A Quest for Change

So, I wasn’t planning on sharing this with the world until I felt more confident, but I changed my mind. Showing weakness can sometimes be a strength, right?

Here’s the deal. Last week I joined Weight Watchers. I didn’t really want many people to know about it in case this turns out to be a completely failed attempt to lose weight. But I’m beginning to think that if I can write out my frustrations and a few details about this journey I’ll feel a lot better about the whole thing.

I’ve never been on a diet before. So for those of you that have, you may think I’m being a total wimp when I say this is incredibly hard. Maybe one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I thought it was going to be relatively easy and I had a very rude awakening. This past week has been difficult in so many ways and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it through my three month trial and still manage to stay on track. Especially considering those three months include at least three birthday celebrations (including my own), a mini vacation, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the holiday baking season. The whole thing is stressing me out so much and I’ve only just begun!

I never wanted to be one of those women. The women that are constantly agonizing over what they put in their mouth AND always talking about it. The women that never seem to really enjoy what they’re eating because they have to exercise such restraint. I like food. And I absolutely love baking. So I am always mildly offended when people make comments about how my food looked too good to eat or simply skip it all together because it was clearly too fattening. And it probably was. I always prided myself on the fact that I made my delicious desserts using only the best of ingredients – butter, cream cheese, whole milk, heavy cream, etc. I never tried to cut corners making things healthier because I knew everything would taste better the real way and I refused to cater to the people that turn down that food.

Finally, in the past few months when I started gaining more weight, I realized that as much as those women annoy me, I need to be one of them. I need to change. I am 27 years old and very quickly heading down a path that will be nearly impossible to reverse. I can’t keep eating whatever I want, whenever I want it. I hope to keep baking, but I can’t bake new things every day, especially since I’m usually the only one that eats what I make. I need to seriously start considering what I put in my mouth and if it’ll have a positive or a negative effect on my body. It was time for a serious change.

I began trying to turn things around a few months ago by forcing myself to exercise every day. Granted it’s usually only a short pilates or aerobics video, but it’s better than nothing. I’ve also been biking a lot more now that the weather is cooled off. I thought with all the extra exercise I’d start seeing improvements. But I didn’t. So I looked at my options and realized that I’m never going to be able to do this on my own. I simply don’t have the willpower to push myself. I did a little research on various exercise programs, detoxes, diet pills, etc. And I decided that Weight Watchers was the way to go. I’ve known a handful of people who have used this before and have always seen success so it seemed like my safest bet to actually shed the weight.

I began last Thursday. That day was pure torture. For those of you that don’t know, on Weight Watchers each food is assigned a point value and each person is allotted a certain number of points to use during each day. You’re also given extra points to use during the week for splurges – like a dessert here and there or if you go to a party or restaurant and eat foods with higher point values. You can also earn activity points which can be converted into extra food points if you use up all your points for the week and need more. Anyway, it’s a very simple system to use. There are tons of foods in their database and if you can’t find what you’re looking for you can enter in the nutrition facts (fat, carbs, fiber, and protein) or if you’re making something at home you can enter all the ingredients in a recipe and you’ll find your point value. I figured that the only guaranteed way to lose weight was to stick within my daily target and try to use very few of my extra points each week.

After a week, I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Those extra points are built in for me to use and I should still lose weight even if I use them all. But I want to be careful. I’m constantly stressing about what I can eat each day, thinking days in advance. I think about food and their point values all day long. I dream about them all night long. And I hate it! It’s an awesome system that really does give you a lot of freedom as long as you’re careful about portion sizes, etc. But I feel like at the moment I’m a total slave to food. This is really bothering me about the whole thing right now. Should I really be agonizing over what I’m going to be able to eat at Caden’s birthday party a month away?? Should I be saying no to get-togethers because I’m not going to be able to control the food available to me? I don’t think so. But I can’t help myself!

