Monday, November 5

A Last First (Pumpkin Whoopie Pies)

Today was our trick or treating night here in New Jersey.  Or as I've been calling it, Sandy-ween.  We were extremely fortunate in this area that we were not as hard hit by Hurricane Sandy as those poor souls in the barrier islands and in points north.  Prayers and donations go out to those who were affected by the devastation, and hopefully we can all continue to band together and help our neighbors.

This was Chase's last first holiday.  Since he was born two days after Halloween, he had already been through all the other holidays - this was the last one he hadn't celebrated yet.  It's incredible to me to think that we have a one year old.  I never thought that parenthood was going to be like this.  Challenging, tiring, and the most fun I've ever had.  Hubs and I have come along way from the day that second line appeared in the test window.  Our family has grown by one, but our love has grown by a million. 

Friday, September 28

Family (Chocolate Cannoli Roll)

I've been thinking a lot about family lately.  About who makes up my family.

I have a related family - people who belong to me by blood, who make me crazy while holding me down to earth.  Who have taught me things since the beginning of my life that helped to shape my view of the world.

I have a work family - people who come together to take care of others, make me laugh when I need a smile and kick it in gear when I need a hand.  Who I can count on to never leave me high and dry, and who have afforded me a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.

Tuesday, July 24

A Long Long Time Ago, in a Kitchen Far Away (Mocha Muffins)

I made these muffins a long time ago.  So long ago, it happened while I was pregnant.  Which is a long time ago, since my kiddo is now cruising (though unsteadily and slowly) along the furniture.

What's out there, mom?

Anyway, I made these to take with us on our trip to Cape Cod last summer.  They're everything that a great muffin should be, moist and rich, with a nutty crunch from the pecans.  They'd be perfect with some french vanilla coffee for a tasty weekend morning, sitting outside before the heat hits, sharing the first hours of the day with those you love.  The recipe is from Tate's Bake Shop, and like everything Kathleen King makes, they're perfect.

Wednesday, July 18

Empty Fridge... (Vanilla Coffee Creamer)

Hubs, kiddo and I spent the past two weeks at the seashore about an hour away, commuting back and forth to work when we had to.  It was a lot of fun, but eventually it was time to come home.  We all trooped home, unloaded the cars, and fell into bed.  The next morning, the kiddo and I went downstairs for breakfast, and I opened the fridge to find...nothing.  No milk.  No cream.  Nothing to put in my coffee.  (Well, besides breast milk and Similac and I'm really not ready to go there.)

What I did have, serendipitously, was exactly what I needed to make homemade french vanilla creamer.  So I did.  So should you.  It's 100 times better than the stuff in the bottle - no artificial flavors, no corn syrup, nothing with long scientific sounding names.  Just creamy vanilla goodness to start your day off right.

French Vanilla Creamer 
(a girl, a dog & an oven original)

1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened and condensed milk
1 vanilla bean
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note:  I used fat free sweetened and condensed milk, you can use whatever kind you want.  Also, if you don't have vanilla beans, omit that step and up the extract to 1-1/2 teaspoons.

Pour the evaporated milk into a medium sized bowl.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and mix them into the milk.  Throw the pod in for good measure and give it a stir.  Add the extract.  Microwave on medium high for 60-90 seconds, until the milk is warmed.  Remove the pod and add the sweetened and condensed milk.  Whisk until smooth.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Friday, June 29

Sleepy Warm Nights (Cherries & Cream Shortbread)

Don't you just love breezy, warm summer nights?  Sitting in a lawn chair with your favorite person in the world, sipping a glass of wine or a cocktail...talking about nothing...

Those nights mean everything.  Those are the nights I will carry with me forever.  When you can lay aside the daytime things, the to do lists, the job stress, the housework, the endless laundry and the full dishwasher and bask in the soft way the night settles over our little corner of the world.  Watching the dog chase fireflies, listening to the crickets and the birds that come out at dusk.  That's my favorite time of day.

Wednesday, June 20

Down on the Farm (Spaghetti with Sugar Snap Peas)

If you met me for like 10 minutes, you'd realize that I don't grow things.  Except my kiddo, thank goodness.  Green things, however, shrivel up and die in my presence.  I don't understand why...I water and place in sunlight and follow all the directions and yet somehow even the hardiest bamboo withers under my loving gaze.  The only plant that I have someone managed not to kill is a potted aloe plant that my gramma gave me about 4 years ago that sits in the window of my living room, which only proves that it is probably not a real plant, but a prop, placed by a covert government agency to spy on me.  (Hey, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.)

This is why I don't even attempt to garden.  I bought some herb plants a few weeks ago at the grocery store, and they lasted exactly three days.  Three days.  Insects live longer than my plants.

Needless to say, the only fresh produce that enters my house comes from the grocery store or the farmer's market. So, when my BFF suggested that we go to Johnson's Farm and pick strawberries, I was skeptical.  Pick our own produce?  I didn't want to be responsible for decimating entire crops with just the touch of my black thumbs.  Oh well.  Surely these poor plants would have enough protection from real farmers to withstand an afternoon with me.  I strapped the kiddo into the Baby Bjorn and away we went, to toil in the fields like my ancestors.

