Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh My Blog!

Hooray! My first blogger award!
Christian, from Who Would've Thought, nominated me...Thank you!!
What an honor!

Accepting the award means:

*displaying the award
*linking back to the person who gave it to you
*paying it forward & nominating seven blogs
*adding links to those seven blogs
*leaving comments on their blogs, telling them they are nominated
*enjoying the award

And so, I give you my current favorite daily doses of inspiration.
The nominees are...

*c jane enjoy it
*DAiSYS & dots
*Joy's Hope
*Mama Manifesto
*NieNie Dialouges
*Polka Dot Mom
*three wheels turning

Share the Love.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cookie Monday!

Chayse's Choice:
"Pumpkin Cookies"

Tonight we used
Martha's Sugar Cookie recipe, cutting out Pumpkin shapes (I generally cut the sugar in half, and use organic ingredients when baking exclusively for the kids).

My Kid-Friendly Cream Cheese Frosting:
(all organic ingredients)

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream cream cheese and butter until smooth;
incorporate sugar; add vanilla.
(we tinted ours orange this time)

So easy, and very little sugar!
The intense vanilla eliminates the need for much sweetener.

It's no secret how picky I am about the kids' nutrition, but wholesome, homemade, unprocessed goodies make it okay to indulge every once in a while.

B O O !

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend Highlights

A Birthday Story.
Our Birthday Boy: 31 years of age...

...yet still only five at heart.

I. Friday Night at Fat Cactus
Such a good looking table!

Amanda & me

Brody & Ryan go mobile.

A gift like no other!

Las Vegas

Sean & Kenny

Bobby cleans his plate... and others.

Smile pretty, Jeff!

Brothers... Best Friends.

II. Saturday at Memorial Stadium
University of California, Berkeley

Beautiful day.

Awesome seats.

Go Bears!

Anthony, Katie, Erin & me

Dave brings homegrown apples (among other essentials)...

...the girls enjoy a refreshing mid-game Granny Smith.

Touchdown, Bears!
College Football at its finest.
(Cal beats UCLA 41-20)

III. Sunday at the Sports Park
Kevin hammers a 3-run homer during the
season ending game...
Later our star guns a guy out at home, who's trying to score from second. (Caught by Ryan! Oh, what a duo!)

The fans indulged in birthday blondies, in lieu of
sunday ice cream.

Future Softball Star (just like Dada).

A three-day celebration, made possible by fabulous family & friends, and especially Mimi, who flew from San Diego for a Grandkids' Weekend. (Thanks, Mom!)...

And so begins a new chapter.

I love you, Kevin!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kevin.

Best Dad...

Best Husband...

Best Friend.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Think I 'CAN'!

Coming home from Apple Hill with 20 pounds of Apples, I thought canning Apple Butter for Christmas gifts would be a great way to use them up. But I had never canned in my life. So I eagerly began researching the methods, found a simple Apple Butter recipe, and "turned up the volume" (in the words of my culinary idol, Ina Garten). The result is my own yummy concoction...
Organic Vanilla Caramel Apple Butter.

The process from start to finish took about 4 1/2 hours. Keep in mind, however, half of the apples were peeled with Camden on my hip; we had to take breaks for lunch making & book reading; and let's not forget her obsession with standing- literally- ON my feet while I'm doing anything in the kitchen. All in all I found it very enjoyable and relatively easy...if you have the patience. Allow me to walk you through the process:

Become familiar with sterilization techniques here.

Gather materials and ingredients (all Organic):

*10-12 half-pint jars and lids
*stainless steel tongs and jar funnel
*large pot fitted with wire rack for sterilizing

*8 lbs. apples (The number of apples varies, depending on size; I used 30.) (The more variation in apple types used, the more depth of flavor you'll achieve. I used Winesnaps, Romes, Granny Smiths, and Jonagolds.)
*1/2 cup apple juice, divided
*Juice of two lemons
*3 1/4 cups brown sugar
*1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
*3/4 teaspoons course sea salt
*2 vanilla beans, scraped
Peel, core, & chop apples, and combine with 6 tablespoons apple juice and the lemon juice in a large dutch oven. Simmer over medium low heat for 45 minutes, until apples are very soft.

Pass apples through fine blade of a food mill, into a seperate bowl or pot. Stir in cinnamon and salt.

