August 8, 2013

Everything But the Hummingbird

My friend Jonna got me this fun cookbook called "sugar, sugar" where every recipe has a story.

They are all old fashioned recipes - things your grandma would make to take to a church picnic or fix when company was coming.

I haven't made many things from it yet, but there is one cake I've made twice - and will likely keep making given the response I've received from it.

It's called Hummingbird Cake.  Nobody seems to know how it came to be called that, but the Joy of Baking online speculates, "it does seem plausible that it may have something to do with how sugary rich this cake is - just like the nectar that Hummingbirds love to feed on."

Sugary rich is the best way to describe it.  It's too much for me to have more than a bite, but it has received rave reviews from others who have eaten one or more large slices.  My friend Linda all but cussed me out at church once after I gave her family half of the cake, of which she swears she ate most of and accused me of ruining her diet. haha!  On top of that, I just recently had a total stranger at a BB-Q tell me it was the best cake he's ever had!

This is what's left after the BB-Q.  It makes one three-layer cake.  It's quite the looker (though not quite so much anymore after being hacked into at a BB-Q)!

CAKE (ingredients only slightly altered to reflect Bakerella's recipe)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, liquid included
2 cups chopped ripe bananas
2 cups  pecans, chopped and toasted (I omit these because I don't like nuts in sweet things.)

16 oz cream cheese
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
32 oz.  confectioner's sugar

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.

If using nuts: Prepare toasted pecans. Chop pecans in small pieces and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes and keeping your eye on them so they don't burn. Set aside and let cool.

Whisk together flour, soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Place the sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed for about 1 minute, until blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed, blending well before the next egg.

Add the vanilla and blend.

Add the flour mixture one half at a time, mixing on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Add the pineapple, nuts (optional), and the bananas and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined.

Spread batter evenly among cake pans and bake for 22-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove and let cool.

For the frosting: In a mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add confectioner's sugar. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl often.

To assemble: Place first layer rounded-side down and spread frosting on top with an offset spatula. Continue with the remaining two layers and then frost the sides. Store in fridge.

August 7, 2013

Hidden horrors exposed

Before I was a mom, I used to look at the highchairs of friends' children in bewilderment.

It looked mostly clean, but there were always dried bits of food clinging to the pad and crumbs jammed in the nooks and crannies.  It looked like a slightly less than appetizing, let alone healthy, place to eat.  

"I don't understand!" I would cry internally.  "These are clean people!  How is that chair not clean??"    

Now that I have my own little solid-food eater, I get it. 

It is just not possible - or reasonable - to wash that pad after each feeding.  What it is, is inevitable that the pad is going to get dirty.  Really dirty.

We wash her tray clean after each meal and that's what really counts.  That's what food meant for her mouth is going to touch before going in, so I take care to wash it well.  

The crumbs on the seat will get brushed off, but likely not until the end of the day.  This means I only have to do that activity once versus three times a day.  

My old before-motherhood self would ask, how hard is it to brush crumbs off after each meal?  You wouldn't think too difficult, right?  But consider: Rosie eats, then gets cleaned up in the chair, then gets picked up out of the chair (which means my hands are full) and taken to play or many times to go down for a nap.  At that point I get back to my full-time job, or if it's the weekend, to the 1.1 million things I have on my to do list.  

Brushing off crumbs is low on the totem pole until the end of the day when I'm finishing tidying up.

So, I get it now.  And I apologize to all my friend and family moms who I silently judged for not having a sparkling place for their kids to eat.  


July 31, 2013

So much

So much, soooooo much has happened since my last post!

Here's a synopsis:

We went to my old stomping grounds, Washington, D.C.!  Here are some highlights:

My favorite monument...

Sitting with mama in her old chair.  Might we have a future press secretary in the works...?

Sitting in my old boss, Sen. Enzi's chair...

On a tour of the Capitol building.  Here we are in the Rotunda...

Highlight number 2?  We bought a new couch!  FINALLY!  The couch I bought after moving back from D.C., was in pretty shabby shape.  I hadn't anticipated a husband, two black labs and a baby when I purchased it.  Now we have the couch we want: leather, nail heads, sophisticated, not shabby...

Doesn't it look like it's always belonged here?  I was sad to see the old couch go, I admit.  It was a sleeper and I firmly believe we need one of those with the visitors we get.  But Todd didn't want to try to jam it downstairs, and let's face it, it was in poor condition, so to the dump it went.

