Minnesota Vacation

On Saturday we got back from a four day mini vacation to Minnesota. It was kind of weird going on a vacation where we used to live only a year and a half ago, but it was fun visiting a few of our old haunts. As usual, the weather was crummy. It seems like the weather is against us on every vacation we ever take. I was disappointed we weren’t able to go to the zoo and a few of the parks I was planning on, but we still made the most of our time with indoor activities.

We left for the trip on Wednesday afternoon, hoping the boys would nap most of the way to Rochester, where we were staying our first night with my sister-in-law, Sarah. When we got to Rochester we ate at John Hardy’s BBQ, a favorite of Greg’s. I’ve been there a few times in the past and wasn’t too thrilled, but it was pretty good this time! I recommend the turkey. 🙂

On Thursday it was raining and very cold so our planned trip to the zoo was canceled. Instead we went to the Children’s Museum in St. Paul. When we lived in Minnesota I took Caden there a couple of times, but he was really too young to enjoy it. We usually spent the entire time just playing in the water area. This time around it was a lot more fun because he’s at an age where his imagination is fully developed and he loves pretending and interacting with new things.

Shepard usually finds joy in just about everything, but I think he got a little overwhelmed after awhile. He kept getting plowed over by kids, running into exhibits, and falling off of everything he climbed on. Poor guy. 🙁

After the Children’s Museum we headed to Punch Pizza in St. Paul. Now normally I’m not a very big pizza fan, but Punch’s has the most delicious pizza I’ve ever eaten. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to eat there on this trip! Yum, yum!

The rest of Thursday afternoon was spent humoring me by going to a lot of my favorite stores. I was able to leisurely browse Bibelot while the guys spent a long time in Creative KidStuff. Then we headed down to Burnsville so I could go to the best TJ Maxx around and then ended with a trip to the Abdallah Candy Factory. After that we checked into our hotel in Apple Valley and settled in for an evening of swimming and relaxing.

Friday was another wet and gloomy day so we decided to hold off on the zoo again. We’ll have to go there on our next trip. Instead we went to the Mall of America. Pretty touristy, but we thought Caden might enjoy Lego Land now that he’s older. By Friday he was pretty crabby and uncooperative, though, so it wasn’t much fun. We still stayed a few hours and I walked the mall checking out new stores.

After the mall we stopped at Ring Mountain in Eagan for gelato to celebrate Caden’s half birthday! Greg and I used to go there all the time when we lived in an apartment in Eagan. I had salted caramel this time and it was fantastic! Shepard certainly enjoyed his first taste of gelato as well!

We then headed back down to Rochester, avoiding a trip past our old house in Farmington. I’m glad that we live where we do now, but I still miss so many things about our lives in Minnesota. I thought it would be too sad to see the house again. So we skipped over it and met up with Sarah right as she got home from work. We played on the playground and walked around downtown Rochester. We ate at Chester’s, where I had an amazing Santa Fe salad. Afterward we checked out all the sculptures and walked by the river. It was bristly cold by then, but we all really enjoyed it.

By Saturday we were all so exhausted and anxious to head home, but we made one last stop to Quarry Hill Nature Center to see the Twilight of the Triceratops exhibit. None of us had ever been there before, but I’m so glad Sarah suggested it!

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dinosaur exhibit in person before, but it was pretty neat! The best part, though, was the nature center itself. The outdoor area seemed to have tons of trails and bridges over ponds and rivers.

We even saw a few beavers looking like they wanted to push some turtles off a log. That’s definitely not something you see in nature every day! If we hadn’t been so worn out I would have loved to spend a few hours just wandering around. Next time!

Overall, I’m deeming the trip a success. I wasn’t sure what to expect since our two vacation attempts as a family last year proved fairly disastrous. But despite the weather and Caden’s moodiness, I think we all had a pretty good time. It was great spending more time with Sarah and visiting a lot of the places I miss. I enjoyed the family time too. Vacations are usually a lot of work, but almost always worth it in the end! 🙂

No Regrets Parenting

I recently began reading the book No Regrets Parenting by Dr. Harley A. Rotbart. The title of this book grabbed my attention because right now I feel like a lot of my life revolves around constant regrets. I usually go to bed at night wishing I had done hundreds of things differently throughout the day. I wish I would have had more patience during Caden’s tantrums. I wish I would have read the kids more (or any!) books. I wish I would taken the time to play and laugh with them instead of focusing so much on what I “needed” to do. And so on. It’s easy to feel like you’re drowning when all you can think about is what you did wrong in the day, or all you’ve done wrong since you became a parent. What I like about this book is that it doesn’t focus on your past mistakes, but rather gives you countless ideas to start changing how you parent now.

