Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Recap

Boy this year sure went fast. I can't believe it's already the last day of the year. It was a pretty good year. E and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a trip to San Diego. C turned four and J turned two. I also took on some me responsibilities at work; I feel like I'm challenging myself more since I haven't done anything like this before.

Also for this year I made a list of things wanted to accomplish instead of one or two big resolutions. I did okay checking things off the list (15/29). One thing I wanted to do was come up with new dinner ideas so I challenged myself to cook a new dinner each month. I only managed to hit 6 of the 12 months and only managed to find one or two things to make. Another goal involved some baking, which didn't happen either.

I also wanted to expand my knitting skills so the plan was to learn to knit in the round and learn to cable knit. I didn't get a chance to practice cable knitting but someone showed me how to do it, so hopefully that skill will come in the new year. I did check one new skill off when I learned to knit in the round and boy did that open up a whole new world of knitting. I was able to make some pretty cute toys for my nieces and nephew for Christmas. Other skills I learned were picking up stitches, kitchner, three needle bind off, the knitted cast on and the kfb stitch. I also participated in my first knit along.

I definitely plan setting my goals like this in the future. It gave me small, manageable things to do, rather than all or nothing. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas recipes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I made a few desserts and a batch of salsa for Christmas. I wasn't the happiest with how the salsa turned out but it wasn't too bad for my first attempt.

2 cans of tomatoes (I like my salsa really smooth so I used one can crushed and one finely diced.
1 onion, chopped
1-2 jalapeños, diced
1 tbsp chopped garlic
Cilantro (I used a handful or so)
Dash of salt

I would also recommend adding some green chiles and lime juice; I think at was the missing component.

I mixed it up in a bowl and the used my immersion blender to really blend it together.

The next item I made was peppermint bark. Usually I just do candy quick with  the peppermints but this year I added semi sweet chocolate too.

6 pieces of almond bark (aka white chocolate aka candy quick)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 small bag of starlight mints (candy canes work too)

Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper. Crush mints until they are a fine powder and set aside. Melt the chocolate chips over low heat. When fully melted spread into pan. Melt the almond bark and add in most of the mints and stir. Pour over the chocolate in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining mints on top. Refrigerate until set. Break into pieces.
Peppermint bark
Last but certainly not least were my peanut butter balls (aka buckeyes)

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2-2 cups peanut butter
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

On low-medium heat melt the butter and peanut butter until liquid and well blended. Add in vanilla and stir. Remove from heat and incorporate powdered sugar. Once blended form into little balls (1") and drop the balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Allow them to set in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. Melt the chocolate over low heat. Using a toothpick dip the balls in the melted chocolate. Return them to the fridge when dipped to set up.

I make these every year so in my haste I forgot to get a picture. But trust me these are good! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


We celebrated Christmas over the last few days with E's family and my family. We started off by going to the Christmas Eve service at my church. Afterwards we drove through our neighborhood, looking at all of the luminarias lining the streets. Then it was on to my parent's house for some fun. I brought over my treats to share as well as my salsa for the first annual salsa contest (I'll post the recipes in a separate post). 


We also exchanged gifts - I think the boys liked what they got.

On Christmas morning, Santa visited our house. Yesterday C was able to put his art supplies from Santa to good use decorating a rocket ship he got from his Aunt and Uncle.

Next we went over to my inlaws' house; they have a wonderful tradition of having a big breakfast together on Christmas morning - bacon, sausage, potatoes, rolls, etc.

We also had to go back over to my parents after that - my cousin, who I haven't seen in a few years, was back in town with his family. 

What a busy couple of days! My boys did pretty well for being on the go constantly and not getting as much sleep as they should have. The knitted gifts went over well. One niece squished and cuddled the ladybug and slept with the blanket that night. The other screamed in excitement when she saw the bear! Yay!

Hopefully things won't be as crazy this week but I'm not holding out hope on that. We have New Years parties as well as a couple of birthdays (including someone turning 2!) Here we go again!

Friday, December 23, 2011

December happenings

My poor neglected blog! I have been insanely busy this month. I took on some new responsibilities at work recently and have been working a lot to keep up. This meant spending the little free time getting stuff ready for Christmas and hanging with the boys. Here's a quick snapshot of what we've been doing this month.

We went to look at lights downtown:
And the boys got to have a treat too!

We also checked out the lights in our neighborhood. I love my neighborhood - most of the houses put at least a few decorations up. So we bundled the boys up and took them around. (Sorry for the blurry picture. It's the only one I was able to get.)
We even got some rain, a very refreshing change when you live in a desert (I think I've mentioned my love of rain on here a few times.)

