Wednesday, December 31, 2008

525,600 minutes

How do you measure year?

In daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? 366 (leap year, baby!)

In cups of coffee? Ugh, I don't even want to think about that...

In inches? Ava grew about 2 1/2, Emily about 4.

In miles? We put about 2000 miles on the mini van just driving down to Disneyland...

In laughter? In strife? Having two little girls gets me a lot of both.

In 525,600 minutes how do you measure a year in the life?

Measure in love.

Much love to you all, and a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pictures of December

Emily at the mall:

Ava makes a snow angel:

freezing on Peacock Lane:

When roasted marshmallow and toddler collide:

one of the many cookie making sessions:

snow say tea party:

Lighting the menorah with Nana:

Pretty girl and pretty lights:

More baking!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

And the snow keeps falling...a list.

My favorite things about the falling snow:

It made the annual Barsotti holiday cookie baking party feel very Rockwell-esque. Especially when Joel's brother brought over some homemade eggnog!

It made showing Ava how to make a snow angel even more special.

Drinking your afternoon tea with your homemade cookies is definitely more fun if you do it while wrapped in a blanket on the couch near a window where you can watch the snow pile up.

Being snowed in means you have to get creative when thinking of ways to entertain your children (and husband!). Did you know that you can freeze paint in ice cube trays? Just add a bit of water and then the kids have icy paint cubes...something new! A girlfriend gave me a great idea for playing with snow without getting too cold: Pile it into the bathtub! Get the sand toys and trains out and go to town. When everyone gets too cold, run a warm bath.

It made for a very fun trip to see the lights on Peacock Lane. Christmas lights defninitely look prettier with snow falling around them.

My personal favorite: pack some snow into a pie plate. Drizzle maple syrup in small patterns. Let the syrup harden and then you have yummy maple candy to decorate cookies or cupcakes (or a stack of pancakes) with. YUM.

What are your favorite things about this time of year?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just say no: Crack is addictive

Several of you have asked me for the recipe for what I lovingly call Christmas Crack. Make at your own discretion:


1 sleeve Saltines crackers
2 sticks butter
2 c. brown sugar
12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips

Lay crackers side by side in a half sheet pan (the big cookie sheet with edges all around).

Bring butter and sugar to boil and continue boiling until soft ball stage.
 Pour toffee over crackers. Bake in 400 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Watch carefully so doesn't burn.

Sprinkle chips over toffee/crackers and return to oven for 30 seconds to melt. Smooth with rubber spatula. Cool to set and harden. Crack and enjoy. Or send it to work with your husband so you don't enjoy it too much.

Of course, those of you with nut allergy free children can add chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans would rock, as would the dreaded peanut...yum!) just after spreading the chocolate smooth.

If you have last minute teacher, coworker, or neighbor gifts, or if you are just feeling cranky, Christmas Crack is sure to please! Just don't say I didn't warn you...

Santa is NOT the Momma, or why Emily is getting coal for Christmas

Even though we didn't see any snow that stuck yesterday or today, Ava's preschool was still closed and her Christmas party and Christmas program were cancelled. She was pretty distraught over this, because she's been practicing her songs quite a bit over the last few weeks (!!!). I've never seen a kid so upset that school had been cancelled.

To help her feel better, I took her and Emily to run some errands this morning, including a trip to the mall to run around at the playground (aka germ structure) and to see Santa. This is the first year that Ava did scream bloody murder at the sight of Santa (that job was left the Emily...NOT THE MOMMA!!), and I'm guessing that it's due to the fact that this is the year that she "gets" that Santa is the man who brings her presents if she's good. She wrote him a letter at school asking for momma to "please let her eat some candy, but not candy with nuts because nuts are icky and make me die." No really - her teacher gave me her letter. It's quite hilarious! Anyway, I was worried that she would tell the mall Santa about how her mean momma doesn't let her have candy, but all she asked for were ponies and rainbows. Which is good, since I got her a pony set with a rainbow house...Momma and Santa are definitely thinking alike this year. Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, Emily wanted absolutely nothing to do with Santa. She simply kept saying "MOMMA! MOMMA!" and tried to get away from the scary bearded man. Poor Santa. We did get one shot of Ava grinning from ear to ear and Emily screaming bloody murder. I didn't have the heart to pay $30 for it though.

I'm hoping that the roads will still be driveable tomorrow so that we can hit up our MOMS Club holiday party. If not, it will be another day of hanging out at home sprinkling glitter on anything that stands still.

