A Weekend In Autumn

I love the fall. I love it so much I chose an beautiful autumn day for my wedding. Alright, alright, technically my wedding day was just a couple of days prior, but still, you get my drift.

But seriously, what’s not to love? The weather finally getting cooler with the sun still shining. They day isn’t completely too short yet, so when I’m driving to and from work it is still light out. But most importantly, the activities involving with apples and pumpkins are just fun for all ages.

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We went apple picking at Lymans on Sunday since the day was gorgeous and perfect. When we got there, we ended up picking asian pear and peaches instead of apples, since the Little Lady had just recently went to an orchard as part of her school field trip and brought home some apples.

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And since we were already there, why not get a pumpkin?

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We took home five peaches, six asian pear, a sugar pumpkin, and a carving pumpkin. And I’m sure we’ll be back to get some apples down the road.

While at the Orchard, my budding photographer asked me to show her how to use my camera, so she can take pictures. Well, I have to say she didn’t do too badly!

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Five Years… At The Place

I think I say this EVERY YEAR. But the time real DOES fly!0330

To celebrate, we decided to try “The Place“. 

We’ve never been to it before, but drove by many times.  It always looked very interesting, and we had heard good things about it.  So why not?

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The food was good, but I wouldn’t classify it as to die for.  We are definitely paying more for the ambiance and experience.  We had fun, and it reminds us camping, except someone else is doing all the cooking and serving us food.  And yes, the Little Lady tried clams and like it, and it looks like the Little Miss would love to get in on some of that steak herself.  Would I come back?  Hard to say.  I guess we’ll see.

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Happy Five Years, Babe.

Baking

I’ve always enjoyed baking, more than cooking, i think.  So after one of the forum I belong to started a get healthy thread, I’ve been trying to eat healthier and bake more.

Last week, I received a home grown zucchini from a co-worker who had too many in his garden.  It was perfect timing, because one of the ladies in the forum posted the mini zucchini quiche as a quick breakfast/appertizer.  I had all the ingredients, so why not?

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Let me tell you, these are mini decadent nom nom you do not want to miss!  The Little Lady ate FIVE of them in one sitting, Yes, I said FIVE.  One batch made 48 of these mini quiches, and they stay in the fridge very well, and I’m sure it freezes well too, but they didn’t last long enough for me to find out.

Another lady had suggested baked pumpkin pie oatmeal for quick breakfast.  I happen to have all the ingredients on hand, although I modified it to use quick oats, since that’s what I have, and also I used the suggested Greek yogurt.  Oh, and I made a mistake in measuring.  I put in more oatmeals than what it called for.  The result made my house smell like Thanksgiving.  It was delicious and satisfying.  Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of it.  When I have it for breakfast, I pour some milk and maple syrup on top, mix well.  YUM.

Since I already had my oven going, I made a batch of brownies for the party we were going to the next day.  But then I ended up making another batch for trading.  I didn’t make the icing, and frankly, I don’t think it needs it.  It is moist and fudgey.  No pictures either.  Those things don’t last at all!

Fast forward to this weekend.  Autumn has shown its face around this part of the world.  It was chilly in the morning.  So after taking the Little Lady from her swim and soccer class, I rolled up my sleeves and turned on my oven again.  This time, I went with scones.  I found this recipe while tooling around on budgetbytes.com.  I didn’t have ground cardomom or cloves, so I changed it up and used 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice instead of the spices listed on the recipe.  And I was lazy, so I made the whole thing in my food processor, so besides measuring, I spent a grand total of 1 minutes on mixing. When they were baked up, well, let’s just say that my house smells like autumn.

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It was sweet but not overwhelming, the slight crumbly texture is perfect for a cup of tea or coffee.

Making the scones wasn’t enough, as proven by the two lonely scones left in the tupperware (the recipe made 16 mini scones).  I decided to make the honey oatmeal sandwich bread.  Now, I have two teaspoons of expired yeast left in fridge, so I left it to proof a little longer than usual.  It was super cool to see the yeast in action!  I showed it to the Little Lady and she thought it was the weirdest and coolest thing all at the same time.

