Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Technical difficulties

Okay, I'm not really having technical difficulties. The internet is working great, my computer is functioning just fine and I have power to my printer. I'd say "technical" is simply another word for "emotional, mental and physical" and it all has to do with a 10-day vacation in the southern Caribbean and the stark reality of life when I returned. Over 250 emails (not counting my Hotmail and Gmail accounts), stacks of bills, one child with a nasty cough, another with a 103 fever, an actual desk where I actually have to sit all day, no humidity, no shore excursions, no snorkeling and definitely no late-night frozen yogurt swirl cones. I have a term for this post-vacation experience and I'll be writing about it later this week. Until then bear with me as I adjust to real life...and believe me, it looks nothing like the photo you see below. And yes, that's really me with my feet up, leisurely reading our cruise itinerary for the next day's activities. {sigh} It's almost like it never happened... --Emily

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guest post: "Do these glasses make me look cool?"

Continuing with our belated back-to-school theme for this week I have a wonderful post from Lauren Horsley (@supermomcentral), aka Supermom Central. If anyone is a supermom (or super mom, which works too) it's Lauren. She never ceases to make me smile all the while amazing me with how cool a mom she really is. Here's her walk down the often awkward elementary-school memory lane. Enjoy!

"Do these glasses make me look cool?" My answer? Absolutely not!

I am a child of the 80's, and proud of it. I openly admit to high side-ponytails, even higher bangs, and a fingerless glove I fashioned out of an old lacy stocking. I rolled my pant legs. I had a matching neon colored scrunchy for every outfit. One time, for 3 weeks straight, I wore a stud earring in one ear and a hoop in the other.

But nothing, not even the stone-washed
jean jacket and smiley faced mood ring, could put me to shame like my most dreaded accessory – my eye-glasses. I began wearing them in 2nd grade and knew immediately that no $60 pair of Girbauds was going to make up for the daily fashion faux-pas. I tried everything to rid myself of them. I “lost” them on purpose, then quickly “found” them when my mother threatened to dock my allowance for eternity to pay for new ones. I pretended to no longer need them, but one night of blurry TV talked me out of that. I hid them as often as possible and hoped no one would notice they're absence. But they did. And I did. I was blind as a bat without them.

My resentment of my glasses is painfully evident in this 3rd grade photo – can you see the indentations on the bridge of my nose? I yanked off the glasses just seconds before the picture was snapped but couldn't hide the evidence. Other times, I wasn't quick enough...

How I wish I could go back and chat with my sweet seven-year-old self. I'd tell her not to worry so much about the outside appearance – that healthy inner-vision is much more important. I'd tell her to focus on developing the art of being though
tful, curious, kind and interesting. Because, in the long run, those character features would serve her much better than perfect facial features. And I'd tell her that boys who dig chicks in glasses are fewer and father between than boys who like permed hair, but WAY more gnarly.

I'd also tell her that in 6th grade she was going to get contacts, so just take a chill pill until then. That's right – chill pill. She'd know what I meant.

However, I wouldn't tell her that as the glasses disappeared, the pimple plague would hit, along with a long series of bad haircuts. Some things are best left as a surprise. ~Lauren

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest post: "Home schooling & parenting tween-teens from my new perspective"

The following is a guest post by my friend April Atwater (@sweetlifeinthe) from Sweet Life in the Valley. If you haven't discovered her fabulous blog and sister sites like the new Out & About with the Family then you're in for a real treat! April is amazing and I'm so excited to have her write something for freshly baked. Enjoy!

Home Schooling & Parenting Tween-teens from My New Perspective

I prided myself in being a great mother to my children when they were younger. I was the mom who made crafts, took field trips, made the cupcakes for the class parties and more. I was involved with everything. Now that my kids are in the tween years and more independent I have been bit thrown. What does a good mom to tween-teens look like?

Not too many books out there help you with or talk about being a cool and effective tween-teen parent. After a lot of trying to figure it out I came to some exciting conclusions. I want my children to live a full life. I want to teach them to love living and learning. Since I home school my three tweens and I own my own business we have a lot of flexibility with our time. My kids are now old enough to share all my loves and to explore the world at a monuments notice. I am planning to take them to the pottery studio to show them how to throw a pot. We are going to make some pinhole cameras then develop the film in our make shift dark room in the pantry. We are going to explore their interests from apprenticing with a pastry chef to trying their hand at web design to indulging an interest in history and dates.

