't really kept track of the days. We are lucky enough that Hubs is taking off most of November from his "day job" to help us recalibrate our family life, and help me to get used to the flow of things as they are now. I couldn't do any of this without him, and having so much family time, especially around the holidays, makes this transitional period that much sweeter. So yes, that second picture down is us standing in front of our already-decorated Christmas tree. Yes, our Christmas lights are up and the garland is hung on the mantel and I love it. We've been doing silly stuff like going out looking for mistletoe as a family (we've been to 3 stores and haven't found any yet but will keep looking!) and having jello picnics and reading and cuddling together. I'm lucky that our little Cuatro is a very good eater and a great little sleeper, so with the help of the Hubs, I'm almost functioning like a normal human being again. Also, it's gotten really cold around here and I don't want to go outside, so I'm getting more cuddle time with everyone in the house, which is a total blessing. I'm feeling very loved these days, and it's wonderful.
My sister Shlee will be all up on this blog, updating for me at some point in the near future while I continue to cuddle and snuggle and nap and change a thousand diapers a day (I seriously forgot how many diapers little newborn babies go through, but it's a ton). Thanks Shlee! See everyone soon!

Monday, November 4, 2013

He's here!

Cuatro is finally here! We are happy, healthy, and exhausted! More details later, I promise, but for now:
One sleepy baby boy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Pinwheel Cookies

I was looking for an easy, last-minute-ish cookie to make for Stenni's preschool parade and party. Why? Because I wanted to bring something and I signed up too late to take the easy way out and bring cupcakes. So I found this post on Pinterest from playingwithsugar.com. Stacy, the blogger, gives a really great tutorial, so I won't repeat the whole thing. But I will give you a few tips, since I made them for myself this morning. First off, I will say that the recipe for the cookie dough is delicious. Like, amazing (the cookies themselves are awesome, but I really liked the dough).  But don't sub out the unsalted butter for margarine. Salted butter is fine, if that's what you've got, but don't go the margarine route. You might need to add a little more flour to get this dough to roll out properly, and it wouldn't kill you to refrigerate it for a little while before you roll it out in the first place (the first time I tried to roll it out...yeah, it didn't go well. It should look like pie crust dough). Putting the dough between two floured sheets of parchment is a pretty good way to go. This isn't really a "have your kids help you in the kitchen" type of recipe, except maybe if they're just throwing things in the mixer (but my fuse is pretty short these days, so maybe that's just me). Also...use serious gel food coloring. I wanted a more vividly orangey orange swirl. It didn't happen. But that's ok, there's always next time.
Here's the awesome thing about these cookies though: They can be changed for any occasion. Christmas cookies? Change the colors to red and green and add some peppermint extract. Valentine's day? Squish the log into a heart shape before cutting. St. Patrick's Day? Green food coloring and creme de menthe. You get the idea. Pretty cool, huh? They weren't really easy, and I wouldn't have made them last-minute had I known better, but now I know what to expect, and you do too!
A dour-looking kitty cat with a plateful of cookies. Oh, and a mouthful of cookies too. It's Halloween. Get over it.

Happy Halloween Everyone! And Stay Safe!