Wednesday, December 21, 2011

sweet pregnancy

Obviously, I haven't been very good about keeping my blog updated with tales of baking and pictures of delicious treats. Since July I've been occupied with other things, primarily with being pregnant! That's right, I'm expecting my first child... due March 20, 2012! Brett and I are incredibly excited, and can't wait until the arrival of our sweet baby girl! It's hard to believe that I'm already 27 weeks pregnant, almost 7 months! It's just nuts, the past few months have flown by. When we first found out back on July 6th, it felt like March was a million months away - now it's just three short months away! I keep thinking about how this will be our last Christmas as a family of two. Next year will be incredibly different!

I feel incredibly blessed to have had an easy pregnancy thus far. No morning sickness, nausea or food aversions. My sense of smell is definitely heightened, and I have cravings for all things sweet (especially Sour Patch Kids). I had an onslaught of headaches in the first 4 months, which were a pain considering the only medicine I can take is Tylenol. Other that that, no complaints! Now that my belly is getting bigger, my back hurts a lot, most often during the day while I'm sitting at my desk. No matter what I do, I just can't get comfortable. Luckily my sleep hasn't suffered (yet). I'm still the same old Erin with narcoleptic tendencies.

I think being incredibly busy with Holiday Mart helped the first five months fly by. The height of Holiday Mart planning and work was August-October, so I stayed super busy! The Mart was a huge success, and I feel so proud to have been a part of it.

So, with my work, Holiday Mart responsibilities and pregnancy, I haven't done much baking in the last few months.

I did manage to make some yummy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars for a work event...

They were amazing! I got the recipe from Bake at 350 - I highly recommend them!

Now that we're in the midst of the Christmas season, I've made a few holiday treats... red velvet cake balls, chocolate chip cookies and reindeer crunch. This weekend I plan on making French Toast Casserole for Christmas Eve breakfast, and Hot Beef Dip for the Lambert family Christmas Eve dinner.

I LOVE the holiday's - the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love being with family and friends, the traditions, memories of year's past, the sounds, smells, nonstop Christmas music... everything! Being pregnant during the holiday's has been fun (except for not being able to wear the cute holiday dresses). I've been trying to savor every moment and not rush things. While I can't wait for baby girl L. to arrive, I'm trying to enjoy the moments that Brett and I have together now... being able to have our Christmas date night, going to see the Nutcracker together, Christmas shopping without a little one in tow, etc. We're both ready for the next phase of our lives, but it's nice to enjoy our last Christmas as a family of two.

Here are a few pictures to get you up to speed on my pregnancy...

My first "bump" picture - 5 weeks pregnant!

How we told my Mom and Dad

How we told Brett's parents

Week 8

Week 9

Week 11

Week 19

Week 20 - halfway there!

Week 21 - Photo Shoot for our Christmas Card

Week 23 - Thanksgiving day!

Week 25 - Brett's Work Christmas Party

Week 27 - December 21

On October 20 (week 18), we had our first sonogram and found out Baby L.'s gender! To announce the gender to our families, we had a "Gender Reveal Party." I made a sweet treat to help with the announcement - more on that and pictures in my next post!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, September 12, 2011

birthday treats for brett

Brett's birthday was this past Saturday, Sept. 10. To celebrate I made him a few special treats... a sausage and egg breakfast casserole for brunch, followed by chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes for our KU tailgate.

I had never made a breakfast casserole before, so I found a quick and easy recipe on it was nice because I made it the night before, and then popped it in the oven the next morning. I didn't take a picture until after we had already cut into it (we were hungry!), so it's not very pretty. But, it sure tasted good!

Not sure if you can tell in the picture, but half of the casserole has corn flakes on top. I wanted something crispy, so I added cornflakes when there was about 10 minutes of baking time left.

The chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes were pretty easy also... since I was short on time I doctored up a box mix. In my opinion, doctored up box mixes are just as good as homemade mixes, and they're so much easier... plus, they're practically no fail. I get so frustrated when I spend an hour on a homemade mix and then my cupcakes don't rise, or they're too dense, etc. So, save yourself some time and frustration and try doctoring up a box mix. I typically use four eggs rather than what's called for on the box, and use a cup of buttermilk instead of the amount of water called for on the box. For this recipe I used a cup of oil, 4 eggs, a cup of sour cream and half a cup of water. No buttermilk... also I used the box mix that has a box of pudding in the mix. Makes the cupcakes nice and moist!

I also cheated and used Pillsbury cookie dough. Even though my homemade cookie dough is the BEST, I just didn't have time. I dropped a tsp of cookie dough in the middle of each cupcake and also baked a dozen cookies to cut in half and place on top of the cupcakes for decoration.

I used my staple buttercream icing and added mini chocolate chips to it. Overall, I think the cupcakes turned out great! The birthday boy loved them, and they were a hit at the tailgate.

Cupcakes and Boulevard Wheat - yum! :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

Happy Labor Day weekend! What are you doing to enjoy the long weekend? We're staying in town, but planning on doing a lot of yard work, as well as getting together with friends! Tonight we're attending a BBQ to celebrate a friend's birthday. I've decided to bring dessert. When I asked my husband what he thought I should bring, he said "anything with peanut butter and chocolate." So, I did a quick search and decided to make Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars, a recipe I found on one of my favorite blogs, Bake at 350.

Here's a look at these delicious, decadent bars...

Recipe, courtesy of Bake at 350.

YUM! A perfect labor day treat, I can't wait to share with everyone! Actually, I can't wait to get these out of my house so I don't eat the entire pan! :)

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

welcome, september!

Have you heard the song, "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day? I'm not a huge fan of the song, but this past August made me think about it often... I kept thinking, "More like 'wake me up when AUGUST ends!'" The month of August dragged and seemed like it would never end. Between the crazy heat and my excitement and readiness for all things fall, I was ready for September to get here all ready.

So, thank goodness it's September 1! To me, September signifies the beginning of fall, which is my favorite season. I love fall because:

1. Cooler Weather
2. Cooler Weather = A Change of Clothes! By August/early Sept. I'm SO ready for a change of clothes... I'm sick of tank tops, shorts and flowy dresses. By this point I've given up on getting tan, so my pale skin is ready for jeans, sweatshirts and sweater dresses. Oh, and did I mention boots? I'm obsessed with boots.
2. Beautiful Fall Leaves - I love watching the trees turn beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. One of my favorite things is to drive down Ward Parkway and Lee Boulevard in the middle of October and look at all the beautiful trees and the leaves falling. Gorgeous!
3. Football! - I may not be a big football fan, but I love the tailgating aspect, and I enjoy driving up to Lawrence in the fall and hanging out on the hill with my family and friends before a game.
4. Pumpkins and Mums - fall is one of my favorite times to decorate (Christmas comes in first)... I love buying pumpkins to adorn the front porch, along with beautiful mums.
5. Fall Baking! - Pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin pie, apple cookies, apple streusel... YUM! Who doesn't love a good fall dessert? I also love fall cooking - chili and stew come to mind!

Those are just a few of my favorite things about fall. Even though it's just September 1st and it's still 100 degrees outside (ugh)... fall is right around the corner and I'm ready to enjoy it! Bring on the sweaters, boots and pumpkins!

What is your favorite season?

Monday, August 8, 2011

a working oven and a new project

Good news for all my baking fans... my oven is fixed! This is fabulous news considering it has been out of commission since the first week of June! Even better, the oven is now working better than it ever did before! Who knew it needed new ignitors and door hinges?! Enough about my oven... I'm just happy I can make cupcakes, cookies, brownies, casseroles, baked chicken, etc. again! I've been eating way too much pasta lately, it's time to mix it up! I'm also craving some good baking time... now I just need to decide what my first item will be. I broke down and made boxed brownies this past weekend (was in the mood for instant chocolate satisfaction), so I still need to refresh my baking skills and whip up an awesome batch of cupcakes. I'm thinking I may try fruity pebbles cupcakes - fruity pebbles are becoming my new sweet obsession. Whenever Brett and I go to Peachwave or any other yogurt store, I always want fruity pebbles in my yogurt mixture! YUM.

