An Eggceptionally Eggcellent Egg Hunt

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear enough yet, but I love Easter.  I love everything about Easter.  Last year Simon was only 3 months old, and I dragged him and my husband to the Easter egg hunt on base.  It rained, so it was indoors, in the food court, with about 100 kids.  Very crowded.  Needless to say he didn’t get any Easter eggs.  Well, he did, but it had already been emptied and tossed aside, post-mayhem.

What the heck is going on here, Mom??

Rather than suffer the same fate this year, we had our own Easter egg hunt at our house!  Everyone brought a dozen eggs, filled with little toys, bracelets, and bows, and after quickly “hiding” them, the kids were off on their Easter egg adventure.

What do you mean, put it in the bucket?

You mean, bang them together?

Like this?  

Yes, Simon, just like that!

The kids were pretty cute running (walking/toddling) around the front yard looking for their eggs.  Simon was really confused about taking them from their hiding places, but he did eventually put the ones I handed him in the bucket.  Smart little guy.

Of course it wouldn’t be a party without some sort of food, and I kind of went the easy way out this time:

Angel food cake + strawberries + chocolate =

With an empty bowl for toothpicks, and a bowl of extra chocolate, we were set to party.  The chocolate was just a ganache, 8 oz of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream.  If you are wondering how I kept it warm enough to dip, that is a great question,  because it solidified way faster than I thought it would.  I always put ganache in the refrigerator to set up, so I hoped it would stay melted long enough.  Not true, and really, I knew better.  Oh well.  When life gives you ganache, make Easter truffles, right?

All in all, it still went over fairly well.

Do you have any fun Easter plans?  My husband has a 4 day weekend, so we have a bunch of things planned from not so fun (yard work) to lots of fun (the zoo!).  We are looking forward to continuing the Easter fun this weekend!

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Strawberry on a Cupcake

I had a great birthday!  Having your birthday (practically) on a weekend is great because it lasts all weekend.  Friday Simon and I went to our friends’ house where we were treated to (delicious) clementine cupcakes, and I got the nicest gift from some of my friends.

I was, and still am, so touched!  Making friends is hard to do, and I’m so glad that I have found a great group at this duty station.

After that, Simon and I came home to an Edible Arrangement from my in-laws, which we shared,

balloon included.

Saturday my family came to visit!  My parents as well as both of my brothers were able to come.  We went out to dinner, played some games, and had more cupcakes.  I made these, I had strawberry frosting on the brain.

This recipe came from Bittersweet, and Hannah always makes amazing stuff.  When my search for vegan strawberry frosting pulled up a post from her site, I knew it was meant to be.

This was simple, but not fast.  The strawberry puree had to be cooked down, then chilled, then cooked with cornstarch, and chilled again.  Then whipped with (vegan) butter, and sugar.  Not powdered sugar, regular granulated sugar.  That was easily the most interesting and appealing part of this recipe.  A tsp of powdered sugar does have fewer calories (~10cal) than a tsp of granulated sugar (~15cal).  But when you consider that most frosting recipes call for around 2 cups of powdered sugar per 1/2 cup of butter, you can see where the mere 1/2 cup of sugar was appealing here.

But that isn’t why I made this frosting, in fact, I had to add a little bit of powdered sugar at the end (just a bit, about 1/4 cup).  It was my birthday, not a time to be cutting calories.  I just made these because they looked plain delicious.

They totally were.  There was so much real strawberry flavor, it was well worth the time invested.  The cupcakes were just a plain vanilla cake, it was really all about the frosting here!  A tiny tip for anyone who might be making this, when you add the puree to the creamed butter and sugar, mine almost looked like it broke.  It looked gloppy and just plain gross.  Just put your mixer up to a really high speed and keep on going, it’ll come together.  Persistence here, pays off big time.

I hope everyone else had a fantastic weekend.  For some reason I really feel like I stepped away from reality for a few days, and even though my regular routine wasn’t interrupted, I’m having a hard time getting back into it!  We have a fun and busy week planned though, so I had better snap back to normal soon, or things are going to get crazy around here.