In this past week I’ve learned so much about myself and my eating habits. Things that I really needed to know. For example, there are so many times during the day where I normally would have grabbed a quick and easy (and probably not so healthy) snack. Not even because I was hungry – just because I didn’t have anything better to do. Now I have to seriously evaluate if I’m actually hungry and if I choose junk food it’ll severely limit what I’m able to eat for the rest of the day. The good news is that fruits and most vegetables are 0 points, so I can eat as much of that as I want. The bad news is that fruit never seems to fill me up and I really don’t like many vegetables. I ate a salad almost every day this past week and by the end I was gagging. I am so not a salad person. I never have been, unless it’s loaded with extras like cheese, croutons, and dressing. All of those things totally defeat the purpose of the salad. I also love my chocolate and it’s been really hard to give up. The first few days I went crazy and bought a bunch of Fiber One bars hoping to satisfy my need for chocolate, but after the first bar of each flavor, I had had enough. I know it’s only been a week, but I think it’ll continually be hard for me to find a good variety of foods that are healthy, but will sufficiently fill me up as well.

I’m not sure how the next eleven (or more!) weeks of this journey will go. I’m feeling motivated at the moment because after my weekly weigh in this morning I’ve already lost 3.2 pounds! But I’ve also been an emotional wreck this past week and I’m not sure I want to continue like that. I usually spend half my day pretty happy with myself and this new resolve to actually lose weight. But then that six hour span between lunch and dinner occurs and I get so crabby and angry because I’m starving and I can’t eat anything but fruit if I want to eat dinner. From about 1:00 on I’m feeling lousy and depressed about how hard this whole thing is. I hope it will get easier. I assume it will once I start automatically making better choices. But right now it still feels so, so difficult.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the beginning of this journey. I’m sure it’ll come up once in awhile the next few months. It’ll also mean fewer baking posts (a fact I am severely mourning – a future without baking feels so bleak). But I’m determined to push on. Partly because I already paid for three months of the program. And partly because I really want to see how much weight I can lose. It’s a quest for change and I hope I can find myself where I want to be at the end!

Family Time

Today we spent our day on a boat. Greg asked me yesterday afternoon if I wanted to go and I immediately said no. Quick boat rides around small lakes are fine. All day long boat rides? Not so much. Especially in 90+ degree weather with two small easily bored children. Also with strangers (Greg’s coworkers and families), needing to make small talk all day? Definitely not my idea of fun. Sending the three guys on a boat ride while I stay home and work on my infinite list of things that can only be done without little hands helping me out sounded like a much, much more appealing idea.

So with that settled I started making plans for my day. I pretty much never, ever even get an hour totally alone at home, so a completely empty day to fill all by myself sounded amazing. But then Greg came home and said he wished I would go. Not in a mean way, just a statement. And I started thinking about how many things I’ve forced him into doing in the past few years, usually on weekends, when he’d much rather stay home and relax. He almost always goes willingly, even when I know he’s not that interested.

I’ve also been thinking quite often lately how little quality family time we’ve had. A couple days a week either Greg or I are gone at night. On weekends I almost always try and get out of the house to shop alone or something. More often than not the boys are spending time with just one parent, not the two of us together. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important for each of us to have alone or friend time too. But it really seems like our family time has been lacking this summer.

Anyway, I changed my mind and decided to go on the boat. This is our last summer weekend before things start getting crazy in September and lasting through Christmas. I can clean and organize the house any time, even if it will be a lot harder with my “helpers.” How often are we able to go boating on a beautiful day? It was a rare opportunity and I decided spending time with my husband and babies was more important.

The day turned out to be a lot of fun. The boat had a cover (thank goodness!) so it wasn’t that hot in the shade. Greg’s boss, Mike, owns the boat and he took us through Lake Mendota, across the river through Madison, and into Lake Monona. Above is UW Madison’s Memorial Union.

Shepard never looked too comfortable in his life jacket, but he did amazingly well throughout the day. He never cried or anything. He’s always such a trooper.

Caden had a great time enjoying the boat and hanging out with the other two kids.

Here we are on the river through the city. It was very pretty, but we had to have the top down so it was HOT.

I’ve never seen a black and white duck like this before. It was really cool.

Monona Terrace. Greg and I were standing on top of this on our last real date a few months ago. It looks very impressive from the water.

Caden hasn’t been too thrilled with me lately (I’ve heard a lot of “Mean Mommy!,” “Go to your room all day!,” and “I don’t like you, Mommy!”), but every once in awhile he’d forget that and come cuddle with me. I like this picture.

