Category Archives: Family Fun

That was Fast

This summer is going to be recorded in our family history books as one of the busiest and fastest moving summers we have ever had.  I feel like I have barely blinked and two months have passed by.  Another thing I discovered this week as I opened up this blog for the first time in weeks is that this blog is five years old!  Amazing how the months roll by.  At the time, so many moments seem to last longer than they should, but in hindsight I wish they had lasted longer.  Oh well.  C’est la vie.  I will try not to waste my time in past regrets, just like I won’t waste your time by going on about how I did not mean to be gone from the blog so long.  The truth is, we all have to do what we need to do in the time that we have and sometimes we have time for extra things and sometimes we don’t.  My goal is just to be grateful for what I am doing right this minute, which is talking to you, and also to be grateful that you are spending your precious time listening.  Thank you.

Sunset.  #vacay #beachtime #betterthanfireworks #nofilter

Beach time.  #vacay #knittersofinstagram

One berry two berry, pick me a blackberry.  #summerfruit #berrypicking #familyfun #vacay

Last beach day.  #vacay #beachtime

Now, onward.  To kind of celebrate the five year birthday of this blog, I’ve created a new tab at the top of the page here for recipes.  Hopefully, when you click on that, you will find a nice tidy list of recipes with hyperlinkies attached that I have posted over the past five years.  They are separated into categories that I hope will be helpful if you are looking to make a particular type of food.

#lagunabeach

Really loving the rose garden in Balboa Park.  #sandiego #beautifulday

Dessert.  #creamistry #supersmooth #liquidnitrogen

Japanese fries, breakfast crepes, and tacos.  #foodtrucklove #yummy #socal #eatingourwaythroughCA

It was fun to go through all my past recipes.  There’s lots of cake and jam and cookies, lol!  It’s really amazing to think about how much sugar and butter we have gone through in the past five years as well.  People often remark that they wonder how we stay so skinny with all the goodies I make.  Well, all I can say is that we have two growing boys who are very active and they keep us active and busy enough that a piece of cake or bread treat a day isn’t going to make us fat.  Also, we try to keep our portions small and I utilize a big deep freezer for extras.  We hardly eat any packaged foods, which also means any treats we eat we usually make ourselves.  Sometimes, we share as well!

Lunch at the beach. #vacay #beachtime #yummy #justneedamargarita

The photos above were taken on our various travels lately, which included visiting both coasts of the continent.  Thankfully, for the next few weeks, we are at home and experiencing our first New England summer.  (Even though we were here last summer, it did not really count as a summer for us as we were stressed with moving and new home and job stuff.)  The first thing we did when we got back was to enjoy the local produce.

I hope to have some more inspiration and ideas to share with you soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the new tab with all the recipe links!

 

 

 

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Day 12: Caramel Monkey Bread

So, you know how yesterday I said that the Salted Caramel sauce with Maple Bourbon was just about the most delicious thing I have ever eaten?  That is still true, but it is also true that today’s recipe is almost as good as yesterday’s, and that is mostly because it includes yesterday’s sauce.

After I made the caramel sauce, I started thinking about all the things that it would go well with.  Ice cream.  Cake. Coffee.  And then I thought of bread.  Monkey bread.  What if I used the caramel sauce with monkey bread?  Now, normally I don’t love monkey bread.  I find it too sticky, kinda how I feel about sticky buns as well.  They are always good for a few bites, but after that, stuff starts sticking to my teeth and it loses its charm for me.  But, with this awesome sauce, how could it be bad?  So, I tried it.

Oh my goodness, it was amazing!  It was soft and gooey, but not sticky.  There was just enough sweetness to let you know you were not having a plain roll, but not so much that it felt like you were having a serving of candy with your breakfast.

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I loved it.  The boys loved it.  The husband even loves it and he hates sticky things.

Do you want to hear the best news about this recipe?  You can make it ahead of time.  It can be made and assembled the day before and refrigerated to be popped into the oven when you wake up the next morning.  Or, if you are really thinking ahead, you can make it several weeks ahead of time and freeze it.  Yes, I said you could freeze it!  Then, whenever you want to bake it, just take it out of the freezer, let it sit for a bit while the oven preheats, and then you bake it.  It just needs an extra 15-20 minutes in the oven.

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When I made this, I split the dough in half and made two loaf shaped breads so that I could bake one immediately and freeze one for later.  If you want to feed more people, you can put all the dough in a bundt pan.

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This is also a really fun thing to do with the kids.  They loved helping out and it makes the tedious job of rolling little balls of dough in butter and sugar go by much more quickly.

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It is so good that this monkey bread has been officially voted in to the standard Christmas list of baked goods.  In order to make this very short list, everyone has to love it.  Many breads have auditioned, but few make it.  This group includes Pannetone, Pandoro, Snowflake Buns, and, now, Caramel Monkey Bread.

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If you have taken my advice and made the caramel sauce from yesterday, I hope you will take my advice today and make this bread.  If you are feeling really generous, you can make the sauce and the bread and give it away as a gift.  That would just about make you a saint, I think!

