Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Sunset

Sometimes there are not enough words for a proper post.

Instead, I'll just let the pictures do all the talking.
The salty air, the sandy beach, a stunning sunset, and my two favorite guys: that's all I really need.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pumpkin Muffies // A Panera Copycat

To get myself into the spirit of all things fall I found it absolutely necessary to bake something filled with pumpkin-y goodness. The last time I really got into the pumpkin spirit was TWO years ago. Unacceptable. It was then that I tried my hand at Pumpkin Scones a Starbucks Clone. I thought it only appropriate that I attempt to make yet another autumn cloned treat, this time from Panera.

The first thing I need to stress is how incredibly, unbelievably easy these are to make. Marcus helped me with almost every single step (minus cracking eggs and handling hot baking sheets).
Please note how much these expand (see bottom middle and bottom right pictures)!
Along with being the best little baking helper in all the land, Marcus was totally engaged with the activity from the first measured ingredient to the last baking sheet to come out of the oven.
If you ever make fall goodies, odds are you won't have to make a special grocery run, as you'll likely have every single needed ingredient already on hand.

These were supposed to have been shared with our neighbors and friends. But, the Fall Fairy swooped right into our home and helped herself to these.
Now, may I introduce to you the Panera Pumpkin Muffies Copycat.

Pumpkin Muffies
Yields approximately 15 muffies
Prep time: 10-15 minutes (depending on if you have a little helper in your kitchen, too)
Bake time per cookie sheet: 16 minutes
If you're curious, apparently a "muffie" is a cross between a muffin and a cookie, which perfectly describes these delectable treats.
What You'll Need:  
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Topping:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar

How They Come Together:
1)Preheat oven to 325º. Adjust oven rack to the center position.
2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3) Stir in oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until combined.
4) In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
5) Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended.
6) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liner. Using a large ice cream scooper (3-4 tablespoons), scoop 6 mounds onto the baking sheet, spaced about 2 1/2 inches apart. Give these room to expand. They will double in size while baking.
7) Bake for 8 minutes.
8) Rotate pan and bake an additional 8 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
9) Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
10) When the cookies are completely cool, stir together the powdered sugar and brown sugar.
11) Sift or sprinkle topping evenly atop each cookie. For best results, wait to sprinkle the sugar topping until right before serving. (I found this out the hard way. I sprinkled all the muffies in the evening, and by morning the sugar had totally absorbed into them.)
12) Store in airtight container for up to 4 days.
Source: Seeded at the Table
Make these. Please. They are amazing and they pair delightfully with a cup of coffee (or wine), or a sippy of milk, depending on who you ask.


What has been checked off your Fall Bucket List? 

Desiree // Macke Monologues   Stephanie // Wife Mommy Me   Elizabeth // Chasin' Mason
Be sure to link up with Stephanie, Elizabeth and me, and share (linky below) what you've been up to!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy Marcus Monday!

If I had to sum up our weekend in one word it would be stellar. We spent almost all of our time together and outside. Perfection.
Happy Monday!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Swims, Apps, Recipes, and Good Reads

Raise your hand if this felt like the longest.week.ever. >all hands rise< I'm positive Wednesday had an extra 8-10 hours tacked on to the day.

Thankfully we're here. We made it to Friday. Our weekend looks to be a pretty uneventful one. With Marcus insisting our days begin at 5:00AM uneventful is just what we need.

On to Fridays five (please excuse the randomness of it all)!

1. This week has been HOT in L.A. While I'm pining for fall, and the glorious weather it brings, it's not here. So, we're making the best with what we've got. Lots and lots of pool dates with my little man. If we can't be wearing cozy sweaters, cute scarves, and fun boots, then I suppose we'll stick to our swimming suits.

2. Speaking of weather… Have you seen and/or downloaded these apps (they're free!)? Sweet Judas, I love them. Even though I know what the weather is going to be every.single.day (80º and sunny) I check these apps daily for a laugh.
Right: Authentic Weather app Left: The Effing Weather app
Please note, these contain language not at all suitable for children, and they are hilarious.

3. Because it's been so flipping hot around here I've refused to do much cooking. Our grill is putting in the miles. One of my friends (hi, Kylie!) has an amazing garden, and she often shares her goods. On her last harvest of jalapeños she sent some my way. I was looking for something to add to our dinner, as well as use up some stuff in our fridge, and these were born.
Seriously, so easy and so good. And, I had about eight in one sitting. Whoops. #oink

4. My best friend Amy did it again. She wrote another gripping book - A Broken Us - that simply cannot be put down.
This is Amy's second book, a fictional Chick-Lit novel, that takes you on a journey of love and despair. It's a trip unlike any other. I started reading it last night and had the hardest time closing it up so I could get to bed. I anticipate finishing A Broken Us before the weekend is over. If you're looking for a great weekend read check this one out! To order just click HERE (only $4.99 for the e-version)!

