Baby Bee needed to sleep in today.  After many years of struggle and taking some good advice from my therapist, we have finally gotten to the point where Baby Bee can put herself to sleep and then sleep peacefully through the night.

Yes, Baby Bee IS five and a half years old. Thank you for remembering.

We’ve discovered, though, that Baby Bee is just exhausted in the evening.  She melts down and gets really frustrated, so we decided to start timing her sleep and then adjusting her bedtime.  Typically, she goes to bed at the same time as Littlebit, anywhere from 8:45 to 9:00, but then it takes her 10-15 minutes to settle into sleep.  Big Daddy and I opted to move her bedtime to 8:30 (meaning she’d be asleep by 9 and then able to get the 10 hours of sleep we think she needs by her 7 am wake up time).  This morning, however, Baby Bee got up, ate oatmeal and fell back to sleep for another hour.  We’ll stick with trying to get her a full ten hours of sleep and seeing how she fares because buying her another hour of sleep will complicate a lot of things.

So, I had a helper.
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The little girls were excited to find Pepper swinging in the doorway this morning.  The girls have a doorway swing in the playroom and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a gift for an active kid this holiday season.  The price is a little steep and the link I provided seems to have it for the best price, but it’s a great way for kids to burn off lots of energy inside.  I think I reccomend this toy every year, but we’ve had it for several years, it still gets heavy use and it’s still in great shape.  What more can you ask for?
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I finally got the garland lit.  I love how easy it is to tuck the wires down amongst the balls.  I made this garland last year and I still love it.  It’s a cinch to make and you don’t have to be crafty to pull it off. However, I would recommend waiting until after Christmas to buy your supplies. There are always LOADS of the big containers of shatterproof (aka plastic) ornaments at Walmart for 50-70% off after Christmas, which makes this project super inexpensive. Also, I used cotton yarn because it doesn’t stretch very much and is difficult to break.

Just a little bokeh.
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Dinner Tuna Noodles Romanoff. When we were fist married, I had a little Betty Crocker easy dinners cook book.  That cookbook is long gone, but we still love tuna noodles romanoff.

WatchingThe Year Without a Santa Claus

It’s dreary, today. My weather alert when off in the early morning hours to tell me about winter weather warning (or something like that) and it’s been gray and damp. The kind of gray where the lamps in the living room barely make a dent.

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Everyone seems a bit slow today. The girls went back to school today after the long weekend and we all seemed reluctant to give it up. Littlebit, who loves school, was heard to say that she can’t wait for Christmas break. We solved the duldrums with twirling…

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…and cupcake baking.

I continue to dig away at the decorating and it’s finally starting to draw to a close. Just a few more decorating jobs on my to-do list and I can cross that off for the rest of the month.  The pine garland for the windows waits in the garage, the lights for the garland on the stairs is waiting to be strung.  The nativity scene and ceramic tree have their spaces cleared and on Friday we’ll trudge out in the muck to the Christmas tree lot where I’ll direct big Daddy to find me a 7 foot blue spruce.

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Tonight, we made and hung our sugar plum fairies.  We first made these several years ago and all they cost is a few sheets of paper and a little time and I have to say, they’re one of the prettiest decorations we put up.  Like paper chains and stings of popcorn and cranberries, I’ve found that our favorite and most beautiful decorations, over the years, are things that are cobbled together with simple materials.

 

Of course, two foot high glittery silver trees are good things, too.

 

 

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Dinner Easy Chicken Pot pie

Watching: Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.

Listening to: A Very She and Him Christmas

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Do you scrapbook? I used to and then it suddenly felt equal parts too big and too small and I stopped. It’s kind of complicated, but in the end I realized that saddling and creating 18 annual albums for each of my children PLUS one for my family was just beyond what I could do and since I wanted to be fair (and if the Princess had 18, so should LIttlebit and Baby Bee), I just stopped. I don’t miss it. I do miss buying paper, but I have an office supply problem, so there’s that.