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If you do make it, be sure to put the pans on another baking pan to catch the drips.  Otherwise, you will get a house full of smoke because that caramel sauce will definitely bubble up.  Ask me how I know, haha.  Also, when you eat it, be sure to scrape up that yummy sauce with each little pillow of dough!  Yum.

With that, my Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts is done.  I think I said that the deadline is midnight tonight to enter, but this post is a little late in the day, so I will extend the deadline to 6pm tomorrow, December 20, Eastern standard time.  I will announce the winner tomorrow night.  Leave me a comment to be entered.  Tell me what you would love to get for Christmas this year.

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________________________________________

Caramel Monkey Bread

makes one large bundt bread or two loaf pan breads

3 3/4 cups or 18.5 ounces all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk

1 envelope of instant yeast or a scant tablespoon

1 cup hot water, not over 115 degrees

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2/3 cup of caramel sauce (see recipe here)

Filling:

6 Tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup toasted pecans(optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, dry milk, and yeast.

Melt the butter in the hot water.

With the stand mixer on low speed, add the buttered water and eggs to the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together.  Stop the mixer and cover the bowl.  Let stand for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle on the salt and continue mixing the dough until it is smooth.  If it does not clear the sides of the bowl after five minutes, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it does.  Be sure to let the flour fully incorporate before adding more flour.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 60-90 minutes, depending on the temperature of your house.  Meanwhile, prepare your pans and filling.

Spray with oil or butter your bundt pan or two 8 1/2 by 4 inch loaf pans with oil.  Pour the caramel into the bottom of your pan(s).  If using the pecans, sprinkle half of them over the caramel in the pans.

Melt the butter in a small bowl.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl.

When the dough has risen, scrape it onto your counter.  Divide it into 4 pieces and then cut each piece into 12-16 more pieces.  Roll into little balls.

Dip each ball into the butter and then into the brown sugar mixture to coat.  Drop the balls into the baking pans.  Repeat with all the balls, evenly distributing them.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.

Cover the pans and let them rise until just doubled, about an hour.  If you are making them ahead of time, make sure they are tightly wrapped and then put it in the freezer or refrigerator after they are fully risen the second time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  If your pans are cold, just take them out, unwrap them and let them sit on the counter until the oven is preheated.

Cover the pans loosely with foil and place on a baking sheet.  Don’t skip this step!  The caramel will bubble up and drip out!

Bake for 20 minutes.  Then, remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes for unchilled dough.  For chilled dough, bake for another 25 minutes.  For frozen dough, bake for another 40 minutes.  These are all estimates.  If you want to check for sure if it is done, slip a knife into the dough between two of the balls and look inside.  If it still looks doughy, bake a little longer.

Have a rimmed plate or platter ready for the bread when it comes out of the oven.  When the bread is done, take it out and turn it over onto your serving plate within a few minutes.  Be careful as the caramel sauce is very hot!  Try not to burn your fingers when you eat it.  This is best served warm and eaten within a day.

 

Day 9: Coasters

Hi there! It’s less than ten days before Christmas and I have yet to bake a single cookie and I still have a few gifts that need to be bought.  Time is getting tighter, but the most stressful thing is behind me and I am feeling much better about things today.

Today, the boys and I took the morning to make some easy coasters for our holiday table decorations and also to give away as gifts.

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One thing I appreciate about the boys getting bigger is that their abilities have really grown quite a bit.  A few years ago, I attempted another craft with felt and sewing, which didn’t turn out as well because their fine motor skills were not as good.

These are really very easy.

Just find an assortment of cookies cutters and trace them onto felt.

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Then cut them out carefully.

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Soon, you will have a lot of shapes.

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Lastly, sew them onto four inch squares of felt in a different color.  For the base felt, I used a thicker felt.  This makes them a little less flimsy.

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For thread, I used pearl cotton in various colors, which I think adds a nice pop of color on each one.

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Once the boys got the hang of the sewing, they got into embellishing.

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I even taught one of them to make french knots.

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It wasn’t very long before we had a whole set.

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Which, when tied together, makes a nice tidy gift.

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If you don’t need coasters, you could always sew two of the same shapes together, stuff them with a little batting, and make ornaments out of them.  We might do that as well if the boys don’t lose interest too soon.

Here we are, three quarters of the way done through my 12 days of Christmas giveaway!  Time is flying by and seems sometimes to accelerate as we get closer to certain dates.  I still have some fun stuff to show you, so I hope you will stick around for a few more days.  Leave a comment and tell me about your dream Christmas.  As much as I love having Christmas at home with my family, I think it would be really awesome to spend Christmas at Yellowstone National Park or in the Alps somewhere.  I just love being in the mountains and would love to have a mountain Christmas someday!

Day 8: Pom Poms

When I woke up this morning, I felt optimistic and pretty sure that I had a handle on what needed to get done today and a good plan for doing it.  My to do list did not seem to be unmanageable and I even felt fairly energetic.  Ahhhh, I should have known better than to trust that feeling and next time I have it I think I will just stay in bed.

