Monday, November 14, 2011

Some Things You May or May Not Know About Four-Year-Olds

So sometime in the not-too-distant past, J turned four.  Ah yes, that age filled with wonder and a superfluity of naughtiness*.  And although having a four-year-old in the house is still new to me, I have already received quite an education about the things that make them so special:

1. Their bodies are bilingual.  Did you know?  I will explain.  Lately our formerly fully potty-trained son has started to have accidents as frequently as an excited puppy.  Consequently we have had several conversations about listening to one's body and noticing when a bathroom break is in order.  J realized, though, that there is one major obstacle to listening to his body.  He told Peter the other day, "Daddy, my body is trying to tell me something, but I can't understand it.  I think it's speaking Spanish."  Yes, that would make it hard to understand.

2. They can have strange diseases.  I was visiting my parents and had just given the boys a bath.  While lotioning J, I remarked to my mom what beautiful skin he has.  She agreed and mentioned that he has had beautiful skin ever since his cradle cap cleared up as an infant, to which he replied, "now I have cradle butt."  Unless he has suddenly contracted tinea cruris (do NOT do an image search on that one), I have no idea where he got that idea, nor when he started using the word "butt."

3. They have sensitive souls.  While driving to a family dinner last night, J started telling us, in a forlorn voice, that: "Some houses are all alone.  Some trees are all alone.  Some animals are all alone.  Some mountains are all alone.  Some gardens are all alone.  Some composters are all alone. . .etc."  Why yes, yes they are.  I weep for them.

*"Superfluity of naughtiness" is actually a scriptural phrase.  Is that not fabulous?  See James 1:21.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Caramel Apple Cider Bars

I know, that isn't the greatest picture, but by the time I got around to taking a photo of these cookie bars there were only some sad looking edge pieces left, I had to scramble and take this picture before I lost my light, and my four-year-old was "helping," so this is what you get.  Sorry about that.

So some of you may have seen these cookies floating around on Pinterest.  I have become slightly addicted to Pinterest, and when I saw these I knew that I had to try them.  I did, and they were delicious, but please forgive me, but I couldn't leave well enough alone.  You see, when it's fall, I want something I can really sink my teeth into,  I want some texture.  So I decided to take the main principles of the original caramel apple cider cookies (apple cider mixed in, lots of caramely goodness) and put them in oatmeal bar cookie form.  I did, and ooh de lally!

Oh mama, just look at that caramel.  I used a whole bag which was about 50 caramels, and you don't have to use quite that many--you can adjust for your personal preferences.  Bake a batch of these on the next blustery day that comes your way.  They'll warm you up from the outside in.

Caramel Apple Cider Bars
Printable version

1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 box (7.4 oz.) Alpine brand Spiced Apple Cider Original Instant Drink Mix (not sugar free)--yes, you use all 10 packets
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. quick oats
1 bag Kraft caramels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
Unwrap caramels (I would go with about 3/4 of the bag, but you can add more or less depending on your personal preferences), and chop them into fourths.  Set aside.
In a small bowl combine flour, soda, slat, and cinnamon; set aside. 
In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, and all then packets of apple cider mix.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix in well.  Gradually add flour mixture.  Stir in oats and caramel bits.  Spread into greased 9x13" pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until top is good and golden.  Don't panic if the top seems to slip around a bit as you remove it from the oven--the center is probably done, the top is just sliding around on all that liquid caramel.  Allow to cool for about an hour (or just as long as you can stand it) before serving.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Three Oh

Well folks, it's finally arrived.  I've reached my third decade.  I will never have a two at the beginning of my age again.  I am 30.  Strangely, I'm not really upset about it, which is surprising considering the fact that I never, ever, EVER wanted to grow up.  In fact, I kind of like the idea of the maturity and confidence that comes with leaving your twenties behind.  Not that I've acquired that maturity and confidence yet, I just like the idea that I'll find more of it on this side of 30.  And to help things, I feel like I've had a pretty darn good three decades so far.  So just to make myself feel even better about being 30, here are some highlights from each decade:

Decade 1:
1. I was born.  That's pretty significant for me.
2. I learned to read.
3. I was baptized.
4. My family moved to Arizona.
5. I started school.