In other news, the gifts have (finally) all been purchased, and most of our homemade gifts for family have been finished. Now we just need to start wrapping (and finding places for those wrapped presents!). Chanukah starts Sunday night, and I'm hoping that the weather will cooperate long enough to drive to North Portland to have a nice latke and brisket dinner with my mom.

Here's hoping that wherever you are, you're able to keep crossing things off of your holiday to do list so that you can spend time with your family and friends!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The snowed in list

I'm sure that the snow outside is just lovely. Sadly, I haven't been out to see it because when I wasn't tending to a family with the stomach flu, I was in bed (and the bathroom) with it myself. I'm finally back to normal and really want to air the house out, but since it's about 23 degrees outside, I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. Oh well...more time to bake!

Instead, I get to bring you the best of the 100+ blogs that I subscribe to...lucky you!

Joel's aunt has the best little village in her house for the holidays and I enjoy seeing it every year. I found this idea for a homemade version and thought that it would be fun to do with Ava with the boxes after the gift opening is all over.

I have quite a few batches of cookies made, but I have a few left to go. These candy cookies are definitely on the list. Since we're peanut free here, I plan on doing sugar cookies with Rolos, brownie with 3 Musketeers, and chocolate chip with Milky Ways. But peanut butter cookies with a baby Reese's cup sounds freaking awesome. Someone please indulge in that one for me. YUM, YUM, and more YUM. Thank the gods that the gym is open 24 hours...

I am definitely going to start making one of these in cute is that?! I suck at knitting, but I can embroider like the dickens!

Two words that sound great in the same sentence: Duck and Crockpot. I'm definitely going to be trying this recipe soon!

What happens when you send your husband to the grocery store instead of going yourself? You end up with a box of Fruit Loops. Seriously, Joel? Well, that's OK, I felt like the tree needed some garland anyway, so Ava and I are going to string some up. And probably eat some too.

I've been scouring the internet for ideas for things to keep the girls busy if school and activities are cancelled for the rest of the week. I found this idea for cornflake wreaths in a magazine at the doctor's office the other day. I think I'll do half wreaths and half Star of Davids. mmmm...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cake Balls!

We're heading to a few holiday parties this weekend, so we made some cake balls to take with us (along with all of those leftover cookies!).

I got the idea from Bakerella and it's so stinking easy that even my three year old could do it!

Cake Balls:

Bake a cake (any flavor) in a 9 x 13 inch pan, let cool completely. Dump cake into large bowl with 16 oz. of frosting (any flavor). Mix until completly blended. Form into balls, place on cookie sheets, freeze to set.

Dip balls in chocolate bark or candy melts, let set completely. YUM.

Flavor ideas:
Devil's Food cake and cream cheese frosting
Red Velvet cake and cream cheese frosting
Chocolate cake and chocolate frosting
Spice cake and cream cheese or white frosting
Lemon cake and lemon or cream cheese frosting

This time I did Devil's Food Cake and cream cheese frosting (and I cheated - I used a mix and canned frosting! Don't tell...). Joel and Ava baked the cake and made them into balls while I was icing my ankle. I coated them in candy melts and sprinkled them with crushed candy canes this afternoon. YUM!

They were so easy, and I will definitely be making more in teh next few weeks for other parties!

Yeah, I'm a klutz...

You know, for someone who spend 20 years of their life in at least one type of dance class, I've become a complete klutz. I blame the fact that bearing children has moved my center of gravity. Yeah, that's it. I've now sprained my ankle twice in the last year. This time it happened on Wednesday afternoon, and sadly I can't blame wine. So I blame childbearing! Or old age. Either way, I slipped on a step in front of the garage door. Luckily I wasn't holding one (or both!) of the girls. Either way, it definitely put a damper on the plans I had for Thursday and Friday.

The great thing about Ava is that she can actually be extremely focused for a 3 year long as it is on something that she is passionate about. And lucky for me, the two things in life that she likes to do most are art and cooking/baking. So, Thursday after school we did a whole bunch of art projects and Friday, we invited her friends over for a cookie decorating party. This party was supposed to happen on Wednesday, but a few of the babies in the group were sick, and then the whole ankle thing happened. So, Friday afternoon we had our hospital playgroup over and the big kids decorated the cookies that Ava and I spent 3 hours (!!!) mixing, rolling, cutting out, and baking. I was impressed at how far their creativity has come since last year. They actually attempted to decorate, rather that just pile the frosting and sprinkles on. Ava concentrated the longest...her freinds were happy to decorate one cookie each and then left the table to play. She wanted to stay there for over an hour and just decorate. And then when everyone left, she decorated for another hour. I really am starting to believe her when she tells people that she wants to "make da cakes for da bry-eeds" whenever they ask her what she wants to do when she grows up.

