“Hi Elle. R u guys home. Have little something wanted to drop off quickly for my sista.”
That was the text I got from my dear sis- in-Christ, Janice, yesterday morning.
Still living off of the warm fuzzies from when Abbey dropped off her banana muffins, this text made me raise my eyes up and say “Really Lord? You mean, someone else actually wants to come by?”.
I was giddy. How fun!
Janice joined our bible study group last year and omgosh – what a blessing she is to the whole group! If you’ve spent any amount of time with Janice, you know that you are pretty much guaranteed a good day. She brings you joy and she leaves you with lots of carry-over joy that will last you a long time!
This Saturday was turning out to be a winner. I woke up to lots of pretty sunshine and hubby brought me breakfast in bed.
He’s just sweet that way. Notice his inner-foodie starting to come out? He added 2 little waffle crisps to the whipped cream :).
Then Janice comes by after a trip to our local Farmer’s Market. She has this new favorite salsa and thought of me when she saw there was a more spicy version of it. So I explain to her that it’s perfect timing because I had this overwhelming urge to make a Venezuelan dinner of aprepas, black beans & rice for hubby that evening.
I was inspired by a restaurant in San Francisco, called “Pica Pica“.
Arepas are a grilled corn pocket made from Harina P.A.N. and the dough was really simple and easy to work with. Next time we make it – and we will! – I will photo document it and post the recipe here.
Janice’s salsa paired great with our meal. Even hubby (who is trying his best to eat food with “heat”) spooned it over his black beans and rice.
YUM. Thank you, Janice!
Here in California, we’ve been enjoying some pretty amazing weather.
And by amazing, I mean, mid-70’s in February!
I got to spend yesterday afternoon relaxing out on the deck with my best friend.
It was just perfect.
One of the things I miss most about the some of the other neighborhoods I used to live in was the neighborly drop-by.
One was such a close knit neighborhood where everyone walked their dogs up and down our pretty, hilly, tree-filled street, always said hello, and if you didn’t recognize the person, you would stop and introduce yourself. Our next door neighbor’s kids would babysit mine when they were younger and we would dog-sit for them when they were away. I found myself taking walks just because it was fun to stop and chat with people as they were out in their yards. Or I would have my windows open so I could hear another neighbor playing his trumpet on a warm summer night.
Neighborhoods like that feel like you live among extended family. Such sweet memories!
This past week, as I was working from home, the doorbell rang. I’m thinking it must be the mail man but didn’t think I ordered anything from Amazon that week — I know I’m not alone in this way of thinking.
I open up the door to see none other than Abbey standing there with a great big smile. Who is Abbey? She is one of the people that is faithful in coming to our weekly Life Group bible study. She and her husband, Mike, have 2 delightful little boys.
Why was she there? Well she brought me sweet treats, of course! The night before was her turn to bring snacks to the study and one of the things she brought was a banana bread. By the time I noticed it was gone, I mentioned to her that I didn’t get a piece and it looked good because it had nuts in it – which I very much like.
She explains that she dropped by to bring me some banana muffins since I didn’t get any — how thoughtful is that?!
It completely took me by surprise, and it triggered a million thoughts in my head about how life used to be when I was more surrounded by a community of people. Usually it is hubby and I who bring goodies to people around us, but I do miss good old neighborly drop-bys.
Grateful for Abbey for thinking of us and now that I’m thinking of it, also grateful for our next door neighbors who bring us produce from their back yard from time-to-time.
I know you’re wondering how the muffins were. Yummy, as expected! I was lucky to have one of them because Graham ended up eating the rest!
“For two weeks I lived in the hospital until doctors could no longer stop the labor. Our very tiny but oh-so-perfect baby girl was born. With lungs not yet developed enough to survive on her own, the Lord took her straight to Heaven.
Though heart-wrenching and devastating, I truly believe that out of this great tragedy has come our greatest victory.”
On the way to the airport, hubby asks Ben why he’s chuckling.
Ben explains that he left us a scavenger hunt. “10 of the same things, all eye level and in plain sight.”, he says.
Hubby tells me this as I say “What the heck is that up there?”.
He taped up single slices of American cheese all around the house for us to find!
Good luck to us. So far we have only found 2 of them, four days later.
It’s fun though. 8 more potential reminders of Ben’s quirkiness around the house. Somewhere.
Packing, taping up moving boxes, and big crocodile tears.