Shepard kept fighting sleep with all he had, but he succumbed a couple of times when we were going fast. Poor babe.

We docked at The Bourbon Street Grille for lunch.

Shepard apparently learned how to pick his nose!

Going fast! I hope Caden wasn’t making this face the entire time!

Shepard isn’t looking too good either. His face is purple!

I could have gotten a lot better pictures of scenery if I had ventured to the front of the boat, but I was avoiding the direct sunlight at all costs. You can kind of see the capital in the distance, though.

Asleep again.

And finishing the boat ride with some licorice. It was a pretty fun day and I’m glad I decided to go. Family time should really be more of a priority, even if it means giving up something I want. I’m sure if I had stayed home as planned I would have just felt guilty all day. Now I have some happy memories instead!

Chippy Meringue Kisses

Today I’d like to tell you about the delicious melt in your mouth delicacy called meringue. I also figured it was about time I posted a recipe – this is supposed to be a food blog, after all!

Last Friday I was making some ice cream and set aside the unneeded egg whites, figuring I’d eventually find a use for them. The weekend passed and I had no motivation to even look for a recipe. Then I was at my mom’s house yesterday and was flipping through a Weight Watchers cookbook when I saw a recipe for meringue kisses – a perfect way to use those egg whites!

I made meringues for the first time last month after that ice cream making spree I went on. I didn’t really like the way they turned out because they practically disintegrated at the slightest touch, making them impossible to enjoy. I was excited to try out another recipe. This one worked much better!

 Meringues are fairly simple, they just take a long time in the oven. Five hours, to be exact. I started these around 6:00 pm, so I had to stay up past my bedtime to make sure they tasted okay when I finally took them out. 🙂

And the verdict? These are amazing. They’re sugary and light and completely melt the second they hit your tongue. The vanilla and mini chocolate chips give them a great burst of flavor. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to this, but I’m trying to watch what I eat now, so I can tell you that a serving size is two cookies, which is only 80 calories. I thought they’d be a perfect lower fat dessert for me while I’m trying to lose some weight. That might have been true if I knew how to stop at two! These babies are so good you could probably eat twenty in one sitting. If you have no willpower. Like me. Okay, I didn’t eat twenty at once. But maybe six or seven. Yum.

Anyway, if you have some egg whites you don’t know what to do with (or you know of another use for the unwanted egg yolks!), give these a try. You don’t know what you’re missing!

Chippy Meringue Kisses

  •  2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 oz. mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar one teaspoon at a time. Mix in vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop spoonfuls of batter on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and turn oven off. Leave cookies in the oven for 5 hours. Enjoy!

Looking for Inspiration

I haven’t been feeling very motivated to write lately. Or take photos. Or do pretty much anything. I don’t know if it’s just the dragging days of summer or what. It hasn’t even been that hot the past week, so I can’t use that for an excuse anymore. I’ve just been tired, I guess. And totally lacking inspiration in the creativity department.

I don’t want to come off sounding depressed, because I’m not. I just seem to be frustrated with myself in a lot of areas right now. For example, I really want to bake. It’s my favorite thing to do and if I think of my future potential career…I’d really like to be a baker. In some capacity. The problem, however, is that I’ve been steadily gaining weight ever since Shepard weaned a few months ago. He was obviously burning a lot more calories than I ever realized. So now I’m stuck in this constant predicament. If I bake, I’m going to keep gaining weight. So…I can’t bake. That’s pretty much the end of the story. I usually like baking things and sharing them with people, but I haven’t had many opportunities for that either lately. And the family members I usually pawn my goodies off on are always trying to lose weight too, so I fear they’re probably getting sick of me handing them things every week.

I’ve also been extremely paranoid of people’s judgements about me lately. This is usually in regard to Facebook. There are certain people in my circles who are never afraid to tell me when they think things I’m posting are inappropriate or not being shared in the correct venue. And most of the time, I completely disagree with their assessments, so I end up feeling attacked and upset. Then I begin doubting every single thing I say, every photo I post, thinking that somebody is going to be offended by it or think badly of me. While it’s fine for people to have whatever opinions they have of me, I really don’t appreciate the insinuation that I’m not allowed to be myself. It’s forcing me to hide even further inside my shell, especially since the people that seem to always be judging me are the people who should be the most accepting of me.