Emily loves art, especially finger painting! We added some glitter to this masterpiece when it was finished and she gave the best ever happy toddler squeal:

Here's Ava working on a Star of David made of popsicle sticks, paint, glitter, and sparkles:

The big kids decorating (and doing a great job of being tidy, I might add!):

Ava wanted all of the pink sprinkles and icing to herself...shocker!:
The toddlers really didn't care about cookie decorating. They were just happy to climb all over the table and fireplace:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cookies, lights, trees, action!

A few pictures from tree hunting and cookie baking:

Ava and Emily's cookies came out a bit messy, but it's nothing frosting won't cover up. We're hosting a cookie decorating party tomorrow afternoon for our playgroup. These are moms and kids that Ava and I met through the new moms group at St Vincent's when she was just 2 weeks old. We've been meeting weekly for the last 3 and a half years! Crazy!

Ava had so much fun rolling out the dough and cutting out shapes. We made some letters to string up for a banner as well. Of course that led to her only wanting to use the A and V cutters...

Here are the girls are the lot where we got our tree:

Ava hiding in the branches:

Our tree, only missing the ornaments at the bottom:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday list - fun crafts and handmade gifts

I am in love with these thrifted trees. I've got a few sweaters and are in need of being recycled and a Goodwill right around the corner. Time to get cutting!

These barrettes would be cute stocking stuffers for the girls, and would be cute gifts for thier friends, too!

We have so many parties and get togethers to go to this month, and I love this list of goodies that are perfect to take with.

Do you love Etsy like I do? If so, check out their holiday gift guide! So many cute gift ideas!

Two words: Cake balls. Mmmmmmm...I'm planning on making a several varieties for a party next weekend.

Making soap in my crockpot sounds like a fun prject for Ava and I to do while Em is napping.

What a cute idea this is! I love the idea of using your holiday card photo for something like this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Amish Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I was reminded today to post this recipe...holy moly, these were SO good. Thanks to RecipeGirl for yet another yummy recipe! We made these the night before Thanksgiving and baked them first thing in the morning. The sugar buzz was what got me through the day!

Amish Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
from The Recipe Girl

1/3 cup milk
2 Tbs butter
½ cup canned pumpkin or mashed cooked pumpkin
2 Tbs granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
** I used 2 cups of whole wheat bread flour

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs melted butter

¼ cup (4 Tbsp.) butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbs milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt
½ to ¾ cup sifted powdered sugar

1. Prepare rolls: In a small saucepan, heat milk and 2 Tbsp. butter just until warm (120 - 130°) and butter is almost melted, stirring constantly.
2. In large mixer bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar and salt. Add milk mixture and beat with an electric mixer until well mixed. Beat in egg and yeast. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flours. Add half of flour mixture to pumpkin mixture. Beat mixture on low speed for 5 minutes, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Add remaining flour and mix thoroughly (dough will be very soft). Turn into lightly greased bowl, then grease surface of dough lightly. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down. Turn onto floured surface. Knead a few turns to form a smooth dough, sprinkling with enough additional flour to make dough easy to handle. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into 12x10-inch rectangle.
4. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush surface of dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Beginning with long side of dough, roll up jelly-roll style. Pinch seam to seal. With a sharp serrated knife, gently cut roll into twelve 1-inch slices. Place rolls cut-side-up in greased 9-inch-square baking pan.
5. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake rolls about 20 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pan to waxed paper-lined wire rack. Cool 10 to 15 minutes.
7. While rolls are cooling, prepare icing: In small saucepan, heat butter until melted. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Cool over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and cool mixture slightly. Stir in vanilla, salt and powdered sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. If necessary, add more powdered sugar for desired consistency.
8. Drizzle icing over warm rolls.

Yield: 12 rolls

lip gloss, purses, and shoes...yep, we're girlie!

Ava and I had a fun morning out today. I dropped Emily off with a girlfriend who promised not to tell me how long she cried for me, and took Ava for some special alone time.

My original plan was to take Ava to tea at a hotel downtown, but last night she told me that she wanted to buy her sister a present for the holidays, so I decided that we should try that instead. We went to a few stores, and while Ava had more fun playing with the display toys and picking things to go on her own wish list, she ended up buying a cute doll for Emily. The doll is toddler-friendly and has easy on and off clothing. Perfect for practicing zippers, buttons, and lacing. It's pretty cute and actually looks a lot like Emily!