That was the scene here Sunday night. The eve before Ben, hubby’s 23 year old son, was to fly off to Indiana.
He got a great opportunity to stay with his sister, Bethany, and her husband for a little while so he could find a job and start living his life!
Hubby knew this day was coming, but he thought Ben would move somewhere locally.
My relatives all live within a 15 minute ride away from me, so I am a stranger to long-distance family.
They were able to enjoy a breakfast together on the way to the airport.
They won’t be apart for long though. Before we know it, hubby will be out there visiting and we will be flying Ben back to visit for sure. Ben doesn’t know it yet, but I’m scheming to have him stay here for the month of August. Shhhh….
Strange not having his goofy mug around.
Oh my goodness.
I have NEVER laughed so hard!
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t catch my breath, not even for a second.
My ribs hurt.
I was crying so hard, you would think that I was watching the King Kong movie. (saddest. movie. ever.)
I kept hitting hubby all throughout — just a natural reaction — because I wanted him to pause it before I passed out. Or I was angry at him for allowing his son, Ben, to make us watch this.
It took me no less than an hour afterwards to recover.
“May He grant you your heart’s desire
And fulfill all your purpose! ” ~ Psalm 20:4 NASB
What a prayers-answered week we’ve had!
Answer to prayer #1: We met with our attorney who is confident that our request for Graham will be successful! Graham (non-verbal special needs son), now 20 years old, has essentially been out of school since October 24th because of a severe behavior issue. Since then, we have had several meetings with the school and school district trying to fight for a way for Graham to get the help he needs to continue to learn how to express his frustration in non-aggressive ways and continue to be socialized in classroom/public settings.
Answer to prayer #2: Residency offers for hubby to move towards his full-time chaplaincy career are starting to come in! Hubby has worked in ministry for 25+ years, primarily as a Pastor. He has done chaplaincy work for almost 10 years, most recently at a cancer treatment facility. He has such a heart for getting to know people, relating with them, and praying with them, especially during hard, hurting times. I AM SO PROUD OF HIM!!!!!!!
Answer to prayer #3: As I mentioned in a previous post, I began my part-time/telecommuting schedule this week! For the time being, hubby is transitioning Graham-care stuff over to me so he can focus on his work. This special needs world is new to me, I have zero experience. I never imagined I’d be able to help a kid like Graham progress.
It also allows me to be able to be home more with my boys! THAT, is icing on the cake. I am so excited. I am going to make the most of it. I have all these bonding activities to do with them swirling around in my head. I can’t wait to start picking them up from school, taking them to after school practices, cooking with them, having dinner ready by the time hubby gets home, going out after dinner for frozen yogurt mid-week and not having to say “it’s late, mommy has to go to work tomorrow morning”.
I was listening to Dr. Tony Evans the other day (love him & his daughter Priscilla Shirer) as he was talking about women making their home a priority. One of the things that he said was (paraphrasing) ‘what good are all of the comforts you can afford if your family isn’t saved?’.
Good perspective reminder, yes?
Still praying for the final outcomes for each of these things, but grateful that God has given us several green lights this week. We welcome the much needed relief.
I have an announcement to make!
This week, I got to start working a new part-time schedule AND telecommute from home as necessary!
<—- I picture it to look like this.
~ Except my boys are 12 & 16.
~ And hubby’s special needs son, Graham, just turned 20.
~ And we don’t live up in a Penthouse with a view of downtown anything.
But other than that, it’ll look exactly the same. See the smiles?
I’ve always wanted to be a stay-home-mom. ALWAYS. Now, we find ourselves in a position where this (or something close to it) is a real possibility.
God’s been working in our home, for sure, which means there is a story behind this…which I will write about…soon!
2 years ago, my friend Anna from work introduced me to the idea of selecting “one word” to focus on for the new year. A nice alternative to the traditional New Year’s resolution. Then today, I saw a post with the picture above from (in)courage. It must be in the air.
I really like this idea, so this year, I decided to talk to hubby about it so that we could come up with a word that we could work towards together.
This year, as we continue to settle in with the whole blended family-special needs-work changes type life, our word for 2015 is “PEACE“.
Wait! No, it’s “JOY”.
Perhaps I need several “one words”.
What word would you choose for 2015?
Mexican Wedding Cookies. Hubby calls these dust balls.
They are delicate, crumbly, sweet-but not too sweet, cookies coated in a blanket of powdered sugar that I could eat all day long.