The focus of this book is how to have quality time with your children by making the most of every possible moment you have together. Whether it’s a few hours between work and bedtime or if you’re home with them all day. The years go by way too quickly and you don’t want to look back on their childhoods with overwhelming regret on all that you missed out on.

At the moment it’s pretty easy for me to cherish the moments I have with Shepard. He’s recently begun weaning himself so I have a very physical and emotional attachment to him that is about to end. I’m hyper aware of how much he changes every day and I want to spend so much time just watching him and cuddling him and laughing with him before it’s too late. He’s still so sweet and good natured that he makes it easy to enjoy almost every minute together.

Caden, on the other hand, is another story. At times Caden can be a very sweet, sensitive, and fun little boy. But he’s also extremely emotional, his temper flares at everything, and most of his joy is found in tormenting our cats or basically doing anything that he knows he’ll get in trouble for. Liking him, and wanting to be with him as often as possible, is sometimes really hard for me. He wears me out emotionally like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Sometimes I just want to skip over this phase because I spend so much of my day feeling frustrated and helpless to make things better. But then I go to bed at night with one major feeling weighing me down – regret. Always regret.

I’ve decided that it’s time to challenge myself with this book and take a new approach to my parenting style. I’m sick of the regret and feeling like I waste so much of my time on things that truly don’t matter. Tonight we’re taking Caden to register for preschool and the fact that he’s growing up and away from me is glaringly obvious. I want to change my attitude toward him and our time together before it’s too late. And I don’t want to make the same mistakes with Shepard when he reaches this more challenging age. I want to get down on the floor and play with my kids more often. I want to sit down and snuggle with them while we ready together every day. I want to make new traditions and celebrate all the little things in life. I want my boys to know that I am here for them and I will always, always make time for them. And most importantly, I want to go to bed at night and I want to look back on their childhoods and my season as a full time mommy with no regrets.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays and I love celebrating it in any way that I can. This year was extra special since it fell on a Saturday and we could spend the whole day together! This post might be a little on the photo overload side, but it’s my favorite day to take a family picture and I always go a little crazy.

The other day a little leprechaun brought us a pot of gold! Lots of tasty new mustards to try and of course a little gold.

Breakfast this morning didn’t really turn out as special as I wanted. Like I mentioned last Saturday, it’s hard to get a good breakfast on the table since the boys are always starving the second they wake up. We ended up just having Lucky Charms cereal, Irish soda bread, and green milk for Caden. Shepard sat down first and immediately started picking the marshmallows out. He made quite the mess making sure he got out every last one! Caden did the same thing, though he did eat a little bit of the regular cereal as well. Probably not going to be wasting money on a box of it again, though!

Soda bread is sooo good. Why do I only make it once a year??

Once we were all dressed and ready, we sat down for our photo shoot. I think we got some good ones this year!



Just for fun, here’s the best shot we were able to get last year. Caden’s face is red since he was throwing a fit and Shepard kind of looks a bit like an alien…

And our family in 2010, back when Caden was always smiley in pictures.

And 2009 – our first St. Patrick’s Day as a true family!

Father son bonding time. Shepard sure loves his daddy!

I have no idea why Caden was making this face, but Shepard sure thought it was hilarious.

This year we decided to check out Madison’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The weather was beautiful and it seemed like a great idea. Not sure how crowded it would be we went about three hours early and walked up and down State Street. We had a nice authentic lunch at the Taco Bell/KFC. We claimed our parade spots an hour before it started. Definitely not necessary, though it got crazy crowded about a half hour before. Greg and the boys spent that hour exploring the Capital while I held our spots.

I’m so lucky to have a husband who is such a good daddy. I’m not sure what we’d do without him.

While we were waiting for the parade to start Shepard decided to entertain me by making funny faces. I have no idea why, but he’s been making the strangest expressions lately that just crack me up!