After that, we went for some hot chocolate at the mall Starbucks, and then we went to Sephora to try on lip gloss. Ava lasted 30 minutes in there until we ran into a make up artist who actually wanted to put a full face of make up on my three year old (!!!!!), so we ened up going to Nordstrom to buy new shoes (as Ava's feet have grown a size and a half in the last few months). Of course, like her mama, Ava had the most fun in the purse department and is now in love with the same Marc Jacobs bag that I am. Here's hoping that she really does grow up to be a surgeon!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homemade Hot Chocolate + Homemade Marshmallows = Bliss

Today Ava and I made some fresh marshmallows (which, BTW is not as impressive as it sounds...they are rediculously easy. I swear.). They are supposed to set up overnight, but by dinner they were firm enough for me to cut a few out. I made some yummy hot chocolate and put a few marshmallows in Ava's mug and we crossed one fun family activity off of our list.

Sipping on a mug of warm chocolate milk with melting pillows of marshmallow goodness floating in it is quite possibly the best way to end your day. Especially if your day was like mine and included a 3 year old doing her best to get under my skin and a 16 month old who seems to be starting on her terrible 2s a bit early. Ah well. At least I have a pan full of marshmallows and more Jacques Torres chocolate!

Hot Chocolate for 4:

2 cups milk (I used two percent)
2 cups cream or half and half (I used cream...what the hell, right?)
4 ounces of the best semi-sweet chocolate you can find (I was able to find Jacques Torres's at Whole Foods), finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat milk and cream in a saucepan until warm (do NOT boil...bleh!). Remove from heat, stir in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Inhale.
Adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe I got out of a cookbook several years ago
3 packets unflavored gelatin
2 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups confectioner's sugar
Dissolve gelatin and water in a small sauce pan. Allow to bloom, about 10 minutes. When soft, heat with sugar. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room tempurature. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, gently whip in confectioners sugar. Slowly add gelatin mixture. Beat until doubled in size and the mixture forms soft peaks.
Line a half sheet pan with foil, spray with cooking spray and dust generously with confectioner's sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth. Dust with more confectioner's sugar. Allow to set up at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Cut into shapes, toss with confectioner's sugar. Never buy those sorry excuses for marshmallows at the store again!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

December Countdown

Last year we started what I think will become a fun tradition in our house. We wrote down 31 fun, low cost things to do as a family on little scraps of wrapping paper and put them into a jar. Every morning, we picked something from the jar and our mission was to do that thing by the end of the day. We had so much fun! We played games, had family movie night, checked out the lights in our neighborhood, and saw lots of Christmas trees.

This year, we decided to put those scraps of paper into our advent calendar, and since Chanukah starts 3 days before Christmas, we will have a few Chanukah focused projects for a few days.

Here's our list for 2008 in no particular order:

1. Make cookies and deliver them to the local fire station.
2. See Santa at the mall.
3. Make popcorn and watch a holiday movie together.
4. See the lights on Peacock Lane.
5. Make real hot chocolate, complete with homemade marshmallows.
6. Write letters to Santa.
7. Print out Holiday coloring pages and color them together.
8. Buy and decorate the Christmas tree
9. Read the true story of Christmas.
10. Make gifts for the grandparents.
11.Open one present early.
12. See the Tigard Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
13. Play a game of dreidel.
14. Have a homemade pizza night.
15. Make an ornament for our tree.
16. Bake cookies for our family.
17. Go to the library to check out books about Chanukah and Christmas.
18. Go downtown to see the tree and lights in Pioneer Square.
19. Make a present or stocking stuffer for Daddy.
20. Read a Chanukah book.
21. Light a fire and roast some marshmallows.
22. Take a walk around the neighborhood to see the lights.
23. Read the Night Before Christmas.
24. Make holiday decorations for the house.
25. Fill up a box of toys to give to charity, and take the girls with us when we donate.

What special traditions have you started with your family?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

It's been a while since my last update, mainly because I took care of three sick babies for 4 days and then (naturally), once they were all better, I came down with the ickies. Sadly, mama's cushie job doesn't come with the best PTO benefits. Oh well. Even though I had no voice, I knew I had to persevere for the sake of Mr Turkey and his friends, Dressing, Potatoes, and Cranberry Sauce.

We hosted dinner for Nana, Uncle Josh, and Roberta this year, which was small but a nice mix. I brined the turkey in kosher salt, brown sugar, oranges, lemons, and lots of fresh herbs and then slow roasted it for a few hours until the skin was nice and crispy brown. YUM. I also made roasted garlic mashed potatoes, dressing with apples and sausage, oatmeal rolls, and pumpkin gooey butter cake. Our guests brought the vegetation, save for the salad of arugula, fennel, prosciutto, and pomegranate seeds that I was inspired to make. Also YUM.