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I think waiting for this to cool down was the hardest thing I did all day.  But I resisted, and man, the flavor is superb.  And it wasn’t too much work at all!  Although, I think the next time I’ll employ my KitchenAid dough hook to help with the initial kneading.

I am so excited to get back in the groove of baking.  And finding budgetbytes totally helped.  I also made the sesame chicken, twice, from there.  So good.

I start school tomorrow.  I’m hoping I will be able to keep the baking up on weekends, and keep the blogging going as well.  I miss it.  And if you are still reading here, please comment and say hello!

A New Life… Second Time Around

I’m probably officially the worst blogger. EVER.  I didn’t even announce my second daughter’s birth!  (BTW, I’m totally dating this back to Mother’s Day when she was born so I don’t feel sooooooooooo bad.)

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Victoria Genevieve

7 lbs. 13 oz.

20.5 inches

Born 5/12/13 at 9:44

Our Little Miss was born on Mother’s Day – and two weeks late!  She was due April 26th!!!!  Oh well!  Good thing she came the day she did, otherwise, I would have to be induced the next day!

Oh, and yes, I have prefected human cloning.  Now where is my Nobel Prize?

A Sh*t Ton of Snow, AKA Blizzard of 2013

So for once, the weatherman earned their pay.  More than 3 ft of snow were dumped on us. although I am pretty sure Alaska is laughing at us New Englander for all being stuck, when this is just another normal day for them.  Laughing or not, the reality of things is that half of the streets are still not plowed.  We are lucky, we live on a street that tends to be a drive-thru so our street is very well plowed.  Plus David worked hard the past couple of days  and snow blow the driveway out.  But just to give you an idea, this is what it looked like when David started…

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And of course, with this much snow, one HAS to take advantage of all the potential on a snowball fight!  Well, alright, there was no real snowball fight, but there are definitely snow playing!

 

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So while all the snow is going on, I decided to try my hands on homemade marshmallow.  I’ve seen them, eaten them and been wanting to try to make them for a long time, but it seems kinda time consuming.  I saw a few recipes online, and me being me, made up my own recipe based the ones I linked above:

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Step 1:  Ingredients

  • 3 packets of gelatin powder
  • 1/2 + 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • oil and confectioner’s sugar (powder sugar) for the dish
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting

You can totally change up the flavoring by adding different extracts, although if you are interested in a minty flavor, I would start by 1 teaspoon, taste it, then add more, since the mint flavor is much stronger.  You can also substitute vanilla bean paste instead of using vanilla extract.

Step 2:  Prepare Your Dish

I used vegetable oil in my handy dandy Pampered Chef Oil Spritzer, but you can totally use Pam, or just put some oil on your paper towel and wipe the dish you are using.  Then dust generously with powder sugar. I used a 9 by 13 pyrex dish, but you can do various sizes.  If you use a smaller dish, it just means that the final marshmallow cubes will be taller.

Step 3 & 4:  Preparing the Gelatin

Put three packets of unflavored gelatin powder with 1/2 cup cold water in the mixing bowl.  Let it sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients.  Now there are other forms of gelatin, such as gelatin sheets.  I’ve never used it before, but I don’t see how they will be any different than the powder. 

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Step 5 – 8:  Cooking the Rest of Ingredients

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup cold water, sugar, corn syrup and salt.  On low heat, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula . Turn the heat up to medium, and bring it to a boil. Without stirring, let the mixture simmer until it reaches 240 F by the thermometer.  Remove from heat and immediately pour it into the gelatin mixture.

If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can still make this.  This took about 10 – 12 minutes.  As seen in picture 6 to 8, you can see the progression of the mixture color.  Once it had become clear, let it simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes, until you couldn’t stand it anymore.

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Step 9:  Beat it, Beat it, and Beat it Some More

Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture on high speed for around 8-10 minutes until white, fluffy and almost tripled in size. Add vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) and beat just until smooth and combined.