The boys also got to decorate (and eat) cookies over at their grandma's house with their cousins!

So far it's been a fun month! Can't wait to write about the rest of our fun!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Knitted Ornaments

The ornaments that I mentioned earlier are coming along nicely so far. I've managed to finish five of them over the last couple of days. 
The wreaths are simply an I cord with four stitches cast on and knitted for about 7-8 inches and sewn together at the ends. I did another I cord in red for 7 inches then made into a bow and sewn onto the wreath.

The bells were pretty easy as well. The pattern can be found on Ravelry.

And my favorite so far is the Santa hat. It's a Susan B. Anderson pattern - I absolutely love her patterns!

My plan is to get about 10 more made and attach them as part of the wrapping on my Christmas presents. Luckily they are coming along quickly!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Yep I'm Crazy

So even though Christmas is only 2 and a half weeks away, and even though we are down a person at work so I've been working crazy hours, and even though I have two baby blankets that need to be done by the first week in January, I decided to add to my Christmas knitting. I decided to make some Christmas ornaments. I at least want to make a few for people getting gift cards. Thy knit pretty quick at least. I finished a bell in one evening and a wreath while I was talking on the phone. Optimally I'd like to use them as decoration for the presents. We'll see! I'll post pics once I get a few more done (and get the pics actually taken).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Peanut Butter "Cheese" Ball

As part of the cookie exchange I went to today, I had to bring something to share for our potluck lunch. I decided to go with something I found on Pinterest(Have I mentioned lately how much I love that site?!). It linked me to this fabulous peanut butter ball from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

This recipe is really easy. All you need are:
1 package of cream cheese (8 oz package)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp of brown sugar
1 package chocolate chips

Combine everything except the chocolate chips in a bowl until well blended

Place the mixture on some Saran wrap and draw up the sides, forming it into a bowl. Secure the wrap and place in the freezer for a few hours, until it sets up. Next roll the mixture in the chocolate chips and freeze until 2-3 hours before you need to serve it. It needs at least a few hours to set up but I left mine in there for a few days and it still tasted great. I served mine with graham crackers.

Cookie Exchange

Why are there a bunch of snowmen on my counter? Well I am going to a cookie exchange tomorrow. There are a few cookies in each of those bags.

Sometimes prepping for the cookie exchange can be hard work. It's on a Saturday so I don't really have much time to prep (week nights are hard to get anything done). On the other hand if I bake the cookies too early they go stale. This year I decided to try something new. I made three batches of my chocolate cookie recipe. I froze on batch before cooking and the other two after. I think freezing the cookie turned out better than the dough. A few of the crumbled but overall they look fine. The dough however never froze solid so it was hard to condense it own. If I can't save the space the I'd rather bake then freeze.

I'm really looking forward tomorrow. Can't wait to see what everyone has made.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaBloPoMo recap

Earlier this month I mentioned joining NaBloPoMo, where the goal is to blog everyday. I didn't quite make it but I definitely increased my blogging frequency. I posted a total of 22 times this month. That's much higher than any other month (July was my highest before, with 15 posts).

Here's the funny thing - I'm not sure I'll try it again. I felt like there were some days that I posted just to post, not because I really had anything to say. It did allow me to find new topic ideas that I might have passed on before though. So I definitely gained from this experience.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not done yet

So after staring at my "completed" lady bug for the last six weeks I decided to add a face and antennae after all. I am so glad I did! The ladybug looks much better. The antennae are based on the giraffe pattern from Itty Bitty Toys - the same source I used for the spots previously. (at some point I should just make the giraffe since I've tried so many components of it already). The eyes are felt. E gave me a fabulous suggestion of using quarters to trace around on the white felt and dimes for the black felt components.

Can't wait to give this to my niece!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm Blessed

It's time for the weekly blessing party! This week I have been blessed with time with my family. As I mentioned in a previous post, E and I spent time with both of our families on Thursday. It was so wonderful to be together! I think sometimes I take for granted that both of our families live up the road from us. So many people have to travel to see their families or are not able to visit, but for us it's so easy.

I've also been blessed with great in-laws. C was planning on spending the night at his cousin's house on Thanksgiving. When he changed his mind, my SIL offered to drive him home plus invited me to come Black Friday shopping with her and my MIL while E stayed with the boys. Unfortunately I couldn't but I was touched to be included.

Check out the Blessing party at He Sows and She Sews!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Planning for Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I feel like things are just rolling right into the Christmas season. I am going to a cookie exchange next Saturday so I started working my cookies today. I'm making chocolate cookies for the base and varying it up a little by adding butterscotch chips to one batch, peanut butter chips to another and white chocolate chips to the third. I baked them today to freeze for next weekend. I also have to bring a dish for lunch so I'm making a peanut butter cheese ball with graham crackers (I'll post about it when I complete it.) 