Ava and I watched Martha on Monday (hey, I was completely out of commission and a day on the couch in front of the tube was all I could handle), and we were inspired to make some cute turkey place cards out of cardstock and apples. I thought they looked cute on the table, and can't wait to turn their little bodies into a cranberry apple pie, although Ava is suddenly for turkey (well, apparently, apple) rights and can't stand the thought of me chopping her beloved apple turkey up.

I hope that you were all able to enjoy too much food with friends you love. And I hope that you have as much to be thankful for as I do.

And now for the recipes:
Oat Pan Rolls
via somewhere on the web...

1/3c warm water
1 pkg(1/4oz) or scant Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp white sugar
2c water
1c quick-cooking oats
2 Tbsp butter
1/3c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 3/4-5 1/4c flour

Dissolve yeast and white sugar in warm water. Allow yeast to activate (bubble). In a small saucepan, bring 2c water to a boil. Add oats and butter, and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat and continue to stir till butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Add oat mixture to a large bowl, and add yeast mixture, brown sugar, salt, and 4 cups of flour. Stir till smooth. Add enough remaining flour to create a soft dough. Turn out onto a well-floured surfae and knead till smooth and elastic (about 4-6 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel or with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Allow to rise till doubled, about 45minutes-1hr. Punch dough down. Allow to rest 10 minutes or so. Shape into 18 balls.

Place in 2 greased 9" baking pans (I used pie plates). Cover and let rise till doubled, about 30-40 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or till tops are golden brown. Brush tops with butter.
Makes 1 1/2 dozen rolls.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Paula Deen


1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

For a Pineapple Gooey Cake: Instead of the pumpkin, add a drained 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple to the cream cheese filling. Proceed as directed above.

For a Banana Gooey Cake: Prepare cream cheese filling as directed, beating in 2 ripe bananas instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.

For a Peanut Butter Gooey Cake: Use a chocolate cake mix. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese filling instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
2 heads garlic
olive oil
5 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 sticks butter
cream cheese
Lawry's seasoned salt
Preheat oven to 425. Cut tops off of garlic heads. Brush cut edges with olive oil, put back together, wrap loosely in foil. Place directly on oven rack, roast for 1 hour. Remove, allow to cool.
Meanwhule, peel and chop potatoes. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water. Bring to boil over high heat, boil until potatoes are fork tender. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Squeeze garlic cloved into pot with potatoes. Add 1 1/2 sticks butter and 1 block of cream cheese, mash well. Add cream as necessary to obtain desired texture. Season to taste with seasoned salt. Pour into casserole dish. Top with pats of butter. Bake until butter has melted and top is lightly browned.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The napping house

Last night, Ava had a really rough time sleeping. She ended up in our bed around 2 am, but tossed and turned (leaving me to toss and turn) until 5, when we kicked her out and into her own bed. She was up at 6:30, and luckily took a two hour nap this morning. I got to take advantage of her nap (and Emily's nap) and got my weekly deep cleaning and baking done (hey - it's Monday!). I remember my mother complaining about the laundry piles while I was growing up, but I've got a new complaint - the dishwasher. It was run 3 (!!!) times yesterday, and twice already today. Of course, I do a lot of baking and cooking, so the dishes add up. But I'm currently researching the cost of one of those industrial dishwashers for our next house...a girl can dream! Don't get me wrong, the laundry pile is insane (I like to call is MT. Washmore), but it's got nothing on the dishes.

I've tried a few new recipes lately and thought I'd share the ones we liked best:

Honey Of An Oatmeal Bread

Follow the amounts in the parentheses to make a larger loaf.

1 cup water (1 1/3 cups)
1 T vegetable oil (1 1/2 T)
1/4 cup honey (1/3 cup)
1 tsp salt (1 tsp)
1/2 cup rolled oats (3/4 cup)
2 1/3 cups bread flour (3 1/3 cups)(sub up to 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup oat bran (optional)
1 tsp active dry yeast (1 1/2 tsp)

Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select Light Crust or Basic setting, and press Start.

This is a moist, yummy bread with a nice firm crust - perfect for sandwiches or toast.