Decade 2:
1. I graduated from High School.
2. My family moved away from Arizona.
3. I got my first kiss.  Hard to believe, I know, considering the awkwardness of the above photo.
4. I travelled to Europe.
5. I learned to ride a horse and dance a hula.  Not at the same time.

Decade 3:
1. I travelled to New Zealand.
2. I graduated from college.
3. I got married to a man more perfect for me than I could ever design.
4. I taught junior high and loved it.
5. My two sweet little boys were born.

I would have to say #3 and #5 are my two favorites from this last decade.  And they have made this a very sweet 30th birthday.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In the Tooth Fairy's Secret Service

Sometimes I like to pretend I'm a secret agent.  I have James Bond on the playlist I clean house to, and I dream up scenarios where the CIA recruits me because no one is going to suspect the Molly Mormon in the minivan of being a spy.  I know, I'm a little on the weird side.  But because of that, I welcomed a recent opportunity to assist the Tooth Fairy in some of her top-secret work.

I was babysitting my sister's three children for a week in May while she and her husband went on a cruise.  Unfortunately, the Tooth Fairy also went on the very same cruise and would not be available to do her tooth rounds during that time.  Well wouldn't you know, about four days into it the oldest, B, came to me and said, "Aunt Becca, look!  I have a loose tooth!"  I congratulated him with a somewhat plastered-on smile and frantically began to figure out how I was going to get in touch with my sister in the middle of the Caribbean to find out the going rate for baby teeth in their household--did you know some kids get five whole dollars under their pillow?  Sheesh.  Inflation. 

After phoning their ship, only to find that they weren't in their cabin but rather off doing something fun (the nerve), I had the brilliant idea to wheedle the information out of my nephews.  I casually asked, "so, how much does the Tooth Fairy bring you for lost teeth these days?"  They replied that she brought one dollar.  Silently congratulating myself on my cleverness in getting the information so quickly, I checked the cash my sister and brother-in-law had left for us to use.  Thankfully, a transaction with the ice cream truck a few days before had provided us with plenty of dollar bills in change.  I was all set to play Tooth Fairy that night.

This might be a good place to tell you that my sister's house is one of the creakiest known to man.  A spider can walk across the floor and it will creak loud enough to be heard several counties over.  Because of this, I decided to play it safe that night and dress up as the Tooth Fairy in case my nephews woke up and caught me taking B's tooth.  I did not want to be accused of stealing said tooth, nor did I want to be responsible for shattering their innocent belief in diminutive sprites that exchange money for teeth.  So I put on a dress that I didn't think I would wear during my stay, put my hair in a puffy top knot on top of my head, and put on glasses, thinking that if it worked for Clark Kent, it could work for me.

In my brilliant disguise, I crept down the hall, positioning my feet close to the walls where the creaking was lessened.  I silently pushed open their door and poked my head in.  The boys were snoring away.  I tiptoed in on bare feet so softly I would have made an Indian warrior proud.  I made it to the head of B's bed (top bunk) and, holding the dollar, slipped my hand under the pillow.  Did you ever notice how much noise a dollar can make when it rubs against a pillowcase?  And why do we put teeth under our pillows in the first place?  Did nobody think, back when the whole thing was decided, that our ears sit directly on our pillows?  I cringed at the racket I was making, but I almost jumped out of my skin when B's snoring stopped and he shifted on his pillow.  Ducking down, I waited for him to settle in again.  When he did, I reached under his pillow again in search of the tooth.  I couldn't find it anywhere, which was strange considering the fact that he had placed it in a large Tupperware container to keep it from getting lost.  I was running my hand around under the pillow in an increasingly desperate attempt to complete my mission and retrieve the tooth when I heard a slow intake of breath which could either be a yawn or the gasp of wonder a little boy lets out when he sees the Tooth Fairy.  Certain I had been spotted, I abandoned the tooth hunt, and dashed out of the room, the floor creaking all the way.