Fruity pebbles cupcakes inspiration

Aside from the oven excitement, I've been excited about redoing my downstairs bathroom! The downstairs bathroom (by downstairs, I mean the basement) has been severly neglected since we moved in in 2008. For whatever reason, we made the upstairs hall bathroom the guest bathroom, but after sharing the tiny master bathroom with my husband for a year, I decided to make the hall bathroom my own bathroom. It's now been two years and I've decided it's high time I turn the basement bathroom into a true guest bathroom... mainly for selfish reasons, I don't like to have to clean things up in my bathroom and put away all my hair and makeup accessories before guests come over.

So, there are three parts to this project...
1. Painting the trim to match the rest of the house (Benjamin Moore, Ancient Oak)

2. Painting the bathroom so that it's no longer yellow (when we first moved in EVERY room in the house was painted yellow! The basement and basement bathroom are the only rooms left)

Yellow wall...

Paint color... sample swatch on the wall

3. Decorate! I've picked a paint color, Coastal Fog, to be my inspiration... now I need to find a floor mat, hand towels, trash can, etc. I'm not wanting to spend a lot of money on this project, so I've been making frequent trips to TJ Maxx and Target to see what I can find. So far, nothing. The search continues!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

a new and improved kitchen!

Our kitchen upgrade is finally done! It was actually finished back in late May, but it's taken me this long to write about it! Unfortunately, even though we have beautiful new counter tops, which will make my cooking and baking life so much better, our oven has been out of service for more than a month! I know, ridiculous. It stopped working in early June and since then we've been working with a repair company that services Viking's to get parts ordered and installed. I'm not sure what the hold up is in getting these parts, but we've called them every week for an update... I'm just so ready to do some baking! I haven't made cupcakes or cookies in so long - it's depressing!

Okay, back to the kitchen. So, back in April we had granite counter tops installed. I LOVE the granite, it's so pretty and much easier to keep clean than the white tile. After the counter tops were done, Brett and his Dad took out the white tile on the back splash and put in nice neutral tile with slate accents. It's complete and looks amazing! We're so happy with it. Below are some pictures...



Since I've had to take a hiatus from baking, I've been doing some fun DIY home projects. I'm thinking I'll blog about those also, and turn my blog into a mixture of sweets meets home projects, crafts, etc.!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a little bit of everything!

Can you believe it's already May? 2011 is flying by! It's time for part two of my update! It only took me a month, but here it is! Thanks, Diana for reminding me! :) Over the past couple of months I've made a few treats for themed birthday parties - Pokemon, Rapunzel and Fancy Nancy.

In early March a co-worker asked me to make sugar cookies for her son's Pokemon themed birthday party. When she said he wanted Pikachu balls, my response was, "huh?!" I've seen the Pikachu character (yellow dinosaur looking thing), but wasn't familiar with Pikachu balls. Well, the design turned out to be simple - much easier than creating a Pikachu cookie! The cookies were a big hit, which was exciting.

Later that month my good friend and co-worker Ayron asked me to make Rapunzel themed cupcakes for her daughter's birthday. Rapunzel is her daughter's favorite Disney character (for the moment, last year it was Ariel), so I decorated white cupcakes with pink and purple icing, and then topped each with a Rapunzel ring and glitter. I learned a major lesson while making these... DO NOT try to make your own purple icing! I forgot to buy Americolor purple food coloring, and by the time I remembered, Hobby Lobby and Baker's Rack were closed... so I attempted to make purple using red and blue. Everyone knows that red and blue make purple, why wouldn't it work with icing?! Red and blue Americolor food coloring do make purple, but it's a dull, bluish purple... I used it sparingly on the cucpcakes. My BIG mistake was accidentally pulling Americolor black out of my drawer, thinking it was blue! I thought the blue looked a little dark, but didn't think much of it until I started mixing the icing and it turned dark gray - awful! I had to pitch it and start from scratch... a total pain at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night. Oh well, they turned out great and the birthday girl was happy!