Tractors are, apparently, fascinating to babies.

Thursday, June 14

Summer Lovin' (S'mores Cookie Bars)

After several weeks of hot weather, wet weather, cold weather, humid weather, this week has been beautiful.  Hubster and I have made a point to eat outside and enjoy our patio as much as possible.  Last night we had a little impromptu cook out with our besties and my sister - just simple, steaks on the grill, corn on the cob and this yummy zucchini recipe (from Kalyn's Kitchen - check it out), and this dessert.

Wednesday, May 23

My own flavors (Strawberry Lemonade Whoopie Pies)

I'm not really a crunchy mom.

I think that I wanted to be, back when I was pregnant, during those three weeks in the middle of my second trimester when I felt great.  I could cloth diaper!  I could only use organic!  I could do prenatal yoga!  I bought a Moby Wrap and an attachment parenting book and was ready to go.

Then, halfway through the prenatal yoga DVD, when I found myself cursing at the "pregnant" woman bending over backward and coaching me into positions my too-short hamstrings had no hope of ever reaching, I gave up.  I compromised by stowing a reusable shopping tote in my diaper bag and moved on.

Sunday, May 6

Soup for the Soul (Tuscany Soup)

Happy Nurse's Day to my fellow nurses out there!!

As a nurse, I meet a lot of people.  Most of these people I care for a day or two, and they go on their way.  Some people are frequent flyers, and I see them a few times during multiple stays.  I've been at the hospital long enough that I now recognize names of people in our census - I recently took care of the family of a patient I had in the fall, before she passed away.  There's a certain continuity to this, knowing people who come back, whether as patients or family members.  Our hospital does a great job of involving families in the process, and there are some that you come to know pretty well.

It always amazes me the trust that people will offer up to those in scrubs or a white coat who walk into their hospital room.  I try to get people to talk, and to really talk about anything.  Many of the patients who come to our floor are struggling with major surgeries, cancer diagnoses, or other long term illnesses.  Patients can't heal until they are comfortable, and in most cases they aren't comfortable until they can relax and let their guard down.  This usually means talking - talking about their kids, their grandkids, their dogs (one of my favorite topics!), their favorite TV shows, places to vacation or shop, what they like to eat.  I played a game with one patient the other day where we named the state capitals.  It doesn't really matter, as long as it breaks through the tension and pain and lets them relax.

Many of our surgical patients need to tolerate solid food before they're allowed to go home, and sometimes this is a struggle for someone with no appetite.  I had a patient like this a few weeks ago; he had just had surgery and the surgeons wouldn't clear him to leave until he had eaten and they were sure his digestive system was working correctly.  I told him he needed to trust his body to work properly and to start slow, maybe with some soup.   We talked a lot about food that day.  What he liked to eat, what he didn't like to eat, what he would eat when he got home.  He told me that he loved to cook, that it was something he enjoyed and loved to share with his family.  I told him that I was relatively new to cooking, but that I was learning to enjoy it as well.  At the end of my shift, I went into his room to check on him one last time.  He gave me this handwritten recipe for soup, one that his family had been making for generations.  He was entrusting it to me, to enjoy with my family.

Monday, April 23

Mommy Wishes (Caramel Chocolate Chip Blondies)

I stare at my kiddo a lot.  He's adorable; how could you not?  This morning I was staring at him and wondering what he's going to be like when he grows up, what kind of character he will develop.  I know all parents want things for their children.  They want them to be smart, happy, successful, better off than they are.  This morning I thought about what I want for my son.  

 I want my child to be curious.  Curiosity leads to questions and questions lead to problem solving and creativity and knowing things.  All those eventually lead to intelligence and understanding.  All of the smartest people I know are also very curious (with maybe the exception of George, who was a good little monkey, haha).  I hope that my child will to want to know everything, to be interested in the world around him, and to constantly ask questions:  why is the sky blue, how much water will the bath tub hold, who invented the refrigerator, what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder, where do butterflies come from, when do the red crabs make their migration across Christmas Island...everything.  Wanting to know everything is the first step toward actually knowing everything.  Or at least enough to make you happy.

Tuesday, April 10

First Time Mommy: Tips for Baby Registries

Recently, one of my good friends asked me for some tips on putting together her baby registry. I put together a list for her of the things that we use for the kiddo, what you really need and what you can skip. She told me that it was helpful for her, so I decided to post it here in case there were any other first time moms out there who were feeling overwhelmed by the whole registry process and wanted some tips from someone with real-world, 5 month old experience. I know we did.

Our first attempt at registering for baby stuff was a nightmare. Hubs and I went into the National Baby Store Chain, all hopeful, me on a pregnancy-induced hormone high armed with my Baby Bargains book (which I highly recommend) and my short list of what to look at. The lady at the registry desk was super sweet, helping us fill out the paperwork, showing us how to use the scanner gun thingie. Then she handed us a list of what they suggest we would need. It was, no lie, 6 pages long. SIX PAGES!! In size 12 type. Already trying not to freak out, we wandered over to the strollers. Twenty minutes later, after a snarky saleslady had already made me feel like the world's worst mommy-to-be while we struggled with the carseats, I had a panic attack in the middle of the Baby Bjorn mannequins. When we returned to the registry counter, the nice lady printed out our choices and remarked that it was "good start". I stared at her with barely suppressed rage while she insisted that any "successful" baby registry has at least 200+ things on it. Hubs pushed me out the door before I ended up in jail for retail-induced violence.