Now, this is the marshmallow fluff!  If you want to make rice crispy treats, use this stuff!  It is soft and yummy.

Step 10 – 11:  Pour the Fluff

Pour the mixture into the oiled and sugared dish, and sift confectioner’s sugar generously on top.

Step 12:  Cut and Eat

Allow the marshmallows to set for at least 3 hours in room temperature. Remove from the dish and cut into rough cubes using a sharp chef’s knife. Instead of back and forth movement, just press down with the knife. This way the knife won’t get stuck, and the cubes will spring back up.  

Now, there are a few ways I’ve seen on the net regarding the knife.  I personally prepped it with some powder sugar, just in case it sticks, but some say to use oiled knife, and some just go straight in without anything.  Your mileage may vary.

As I cut them into strips, I turned them and dust power sugar on top, then turn them 180 to make sure there are sugar on the other side.  And I repeat to ensure all sides have powder sugar to prevent sticking.  I then put them back into the pan they came from and covered it with plastic wrap for storage (less dishes to wash!). Although air-tight storage is probably a better choice.  Store in cool room temperature up to a week.

This is the time where you can put them in pretty packaging and give them away along with some hot cocoa mix, whether homemade or store bought.  

I hope you try it and let me know what you think!

Yummy in My Tummy

Pinterest.  It is my new love affair and my worst enemy.  My friends told me about it and I was super addicted at first, then I gave it all up due to school.  Now that school is not in session yet, I’ve been pinning up a storm.  Originally I used it to pin for craft room and home organization, but then right before Christmas, all I did was look for ideas to decorate my house.  Now, it’s all about food.
I came to a realization that we eat out way too much in 2012.  Between the new job which requires travel and school, I just don’t seem to have the time to cook as much.  I’ve decided that I need to figure out a way to cook more so David and the Little Lady don’t eat out so much.
 
Right before Christmas, I found the Oreo Truffle recipe.  It looked super simple to make, and super yummy.  I follow the recipe exactly, but instead of warm up the cream cheese and hand do it, I leave the cream cheese cold, and dump it into the food processor after I have made the Oreo crumbs.  I find it much easier and it’s probably much quicker.  In about 20 seconds, the cream cheese is bind together with the Oreo crumbs in pie crust consistency, and all I do is take out enough for a one inch ball at the time.  I also find that I don’t need to let it freeze as long.  The amount of time I melt the dipping chocolate is the perfect timing.  And I put them back in the freezer for as long as I can stand and viola!  Oh, and one cup of the Baker’s dipping chocolate is perfect for one recipe! (I of course have no idea where the pictures I took went.  But rest assured, they were gone pretty quickly!)
 
A friend of mine at work is always pinning recipes.  One day I was browsing and came upon a crockpot recipe.  It isn’t exactly what I wanted, so I decided to google some crockpot chicken recipes anyways.  I found the Bacon Wrapped Chicken.  I know, it isn’t crockpot.  Now, I already make something similar on my own, but this uses one less pan, and adds the cream cheese to the filling, so I decided to give it a try.
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Well, David and the Little Lady seemed to like it.  I find that because the whole thing is done in the oven, the chicken is a bit dry.  Maybe I overcooked it, but this recipe has less flavor than the ones I’ve already made.  If I were to make this again, I would definitely season the chicken first prior to wrapping for the cheese.  And I don’t find the cream cheese adds anything, so I’ll probably skip it all together, since cream cheese isn’t something I have on hand all the time.
  