In original dutch oven, caramelize brown sugar and remaining apple juice over medium heat about five minutes.


Stir apple mixture into the caramel, and add vanilla seeds and pods. Simmer, uncovered, over medium low for an hour. In the mean time, sterilize jars & lids.

Funnel apple butter into hot jars (discard vanilla pods), seal, and process (strictly following Martha's instructions!)

And that's it! Tomorrow I have to make sure they sealed properly, and I have instant Christmas gifts. Perhaps paired with homemade Coffee Cake Muffins in a basket finished with a gingham ribbon?! (I guess it's not much of a surprise now.) Canning proved to be fun and simple, and I'll definitely do it again. Don't be shy...

If I CAN do it, you CAN!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cookie Monday!

Just in time for dessert!
This recipe was inspired by some yummy cookies somebody brought for breakfast to our MOPS meeting last week. As soon as I tasted them, I immediately knew what I'd be attempting to replicate for this Cookie Monday. So here's what I came up with:

Almond Shortbread
This recipe is so easy to remember, just look at the measurements! Don't skimp on the ingredients; with so few, they must be the very best!

3/4 lb. unsalted butter (3 sticks), divided
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

eggwash: 1 egg white, beaten with 1 teaspoon cream or water
3/4 cup sliced almonds
sanding sugar for sparkle

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter (using about 1 Tablespoon) a 9 x 13 inch pan, and line bottom with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream remaining butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and almond & vanilla extracts, and beat to combine. Gradually add flour, beating on low speed until just combined.

Press dough into prepared pan, leveling and smoothing the top. Using a knife, cut dough lengthwise into thirds, then crosswise into thirds, making nine rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half, diagonally, to make 18 triangles. Poking with a fork, create a decorative pattern on the surface.

Bake shortbread 30 minutes, then remove from oven. Brush surface with eggwash, and sprinkle with almonds and sanding sugar. Continue baking until evenly pale golden, but not browned, an additional 35-40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Invert pan, and remove parchment. Turn shortbread over and cut with a serrated knife, along score marks. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

*PS- The last of our Apple Hill apples (hiding behind the cookies in above photo) are soon to become Vanilla Caramel Apple Butter...
Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Pumpkin Patch

Smith Family Farm,
Fourth Annual Trip
What a perfect day for pumpkin pickin'!

We were joined by Lucky, Chloe's class mascot.
He has been on his best behavior for us so far,
during Chloe's week as VIP!

Waiting for the tractor ride...

Arrival to the Pumpkin Field
(Do you think Chloe's excited?)

Which will we choose?

A sea of Orange!

"Flow-fies!" (aka Flowers)

All Pumpkin'd Out.
We had so much fun with Gramma & Pa!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Camden Kate- Not a Fan of Carousels!

Our little Camden- better known to the world as 'Stinky'- had her very first carousel ride this week. It was our first Pumpkin Patch trip of the season, but not the old fashioned, hay ride/pick-your-own type of place that we love so much. No, this was more of a carnival- no less exciting for the kids, however. So I reluctantly purchased a set of ride tickets, and tried to catch up as they sprinted to the magical spinning horses. Camden not being a fan of oversized stuffed (or any material) animals as it is, I was a little skeptical as she bravely followed in the eager footsteps of her big sister & brother. But she was so excited to be this up-close to wonders she had only been able to enjoy from her window seat in the car each day for the past few weeks. She even had in tow her own horsie (yes, she left the heard of elephants in the car!)- how appropriate!
Slowly we begin... faster... faster... Kevin and I are feeling increasingly dizzy... older siblings jumping for joy... Camden: not so much. And yet, with each rotation of the merry-go-round I beg the onlooking Uncle Bobby & Auntie Amanda for photos. I mean seriously, am I the only one who loves a close-up of the lower-lip cry? Sorry, Stinky! We finally begin coming to a halt... tears stop flowing... lips return to normal... and off she runs, headed for the two-story-high slide, not a care in the world.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sunday on Apple Hill

Our first annual trip to
Apple Hill:
Apple Picking, Picnicing, Apple Tasting, Farm Animal Petting, Face Painting, Hide-and-Seek in the Orchard Playing, Apple Crisp Sampling, Apple Beer Guzzling, Hard Cider Sipping, Organic Market Shopping... Fall fun was had by all!

Orchard to Oven.