Anyhow, when I was scrapbook ing I, of course, followed several professional scrap bookers. Many of them have branched out into different things, but this all comes back to a woman named named Ali Edwards. For several years, Ali has done a December Daily project in which she encourages you to scrapbook each day of the month of December. I love that idea, but I don’t scrapbook anymore.

But, couldn’t I blog it? Writing it out seems a little crazy and probably a bit to ambitious, but it’s worth the try.

The decorations are going up.

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Christmas is kind of like a wedding. Something old, something new, something inherited, something blue. The kids love seeing their old favorites come back for the season.

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Yeah, I know, people hate the elf, but Littlebit doesn’t. I give you a three page welcome package…

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Yeah, Pepper might be a little creepy looking, but Littlebit is enchanted with her, so how can I resist. Pepper doesn’t report back to Santa. She’s just here to have some fun.

Baby Mickey, on the other hand, has been jailed inside a Christmas tree for crimes committed but not yet released.

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Dinner Oven Fried Chicken,pasta and broccoli

WatchingA Very Merry Pooh Year

A little more than four years ago, Big Daddy and I departed on a new adventure.    We moved five hundred miles away from our little white house in Illinois and moved to small town Ohio.  Big Daddy set up an office off of the living room and began to telecommute full time.  The telecommuting years have been very good for me.  Having Big Daddy available to me all day has done so much to heal my anxiety.  It gave me the time to work with a therapist and start to work myself out.  My confidence has returned.  I’m pretty sure I’m not just going to drop dead and yes, I’m totally serious about that.

Big Daddy has become my true helpmate these past four years.   He does breakfast and brushes tangled hair.  He watches Baby Bee so I can volunteer with Littlebit’s class.  He goes to day time conferences with me. A few times, we’ve been able to sneak away for a weekday breakfast.
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Our little girls don’t know a Daddy that leaves the house to go to work.   Baby Bee actually gets a little…weird…when Big Daddy isn’t at home.  In their world, life means always having a mommy and a daddy at home.    It’s an opportunity that most people never get to have, but…

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

But, life moves in seasons and the season of Big Daddy being at home full time, all the time has ended.

It’s one of those bittersweet moments.  It feels like a rite of passage, in a way.  Big Daddy is moving on to something bigger and better and his world will get a little bigger than it has been these past four years.  It’s something he needs and it’s a time in our lives where the travel his new opportunity will entail won’t be so difficult.   The doors that are cracking open are exciting.  It’s a big step forward for Big Daddy in his career and, we’re so lucky that when he’s not traveling he’ll still be at home. With us.  With me.

I’m sure there are people who think Big Daddy is a little bit insane for giving up his good at-home gig and they probably think I’m just as insane for encouraging him to take this new opportunity.  But, I didn’t marry a static creature.  I married a very dynamic man with an amazing mind.  He’s driven and ambitious and an extrovert and the very best person I know and I knew that he needed to spread his wings some.

But, just a little bit.

We’re happiest together.

Good luck, Big Daddy.  Not that you’ll need it.

 

The Menu Plan
MondayPork Fried Rice
Tuesday Shake and Bake chicken, rice and veggies (Look, maybe shake and bake is cheating a little bit, but it tastes good, isn’t totally unhealthy and it’s fast and sometimes that’s fine)
Wednesday Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps and Spanish rice
Thursday Sloppy Toms
FridayShrimp Scampi
SaturdayDinner Out
SundayCrockpot Beef and Noodles

October kind of went out like a wet sneeze and a shudder.  We had great weather for Trick or Treat on the 30th.  It was cool and dry, just the right kind of weather for tromping up and down the streets for candy.

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However, the bounty of good weather ended Friday night as Big Daddy and I endured the last football game of the season.  It moved from drizzle to rain the entire time.  We made it to half time and got to see the Princess march for the last time this season.  She’s sad that it’s over, but I can’t say I’m too sorry about having our Friday nights back.

The frost has been heavy and while we should see one more warm day this week, the cold is settling in.  I don’t really mind, of course. I consider November and December to be in my wheelhouse.

