From our hearts to yours,
Perhaps my favorite ornament adorning our tree is the crystal maple leaf (upper right). It was the cake topper on our wedding cake. 

May this holiday season be filled with the Lord's many blessings!

I'll be back after the New Year with new recipes and more Baby M updates.
See you in 2012!


Baby Macke Update - Week 26

How is it possible Christmas is just days away, and we're almost to the third trimester?!
Merry Mistletoe!
I wish I'd seen this at the beginning of the pregnancy, it would have been great to keep track of all the little things. But, it's never too late to start. Perhaps I'll remember to do this from the get-go the next time around. :)

How far along? 26 weeks.
Maternity clothes? I have a handful of tops, a couple pair of jeans, but I mostly live in sweats and yoga pants.
Stretch marks? Nope. Let's hope things stay that way.
Sleep? Sleep is always a challenge - even when I'm exhausted. Lucky for me, I picked up a few tips that seem to be working wonders (a big thanks to my sister-in-law, Susan, for some great suggestions).
Best moment this week: Baby gifts have started to arrive in the mail! It's like Christmas comes early each time the UPS man knocks on the door.
Miss anything? A glass of wine, or two, with dinner (with the holidays coming up I'm really going to miss a good glass of Pinot Noir).
Movement: Baby M seems to know when it's about time to eat and seems to do the happy dance in preparation.
Food cravings: Peppermint Hot Chocolate! Flour tortillas, that's it, just the tortilla.
Anything making you queasy or sick? I used to love pretzels filled with peanut butter, and just peanut butter in general, but the thought of those/that makes my stomach churn.
Labor signs? None.
Symptoms: Round ligament pains (those sharp stabbing pains in the lower, side abdomen), and lower back pain. The ability to put on shoes and socks is becoming a bit of an interesting process...
Belly button in or out? It's not out, but I can't really say it's totally in. It's just kind of flat.
Linea nigra? No line thus far.
Wedding rings on or off? On!
Happy or Moody most of the time? I say happy, but Scott would probably be the better judge of that :)
Looking forward to: I can't wait to get home to see family and friends for Christmas and baby showers!!


Houdini Dog

Just when I thought we'd outsmarted our four-legged child, Drake, he goes and proves he's smarter than I often give him credit.

As we found in our previous apartment, it took some skill - and a lot of cat food consumed by Drake - to find a spot which our cat could get to the food, but Drake could not.

In our new home I thought we'd found another great spot. We've been in the new place since September, and the cat food (which was placed waaaaaay under our bed) hadn't been discovered or touched by Drake... Until this weekend.

Drake somehow Houdini'd himself under our bed, a few times, this weekend. I'm picturing Drake army crawling towards the food, and then just shimmying his way back out. My guess, Drake consumed a total of at least four pounds of cat food. We're still working on running off all that food, as well as getting the distended stomach to return to its normal shape and size.

If you have any four-legged children that you've had to out-smart, please share!!!


Disney Concert Hall

For the past two years Scott has gotten us tickets to the Disney Concert Hall for their annual Christmas Holiday sing a long concert. The place is an architectural wonder.
Photo courtesy wikipedia.com
Inside the concert hall
Upper right photo courtesy cityprofile.com

I'm not sure what I enjoy more about the concert hall... The music, the spectacular surroundings, or the light in the children's eyes as they belt out Christmas carols and songs. Just watching the little munchkins filled with the spirit of Christmas makes the anticipation for Baby M even greater. 


Scalloped Corn

This scalloped corn may possibly be the best holiday side dish of all time. At least in my opinion. I mean, this stuff even rivals my coveted mashed potatoes. Check out my plate during the holidays, it's sure to be loaded with scalloped corn and mashed potatoes. Skip the rest of the stuff. I could live on these two alone.

This weekend was our food kitchen's annual Christmas dinner, and I couldn't think of a better place to share this fab-o-la dish. My only regret... I didn't make a pan of it for myself!

I think I love this dish because it's easy to prepare (with kitchen clean up it took me less than 15 minutes to prep), easy to remember (just need one of everything), and did I mention delicious?