Don't buy into that. The list that they give you when you sign up for a registry - ignore it. The store's purpose is not to equip you with a functioning household of useful things, but to sell you as much crap as possible. Below are her questions and my suggestions, tried and tested by a real mom with a realistic and down to earth lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 28

Wacky Weekends (Espresso Cinnamon Shortbread)

I love being a nurse.  Aside from enjoying the actual work of "nursing", I love the schedule - 2 or 3 twelve hour days might seem long, but to have the other 4 or 5 days off every week to spend with the kiddo makes it all worthwhile.  Our scheduling at work is pretty flexible, but we're required to work every other holiday and every third weekend.  Since your weekends are assigned when you're hired, you spend each one with pretty much the same group of people.  My weekend peeps are awesome - we usually have a good time while we're there.  

To me, this is a great opportunity to try out new recipes and pawn them off on hardworking, unsuspecting co-workers.  This weekend, figuring we needed a little kick in the mornings, I opted for espresso shortbread from a recipe off Smitten Kitchen (one of the yummiest food blogs I read).  The first batch, the ones that I took to work on Sunday, I made with chocolate chips (like Deb does in her recipe) and toffee pieces.  Those, however, I didn't get a chance to photograph before they were snapped up by my husband and my co-workers - that's how amazingly good they were.  

Friday, March 9

Winter Woes (Chicken Pot Pie Soup)

I had a plan for this winter.  It involved cozy sweaters and blankets and hot cocoa.  There was cuddling in front of the fireplace, sipping tea, showing my kiddo driving snowflakes out of the windows.  Maybe even some shoveling snow - I can deal.

There were dinners of rich beef stew, pasta, chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese - warm and hearty comfort food.

Maaa!  What's for dinner??
Instead, we got warm temperatures, rain, and no weather-induced time off for my golfer hubby.  And to that I say "pffffffffft".

Tuesday, March 6

Adventures in Living...

I've been neglecting this poor blog for some time now.  It's not that I haven't been in the kitchen as much as it's because I haven't really made anything original lately.  After Chase's baptism two weeks ago and hubby's birthday last week, I'm all party-planning-baking-fun-timed out.  It's been a whirlwind here over the past four months (four months!!!  Say whaaaat?), what with all the having a baby, celebrating the holidays, hosting a christening, two birthdays (mine and his), and oh yeah, going back to work.  (And fitting my Pinterest addiction in there somewhere.)  Now that all of that is complete, I've been enjoying just Living.  Living in the moment, day to day, not planning or getting caught up in anything else.  Just Living as a mama, wife, nurse.  Life.  It's a wonderful thing.

I wanted to post some pictures of what we've done around our house lately.  Every night, when I'm rocking and nursing the kiddo before bed, I sit in his bedroom and marvel at how different things are from a year ago.  Mostly because I was laying in that same room, with different furniture and pictures on the walls, in a different bed, and throwing up everything I even considered putting in my mouth.  We've come a long way, that baby and I.  Honestly, though, everyone morning, noon and night I thank God for my wonderful husband.  I give single moms mad props - there is no way I could do this alone and keep my sanity.  Kudos to the single ladies out there raising their own little ones!!

Monday, February 13

Match Made in Heaven (Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies)

Some things are better together.

Laverne and Shirley.  Wine and cheese.  Burgers and fries.  Black and white.  Blankets and pillows.   

Sun and sand.  Bonnie and Clyde.  My pup and tennis balls.  Milk and cookies. 

Peanut butter and chocolate.

Tuesday, January 31

Scrumptious Resolutions (Mediterranean Slow Cooker Chicken)

I know this isn't the best picture.  It was taken one handed at night in my poorly lit kitchen with my cell phone.  But trust me when I tell you that this is a delicious recipe and that you should try it immediately.

My food-related New Years resolution is to use my Crock-Pot more often.  Now that Hennebaby is awake more and more, and now that I've gone back to work, it's so easy to throw things in there and let it work its slow cooker magic.  I have a soup recipe that I'll post soon, but for now I want to share this chicken dish with you.

Friday, January 13

Just Do It (Raspberries and Cream Tart)

Sometimes you gotta go for it.  You gotta take the new job.  You gotta have that second glass of wine.  You gotta say I do.  You gotta close your eyes, open the door and just do it.

Sometimes, you gotta buy raspberries in January.

I know, I know.  I believe in buying in season like all the organic earth mothers out there.  Usually summer fruit is reserved for summer.  But...but...there I was, buying carrots and potatoes, when across the produce aisle I spied these yummy berries.  They were so red, so plump and delicious looking that I caved in and bought them.
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