My Birthday Eve

Dinner tonight, was great. I broke out one of my favorite books, Vegan with a Vengeance. Actually it got pulled out last night because I wanted to be able to marinate our Mango Ginger Tofu overnight. It was a much more labor intensive dish than I’ve been making lately, but it was definitely worth it.

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Time intensive because the marinade is cooked beforehand. Super good, but I did use less ginger.

The real excitement of today though, came after dinner. My birthday present came a day early! It was a big one, and I have been stalking the mailman for it all week:

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Oh my goodness I am so very excited. That’s about all I can say for right now because I’m going to go play with my new favorite toy!

Happy Birthday Eve to me!

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Friendly Competition: Update

I realized today that I haven’t talked at all about how our friendly competition is going.  It has been about a month, and it seemed an update was only appropriate.

All in all:  Okay.  It’s been a month and I’ve lost about 3 pounds, which is better than a sharp stick in the eye.  In fact, it’s better than I have done in months, so I dare say I’m fairly pleased.  I noticed yesterday that I was really feeing a lot better too.  Which I followed up with some ice cream.  Moderation, right?

So, this is what I have been doing thus far:

Fitness:  I go to the gym with Simon when I can, which is normally twice a week.  When I’m there I do cardio, normally my 20 minute workout, followed by easy walking on the treadmill.  Simon has gotten much better at the child care, and its nice to have some time to myself.  I really don’t get much out of the additional 20 or 30 minutes.

Two days a week at the gym isn’t going to cut it for weight loss though, I recognize that.  I mentioned in my original post that I was going to start a program at home and…I actually did!  My husband is doing it with me, and we are currently on Week 3 of:  You Are Your Own Gym.

Basically it is bodyweight exercises.  The routine is good, and it changes up enough to make it interesting.  Plus, they also have a really awesome app that somehow makes it more motivating.  When I open it up and see all the little green check marks of workouts I’ve completed I get all proud of myself!  It times everything for you, gives photos and descriptions of the exercises, and lays out the workouts so you don’t have to drag out the book.  Its especially good since we are doing different levels, so different exercises, and we don’t have to share one book.  The app is $1.99; if you somehow ended up here wondering whether or not the app is worth it, it totally is.  In fact, you could probably just get the gist of the program and follow along with just the app.  Just for the record, I have zero affiliation with this book (or app).  I am not getting paid for this (although I’m open to it, if they offer).

Anyway, there are a few things I like about this program.  First, it is bodyweight, so we don’t have to be keeping dumbbells in the house (we have them, but they’re out in the garage).  I get a good workout in under 30 minutes, and while I am often sore the next day, I don’t get all sweaty.  We do this after Simon goes to bed.  I don’t want to shower that late at night, and frankly, I don’t want to change into a sports bra.  Believe me, that’s important.  And even with fitting those requirements, whatever body part is being targeted is wobbly when I’m done.  Today is my arms.  I’m lucky this is even being typed.

Nutrition:  While I can work out all I want, I know that what I eat is the most important.  “They” say that getting in good shape is 80% nutrition.  I might have fessed up to the ice cream, but I really have been trying to eat well.  Not count calories, not follow some kind of diet, just eat the food I know I should be eating.  I have been keeping myself accountable by writing what I do eat in a little notebook.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few entries for M&Ms, Girl Scout Cookies, and of course, the Slutty Brownie Birthday Cake (that may have shown up a few times before it was done), but at least I’m honest.  I’m not entirely proud of everything that goes into it, but its most important function is simple:  to remind me to eat.  If I don’t have something reminding me to eat, I don’t eat nearly enough (I still need to keep up calories while breastfeeding), and then I eat whatever happens to be around when I finally sit down at night.  So I’ve been packing snacks, and trying to eat more during the day.  Just in case, I have an emergency Larabar stash in my car.