In early April, during the first stage of our kitchen counter upgrade, I made crown sugar cookies for my friend Lucia. Lucia is an amazing party planner and planned a fabulous Fancy Nancy party for her daughter! I'm so impressed by Lucia and her party planning skills, so I felt some pressure to make awesome cookies! Considering my kitchen was in disarray that week, my mom was awesome and made the sugar cookies for me (I learned everything from her, so I knew they would be good). My parents graciously lent me their kitchen for an evening so I could decorate the cookies - I also joined them for dinner. :) The cookies turned out nicely, despite the humidity in the air and the icing not setting quickly.

In addition to the kid's themed birthday parties I've made treats for recently, I also made red velvet and peanut butter cup cupcakes for my friend Jud's 30th birthday party, and a lovely lemon cake for my mom's birthday (don't worry mom, I won't say how old you are!). I'll post pictures of my mom's cake in my next lemon themed post.

I mentioned our kitchen upgrade... we recently had our white tile counter top ripped out and replaced with BEAUTIFUL, SMOOTH granite!! It's been heavenly, and has seriously improved my cooking and baking! The project is still in the works - the boys are working on putting in tile for the back splash. It's a process, but it will hopefully be done soon. Once it is, I'll post pictures! But, to give you a tease, here's a couple before pictures...

Here's a good pic of our white title counter top, something I've hated since we moved in (May 2008) - this pic is from the day before the granite guys came, Brett is determining how hard it will be to remove the back splash.

Here's a look at what was underneath the white tile - two more layers of ugly! Gray tile (from the 70's I'm thinking...) and laminate, most like the original counter top.

More to come!

Friday, March 25, 2011

cupcake update: part one

I think it's time for an update! I've been busy baking treats for birthday parties, baby showers, special occasions and just for fun! Since I'm behind in my postings and have a lot to share, this will be a two part update... here's part one:

In January we celebrated my Grandma's 80th birthday party in Columbia. She loves red velvet cupcakes, so I surprised her with some special treats:

In February my friend Amanda asked me to make cupcakes for a dinner party she was attending. She asked for something light, which is hard to do when you're making cupcakes... cupcakes aren't necessarily known for being light! I brainstormed and decided to try a new recipe, cinnamon snickerdoodle cupcakes. I know they don't sound light, but in comparison to other cupcakes I make (Milky Way, Peanut Butter, etc.), they were airy, and had a light taste of cinnamon. According to Amanda, they were a hit at the party!

Brett finished his Computer Information Systems Technology degree at DeVry in late February, so once we got back from our ski vacation we celebrated with the Goff and Lambert family - we had a delicious dinner at Jack Stack downtown followed by dessert at our house. Brett requested Milky Way cupcakes and a cookie cake, so I made the cupcakes and Brett's mom made the cookie cake. Both were delicious, especially paired with Sofia Blanc de Blanc!

Coming soon, pictures of lemon cupcakes, Pokemon ball cookies and Rapunzel cupcakes!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

cookie monster cupcakes

I recently made a giant cupcake and regular sized cookie monster cupcakes for a co-worker's son, who's first birthday was in early January. She took him to get professional pictures taken, so I made his "smash cake" -- a giant cupcake with blue icing. Below is a picture of it at my house. I hope to soon post one featuring the adorable Cole with his giant cupcake!

This was my first time using the giant cupcake mold... in order for the cake to maintain the shape of the mold, I used a recipe that was more like a bundt cake. It turned out great, and was delicious! One of the tricks I learned is that you need to pour the batter into the bottom half of the mold and cook for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the oven, add batter to the top half of the mold and continue baking for the recommended time. Below is a picture of the giant cupcake mold -- I found mine at Bed Bath & Beyond, but I know they're also sold at Williams Sonoma.

For Cole's first birthday party I made cookie monster cupcakes. Half were white cake, the other half were chocolate, all had blue buttercream icing. The cupcakes turned out great, although the decorating portion was incredibly time-consuming!