Scalloped Corn

--1 can whole kernel corn (with juice)
--1 can cream style corn
--1 small box corn bread mix (this ingredient always sends me on a treasure hunt in the grocery store; start by looking by the pancake mixes and/or cake mixes, you'll probably find it in one of those two places)
--1 cup sour cream (use reduced or fat free for less calories/fat)
--1 stick (1/2 cup) melted margarine/butter (I always use Smart Balance Light)
--1 egg

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix all ingredients together. 
Pour into a 9x9 pan (I usually use a 9x13, and that seems to work just fine; if your pan requires a little non-stick spray, go for it).
Bake for 45 minutes.

This yields, I'm guessing, about 8-10 servings.

Easy? Yep. Delicious? Hands down!

Source: I think I obtained this from my Aunt Barb a few Thanksgivings ago.


Eight Unique Gift Ideas

I wasn't sure I'd have a blog today. These past few days I've reverted to old favorites in the kitchen, so no new recipes. A Baby Macke update isn't scheduled until next week. And, I'm just not crafty enough to post on handmade goodies (making your own Christmas bows out of scrap wrapping is about as crafty as I get).

Have no fear, I did a little research and I've found a few items that would make some pretty spectacular Christmas gifts for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family in your life.

For the Foodies in Your Life
The Banana Guard
Go ahead and pull this little banana saver out of your lunch bag at work. You're sure to be the talk of the office.

The Macho Man's Egg Pan
Nothing screams "TOTALLY AWESOME BREAKFAST!" like these pans. Get the day started off right with eggs in kick-butt shapes.

For the Heath Nut
The Shake Weight
I know, I know. This isn't a new product. Seriously though, I bet your workout-a-holic doesn't have one of these... Yet. You know that gym rat wants one of these but is just too shy to pull the trigger and buy one. Be a sweetie and get it for them.

For the Caffeine Nut 
Fuzzy Coffee Sleeve
You're pretty much getting two birds with one stone with this one. The cup of joe stays warm, AND it looks stylish. Wouldn't this look great with some boots with the fur.

For the Fashionista 
I THINK these go under those gloves that don't have the finger tips. What's not to love about a little more protection for your hands?!

For the Mother/Expectant Mother
The Baby Snuggie
Ditch the Baby Bjorn. This is MUCH more stylish.

I seriously love this. A friend of mine sent it to us, and I truly think it's genius. This nifty little contraption is for those baby boys who think it's funny to give mom/dad/whomever a good spray during the diaper change. Just slip the Wee Block over little man's little parts and you've prevented an unwelcome shower. Ingenious!

For the Wino
Oh. My. Gosh. I saw this and immediately wanted one! Though wine isn't on my menu for a few more months I. Want. This! Talk about the greatest wine accessory. Ever. Just freeze the corkcicle, add it to your wine of choice, and poof, chilled wine! So flippin' awesome!

There you have it. Eight fabulous Christmas gifts you should seriously consider.

Note: All of the aforementioned products are real, and do exist. Should you wish to purchase any/all products links are provided with each product title. Might I seriously suggest the WeeBlock and Corkcicle.


Reindeer Droppings

Per her request, this is for my cousin, Laura. Being that we're both pregnant, this recipe seems like it might satisfy any sweet cravings we may have. Let's get real people, I'm just craving food. In general. All the time.

This recipe appeared easy enough. Only three ingredients, nice. And, for the most part it was a success. Read on and I'll explain what went wrong, and the solution I've decided upon.

Reindeer Droppings (The original name is Snowman P@@p, but the "P" word makes me gag. Seriously. And, without the white coat of melted white chocolate chips there was no resemblance of snowmen.)

1 package Oreos (found some reduced fat Oreos; that's about as skinny as this recipe gets; Instead of using the whole package of Oreos I found I only needed about 2 1/2 rows)
--Side note: I double dog dare you to NOT eat any of the Oreos before you smash them up.
1 package cream cheese (attempting to cut more calories here, use 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1 package white chocolate chips (forego the issue I had and just grab some almond bark)

Allow cream cheese to soften.
Crush Oreos.
Combine Oreos and cream cheese.
Roll Oreo/cream cheese combo into balls, about the size of a half dollar.
Double boil white chocolate chips almond bark. *
Dip Oreo/cream cheese balls into melted white chocolate almond bark, completely cover.
Place covered balls on wax, or parchment, paper and allow to cool.

*If you don't have a double boiler, simply fill a large pot about 1/2 to 1/3 with water. Take a smaller pot that will rest nicely in/upon the larger pot add the white chocolate chips almond bark.