No matter, I thought.  I could remember a few times when my tooth had still been under my pillow in the morning, along with the dollar, as if the Tooth Fairy didn't want or need it.  B would understand.  The next morning B came waltzing into the kitchen, tooth in Tupperware, and said, "I need a different container." 

"Why?" I asked.  "Didn't the Tooth Fairy take your tooth?"

"No, she didn't come.  Maybe because it wasn't under my pillow."

Wait a second.  "What?  Are you sure she didn't leave a dollar?  And where was your tooth?"

"No, there wasn't a dollar.  I put my tooth off to the side of my pillow because the container was too big to sleep on, so maybe she didn't know I lost it," B replied as he transferred his tooth to a smaller, flatter container.

After a short discussion, we concluded that the Tooth Fairy hadn't come either because her radar didn't get set off when he failed to put the tooth under his pillow, or because I had been up frequently in the night taking care of two babies who didn't want to sleep and kept waking each other up (but that's another story), and had consequently frightened her away.  He resolved to try again that night, and when he left for school I went upstairs to investigate the case of the missing dollar.  I lifted his pillow and it was right there at the top of the bed where I left it, but apparently he had only lifted half of his pillow to look for the dollar and had missed it.

Operation Tooth Fairy, take two.  That night I was so exhausted from being up so much the night before I couldn't bring myself to dress up.  I figured that if the boys caught me I could just claim I was making sure B had remembered to leave his tooth under his pillow.  By this point I also realized that my nephews must be sound sleepers if they hadn't woken up to the din of me running from their room the night before, so I wasn't quite so cautious and on-edge.  I slipped into their room, located the container, switched the tooth with the dollar, and put it back under the pillow, all without a hitch.  Mission accomplished.

As fun as the experience was, it has made me terrified of helping the Tooth Fairy when my own children start losing teeth.  J is a light sleeper with inconveniently acute hearing.  More and more I find myself wishing I had been there in that grand parental council in the beginning where the mythical bunnies and fairies and bearded saints were decided on.  If I had, it probably would have gone something like this:

Adam:  Next order of business--what to do when our children start losing teeth. 
Eve:  I move that we have a fairy come take them and leave money in exchange.  We'll call her the Tooth Fairy.  And let's make her a cute tiny fairy.  About six inches tall.
Me:  Are you kidding?  And what if you want to dress up like this Tooth Fairy?  How are you going to make yourself six inches tall?  And have you ever seen what fairies wear?  Itty bitty sparkly dresses.  They don't exactly make it easy to hide your real identity.  I move we create the Tooth Bandit who dresses in black and wears a ski mask.
Adam:  She does have a point.  I second the motion.  All in favor?  (All hands go up).  And now, where are we going to have the children leave their teeth for the Tooth Bandit to find them? 
Seth:  How about under their pillow?
Me:  No good.  What about side sleepers who have their ear to their pillow all night long?  They'll catch him for sure. Let's have them leave them in their shoes instead!  Their shoes that we will teach them to leave by the front door to avoid tracking dirt into the house, as all good children should.
Adam:  Brilliant!  You have a gift, my dear.
Me:  Thanks, Adam.

Sadly, I wasn't there.  Ah well.  I guess I'll just have to keep honing my secret agent skills.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

But I WANT To!