We went to Wisconsin!  And Rosie and her cousins in Omaha got to meet for the first time!

But first, we hung out with Great Grandma Kittel and Grandma Kittel...

Rosie ate in a high chair at a restaurant for the first time...

We ate lunch with Paul Bunyon and Babe...

Met Great Aunt Barbara...

And second cousin Kim...

Then on to the cousins!  Tess, Owen and Judd meeting Rosie for the first time...

Hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa Sears...

We cheered Raymond on at his all-star baseball game...

All the cousins together!

There's more, but this gives you a pretty good idea.

May 12, 2013

Sunshine and sunbonnets

We have been sooooo cooped up...

But no more!  Nice weather is here and I think it's here to stay!

What a gorgeous weekend we had!  Finally, finally, we have been able to spend some real, solid time outside.  Sure, there have been walks, runs, a handful of nice days here and there, but this weekend was the start to some serious outdoor time.

I made sure Rosie spent basically as much time outside as I did.  Since her arrival in November, I can pretty confidently say she knows exactly what each of the rooms in our house is like.  She's seen it all!  It's time she started learning about the great outdoors.

I found her a couple cute new sun hats over the weekend and Saturday afternoon she donned one of them and helped me plant some flowers...

Are you familiar with Sunbonnet Sue?  The old quilt pattern?  I have a Sunbonnet Sue quilt from when I was a little girl.  I think Rosie looks like a Sunbonnet Sue in the photo above.  Compare Rosie to the pattern here...

I also think it's quite appropriate that Rosie is playing with her giant ladybug while helping her mama garden!

Here she is modeling her new, cute hat...

We didn't spend as much time outside today.  She did, however, get some experience with lying in the grass.  She seemed to really love it.  She stayed very still and relaxed for quite some time.  I love how loung-y she looks...

Her legs, which are ALWAYS moving, were still - for several minutes...

Todd said I needed to move her around so she could mow the yard...

The poor dogs have been particularly cooped up.  They've done a number on our yard - brown spots, dead spots, bald spots - and Todd has worked hard to try to fix it.  This means the dogs have been quarantined to the house or the back "yard" which they hate.  Yard is in quotes because in its current state it can hardly be considered a yard.  It's just concrete.  No wonder they hate going back there and love to lounge like this instead.  Oh, Lulu...

Not to be outdone, here's Rigby posing for his lounge lizard shot...

Everyone is enjoying our nice weather!  

May 7, 2013

Big girl food

Rosie is getting to be such a big girl!

We've started experimenting with something more than formula and oatmeal.

First up on the menu...peaches!

I loved watching Rosie's first tastes of the food.  You could just see the wheels turning, taking note of the taste, texture and overall experience of something different.  She sits in her bouncy chair while I'm in the kitchen cooking and I will bring foods to her nose to smell.  She has always stopped what she's doing to really smell what I put in front of her.  I'm hoping this will somehow make her an open-minded eater!  

I've read when starting new foods you should only offer one kind for at least three days to see how your baby does with it.  In three days we successfully finished one container of peaches and she started to act like she really loved them.  Yesterday, she began taking my hand with the spoon in it and directing it toward her mouth.  Today, with daddy, she had a death grip on the spoon, not wanting him to take it out of her mouth long enough to get another scoop!  

Next up are sweet potatoes.  If liking a food is at all based on what the baby's mom ate while pregnant, then Rosie should go bonkers for sweet potatoes.  I couldn't seem to get enough of them when I was pregnant!  

For these first experimental bites I've used the go-to Gerber foods.  In the future, however, I have aspirations of making a lot of Rosie's baby food myself and have already read through one yummy sounding cookbook we received as a baby gift.  It doesn't seem that difficult, but we'll see!  

April 29, 2013

Cloth diapering adventures have officially begun!

Our cloth diapers arrived Saturday!

I know in my previous post about our cloth diaper trial period we were quite decided on the hybrid style of diaper.  After much research on the different styles and brands we thought we really had it boiled down.

I was about to make the call to the store in Colorado to place our order when a friend told me to check out a Wyoming cloth diaper company.  I had no idea one even existed!

Out of curiosity, I looked up Baby Beduga in Pinedale, Wyo.  The company is owned by Crystal, a stay-at-home mom who believes strongly in cloth diapering and wants to make it affordable for other families to do so too.