By the time the parade actually started Shepard was so tired that we didn’t have much chance to enjoy it. Caden had a great time with Aunt “Ya Ya” and Aunt “Ya Ya” trying to find as much candy as possible.

He passed out halfway through.

I don’t get to see this face very often anymore. 🙁 So precious when they’re sleeping.

After the parade we went back home for a relaxing afternoon. Our St. Patrick’s Day dinner wasn’t very traditional, but it was green! We had green nachos and green punch. Both were quite delicious!

And for dessert, raspberry brownies. They were supposed to be mint, but my peppermint extract was suspiciously missing. I’m positive I bought some a few months ago, but Shepard liked to take it out of the cupboard and play with it. It must be in one of his many toy boxes, I just didn’t have the energy to try and find it last night. So we had green raspberry flavored brownies. I don’t often say this, but these brownies were actually too rich for me. As desperately as I love chocolate and desserts of any kind, I couldn’t even eat one. They’re going to work with Greg on Monday because there’s no way we’re going to eat the whole pan ourselves.

Overall, it was a really fun and family filled St. Patrick’s Day!

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day! Ever since high school math class when we celebrated this very special holiday by bringing in as many homemade pies as possible, I’ve tried to keep the tradition alive. This year it wasn’t high on my priority list with trying to plan St. Patrick’s Day and our vacation next week, but at the last minute I remembered and scraped something together.

On a side note, Caden got his hair cut today! I was really impressed with what they did this time despite all of his awful cowlicks. He looks quite handsome! Much better than that crazy person hair he was sporting yesterday.

Wanting to make something a little smaller than a full pie, I decided to make a Rustic Cinnamon Apple Tart. Not exactly a pie, but if it has a pie crust and a pie type filling…I think it counts.

As usual, Caden was quick to pull up a chair and offer his help. After pouring the flour in, however, he decided he couldn’t give up his afternoon ipod time to bake. Ipod time is much more precious.

I slightly adapted this recipe from Fine Cooking. I thought the directions were very overcomplicated, so this is my simplified version.

For the dough I combined 1 1/2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then I cubed 11 tablespoons of butter and combined it all until it reached a crumby consistency. Then I mixed in 1 egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of whole milk until the dough stuck together.

Next I formed the dough into a thick disc, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge while I prepared the filling.

For the filling I chose to use four large Fugi apples sliced very thinly. I then thoroughly coated them with a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of flour, and a pinch of salt.

Putting the tart together was then very simple. There’s no perfect way to do it and it’s a rustic tart anyway, so it doesn’t have to be exact. I just rolled the dough out until it looked about the size of my pizza pan. I transferred it over, filled the middle with the apples, and folded the edges of the crust over the top. Then I brushed egg over the crust and covered the whole thing with 2-3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar. Then bake it at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

It came out of the oven looking just about perfect!

However, I couldn’t resist finishing it off with a nice caramel drizzle. The apples didn’t look so naked anymore and it pushed the yummy factor right over the edge! 🙂

I’ll save this recipe for another day, but I just have to add that I tried another new recipe tonight for Sweet Potato Chips. I’m not really big on sweet potato anything, but these were delicious!

The race was on between Greg and I to eat as many as we could as fast as possible. They were so spicy and tasty!

Okay, back to the pie! It turned out really well. Apple pie is my favorite, but I hardly ever make it. This recipe was simple and fast and will definitely be added to my list of make agains! The crust was absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to try it doubled in other pie recipes. Yum, yum!

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

Donut Picnic

Almost exactly two years ago Caden and I started a tradition of going on donut picnics. It was something both cheap and special that we could do together on a morning with nothing else going on. That first year we went fairly often and then kind of forgot about it. Today I decided that we really needed a pick-me-up (it’s been a rough few weeks) and it was time to start the tradition up again.

In celebration of another day of fantastic spring weather we decided it was worth going to Beaver Dam’s Swan City Park – the biggest and best park in the area. Shepard definitely enjoyed his first donut picnic where he could actually participate in the eating!

It was great doing something a little more special to make Caden happy. We’ve been clashing a lot lately and really needed a morning away from our regular routines.

Somebody was definitely enjoying his donut!