Lower Fat Banana Bread
from Allrecipes

2/3 c white sugar
1/4 c margarine, softened (butter)
2 eggs
1 c mashed bananas
1/4 c water
1 2/3 c all-purpose flour (1 c whole wheat & 2/3 c all-purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray one 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, beat the white sugar and margarine or butter until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs, water and bananas with the sugar mixture until it is well blended. Combine the dry ingredients, add, and mix just until the mixture is moistened. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to blend all ingredients. Bake for about 60 minutes. Bread is done when the top is firm to the touch and a golden brown color. Time will vary according to loaf size and oven type. When bread is removed from oven, allow it to cool on its side for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack. This bread is also excellent if you add mini chocolate chips or small fruit pieces to the mix just before baking.

Ayelet's notes: I use applesauce instead of the butter and half of the sugar. Very yummy with chocolate chips stirred in just before putting into the pan.

Iced Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies
Martha Stewart

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup chunky-style applesauce
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup


Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce, mix until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix in raisins.
Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack set over parchment paper; let cool completely.

Make icing: Whisk confectioners' sugar, syrup, and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. Drizzle over cookies, let set.

Ayelet's Notes: I used half the sugar called for in the cookies and thought they were pretty sweet. I also only made a half recipe of icing and had a lot leftover. These were soft, moist, and yummy!

On another note, it seems like people really like the list I posted last week...I will try to make it a weekly thing! I'm glad to have introduced some of you to Jamie, Deb, and the Manic Mommies. They make my life a happier place!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things I am currently crushing on...

Besides my hunky husband...

These cakes. Can a girl get some fondant and shimmer powder, stat?

This salad. If you're invited to Thanksgiving, be prepared to eat it...or battle the daddy and I over it...

These ladies. Are they spying on me or something? Manic Mommies and Jamie Oliver - the only podcasts I have love for.

I've always said that the only thing to break up my marriage will be video games. Maybe Joel can get me this and a DS for Hannumas this year? Wait, maybe Jamie will break up my marriage...hmmm...

Four words: Salted. Caramel. Hot. Chocolate. Sorry pumpkin spice latte, but I've been a bad, bad girl. Deb's pictures of Paris aren't too shabby, either.

I love Etsy. It makes me wish I had more time to be crafty - maybe I could make some money! I want this bowl. A lot.

We certainly have enough leaves to make one of these cute monogramed wreaths! I think that would be such a fun naptime project for Ava and I!

And E.P.S Fairytale...

Once upon a time, there was a momma, and this momma had WAY too many dishes to do! She ran that dishwasher twice a day, rain or shine. She had dishpan hands and bad cuticles. But one day the green fairy came to visit and she waved her magic blue spoonula.

*POOF* all of the dishes hopped into the dishwasher by themselves. The dishwasher turned on all by itself too! Amazing! The little green fairy pointed her spoonula at the momma and *POOF* her cuticles were nice and silky like they were when her tummy didn't have a massive expanse of stretch marks. Alas, the green fairy was distracted by a train, or the momma would have a new tummy.

The daddy came home and found the momma with her feet up on the coffee table, wine glass in hand, and said "Honey, since you have some free time, do you think you could iron my pants?"

The momma leads a rough life. Maybe the blue fairy will stop by later and make the piles of pants disappear!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Please VOTE!

Ava's preschool had an election this morning. The final tally: Obama 21 McCain: 18.

Of course, I like to look at how the sports world will predict things...last night the Washington Redskins hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers for Monday Night Football. In all 17 times that the Redskins have played before a presidential election, if they won, the incumbent party won the election, and it they lost, the challenging party won. Well, the Steelers put a huge beating on the 'Skins last night...23-6. Yep, I'm going to challenge Kenny Mayne for his out buddy!

Here's hoping that the football gods and PS at St Anthony School are both psychic.

If you haven't already done so, get out there and VOTE!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Finally, a why.

After 2 months, the medical powers that be have finally been able to tell me what the cause of my miscarriages have been - I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS. Basically, this is an endocrine disorder that in my case, is presented by a string of pearl-like cysts on my left ovary. These cysts have caused my body chemistry to be completely out of whack, and therefore, not up to the task of carrying a baby. I do have weird case of PCOS, as I have none of the typical symptoms (obesity, severe acne, excess body hair), and I am able to get pregnant a little too easily (for which of course, Joel likes to take sole credit). My doctor told me that my PCOS can be controlled with medication that has very mild side effects, so that's the good news. The bad is that I now have an increased risk of certain types of cancer and other health issues down the road, although many of these risks can be minimized with a healthy diet and exercise, which are already a part of my daily life.

