Friday, October 17, 2014

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins





I've gotten where I don't do much when it comes to seasonal decor. But, I do love this time of year. Sweater weather. At least in the mornings and evenings here. One of the very best things about October is that I get pumpkin happy.
 






We grew pumpkins this year, but I must have planted them too late because this is as far as they have gotten. Perhaps these will be better served for Thanksgiving pie rather than jack-o-lanterns.



We've made our first trip, and Molly's first trip ever, to the pumpkin patch. We have crafted spiders and picked out costumes. And we have baked.

The smell of anything baking on a crisp Fall day is one of my favorite things.

I found this recipe on pinterest sometime last year and have been waiting to try it. Seeing that we just ran out of the zucchini muffins we baked and tossed in the freezer at the end of Summer, I thought these may be a good restocking item. I followed the recipe to a tee, actually doubled it. We got 24 muffins plus one mini loaf. They are yummy for sure. The only things I may change for next time is that they could maybe use a little more cinnamon and these babies are begging for some nice bits of apple. 

I have to say that I love a recipe that allows you to simply mix your dry, mix your wet, then just mix it all together. I think those are the kind of recipes that are best suited for help from kiddos, at least around here. 

So here we go:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup low-fat milk
One large egg
One large egg white
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF, and line or spray muffin tin.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients and spices together in a large bowl.
  3. Add pumpkin, oil, milk, egg, and egg white to a medium-size bowl, and mix thoroughly. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  4. Fill muffin tins evenly, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes.
Makes 14 muffins.

                  Oatmeal. Pumpkin. Dark Chocolate Chips. So good.




Another fun thing about this time of year is the annual Fall Carnival at Natalie's school. Last year I won this trio of happy pumpkins. This year I am going for the auctioned off parking spot...wish me luck!










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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Big Kid Shared Bedroom

 
When I thought about how to decorate a shared room in our house, I never considered I would need to have an imaginary line down the center, one side pink, the other blue. We have three girls after all so it only made sense in my head that two of the girls would share a room. 



But, as you can see, that's not exactly what happened. We tried having Ashley move from her crib to Natalie's room. The idea was to make the transition before school started this year. In fact, there were two pink painted twin beds in this room just for that purpose.



 The other bed has moved to Ashley's new big girl room where Colby used to sleep. Thank goodness our kid rooms are painted in neutral colors. Natalie requested blue for her walls when we moved in. Her room has transformed a couple of times in the short 2+ years since we've been here. First, we had her in my old "vintage" white iron bed, the one I grew up sleeping in since age 4. That lasted a while. In fact, she chose the light in this room to sort of match that bed. But, in the end it squeaked a little and she missed her own vintage bed, the one she had at our old house, sturdy as a mule, once olive, now Annie Sloan's Anntoinette. 


When I finally came to terms with the fact that our first and second would be roommates, I began brainstorming ways to create a cohesive space that was gender neutral. I thought I would go with red, white and blue. The room was already blue anyway. I began looking at matching comforters, stars to adorn the walls, a vintage flag I found on etsy. When Colby caught wind of all this, he was anything but happy. He wanted his flags, his own bedding, his stuff. And who could blame him? This was his room, right?









I began removing things to be put in Ashley's new room. The rag bunting on the small window, promising to replace it with the version you see now. Natalie's dresser, chosen and painted just for her, replaced with Colby's. Her ethereal white curtains gone. Colby's white and navy tie died version in their place. She was sad for a bit, but then I promised to make this hanging pendant just for her and her spirits lifted.









 It is still her space for sure. I loved taking these pictures with no interruptions. In fact, the power was out for most of the shots and the house was insanely quiet. This warmed and broke my heart at the same time. Daddy was out of town and she asked to sleep in my bed, but I told her no because it was a school night. Then I saw this in her dollhouse, she and I having a sleepover I assume. 






So it's working out okay for now. Colby with his trains and rock collection. Natalie with her tutus and tic-tac-toe next to her bed. It's cool to listen to their little conversations through the door. They sound so big that I have to force myself to remember they are still tiny people, learning how to share a space, resolve conflict, help one another, be best friends, but at least they get to do it in a room made just for the two of them.





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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Birthday to My Biggest Little Lady

My apologies in advance. This is wordy and the pictures were captured on my cell.




I've been trying to get this post finished for days. Natalie turned 6 yesterday and for her birthday we went all out. But not in the way that you may be thinking. No jumpy house here, no way. My hubby discovered the Frozen Sing A Long movie showing at The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood and suggested it may be a perfect gift for our little drama queen. I agreed and was excited to have the morning for just us big gals to enjoy, as I don't get a ton of time alone with her these days. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go the night before and stay somewhere within walking distance. If you know LA traffic, you know what I'm talkin' about.