J has a funny thing he does where if he really wants something and we say no, he responds with "But I WANT it!" or "But I WANT to!" as if adding extra emphasis to the word "want" will make us suddenly want to give him the $50 pirate ship he sees at the store or let him drive the car.  Well I say, two can play at this game, Mr. J, and if the universe is listening, I really WANT this:

And I WANT this:

And please make me look like this because I WANT to:

Please?  Pretty please?  Hmm, it didn't work.  Go figure.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Give Mom the Royal Treatment

Will and Kate have had their day, and I enjoyed it as much as anyone else, but what do you say we now move our focus to the queen of our home, Mom?  Sunday is Mother's Day and what better way to wake up your own resident royal than with breakfast in bed?  So maybe this is weird because I'm the mom around here and it may seem a little self-serving, but I've put together a collection of recipes just perfect to make for a Mother's Day breakfast.  I'm not doing it for myself (or as a hint to my husband), really.  I'm doing it because I know some dads want to make breakfast in bed for their spouse but have no idea what to make beyond toast and store-bought orange juice.  Well, I'm here for you, brothers.  The following three posts are super simple but impressive looking breakfast recipes, and all have elements you can make in advance so you're not scrambling so much to get things made before she wakes up.  Here's the rundown of the menu:

Breakfast Trifle, made with strawberries, whipped cream, and waffles.
Sausage Rolls, easy and savory.
Sunrise Slush, a refreshing fancy-schmancy beverage.

Feel free to round out the meal with anything else that tickles your fancy, but even if you just make what I have listed here, Mom is going to have a great start to the day.

Breakfast Trifle

You won't believe how easy this is to assemble.  Really.  Pretty much you take waffles, break or cut them into bit sized pieces, then layer them in a fancy dish or even a glass with sliced, slightly sweetened strawberries and whipped cream (recipe below).  Waffle layer, strawberry layer, whipped cream layer, repeat, topping it all of with a nice dollop of whipped cream.  You can totally make the waffles ahead of time, even a few days before, and slice and sprinkle sugar on the strawberries the night before.  I would wait until that morning to make the whipped cream, but that doesn't take to long, then you assemble it all and serve immediately.  Easy peasy.  Dads, you are going to look so good with so little work come Mother's Day. 

My husband's mom had a great waffle recipe that I love to use, so I will include it below, but you could even get away with using Bisquick waffles or some other mix.  I'm not sure how this would work with Eggos, but if any of you so desire, give it a try and report back.

Whipped Cream:
1 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Using a hand mixer, beat the whipping cream on the highest setting in a bowl until it starts to thicken slightly.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat until it's all nice and fluffy and the desired stiffness.

Everyday Waffles:

1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten egg yolks
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup oil
2 stiffly beaten egg whites

Sift together dry ingredients.  Combine yolks, milk, and oil; stir into dry ingredients.  Fold in whites, leaving a few fluffs.  Cook in a waffle iron.  Makes 3 10-inch waffles.

On to:  Sausage Rolls.
Back to:  Mother's Day Menu.

Sausage Rolls

Have any of you read the culinary mysteries that Josi Kilpack writes?  They are very cute, light, easy reads and they're filled to the brim with tasty recipes.  My favorite of her books thus far is English Trifle and in it there is a recipe for sausage rolls that I wanted to try.  I did, and they were great.  If you're wanting to make these for a breakfast or brunch and don't want to do too much prep work that day, you could brown the sausage the day before and refrigerate it until ready to use.  Also, make sure you thaw the puff pastry far enough in advance that you don't have to wait for it come morning.  A slight change I made to the recipe when I made these was to cut the puff pastry sheets into nine squares each instead of six which made the rolls better for finger food in my opinion.

Since this isn't my recipe I won't post it here, but if you want to try it, you can get the recipe by clicking on the "Download Recipes Free" button on this page then scrolling down to "Easy Sausage Rolls."  P.S. The High Tea Lemon Cookies are also amazing and worth trying.  You'll thank me.

On to:  Sunrise Slush.
Back to:  Mother's Day Menu.

Sunrise Slush

This is just a little something I made up mixing and tweaking various other drink recipes that I like.  I love the soft peach color of this drink.  Doesn't it just look like the sky at sunrise?  I also love the flavors all the different fruits and juices bring to this recipe.  You can make this drink anytime--for a nice summer afternoon barbecue, or even for a brunch, as long as you aren't squeamish about serving soda before noon.  Which I'm not.  Don't judge.

