Halloween Party

Halloween has never been one of my favorite holidays, but the older my children get the more fun I’m realizing it can be. I love celebrating smaller holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, so why not have a bunch of fun with Halloween too? This year instead of just having a family dinner we threw a little party to share the fun!

Earlier in the day the boys got a couple of cards in the mail, which was very exciting!

All set up for the party!

Do you know how hard it is to find Halloween themed recipes for healthy food? It’s nearly impossible! Everything out there is for awesome looking desserts. And since I’m hoping to lose a little weight this week I was trying to avoid the temptation. Spooky ghost cupcakes and black licorice looked festive, but didn’t tempt me, which was good.

Leftover candy corn cookies, pumpkin seeds, and candy corn pumpkins. Which are actually really good. I never realized how much I liked candy corn until this year.

Pumpkin vomiting guacamole.

Pumpkin veggie tray. I probably could have done a little more with this, but it was the last thing I made and I was running out of steam.

Monster mouths.

My favorite food of the night (and a dessert I couldn’t avoid) – oreo truffle monsters. Delicious.

Buffalo chicken intestines.

Okay, nothing scary about these, just mini grilled cheese sandwiches for people who didn’t like buffalo chicken.

You can’t tell in the picture, but there are gummy worms frozen in the ice cubes. Scary! Or just gross.

Taking a break to read some Halloween books with Aunt Melissa.

Flying Batman.

Uh oh, somebody gave Caden a sword!

And this is how we spent the rest of the night. 🙂

Happy Halloween!

Trick-or-Treat!

Yesterday was the best day of Halloween week – trick-or-treating! The boys have been practicing for weeks and were really excited to get some candy. It was a lot of fun this year watching both of them so into the whole thing. This is the first year Caden seemed that interested and because Caden was excited, Shepard was pretty excited too.

We started the day finishing up the candy corn cookies we started Saturday night. A boy in Caden’s class brought cookies like this a few weeks ago and Caden really wanted us to make our own batch. I thought they turned out pretty cool, but Caden informed me that the other boy’s were more yummy.

We went to my in-law’s for lunch and Caden helped decorate our annual pumpkin pizza. Looks like Neko was trying to sneak some pepperoni when no one was looking.

When the boys could finally get their costumes on they were pretty wound up! I thought Shepard looked hilarious with his sweatshirt underneath, adding to the appearance of his muscles!

This is apparently Batman’s main pose. Caden was so excited; it was so cute!

My Batmans.

Once again showing Batman muscles.

Finally time to trick-or-treat! First stop – Grandma’s house!

Second stop – Grandma’s house! We always trick-or-treat in my old neighborhood.

The Batmans are multiplying! And Robin has joined in the fun.

I couldn’t believe how well Shepard did! He even said trick-or-treat and thank you at every house and insisted on carry his candy by himself, even when it got really heavy. He seemed to be in a daze by the end, but I think he enjoyed himself.

Caden really wanted Grandpa to drive them around in the wagon. Poor Gracie is so confused about what’s going on.

Batman, Batman, and Batman. Caden wanted to know why Gracie didn’t get to have a cape.

Muscles again.

Greg running along while the boys and I rode in the wagon. I was highly amused.

Anyway, it was a great night of trick-or-treating! We all had a lot of fun!

Pumpkin Day

Today we set aside the day to do some pre-Halloween fun as a family. Caden started things out by washing up our pumpkins when I brought them inside this morning to warm up.

The boys helped me make monkey bread for breakfast. I think this was my first 100% success at monkey bread – everything was fully cooked through!

A pretty huge chunk of the day was spent putting our new tv stand together. I had very little to do with this, but it was really exhausting just being around in the middle of it all. But we have an awesome new tv stand that we found by accident – and was on sale this week, so I’m happy. 🙂

After Shepard’s nap we finally got around to the main event of our day – carving pumpkins!

He has no idea what’s going on, but he’s usually up for anything.

Caden was very intently (and delicately) removing the seeds and leaving the guts for us.

Now Shepard is just really confused.

But he gave it a shot. One scoopful!

And what felt like five hours later, our finished pumpkins! I’m never very thrilled about carving pumpkins, but I love that once a year chance to make some roasted seeds, so we push through. I’m hoping as the boys get older and can do more of it on their own this will be more fun. At least this year Caden drew his own design!