The clutter I’m constantly surrounded by is also starting to really get on my nerves. It’s hard to relax and enjoy life when there are toys all over the place, stacks of paper to go through everywhere I look, piles of laundry no matter how often I do it, and cat food and crumbs scattered across the floor. Sometimes it feels so pointless to even try cleaning it all up because ten minutes later everything is going to be a total disaster again! Last Friday I had had enough and decided to go through all the toys and reorganize them, getting rid of some, and putting others away. I’ve sort of been working on a toy rotation this past year and it had been a few months since my last switch out. Of course I made the mistake of bringing in a box of toys while both boys were still awake. Instant disaster zone! They had a great time playing with “new” toys, but it was impossible for me to sort everything out while they were playing with it all. I finally went through everything after they went to bed, which was a huge project. And now? The house looks just as bad! The toy rotation works well, but they still have TOO MANY TOYS. But how do you decide what to get rid of? It’s almost impossible. I cleared out the rest of the baby toys and then got really depressed that we’ll never need them again. How am I ever going to be able to part with these things? They’re not even my toys! It’s a frustrating battle that I’m sure every parent goes through over and over again. Part of me wants to just give away a couple boxes full and never think of them again. But then I think about my in-laws and how they’ve saved pretty much every toy their kids ever had and now Caden and Shepard love going over there to play with it all. I feel guilty that by getting rid of toys now I’m depriving MY future grandchildren! Who are decades away from existing! Ugh, I don’t know. I’m at a total loss on this one.

At any rate, life hasn’t been all bad lately. In the last week I’ve spent a lot more time just playing with the boys. I know this sounds terrible, but I don’t really like getting down and playing with them that often because then they expect me to do it all the time. And I have so many other things to do during the day. I want them to play with each other so they don’t depend on me for their every happiness, which seems to be the case with Caden a lot of the time. But, that’s still no excuse to never play with them. In the past week I’ve seen Caden’s imagination really start to grow as he wants to play store all the time. Maybe if I give him a few tips in his imaginary games he’ll start thinking of more things on his own.

I’ve been reading to the boys a lot more too. Shepard has developed a sudden interest in books, which really thrills me. Caden has always loved books and I’m glad Shepard is finally joining in on the fun. I love books so much and I want them to feel the same way about reading as they grow up. Shepard’s favorite at the moment is Wheels on the Bus. He sings along with almost all the words. Another amazing thing! Up until now I’ve been so worried that he seemed to be following in Caden’s footsteps with the speech delays. But all of a sudden he’s repeating all kinds of words and singing along with songs. Hopefully he’ll catch up quickly and we’ll be spared many more years of speech therapy.

Anyway, I’ve just been in a weird personal rut the past few weeks and I’m trying to find my way out. Looking for joy in the lives of sweet boys. Reading a lot. Planning for Caden’s fast approaching birthday and Christmas shopping for people. Things that make me happy. Trying not to focus on the things that are weighing me down.

We’ve been spending more time outside lately too. Going to parks, exploring, biking. Yesterday we found an amazing park in Sun Prairie. We spent hours just playing and walking up the hills and on the trails.

I guess it’s time to end this rambling post. 🙂 I have a huge headache and it’s nap time. Hopefully I can catch a few minutes of sleep as well!

WI State Fair!

Yesterday, the boys and I went to the Wisconsin State Fair! The fair has always been my favorite summer activity and I didn’t think we were going to be able to go this year. But at the last minute my parents were able to go so we tagged along. I contemplated taking them on my own, but I’m glad I didn’t attempt it. I never even would have been able to push the stroller through the whole thing! It was perfect having extra help so we could all enjoy it more.

The first thing we always do is look through the livestock barns. Shepard seemed SO confused! I think the whole morning was very perplexing to both of them. I actually had to wake them up (that never happens!) at 6:30, immediately got them dressed, and loaded them in the car with their  breakfast waffles in a ziploc bag. Definitely not a typical morning for us.