My tween twins are now writing their own blog for tweens, Cool Stuff 4 Us, which will teach them hands on writing and business marketing skills. We are planning a lot of traveling to see this beautiful country. After all, those tween-teen years are to prepare them for adulthood. Our more formal education will be centered around preparing for college classes. We are exploring their talents to help them figure out what they would like to study after the high school years.

If you were to ask someone to tailor your tween-teen years to help you become a successful adult today with all the advantages you could have used, what would that look like? This is the question I am asking myself for all three of my kids. I am excited! It will be fun! This is what I will look like as a tween-teen mom. I think I love what that looks like. ~April

Friday, September 18, 2009

New kitchen = lots of baking

And lots of baking equals added pounds on the scale, therefore a new kitchen equals added pounds so stay away from new kitchens! (Does anyone recognize the transitive property from geometry? I think I was one of the few kids in high school who actually liked geometry.)

This week I made The Pioneer Woman's Tres Leches Cake, which everyone loved though I found it not my fave due to its lack of chocolate. Sorry, just can't get past a chocolate-free dessert (unless it's a macaroon). Here's how my Tres Leches Cake went and yes, it wasn't quite as pretty as The Pioneer Woman's but it was yummy! You can find the original recipe here.

Combine flour, baking soda and s
alt in a large bowl.

Separate five eggs, yolks in the mixer, whites to the side. Can you tell I had some issues separating those eggs? If you look closely you'll even see an eggshell hidden among the whites.

Whip the egg yolks with some sugar until they're a beautiful pale yellow. (By the way, that's the only kind of yellow I can wear.)

Gently add milk and vanilla to the mix then combine it with the flour mixture.

Wash your mixing bowl and then add the egg whites, or in my case, egg sort-of-whites and whip until stiff peaks form, then add the remaining sugar. In my case that never happened. Perhaps too much yolk? So I let it whip for minutes on end and finally gave up and gently combined it with the yolk/flour mixture.

Pour the batter into a generously greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for about 35 minutes. Mine took only about 30 so check it as you go.

Flip the cake onto a platter and let cool completely. (Note to self: find a really cute rectangular platter; it looks much better than a cookie sheet.)

In a pitcher combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and a little cream. Poke holes in the cake with a fork and pour all but 1 cup of the milk mixture over the cake letting it soak in as you go. (I agree with Ree, all of the milk mix would've been too much.)

Chill the mixing bowl and then beat the cream and sugar until thick and spreadable. I actually added another tablespoon of Splenda and a teaspoon of vanilla. I thought it tasted a bit better that way!

Spread over the top and sides of the cake. (Yes, Quinn, my photo is a bit too "warm." Still figuring that out!)

Decorate with whole or chopped maraschino cherries and serve. Yum!

And if that wasn't enough, the draw of my new kitchen had me baking these:

These homemade Oreos are not even going to last 24 hours. Here's the recipe because I know you're dying to make them now too!

Homemade Oreos
* I double this so we can give a plate to the neighbors!
1 chocolate fudge cake mix
2 eggs
2 T water
2 T oil
1/4 cup baking cocoa

1 can whipped vanilla frosting

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until well blended. (This is pretty thick so I'd use a stand mixer or hand mixer for sure.) Form into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a glass press down on the dough to flatten the cookies a bit before baking. Bake at 350 for about 8 or 9 minutes or until set. Let cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool spread about a tablespoon or so of the frosting on the bottom of one cookie and then place the bottom of another cookie on top of the side you just frosted. Voila! Homemade Oreo cookies!

You can also find a recipe for the filling online but I didn't have the time to make that from scratch. The whipped vanilla frosting works well in a pinch! --Emily

"I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert." ~Jason Love

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: "Pop!" goes the soda can

Is 9 a.m. too early to hit the caffeine?