Just looking so dang cute, as always.

I decided to be adventurous and try three different flavors this year. The usual salt and pepper, a chex mix type flavor, and a spicy batch. I liked the chex one best.

And here they are once more. We finished the night watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It’s been years and years since I’ve seen it and quite honestly, wasn’t very impressed! We’re going to look for a nicer Halloween show to watch another night. Anyway, it was a very full day (we also made cookies!) and I’m thrilled that the boys are finally asleep and I can sit in silence for awhile! Weekends are so exhausting!

Homemade Butterfingers (And Week Nine Weigh-In)

With the abundance of candy corn in stores these days I’ve been itching to make some homemade butterfingers. I found this recipe on pinterest maybe six months ago and immediately had to try it out. It’s pretty easy and the taste is almost spot on to a regular Butterfinger. My first batch turned out very ugly, though, and I wanted to pretty them up a little this time around.

The recipe is definitely simple enough. Mix one pound of candy corn with one 16 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter. You’re supposed to microwave them together stirring every thirty seconds or so. But I found you get a lot of burns that way! So this time I did it on the stove and it seemed a lot simpler.

This mixture is extremely thick and you really need your muscles to get the candy corn fully incorporated into the peanut butter. I let Caden give it a shot, but he gave up after a few seconds.

Next you press the mixture into a foil lined square pan and let it harden. I popped it in the freezer for about fifteen minutes because I was in a rush to get them done.

Next, cut them into however big of pieces you want. They’re not too pretty to look at yet.

And finally, dip them in some melted chocolate and let harden! You can use any type of chocolate you want. If you go with almond bark, which I did, they’ll look a lot prettier. If you use regular chocolate you won’t get that super smooth finish, but they’ll taste better. I chopped up one of my squares to sprinkle across the tops and make them look like fancy chocolates.

And that’s how you make homemade butterfingers!

I think they’re pretty delicious, but if you eat more than one at a time you’ll probably have a stomachache. 🙂 I have a hard time stopping at one.

In other news…my weekly weigh-in. I don’t even want to say this, which is why I’m hiding it at the end of a dessert blog. I gained 3.2 pounds this week. I didn’t even try to stick to my plan this week. While I was in DC last weekend I did about five times more walking each day than I do regularly, so I figured I was safe to go a little overboard with eating. Well…I shouldn’t have. Enough said, right?

Of course it didn’t help that I was in a major mood to bake. Rainy, cold weather does that to me. On Monday I made this delicious brown butter skillet cookie. On Tuesday I made pretzel buns. On Wednesday I bought spinach dip and ate way too much. On Thursday I made butterfingers. So yeah, it’s really no surprise I gained weight. I didn’t limit my portions, I didn’t track what I was eating, and I didn’t do a whole lot of exercising after the weekend.

I’m mad at myself and my lack of control, but I’m also mad about how I’m feeling about my weight loss journey these days. Like my entire self worth is based on what the scale is going to say on Friday morning. I really have no confidence that I’m going to lose more than the ten pounds I’ve been hanging around the last few weeks. So I’m sort of self-sabotaging myself by no longer trying very hard. And like I said at the beginning of this weight watcher’s journey – I never wanted to be one of those people that constantly said no to food. I still feel like food is meant to be enjoyed, especially when I find so much joy in making it. It’s been pretty easy for me to cut back on snack foods and quick restaurant stops for lunch. But giving up baking? I just can’t do it.

Anyway, those are my very mixed feelings about weight loss this week. Clearly, I’d love to keep losing weight. But I’m not sure that goal really outweighs any of my desire to enjoy the foods I can make. Finding a balance is proving to be more difficult than I can manage most days. It’s frustrating. And tiring. But I suppose I just have to keep pushing through it. A lifetime of better decisions, mostly eating the food I like in moderation, should hopefully pay off in the long run. I just have to keep making the right decision. Which is sometimes so hard.

A Weekend in DC

This past weekend I took a trip to Washington DC to visit my best friend, Dianne. I was a little hesitant about leaving the boys for three days, especially Shepard who I’ve never even been away from for a single night. But I think this break was good for all of us. I was able to take a little breather from mommy duties and just have some fun while the boys got to have a lot of good Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa time. I came back feeling refreshed and much more appreciative of my family. All in all, it was a great weekend!