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The Menu Plan

Monday
Easy Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

Tuesday Dinner with my Grandpa. <3

WednesdayCajun Chicken Alfredo

ThursdayCrockpot Chicken and Stuffing

Friday My cousin is coming in from out of town, so I’ll hold off on a decision until I hear from them when they’re going to be here.

Saturday Baked Sweet and Sour chicken

The days are getting cooler and Halloween is done.  Sometimes the season feels a little bit in limbo, to me.  The leaves are off the trees and Christmas is beckoning me, but it’s too early to give myself all the way over the Christmas, yet.  The autumn decor has been up for a month, at least.  But, this is the time of year when I start to wrap myself up in my home.  During the summer, I give over to minimalism that the hot weather seems to demand.  Extra decor is stripped from the house.  The banisters are bare.  The surfaces are clear, but as winter comes on adding in all the little extras seems to make the house feel warmer and more cozy.

This bread is definitely a warm and cozy bread.  Inspired by the Amish friendship bread that makes the rounds every now and then,  this bread is dense, cake-y, moist and delicious.  It’s a good fit for an after dinner treat or perfect warmed in the microwave for a hot breakfast.   It takes simple ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand, and churns out two loaves (one to eat warm and one to eat the next day).  Have plenty of your favorite butter or spread on hand, it’s best drenched with butter.

The original recipe is from Redfly Creations, but I made a few small modifications to better suit our tastes. Enjoy!

Amish Cinnamon Bread
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c butter, room temperature
  • 2c white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 c of flour
  • 2 c buttermilk
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • .5c sugar
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two loaf pans well
  2. Cream together butter, 2 c of sugar and eggs
  3. Mix in flour, buttermilk and baking powder.
  4. IN a separate bowl, mix together .5c of sugar and cinnamon.
  5. Spoon ¼ of the batter into each loaf pan.
  6. Top batter with cinnamon sugar.
  7. Top cinnamon sugar with remaining batter (1/4 in each pan).
  8. Using a knife to swirl the cinnamon sugar through the dough.
  9. I set my timer for 45 minutes, initially, but ended up baking the bread for 55 minutes. Start checking your bread at around 40 minutes because bakeware and oven temperatures can vary your results.

 

Last month the call came down.  Honeycrisp apples were in at the orchard and I tossed Baby Bee into the car and we went as fast as we could go to make sure we got some.  Our local orchard sells out and I need to make sure we get our fill.  We’ve just finished our fourth half peck bag and have one more half peck to go*.  We’ve finally slowed down on eating them whole and raw with juice running down our chins and I decided it was time to make them into something.

Last year, I chopped up some and made crockpot applesauce and it was eaten so quickly that 1) I only got one dish of it and 2) I didn’t get to freeze any for later, which was my plan, but this year I knew I wanted to make a pie.

Honeycrisp apples, in my opinion, are the perfect apple.  They are sweet with a hint of tartness, crisp and never mealy and juicy but not TOO juicy to make them not good candidates for cooking.  I will pay stupid prices for honeycrisp apple at Trader Joe’s in the winter when our stores are gone.  They’re apple perfection.  And this pie?

Well, let’s just say more than one person in our family licked the plate clean.  It was that good.  This skillet pie is a little unique, because you start out the pie with a butter and brown sugar sauce on the bottom.

That’s probably why people were licking the plate. This skillet pie doesn’t turn out as a pretty as a regular apple pie, but if you have perfect crust anxiety, this is a good alternative.  Sure, it’s a little ugly, but I promise you no one will mind once they get the fork in their hands.  They might even lick the plate when they’re done.  Right, Big Daddy?

Skillet Apple Pie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 8 medium honey crisp apples
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • .5 c of white sugar
  • .5 c of butter
  • ⅔ c brown sugar
  • 1 package refrigerated pie crust
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Peel, core and slice apples. I used my apple slicer and then cut each slice into fourths.
  3. Mix apple slices with cinnamon and white sugar.
  4. Melt butter in the bottom of an 8″ oven proof skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the brown sugar. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat.
  5. Lay one crust into the bottom of the skillet and press carefully up the sides. The caramel sauce and pan WILL BE HOT, so press carefully.
  6. Dump apples into pan and top with the second crust. I crimped along the edge of the pan, trimming any extra.
  7. Bake around an hour. I began checking for doneness at 50 minutes and it took 65 total minutes to bake.