The other big project was to decorate for Christmas. We got the tree put together today with the boys' "help". I love how it looks - so festive!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family this week. We were able to spend time with my family and E's family. I absolutely love Thanksgiving - it may be my favorite holiday! When I was a teenager I used to go over to my grandma's early, before the rest of the family, and help her cook. It was sort of a joke with my family because I had a reputation for being able to burn water but under her supervision everything turned out wonderful.

Eventually I was put in charge of the mashed potatoes. We used to do boxed but about 10 or 12 years ago grandma and I switched to real potatoes. Now we do Thanksgiving at my mom's but I still bring the potatoes. 
My potatoes are super simple to make:
~8 lbs of potatoes (I had two 5 lb bags but didn't use all of the second bag)
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 cup of butter
Pinch of salt

Boil the potatoes until they are very well cooked. Drain and dump in a bowl. Add the milk, butter and salt. Blend with a mixer until mixed and the lumps are gone. More milk can be added for a thinner potato.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monster Mash

I finished the monster that I'm making my nephew for Christmas. 

My BIL is a huge Chivas (soccer) fan so I thought it would be fun to make him in the team's colors - I really like how the colors complement each other. I had a lot of fun making this little guy! The instructions were really easy to follow and I can't wait to make more (C is already asking for one of his own!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Blessed

I'm counting my blessings again today with Gretchen at He Sows and She Sews. I continue to count C and J as two of the biggest blessings in my life. They melt my heart with the sweet things they say and do (don't get me wrong though - there are many times when they act like typical two and four year olds). Tonight C told me that he will love his brother forever. I loved hearing that; some days the sibling rivalry between them is so intense I wonder if they even like each other, so it's wonderful to hear that they do!

They can also be very amusing. This is how I caught J at one point this evening:

He had plopped himself down in front of his bookshelf to "read"

And this is what C was up to:
He was taking his babies for a ride in the wagon. They are such fun little boys!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Change of Plans

I've been thinking about the baby blanket I'm knitting and I think I'm going to have to change things up a bit. I don't think it is going to match the decor my friend is going with. So instead I'm going to pull another almost finished blanket out of hibernation that will match the decor much better. Is that wrong? It seems like I should give the baby the blanket I've intended originally, yet on the other hand, the hibernating blanket may be the right one. Plus I can use the blue blanket for my sister's baby boy (I haven't even cast on the one I originally intended for him and he's due at the beginning of January.) Hmmmm what to do?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Project updates

I've made some noticeable progress on some of my projects. First up is the monster. The monster is nearly done now - I have knitted up all of the pieces except for the ears. I also did some seaming today to break things up a little.

I actually took this picture before I attached one arm (the other is still unattached).

Project number two is the baby blanket. I've done over 250 rows and now have about 20% to go. My friend had a girl so my plan is to thread some pink ribbon through the border and attach a few knitted flowers.

The last project is the one for me - my vanilla extract. I still need to wait until at least the end of the year to use it but it's getting a little darker. It's sort of an amber color. The process is very low maintenance; over the last week I've shaken it twice and that's it. Can't wait until it's ready!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family Feast

Today C's preschool class had their family feast. They invite the families to come and enjoy chapel and then lunch. It was a lot of fun. They had a chalk artist who drew a beautiful picture while telling a story. We also sang songs led by an another class. Then we were able to grab some turkey dinner. It was so much fun to hang out with C!

Monday, November 14, 2011


9,450 - if my math is correct that's how many stitches are left in the baby blanket. It seems like a lot but it's only 25% of the total in the blanket. It's going much smoother now. Seems like whatever was causing me tension is going a little better. The yarn slides a bit easier over the needles now. I have until early January (I think) so I should make it in time - without flinging it across the room as I threatened previously...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vanilla Extract

I made my vanilla extract today. The recipe is so simple - the only two ingredients are vanilla beans and vodka. (Any alcohol can be used but vodka has the cleanest flavor.) I had a hard time finding my beans so I ended up ordering some on Amazon.

I had five beans for a cup of vodka, which I think is a good amount based on what I've seen listed around the web. I split each bean in half lengthwise and scraped out the seeds.

Here's the all of the beans after they were split and scraped.

I cut the pods into pieces and placed the seeds and pods into the vodka and gave it a shake. It needs to be shaken once a week and should be ready in about 8 weeks, although it can take up to six months to really get the flavor of vanilla extract.

