Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Patch Visit of 2013

Every year, like a lot of you, we visit at least one pumpkin patch. This year, we went to a different kind of patch - one where you get to cut your own pumpkin off the vine. The kids thought this was the best thing ever!

Brayden picked a traditional orange pumpkin while Brody picked a white one. They loved getting to be so hands on with the actual pumpkin picking.

The place we usually visit has one size of pumpkin and they sit on pallets. The place we went this year has all sorts of cool looking pumpkins growing in large fields!

The requisite family picture!

This event kicks off my very favorite time of the year - fall! It's boot wearing, hot chocolate drinking, pumpkin baking time! Woohoo!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Uplift And Inspire

This is a story about my husband.
You see Chris now and again on this blog, and I've talked about all sorts of things that we've gone and done, and recently I did a whole segment on our marriage. But I've never really devoted an entire post to him outside of father's day. 
I'm participating in Folgers "The Best Part" program which is all about sharing positive, inspiring, encouraging and uplifting stories. And this story is the very first one that came to mind.
Recently, my parents had some damage to their basement and Chris was overseeing and coordinating the repair work. Chris is one of those charismatic people who can talk to anyone and become fast friends with them, so it came as no surprise to me when he came home one day talking about a handful of people I hadn't met, but that he was now good enough friends with to know their whole life story.
A few days later, he walked in the house looking a little preoccupied with something. I asked him what was going on and he began to tell me a story about a man named Dave. Dave is a concrete mason who was injured on another job a few weeks before coming to work at my parent's house. It was a freak accident and he ended up having surgery on and then losing one of his eyes. He had to take two weeks off work before he was allowed to return and his time off was unpaid. He was worried sick about his home...he was going to have to default on his rent payment because of the accident and unpaid sick leave. 
I knew without asking what Chris would do. Minutes after hearing his story, Chris went to the ATM and handed Dave cash for his rent payment. He didn't want a thank you and if there had been a way to give Dave the money without him knowing who it was from, I'm sure he would have done it.
Because it's not about the thanks or the recognition. It's about brightening someone's day, helping them out of a dark place, lifting their spirits or simply lending a listening ear. 
Its something we can all do, every day, without even having to spend a dime. 
How have you been a light in someone's life lately?

The Best Part is an online community that’s dedicated to brightening your day—every day. How? By spreading optimism, one share at a time. The Best Part posts inspirational stories, encouraging quotes, good news and other upbeat items on FacebookTwitter and Instagram—and encourages fans and followers to share that optimism with their friends. Because when optimism is shared, it grows, making an even more positive impact on our world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flourless Sea Salt Chocolate Cake

The 22nd marked my and Chris' 8th wedding anniversary! Unfortunately, all four of us are really sick. I took Chris and Brayden to urgent care on Sunday and Brody and I ended up at the doctor yesterday. So, flourless cake was our special treat. My mom brought us her baked potato soup which is soooo divine so I didn't have to cook dinner!

Next time you have company show up unexpectedly or just want something decadent yet very simple, try this recipe out!

Flourless Sea Salt Chocolate Cake
Source: adapted from Epicurious

5.25 ounces of Lindt dark sea salt chocolate bars (one and a half bars)
1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 375. Cut out a wax paper circle to fit into an 8 or 9 inch cake pan (adjust cooking time based on size of pan). Butter the circle and place butter side up in the pan.

Over a double boiler OR a glass bowl placed over a pot of boiled water, melt chocolate bars and butter together, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar. Set aside. 

In a small bowl, whisk eggs together. Temper chocolate by adding a small amount of the mixture into the eggs and then adding the eggs back into the pot of chocolate/butter/sugar. 

SIFT in cocoa powder. Usually I'm not a sifter but you really need to for this! Stir everything together until just combined. 

Pour on top of buttered wax paper inside of cake pan. Bake for about 23-25 minutes for an 8" pan and 18-19 minutes for a 9". Once a very light crust appears, your cake should be done.

Top with sifted powdered sugar.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SUPER SIMPLE Chocolate Pumpkin Cake Pops

Brayden's last soccer game was last night and I was on snack duty, so I wanted to make something extra special. Also, I didn't want to have to go to the store. Last year I posted a recipe for 5 Ingredient Chocolate Caramel Muffins that called for a boxed mix and a can of pumpkin instead of the eggs, oil and water. I decided to use that method and made the easiest cake pops ever. 

And they were ridiculously good...

Oh, and PERFECT for Halloween or Thanksgiving!

And they were so EASY!