Nothing has really changed about what we eat for our regular meals, although I did try a somewhat healthier Mac and Cheese recipe tonight.  It is a Mark Bittman recipe, and it was just okay.  The fact that it used cauliflower instead of milk or cream was a bonus, but it really needed more cheesey flavor to be called Mac and Cheese.

In fact, I think I prefer my favorite vegan version.  It wasn’t bad, we ate it, but I wouldn’t add it to the Mac and Cheese roster.  Does anyone else have a whole slew of Mac and Cheese recipes they make?  This is one thing that I make repeatedly, but I have a few recipes that I like and rotate through.

So that is one month down, two months to go.  If I could lose another 3 pounds both months, that would be awesome, heck, that’d pretty much be my “Last Ten Pounds” I have been hoping for.  No pressure!

A Wreath Full of Peeps

I just plain love Peeps.  Every year my husband (and others) tell me how gross they are.  In his words “They just don’t seem like food”.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re just a sugar covered marshmallow.  What’s not to love?

Generally, I do try to avoid marshmallows and all gelatin, but I definitely admit to slipping in Peeps around this time of the year.  I just can’t resist those day glow yellow chicks.  At the very least, I’ve stopped eating the Peeps they now make for Halloween, Christmas, Valentines’ Day, etc.  Well, unless someone buys them for me.  Most people know that I love Peeps though, so I can’t say I’m never gifted them.  I’ve even gotten the occasional box that already has a slit cut in it because I like them stale (I’m not the only one!).

Anyway, this year I am seeing Easter decorations involving Peeps, everywhere.  I figure this satisfies both the Peeps lovers and haters.  The haters get to poke them with sticks, scald them with hot glue, and leave them out to get rock hard and really inedible.  While the Peeps lovers get a lovely reminder of their favorite treat, and get to eat the leftovers.

Some examples included traditional yellow chicks, some multicolored chicks, some multicolored bunnies.  Some had mounds of Peeps, others lined them up in neat rows.  I kept mine nice and simple, and tried not to waste too many Peeps in the process.

I kept it all yellow, but went with bunnies.  Because, they’re kind of cuter.  Yes, the chicks are signature, but those bunnies just look so friendly.  Perfect to hang on the door to say, “Welcome, we love Spring”!

I wrapped a foam wreath with glossy brown ribbon, then hot glued my Peeps on.

I thought it’d be a good idea to do this in the garage.  I’m not really sure why, but it worked out, because I was able to glue my Peeps while Simon played with his new favorite ball.

He is pretty sturdy standing up now, and is walking (very) short distances.  I still wouldn’t call him a walker, but it seems like any day now he is just going to run away from me(!!).

After some playtime, I found some leftover ribbon, and hung my Peeps proudly on the front door.

I thought about ways to preserve my Peeps, because I wanted to save my wreath.  I searched for awhile, and didn’t find much in the way of Peeps preservation.  The best that I came up with was that they dried up so rock hard that they should last wrapped up in a plastic bag anyway (I suppose that proves my husband’s point in some way).  I did find plenty of people worried about ants and other bugs getting into the Peeps.  Gross.  I am hoping that our storm door will protect the Peeps from most buggy creatures.

I am so excited about my Peeps wreath, that I am considering making some other kind of Peeps decoration for our Easter party.  Easter is my favorite holiday.  I told you I really like spring, that is part of it.  Why I like Easter:  I like looking for my present, I like candy (specifically sugary candy like Peeps and jelly beans), I like Easter egg hunts, I like egg salad sandwiches (we always had tchristmasvhese after we dyed our Easter eggs), and I like that it is usually warm enough to wear a cute dress.  I also like that it doesn’t have the same pressure that there is around Christmastime.  Sorry Christmas.

This year we will mainly be celebrating Easter with our playgroup friends, and then the actual holiday with just my husband and Simon.  I have such fond Easter memories, I do wish we were going to see our family, but we have a lot of traveling in our immediate future, and it is just too much driving for a little boy.