And now let me introduce you to Bacon Ranch Chicken.  I found this recipe the same time I found the Bacon Wrapped Chicken.  Now, I know there are a ton of negative comments on this, and honestly, I didn’t read the review prior to commit making this.  Since none of us are on weight watcher, I modified the recipe based on what I have.
3 chicken breasts (straight from the fridge)
4 slices of bacon, cut up into strips, cooked and drained
½ cup of buttermilk ranch dressing (not the powder mix)
½ cup of chicken stock
1 container of non-fat Greek style yogurt (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
Olive oil to spray the bottom of the crockpot
 
  1. Spray the buttom of the crockpot with olive oil, and place chicken into the crockpot (I used a 2 qt size)
  2. Mix the ranch dressing and chicken stock well, pour it over chicken
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  4. About an hour before eating time, cook the bacon and put it into the crockpot.  At the same time, mix the yogurt with some hot broth from the corckpot.  I usually do this when I add flour or corn starch, so I tried it to prevent the yogurt from curdling.  Once the yogurt is warm and mixed well with the broth, dump the whole thing into the crockpot.  Cook on high for 10 minutes.
  5. Shred the chicken.  Juices will mostly be absorbed by the shredded chicken.
  6. Serve over a bed of white rice.
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It was very very yummy.  It doesn’t have very strong ranch or bacon flavor, so I definitely wouldn’t claim that this will curb your craving for bacon or ranch, but the flavor is nice, the chicken is tender and the food overall is very yummy.  David and the Little Lady approve.
Then I was out of chicken.  (David at this point says Thanks Goodness! LOL).  So I had him raid the freezer to see what we have on hand.  All we got were ground pork, ground turkey and pork tenderloin.  I happen to be browsing through this book that I checked out from the library, and one of the recipe was meatloaf.  Now, I don’t make meatloaf often, partly because I really dislike the taste of ketchup and most of the meatloaf recipe calls for that.  Although I like the book I was reading, I went online and did a quick google search, can I came upon this recipe from Ree Drummond.  Still, it called for ketchup AND mustard.  Me being me, I had to modify this recipe.  Instead of ground beef, I used a package of ground turkey and a package of ground pork, which resulted to almost 3lbs of meat, but I used the same amount of milk to soak the same amount of bread and put those into the meat mixture.  I also added 4 beated eggs.  The seasoning is where that’s really different.  Instead of using what the recipe called for, I used some of this seasoning from Taiwan that my dad brought me when he came to visit.  It is very different from what I ever had here in the US.  It’s part salt, part pepper (although I think it is white pepper, not regular black pepper), and part some herb seasoning that were grind super fine.  I mixed it all together by hand and shaped it into a loaf on a 9 by 13 pan, then I wrap the whole thing in bacon, and mixed up the sauce/glaze that go on top.  I used equal part of Worcestershire sauce and maple syrup, mixed well and brushed on top.  I baked it in 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes, took it out, brushed more glaze, and put an aluminum foil on top to prevent the bacon from completely burned, baked for another 20 minutes.  Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes then serve with a bed of white rice.
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The resulted meatloaf was tender and melts in your mouth.  I can easily see this recipe being made again and again here at chez jennsquared.  Although next time I would make two smaller loaves and freeze one for later.
So have you tried some new recipes lately?  Are you on pinterest and saw something irresistible that you must try now?  And definitely stay tuned as there are plenty more things I would love to try from Pinterest, whether it be carbon copy or modified.

How We Spent Our Winter Holidays

First, a belated Merry Christmas to all!  We were traveling out of town so I didn’t get to post.

On Christmas eve, the Little Lady opened one of her presents, like always.  She was super excited about this year’s Christmas jammies!

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Since the Little Lady has been a good girl, Santa brought her the toy she had asked for – Helicopter Legos!  The sparkle in her eyes and the surprise on her face was priceless.  I think she just sat there for a few seconds staring at the box.  You can see the wheels in her brain working!  Super cute

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She also got three sticker books (a Disney Princess one from Uncle Terry, Aunt Page and Cousin C, and two from David and I), and of course, between GG (Sheryl) and YeYe (dad), grandma and Uncle Terry, Aunt Page and Cousin C, she was spoiled with many more toys, including a Cinderella bath boy, a Hello Kitty magnetic dress up kit (which she absolutely LOOOOOOOVES), a Princess magnetic dress up kit (she also loves this one, it gets equal attention with the HK one!), a coloring book and of course, more stickers.  She also got this awesome headband I found at Gap that has a little crown shape on it that I put in her stocking, along with a kiddie scissors (she loves cutting!), a princess necklace and bracelet set, and Hello Kitty stamps.