Yes, it was very confusing. After awhile they both started having mooing conversations with the cows, though. That was pretty funny.

I like that the baby cows even get to go to the fair with their mommies! It made me happy. 🙂

This lady was nice enough to take one of her sheep out of the pen so we could get a close up look!

I like this one. He liked me too.

Around 9:30 I had my first fair food – my usual hot turkey sandwich. I figured I’d better get my healthy food in first so I wouldn’t feel so guilty getting something terrible later on.

Little duckies! I think they were my favorite animals to watch. Such cuties.

This rabbit was so adorable! Caden really liked watching the rabbits.

We’re sitting on massage pillows.
 
Shepard was being such a pig! He was literally eating nonstop from the time we got there until it was time to leave. It’s amazing how much that kid eats and yet he’s still so small!
 

Caden kept whining about being sooo hungry the whole time too. I finally bought them some chicken tenders for their actual lunch. Caden ate one bite. One bite.

This was my specialty food of the day. It’s called a Fat Elvis on a Stick. It’s a peanut butter cup deep fried in a banana batter, drizzled in chocolate, and topped with bacon. Oddly, banana was the prominent flavor, but it all went together really well. I liked it a lot! Last year my exciting picks were a deep fried Milky Way and chocolate covered bacon. This was like a perfected version of both of those put together.

Caden didn’t seem to be enjoying himself very much – until we got to the DNR and children’s area. This is when we let Shepard out of the stroller for the first time too. They loved walking around and looking at the stream!

There was a big children’s play area. They were loving the sand.

Caden really loved playing the guitar and playing in this pretend campsite. He probably could have stayed there all day if we had let him.

Lately Shepard likes telling me to take a picture of him so he can look at it on the back of my camera afterward. So this is one of those “take a picture now!” shots.

Around 2:00 we were ready to leave. There were still so many more things we could have done, but we were tired and it was getting really crowded and hot. When we started walking back Shepard was whining and then he literally just passed out.

We made one last stop for fried pickles. I wasn’t that hungry, but I couldn’t pass them up. I wish I had, though. They were definitely not worth it. I guess I learned my lesson for next year!

One final shot. It was a really good day and I’m so glad we were able to go. Thanks to my parents who put up with us for so long and my dad for pushing the stroller for me! I’m really looking forward to next year’s trip!

National Mustard Day

Today we celebrated National Mustard Day at the National Mustard Museum in Middleton. This was my fourth time coming to this little mustard festival and our second time as a family. It’s not a huge event, but there are plenty of people there enjoying it. I love quirky little festivals like this, which is probably why I keep going. And I never pass up free food.

Caden seemed pretty perplexed by his hot dog.

Just for kicks, here he is last year. Some things never change.

He was happy to pose for one hot dog shot. And then he refused to eat it because we couldn’t cut it up. Oh, he’s frustrating sometimes! 

At least Shepard had no qualms about diving right into his. Though he seemed confused too.

Last year he was too little for hot dogs, but very happy with peas!

Okay, you’re probably sick of looking at pictures of hot dogs. But that’s pretty much the highlight of the festival. Free hot dogs with your choice of mustard. This year we got there super early and nobody was even in line. Greg had two!

Okay, the best part of the festival might actually be sampling a bunch of unusual mustards. They have sooo many flavors at the museum. It’s fun to go any time, not just on Mustard Day.

Caden last year. Definitely his favorite part.

We had to get our picture taken in front of the Wienermobile. Caden wasn’t being very cooperative. (Surprised?)

Shepard loved his wiener whistle!

Anyway, it was a fun little hour long excursion. If you’re ever near Middleton, Wisconsin on the first Saturday in August you should check the festival out! Go for the hot dog at least. 🙂

New Park Adventure

A few weeks ago I started stressing out about how few fun things we had done so far to take advantage of summer. Winters are so long in Wisconsin so the pressure is on to squeeze as much as you can into the short months of summer. So I whipped out some crayons and made a colorful list of all the places I wanted to take the boys before Caden starts preschool in September and life as we know it is over. (I know, it’s preschool – but still, life is going to change!)