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake Pops
Yield: 30 cake pops

1 box Devil's food cake mix
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup water
1/2 of a 16oz can of chocolate fudge frosting
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 tablespoon plus a small drizzle of vegetable oil (do NOT use any other kind of oil: ONLY use vegetable or canola oil, or crisco)
Lollipop sticks

Combine cake mix with pumpkin and water. Bake in a 9*13 as directed on the box - note that it might bake a little quicker than if it had the eggs in it. Do not over bake. (My box called for it to bake between 30-34 minutes, but it was completely cooked at 27 minutes).

Remove cake to a bowl. Crumble with your hands or two butter knives until it is in fine crumbs. Add in half a can of frosting. Mix with your hands (a spoon will not give you the right consistency).

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Roll the cake mix into balls and place them on the baking sheets. Take one handful of chocolate chips with a drizzle of oil, place in a glass cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave again until just melted, about 15-20 more seconds.  Dip the lollipop stick into the chocolate and then place into the cake ball. Repeat with all cake balls and then freeze for about 15 minutes to let the sticks set.

Right before you pull the cake pops from the freezer, melt the rest of your chocolate and oil in a double boiler (or a glass bowl placed over a pot - fill the pot with water until just below, but not touching the bowl).

Pour the melted chocolate into a cup. Dip each cake pop into the chocolate and tap it against the side of the cup to remove the excess. Place back on parchment and decorate OR stick the pop into styrofoam and decorate.

Let them air dry or if you need to serve them soon, freeze them to set the chocolate.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Raising Grateful Kids

I LOVE my kids.

I adore them.

I want to give them everything.

And I've realized that while I want to give them everything, that is not in their best interest.

Since the day they were born, I've thought about the people I want to raise them up to be. Each of us value certain character traits and one of the traits at the top of my list is having a grateful and giving heart. I want my kids to put God first, others second and themselves third. I want them to want to give more than to receive and to show compassion and love to strangers.

Of course, they are very young (although Brayden will be 5 in January and I could just about die over the thought of him being FIVE YEARS OLD). But even at this age, there are lots of things they do to show love to others. This isn't a post touting all the good deeds we do, but rather a post asking for your input.

My kids LOVE to be read books. And this is where I need some help. I love reading to them but I haven't come across any really good books that cultivate a giving spirit. You guys always have such great suggestions for me, so I'm hoping you can suggest some great books for my kiddos.

What books have you read to your little ones that help build a strong moral character, a giving spirit, and grateful hearts? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Simple Halloween Pizzas {For The Kids}

Do you order your Christmas cards from Tiny Prints? Me too! Today you can buy a $40 voucher for Tiny Prints for just $20 on Zulily by clicking here!

I love doing fun things with my kids this time of year, and while I'm not super crafty, we all know I love to cook. I broke out my Halloween cookie cutters but instead of using them on cookie dough, I used them on cheese! We made fun little Halloween pizzas! The one on the left is a ghost in front of the moon and the other one is a ghost on a tombstone.

You can embellish these further using cut up green peppers or green onions for eyes, a half of an olive round for a mouth etc., but my kids won't touch them if I do that. ;-)

Hint: These would also make a great appetizer for a Halloween party! You might want to make them a little smaller if using for an app - I would do 2-3" rounds!

Simple Halloween Pizzas
Yield: Eight 4-5" round pizzas

1 package Pillsbury pizza dough (or other raw dough)
1 small jar pizza sauce
Turkey pepperoni
4 slices provolone (not smoked)
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
Other toppings as desired

Preheat oven to 450.

Roll out dough and cut into shapes (circles and rectangles). Spray a baking sheet and par bake the pizza shapes for 5 minutes.

While pizza is baking, cut out cheese shapes using cookie cutters. Remove dough from oven after 5 minutes and layer with sauce, pepperoni and cheese shapes. Bake another 10 minutes.

Serve warm!

Monday, October 14, 2013

How we told our kids we're going to DISNEY WORLD!!!

First, thank you all so much for the kind words, emails and tweets on my last post. Your support really means a lot to us!

Yesterday was Chris' birthday and more than anything, he wanted to tell the kids we're going to Disney World! I wanted to wait - mostly because they are still so young, and I don't want them to wake up each day thinking this is the day we are going! But, I caved and we told them.

I went to my local party store and spent $30 on Mickey related party supplies. We also changed our minds on Halloween costumes. I had a really cool idea that I might end up using next year that wasn't Disney related. Brayden and Brody LOOOOVE Jake and the Neverland Pirates so we got them Jake and Hook costumes instead. We hung those on their chairs along with a Jake fleece I ordered from

Balloons and streamers were hung from the chandelier: 

Confetti, Mickey cups, plates, tattoos and a Mickey arm bands decorated each place setting:

And last, right before we got them up, I made Mickey pancakes.