I also set aside one pod to add to a cup of sugar so I could have vanilla sugar as well. Can't wait to try that in my baking too!

(linked up with

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vanilla Beans

I'm so excited - I ordered some vanilla beans to make vanilla extract and they came today! Unfortunately I got home too late to do anything with them tonight but come this weekend I'll get my chance. It's supposed to be really simple. I need to add a few beans to a cup of vodka and let it sit; it needs to be shaken once a week. It's ready after 8 weeks or so. I'll post the results when I'm done!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three needle bind off

I finally finished the body of the monster today! To do so I needed to use a three needle bind off, which I had never done before. I could have kitchnered it but:
A) I thought it would be good to learn another skill
B) it's for the inside of a toy so it doesn't matter how it is done as much.

This is a ridiculously easy process to learn. It's almost the same as a standard bind off with just a little twist - the stitches are pulled off two needles at the same time.

Isn't it cute so far ;) Now all I have to do are the arms, feet and legs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I think I may have to throw the baby blanket i am knitting across the room. I am beginning to understand what other knitters are talking about when they say a yarn squeaks. Somehow I have gotten my knitting so tight that it squeaks and it takes brute force to slide it across the needles. I've got to change something or the last 145 rows (gulp!) are going to be painful!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm Blessed

One of the biggest blessings in my life has been my mom. She has always been there for me when I needed her, both with little things and big things.

Yesterday she helped me out again. At 7:30 pm, the power went out. It was getting close to the kiddos' bedtimes but they were obviously unsettled. So even though we had just had a slumber party over there the night before, I called my mom and she graciously let us come over. I didn't even have to ask - just told her my power had gone out and she invited us over. I love the fact that she lives right down the road! I wish everyone had a mother as great as mine.

And on another note, I'm glad we have power. We only lost it for a few hours. Nothing like people on the east coast who lost it for days, or worse yet, those who don't have the luxury at all.

Check out other stories of God's blessings over at He Sows and She Sews.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Party Time

My mom, sisters and I decided it would be fun to let the cousins have a slumber party sometime. Yesterday we had that chance.

We had lots of fun! First we played with play doh.

Then the kids made quite a mess with some blocks.

Next we baked some chocolate chip cookies and everyone helped.

We played a little bit of "Just Dance"

...and then charades - it was C's first time playing and he did very well.

Finally we settled in with a movie.

Everyone had a great time!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Uh oh

So today when I was in the shower, J was playing with his I thought. Well he decided the bear was dirty so he grabbed his roll on soap. His red soap. On a white bear.

Bear got a bath...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lunch with Friends

Today I went out for lunch with a few coworkers plus a former coworker. We went to a place I had never tried before called Los Dos Molinos. It's always on the top Mexican food lists in the region but I hadn't made it there before today. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a foodie but typically if there is a Mexican food restaurant that is cheap and close to home or work, I'll find it. The food was awesome! Very spicy, just the way I like it. I would definitely go back. Plus it was nice to meet up with a former coworker and chat about old's good to move forward but nice to remember where you've been.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Should I?

So November is apparently NaBloPoMo aka National Blog Posting Month. I wasn't familiar with it before last week until someone mentioned it in one of my groups on Ravelry. Participants are supposed to blog every day for a whole month. I'm contemplating joining but I'm not sure I have enough to say.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WIP Wednesday

Unfortunately the two WIPs I keep mentioning are still under construction. Frankly I'm a little sick of working on them. But I'm at least making progress!

First up is the monster. I've finished with the plain rounds (that got tedious). Now I'm onto the decreases, so at least it's gotten more interesting. I'm hoping to crank out the body by the end of the weekend.

Project two is the blanket. By my calculations I'm 65% of the way done. I've been trying to get a least one row done ever night so I can move onto the second blanket I need to work on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Taco Soup

I'm a little late in writing this but we actually did try a new dinner idea in October so I can cross another thing off my resolutions list.

On Sunday I made crockpot taco soup. The recipe is super simple. It's basically dump in cans and turn on the crockpot all day. The only extra step is browning the beef ahead of time if you want it (we did). I didn't get any pics of the dish though.

2 cans of corn
2 cans of pinto beans
2 cans of kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes with chiles
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 lb seasoned ground beef

Brown the beef and drain the grease. Season with whatever spices you usually use for taco meat. Add this to the bottom of the crockpot. Drain and rinse the beans then add to the pot. Add the corn and tomatoes (don't drain the liquid for these) and the dressing. Simmer on low for 8 hours. Add toppings after it is dished.