One of the places I wanted to go was this really huge park in Watertown that I saw last year when I was at a craft fair. It looked like a place the boys would love, so we packed up a picnic and headed out. And as is what ALWAYS happens when I go to Watertown – I got lost. Google maps is seriously messed up when it comes to Watertown. My GPS wasn’t working on my phone either. Fortunately, Greg was available and able to direct me back to the park.

The park is actually a lot bigger than I realized. They had multiple play areas, plenty of open space, and a water area. We stuck with the big castle-like playground. I love this picture. And all the memories I have stored up of the two of them learning how to play together. It’s really cute a lot of the time.

Everything Caden does, Shepard does too. Even when he can’t really do it.

Brotherly love…very close to resembling a choke hold.

That’s better. Caden really does love Shepard, even though he doesn’t always have the patience for him.

Okay, Shepard’s had enough kisses!

Caden wanted to know why Daddy couldn’t come with us today. While it is sad that he misses out on a lot of outings, we are very thankful that he works so hard so that I can stay home and enjoy all these moments with our kids. Sometimes these days feel like the hardest days I’ll ever encounter, but I’m glad I have them nonetheless.

I thought I’d be able to get a cute picture on this little bridge, but Shepard wouldn’t cooperate. He was much more interested in what I was doing standing down by the river. At least Caden looks cute!

This park is really beautiful. So many weeping willows – I love it. I’m not that great at landscape photography so my pictures can’t really do it justice. It’s an awesome place, though.

They even have a huge pack of ducks that just wait around to be fed. We didn’t have anything to give them, but another mom shared some of her bread with the boys.

Shepard was really perplexed.

He got into it pretty quickly. Ducks are fun! Especially when they’re nice ducks that don’t attack you for the food in your hands.

Overall, it was a fun little trip! I’m glad I got to check another thing off my list and spend a few hours outside with my boys.

Apple Cheddar Scones

A few weeks ago I saw a recipe on pinterest for Apple Cheddar Scones. I was immediately intrigued because the apple and cheddar combination has fascinated me for the last few years. I’ve only ever eaten them raw together, but I’ve always been curious about putting them together in a pie or something. A scone seemed odd at first, but the idea started growing on me. The next day I heard someone on the radio talking about the fresh apple cheddar scones a friend made for her and how delicious they were. That sealed the deal – I had to make them! The only problem was figuring out when. I bought the ingredients and just let them sit while I waited for the opportune time. Last Friday turned out to be it. I was having a really bad day, so at 9:00 at night I decided I was going to do something for myself and make some scones!

I think the main thing that was scaring me away from this recipe is that it needs to be made in two parts. That just seemed like too much work. But in reality, it was pretty dang simple. All you need to do to start is heat the oven to 375 degrees, then peel and core two tart apples into about 15 chunks each. Line them up on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for twenty minutes.

This is what they should look like when they come out. They’re about halfway cooked at this point. Now you can either let them sit until they’re cooled or pop them in the fridge to speed up the process. That’s what I decided to do. I was hungry.

Next you need to whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder in a small bowl. In your mixing bowl add 6 tablespoons of cubed chilled butter, 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and one egg. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until the dough just comes together. Then you pat your dough into a round disc and cut it into six slices. I have an actual scone pan that I would normally use, but I wanted to make this batch look a little more rustic and do it the “old fashioned” way.

Next you divide the scones and place them back on the same parchment lined baking sheet (with new parchment if you choose, but I saw no need to be wasteful with a second sheet). Then whisk an egg together with a pinch of salt until it’s thoroughly mixed. Generously brush it over the top and sides of scones. The original recipe then suggested sprinkling sugar over the top of the scones. This is the one part that I really did not like on the finished product. The sugar just didn’t taste right with the savory-ness of the cheddar and apples. But you can try it if you like. I just don’t suggest it. I liked the slightly salty flavor a lot better.

Finally, bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. I was so busy watching White Collar (my latest tv obsession) that I didn’t even get up to check the scones while they were baking. I’m glad I didn’t because I probably would have taken them out before they reached this golden brown color, which seemed a little too dark at first. But they were perfect! The dark parts tasted the best. Next time I might even leave them in a little longer!

