Sometimes the only thing that helps make me feel better about my world is to write a list of things that make me happy. It is pretty foolproof. I usually feel alot better (especially on pouring rainy days like today).
So, today, things that are making me happy:
  • My new lavendar candle burning (sent to me by kind Erin, from French General)
  • Finn and Lucy playing outside together (until the downpour), which allowed me to shower and get ready uninterrupted (I'm even wearing make-up and earrings today!)
  • A good, hard workout this morning
  • A free sugar cookie for Lucy from the Giant Eagle bakery
  • Clean clothes (mostly folded)
  • Travis coming home from school at 5 o'clock
  • Finding one chocolate cookie left from last night for me to eat after lunch
  • Miles asleep right now in his crib
  • Leftover spaghetti for dinner (yay! I don't have to cook tonight)
  • Fresh spinach in my bean soup for lunch. It looked so pretty and bright.
  • Empty garbage cans upstairs.
  • Eating dessert tonight for all the May birthdays at church.

What is making you happy today?


Baking Cheer

I think the first time I spotted something like these was in Manhattan at a bakery, or maybe Dean & Deluca. At any rate, I love them.

They are great because they function just like an aluminum or silicone cake pan: you can pour the batter right in and voila! No plate to return, no packaging to assemble. The pan is the packaging. Simple.

If you live in my neck of the woods, I got at Blum's Paper Goods on Cedar. I know that Sur la Table sells them too (for a little more, of course).
I have some sitting on my counter and they are making me happy today.


Chewy Crunchy Combo

Have you been to my other blog lately? The recipe one? Well, if not, then go here for more healthy meal ideas, plus the recipe for some good homemade granola bars. I've added some more recipes I hope you'll enjoy.


Doing It All

(Preface: Lucy looks like an '80's rock star because she likes to put gel in her hair as I am putting gel in mine.)

This is another post about motherhood, I know, kind of uninteresting and common around here. But it's been on my mind lately the everyday balancing act of providing for needs/wants of self, children and husband. The dilemmas play themselves out in multiple scenarios throughout the day: Do I play Legos with Finn or load the dishwasher? Do I read stories to Lucy or start dinner so it's ready at the ever-set-in-stone-hour of 5 o'clock? Do I watch another episode of Ugly Betty season 1 or go to bed so I can get Finn to preschool on time in the morning? On and on and on. I feel like I'm always juggling various people's schedules, feeding patterns, sleeping patterns, and emotional tendencies. I am, in essence, a one man show, but how do I know which instrument to play at any given time? There's too many to choose and too many people in the audience to play for. So, lately, I've kind of thrown in the towel in many areas. "Dishes in the sink can wait until tomorrow." "The clean clothes can sit in the basket folded one more day." "The bathroom wall can get painted tomorrow." I don't seem to believe any one thing can get done without interruption, so I don't even try to do any of it. And when the magical hour of 7 PM rolls around every night (when the kids are supposed to be in bed), I am too tired to do anything I've waited all day to do without the interruptions. So there you have it. That's my dilemma. I suppose it won't get easier. That's what Travis tells me. I suppose I should just enjoy the little things that make me happy and forget about the rest. Things like fresh cut cantaloupe in the afternoon, or reading stories with Finn in the playhouse out back. Or how it's warm enough now to wear skirts and flip flops without even a jacket!

I loved this from an article my Mom sent me today:

"Brigham Young...said: 'Mormon women can do it all, but they need to do it in sequence.' For every woman, that sequence may be different. I have to tell myself that there will be years for reading books and writing novels and getting that advanced degree- years when I will wait for little voices calling my name, and they will not be there. There will be a time when I will go to tuck small children in bed and find that they have grown into able men. One day, every single Lego will make it into the box and stay there."

--Tiffany Gee Lewis, Mormon Times, May 9, 2009


Special Occasion Sweets

I made my own chocolate cake this year for my birthday (any excuse I can to bake).

Then, with some help from a few small people around here, my Grandma decorated it. I love the little lily of the valley that we picked too.

And, after a belated Mother's Day dinner, we ate blackberry pie.

Sweet things for sweet people.


The Miracle of the
Bumbo and Restoration Hardware Bedspread

I have been looking for a new white bedspread to change things up a bit in my bedroom. Well, Saturday morning I loaded the kids in the car (as usual) and instead of heading straight to the gym, I stopped at a few yard sales. It was a jackpot kind of morning.

Not only did I get a pristine white bedspread (that matched my bedskirt perfectly), but I found this little Bumbo chair for Miles. (He doesn't mind that it's pink). Plus, I furnished Finn's Summer and Fall wardrobe, and added a skirt and shirt to mine.
All for what? $20.
It was a great start to my birthday morning.
{If you're looking to find local yard sales, I suggest Craigslist. At least here in Cleveland, that has worked well for me. Or, just do what I do sometimes and follow the signs to the neighborhood sales. Either way, you can't go wrong!}


Hiatus Over
It feels good to be back. Man. What a week. Let's do a little recap so I can keep it all straight:
  • We cleaned out the garage, basement and car (all very messy and dirty). Phew.
  • My Mom and Grandma flew in on Tuesday. Yay!
  • I got the 24-hour flu, then gave it to Travis, my Mom and Grandma. Yuck.
  • I turned 29.
  • We saw Niagara Falls.