Hers are a pocket style diaper and are one of the styles we had initially decided against.  The absorbent pad slides down the pocket in the back of the diaper.  We had opted against this style for no other reason, really, than we ultimately thought hybrids would be easier and cheaper.

We thought that until we saw her prices.  They are crazy low!  And by that I mean they are half the price of other popular brands.  Example: Rumparooz, a mainstream pocket diaper, sells for about $25/diaper and includes one insert.  Baby Beduga? Plain colored diapers are $7.99 and printed ones are $9.10!  They also include an insert.

My eyes about popped out of my head when I saw those numbers!

The low price automatically made me think they must be of lesser quality, so I did some Googling.  They have been reviewed on several "mommy blogs" and the consensus is nothing short of rave.

We ordered one to see for ourselves and discovered we really liked it! The snaps seem to be spaced appropriately for easy adjustment as Rosie grows.

The material is good quality as is the stitching.

Rosie christened the trial diaper with a big poo right off the bat, so we got to see right away how they clean up.  The diaper rinsed easily and didn't stain.  A good sign.

While it wasn't the style we wanted we were willing to go a different direction for the price.  Not to mention she is a Wyoming company and I like to patronize local small businesses.

We bought an assortment of solid colored and printed diapers.  Crystal has some diapers made of a minky material, which I was on the fence about, leaning toward not wanting them.  After talking about it on the phone she surprised us by nicely throwing in the cow print minky diaper for us to try.  It's really, really soft and I see Rosie wearing it mostly during days around the house where she won't have something on over a diaper.

I did buy one white solid colored one, which seems daring for a cloth diaper, right?  The thought was, it would be nice to have for under dresses when we might not want a bright diaper showing.

Here are the cute printed diapers we ordered.  Aren't they ADORABLE??

We got all of this - 19 diapers (we already had the one trial), 20 additional inserts, one wet bag for the nursery (the orange-y yellow bag), and one wet bag for the diaper bag (the pink bag) - all for slightly less than half of what we would have paid for the hybrid brand we were going to order.


To be fair, all of my initial assessments are based on a couple wears and washes.  I'll update a little later on how things are going and holding up.  I have confidence, though, that we made a great and economical decision and so far would recommend Baby Beduga to others!

April 27, 2013

Guess who rolled over today?

It was so unexpected.  I laid her down for a nap and put her paci in the crib with her.  She saw it and started reaching for it.  

I was just impressed at first that she actually grabbed it and brought it to her mouth with such purpose and focus.  I watched her drop it close to her chest and she fished around until she found it again.  

I ran outside to get Todd so he could watch all her new tricks.  When we came back in we found her on her tummy!  

She's been able to get herself about 98 percent over, but keeps getting hung up on her arm.

Looks like we've had a break through!

In this photo, I had moved her around so she wouldn't get her feet caught up in the crib.  She's got that paci in her sights!

Yay, Rosie!

April 26, 2013

Ticket to freedom

A stroller.  

That is my ticket to freedom.

Having a baby in winter is hard.  You're even more confined to the indoors than "normal" after giving birth.  We/I took Rosie on several walks, bundled up in her car seat that fit nicely in her other stroller, but that wasn't good enough.

The other stroller meant I still, somehow, needed to try to find a separate time to work out.  That was getting really compromised with all the other daily duties and I was getting increasingly frustrated.  I was tired of being a prisoner of our house and the baby weight wasn't coming off as quickly as I hoped.

Then our BOB arrived.  When it showed up on our front porch I felt like it may as well have been a giant Publisher's Clearing House check sitting there.  Suddenly, I could do whatever I wanted!  I could get out WITH Rosie and incorporate her into my workouts.  I wouldn't have to give them up because of Todd's schedule or her nap time.  

We took it on an inaugural outing over the weekend and I could barely contain my excitement.  

This weekend, with the weather finally warming up, Rosie and I will definitely be hitting the open road!  

March 24, 2013

Good egg

I desperately want chickens.  I want to get up in the morning and gather fresh eggs for breakfast and baking.  I want eggs laid by chickens that are raised more naturally. However, I can't have chickens yet.  Our yard is so small it can barely support us and two large, active dogs.  In spite of this, I can't help but pick up magazines like Hobby Farm and Mother Earth News when they feature articles on "the right kind of chicken for you," or, "the best coop for your needs."

One day, when we move out of town, I will have chickens.  Until then, I need a supplier.  I have been searching for someone in the Casper area to fill this role, but surprisingly, this "egg hunt" hasn't been easy!