I’ve been making these since 2009 using a recipe from a co-worker. So easy and simple. This recipe is a keeper!
Today, since my special friend, Lisa, was coming to visit (YAY!), I decided to quickly whip some up so she’d have some goodies to take home with her. She arrived just in time to help out, very fun.
Here’s how we made them:
Using an electric mixer, cream together 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature), 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Gradually add 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour to the mixture. After that’s all incorporated, mix in 1 cup pecans (chopped into very small pieces) with a spatula. The mixture will be incredibly sticky.
With floured hands (this is important – it’s super sticky!), roll a rounded tablespoon of dough in your hands and shape into a ball and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Then flatten it down a little bit. Hubby uses his knuckles. I use my palms. Use whatever you’d like! Some people leave it shaped as a golf ball or crescents.
It was fun being to take pictures of Lisa and hubby baking together! Doesn’t she have a great smile???
They were making each other laugh.
I think they were making fun of me and how I tell people to FREEZE so I can take a picture and how a quick batch of cookies can turn into a 3 hour ordeal because of all the picture pausing.
We very much like having Lisa around :)
Throw the cookies into a pre-heated 275 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.
Once they’re done, let them cool completely and then roll them around in a pile of confectioner’s sugar so that they’re well coated.
Then pile them onto a plate and enjoy!
It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Mexican Wedding Cookies
Heavenly Snow Balls
Easy Baked Wedding Cookies
Call them whatever you want to — just make them!
In awe of the miracle that we’re celebrating today.
My aunt first made these years and years ago and I loved them.
I was surprised that she made them because she is more of a savory-food cook, not a baker. I asked her for the recipe and she told me that she had seen Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) make them on “Good Morning America” and that they were super easy to make.
Ina Garten? You know it’s going to be good!
Super easy to make? This recipe is a must!
I kept a mental note and stored these yummies away with several other ideas in my pile of good intentions and there they remained. Until today.
Let’s get started!
Start by taking out 1 box of frozen pastry to thaw according to your brand’s directions.
This is what makes the recipe so easy. Normally, you would start out by making a homemade yeast rising dough (like we did for our “ree-ally good cinnamon rolls”) but puff pastry replaces that here.
Never worked with puff pastry before? Trust me, this is great stuff. They turn out flakey and buttery, much like a fresh french croissant. You can use it for savories and sweets. I’ve wrapped them around chicken with herbed cheese, used them for chicken pot pie, and have made quick desserts like nutella & banana pockets. They turn simple food into fancy food.
Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Put 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1/3 cup of brown sugar in a bowl
Why does my picture show a lot more butter? Because Ina’s recipe calls for 1 1/2 sticks but this is a LOT of butter for it’s purpose. I would definitely only use 6 tablespoons next time and possibly add some corn syrup to help coat things better.
and cream together.
Place about 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture into 12 muffin tins that have been sprayed with non-stick spray.
It’s really important to spray because these will bubble up in the oven and after you’re done inhaling these melt-in-your-mouth treats, you won’t want to have to spend a lot of time scrubbing your tins.
There. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
If you like nuts, this is where you can rough chop up 1/4 cup of pecans (do you notice I make hubby do all of the work?)
and sprinkle them evenly over the butter/sugar mixture. Or leave them out if nuts aren’t your thing.
Now lay your first sheet of unfolded puff pastry (fold lines going left to right) down on a lightly floured surface
and brush it with a little bit of melted butter.
Sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar and a 1.5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to taste.
Roll the pastry dough towards you like a jelly roll.
If you have some thread laying around (we never do, but we have dental floss! No comments about that please, sometimes you just gotta improvise), bring it just under the rolled dough like so
and trim off both of the ends and discard. Then proceed to slice 6 equal pieces
and gently push each piece down on top of the pecan/butter/sugar mixture, spiral side up.
Halfway done! Now repeat those steps for your second sheet of puff pastry.
Then put the muffin tin on top of a baking tray – because there WILL be ooozing – and throw them into your oven for about 20 minutes. (Note – Ina’s recipe says 3o minutes, but ours started to scorch at 25, so watch them closely!)
Carefully invert the buns onto the baking tray while they are still hot.
And there you have it!
If you think they look mouth-watering in the pictures, wait till you taste them! They melt in your mouth.
But do not wait to eat them…
…these treats are designed for you to eat them right away while they’re warm – or you’ll regret it!
It was Thanksgiving morning, and hubby and I got off to a slooow start.