This past week, at our house, it was all about the Crock-Pot. My trusty Crock-Pot was a gift from my parents for Christmas after I broke my first trusty Crock-Pot. We can go months without using it and then when I pull it out again it’s like I’ve discovered it new! How were we living without this marvelous invention?

Look, I know every single home and family blog that has ever blogged about cooking has probably blogged about their Crock-Pot and their favorite recipes. But, if you’re like me, your slow cooker gets tucked away some place and it’s just not working for your family like it could.

And by working, I mean slaving over the hot stove for you. That’s where I was last week. Chuck Roasts were on sale at the grocery store and I did a little more planning to include other slower cooker recipes on our menu plan.

Can we talk about how low stress dinner time was? Because, well, it was. Even though we had a few nights where we had to be someplace at 6 p.m., I still had dinner served and cleaned up before we had to leave. This is way different from other nights where we had semi-early obligations and it ended up with a hot out of the pan dinner being served 10 minutes before we walked out of the door.

Sound familiar?

It happened at our house. A lot. And I wanted to avoid that strife and air of bad feelings and hurry-it-up before we walked out of the house to do something that was supposed to be fun.

And, then came the Crock-Pot and I did manage to put together the kind of nights I wanted us to have; a home cooked deal, dishes in the dishwasher and happy faces before we walked out of the door. It was so easy! How is it that I don’t do this all the time?

Well, I don’t like a lot of Crock-Pot recipes. There, I said it. I feel like the variety and technique is lacking. Things get chewy or fall apart or just don’t turn out the way I’d like them. Oven baking browns and crisps things that a slow cooker never will, but with some experimentation, I’ve found some recipes that fit the bill and I hope you like them as much as we did.

  • Crock-Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs. Don’t make my mistake. Mix up your spaghetti sauce, water and spaghetti!
  • Three Envelope Pot Roast Sliders I think this is the Princess’s favorite home cooked meal. She was very enthusiastic of her praise of it when we had it last week, and she’s 14 so enthusiastic praise is tough to come by.
  • Crock Pot Potato Soup This purports to be a Weight Watchers recipe and I think it comes it at 4 points per serving (but don’t ask me how much a serving is. I don’t know). I use potatoes o’brien and the pepper and onions give it a little extra flavor. It heats up well from refrigerated.
  • Salsa Chicken serve over rice (instant or microwavable for a truly quick dinner) and control the heat with your favorite salsa.
  • Crock Pot Chicken and Gravy Comfort food to the max. Serve over mashed potatoes (if you have time, you can make your own, but refrigerated mashed potatoes available at the grocery are a tasty time saver).

This weekend, like a lot of the country, we slid into fall. I pulled out my sweater and the air was brisk and cool. I can’t say I’m sad, of course, considering my long love affair with Fall. I don’t mind the cooler days and brisk nights. We leave the windows open all night long and snuggle down under the duvet like a couple of bears ready to nap. My thoughts turn, as always, to thick soups and hearty stews and pumpkin.

I know, I know, every has a pumpkin something these days. Pumpkin cookies and cakes and coffees and pies and chilis and food of all kind. I don’t have to explain why pumpkin in the fall is natural and how our ancestors would have eaten pumpkin in the fall as that is when they ripen. Right now, in gardens, pumpkins are slowly turning from green to orange and it won’t be long before they’re all picked and being used or eaten by someone or something.