So, the white chocolate was melty enough for about 10 minutes. That was enough time to get about three Oreo/cream cheese balls covered. Then, the white chocolate started to lose its melty-ness.
They started out just like I had hoped.
Annnnnd, fail.

I wasn't about to let all this deliciousness go to waste. I took the Oreo/cream cheese balls and added them to the white chocolate and mixed it all together. After cooling a bit, I had a second go-around with making nice little bite sized bits. I placed them on parchment paper and froze them (refer to top photo for visual).

After the balls hardened I had to taste test. I found these little bites to be rich and scrumptious. The real test was with Scott. When he came home he tried one and gave the thumbs up. Even in my semi-failed attempt it sounds like I'll be making these again.

What I'll do differently next time... Instead of using white chocolate chips I'll double boil almond bark to coat the Oreo balls. I've worked with almond bark before, and it seems to melt, and stay melty, much better than the white chocolate chips. To my defense, I looked for almond bark in the grocery store, but to no avail (I had a sneaky suspicion my white chocolate chip attempt would fail). I'll look harder next time!

With all that being said, these little Oreo bites were still delicious. And dangerous. And delicious.

Source: I didn't really have a source. I just kind of threw this one together... Which is obvious :)


Where I'm From

Yesterday I read an article, written by a University of Iowa professor, proclaiming how backward Iowa is, and how it's a disgrace political candidate would choose Iowa as his or his first stop along the campaign trail. The author's article didn't stop with the campaign. The whole article (four pages) was riddled with insults and slams, not only about the state, but the people as well. Unacceptable.

 Should you decide to read this clown's article, keep in mind while you're reading the rubbish, this pompous ass isn't a native. In fact, he's from San Francisco.

Let me tell you something, I LOVE IOWA. Though I no longer reside there, I always look forward to returning. What I wouldn't give for open land, smiling faces, traffic - or lack thereof, and the security I feel when I'm home (and all of Iowa is home to me).

Iowa might not have huge cities cities with glitz and glamor, or a zillion people populating it. Guess what? That's the way we like it. That's what makes the place so special, and the reason Iowans are so proud to be Iowans.


Holy Rain, Batman!

Dear Southern Californians,

It's JUST RAIN, not the Apocalypse! I know it may SEEM like a big deal, but in reality (reality [ree-al-i-tee]: noun, state or quality of being real, something most SoCal'ers know little about), it's NOT. I promise you. Just spend a spring, summer, and fall in the Midwest and you'll soon discover that a day of sprinkles and light rain (which is what mostly occurs here) is nothing, I repeat NOTHING to freak out over. 

To the news crews that were out in FULL force "reporting" on the rain... Give me a jingle when you're standing on I-80, or I-35, in the middle of Iowa, smack dab in a FULL FLEDGED white-out blizzard, and THEN get back to me on your "breaking news." 

Hey, Mr. I-Drive-A-Very-Expensive-Vehicle, blinkers are not optional just because your car is worth more than all of my assets, combined. Rainy days are no exception. Use the stinkin' blinker! There are five to eight lanes of traffic, we have no idea which lane you're going to squeeze into next.

Oh, and to the drivers out there that insist on having your windshield wiper speed set to ridiculous, turn it down a notch (or 10). The wiper blade doesn't have to practically fly off your vehicle to get the job done.  


Yesterday I had a doctors appointment up in the city and had the pleasure of fighting all the *amazing* drivers in the "elements." What an experience that was. I allowed plenty of time to travel the 25 miles. When I say plenty of time, I mean TWO hours. Just how long did it take me to travel those 25 miles? One hour and 45 minutes. For those of you who have been pregnant, are pregnant, or live with a pregnant woman, you know an hour and 45 minutes is an ETERNITY without a restroom.

At one point, on one of the freeways I was forced to travel upon, it took three and a half minutes to travel 3/4 of a mile. Insane.

Upon arriving at my doctors office I came to a few conclusions... Baby M better not decide to arrive on a Monday, during rush hour, when it's raining!
Top photo: I couldn't resist taking a photo of the dude, on his dirt bike/moped, cruising down the Harbor Freeway. I bet he was wishing he would have taken the public transit... 
Bottom photo: This just doesn't do the traffic backup any justice. To put in perspective, I was traveling (more like parked) at a rate that allowed me to safely find my camera in my purse, get the camera out of the camera case, turn the camera on, and put it on the setting I wanted, point, zoom and click. 