Sunrise Slush

4 cups sugar
6 cups water
2 lemons
5 oranges
5 bananas
2 cups mango or apricot nectar
2 cups cranberry juice
Lemon-lime soda

Boil sugar and water 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved, then cool.  Squeeze juice from lemons and oranges.  Mash bananas.  In a large bowl, combine lemon and orange juices, mashed bananas, mango or apricot nectar, and cranberry juice.  Add sugar and water mixture and freeze (if I make a small batch I freeze it in ice cube trays).  When ready to serve, chop up the frozen juice mixture, spoon it into glasses, and pour lemon-lime soda over it.  Let sit for a few minutes, stir, and serve.  If you don't want noticeable chunks of banana in yours (although I love the chunks), you can place the chopped up frozen juice mixture in a blender, pour in enough soda to cover it, and blend until smooth.

Back to:  Mother's Day Menu.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things that Make Me Happy

Rather than rattle off all the things that have been happening in the time since I last posted, I've decided to list ten things that have made me happy:

#1:  The return of spring.

There are very few things that can lift my spirits better than seeing the first flowers of spring poking their heads out of the ground.

#2:  C has started crawling.

 It's funny how crawling makes him see so grown up, but makes his little body seem just so tiny.  I love it.  Strangely, and I didn't realize this until I had already posted this picture, he has also started to slightly resemble Kevin Spacey.  Hmm.

I meant to take a picture of the traditional coffee cake I make for the Sunday morning session every year, but some of my husband's family came over to watch with us and before I knew it, it was down to two not-so-pretty slices.

#4: Pear-eating-dinosaurs.

J was having a snack and this is what happened.  I have hopes that these dinosaurs are strictly herbivores, but we'll have to watch our fingers just in case.  P.S. Easy to clean tables also make me happy.

#5: We got a play structure! 
Peter wore himself out for three weekends in a row, but we have a place to play outside now that the weather is nice.

#6: My lemon seed sprouted.

A couple of months ago I decided that I would like to have a lemon tree.  Just a small one, mind you.  I am perfectly aware that I'll have to keep repotting it until it finally gets too big and I have to let it go (I do live in the mountain west after all--no outdoor citrus here!), but I went ahead and planted a seed from some lemons I was using for lemonade.  Well, it took about a month, but finally it sprouted!  I love the little miracles that seeds are.  You plant them and it seems like they will never come up, but somehow they do.

#7:  A healthy left foot.
So I never blogged about it, but in January I got mad, kicked a couch, and broke my left foot.  Not my finest hour.  Well, finally it's better and I can run, dance, and play on it to my heart's content.

#8: We took J to see a movie in a real movie theater.
J was doing really well potty training, then all of the sudden kept having accidents.  We promised him that if he could go a whole week without an accident, we would take him to see a movie at a movie theater as a reward.  He did, we did, and we had a great time.  We saw Tangled and we loved it!  Am I weird, though, that if it ever becomes a musical I want to play Mother Gothel?  She had the best songs.

#9: J continues to get better at playing with C.

Even going so far as to let him play in his bed with him.  Now if we could just make him understand that C is too little to wrestle.  Boys.

#10:  I have perfected (I think) a butter braid recipe for Sunday morning breakfasts.

 And what makes it even better is the fact that it uses a shortcut Danish pastry recipe.  Stay tuned for the complete recipe and instructions coming soon (as soon as I can get up early enough to get a good picture of the baked braid--we have eight o'clock church.  Ick).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Planting Time

You know what I'm excited about this month?  Planting the garden.  Last year was the first time we planted this early, and we've never had such a good yield.  You can plant radishes, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach, and more as soon as the ground is workable, which means right now in my neck of the woods.  It felt so good to get out there this weekend and start prepping the soil.  Ah, it's good for the soul to play in dirt.  Not to mention the fact that being able to plant now makes it feel like spring is here early.  If you want to start your own garden now, here's a little of my advice, amateur though I am, which most of you probably already know but I'm going to say it anyway:

For radishes and carrots:  Give 'em room to stretch.  Make sure your soil is deeply dug, loose and is free of rocks or you might get some misshapen carrots (which actually could be kind of cool for Halloween).  Plant radish and carrot seeds mixed together in the same rows to help with thinning--the radishes will be ready to harvest right as it's time to thin the carrots.  Finally, keep them well watered.