  • I got a personal frosting-rose-making lesson in my own kitchen by my very talented Mom. Fun.

  • My Grandma, Finn and Lucy decorated my birthday cake (pictures to come).
  • Travis took care of the kids most of the day Sunday so I could take a 3-hour nap and have a leisurely day.

I am so glad we had such a fun week. Visitors are welcome here anytime!

Now it's back to the grind. I just put Lucy down for her afternoon nap, Miles is also napping, and Finn (who's pretending he's a dog right now) is watching Robots. I better use this golden time while I have it to shower the salty sweat off my neck and take a little nap myself.


2:16 PM, EST

And this little guy is crying upstairs in his crib, just going down for a nap.

This little girl is sitting next to me making slashing marks with a pen on some paper (and she has a poopy diaper I need to change). Poopy diaper number two of the day. Lucky me.

And Finn is wearing his underwear (of course) and concocting an airplane out of Q-tips and a blue piece of construction paper.
And me? I'm on the verge of insanity having spent the last three weeks single-parenting while Travis has studied and taken finals. And today he finished his last final. (And I just snapped at Lucy for knocking my elbow into the keyboard). It's just been one of those rough past several weeks and I'm going to soak up the help while Travis is home. I want to make some of these and go out and spend some time in rural Ohio versus Cleveland suburbia where I sometimes feel like a caged animal. (Not to make things worse, but I have been sick for the past couple of days and I have a really sore nostril for some odd reason!)
I hope you do something fun this weekend and have a great Mother's Day!


One Bowl Heaven

Ever since I started baking (about 17 years ago), I have been looking for the perfect homemade devil's food chocolate cake. I found "the one" in Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cake. It's easy, delicious, and it has oil instead of butter in it, which most cakes don't. I'm posting the recipe because I've had a few requests for it. Happy Chocolate Goodness!
Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cake

(Makes 2 eight-inch square or 3 eight-inch round layers)
Unsalted butter, for pans
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter round or square cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment, and dust with cocoa.
Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, stir in eggs, 1 1/2 cups warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake, rotating once, until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes for 8-inch layers, depending on amount of batter.
Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely, right side up on rack.
For the frosting, I just make a buttercream frosting using butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, a dash of salt (my Grandma Bruneel taught me that), milk or cream and melted baking chocolate (either semi-sweet or unsweetened). My sister Emily uses melted chocolate chips. We like them better than cocoa. I'm still looking for the perfect velvety smooth chocolate frosting, so if you have good recipe, I'd love to hear about it.


Flying the Friendly Skies (Free)

While Finn constructed this "Boeing 747" out of scrapwood he found in the garage, I pushed Lucy in the swing while she ate out of her "snack bag" honey wheat pretzels.

The pilot sat proudly in the cockpit as his doting Mom snapped pictures in the light of midday.

Then I sat with Lucy on my lap in the backseat of his plane and went for a flight, for free! (I couldn't believe those little boards held all our weights combined).
If you're in need of some vacation time and need a cheap flight, just call pilot Finn Schuller. His flights don't come with in-flight beverage services or those little bags of salted peanuts, but they are free and fun. And unlike most pilots, he does all the plane repairs, servicing and gassing-up himself.



So I found another "ringer" in the homemade bread department (I've been testing bread recipes lately, specifically "100% whole wheat sandwich" ones). This one is soft and somewhat sweet. It makes great sandwiches and I can't wait to try it for french toast. And it scored a 10 on the T. Schuller scale, which is saying something because this guy can be picky when it comes to food. Do you have any favorite bread recipes? I would love to hear them.


He's Done Me Proud

We're back to blogging after a minor reformatting of my computer. I have to say I think I caught a glimpse of when all of this hard work is going to pay off: the missionary badge. Finn got it this weekend at a Primary MTC activity. He wore it proudly. I did one of those motherly internal sighs, thinking that maybe things will turn out okay in the end. And those red patches on his face? Lucy. She is a tornado: scratching, hitting and biting are some of her recent antics. I think her canines are coming in.


Taking a Spin on a Classic Favorite
Everything about making cookies is pure fun (except the grabbing hands and spilled flour and the mess, of course). I finally bit the bullet and let go of my overly-protective-of-my-kitchen complex for one afternoon a couple days ago. I let the munchkins help with every phase of the process, from measuring and adding ingredients to eating the finished product. We got adventurous and tried using whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose. I liked the nutty texture it added. Incidentally, I've made chocolate chip cookies so many times that I haven't used a recipe to make them since college (those midnight cookie-making batches were what helped me gain that "freshman fifteen"!)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs (I use Eggbeaters)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Then add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the soda, salt and flour and mix until combined. With the mixer on slow, beat in the chocolate chips until incorporated. Using a cookie scoop (or two spoons), scoop the dough into balls onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, depending on how soft or hard you like them. Eat while sitting on the counter wearing your dance leotard and don't worry about getting chocolate on your face. It's much more fun that way.