Now that I'm off my soap box, on to other news...

At the doctor we were treated to another ultrasound due to some technical difficulties with the doppler (equipment that would have allowed us to hear Baby M's heart beat). Woohoo for us! Everything is looking great with Baby M. One tiny exception... Baby M is currently in full breach position. He'd best figure out where his head needs to be in about three months!


Chicken Kiev

This is Scott's favorite meal and I think he asks me to make it at least once a week.

I will throw up the caution flag when it comes to the amount of butter that the recipe calls for... Which is probably what makes it so enjoyable... Thankfully, there are a few ways to reduce the butter, and fat, and calories without substituting flavor.

Chicken Kiev

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups of butter (holy smokes, does that say 2 cups?! Use Smart Balance Light, and reduce the amount to 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs (I like to use the Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (use the reduced fat kind)
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup apple juice (increase the amount to 1 cup - Mott's has a light juice, go for that)
1/2 small-medium onion chopped
3 Tbsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 375.
Melt ONE cup of butter.
Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic salt, salt and pepper.
Dip chicken breast into butter, then coat the breast in the crumb mixture.
Roll up the chicken, use toothpicks to keep the chicken rolled up nicely.
Place in your baking dish and bake, uncovered for about 30-40 minutes.

While chicken is baking, add 1 cup apple juice, onion, and parsley to remaining butter, and mix well.
When chicken is done, poor butter mixture over the chicken and bake another 5-10 minutes.
Serve with your favorite rice; don't forget to pour a little of the sauce over the chicken and rice before serving! I also like to add some steamed veggies to dinner.


Source: Family recipe book: Kroese & Bolks Family Keepsake Recipes


Christmas Wrapping

I'm not sure what I enjoy more, the purchasing of Christmas gifts, the wrapping of Christmas gifts, or the giving of Christmas gifts... Ok, the giving is the most fun. :)

Maybe you're like me, and once you've wrapped all your gifts you're left with eight zillion random little pieces of wrapping paper that you know won't wrap anything, but the pieces are just too big to justifiably throw away. Let me introduce you to my newest gift wrapping obsession, courtesy of Pinterest.
The greatest solution to all those random pieces, and less expensive than going out and buying over priced bows!
1) Start with your random sized piece of wrapping paper. 
2) Fold paper in half. 
3) Cut strips in folded paper. 
4) GENTLY run a scissors over strips, as you would with a piece of ribbon (GENTLY, GENTLY, GENTLY! My first run with this I pulled a few strips right off, oops).

5) Side one, all curled.
6) Side two, all curled.
7) Fold the base in half (sometimes I fold the base a few times to fit the size of the gift being wrapped).
8) Fluff curls to desired look.

Wa-laa - a solution to the scrap piece of wrapping paper while easing up on your checking account!


Baby Macke Update - Week 24

I sincerely wanted to take a photo of the bump every two weeks, but somehow, some way, Week 22 slipped right by me. That was not about to happen for Week 24.
There's no denying the bump! 
Drake always makes the photo shoots, but the cat decided to sit this one out.

Baby M's little movements are no longer little. And, a pattern has developed: quite during the day, super active at night (especially right after dinner and right before bed), and last night we had our first episode of Baby M hiccups.


Taco "Wreath"

Time to take a break from scouring the Internet for new recipes and head back to some recipes of ours that are a little older, but still rank among the favorites.

Odds are, you'll have the ingredients on hand, but even better than that, it's easy!!

Taco Wreath (also known as Taco Ring)

What you'll need:
2 - 8 oz packages of refrigerated crescent rolls (cut the fat and calories, use the reduced fat kind)
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey (beef for you bovine lovers)
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 3/4 cups shredded cheddar (scale the calories/fat back and use 2%)
2 Tbsp water
1 egg white, beaten
Optional toppings: salsa, shredded lettuce, chopped onion and tomato, sliced olives and sour cream

The Taco Filling:
Preheat oven to 375.
Cook ground turkey/beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink, breaking meat into crumbles; drain.
Stir in taco seasoning mix, 1 1/2 cups of cheese and water.
Scoop filling evenly over the ring (see directions below).
Brush ring with egg white.
Sprinkle ring with remaining cheese.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve with optional toppings.