5-10% of women in their child-bearing years have PCOS, and it is not always easily diagnosed. My OB admitted that this was the last thing on her list when she was considering the cause of our losses. It just goes to show that things do happen for a reason, and thankfully, if I ever want another baby, we have some options.

And speaking of babies, Jack Rigsbee Barsotti was born yesterday just before noon and is the spitting image of his daddy. Welcome to parenthood, Nick and Sarah! May it be a lovely ride.

E. P. S. gets political

***contains adult language, so don't watch around young children***

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bad drivers suck

So the girls and I were on a late-afternoon Target run (my sister-in-law is being induced this evening and I wanted to grab her and her husband some reading material for their last few hours of freedom), and we were stopped at the light just before the Target when BAM! We were rear ended so hard that we were knocked into the Jeep in front of us. The guy who hit us said that he couldn't see me due to the glare. We'd been at a full stop long enough for Ava to ask why we were stopped several times and for me to keep explaining that when the light is red, it's not our turn to drive.

We're all fine, aside from some bruises (and the driver of the car in front of me had a nasty cut on his forhead). The driver who hit us was driving with a suspended license was driving someone else's car. He was completely unapologetic, leaving the deputy in charge to whisper to me that if I happened to kick him in the shins, the deputy never saw a thing.

I never knew how much I loved my mini van until I saw it all broken. Moment of silence for my wounded soldier. And speedy labor vibes to my sister-in-law!

Going Batty

Sometimes, I have the tendancy to be read to go too early. We had our monthly MOMS Club meeting this morning, and the girls and I were all ready to go, but had about 30 minutes to spare. To kill a little time, we made some bats:

I got the idea at one of my favorite websites, No Time for Flashcards. Allie has the best ideas (and of course, I like the way she spells her name!). Emily had fun using the crayons, and Ava had fun with all of the glueing (the google eyes in particular).

The week in review

Blogger has been rather flaky this week when I've tried to update, so here I am once again hoping that my post doesn't get eaten!

Last week was a rush of baking, playgroups, and hunting down the last bits and baubles for Halloween costumes (the girls are going to be ballerinas - pictures to come!). Emily had her 15 month check up (the results - she's perfect, just as we have always known), the girls got their flu shots, we went to our friends' annual Halloween bash, and we did some reorganizing of the toys, since they had once again taken over the entire house.

Vampire Joel and our little ballerinas at a Halloween party:

When ballerinas go wild:

Ava, Emily, and some of their second cousins (Joel's family is rediculously HUGE!):

*Stepping onto the soapbox* Tomorrow night I am off to volunteer my time for the Obama campaign so I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you all to VOTE, no matter who you vote for. This is SUCH an important election year and we are so very lucky to live in a country where we have the power to affect change in our government. *Steps off of the soapbox*
Finally, not only are we addicted to coffee in this house, but we're also addicted to pancakes! Here are two recipes that we've fallen in love with, along with a recipe for Apple Cider Syrup, which is so yummy with both kinds of pancakes, and would also be good over vanilla ice cream or even over apple pie.
Light and Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes

1 ¼ c all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 pinch cloves
1 c 1% low-fat milk (can be any kind)
6 T canned pumpkin puree
2 T melted butter
1 egg

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, melted butter, and egg. Fold mixture into dry ingredients. Spray or grease a skillet and heat over medium heat; pour in ¼ cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side. Serve with butter and syrup. Makes about six 6-inch pancakes.
Notes: I used whole wheat flour in place of the AP and applesauce in place of the butter and sugar and these turned out wonderfully. You could also use 1 T pumpkin pie spice instead of all of the individual spices.

Applesauce Pancakes
2 eggs
2 cups flour, sifted
1 cup milk (1/3 cup powdered, 7/8 cup water)
1 cup natural applesauce
1 tsp salt
2 T baking powder
4 T melted butter
Combine all the ingredients, mixing until smooth. Cook on a hot griddle or skillet. Serve with Apple Cider Syrup (see recipe). Makes about 16 pancakes. Serves 4.
Notes: Once again, I used whole wheat flour and they were very yummy!
Apple Cider Syrup
2 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
2 T fresh lemon juice
4 T butter (can omit)
Combine all ingredients, except butter, in a saucepan over medium heat until mixture thickens. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Serve hot over pancakes.
Notes: We got our cider from a farm and it was plenty sweet, so I left the sugar out completely. I also omitted the lemon juice, but I definitely think it would be worth adding if you have a lemon on hand.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A tale of two pumpkins