5. ReadCheaply, where have you been all my life?! This site sends me daily updates on fabulous book deals. Some book deals are as low as $0.99, while others are totally free. My e-book collection is going to explode. It's totally free to join. Click HERE if you're looking to expand your literary collection.

Bonus: Congrats to Becky J. for winning the $25 Starbucks gift card!
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Big Boy Undies

When it came to potty training Marcus I heard from everyone and their grandmother that I "needed" to try this method or that. Marcus "needed" one thing or another for training. But, in my gut I knew what we both needed was for him to be ready. Not when I was ready for him to be potty trained, but when he was ready. So, I waited. And I waited. And I waited.

About three weeks ago - just before turning 2.5 years old - Marcus started showing interest in using the potty. He would be ready for a diaper change and he would ask to go to the "big boy toilet." I would oblige, let him do his thing, and then diaper him back up.

After about a week of Marcus repeatedly asking to go to the bathroom I knew it was time.

Last Thursday I woke up and decided that was *the day,* and potty training was underway.

As soon as the little man woke up I slipped him into a pair of big boy undies (which continues to be one of our biggest challenges - he isn't too keen on wearing them just yet), and every 30-45 minutes I would ask him if he needed to use the bathroom. Most times he would answer no, but I would take him into the restroom anyway, and wouldn't you know it, he'd pee.
The first few days we had no more than two accidents a day. Each accident a result of me losing track of time and failing to get Marcus to the restroom.

However, if we fast forward to today, Marcus is four days sans accident. In the past two days he has seemed to recognize and understand the sensation of needing to go to the bathroom, and if I don't ask if he needs to go, he will tell me. Marcus also presents non-verbal cues that have helped me when he may be too busy playing to want to stop and take a potty break.
Doing the "big" business is a bit more of an event. It seems to frighten Marcus a bit. We go in and out of the bathroom about 3,000 times in the span of two minutes before I can get Marcus settled down and comfortable enough with the process. But in the last week he has successfully completed that task when needed.

I'm no expert on this, but here are a few things that have been working for us:
1) Thanks to a friend's suggestion, peeing in the toilet has a game-like feel. We will throw a Cheerio into the toilet and encourage Marcus to pee on the Cheerio. It not only helps with aim (you'd be surprised where splatters of pee will end up!), but makes the process fun.
2) Each time we make a successful trip to the bathroom a sticker is rewarded. When the "big" business is done a large Mickey Mouse sticker is awarded. We make a BIG deal out of a successful potty trip, lots of cheering and clapping.
3) Marcus gets to flush the toilet - such a huge deal for him.
4) Every 30-45 minutes we ask if he needs to go to the bathroom, even if the answer is no, we go to the restroom and try - 100% of the time he will go.
5) Nap times and bedtimes are still reserved for diaper wearing - however, diapers are now called "sleep pants".
6) We haven't bought or used a single Pull-Up. If/when Marcus wets his pants he feels it and he HATES the wet sensation. I attribute a lot of that discomfort to our success. The last time we had wet pants was four days ago…
7) We didn't buy one of those little toilets. I figured that would just be one more thing to transition out of. And, the idea of cleaning pee and whatnot out of those absolutely grosses me out. Instead, we use a little seat that rests on the regular toilet. Marcus pees standing up 95% of the time, so it's not often we even have to use that.
8) We carry an extra set of underwear and shorts with us everywhere we go. Just in case. We've never needed the backup clothes, but the minute we don't have them I know we'll need them. We also keep one diaper in our bag in case we know we'll need "sleep pants."
9) We have kept our regular daily routines. Park play, meeting up with friends, trips to the beach, even a 2-hour car ride. We've just had to become aware of the location of every restroom in the entire LA metro.
10) Patience. I'll be the first to admit patience is not a virtue of mine, but I've been forced to take this at Marcus's pace. And, surprise, surprise, things have been going really well. This whole process has been a lot less stressful than I imagined.
Week One in the books.
The biggest downfall of this? Our morning wake-up times have been pushed up. Though Marcus will wake with a wet (not soaking) diaper I'll hear Marcus shout, "Let me out!" (he is still in his crib  --> insert Hallelujah chorus) and that he "Needs to use the big boy toilet!" I can't ignore that. You win buddy, you win. It's 5:00AM and we.are.up.