Right before we moved from Cheyenne I had an egg dealer all lined up.  For some reason, finding a dealer in Casper hasn't been as easy.  I've read the classifieds of the small local and ag papers, have gone to Murdoch's to see if anyone posted about eggs on their bulletin board, and have asked friends who have ranching connections...all with dead ends.

At Todd's office Christmas party last year I got a lead.  A former agent used to have eggs.  She was no longer raising chickens but she knew someone who was!

I called ol' Rob on Thursday last week and in five minutes he had me lined up for a Friday delivery.  He told me he had green and brown eggs, which would I like?  I had never heard of green eggs except in Dr. Seuss' book!  Rob thought this was funny and said that's what he'd deliver.  Apparently, Americana chickens lay green, blue, yellow and brown eggs.  Who knew?

We sampled the eggs this morning and they are just...better than store bought.  Look at those bright yellow yolks!

At $3 a dozen I think Rob might be a tiny bit steep, but I'll take what I can get for now.  Since getting my eggs on Friday I have discovered that another person I know has a dealer too.  I need to find out their price and compare.

It appears I just might have "cracked" the seemingly secret world of fresh eggs in Casper!

March 2, 2013

Once upon a child

In looking at the piles of clothes we had for Rosie before she was born we thought for sure we wouldn't have to buy a stitch until her 1st birthday.

Now that I've organized the clothes by age and have them in storage boxes and her dresser, I can see there are several holes we need to fill.

Enter the secondhand baby story Once Upon a Child.  

It's an awesome concept: people sell them their gently used baby items and they sell them to others at deeply cut prices.  There are some things I want brand new, sure, but for the most part, baby clothes don't fall into that category.  It's really hard to justify buying all brand new clothes that will be worn for only about a month.  

Rosie is in desperate need of 3-6 month-old footed sleepers, some tights, and a few long sleeved onesies.  I also have wanted to find her an Easter dress; some plain, colored onesies and a few hoodies.  

Apparently, most stores have started turning over to spring/summer wear, so I struck out on footed sleepers and long sleeved onesies.  

But I did get an Easter dress...

And some hoodies...

At Rosie's age, I really want easy zip or snap-up sleepers, but I couldn't resist these pj's with the frolicking unicorns!

A close up of those cute unicorns...

Even though it won't fit her now, I found this super cute 6-mo dress.  About that time we will be in D.C., for a friend's wedding and I just imagined Rosie romping around the nation's capitol in this (it comes with matching bloomers!)...

February 28, 2013


When we walked through our 1920s house before buying it, we asked the owner about the three large doorways into the dining, living and sun rooms.  It looked as though there had once been French doors on each.

You can see the dining and living room doorways here...

The owner looked us straight in the eye and told us he wasn't sure what his dad had done with them.  We were super disappointed someone would get rid of original French doors (what were they thinking?!), but there was nothing we could do about it.  

Shortly after we moved in, our new neighbor (hi Jason, if you're reading this!) was chatting with us about his place and the history our two homes shared.  He invited us to come on in to see his digs and the work he had done to upgrade his old home.

When we got to the master bedroom he pointed out the closet doors, telling us they were actually one of the pairs of French doors from OUR house!  

Todd and I flipped!  We told our neighbor that Rod, the previous owner of our home, had told us he didn't know what happened to them.  Our neighbor said that wasn't right...he had bought two sets of the doors and Rod had helped him carry them out!

I have not one nice thing to say about the lying piece of...grrrrrr...that Rod is.  We discovered he is basically a pathological liar, looking us in the eye and telling us about the "new" roof on the house, or the "upgraded" electrical, or how he didn't realize that one end of the big, pretty fireplace mantel with a matching built-in bookcase to the other end had been removed so a larger window could be put in.  The list of lies goes on ad nauseam.  

We asked our neighbor what he would want for them.  He wasn't sure.  He did, however, think he wanted to move and if that ever happened he would make sure we had first dibs on the doors.   

Recently, our neighbor put his house up for sale and we purchased the doors back from him!  We couldn't be more ecstatic!

Here's Todd, on the left, with his friend Ken hanging the doors in the entry between the living and sun rooms...

The finished look...

The sun room operates as my office, which is one of the reasons we wanted the doors hung here.  This is now my view from my desk.  It's great to be able to shut out the rest of the house for a phone call or just some privacy...

We are soooo happy to have them back where they belong.  The doors have come home and it just feels right.  

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