Overall, I thought these scones were fantastic, though they definitely should be eaten right away. Not the greatest idea to make six of them when you’re going to be the only one eating them at 10:00 at night. I ate two right away, even though I wasn’t that hungry after the first. They still tasted okay the next morning, but nothing is as good when it’s not straight from the oven! I’m thinking about toying with this recipe some more on my next batch. I might add 1 cup of cheddar to give it more zing. Or I might skip the apples all together and add jalapenos instead. I’ve never made a totally savory scone before, but I’d probably love it. Anyway, enjoy this recipe as it is – it’s worth the two step baking process!

Apple Cheddar Scones

2 firm apples, peeled and chunked
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg for batter
1 egg for egg wash
Pinch of salt for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and chunk apples and line up on parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes. Leave oven on and let apples cool on the counter or in the fridge if you’re in a hurry.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mix apples, butter, cream, egg, and cheese in a mixing bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients until just blended. Pat into a round flat disc and cut into six scones.

3. Separate scones and place on baking sheet. Make an egg wash with one whisked egg and a pinch of salt. Generously brush egg wash over the top and sides of scones. Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Summer School Lessons

Today was Caden’s last day of summer school speech therapy! I was really dreading these three weeks of interrupted and inconvenienced days, but the month flew by. I’m so glad we signed up for it because it was a great experience for Caden. I’m often worried about his lack of peer interaction and how he’s going to be able to handle being in a school setting. We’ve tried to do classes at the YMCA before and they’ve always turned into a disaster. I figured this would be the same, but thankfully it wasn’t. Caden was excited about going every single day. When I’d pick him up afterward I’d ask if he had fun today and he’d yell, “I always have fun at summer school!” He didn’t really appreciate all the questions I had about class each day, but it was clear that he enjoyed being there.

I wish I could say that I’ve noticed a huge increase in his speech abilities the past few weeks, but it doesn’t appear that much has changed. It almost feels like it’s getting even harder to understand him. He talks constantly, which is great, but it’s so difficult to decipher what he’s saying. It’s easier for me since I’m used to him talking to me nonstop all day, but it’s nearly impossible for a stranger to know what he’s saying. It’s pretty hard for anyone that doesn’t see him on a daily basis. He still has a lot of challenges ahead of him and it’s going to continue to cause frustrations for everyone, but for him especially. It makes me so sad when I hear other kids his age, without speech delays, and realize how far behind he really is. We’re all missing so much in these precious years because our communication is so stunted.

On a happier note, I’m so proud of him for trying. He does talk all day. He used to just grunt and make different indecipherable sounds to communicate what he wanted or how he felt. Now he’s using words. They may not be pronounced properly, but they’re words. He’s learning how to put sentences together properly. And some of the words that he’s always had the most trouble with are beginning to come out clearly. It’s a long process, but he’s getting there. I wish it were easier for him, but he’ll get there eventually. At least he’s not giving up.

I’ve learned a few summer school lessons of my own while Caden was in class every day. Most days, unless it was unbearably hot, Shepard and I would walk all around for that hour. Shepard would usually fall asleep pretty quickly so I had a silent hour to myself with nothing to do but walk and think. It was good exercise, but not always so great to be alone with my thoughts!

One of the main thing I realized in this past month is that my make new friend skills are worse than ever. I’ve always had a hard time making friends. I’m not outgoing, I never know what to say to people I’ve just met, and I’m always worried about what other people think of me. I feel like I’m a pretty good friend once people know the real me, but I don’t have many friends to prove that to anymore. Making and keeping friends becomes a whole lot harder when you quit working and stay home with your children. It becomes even worse when you move to a new city and can’t seem to find any easy way to meet people. Even with the perfect opportunity – standing and waiting with the same set of parents before and after summer school fifteen days in a row – I wasn’t able to cross the line into friendship with any of them. I’m frustrated with myself. I so envy the people that can find things to talk about with anyone. I’m not one of those people and I never will be. Making new friends feels impossible right now.