We celebrated a full-fledged Thanksgiving-with-all-the-trimmings- dinner a few days earlier (on Sunday) with the boys and guests. By mid-week, we hadn’t even though about what we were going to have for Thursday. We had a turkey on Sunday, turkey leftovers during the week, and were looking forward to another turkey at my mother’s house on Friday. Thursday needed to be different.
What we did know, was that we wanted to sleep in and make homemade cinnamon rolls to go with our morning coffee.
By the time we rolled out of bed, we decided that we would try Ree Drummond’s (The Pioneer Woman) cinnamon rolls recipe. It has been probably 30 years since I have made homemade cinnamon rolls (you know, when I was five years old. ahem) and since that recipe no longer exists, we thought we would use this one as the base and tweak just a couple of minor things. Like, making the dough the night before.
Did I mention we were off to a slow start? The cinnamon rolls weren’t ready until late afternoon – but they were SO worth it!
Here’s how it’s done!
The dough – makes about 45-ish rolls – (I regretfully do not have pictures of the first few steps because I wasn’t thinking I was going to photo document this recipe until my brain woke up and I yelped “wait! i should be taking pictures!”)
First – dissolve 1 cup of sugar with 1 quart of whole milk and 1 cup of canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Take the saucepan off the heat and if you are impatient, like me, pour the liquid into a different bowl and throw it in the fridge to help cool it down faster. Why? Because the temperature needs to drop down to about 110 degrees (use a thermometer!) before you can sprinkle and dissolve 4 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast into it. Anything over 110 will kill the yeast and your dough won’t rise. Let sit for a minute or so.
Now put 8 cups of flour in a large bowl, make a well and pour the warm liquid into the center and mix all. The dough will be sticky! Throw a kitchen towel over it and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
Then mix in 1 more cup of flour/1 teaspoon each of baking powder (heap) and baking soda (scant), and 1 tablespoon of salt and combine with the rest of the dough.
It should look like this. Throw the kitchen towel over it again and let it rise for at least another hour, preferably overnight, to let it continue to rise.
The filling – Combine 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 3 tbsp ground cinnamon and pour into a mixing bowl with 3 sticks of softened butter.
Cream the butter
then pour in the cinnamon sugar mixture and mix together
until it looks like a paste:
Time to assemble!
Go get your covered dough.
It should look like this:
Cut the dough in half and place it on your floured surface.
Flatten it out a little before you start to roll it.
Roll it out into a large, thin rectangle.
Start spreading the cinnamon sugar mixture all over the dough
until you get an even layer that looks like this:
Starting from the furthest edge from you, roll the dough tightly down towards you.
That’s right, keep going!
This is what it will look like once it’s all rolled up. Yes, it looks small, but it’s going to have another chance to rise again.
At this point, some people use a knife to cut into individual pieces. I say DON’T DO IT! Personally, I feel that using a knife smushes your dough, and that’s not a happy thing. If you have some thread laying around (we did not, but we had dental floss! No comments about that please, sometimes you just gotta improvise), bring it just under the rolled dough like so
and bring the 2 ends up, criss-cross them all the way through
and now you have a perfectly cut piece! Continue cutting about 1 1/2″ pieces and place in a greased baking pan. These round pans hold about 7-9 pieces, depending on how much you let it rise.
Now throw that kitchen towel over them again and let them rise for just a little longer
then pop them into a 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the dough gets golden brown.
Your kitchen should smell yummy at this point!
Don’t eat them yet! You’re almost done – just need the icing!
The icing – You’ll need 2 pounds of powdered sugar, 1/2 to 1 cup whole milk (to get it to the consistency you want), 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup of brewed coffee, 3-4 teaspoons of maple extract (to taste), and a couple of dashes of salt.
You gotta trust me on the coffee and maple extract – I was really hesitant to use these and wanted to wimp out and use vanilla. But we went with it and it turned out SUPER good!
Mix all together until it’s silky smooth
then drizzle that goodness onto your hot rolls
and if you become impatient like me, forget the spoon and just start to pour in on!
These were so good! The bread was moist and sweet and the filling had just the right amount of sweetness to it – not too much so the icing was a good compliment to it.
We liked the adjustments we made to the ingredients and cooking method versus the original recipe, but since the foundation of it is from Ree Drummond, we thought we’d name them after her.
We hope you enjoy these “ree”-ally good cinnamon rolls and share with your friends and family!