Caden drew me this picture on Thursday before I left and I took it with me on my trip. I love how much more interested he’s getting in drawing specific things. This is a picture of me on the airplane going into the clouds and him on the ground sending hearts up to me (totally his idea!). That other thing is a tree with two branches – one branch with a birds nest holding babies and the other with an apple. 🙂

I flew in around six on Thursday night and Dianne met me at the airport. We took the metro back and had dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant. On Friday morning Dianne and her boyfriend were signing the lease to their new apartment so we had a few things to take care of for that and then Dianne and I headed to George Washington University where the food trucks were going to be stationed that day. I’m intrigued by the food truck idea since it’s something I pretty much never see in Wisconsin. I was excited to try this spicy bbq jalapeno chicken sandwich and mashed potatoes. It was pretty good. Unfortunately it was the only meal I took a picture of the whole trip.

The food trucks. My sandwich came from the BBQ Bus.

After that we did a few sightseeing things. On my first trip to Washington DC about seven years ago I kind of had sightseeing overload and didn’t feel that inclined to revisit much on this trip. But I did manage this picture of the Washington Monument.

And here we are. I should mention that it was insanely humid on Friday. Like so much more humid than we ever even experience in Wisconsin. And it’s the middle of October. I was SO hot all day.

I’m not sure what this building is, but I thought it was pretty.

Then we went to the Hirshhorn Museum to look at the Ai Weiwei exhibit. It was fun going to an art museum – something I used to love doing and never have a chance to do these days. I liked this sculpture.

We walked through the surrounding sculpture gardens too.

Next we went on a quick tour of the National Archives, where Dianne works. I’m not too enthused about old federal documents, but I had’t been there before and it was neat to see.

We were pretty worn out (and very hot) by then, so we headed back to Dianne’s new apartment. It started raining again and this pretty rainbow appeared over their awesome view. When the rain finally let up a little many hours later Dianne and Jack took me to their favorite Thai restaurant. I’ve never had Thai food before and thought it was quite delicious!

On Saturday morning we got up and headed straight to Arlington Cemetery. This is one place I really really wanted to see on my last trip and missed out. So it was the only thing on my must see list this time around. I’m fascinated by cemeteries and this one was pretty amazing!

It was slightly cooler on Saturday, but still quite humid.

A few of the Kennedys had simple white cross grave markers. I liked those.

I loved the older section with more variety in the headstones.

After Arlington we went to Georgetown to shop. I didn’t really take any pictures from that point on. The shopping was great, though! I got a few new shirts and some small Christmas gifts. We had lunch at Serendipity 3, which was very tasty. Then we took a cab back to the apartment (my first ever cab ride) and relaxed a few hours. By that point my legs were killing me, so it was nice to just read and rest for awhile. That night we ventured out again to see the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I had no idea what it was about ahead of time, but I really enjoyed it!

And that was my trip! Sunday morning we just hung out and then I headed to the airport around ten. Overall I had a really good time! It was so nice just spending time with Dianne and taking a little break from my regular life. Hopefully it will become a yearly tradition!

After many hours of sitting in the airport and on the plane I finally made it back home to my babies! It was an awesome weekend!

Weekly Weigh-In Week Eight

Well, I got another surprise this morning on the scale – I’ve lost two pounds this week!

A weird thing is starting to happen. I don’t feel like I’m dieting anymore. Which is probably why I’m so surprised because I was thought I was having another heavy eating week. In truth, I must be adjusting to eating smaller portions and fewer unhealthy snacks so it no longer feels like I’m depriving myself. Which is pretty great!

As for Weight Watchers itself, I’m really not utilizing the program the way I could be. But at this point that’s probably a good thing if I’m continuing to lose weight. I’ve learned enough to start eating better and exercising more and with time I will hopefully continue to lose the excess pounds. I don’t really think I have what it takes to ever be an extreme dieter – I love baking and eating those baked goods way too much. But I’m treating my body better and I’m proud of myself.

That’s it for this week! In an hour I’m off to Washington D.C. to visit my best friend for the weekend. So exciting!