This morning we went to Fir Point Farms with the girls and our friends Matt and Barbara and their kids. The farm is located in Canby and has a great assortment of activities for kids of all ages, as well as a huge assortment of pumpkins (at great prices, too!). For $10, you get 25 tickets to "pay" for the various activities - a hay maze, a bounce house, a play structure, hay rides, and a petting zoo, to name a few. The kids ran around for a few hours and the adults followed, cameras in hand. We brought home 4 pumpkins, including an 18 pound Cinderella pumpkin that I'm going to bake and puree tomorrow, since I seem to be even more of a pumpkin spice latte addict these days than before (perhaps it's the fact that my kids seem to think that 5 am is a perfectly acceptable time of day to wake up?). I'm guessing that an 18 pound pumpkin will keep me in lattes, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie (who's excited for Thanksgiving?!?!) for quite a while.

Here are a few shots from our morning out:

And yes, I made those shirts. You can too - just click here. And if you're cool like me, you have a friend like I do who decided that our playgroup should do this at her house while the kids were distracted by a tea party with her fancy china. Brigitte, you're a much braver momma than I am! Martha would be so proud.
Finally, and now that I am once again jonesing for a pumpkin spice latte, here's a new idea for all of you converts to try: Pumpkin Pie Spice Simple Syrup. No actual pumpkin (and therefore no nutritional value), but the flavor is so close to Starbucks, that if you wiggle your toes while drinking, you are completely fooled. Say it with me people: YUM. Denise and John, I apologize for the addiction that is now afflicting your house. We should all consider a 12 step.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Ava spent her afternoon

This morning we met my cousin-in-law Lisa and her two little girls at the zoo. After running around for a few hours (where, even with the cool weather, the animals were nowhere to be seen!), we left the zoo and had lunch. On the drive home, Ava told me she wanted to do her quiet time in her room, which struck me as odd, since she hates to do quiet time these days. It got pretty quiet in there so I went in to investigate.

Her room appeared to be empty until I checked under Emily's crib:

That would be the pink balloon she got at the restaurant where we ate lunch. Apparently, she's in love.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Keepin' it real...

Emily decided to try on some sunglasses:

Of course, Ava could not be outdone by her younger sister:

Mommy should have known what would happen next when this look came across Ava's face:

Tackling your sister...

Is never a good idea.

Lest you all think it's homemade-organic-free range-hands on-age appropriate-learning here 24/7...

You've been BOO'd!

Yesterday was one of those trying days...Emily is sick and her incisors are still not through (!!!!!). Ava woke up too early and refused to nap, so she was pretty much out of commission around 3. I watched my friend's son so she could attend to a family emergency and while his father assured me that he was completely potty trained, he pooped. In the pull-up that he was wearing. And his father didn't bring any extra, or any extra clothes. Thankfully, my sweet friend Barbara brought me one of her daughter's pull-ups (we've been diaper free in this house for over a year, thank you very much). And, when I opened the door to thank her, there was a mystery package on my door step, a nicely decorated bag filled with stickers for play dough for my kids and candy corn and caramel filled kisses for me (YUM!). There was also the following note:

The air is cool, the season is fall.
Soon Halloween will come to all.
The ghosts ar after things to do.
In fact, a ghost brough this to you!

"BOO" shields you from the witching hour.
Just hang it up and watch its power.
On your front door is where it works.
It wards off spirits and evil jerks.

A treat came with this crypted note.
They're yours to keep, enjoy them both.
The power comes when friends like you
Will copy this and make it two.

Then others here among our friends
Will give warm fuzzies that will not end.
We'll all have smiles upon our face.
No one will know who "BOO"ed whose place.

Just two short days to work your spell
Or a big ZAP will strike your tail,
And don't forget a nifty treat
Like something cute or something sweet.

Please join the fun, let's really hear it
And spread some "BOO"s and Halloween spirit.



Since I'm the president of our chapter, you'd think I would have been able to figure out who BOO'd me, or how the BOOing got started! Oh well, it was such a welcome treat for the kids and I during a long day.

Today after school, Ava and I made some candy corn cookies and filled some cute Halloween containers with them (and the copies of the BOO note) and delivered them a few members of our MOMS Club. What a fun little tradition! I think that this is a cute idea to do in your neighborhood or with a playgroup or other organization, and really could be adapted for and holiday.

Our candy corn cookies:

Our BOO bags:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Apple Fest!

This afternoon, we took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and took the girls to Oregon Heritage Farms for their anual Apple Fest. We've done this a few times, and it's always fun. There are pumpkins, hay rides, mazes, and of course, lots of apples. If you haven't been out to this great farm, be sure to try to stop by - their Honey Crisps are the best I've ever tasted!