I’ve also realized during my daily walks how badly I want my own house again. And how impossible that feels as well. We’re years away from owning a house again. For the most part I’m happy with our apartment. I love how cheap the rent is compared to our last mortgage. I love that Greg doesn’t have to waste so much time mowing and shoveling and taking care of so many jobs around the house. But I miss having a private yard. I miss being able to sit outside without a bunch of people in other apartments watching me. I miss being able to make changes to my home to make it more personal. I hate white walls and I hate how all crammed up all our closets are. When I took my daily walks I’d look at all those houses and think about lucky all those families are. Sometimes I wish we had never owned a house in the first place and then maybe I wouldn’t know what we were missing! I feel like we’re cheating Caden and Shepard out of so many memories because they don’t have that yard to play in. By the time we have a house they’ll be in school and it won’t really matter anymore. We’ll have more space, but they’ll barely be home to enjoy it the way they could now. Anyway, I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll stop. I know it’s not the space that makes the home, it’s the family. But that can’t fully stop me from being jealous of homeowners. I miss it.

I’ve really been in a funk the past few weeks. I’m not blaming it on summer school, just this month and the awful heat of summer, I guess. In June I was feeling like my life was really on track. I was getting really excited about photography and learning new things. I was making plans, having fun, and feeling hopeful about life. This month my back hurts a lot again, I’m so tired, and I can’t find much motivation for anything. I need to find my way out of this rut fast.

So anyway – that has been our month of summer school. Caden loved interacting with other kids and learning new sounds every day. I think his favorite days were the ones where he got to make art projects. It was good for all of us to practice following a more strict schedule rather than just doing whatever we wanted any time of day like before. I actually had a healthy meal on the table by 11:00 every day, which I don’t think has ever consistently happened before! Shepard now knows how to fall asleep after ten minutes of stroller walking and to go back to sleep without complaint right when we get back home at 1:00. I’ve learned that walking is a very pleasant exercise, though I’m not too fond of doing it at noon, in July, when the temperatures have been near 100 degrees every day! I’ve also learned that it’s okay to still have dreams of friendship and home ownership, but to try and be content with where I am right now. My kids need me the most now and I’m here. We may not have the ideal living situation, but at least we have each other. Life is full of struggles and we all have our own to deal with. You just have to keep on pushing through!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Yesterday I was looking for an easy dessert I could make for my sisters-in-laws’ birthday cake. I needed something that wouldn’t be affected by the hot weather (although it turned out to be quite cold yesterday!) and that would travel well. I didn’t really want to make a traditional cake, I’m kind of sick of cupcakes, pie didn’t sound very exciting, and brownies didn’t feel very birthdayish. So after a lot of Pinterest browsing for inspiration I settled on a flourless chocolate cake topped with a ton of fresh berries.

The first time I had a flourless chocolate cake was at a restaurant in Minnesota. For whatever reason, Greg and I really didn’t like the food we had ordered so the waitress offered us a free dessert. I picked the flourless chocolate cake topped with strawberries and it was pretty much the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my life. I was in love. Of course I immediately went home and found a recipe so I could make it whenever I wanted. And then I forgot about it. I love finding new things to bake so much that I very, very rarely make the same thing twice, no matter how good it was the first time. It’s a shame I’ve gone so many years before making another one of these!

Flourless chocolate cakes are decadent, but they’re not very pretty to look at on their own. I chose to make mine in a springform pan so I could move it to another platter to decorate. You could easily make this in a regular cake pan or square pan and just leave it as is. Topping choices are endless. I thought a mountain of fresh berries seemed appropriate for a July birthday, but you could do whipped cream, ice cream, caramel, or just leave it plain with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar. Trust me, any way you eat it, it’s going to be good.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used one bag of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips) 
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (or…I used ground chocolate…because I like it)
Berries and powdered sugar for topping

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ springform pan and dust with cocoa powder.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with 1/4 cup of heavy cream until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until smooth. When you use chocolate chips this first step is very easy.

3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and cocoa powder. Slowly pour in the hot chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.

4. Pour batter into pan and bake until set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for one hour. Run knife along edges before taking the outside of the pan off. If you want to transfer to another platter run a large knife under the cake and very slowly slide it over. When completely cool top with berries and a dusting of powdered sugar. Enjoy!