Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Every fall I get an uncontrollable urge to bake with canned pumpkin.  This urge is similar to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving and Diet Coke with french fries.

I feel one cannot exist without the other.  

Yesterday, armed with canned pumpkin, I baked my favorite pumpkin loaf.  I also have neglected to purchase Eggo's all week.  Pumpkin loaf makes a killer quick breakfast when Eggo's are not available.

Waste no time baking this because it is delicious and fairly healthy.  And tomorrow morning you could be sitting down to toasted chocolate chip pumpkin loaf, moist with melted butter and dusted with powdered sugar.

You will have died and gone to pumpkin loaf heaven.

This recipe makes two loaves (I'm all about sharing) or one loaf and twelve muffins.  I freeze the muffins for later consumption. 

3 cups sugar
1 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
dash salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour loaf pans/muffin tins.

Mix sugar, applesauce and eggs.  Add pumpkin.

Slowly blend dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake loaf 35-45 minutes, until center is done.  Muffins bake approximately 15-20 minutes.


*a wonderful, worthy re-post*

Thursday, October 8, 2015

EASY Halloween Party Ideas (great for all ages!)

My kids LOVE Halloween.  Costumes, candy, scary movies, decorations...they can't get enough.  I love all holidays, and I've always felt creating traditions and memories for my kids was important.  One of my favorite ways to celebrate any holiday is small and simple "parties" with close friends.

This post is going to focus on Halloween.  Remember, this is not an "invite 20 kids and wrap eachother in toilet paper to be mummies" kind of party.  This party is meant to be easy, festive and fun!

Start with a few good friends.  You can go a few routes.  Have one child host and invite a few nearest and dearest (stick to five or less) or have each child invite one and incorporate the whole family.

We went with option A.

This "party" is perfect for Halloween night, or the weekend before or right after.  Keep the party to two hours and have it after lunch or dinner so guests come fed.  

Choose two to three activities.  If you play games have Halloween prizes like slime, candy or a cheap Halloween DVD (you can find these at Target in the Halloween aisles). You can make Haunted Houses (think Gingerbread houses but use gummy worms and Halloween candies and frostings), decorate your own cookies, make masks, play Witches Brew (my favorite Halloween Party game) or bob for apples.

Before the party, make a playlist with Halloween classics like Thriller, Monster Mash and Ghostbusters. 

For our party we made Halloween cupcakes and Eyeball Cake Pops. 

For our party you'll need:

PATIENCE.  And now the other important stuff... 

Cupcake supplies (liners, mix, two containers of frosting, Halloween candies/sprinkles for decorating)
Plastic knives and black plastic forks.
Napkins and wipes for sticky hands
Halloween Plates
Small paper craft cups (I found mine at Walmart in cake baking aisle)
Bright Halloween stickers
Halloween Cellophane Baggies
Cake Pop supplies (either a kit or cake mix, frosting)
White Candy Melts or white chocolate (2 bags)
Container white frosting
Red food coloring 
Festive decorations and tablecloth
Plastic bowls 
Candy eye balls (small sugar candies can be found at craft stores)

I set a Halloween table with a tablecloth. I baked cupcakes and had them cool and ready for icing when the guests arrived.  Make cake balls and stick a black plastic fork in each one.  I bought a kit but you can use any cake pop recipe.  Chill in freezer.  

Set a place for every guest at the table with what they will need for cupcake decorating.  Place a plastic bowl with candies and another plastic bowl with frosting and a plastic knife at every station.  This makes all finger licking a non-issue.  Set a small paper cup at every chair and markers and stickers in the middle of the table.

Each guest should decorate 2 cupcakes. 

When the guests arrive explain that one cupcake will go home in the paper cup and one can be eaten at the end of the party.  Have them decorate the paper cup and them start on their cupcakes.

After the cupcake decorating, melt white candy melts or white chocolate (candy melts work best) and have each guest dip 2-3 pops, covering cake ball completely. Set on tinfoil lined platter and press candy eyeball on.  After the chocolate sets, heat a cup of white frosting in the microwave for about twenty seconds, and stir in red food coloring.  Drizzle the icing over the "eyeballs"  to make them look bloody.  These are pre-bloody eyeballs. 

Individually package goodies in Halloween cellophane baggies to take home. 

My best tips are:

BE PREPARED.  Set the stations for each guest if doing crafts, have games ready. 
Play great music.
Keep guests to less than 6.
Keep the timeline to 2 hours. 

This is just a general guideline of how we do our parties.  I like to leave everything general because there are so many possibilities.  The trick is to keep it simple!  No need for huge costume parties that cause stress and require days on Pinterest to plan.   

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Only Constant is Change

The only constant is change.  That’s it.  Every day, for the rest of our lives, the only thing I can guarantee anyone is change.

It’s kind of scary if you don’t embrace it.

In the past five years, I’ve experienced more change than I’ve experienced in my entire 35 years.  We moved to a different state, moved kids to a new school, Hubby has been through four jobs (he lost the first one, second was to pay the bills before he found another long term one, he found another long term one then was recruited by a better long term one), my sister moved in with us, and my parents divorced.

Did you follow all that?  Add in the day to day chaos and it’s been a long haul. 

I’m kind of waiting to wake up one day and have the reality of all we’ve experienced hit me in the face.  I’m shocked I haven’t had some sort of debilitating break down.  But here’s the thing….I’ve kept putting one foot in front of the other, marching. 

I march, and march, and march.

I never stop.

I remember when Hubby came home, devastated, and told me he lost his job.  We were shocked.  Blindsided.  We had just relocated. 

I let him be devastated, because it was his right.  He was upset, angry, confused and felt like a failure.  I understood.  But I knew none of that would fix the problem.  I was scared too, but never enough to break down.  We had what we needed.  We were healthy, we were together.  At the end of the day this was small potatoes.  This was fixable.  We would do no matter what it took to keep afloat. 

I wasn’t going to let that disappointment sink our ship. 

I do remember a few moments when I let my mind wander and worry about the future.  I remember worrying about never getting back on our feet.  Although I never allowed myself to think about it for long because again, that doesn’t fix anything.  When my parents split, I knew there was nothing I could do to change it.  I couldn't change them either.  All I could do was give love, give support and move forward. 

The present is the only place to live, because anything can happen. 

The only constant is change.

I’m not sure if I was just built in a way that enables me to constantly look forward, but I am very inclined to leave the past in the past.  It’s a blessing.  I feel like it’s a superpower.  I’m an “in the moment” mama.  I do what needs to be done and I learn from what we live through.  I have wonderful memories, and I try to make wonderful memories.  I try to teach my kids the same.  

Enjoy every minute.  Celebrate the past and look forward to the future. The bad times pave the way for better times. They teach us and mold us and make us stronger.

I needed to share more of our life in an online world that can tends to showcase “highlight reels” and leave much on the cutting room floor.  Life is messy, but it’s good.  There is so much beauty in every day, even when the day isn’t what you hoped.  If you focus on what you have, and not what you don’t have, there is a silver lining.

Through all the change, keep marching.  Always.  Never let anything sink your ship.