It was pretty cold on the picnic, but we decided to walk over to the playground for awhile. We were all excited to see that the ducks are already in the pond! Next time we’ll definitely remember to bring bread to feed them.

This was Shepard’s first time walking around an outdoor playground on his own and let me tell you, he was loving it! It was amazing what a different approach he had than Caden at that age. Whereas Caden was terrified of even a speck of sand on him until this past fall, Shepard very happily (and literally) dived right in.

The entire time we were there Shepard was running full speed and laughing in excitement. It was adorable to watch. 🙂

Trying out the baby swings. He still insists that I only push him “little bit.”

Shepard was pretty fascinated with watching the ground underneath him.

Driving the fire engine. As a child I remember thinking this was one of the coolest playground toys ever. Can’t believe it’s still around!

After about an hour of playing (and much protest from Shepard), we walked across the park to the bigger kid playground.

Last summer when we came to this playground Caden would only go down these slides if someone went down next to him and/or caught him at the bottom. Today he ran right up and straight to the tallest slide!

Shepard, who apparently has no fear, also wanted to go down the slides. I couldn’t figure out how to stop him from going up the steps without just holding him the whole time, so I figured why not? It was a little more challenging since my only option for catching him was to stick Caden at the bottom. But it worked out pretty well. He only fell on his head once and after two seconds of crying jumped up and ran right back to do it again.

It was a great first donut picnic of the year! I’m looking forward to many more this spring and summer. Though I think I’m definitely going to have my work cut out for me at the playgrounds. There’s going to be no sitting around and relaxing on the bench for me this year!

Spring!

Today I was thrilled to wake up to the sound of birds chirping and warm sunlight streaming through the window. It’s probably a farce, but it felt like spring is finally here! I know we’ve had a pretty mild winter, but I’m still thrilled that the days of playing outside are finally upon us!

We were able to go out earlier this week and Caden spent the majority of the time jumping in the flooded ditch. He seemed to have a lot of fun so I thought we’d try it again today, though with a little more foresight I had him wear snow pants, hoping to keep most of the water out. Last time Shepard was stuck in the stroller, so he was really thrilled to be able to walk through the grass on his own today. Caden was being his usual over protective self, though, and trying to block Shepard from the water and screaming “STOP” at the top of his lungs.

It didn’t work. Shepard walked straight in anyway. It didn’t even faze him.

The best part of playing in our “yard” is taking out all the gas pipeline flags. I tried my hardest to get them to leave the flags in the ground, but as usual they are oblivious to my voice.

We went out again later in the day too. We had to soak up as much of the warm weather as we could before it disappears again!

These photos make me laugh because they’re such an honest picture of what our lives look like around here. Everywhere Greg goes the boys are sure to follow! Usually as fast as their little legs can go.

One final picture. Another expression I see on Shepard’s face all day long. The joy of throwing a ball! It was a pretty great day. I love spring!

Petal Pull Aparts

Every Saturday I try to make a breakfast that’s a little more special than our usual frozen waffles or pieces of toast. The problem I’ve found, though, is that most recipes require a lot of work or time to rise and nobody is patient enough to wait that long. It finally occurred to me that I could make most things on Friday nights and bake them in the morning. This recipe for Petal Pull Aparts caught my eye earlier this week and I really wanted to try it out.

The original recipe calls for one bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls. When I went to the grocery store to grab some I noticed that a bag of rolls cost $5 where a bag of three loaves of Rhodes sweet dough cost only $2.40. Since sweet dough seemed like a better option for a breakfast item anyway, I went with that.

I forgot to take some pictures, but the first step was thawing two loaves of the dough, which took a couple of hours. Then I used a scissors to slice each loaf into approximately one inch slices. I combined three of those slices to make the middle of the flower. I arranged the rest of the slices around the center to make the petals. Then I sprinkled turbino sugar on the entire thing to give the dough a little extra sweetness. I covered it with plastic wrap and let it rise on the counter until it doubled in size. Then I put it in the fridge overnight.

I’m pretty sure the dough at least tripled, but it still turned out fine. This is what it looked like when it came out of the fridge this morning.

Next, I used the handle of a knife to press down the center of each petal, getting them ready to fill with jam.