This is what happens when your fridge's temp tends to run on the cold side. What you don't see is it running down the sides and back of the fridge, not to mention the splatter all over the door. Good thing I had just cleaned the fridge a couple weeks earlier when we moved into our new home--nothing like a clean canvas... --Emily

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My new favorite tee

Today's fashion trend tuesday is simply a photo showing me sporting my new favorite tee. Everyone needs a favorite tee, and as of my birthday this past Saturday, this is it:

I mentioned this tee in last week's post and told you all I'd post a picture of me FINALLY getting to wear it. While the photo isn't the most flattering it is proof that for once I didn't return something Nathan gave me as a gift. (I did exchange the chef's knife he bought me, but more on that in a later post when I document the surprise birthday party Nathan managed to pull off for my big 3-5.)

By the way, if you don't get why this tee is so perfect for me and so funny, let me know and I'll explain it to you...after I've given you a hard time for not getting it. Now that I've shared with you my favorite tee, I'd love to know yours! Do you have a favorite t-shirt you'd wash and wear every day if you could? Do share! --Emily

Monday, September 14, 2009

I know a blogging secret

Okay, so it's not really a secret since you'll find an entire blog post all about it, but it is something new to me and something I'm pretty sure not many mom bloggers know about. (Or perhaps it's just me that didn't know about it because I find myself constantly out of the loop...could be all that time spent away from the computer buried in mystery boxes, canned goods and old yearbooks.)

Last week @Jet_Set shared this blog post with me:

Yes, you read that correctly, a "secret blogging alliance." Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? The post goes into detail about how dinner and drinks between two bloggers turned into a group of bloggers pooling their resources to support each others' blogs, in turn helping those blogs grow faster than they could have on their own.

I still don't understand the ins and outs and will definitely be reading it in its entirety again, but it does stop and make you think how you too could hook up with like-minded bloggers to help each of your blogs grow--and we're not just talking upping the number of comments on your posts. You'll find out just what is a blogging alliance, what those bloggers do as members of the alliance (upwards of 13 things) and a few insights by the post's author. You can read "Let Me Show You Inside a Secret Blogging Alliance" here.

It's kind of that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" way of thinking...and I like it! --Emily

Image by and[w], shared via Flickr.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Follow that blog: Two Peas and Their Pod

For today's food for thought friday let me introduce you to Two Peas and Their Pod, a blog featuring the culinary adventures of the cutest married couple, Maria and Josh: "We are a great team in the kitchen. We love trying new recipes, techniques, and flavors. We try to keep it healthy, but of course we have to splurge once in awhile."

They do splurge, and boy do I love it when they do! Take this Grilled Mediterranean Pizza they featured for Labor Day weekend:

Or these to-die-for Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies:

The site is full of wonderful, tempting recipes, tasty photos and a few anecdotes that keep the posts "fresh." My question is, who does most of the cooking and who does most of the dishes?

Though not as decadent as the cookie recipe above, here's one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes from Allrecipes.com. Enjoy!

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.

Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

"I've never felt like I was in the cookie business. I've always been in a feel good feeling business. My job is to sell joy. My job is to sell happiness. My job is to sell an experience." ~Debbi Fields

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The great escape!

Thanks to Rachael I was tagged...time for a meme!

This is contest entry for those crazy folks at TodaysMama and Cricut. Be sure to check out Cricut's cool new cartridges and the chance at $30,000 in travel for you and your friends at the Great Gypsy Escape site!

1. If you coul
d escape to anywhere in the world where would it be? It would probably be on a deserted shore of the most beautiful beach in the world, pina colada in hand (virgin, of course).

2. What song do you play when you are by yourself in the car? Whichever one makes me sing the loudest!

3. If you had a night to yourself, and money was no object, what would you do? I would grab a girlfriend, go out to the mos
t fabulous restaurant (okay, so maybe just go crazy at Five Guys), do some shopping, hit a movie and then top it off with a hot chocolate or double chocolate frappuccino at Starbucks.

4. What is your guilty pleasure? The chocolate I keep hidden from my family.

5. What is the farthest place you have traveled away from your home? Probably Acapulco, but it will be the eastern Caribbean next week!

6. Last book that you couldn't put down? The Book Thief

7. When you want to escape into another time, what movie do you watch? Something like Some Kind of Wonderful or Say Anything.