Do you love or hate Peeps?  Have you ever made anything with them (or conducted any experiments?)?  Does anyone else love Easter?  I can’t wait for Simon’s first real Easter egg hunt!  Perhaps by then, he’ll be toddling around with the bigger kids!

Love my Peeps!

Happy Spring!

Remember when you were in elementary school, and you had to answer what your favorite season was, and write a story/draw a picture/make a collage about it?  Or in middle school when you were learning a new language, and when learning “season” vocab, you have to reply with what your favorite season is?  Everyone always says summer!!

Well, J’aime le printemps.

I love spring, I always have.  Sure, you had off of school in the summer, but I liked school.  Now, I can articulate how much I love the newness, the freshness, the flowers nudging their way through the damp ground.  As a kid, I think I just liked that gradual change from cool to warm.   But mainly the baby animals.  I still like anything with baby animals.

Spring has come for the North Country quite early this year, and it has come on strong.  Our daffodils rather suddenly shot up and burst open this morning.  Simon can do a little bit of walking now, and he has loved stomping around our backyard, chasing after a bird or his big green ball.  He is getting to be so much fun!

Happy Spring everyone!

 

Moon Jars

This was not my idea.  I am not that creative.  I like recipes, patterns, and craft tutorials.  Perhaps this is why I am so fond of Pinterest.  Yes, that’s right, I found this on Pinterest, too (you can’t be surprised).

Anyway, the original was the Sun Jar, but mine came out to have more of a cool, rather than warm, tint to them, so I’m calling them my Moon Jars.

I admit, when I pinned this, I thought it was so cool but I would never ever do it.  Then while out and about one day, we dropped by the dollar store.  And right in front of me was a huge display of solar lights.  For a DOLLAR.  So I picked one up, just to test it.  After all, you can’t always test dollar store quality.

It worked.  Then, I got excited.  The next day I went back to the dollar store and bought 5 more.  Simon and I continued on to WalMart where we got a bunch of jars with glass lids.  Then, we stopped.  I couldn’t find the frosted glass spray paint.  I’m sure it has to exist somewhere, but not where I was looking, and the people I asked looked at me like I was nuts.  So I went to the always-trusted Amazon, and found some paint-on frosted glass paint.  I thought this would be easier.  But, that was only because for some reason I had it in my head that I would have to paint the inside.  Spray painting the inside evenly seemed hard.  After doing the first one, my husband pointed out that it would be much easier to do the outside.  It was so obvious.  And it would have been so much easier with spray paint.  The only upside to painting, rather than spraying, is that you can bake the glassware, and then it is dishwasher safe.  I highly doubt these will ever need to go through a dishwasher though.  In fact, we don’t even own a dishwasher (yet?).

Regardless, I still think they still came out well.  I used Gorilla glue to attach the solar light to the lid of the jar.  You can use any type of adhesive that works with glass though.

And just for the record, hot glue does not work.  I read a few different sources say it does work, and a few say it didn’t, and I agree with the latter.

Gorilla glue needs some time to set, but after about an hour, they were set, it was dark, and my Moon Jars were ready to be tested.

A big one on the front porch.

A small one inside by the back door.

I haven’t done much (camera phone) nighttime photography, so the graininess was just inevitable.  They work really well though!  I do have plans for the other four, they all will have their own nice sunny spot to occupy around the house.

Chalk that up to as another Pinterest success story (and it has since been added to the “I Did This” board).  My house is just becoming more and more crafty every week.

“I Did This!”

I leave reviews all over the internet:  Yelp, food.com, and now Pinterest.

Yeah, that’s right, Pinterest.  I know that isn’t the intention of the site, but I just couldn’t help myself.  When I try something great, I want people to know.  I even more so want people to know when I try something horrible.  Example:  Bath Crayons

They do not work.  They looked just like the picture, beautiful!  I thought perhaps it was just my tub, but I put them in Simon’s gift bags for his birthday party (so I was extra irritated that they didn’t work).  Survery says: dud.