Although we had said that adults will not exchange gifts, mom got me and Page each a super cute blue doggie sillicon pot holder.

See, isn’t he adorable!?

Because we drove to the midwest, I had a lot of time on my hands on the way there and back.  Lots of knitting and spinning were done, but I will save that for another post to showcase all the FOs.

We encountered Winter Storm Draco the first day while driving towards the midwest.  We ended up stopping half way, which is about what we were expecting.  The next day although was long, it was a dry, sunny and easy drive.  On the way home was another story.  Winter Storm Euclid started just as we were leaving.  We drove in it the entire day, and after 6 hours of driving, we were only 3 hours away from where we started.  David was very worried the fact that we were in the minivan and if anything happen, there was really nothing we can do to recover.  So we made an decision and called it quits.  The place we stayed had a pool so the Little Lady had a little fun before going to bed.  The next day was much better, although we had to skip going to see David’s grandma since Euclid decided to linger around where she lives and also it is a much longer route.

We got home late Thursday evening and promptly put the essentials away and crashed.  We slept in Friday, including the Little Lady! We tooled around the house until David and the Little Lady had their dentist appointment.  Now, this is the Little Lady’s FIRST EVER dentist appointment.  Not going to lie, I was a bit nervous that she will scream her head off during the visit, and also she was going to have lots of cavities!  Well, us holding off giving her sweets and juices really paid off!  The dentist was impressed with her behavior AND that her teeth are super healthy

ImageWe spent most of Saturday cleaning out the Little Lady’s room since David and her went to the consignment store and got her a Dora big girl bed for $15 before Christmas.  David disassembled the crib and put it up on her bunk, along with the changing table that we no longer use for her.  We plotted out some potential solution for the room and went out shopping.  Of course, promptly after we are finished at the dance store to get the Little Lady her leotards and ballet shoes for her first ever dance lesson this upcoming Saturday, it started to snow… again.  This time, Winter Storm Freyr left us some very wet snow.  It was also super windy.  At first, we thought the snow supposed to end at 6pm, no such luck.  We also thought it was supposed to be around 2 to 4 inches, well that was wrong also.  David ended up needing to get the snow blower out and did both houses and came home around 11pm.  But it’s not all work!  After we got home from IKEA, David and the Little Lady got all suit up and went to the front yard to play with the very wet, very awesome snowball forming snow.

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I know I am biased, but isn’t she super cute all bundled up?  And yes, my daughter has a Spyder snowsuit, because her daddy wouldn’t budge for less, “only the best for my girl!”  Luck for him that his wife is very good at bargain shopping.  I found this suit online for $99.95 with free shipping, since this is last season’s color.  We had seen one from the local ski shop, but it was a boy suit (which we almost purchased anyways), but decided to check online.  It was almost $200!!!!  Once we got the suit, the Little Lady tried it on, and that’s when we realized that the suit has places that we can let out to make it bigger so it grows with her!  And it is a little big to begin with, I think we can actually get at least another year out of it, if not two!!!!  PLUS, her little sister will be wearing it when it’s time anyways!  So really, I can get total of four to six seasons out of this thing! HA!

I woke up at 8 this morning to a very quiet house.  Since we haven’t really done ANYTHING house chore wise since we got back, I utilized this quiet morning to do the dishes, clean the kitchen, and catch up on the internet.  The Little Lady woke up around 9:30 and of course deciding that her daddy needs to be awake as well, except David woke up SICK!  ICK!  He decided that he needs some OJ and went out to get some, even though I’ve offered to drive out to the store, but he insisted since the truck was already cleaned off and ready to go.  Little did I know, he really wanted the orange strawberry banana juice, not straight OJ.  I guess I would have gotten it all wrong if I’ve gone!  Of course, I also asked him to buy some chicken so I can make chicken soup for dinner.  