Weekly Weigh-In Week Seven

Well, my diet survived my birthday indulgences. I honestly wasn’t sure what the scale would show today, but I figured it was leaning toward a gain. Maybe even a couple of pounds. I spent three days eating whatever I wanted and much bigger portions than I’ve gotten used to. Then this week I’ve had a bagel for breakfast every day, nachos for lunch a few days, and I made cookies. It wasn’t looking good! Anyway, I’m pleased to say that I only gained 0.2 pounds. I’m not proud of a gain, but 0.2 isn’t much to stress over.

I think one of the things that helped me this week is that I’ve been a lot more aware of how much I’m walking and moving around during the day. I got a Fitbit for my birthday, which is basically a high tech pedometer. I knew that you’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day to stay fit, but I never realized how far I was from meeting that goal. This week I’ve discovered that my typical day usually only nets about 5,000 steps. I’m feeling pretty challenged by this and have been trying harder to walk a lot more, even if it’s only in circles around the living room while I watch tv.

Anyway, back to reality this next week. I’ve really had enough of Weight Watchers and am anxious to see how I do totally on my own, but I suppose I ought to finish up the program. Five more weeks. I think I’d like to lose at least five more pounds in that time frame. That’s far from what I thought I’d achieve in this three months, but at least I’m moving in the right direction. That’ll have to be enough for now.

Pumpkin Scones

Pumpkin scones are one of my all time favorite breakfast treats. It’s funny how before two years ago I refused to touch anything with the word pumpkin in it and now I’m realizing how delicious that magic ingredient can be! I’ve been wanting to make these scones again for months and finally decided last weekend was the time to do it.

As usual, I had my little helpers. I would appreciate their help a lot more if they weren’t constantly screaming over whose turn it was to put the ingredient in, ripping things out of my hands and causing gigantic messes over and over again.

Scones are a lot easier to make than a lot of people think. These are no exception. First you mix half of a can of pumpkin, 1 egg, and 3 tablespoons of milk in a smaller bowl. In your mixing bowl combine 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of cloves and ginger (or you can simplify and use 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice mix). Next cube 6 tablespoons of butter and mix in with dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form. I used to always make scones in my food processor because it was so fast and easy, but I hate cleaning it and have found that it works just as well in a regular mixer.

Next add in the wet ingredients and gently mix. I couldn’t believe Shepard wanted to lick the spatula after the first taste, but he loved it.

I have a scone pan so the final step is pretty easy. If you don’t have a scone pan you can simply form a thick round with the dough and slice it into eight slices, separating each slightly on the pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes and they’ll look like this! They’re a little plain on their own so you’ll want to make this double glaze to finish them off.

For a simple glaze simply mix 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of milk. Stir until smooth and pour over scones.

They’re pretty good with just one glaze, but the second glaze really adds dimension to the taste.

Make a second glaze with 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves and ginger. Stir and drizzle over scones.

And this is what you get! I usually glaze them on a plate so you can scoop up some of the extra glaze when you pick up your scone. They’d probably look a lot fancier if I had done it over a cookie rack. Oh well!

Delicious pumpkin scones – give them a try!

Pumpkin Scones

Scones:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg

Powdered Sugar Glaze:

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Spiced Powdered Sugar Glaze:

  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves

In a medium bowl mix pumpkin, milk, and egg. In a larger mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Cut in butter and mix until coarse crumbs form. Stir in wet ingredients. Divide into greased scone pan or form dough into a thick round on a greased baking sheet. Cut into eight slices and divide so they’re no longer touching. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Let rest for ten minutes and make powdered sugar glaze. Pour over scones and let rest until glaze hardens. Make spiced glaze and drizzle over scones. Eat and enjoy!

Birthday Fun

On Sunday I celebrated my 28th birthday. Actually, I celebrated on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 🙂 I love birthdays and wanted to squeeze in as much fun as possible. On Friday (as mentioned in my last post) I went to Red Robin and hunted for pumpkins. On Saturday we went to a local festival, but it was too cold to enjoy anything. We stopped at the cheaper place in town and picked out our carving pumpkins. That night we went out to eat with my in-laws and had tiramisu for dessert.

On Sunday we had a lazy morning and then my boys gave me my presents. They are very cuddly and affectionate when present opening is involved. 🙂

Aww, Shepard.

They drew me some very creative cards. I love how Caden draws people right now!

So cute.

Greg gave me a necklace that he picked out for me in Door County.

And an Annie! This is my latest obsession. I adore handmade more contemporary looking Raggedy Anns, especially those made by Raggedy Old Annie. I was very excited to add this to my new collection!