To Make The "Wreath":
Unroll the crescent rolls, separate into 16 triangles.
Arrange triangles, slightly overlapping, in a circle on a Pampered Chef large round stone (or a lightly greased pizza pan), with the wide ends 4 inches from the edge of the baking stone/pizza pan - the points of the crescent rolls will extend off the edge of the stone/pan.
Use a small roller and roll wide ends of dough toward center of pan to create a 5-inch opening (if you're like me and don't have a mini roller, just smush down on the crescents with your hands).
The crescents all laid out, and smushed down.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop filling evenly over dough in a continuous circle.
All set with the filling.
Bring points of triangles up over filling and tuck under dough at center to form a ring (some of the filling will show through).
Ready for the oven.
Time to eat!
The optional ingredients look great stacked in the center of the ring to create a kind of "taco salad."
This dish is great for dinner (we pair it with Mexican rice and corn with bell peppers). This would be  great for the holidays as an appetizer "wreath," or a game day treat.

Source: The Pampered Chef; All the Best, From our Kitchen to Yours



Sleep, oh sleep, where have you been my dear friend?

Here we are at week 24 (pictures of the bump soon to come) and sleep has been ever elusive for the past few weeks. As I expand there is no comfort while trying to catch some shut eye.
For any of you mommy's who've been through this before I'm open to suggestions!!


Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti

Sundays may be delegated as "Slow Cooker Sundays." My motivation to prepare dinner is generally lacking come Sunday evening, and being budget conscious, going out to eat all weekend just doesn't seem  feasible. To the crock pot we go!

When I found this recipe it reminded me a lot of a cheesy chicken spaghetti bake I've made, and posted about. However, this recipe seemed to require less cook and prep time. Score for me and my lackadaisical Sunday afternoon!

There are a few difference between my non-crock pot recipe and this one, and it looked like it was worth a shot.

Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti
Note: For my convenience, I made several changes to the preparation of this dish. If you would like to follow the directions according to the original recipe please click on the source link at the bottom of the page.
1 - 16 oz. package spaghetti (I used whole wheat noodles)
1 - 10.5 oz. can cream of condensed chicken soup (go for the reduced fat kind)
1 - 10.5 oz. can cream of mushroom soup (as we all know by now, Scott hates mushrooms, so I just added an extra can of cream of condensed chicken and omitted the mushroom soup - cream of celery would probably work well, too.)
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies (also known as rotel; this is the one ingredient that differs from my other cheesy spaghetti recipe - if you're not a fan of rotel, just omit it.)
8 oz. Velveeta cheese (reduce the fat and use the 2% kind)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thawed and cut into approximately 1 inch cubes (do not cook)
1/2 onion, chopped well (optional; I had some onion that I needed to use up)
3 stalks celery, chopped well (optional; needed to use this up, too)

In your crock pot put cheese, cream of chicken/mushroom soups, onion and celery, and rotel.
Set crock pot to high, and occasionally stir ingredients until cheese has melted - about 30 minutes.
Set crock pot to low; stir in cubes of chicken.
Let chicken and cheese mix cook on low for about 4 hours.
The cheese mixture may appear a bit runny. No worries, once the noodles are added that problem will fix itself. 
About 60 minutes before serving, turn crock pot heat to high, break spaghetti noodles in half, add uncooked spaghetti. Be sure spaghetti is submerged below chicken/cheese mixture.
To ensure noodles don't clump together, stir occasionally.
Stir well before serving.

Taa-daa! Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti.

This was some good stuff, and tasted a LOT like my other spaghetti bake. My next go around I may use different noodles. Perhaps bow ties or rigatoni, something that isn't as prone to stick together like spaghetti.




It's Game Day!

I've been looking forward to this football game since the season started, and it's FINALLY here!

This is a big day in our house. Bragging rights for an ENTIRE year!
Don't get me wrong, I'll cheer for K-State any other day of the year, but today I'm all about ISU!

Let's go Cyclones!!!!!


The Countdown

It's been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. Every morning in December my brother and I would wake up and rush to Christmas Countdown Calendar to move Mr. Mouse to the appropriate day (who actually moved the mouse usually led to an argument a full fledged fight between the two of us).

Now the Calendar resides with me, and I'm still excited to head to the kitchen to move Mr. Mouse each morning. I think the part that excites me most is knowing that it won't be too long until I'll get to share this tradition with Baby M.