The next step in the original recipe was to combine 1/3 cup of sugar with the zest of one lemon and sprinkle on the flower. I didn’t have a lemon, nor do I like any type of lemon flavor, so I decided to stick with plain sugar. 1/3 of a cup seemed like WAY too much, though. I probably used less than half of that and it still seemed like overkill on sweet dough that was already sprinkled with turbino sugar.

Next, I filled the petal holes with jam. I used raspberry, though you can use any flavor you like. If I make this again I would probably use a little less filling. I’m not a huge jam/jelly person and ended up dumping most of it out before I ate it. A little flavor is good enough for me.

The final preparation for the petal pull aparts only took a few minutes and then I was ready to pop them in the oven. I baked it at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. I wanted to make sure the dough was really cooked all the way through since the middle portion was so huge.

Meanwhile, I made the glaze. I used approximately 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2-3 teaspoons of milk. Glazes always seem pretty tricky to me so I kept adding spoonfuls of powdered sugar until it reached the consistency I was looking for.

Here is what it looked like straight out of the oven. Golden brown, sugary, and delicious!

The final product after a light glazing. Yum!

It doesn’t look much like a flower petal anymore, but still tasty. It wasn’t one of my favorite breakfasts in the world, but I’ll still make it again at some point.

Shepard liked it. But he likes just about everything I put in front of him he’s so hungry all the time!

Caden took about two bites until he was “full.” He was upset that his piece didn’t have enough sugar on it.

Petal Pull Aparts:

2 loaves of Rhodes sweet dough
turbino sugar (optional)
1/3 cup sugar
jam

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2-3 tsp milk

Shape dough into a flower with center and petals. Sprinkle with turbino sugar. Let rise. Press in middles of petals and sprinkle entire thing with regular sugar. Fill holes with jam. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and dough looks fully cooked. Make glaze with powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Drizzle over flower and eat. Enjoy!

Back to Blogging

I’ve recently been feeling that nudge to start writing again. I always think that I want to keep up a blog and then I start stressing about details and never actually get around to writing. My biggest issue is topic control. I started this particular blog thinking I would only write about my adventures in food. The problem with that, however, is that every time I’m in the kitchen it’s hard enough keeping my sanity between Shepard crying and pulling on my legs while Caden is grabbing measuring spoons and ingredients left and right dumping things all over the counter in his excitement. It’s nearly impossible to take photos of my step by step projects, let alone have fun and write about it.

At any rate, I still want to write. When I have the time I’d love to write about my kitchen adventures. But I’d also like to write about my children, my dreams, my recent obsessions, and life in general. I hope that with this fresh start I’ll find a renewal of ambition and energy to spend more time on this blog for the pure enjoyment of writing. I owe it to myself to finally stick with something that interests me and makes me happy. So here we go!

My Favorite BLT


I love bacon. Love it. I also love a deliciously complex and slightly spicy sandwich. Regular BLT’s are okay, but even a classic can always be bumped to incredible with a little imagination. My perfect bacon loaded sandwich includes a taste-bud kicking cheese and creamy avocado chunks.

The most important part of any bacon sandwich is perfectly cooked bacon. After a childhood of only knowing the taste of microwaved bacon I was amazed to see how much differently it tasted once I started making it on the stove. And more recently I’ve found the secret to making it mouth-wateringly perfection: the oven. Grab an old cookie sheet and toss on a sheet of aluminum foil for easy clean up. Heat your oven to 400 degrees and line up your bacon slices on the pan. And then bake for 14-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your bacon and how crisp you want it. It’s easy and you don’t have any bacon splatters to deal with. And the taste is beyond comparison to any other baking method. Trust me.

The next most obvious step to any good sandwich is picking out a good bread. The better the bread, the better the sandwich will taste! Tonight I decided to use a hearty loaf of ciabatta from the local grocery store. It was fresh and delicious.

Finally, assemble your sandwich with your choice ingredients. I used one of my favorites – habenero jack cheese. It’s delightfully spicy without burning your mouth off.

And of course, everything tasted better with avocado so liberally add some fresh green slices on top of your sandwich. This time around I also added lettuce and a very tiny amount of mayo. Normally I’d love this sandwich with homemade ranch dressing or a chipotle mayo.

And there you have my perfect BLT! Crunchy bread, fresh lettuce, crisp and flavorful bacon, spicy cheese, and smooth avocado. The best sandwich ever!