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I made the chicken soup into chicken noodle matzo ball soup.  I also cooked up some rice and baked up some honey butter biscuits at David’s request.  It was a very yummy dinner, especially since I’ve been wanting clear soup for dinner for a few days, and the Chinese take out place soup was just not cutting it.  It was really satisfying when your 3 year old had some soup and said “mmmm, it’s good!”.

And now, after full tummy, we are watching the Patriots game and chilling.  So what have you been up to this winter holidays?

 

 

 

Catching Up… Yet Again.

It’s been quite awhile.  This blog has been really quiet.  Mostly because I am busy with school and the Little Lady, but it doesn’t help when I am tired half of the time.  Why you asked?  Well…

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Yup.  The Little Lady is going to be a big sister comes April next year!  I think the idea is finally sinking in for her.

So since September, besides mentally preparing to be a parent of TWO kids, lots had happened…  Let’s see:

  • I started and finished school!  I got an A- on Economics, and I am waiting for the other grade to come in, but I really don’t expect anything less than an A. :)
  • We went to the Big E, TWICE, and Quassy!  We actually got to go to Quassy for free! Of course, I cannot remember where we got the free passes now.  I think it might be Chips!  The Little Lady was a tall girl and was able to get on many of the rides on her own.  And!  I tried Fried Oreo for the first time!  It was really good!

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  • Rhinebeck.  This year, our hat was based on the fiddle fern pattern.  But they were all heavily modified.  Mine was Christmas themed.

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  • We experienced super storm Sandy.  We only lost power for about a day, compare to some other less fortunate folks.  We also have a generator so we were able to have some lights, watch tv and keep the fridge.
  • A week after the super storm Sandy, we had the not so little, but not so big snow storm.  Although I was in Houston for SWE Conference recruiting.  Aunt Jenny was super nice and watched the Little Lady when school closed, yet again, so David didn’t have to take another day off.

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  • And because of the two storms, treat-or-trick was cancelled.  But no matter, there was a school parade and Sam got dressed up anyways.

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Please excuse the hair.  Mommy wasn’t home to do it!

  • The Little Lady turned THREE!!!!!  I think that deserves its own post, so I’ll do another entry later.
  • We had Thanksgiving here at home.  David’s mom, Paul, Robin, and Robin’s parents were able to join us for the festivity.  Although I completely forgot about taking any pictures, I did remember the recipes that I used, and they were super yummy!  Honey brined smoke turkey on the grill, parmesan roasted broccoli, green beans with shallots and pancetta (I substitute the shallots with a small onion and smoked bacon with pancetta), maple orange glazed carrots (I used organic baby carrots instead, and because of the thickness, i blanched the carrots first to accelerate cook time), scalloped potatoes (I followed this recipe to the T!  and I got to try out my new mandolin), sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie and apple pie.  Robin’s parents also brought a pan of lasagna, a box of cannolis and a coconut custard pie from a local bakery.  YUM.
  • After Thanksgiving, David’s dad and Sheryl visited us.  We went to Treat Farm and tagged a tree to cut it down later (almost exactly a week later).  We also went shopping to get the Little Lady some winter outfits.

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  • The Little Lady attend one of her bestie’s birthday party.  The party was super cute at a local community center that has gym class.  All the kids had a great time!

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  • This past weekend, I hosted our annual SnB holiday get together.  We also held a cookie swap at the same time,which we usually have it on a Thursday night.  I made Triple Chocolate Cookies for the swap.  It was YUM.  Although David thought they were a little too dark chocolatey for him.

That’s all I can think of now to catch you all up for the past few months.  I’m sure there are other events that happened but I can’t remember them now.  I’m going to try to post more, but no promises!

Happy 4 Years

It’s hard to imagine 4 years ago at this time, David and I are dancing with our friends and family, celebrating us becoming a family. Four years and one little lady later, I spent the past few hours in school learning economics and now we are going to bed.

Oh the joy of life.

Happy anniversary babe!