So, that was her gift.
A girls night, just us.
In Hollywood.
At a fancy hotel. 

And as a bit of an insomniac, it sounded dreamy to have no monitors to listen for, no dog in the bed. Natalie has recently taken on a roommate, as well. Not the one we intended when furnishing her room, but more on that in a later post. Her roommate has a bit of trouble settling at the end of the night and often pretends his bed is a rocket ship floating through space.

Nattles has done her best to be patient, but the girl needed a night away, just her and momma.
So that was that.


 
 
  We took the elevator up to the 19th floor and swung open our door to see the Hollywood sign outside our window. Natalie was thrilled, but ready to settle into our room and get her toes painted and just hang out. I convinced her to come down to Hollywood Blvd with me, see the glitzy theater we would report to the following day, and perhaps watch a street performer or two. Of course we saw the stars as well and when we found Julie Andrews (she loves The Sound of Music) we had to get a pic. Actually, I took pictures of nearly every move she made. Don't worry , I didn't include them all. I used my cell phone so they aren't the best and the one of her beaming over Julie Andrews' star didn't even make the cut. She would say, "Mom, another picture? How many do you need?" 


It was as though I was trying to capture the last few days of her tinyhood, as though 6 is so much bigger than 5. Because it is. As though 1st grade is so much different than Kindergarten. Because it is. 






It was blazing hot and we eventually made our way back up to the room where we both discovered we were hungry. The conversation over whether to go out or order room service was very brief, as I decided she could finally relax, put on comfy clothes, paint toenails, take silly pictures together, and indulge in an early dinner including one giant brownie sundae.




She was in heaven.
I was too.




People always comment on her white blonde hair and gray blue eyes and often ask if I'm her mom when it's just us out and about. If you've followed my blog you know I don't often make an appearance. I'm not much of a "selfie" taker and not a huge fan of myself on camera. (I'm working on that) But, looking at those fun pics we took together two things struck me. 1) I have giant teeth and a big smile. She has my mouth. I hope she doesn't get my giant teeth. And 2) I would have taken her to the Himalayas to get a photo of the look on her face in the third picture. She adores me. I'm so grateful for that. But with it comes responsibility. 

You see, she isn't me. She has a lot of me in her, but she is not me. And she is still little. Small. A baby really. (Don't tell her I said that) After we had dinner and hung out, it was still early enough to go back out, explore a little more. See something new. I suggested Ripley's Believe It Or Not. She said it might be too scary. Then I convinced her otherwise. She stayed in her comfy sweats and t-shirt...and boots. They were the only shoes she brought. I asked her a couple of times if she wanted to put her dress back on and she nonchalantly said, "No, Momma, this is fine. I'm comfortable." She isn't me. We got to Ripley's and bought tickets and when it was time to go through the turn style she freaked out. No, like really freaked. I was familiar with this behavior and sort of brushed it off, though after a couple of loud, frantic minutes I was keeping myself from making eye contact with the 40 onlookers. Then I picked her up with a smile on my face and lifted her over and into the first display area. She kept her fingers in her ears for at least half the time we were there. She isn't me. By the time we left she was smiling, but ready to head back to the hotel. On the way there, she asked me for the 3rd time whether I thought the Cinderella she took her picture with earlier in the day was the real Cinderella. I couldn't bring myself to remind her that Cinderella doesn't have a Russian accent. She hesitated as the Harry Krishna guys sang and drummed and asked if we should go another way. She isn't me.




After a good night's sleep she wanted room service again. No going out to breakfast for this gal. We watched an animal show as we got ready to head off to our Frozen adventure. She wouldn't take a shower because the shower head looked too complicated. She didn't want to brush her hair, but wanted it straightened, then wanted it curled, then didn't like the way it wasn't curled from the root and told me she looked like George Washington. I had to remind myself that she is small. 







We walked to the theater hand in hand, stopping to get her picture kneeling down at another famous star. We headed up the staircase for our VIP popcorn and drink and took our seats in the center balcony. I had never watched Frozen all the way through and actually got choked up a couple of times. We held hands, snuggled and sang together.

It.
Was.
Awesome. 