8. What is your favorite local escape? The aforementioned Five Guys Burgers & Fries and a good movie.

9. How do you escape on a budget? Head up the canyon for a good hike with friends, take a picnic lunch to the park, or put the kids dow
n to bed and curl up with a good book.

10. Best food you've ever had while on vacation. A coconut shave ice during our trip to Kauai.

Now it's my turn to tag a few friends!


Ready, set, meme! --Emily

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Are we having fun yet?

Can you tell who isn't enjoying the family hike?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Busted on my birthday

Actually, my birthday isn't until this Saturday and no, I haven't done anything wrong but I was trying to come up with something fun yet quick I could post for today's fashion trend tuesday. (Fun because it's been seriously NOT fun unpacking this house and quick because I'm figuratively and literally cross-eyed every night due to sheer exhaustion from said unpacking.) The one thing that immediately came to mind is the totally awesome t-shirt Nathan bought me for my birthday:

The tee is from BustedTees, which has some dang hilarious stuff (though you may want to check it out when the kids aren't around...a few might warrant some unwanted explanations). The tee is here but I'm not allowed to wear it until Saturday even though I keep reminding Nathan I prefer to celebrate my birthday all month week long.

If you know me well then you know this is the perfect t-shirt for me. I tend to be a grammar/spelling/chocolate (wait, how did that last one get in there?) snob. I get a good laugh when I discover a misspelled word someplace like a news headline or caption. That doesn't mean I don't have my fair share of typos; when it comes to blog posts on this site (or emails to friends or Facebook status updates or tweets) I'm a bit less concerned.

Once I finally get to wear my new tee I'll be sure and have Nathan snap a photo for a follow-up post. It will be proof that for once I didn't return something my husband bought me! --Emily

P.S. By the way, I enjoy freelance work like writing press releases, editing blog posts, etc. so if you or anyone you know would like some help crossing their T's and dotting their I's, let me know! emihill{at}gmail{dot}com

Friday, September 4, 2009

Picky eaters? Try disguising breakfast as dessert!

My kids are pretty good eaters though my first and third are definitely the pickiest! But one meal all my kids enjoy is breakfast, whether it's French toast, Papa's famous scrambled eggs, cold cereal or toaster waffles. I think they get that from me--I absolutely love breakfast and wake up hungry. Skipping breakfast just isn't an option and when I do, it's a very, very bad day.

Back to food for thought friday...if you happen to have picky breakfast eaters, check out this super fun recipe you can try with your kids. It's the brainchild of my good friend Vanessa, and it's no surprise this nifty, creative, foodie mom came up with it. The "trick" is to disguise a healthy meal as a tempting treat. Who would've thought?!?!

But this recipe isn't just for breakfast. Vanessa's post includes some other great ideas to help your kids eat enjoy lunch and dinner foods (though they might catch on if you serve these "cupcakes" three times a day).

For the full how-to with photos check out her original post on Blissful Kids:

If you're kids will eat just about anything, try this yummy breakfast recipe. It's one of my kids' favorites and healthy too!

Cheesy Egg Puffs
2 eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 cup butternut squash puree (puree it yourself or pick up a couple jars down the baby food aisle)
1/4 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray four 1/2-cup ramekins with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. In a large bowl whisk the eggs, egg whites, puree, cheese, flour, baking poweder and salt until combined. Divide the mixture among the ramekins. Bake approximately 13 to 15 minutes or until the tops are puffed up and eggs are no longer running in the center. (Check by piercing the top with a sharp knife.) Serve immediately.

NOTE: I double this recipe because my kids always ask for seconds!

"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart." ~C.S. Lewis

Image by SteffanyF!, shared via Flickr.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The best caption wins!

{enter caption here}

I dare you to give me your best caption for this photo. It is one of many "fun" memories created during our move. I don't have anything super nifty to give away but I'm more than happy to send the winner a batch of freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (as long as the winner is okay with homemade cookies from a non-commercial kitchen).

I'll be enlisting Nathan's help to choose a winner; he has a great sense of humor so the funnier the better! Okay, readers, quote away! --Emily