But, back to this recipe. I woke up on Sunday morning, buried under the cover and knew that it was a day for pumpkin pancakes. I’d turn on the oven to make bacon (not making bacon the oven? You should!) and the house would be filled with delicious smells and we’d have our breakfast with hot chocolate and coffee. I left Big Daddy sleeping still and went to the store for maple syrup and whipped up a double batch of pumpkin pancakes.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1.5 c of milk
  • 1 c pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (plus more for greasing your skillet during cooking)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Mix wet ingredients together with a mixer
  2. Add in dry ingredients. Mix into well incorporated.
  3. Heat a griddle over medium high heat and grease with butter.
  4. Once the griddle is hot, spoon batter onto griddle with a ¼c measuring cup. Wait to flip pancakes until the are bubbly.
  5. Flip to allow them to finish cooking
  6. Serve with maple syrup and butter.

I doubled the recipe and we got enough for breakfast plus 8 to throw into the fridge or freezer for breakfast next week.  They weren’t overly sweet, but had a delicious pumpkin flavor.

 

The Menu Plan

Sunday-Beef Burgundy over mashed potatoes.  I know I usually don’t start my menu plans on Sunday, but this recipe is a favorite and it’s such a perfect Sunday dish.  It cooks slow, but requires little tending.  Put it on before the big game starts and enjoy it afterwards.  We never have any leftovers.

Monday Out. The girls have started dance and we’re moving our usual Friday night dinner out to Monday to see if that works with the new schedule.

TuesdayCrock Pot Chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes with veggies

Wednesday Roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes

ThursdayCreamy chicken and rice

Friday Game Day for lots of families around the country. We’re no different! Crockpot Turkey Meatball Sammies with chips and veggies with dip

The recipe my Mother used was handed over by the neighbor. It belonged to her sister. It was revolutionary. It had chocolate chips in it and sitting down to a thick slice that was slathered in butter was a treat that couldn’t be duplicated, particularly if it was warm out of the oven. I still remember the way the recipe card looked (do people even use them anymore?) and the name of my neighbor’s sister and I certainly remember that bread, though my recipe is different.

Maybe. I’ll leave that teaser for later.

I think zucchini is a miracle food. It be cooked sweet or savory. It can take the place of noodles and taco shells and pizza crust.

You can bake it, stir fry it, steam it, saute it…anything Bubba Gump came up with for shrimp, you can probably do with zucchini, but my favorite is baked into bread. I serve it for breakfast and I serve it for dessert, it works for both. It’s sweet enough to pass for a treat, yet contains enough vegetables that I feel like I sneaked one over on the kids. It’s another thing that paired with some scrambled eggs and fruit makes a wonderful breakfast. Do I toast my zucchini bread? I do not, but I might warm it up in the microwave to make sure the butter gets all melty and delicious. Can I eat half a loaf on my own? Yes, I’m no lady in that regard. I don’t know anyone in my house or can’t/won’t eat half a loaf in a sitting. It means I have to make extra and none ever lands in the freezer to eat in Autumn as I had planned.

This year, I tried a new zucchini bread recipe. In addition, of course, to my usual. Double chocolate zucchini bread? It sounded like something we would like. I already add chocolate chips to our bread, so it wasn’t an unusual idea. The verdict? So delicious! I was afraid it might be too rich, but it wasn’t. It was a little crumbly straight out of the oven (we couldn’t wait) but firmed up nicely after cooling.

I did exchange the honey in the recipe for plain sugar. Honey and sugar can be substituted for each other exactly up to one cup. I didn’t feel like trying to get the honey out of the bottle and into the measuring cup and then into to the mixing bowl so I took the lazy way out. Maybe honey would have made it better? It’s possible, but it was so very, very good I just don’t see how it could have been any better.

Additionally, I was able to make two loaves of my annual stand-by.

Betty Crocker’s cookbooks have changed a lot over the years, but some things she’s still getting right.  This recipe is in my 2000 edition cookbook and I’m willing to bet it was in my Mom’s 70’s edition as well.  It’s a tried, tested and loved recipe but we make one little change.  You, of course, could add nuts and raisins, but we enjoy chocolate chips. About 3/4 of a bag lends just the right amount of chocolate to each loaf.  Betty Crocker’s Zucchini Bread recipe makes 2 loaves and our first didn’t survive it’s first night out of the oven.