So I’m proposing a Pinterest revolution.  Okay, revolution is a strong word, let’s just call it a good idea:  The “I Did This!” Board.

The concept is pretty simple.  When I do something that I’ve previously pinned, I go and edit the pin, leave a short review in the description, and move it to the “I Did This!” board.

I have not one, but two such pins to move tonight.  First, a green onion trick.  Second, a veggie pad thai recipe.

A few weeks ago, I needed some green onions for a recipe, and remembered this tip.  I also happened to have an empty plastic bottle lying around (which is actually rare).  I chopped up what I needed, and threw the rest in the bottle, and threw that into the freezer.

Today, I took it out, and added it to the pan of pad thai I was cooking up.  This worked well, since I was okay with warming the onion in the warm dish.  However, most recipes that I use green onions for, call for them to be raw.  So, that made it not as successful.  I suppose you could defrost them, but I imagine they would be wilted.

The pad thai itself, came out pretty well!  Ever since watching Alton’s show on Pad Thai, I have never attempted any version of it at home.  I’ve had bad pad thai, and I didn’t want to go there.  Seeing what goes into a traditional pad thai sauce, coupled with my limited Thai cooking knowledge, I didn’t think there would really be any way to truly make a vegetarian version that could hold up.  This recipe does not come close to pad thai.  But it was still really good.  The directions were vague, and my recipe loving self was wary, but we were all really happy with the results.

I did make this vegetarian, my husband loves egg, and since it is still his birthday week, he is getting a few more things his way than he normally would!  The original recipe just leaves out the egg, but you could also make tofu the same way as I did in my vegan fried rice.

So what do you think?  “I Did This!” Boards for all?  Hey if nothing else, feel free to follow mine!

Luck in a Bottle

To every thing there is a season.  To every season there is a holiday.  And for every holiday, we have a party.

This week:  St Patrick’s Day!

Admittedly, not my favorite holiday.  I’m not Irish, and I never really bought that “everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day” excuse to go out.  But an excuse to have a party during playgroup for the kiddos?  Count me in!

My husband is Irish, and I had intentions of making my mother in law’s Irish soda bread recipe, but one of our friends is vegan, and since I’ve never had Irish soda bread before, I didn’t feel comfortable making substitutions.  So I did end up making this whole wheat vegan Irish soda bread.  Pretty yummy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also made some limeade.  Limes are green.  Limeade isn’t.  But the intention was there, and it was good!  I don’t like to drink sugar (I prefer to eat it), so I used liquid stevia, which frankly, is a lot easier than using sugar because you don’t have to make a simple syrup, you just drop it in.

{5 parts water to 1 part lime juice, lots of ice, and about 10 drops of stevia per cup of liquid.}

What was really the most exciting this time was that we did a craft:  St Patty’s Day sensory bottles!  All of the kids are under 2, and I think we just assumed they wouldn’t really be able to do much (without making a gigantic mess).  But they proved us wrong today!

Everyone brought their own empty water bottle, and we set up a bunch of different things to fill it with:  glitter, beads, pom poms, shamrock confetti, plastic flowers, etc.

They obviously needed a little guidance, but they did really great putting the smaller objects into their bottles!

 

 

 

Maybe Simon needed a little more help than the others!  He is one of the younger kids, but he got a few of the things that actually fit in the bottle, inside of it.  It was impressive enough for me!

We filled them to the top with water, and they came out so cute!

We sealed them with hot glue, and let them shake away with their new lucky sensory bottles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m so happy we did these!  First, because I know Simon will love playing with it, especially in the car.  Second, because it was so much fun to see how much the little ones can do.  Watching Simon grow up can bring a tear to my eye; he isn’t such a baby anymore.  But it is always accompanied with a smile.  Lately it seems like he is doing something new every day, and watching him discover how smart he is makes every day so worthwhile.

I’m already excited for our next party!