For lettuce and spinach:  Too little water makes for bitter greens.  The faster they grow, the better they'll taste, so make sure to give them enough to drink.

For onions:  Cheat a little--don't start from seed.  I plant my onions from onion "sets" which are small bulbs about 1" in diameter because I'm not sure our growing season is long enough to grow them from seeds.  Push the bulbs into the soil until it's covered, and make sure the stem is pointing up.  Harvest later in the summer when the stalks have dried and fallen over. 

For peas:  Make them feel wanted.  The more you harvest the pea pods off a plant, the more it will produce.  On the other hand, leave them too long on the plant and production will slow.

You can find more good, basic info to start with from Darin Engh on Studio 5

Anyone else have something they like to do to ease them through these last weeks of winter?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Magic Thief: A Book and Recipe Review

Have any of you read The Magic Thief?  I just did and I loved it!  And what's better--it's part one of a trilogy, so there's more for me to read!  And just to make it better, it has two biscuit recipes at the end, one of which I had to try with the above result.

The magic thief is the story of a pickpocket named Conn who attempts to steal a powerful wizard's locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus the wizard's magic.  Although he should be killed instantly in the attempt, for some reason Conn survives.  Intrigued by his survival, the wizard takes him on as a servant and later as an apprentice.  As the magic in the city in which they live dries up, they work together to find the source and stop it in time to save the city.

Conn was one of the most likeable protagonists I've met in a while.  He is humble and honest, and his liking for biscuits made my own mouth water (thank goodness for the recipes at the end).  The pacing was good and the other characters were vivid and interesting.  This is a quick, easy read and would be a good one to get boys reading.

The recipes for the biscuits I won't post here--you'll have to check out the book to get them, but the one I tried was buttery and very tasty.  I've been wanting to find a good biscuit recipe for a while and I think I'll be using this one until I can find one that's just a touch softer and fluffier.  Skip to the back and use the recipe to bake some before you start reading.  Believe me, you'll get a hankering for them halfway through and be glad you did.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Popcorn Popping

According to my calendar of random holidays, Wednesday, January 19th is Popcorn Day.  What a great holiday.  Aside from eating lots and lots of popcorn on Wednesday, I didn't really have many plans to celebrate the holiday.  And then I started thinking about a cute children's song that kids in our church sing, called "Popcorn Popping":

I looked out the window, and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!
Spring had brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.
I could take an armful and make a treat,
A popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.
It wasn't really so, but it seemed to be
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

(Georgia W. Bello, 1957, LDS.)

And then I thought how easy it would be to hot glue some popcorn to a few branches from our yard, stick them in a vase, and call it a Popcorn Day decoration.  My three year old loved helping me with it, especially snacking on the popcorn.  I may even hang on to this for a while and use it as a reminder that spring isn't too far away, and we should see some real blossoms popping on our trees before long.  In the meantime, Happy Popcorn Day!

To make your own, you will need:
A few small, leafless branches (I used three, and the tallest was about 18".)
Popped popcorn (without butter would be best, but we just picked out the whitest ones and ate the rest.)
Hot glue
Small stones or marbles

Fill the vase with stones or marbles and stick branches in.  Hot glue popcorn (adult's job) onto the branches in random places to simulate blossoms.  Tie a ribbon around the vase to finish, if desired.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The End: A Book Review with Food Involved

I have a weakness.  Well, o.k., I have many weaknesses.  But the one I'm going to talk about in this post is this:  I have a weakness for children's and young adult books.  I'm pretty sure I could spend more money on books than I do on food any given month if I would let myself.  One of my favorite things about teaching junior high was the excuse to devour books from the school library (which was conveniently located right across the hall) and to buy and read new ones for my classroom.  So last week when I was having a craving for books, I payed a visit to my city library and found some winners.  Among them was this:

The End, by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Richard Egielski.  This backwards book begins with "the happily ever after" part and then traces the story back through a big bowl of lemonade, one hundred bunny rabbits, and a cheesecake-loving giant, until it ends with "once upon a time."  I liked it for the creativity of its structure and for the fun of seeing all the unlikely events that contributed to the happily ever after.  The illustrations are fun and brightly colored, and full of clever little details that you won't want to miss--like two lemons running away from the lemonade-making princess.  My three-year-old liked this one and requested it multiple times, though I think older children who can follow the story more easily would enjoy it even more.

Now in the title of this post I mentioned that food was involved, and there is.  I love books that make me crave a certain food.  This one made my mouth water for lemon cheesecake, so I put together a recipe and made one on Sunday night.  Not to toot my own horn about it, but it was pretty darn good.  My husband liked it so much he ate three slices that night.  In a row.  I will include the recipe below so you can have your own lemon cheesecake experience.  So go ahead and whip up a cheesecake, sit back, and dig in while you read this very enjoyable book.

Lemon Cheesecake

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks cream cheese, 3 oz. each, room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Begin to boil water for a water bath.  Mix crust ingredients together and press firmly into a 9- or 10- inch pan (I use a springform pan).  Set crust aside.
In a large mixer bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each and scraping the bowl before adding the next.  Add heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour filling into crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring air bubbles to the surface.  If using a non-springform pan, place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into large pan until about halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.  If using a springform pan, move your bottom oven rack just below the top rack and place a pan on it (I use a regular Pyrex casserole type pan).  Pour boiling water into this pan and place cheesecake pan directly over it on the top rack.
Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done.  The middle should still be pretty jiggly when you gently shake the pan.  Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let it rest in the cooling oven for one hour.  After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool completely on the counter.  Cool before removing sides of springform pan.  Once it is cool, cover and place in the fridge to chill.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Makes 10 to 12 servings.

*Slicing tip:  I lightly spray both sides of a knife with cooking spray before cutting the cheesecake.  As cheesecake gets stuck to it, I wipe it off with a paper towl and re-apply spray as needed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Best, Hardest Thing

My wonderfully talented sister-in-law, Lindsay, took our family pictures last month, and I've been meaning to post some of them for a while.  Also, I've been meaning to post some of my thoughts on motherhood, so I figure I might as well combine them into one.

See that face?  That is my challenging, delightful, exasperating, wonderful three-year-old.  I feel frustrated and blessed every day because of him.

This is my youngest, a true "angel baby" in everything but sleep habits.  When I look into those sweet eyes I feel humbled by my responsibility to be his mother and teach him all he needs to know to navigate this wonderful and sometimes frightening world of ours.

Motherhood is hard.  It is also the best thing I have ever done.  I like what Boyd K. Packer, an apostle in our church, has to say about it:  "[A mother] understands that no service equals the exalting refinement which comes through unselfish motherhood" (From an address given at a BYU Education Week devotional on 17 August 1999).

I like that phrase, "exalting refinement."  I'm only three years into the process and already I can say that motherhood tries and refines you in ways you didn't even know you needed refinement.  After managing a classroom of 40 seventh graders, I thought I had learned patience.  (Yeah, you read that right.  40 in one class period.  Yikes.)  But nothing has tried my patience and shown me how much I still need to work on it like spending all day every day with two children.  And nothing has shown me how much I still have to learn about love and forgiveness as when I lose my temper at J and then feel bad and start to cry, only to have him come up, wrap his arms around me and say, "It's otay, Mommy.  It's otay."

I love these children so much.  I pray every day that I'll know how to teach and guide them and won't do too much damage along the way with my imperfections.  Thank heaven I don't have to do it alone.

Boy, I love that man.  But that's a post for another day.  In parting, here's one last shot of C.  I like it because I think he looks a little like me as a baby in it.