And when we woke up, we told them! I filmed the whole thing. First, we blind folded them and brought them downstairs. Then they got to scope out the clues before guessing where we might be headed! 

They are so excited (okay, okay, and so are we!)! My next project is to make a countdown to Disney calendar for them so they can "see" when we will be leaving! 

I am still reading through all of your tips and tricks you left in the comment on my "what to do at Disney" post, so keep them coming! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sometimes, God Says No.

Living a life in obedience to God's will is something that Chris and I strive to do. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it's easy. And sometimes it's hard.

Has God ever told you no to something you wanted?

Has He ever told you no to something you felt you were led to do?

This is a hard post to write.

God has given us a very clear, definitive no recently.

A no to our plans to adopt.

We have prayed every single day since deciding to pursue adoption that His will would be done. Through prayer, He has made it very clear to us that this is not His plan for us anymore.

I don't know why. But I do know that we need to be obedient.

Perhaps the purpose was so that we could educate others on adoption. I have had the blessing of talking about adoption here, where thousands learned about the process, hundreds tweeted me about it and dozens of you wrote in, asking how you could start the process. I have loved every second of sharing what we have learned with you, and recommending adoption professionals that can help you in your journey.

Please know that this decision has nothing to do with anything other than an overwhelming feeling of direction from God, and our desire to do what He has planned for us. We will follow what we believe is his directive - even though it's hard. Because it is - it's very hard.

We are so thankful for the support from every one during our journey. You all have been so wonderful and encouraging. Thank you for the prayers, emails, tweets, comments and for sharing your stories with us.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tips Please! We're going to DISNEY WORLD!!!!!!!!

The title says it all!

I've been waiting for this day to come since I had Brayden! We've decided to take the boys to Disney World in December. I may possibly be the most excited out of the four of us...but then again, the kids don't know yet!!!!!

We haven't told them for two reasons. One: I want to tell them in a fun and creative way. Two: I know that every day thereafter, I will hear "Mommy?! Are we going to Disney today?!"

If we talk on twitter, then you already knew this news. I wanted to post it here too because I want to see what your tips are! Have you been to Disney World? Traveled with young kids? Leave me your tips and tricks in the comments!

Here's what we know. After much debate, we ended up finding super inexpensive flights. It was actually going to cost us more to drive than to fly. Go figure. So we are taking a direct flight in. We are NOT staying onsite this year. We plan to go back when the boys are both over 48" and stay in a Disney hotel but for this trip, it makes way more sense for us to stay in a condo resort that is very close to the park. We are renting a car and we are also renting a stroller (the airlines always tear mine up, plus the stroller company sells insurance in case it gets stolen).

We will be staying Monday - Monday and the only reservations I've made so far are lunch at the Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom and breakfast at Hollywood and Vine with the boys very favorite character, Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates). PS - If you have a Jake, Sofia or Doc McStuffins fan, Zulily had a HUGE Disney Jr sale online! Check it out here!).

I've found a TON of informative sites online and made lots of notes for our trip, but I want to hear what your best tip, favorite thing or must do activity is! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

1 Week Update, Daytime TV Stinks & What Do You Watch on Netflix?

It's been one week since I had my surgery. Unsurprisingly, I don't remember a whole lot from this last week (that's probably a good thing!) including writing my last post! Ha! I got a tweet about Jello and then realized I'd actually written about that that!

I have never been a napper, but I've taken naps every day since surgery. It's kind of crazy how one operation can change a lot of things about you for awhile! I'm super tired, got carsick trying to go for a ride yesterday with my husband and I CAN'T COOK! Not that I lost my cooking ability, but I don't have the energy or strength to stand in the kitchen yet. Which stinks when you're watching a ton of cooking shows on tv.

Speaking of tv, who knew that daytime tv was so awful?! I am so glad I had the entire last season of Once Upon A Time to catch up on. I tried watching Bethenny's show one day and that was so uncomfortable! I liked her on Housewives, liked her a lot less on her spinoff and really didn't like her at all on her tv show. I watched the episode where Martha Stewart was the guest. How unfortunate. She was railroaded, and was it me or did Martha just insult her all throughout their segment? It was probably the most uncomfortable show I've seen!

Which brings me to my next question - what do you watch on Netflix? 

We've had Netflix online for awhile now and I loved watching Pretty Little Liars and Sister Wives (could I pick two more different shows?!) on there. I'm at a loss right now...I don't like political shows, sad shows or shows about murder. I love PLL, Once Upon A Time, Sleepy Hollow, Twisted and I used to like Revenge but it lost me last season. Any show rec's for me?

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