I wouldn't say we're fully potty trained, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Currently…

-- September 2014 --

Currently I am…

Thinking about :: what we will be for Halloween. Yes, *we*. Since Marcus has been born I've coordinated our Halloween costumes. And I love it. I didn't think I would ever be that mom, but… I am. I've recognized it, acknowledged it, and rather than fight it I'm accepting and embracing it.
2012 - I've called Marcus "monkey" since the day he was born. This only seemed appropriate for his first Halloween.
2013 - the M & M family (Marcus, the Mackes, get the M&M reference?)
Working on :: finding the motivation and skill to make something to hold and display my running bibs and finisher medals. I'd love to do a combination of a few designs below. Now, if someone could assist me with a few power tools that would be super.

Reading :: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. If you're looking for a great historical fiction book READ THIS! So, so, so good. Many a nights I've lost precious sleep because I can't put it down.

Listening to :: nothing right this second. However, my last Pandora station was 'Kenny Chesney'.

Eating :: at the moment, nothing. But, I could really go for a heaping bowl of ice cream. More specifically, Trader Joe's Cookie Butter ice cream. Hello deliciousness. Haven't had it? Oh my gosh, go get yourself some, right this minute. You'll be thanking me later (much like I have Elizabeth to thank for the oh-so sweet introduction).

Watching :: Chicago Fire. For obvious reasons…
…The plot. Duh. (Is anyone else completely blown away by the fact that Taylor Kinney [the guy on the left] and Lady Gaga are a couple?!)

Wanting :: to be pregnant. There. I said it. It's out there.

Feeling :: pretty pleased with how potty training is going. I haven't wanted to heave myself off a cliff, so I'd consider the whole process pretty successful thus far.

Loving :: these Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel muffins (thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie). I'm loving even more that there are only three needed ingredients and I could quickly whip them up during nap time.

Thankful for :: these two fellas. They're pretty awesome, and they make my world go 'round.

Thanks Courtney for the great idea to jot down what's going on currently!

What are you up to currently?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ripe for the Picking

Fall. It's FINALLY here! While it doesn't exactly *feel* like fall in these parts I wasn't about to let that deter us from partaking in an activity that essentially kick starts the season. It's also an activity I had never done in my entire life, until now. (The four apple trees that we used to have in our backyard do *not* count as apple picking - that was more like a chore than fun.)
We visited an apple orchard to pick apples!
Admittedly, I was worried how up to the occasion Scott would be, as the trip to the orchard would be a two hour trek. One way. To my pleasant surprise Scott was as enthusiastic for the event as I was.
The area we traveled to had at least a half a dozen apple farms all within a five mile loop.

There was no rhyme or reason for the particular farm we chose (except maybe the parking, as it was easy to find, and free). The place seemed to have a little something for everyone.

We only had enough time (and energy) to get in a few activities, and that was ok, as we had the. best. time.
Marcus had his own bag to collect apples, and he promptly went to work filling it. We didn't get 10 yards inside the orchard when Marcus picked up every apple he saw on the ground.
When Marcus wasn't looking we would empty his bag and hand it back to him. He would then immediately refill it. We must have done that no less than a dozen times.

Did I mention how gorgeous the area was? Holy buckets, it was like something right out of a magazine.
Nestled in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains I couldn't decide what I wanted to photograph most, the mountains, or the orchard itself.
 Instead of picking one or the other I was able capture both.
If I had to guess, the highlight for Scott and Marcus was when we pressed our own cider.
1. Entrance to the cider pressing area.
2. Marcus took initiative to fill up our bucket with the needed apples to make the cider.
3. Marcus and I gave our apples a quick washing.
4. A few turns of the apple grater for Marcus.
5. Marcus helped Scott grate all 80-100 apples. Scott may or may not have made a competition out of this between himself and the people who were grating apples next to us - unbeknown to them.
6. Just checking out all the juice being made.
7. After the apples were all grated, and had fallen into a mesh bag, a large vice like thingy (the technical term, obviously) was used to press as much cider out as possible.
8. All that glorious cider spilling into our bucket.
YUM!
Our cider!
Naturally there were a few mandatory stops for photo ops.
After two solid hours of picking delicious apples, making our own cider, and just walking around the huge grounds and soaking up our scenery and time together, it was decided we needed to snag a quick lunch (and a few more photos) before calling it a day and heading back to the city.
 
Apple picking was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. Clearly we have created a yearly fall family tradition.

Have you started checking items off your Fall Bucket List? If so, be sure to link up (linky at the bottom) with Stephanie, Elizabeth, and me in our Fall Family Bucket List, and share your fall fun!