Now I have two of her larger ones. And a third coming in the mail tomorrow. 🙂

After presents we dropped the boys off at my parents’ and Greg and I went on a date. We ate at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace – a restaurant we drove by a few months ago and were really curious about. Tacos are my favorite! They had a lot of really unique taco flavors to choose from. I had the Hot Mama (buffalo chicken) and Backyard BBQ (bbq pork). I probably would have liked them a lot more if they were on hard shells.

Afterward we went to Olbrich Gardens, a place we used to go to all the time in college. It was pretty chilly, but still nice to walk around outside for a bit.

Walking.

And then back to my parents’ for a little celebration. I was super excited that my mom gave me an Annie too! This one from Old Ragdoll Cupboard, where I bought my very first Annie at a craft fair a few months ago.

It was a pretty laid back birthday, but I appreciate the effort everybody went to giving me a special weekend. Birthdays aren’t that big of a deal once you’re an adult, but it’s nice to know that so many people care. 🙂

My silly boy.

Finishing with a huge slice of Apple Crumble Pizza Pie – the birthday dessert of my choice for most of my life. Thanks to my mom for making it!

Overall, a very nice birthday! Thank you, everyone!

Weekly Weigh-In Week Six

I’ve made it through six weeks! Barely. I have to be honest – last night I was seriously thinking about throwing in the towel. I’ve been bummed all week about my gain last week and despite exercising a lot more and being more careful staying within my daily points, I didn’t really expect to lose much this week. But I stepped on the scale this morning and was absolutely thrilled to see that I lost 2.4 pounds! That’s my second biggest loss so far and incredibly exciting. It’s given me fresh motivation to keep going. 
I think my biggest stumbling block right now is that evil voice inside my head telling me I can’t do this. I can’t seem to get out of my mind that I’m never going to get to where I’d ideally like to be, so there’s no point in trying at all. People keep reminding me that this is a long process – a complete life change if I ever want to keep the weight off. Results are not immediate and it’s supposed to be hard. But nobody likes doing hard things, especially when it means denying yourself the foods you enjoy day after day after day.
I’m not sure what I did differently this past week, but it obviously worked. I don’t think I’ve gone out to eat at all. And I didn’t eat many of my usual afternoon snacks of crackers or chips. I gave in and bought apple dip, which isn’t so great, but it made me eat a whole lot of apples which I don’t really like by themselves. I also made a conscious effort to drink more water and simply move around more. I didn’t necessarily exercise more, but rather found more active things to do with purpose around the house. Vacuuming with vigor, cleaning out the van, picking up toys whenever I see them throughout the day, etc. Every little bit counts, right? 
Although I am really excited about this weight loss and hope I can report another loss next week, I’ve also decided to stick with my plan to take the weekend off. My birthday is on Sunday and I had/have a lot of fun things planned for today and this weekend. I don’t plan on eating like crazy, but I don’t want to count points and feel guilty about everything that goes into my mouth either. I’ll indulge a little the next few days and then be really good next week. I think birthdays are worth giving in a little. Which is why I made myself this delicious little cake! It’s actually triple fudge brownies layered with peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough frosting. That slice I had for dessert tonight was the most sugar I’ve eaten at one time in six weeks! But it was oh so good. 🙂
In other news, my daily photo assignment is coming along. I took this of Shepard yesterday while I was vacuuming out the van. He was having a great time pretending to drive! 
And to kick my birthday weekend off, I spent some time with my mom and brother today going out to lunch and then pumpkin hunting afterward. The first place we stopped at had the friendliest farm animals I’ve ever seen! This donkey was so cute, I wanted to take him home for a pet. 
He seemed desperate for attention and decided to chase Shepard as far as his rope would go to get it. Shepard was terrified, but it was pretty funny to watch.
The pumpkins were all extremely overpriced, in my opinion. I thought for sure that if we went to a farm in the middle of nowhere we’d be able to find some for less than $10 each. Nope! So I settled for some poorly expressioned photos instead.
That’s it for week six! I’m not feeling very optimistic for week seven after this weekends’ indulgences, but I refuse to feel guilty about it. I’m getting a much better hold on what I should/need to eat to feel comfortably satisfied without overdoing it. I just need to stick with my instincts. The decisions are getting a lot easier!