I think the original recipe was looking for a six quart pot and mine's only four so it was a little too full - I had to take a couple spoonfuls out. Next time I will cut back accordingly.
E was the only one who ate it. C (unsurprisingly) and J (surprisingly) wouldn't eat it. I'm unsure of my vote as I didn't eat it (I had a bit of an upset stomach so I ate crackers instead). E and I both thought it would be better without kidney beans so we will probably try that next time (it will help with the space issue too!). I think we will end up trying this again at some point.

ETA: I just noticed this is my 100th post! Yay!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Today we celebrated Halloween. C decided he wanted to be Wolverine so we had J dress up as Spiderman (or Spiderbaby as we dubbed him) to go along with. I had a realization that this may be the last year I can do something like this as J will probably want to have a say in his costume next year.

Our first adventure was a party at my office for all of the employees' kids. It was really fun to see everyone's kids all dressed up and having fun!

Our second adventure was at a local Trunk or Treat. In addition to the trick or treating they had music, a bounce house and a train ride. We were also able to meet up with the boys' cousin.

I think everyone had a good time today, although we have enough candy to last a lifetime!

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homemade Oreos

I love Pinterest! Long story short I had to make treats for my grandma's birthday party tomorrow and work on Monday so I decided to make two different items so I could have some variety. Originally I was going to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars and double chocolate chip cookies. The bars were done without any issues. I did however run into problems with the cookies - I was down to my last cup of sugar and the recipe called for twice that.

So I decided to look through a few of my favorite websites and found this recipe pinned on Pinterest. Since I had all of the ingredients on hand it seemed like a winner.

Homemade Oreos
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup sugar (note: the original recipe suggests between 1-1 1/2 cup but I found them plenty sweet with one cup)
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 stick of butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (note: I just used very run of the mill Nestlé cocoa powder)
1 large egg

In a bowl mix all of the ingredients except the butter and egg. Once they are mixed together, add the butter and then the egg until it comes together.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto a greased pan and press them down slightly. Be sure to space them 1 1/2-2 inches apart - these cookies really spread out. I ended up with 32 cookies (these are quite a bit bigger than store bought Oreos). Bake for 9 minutes and let them cool. Once they are cool, it's time to fill them.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 shortening (you can do half a cup of butter if you don't want to use shortening)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups vanilla

Cream the butter and shortening together. With the mixer on low slowly add in the sugar, then the vanilla. Once it is mixed beat on high for 2-3 minutes. Take one a your cookies and spread the cream on with a spatula (pipping it with a pastry bag would work too). Press the second cookie on top and voila - homemade Oreo!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Then came the rain...

Sometimes I think rain can get a bad reputation. It is considered gloomy and unwelcome. But to me it is refreshing.

Tonight was a struggle. I dealt with exciting things such as a child getting sick to his stomach and a clogged drain. Needless to say I was ready for bedtime. But by the time it rolled around I was feeling anxious and was beginning to worry about things I can't control.

Then came the rain...

As I was laying here, worrying, the rain began. I felt immediately calmer. It's like all my worries flowed out with the rain. Thank you God for the rain!

Check out for other blessings.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The State Fair

E and I decided to take the boys to the State Fair today. Unfortunately it was about 95 degrees today (it's October - I'm getting really impatient for cooler weather!)
The boys are a little too young to go on many of the rides but we thought it would be fun for them to see some of the animals and have some funnel cake.

We first went to where the livestock were on display. The boys were amazed to see so many sheep in one place (and I thought about all of the nice wool that they were wearing). We headed to the poultry area afterward and C asked me if we could buy a chicken! Then we went to the petting zoo.

Here is C - he was a little afraid but we told him they wouldn't hurt him so he decided it was okay.

J wasn't afraid of them at all! He would walk right up to them and say hi and pet them. We had a hard time convincing him to leave.
Next we found our funnel cake (after thoroughly washing our hands of course!) We also let C try out a game. He wanted to play the balloon dart game. He popped one on the first try!

Here he is with his prize!

What an adventure today!

Project C.U.R.E.

On Friday some of my coworkers and I volunteered at an organization called Project Cure. The organization serves a very cool purpose - they provide medical supplies to hospitals in developing countries.

We spent a few hours sorting medical supplies that had been donated by hospitals and other medical offices. I was absolutely amazed how many different pieces of medical equipment there are and we weren't even dealing with any of the sophisticated medical stuff. Our boxes were mainly sutures, catheters, medical gowns and items like that. They leave the more complicated things to retired doctors to sort. They also have biomedical students come into test some of the equipment too.
We sorted our items into these boxes and then they were boxed up. The filled boxes are put on containers and shipped to the countries that need the supplies. This was a very worthwhile way to spend a few hours!