On the huge long list of things we do to get ready for Christmas, there is only one I really dislike and always have: getting packages ready to mail.  All the packaging up and making sure everything is in there and secure enough just stresses me out.  Add to that the fact that we could not find the packing tape and then had a series of unfortunate mistakes and troubles with paypal shipping, made an approximately one hour task turn into three.  Argh!

So, my planned post for today had to be changed up and what I have for you is something that is more of a gift adornment than a gift itself.  Still, these pom moms make great Christmas decorations and can be attached to anything that might need a pom pom.  Got a plain scarf?  Add a pom pom.  How about a hat?  All hats are great with pom poms.  Have you noticed that pom moms are really making a comeback?  I’ve seen them made into Christmas wreaths, garlands, and more.

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I used to really be terrible at making pom moms.  They were always irregular and uneven and by the time I got done trimming them, they were half the size that I started out with.  But, with this handy dandy pom pom maker made by Clover, pom moms become so easy that even my boys enjoyed making them.  Plus, they are fabulous for using up leftover bits of yarn.

All you have to do is wind the yarn.

Then cut it and tie it up.

Voila!  A pile of pom moms in less than an hour.

I think they look great on the tree.

Well, in the end, all the cards and packages got handed off to the mailman, who graciously took them even though I was at the wrong post office.  Apparently, if you prepurchase mailing labels, you have to drop them off at the post office with the corresponding zip code.  It just turns out that our nearest post office is in a different zip code.  Sigh.  Just another one of the little quirks about living here that we are getting used to.  I think next time I will go back to the old fashioned way of paying at the post office.

How about you?  We have talked a lot about our favorite Christmas things.  Let’s talk about our least favorite thing.  I think it is ok every once in awhile to have a moan because, let’s face it, none of us can get through such a busy and stressful time with a constant smile on our faces.  If we acknowledge the things that frustrate us, it can be easier to let them go…until next time, haha. Plus, we can always learn from each other strategies that help us deal with out frustrations.  After my frustrating morning, I made myself a cup of my favorite tea and had a few cookies.  What do you dislike the most about this season and how to do you cope with it?  Tell me about it in the comments and be entered the drawing for a chance to win the fun gifty Christmas box, pom pom included.

Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts

Because of our move, there were a lot of things that we were not sure we would be able to do this year.  So many ordinary things that were easy before seem to take twice as long in a new place.  Getting ready for Christmas is no exception.  First of all, finding a Christmas tree farm was challenging.  The first one we went to was….limited in every way.  The choices seemed designed to make you want to run into the barn and buy the first pre-cut tree you saw.  So, we went to another farm, farther away, which was better, but still nothing like the well-ordered and trimmed place we used to go to.  Still, being short on time and nearing the edge of hangry, we made a choice.

Yeah, it’s a little lopsided and has some empty spots, but we decided we might learn to love it. We cut it down and the boys carried it off while I followed behind. Sometimes, it is really nice to have boys.

Over a week later, we have finally decorated the tree and I have begun to do some prep work for Christmas baking.

The tree is decorated and the fruit is having a rum soaking.  #christmasiscoming

The second thing that we were not sure we would be able to do is our annual cookie fundraiser for Samaritan’s Purse.

It took us awhile to figure out what we were doing, but we finally got a modified version organized. It’s a lot smaller and the totals are much lower than year’s past, but we are still happy to be doing it. It turns out that the more things we do that feel ‘normal’ the less sad and homesick we feel.

This leads me to the third thing I was not sure I would be able to do this year: My annual Twelve Days of Christmas countdown and Giveaway. If you are new to my blog, you can see what I have done in year’s past in this post from 2012, 2013, and last year. This year, I am going to be focusing on do-it-yourself gifts. I am feeling short on time, energy, and resources this year, so these selections are all going to be about keeping things simple without sacrificing quality.

As usual, I will be giving away a box of goodies accumulated over the next 12 days from all the crafting and baking. Just like last year’s give away, you may enter by leaving one comment per post. Only one comment per person will be counted per post, but if you leave a comment for all twelve days, you will be entered twelve times! The box will mostly likely include many of the treats featured in the posts, but perhaps not all of them because not everything travels well or keeps well. Plus, I will be trying some new recipes, so there may be a flop or two. However, I will try to ensure that the winner has a nice variety! Because of perishability issues, I will have to limit this to a domestic (that is, just the United States) contest. Comments on all 12 posts must be received by midnight, December 19, eastern standard time. I will pick a winner at random on the 20th. Hopefully, I can ship on the 21st.

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To start off, since this post is already so long, I am going to refer you to my post on Sugar and Spice cookie mixes. These would make a fabulous gift for anyone who likes spice cookies and they are really easy to mix and bake. I will put one of these mixes in the box.

I am really looking forward to trying some new things and sharing them with you. Don’t forget to comment! Tell me about your favorite holiday tradition.