But somehow, as so many parenting moments go, the gift I gave her was a teaching moment for me. Yes, she's dramatic. We will butt heads from time to time. Yes, she's independent. She won't agree with all of my views on life. She's emotional. She's curious. She's careful. She's amazing. She isn't me and my job is not to tell her who I want her to be. My job is to guide her, to encourage her, to listen to her, to comfort her. To enjoy her. Not to tell her to hurry up or to act like a big kid or even remind her for the 3rd time this week that she is an example to her brother and sisters. Just to enjoy her right now. Just to encourage her to make good choices, but to give her choices. Just to tell her for the 3rd time this week that I'm proud of her, not because of the example she is to her siblings, but because she is Natalie.

I can't believe my baby is growing up. 
So, for now, I'll let her stay small.
















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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer's Last Cocktail: Watermelon Mojito


One of the things I love most about living in Southern California is that I get to have a garden nearly year round. I spent the better part of last weekend planting our fall crops and tending to raised beds, cleaning them out, adding compost and checking out all the worms, beetles, spiders, snails and lizards with my biggest little lady. For me it was bliss. Even though I get dirt under my nails, I smell like chicken poop (Momma, what stinks out here? Uh, yeah, that's not me, it's the chicken poop. Ewwwe, that's gross!)  I get giddy when I walk out in the morning and see tiny pea shoots or asparagus heads popping out of the ground like itty bitty miracles.



  




But we are still harvesting the last of my favorite hot weather fruit, watermelon, no contest! So, we've eaten a lot of watermelon, made watermelon popsicles, watermelon smoothies, watermelon salad, watermelon aqua fresca, and yes, Hubby and I have indulged in a watermelon cocktail or two. And since we will soon be into apple cider season, I couldn't let this Labor Day weekend pass without sharing this yummy recipe inspired by what's already growing in our backyard. 




I have two types of mint growing in my garden. I use it in everything from fruit salad to coffee to ice cream to cocktails, of course. And one of the varieties I have is actually called "mojito mint"...umm, you don't have to twist my arm. 



MMM, I love the smell of lime leaves. Actually, one of my very favorite scents ever is the combination of coconut and lime. Just makes me think of vacation, drink in hand.


So, that's it! 

Your watermelon mojito recipe goes something like this:

Watermelon, about 5 cups cubed
Mint, about 10 leaves
Limes, 2
Malibu Coconut Rum, 4oz
Soda Water, to top off

*makes two tall drinks with enough to top off

Technically, a mojito includes sugar, but I love the taste of coconut rum and find that it makes it sweet enough. If I don't have to add sugar to something I don't, but that's just me and this recipe is only a suggestion.

If you are hosting a party or you wanna get all schmancy, you can make these per glass, muddling and all, but I enjoy throwing everything into my Vitamix. 

First, I remove most of the seeds from the cubed watermelon and throw it in with the juice from 1.5 limes. 

Give that a good mix, then add the rum and mint.

Let it go until the mint leaves are torn.

Squeeze a lime wedge into a glass filled with ice and drop it in.

Fill glass 3/4 of the way with yummy mix and top with soda water and a straw.

Enjoy!


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Friday, August 29, 2014

Entryway Locker Style Built In




We made a lot of changes over the summer and this is one of my favorites. It wasn't in the plan, but it has been in my head since we moved in two years ago so when I had the opportunity to add to the chaos that was our home a couple of months ago, well, I took it.


 


And boy, am I glad I did because this momma has yet to get the whole back to school morning routine down pat. But, this built in is a huge help!





It has a space for each child so that backpacks, karate clothes, dance shoes, hats, and even Molly's diaper bag all have a spot to call their own. Having your own space is huge when you have a big family!


The bench and shoe cubbies at the bottom are actually what's left of the triple set of cabinets that were there before. I thought I took a before photo, but can't seem to find it anywhere so I guess while juggling everything else this summer it slipped my mind. I did however, take a cell phone pic of the landing at the top of our stairs with a similar set up. Just imagine that the other one was wider and deeper. I did this because I want to show you that if you or your fella are handy, you can totally do this yourself. 






 
On the other side of the hallway I left the wall as it was before. There's a chalkboard/bulletin combo for notes and reminders. I also have a couple of mounted file folders for Natalie and Colby for things like sight word lists, fundraiser paperwork, etc. that don't need to go in backpacks, but need to have their own spot.



 
The door on the left leads out to my garage, the one we use everyday, so this makes the perfect entry drop zone.





I got the wooden letters at Vintage Marketplace several months ago and was just waiting to spy the perfect spot for them.





I thought I might want to add a little pink or something to the girls' initials, but once they were up I thought they looked just right.





 

 


I have to say that even though we have only just begun school, I am so ready for this three day weekend. And I'm happy everything will be right here Tuesday morning.






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